Yoga, Its Essence and Mistakes of Leading Yoga Gurus
What is yoga?
What is essence of yoga?
Many modern people believe that yoga is mainly about postures. Traditional yoga views on yoga breathing are very different. One may spend years practicing asanas and thousands of hours doing breathing exercises, but if his or her body-oxygen levels remain unchanged, he or she will suffer from the same health problems. Essence of yoga is in correct (or ideal) automatic breathing day and night for maximum oxygenation of the body cells. This breathing pattern is diaphragmatic, very slow and light. It ensures up to 2-3 minutes for the body-oxygen test and over 7-8 minutes for maximum breath holding time due to highest possible body-O2 levels.
Yoga Benefits Are in Breathing Less (Amazon Kindle Book)
Yoga Benefits Are in Breathing Less (PDF book)
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Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15 century)
"3. So long as the (breathing) air stays in the body, it is called life. Death consists in passing out of the (breathing) air. It is, therefore, necessary to restrain the breath."
"17. Hiccough, asthma, cough, pain in the head, the ears, and the eyes; these and other various kinds of diseases are generated by the disturbance of the breath."
"28. The breathing is calmed when the mind becomes steady and calm; …"
The Shiva Samhita (17-18 century)
(5) The Pranayama
"22. Then let the wise practitioner close with his right thumb the pingala (right nostril), inspire air through the ida (the left nostril); and keep the air confined – suspend his breathing – as long as he can; and afterwards let him breathe out slowly, and not forcibly, through the right nostril.
23. Again, let him draw breath through the right nostril, and stop breathing as long as his strength permits; then let him expel the air through the left nostril, not forcibly, but slowly and gently."
"39. When the Yogi can, of his will, regulate the air and stop the breath (whenever and how long) he likes, then certainly he gets success in kumbhaka, and from the success in kumbhaka only, what things cannot the Yogi commend here?"
"43. ... from the perfection of pranayama, follows decrease of sleep, excrements and urine."
Increase of Duration
"53. Then gradually he should make himself able to practice for three gharis (one hour and a half at a time, he should be able to restrain breath for that period). Through this, the Yogi undoubtedly obtains all the longed for powers."
"57. When he gets the power of holding breath (i.e., to be in a trance) for three hours, then certainly the wonderful state of pratyahar is reached without fail."
The Gheranda Samhita (15-17 century)
"7. Wherenever the yogi may be, he should always, in everything he does, be sure to keep the tongue upwards and constantly hold the breath. This is Nabhomudra, the destroyer of diseases for yogis. "
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (4th-2nd century BC)
"Pranayama [the main breathing exercise in yoga] is the cessation of inspiratory and expiratory movements."
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"Blowing in Firm Pose - Kapalbhati in Vajrasana
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" ... helps in the removal of waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. ..."
Quotes: Leading Soviet physiologist Dr. KP Buteyko, MD, PhD about Yoga
"There is one question not discussed here: what would happen with the organism, if breathing decreases below the norm? That is, when breathing changes from deep to shallow, and then from shallow to constantly shallow. Here we should not confuse full breathing of yogi with deep breathing.
Advocates of deep breathing confuse these two concepts and, in their defense, they say, “Yogi, for thousands of years, breathe deeply and we see that they are super-humans”. Quite the contrary. Full breathing of yogi is shallow breathing in our understanding. It is done, first, very slowly, inhalations and exhalations as well; second, with maximum breath holds after inhalations and exhalations.
And finally one should not confuse the following concepts: we are speaking about breathing, which goes on day and night, about our basal breathing, foundation of life. Meanwhile, the system of yogi has separate breathing exercises. Therefore, it is practically unimportant for us how and what you do: feet upwards or downwards, through the right or left nostril, or by right or left side. We are interested in where you will arrive as a result of these exercises. If carbon dioxide increases, and breathing decreases, with each day, then this will ensure the transition of man into a super-endurance state.
And if we record the lungs’ ventilation and levels of carbon dioxide, it is clear that with such training lung ventilation is reduced, and carbon dioxide increases. Therefore, full breathing of yogi, according to its physiological effect, is analogous to our shallow breathing. This is the reason of its benefit. Now many people are interested in the systems of yogi. This, of course, is a surprisingly wise system of exercises.
I do not speak about any religions or superstitions, this is not part of the tasks of my lecture. But physiologically, yogi instinctively selected almost everything that decreases respiration: the majority of their postures (*asanas) lead to the decrease in respiration, and the respiratory gymnastics itself is called, in Indian, Pranayama. The literal translation means “slowing breath”. Whatever the yogi did with their breathing, their final goal was to restrain [breathing], to harness it, to reach breathlessness and deathlessness. But those, who misinterpreted and badly understood it all, introduced this confusion that allegedly deep breathing is the breathing of yogi...
We declassified the major miracles of yogi. Their major miracles are in the reduction of respiration and accumulation of carbon dioxide. For thousands of years the yogi were looking for “prana”, which is somewhere in food, air, etc. It turned out that carbon dioxide is prana. Here is the main source of life - carbon dioxide. If you accumulate it, you become a “superhuman”; if you lose it, you suffer....
There is no total one-sidedness: if we increase carbon dioxide above the norm (the middle norm), then an interesting phenomenon arises which I will explain later such as super-endurance [or super-resilience], a special stability of certain processes, a special stability of the nervous system, etc. Now we shall connect this with the secrets of yogi, which thus far have not been decoded. It turned out that we discovered the way to decipher super-resilience of yogi and their miracles.
All these miracles are based on the fact that yogis accumulate CO2, and all their secrets are connected with a reduction of breathing. Over 30 years ago [John] Haldane found that the organism regulates CO2 level with 0.1% accuracy (the threshold of CO2 regulation). Since this is the level of accuracy, CO2, obviously, is very important. Is oxygen regulated with the same precision? Only when oxygen decreases by more than 5%, the organism reacts to restore it.
Then we understood that by reducing breathing below the norm, our patients arrived at miracles. Here we realized . . . what it was all about! It reminded of the yogi. What they strive for, it turns out, is achieved through reduction of breath and increase in carbon dioxide. This explains their miracles.
... Super-endurance of yogis is the effect of shallow breathing. This final result unites real yogis and our system, the scientific system of breathing. Yoga should be studied! There are many interesting physiological things there. This topic is raised by many scientists in Moscow, and I support them. We came across these phenomena accidentally, and if we focus on them, many interesting things can be discovered."
Dr. Buteyko Lecture in the Moscow State University (1969)
Reference pages: Breathing norms and the DIY body oxygen test:
- Breathing norms: Parameters, graph, and description of the normal breathing pattern
- Body-oxygen test (CP test) : How to measure your own breathing and body oxygenation (two in one) using a simple DIY test
References: pages about CO2 effect:
- Vasodilation: CO2 expands arteries and arterioles facilitating perfusion (or blood supply) to all vital organs
- The Bohr effect: How and why oxygen is released by red blood cells in body tissues
- Nerve stabilization: Carbon dioxide has powerful calmative and sedative effects on brain neurons and nerve cells
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