How to Breathe Properly
The Toothpaste Effect
In the practice of complete deep breathing as taught in yoga, the lungs are separated into three parts, and each one is developed to maximum capacity. Once that has been accomplished, the parts are combined in a sequence that keeps the maximum air intake to each section, each lobe, of the lungs. The sequence is a very logical one where you fill the bottom of the lungs first, then mid section, then the upper. Like filling a glass of water. When emptying the lungs however you keep that same sequence – pushing the air out of the bottom first, then mid, then upper. Unlike a glass of water that is tipped up and over to empty it, the lungs remain stationary, so that the best method of getting the air out of the bottom is by squeezing it up and out. Otherwise it is like squeezing a tube of toothpaste in the top or middle – what you see is the some of the paste going down as well as up, what goes down remains there, if you squeeze it up at the end it only goes up so far as the middle. Pushing the air up and out has been the method taught by Pranayama Yogis in India for some time. Although some modern instructors are teaching the exhalation from the top down – this method leaves more residual air in the bottom lobes since it is pushed up into the mid section in the final squeeze, but not all the way out.
One other aspect of this up and out method, is what happens to the prana. You are also squeezing the nerve plexin along the spine in the same order, from the first chakra up to the second with the abdominal squeeze, sacral plexus to the hypogastric plexus, then the third to the fourth, solar plexus to pulmonary – fifth to the sixth etc. This creates a flow of prana upwards to the brain area, a flow that is considered evolutionary and awakening in yoga.
The primal mantra of OM follows the same pattern: when divided into its three parts, the A, the U and the M, the first sound is made with abdominal breath, the second with mid section and the third with the upper breath. The tone or pitch also goes from low to mid to high, an ascending order that raises energy, mind and consciousness up to higher levels. The purpose of yoga is, after all, raising consciousness to higher more spiritually connected levels of our existence.
There are techniques is pranayama yoga to bring the energy down into the body, for strength, health and fitness, but out of 108 pranayama techniques there are only 8, the others have to do with evolution and higher states of consciousness. ~David Goulet