“Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.
Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature.” Patañjali
Above left, Anatomist and expert yogi, Roger Cole who has given me so much knowledge through his yoga journal columns and precise language.
This year I took a physiology of pranayama class with him and learned all about the exhale.
As I understood him, the buildup of CO2 in the bloodstream stimulates the inhalation response. The urge to inhale is rarely because of low oxygen, (our bodies have developed hemogloblin which attaches to oxygen and carries extra stores for us), more often the urge to inhale comes from excess CO2 . The important thing to remember is that your body continues to manufacture CO2 because each cell creates it as it consumes sugar and produces energy.
Mr. Cole had a very informative breathing exercise to demonstrate how the decrease in carbon dioxide in the blood stream through a series of quick blasts (exhales) resulted in the sensation that one doesn’t need to inhale quickly. Counterintuitive. It seems like after a number of exhales, one would be gasping for an inhale, but conversely, I found myself calmer without the need to gasp air. It’s like when one is given a bag to breath into when one is hyperventilating.
When you exhale, your heart slows down. This blasting breath lowers your CO2. with out increasing oxygen intake. The action, which takes place near the vagus nerve, causes the balance to shift from your sympathetic nervous system to your parasympathetic nervous system causing one to relax.
After class I asked him about our ki ahps–the traditonal martial arts yell. I told him that I’ve heard lots of theories about why it is important. From a yogic stand point, it activates the solar plexus chakra. The center of self esteem and innate power. From an anatomical view, it is the center of the body, the balance point. A good yell helps one to be on balance by drawing the abdominals in. So I theorized, perhaps the exhaling yell is a way to be calm in the midst of battle?
It turns out that Mr. Cole studied Aikido. He considered my assertion. “Well, that’s an interesting theory…when one exhales in a ki ahp, the contraction of the abdominal cavity causes the internal pressure surrounding the heart to decrease, thus pumping blood to the extremities…” I felt a light go off in my head, yes, and that would then aid one in battle…and provide a calm in the eye of the storm effect.
How lovely to interact with one so knowledgeable!