During yoga classes you have probably heard your yoga teacher say while in mid flow, exhale and then move into a different pose ‘inhale’, for first time yogi’s this can often be difficult to understand, not the principle of inhaling and exhaling itself but the reason as to why we inhale in certain poses and exhale in others.
As we move through our yoga practice the thought it often dropped and the question is never fully explained. I am going to explain why we exhale in certain poses and inhale in others during flows.
When we look at the complex human body the muscle fibers of the lungs connect to several important structural components of the skeletal system. If we look at Sternal and rib cage in particular we can see that the lungs directly attach to the lumbar spine,
In total the lungs or diaphragm’s fibers attach to four distinct regions, Sternal, Costal ( the inner costal cartilage surfaces of ribs 6 through to 10), Arcuate (A ligament that runs for rib 10’s cartilage to the lumbar spine, attaching along the way to the floating ribs 11 and 12 and the Lumbar.
If we picture the lungs as a balloon, filling and deflating with air we can start to understand the change in shape of our spine while breathing, when we inhale the balloon fills which pushes our lungs out and in turn our ribs then creates a slight shift in our lower spine, creating a small arch and the opposite happens when we exhale, the lumbar spine lengthens like shown in the left hand picture shown below.
Thus explaining why in certain poses we inhale, to contract the spine and exhale to length.
Downward facing dog we exhale to length the back of the spine and create that beautiful long line from the base of your spine to the start of your neck, this helps to lengthen out the hamstrings and as also a great pose to head into after backbends to create a passive counter stretch along the spine.