Between two lungs, it was released, the breath that carried me - Florence Welch.
The breath is the thing that is closest to us. It is tangible, believable, understandable and controllable. The inhale and exhale is what sustains us, claims us, affects our thoughts and is itself affected by our activities, emotions and thoughts.
We experience this daily, yet the breath is often ignored.
In yoga, we can become deeply familiar with the breath.
From a respiratory point of view, the lungs themselves are passive. They inflate and deflate because the thoracic cavity moves, which pumps air in and out of the lungs. The right lung has greater capacity due to the heart being on the left side of the chest. The inner structure of the lungs resembles a tree with the trachea (windpipe) as the trunk. The attached branches are the bronchi and bronchioles ad the leaves would be the alveoli. These function together to create the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs.
When we look at respiration rate (breath), we complete around 15 cycles per minute on average. That's 15 in-breaths and 15 out-breaths. And in these regular cycles, we are only using approximately 10% of our total lung capacity.
When we consider this, we can easily affect the respiration in the lungs through a variety of factors, such as exercise (yoga), emotions (joy, fear, anxiety), pain, sensory impulses (being plunged into cold water - Whim Hoff anyone?), or by Pranayama (of course).
When we begin to change the breath consciously, we can start to affect the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, or the automatic nervous system and higher brain function in standard terms.
By changing the breath pattern, we can induce a chosen state of mind.
Using Nadi Shodhana as an example, it has been found that the levels of carbon dioxide in the body were significantly reduced by practising this Pranayama regularly.
Change your breath, change your life