Old Hatha flow yoga books suggest that breathing is the essence of Hatha style yoga training. It is much more fundamental than learning or mastering most challenging yoga poses or asanas. The breathing process is going on 24/7, and the body requires O2 all the time. Hence, it is necessary to have a closer look at our unconscious or nasal breathing.
Classical manuscripts on Hatha Flow Yoga (Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Style Yoga Pradipika, and Shiva Samhita) written about 5-7 centuries ago. What do they say about breathing? According to these ancient Hatha flow yoga manuscripts. The goal of Hatha yogis to “suspend,” “hold,” “restraint,” and “calm” our breathing.
Unfortunately, modern Hatha style yoga gurus teach and express opposite views regarding involuntary or basal breathing patterns. Contemporary yoga leaders and practitioners believe in toxic waste nature of CO2 gas. They also promote the deep breathing myth. It claims that our basal or unconscious breathing should be deep or large (for better health).
Benefits of Hatha Flow Yoga
There are now dozens of proven benefits of carbon dioxide for the human body. It is vital for our health. If it gets four times below the medical norm, we can die in minutes due to spasms of blood vessels and severe tissue hypoxia in the brain and heart. Elevated carbon dioxide content or mild arterial hypercapnia is the central factor that explains prolonged respiration rates in some hatha yoga gurus (only about three breaths per minute at rest or during sleep) and exceptionally high body oxygen levels.
Normal and sick people often take more than 20 breaths per minute at rest depending on their health state. Faster breathing decreases body CO2 causing constriction of blood vessels. CO2 is a potent tested vasodilator. Less oxygen released into body tissues and vital organs at low CO2 levels. Furthermore, tiny normal diaphragmatic breathing is sufficient for 98% saturation of the arterial blood with oxygen. Overbreathing cannot provide more oxygen for us. It only reduces alveolar and arterial CO2 (if there are no problems with lungs).
How to use Hatha Flow Yoga
Hence when performing Hatha flow yoga, slow unconscious breathing pattern provides people with higher cellular oxygenation. Other confirmed properties of CO2 include sedative or calmative effects on nerve cells, bronchodilation (dilation of airways), suppression of inflammation, abilities to heal lungs and other tissues, strong muscle relaxant, powerful antioxidant abilities (suppression of free radicals), a regulator of hundreds of chemical reactions.
In agreement with old traditional yoga books and teaching. Slower breathing, breathing retraining students start to sleep much less. Down to 2-3 hours without any voluntary limitations. If Yogis get up to 2-3 min for the body-oxygen test if they manage to slow down their breathing down to 3-4 breaths per minute at rest. They start to crave physical exercise naturally, have robust immune systems, can digest more extensive varieties of foods, and so forth.
The main yoga breath work (Hatha flow yoga pranayama) requires a gradual increase in the duration of all phases of the breathing cycle. This will also be leading to the accumulation of carbon dioxide. Best yoga gurus, when they do pranayama, have only one deep breath for every 2-3 minutes. The breathing may seem profound, but they reduce their minute ventilation and raise their arterial CO2. Which will thus retrain their breathing center located in the brain to increased CO2 levels? Hence, their basal breathing pattern later, after this breath work, becomes slower and lighter. This is possible since any medical textbook claims that breathing is regulated not by oxygen want, but by arterial CO2 levels. Hence, slow breathing is the key to health and, if you manage to achieve it, you will be in excellent health.