- Updated on July 31, 2019
By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author
“Hence, so many people are curious about yoga. It is a surprisingly wise system of exercises…” Dr. Buteyko Lecture in the Moscow State University, 1969
Can yoga defeat heart disease and cancer? Are fewer symptoms for diabetes and COPD among claimed yoga benefits? Yoga health benefits are huge and measurable if one slows down own breathing to increase body oxygenation. Among various styles, schools, techniques, and types of yoga, there is one traditional school that is devoted to excellent physical health: hatha yoga.
Here is a video on the right side about yoga benefits. It provides dozens of clinical studies and key quotes from ancient yoga texts.
Since this website is mostly devoted to physiological health and diseases, we are going to focus on yoga benefits in relation to health, especially the benefits of hatha yoga, which has two most essential types of practices: breathing exercises and practicing asanas (or yoga postures).
Yoga benefits are in slower breathing 24/7
The answer to yoga benefits is in the understanding of breathing. I am not talking about any breathing exercises. Breathing takes place 24/7 and the body requires oxygen 24/7 or all the time. Hence, it is necessary to consider our automatic or unconscious breathing that is going on day and night. (For clinical studies and exact numbers related to automatic breathing in healthy, normal and sick people, see the Homepage of this site: breathing). Let me start with traditional views on yoga breathing.
There are several classic manuscripts on Hatha Yoga written between centuries ago: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gheranda Samhita, and the Shiva Samhita. What do they teach about breathing and the benefits of yoga?
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 Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (4th-2nd century BC)
“Pranayama [the main breathing exercise in yoga] is the cessation of inspiratory and expiratory movements.”
The Gheranda Samhita (15-17 century)
“7. Whenever 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. “
Curious about quotes from the most popular yoga book Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15 century)? These quotes are provided right here below as your bonus content.
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 ailments are generated by the disturbance of the breath.”
“28. The breathing is calmed when the mind becomes steady and calm; …”
All these original texts do not have any referrals to “deep breathing” and ideas related to intensive expelling poisons from the lungs. In fact, you cannot find the term “deep breathing” in ancient yoga texts. They suggest the opposite ideas: to restrain, keep in, calm, and hold the breath.
However, if you start reading more recent books (written during the last 40-50 years, not before that) and web sources, you can find that nearly all leading and most popular yoga teachers claim that breathing should be deep (i.e., deep unconscious breathing pattern), that there are (some mysterious) toxins and poisons expelled from the lower parts of the lungs with deep breathing, and that CO2 is toxic (!).
There are still yoga teachers (very few though) who have a traditional understanding of automatic breathing, but in our modern age of education and knowledge, it is impossible to have a clear vision of yoga practices, including the effects and benefits of yoga, without an understanding of CO2 properties.
Currently, Bikram Yoga (or hot yoga) is the most popular yoga branch and movement. To learn about modern Bikram Yoga teachers and their understanding of breathing, visit this page: Bikram yoga benefits.
Dr. KP Buteyko studied hatha yoga in detail and he discovered the main secret of yogi’s super-health. This secret is explained on the web page Yoga Breathing Secret. More details about Yoga Pranayama: Who and How Gets Pranayama Benefits.
Conclusions. The majority of modern yoga teachers believe that deep breathing is good for health and that CO2 is a toxic waste gas. Since the actual situation is the opposite (chronic diseases develop due to alveolar hyperventilation), yoga benefits are limited and most people cannot improve their health using this fascinating ancient health practice. Thus, it is very unlikely for the person to defeat cancer or get rid of heart disease or diabetes with modern yoga.
The reasons are simple: yoga was created centuries ago. It could not anticipate huge lifestyle changes that took place in our living lives. One can get amazing yoga benefits (such as sleeping naturally for 2-4 hours only, having abundant energy, great digestion, no diseases at all) if the person increases body O2 levels up to 60 s and higher numbers. You will find more details about the power of breathing on the Homepage of this site.
The YouTube playlist for our yoga videos:
– “Yoga Is Ancient Technique For … More Oxygen in the Body: Pranayama, Asanas and Yogic Lifestyle for Super Health [If You Retrain Your Breath]” – Yoga Breathing, Pranayama, Asanas, and Lifestyle.