Simple Detox Series – Yoga Breathing

The breath is the most fundamental aspect of life and all our functions. You can actually survive a few weeks without food, a few days without water, but only minutes or even seconds without breathing.  But since we’ve been breathing our entire lives, we often take it for granted.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of breathing. It’s a process of detoxing – as each inhale and exhale nourishes and cleanses our entire bodyBreathing is the only way to obtain the most vital “food”, or oxygen. Our billions of cells need oxygen to function and in turn they release carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product.

Our lungs are the mechanism by which oxygen enters the bloodstream and eventually reaches the cells. As the blood circulates, it carries the CO2 back to the lungs where it is expelled on the exhale breaths. The diaphragm is the strongest muscle involved in the breathing process. It’s located below the rib cage and helps to pump the lungs. However, it is often under used as most adults tend to breath into the chest.¹

breathing through the diaphragm
breathing through the diaphragm

Learning to Breathe Again

Proper breathing is through the nose – NOT the mouth. The nasal passages contain fine hairs and mucous that act as filters for bacteria and dust and keep the throat moist. Coughing and sneezing are side effects of these filters in action.

Modern life usually gets in the way of many things, especially breathing. Most adults lose the technique of proper and efficient breathing from the time of childhood. Breathing is generally more shallow and focused on the high chest area.  That means the respiratory muscles and lungs are not adequately expanded and there’s less mobility and elasticity in the thoracic muscles and diaphragm, leading to more restricted breathing. The result is that the bloodstream is not being fully oxygenated and purified.  Also, food usually isn’t adequately digested to provide a sufficient energy source.¹

Deep breathing…..relaxed and from the abdomen – rather than the chest, is far superior to how most people breathe today. Modern lifestyles tend to lead to shallow and restricted breathing (Hewitt, 68). Also, the upper part of the lungs is often underutilized and remains filled with stagnant air which allows less fresh, oxygenated air to enter. The inactive portions of the lungs eventually become weaker and vulnerable to infections.²

Yoga breathing, much like the breathing of a baby, allows the respiratory muscles  and lungs to function more efficiently. Proper breathing increases body vitality, purifies the blood, soothes and tones the nervous system and lead to a greater mental focus, relaxing both the body and mind.¹ But this breathing needs to be relearned and soon becomes more natural as you see the benefits and transformation to take hold.

Breathe Like a Baby

Children and especially babies tend to breathe more efficiently than adults. As infants, we naturally breath through the nose into our diaphragm.  But as social pressures and tensions eventually set in we start developing the poor breathing habits.

Deeply inhaling through the nostrils and expanding the belly – is the proper method for breathing. By studying infants, we can see how the respiratory muscles and lungs to function more efficiently. This is the experience we’re looking for and it’s the way we are designed to breathe!

Fortunately its easy to fix our habits….. just take the time to practice! Try to take a few deep breaths in through the nose, expanding the belly and exhale deeply through the nose again, fully emptying the lungs. Keep the mouth closed and listen to the sound of your breath.

Rhythm and Timing to Your Breath

In Yoga, pranayama is the science of breath control. Its main focus is cleansing the body – more important than any other aspect. It’s a crucial first step for any further progress of the body and mind.

Start by inhaling and holding the breath then exhale again. Using an even ratio of 1:1:1 (inhale:hold:exhale), doing each for the same length of time.  For example, using 2 seconds for each part:

  • inhale – 2 seconds
  • hold – 2 seconds
  • exhale – 2 seconds

In this example, 6 seconds total.

Repeat and maintain the same timing. Once you’re able you can increase the length of each, to 3, 4 or 5 seconds each, while keeping the same ratio.

Once you’re comfortable, you can change the ratio as well. Try the ratio of 1:1:2.

  • inhale – 2 seconds
  • hold – 2 seconds
  • exhale – 4 seconds

In this example, 8 seconds total for 1 cycle and the exhale is doubled.²

When you’ve advanced and are ready, try the ratio of 1:2:2.  Using a 2 second example again:

  • inhale – 2 seconds
  • hold – 4 seconds
  • exhale – 4 seconds

Give it a try and let me know what you think!!

**You can also try another Yoga Breathing technique, called the Alternate Breathing method. And see other ideas for beginner body cleanses in the Simple Detox Series:





Skin Brushing





1) Hewitt, James. The Complete Book of Yoga. New York: Schocken Books, 1978. Print. Pg 58-59

2)Vishu-Devananda, Swami. The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988. Print.

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