Bihar School of Yoga presents Health for Everyone Series, Breathe for Healthy Lungs


Blessed Selves,

Hari Om

For all life forms breathing is vital, without which no life would survive. The entire life is lived from the first breath at birth until the last breath at the time of death. Breathing happens all the time, but no one is aware of it.

Similarly the heartbeats is another activity that goes on continuously from the time in the womb until seven, oeight, nine decades later, when heart stops, life ends.

A doctor's death certificate states cardio-respiratory failure for the majority of natural deaths, indicating that the heart and breath together are responsible for sustaining the journey of life.


Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati says:

You breathe 21,600 times in 24 hours, but you don't know it. Most people breathe but they don't know they are breathing. This is the relationship of man with his life principle, this is ignorance. If the breath stops for 3 minutes you are gone, finished. Breathing is such an essential process of life and lives so close to you, you can even touch it and still you don't know it. The breath is the most essential item in life.

The heart and lungs are the two most important organs of the body but also the most ignored and uncared for, until some serious setback to health happens.


Yogic tradition has always emphasized care of lungs and heart for a healthy and strong body which can withstand the onslaught of stress and sickness, and increase stamina, vitality, immunity and attain optimum health.

The Yogis realized breath to be the container and carrier of prana shakti, the vital force, which once harnessed, channeled and guided could alter and improve the performance of the cardio-vascular, cerebral, nervous systems and pranic field of life.


Some facts to know about lungs and breath

Breathing is of two types: 1. External Respiration and 2. Internal Respiration.

External respiration is the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) between the body and the external environment.

Internal respiration is the exchange of gases between tissue cells and their fluid environment.

Rhythmic bellow-like movements aid the intake of air to the lungs (inhaling) and expulsion of air from the lungs (exhaling).


The total lung capacity can vary in different body types. The average capacity of the lungs is to hold about five to six litres of air.

In a normal inhalation you breathe about 500 millilitres of air, out of which about 350 ml reach the alveoli in the lungs and 150 ml remain in the trachea and main bronchi know as the dead space.

The vitality, health and stamina of the body is dependent only on the 500 ml of air that you breathe in and out.


At rest, a normal male adult breathes in and out about 10 to 15 times per minute. For simplicity, consider the rate of breathing to be 10 breaths per minute. The amount of air that you breathe in per minute is 500 ml x 10 = 5000 ml or 5 litres. This is the respiratory minute volume.

During hard exercise, the volume may go up to as much as 150 litres or more.

The values are about 25% lower in the female body.

In deep breathing, the volume of inhaled air and the quantity which reaches the alveoli increase.


During normal inhalation of 500ml, oxygen makes up approximately 20.95%, nitrogen 79.01% and carbon dioxide 0.04% of air that we breathe.

Out of 500 ml, 150 ml occupy the conducting passages which remains unchanged in composition.

350 ml (together with 150 ml previously occupying conducting passages) reach the alveoli. This mixture changes its composition as it gives oxygen to the blood and takes carbon dioxide from the blood.

These levels reflect percentages as existing in an optimum healthy environment. But in today's highly polluted environment, the levels of nitrogen and carbon dioxide during inhalation may be much higher leading to greater risk of cardiac and respiratory disease.

One cannot emphasize enough the importance of clean air for our health.


During normal exhalation of 500 ml of air, oxygen is 16.4%, nitrogen 79.6% and carbon dioxide is 4%. In deep breathing, the composition of air exhaled changes to approximately 13.8% oxygen, 80.7% nitrogen and 5.5 carbon dioxide.

Deep yogic breathing increases the amount of oxygen absorbed into the blood as well as increases the amount of carbon dioxide expelled during exhalation.

Our breath connects us intimately to the natural world around us. The carbon dioxide we exchange is utilised by every plant, tree and forest on earth and in return they supply us with the oxygen we require for life. The process of respiration in humans has evolved along with the forests of the earth and without them there is no life as we know it.


The depth and rate of respiration may be modified by speech, singing, crying, laughing, drugs, sedatives, alcohol, exercises, sleep, fear, anger, pain, fever, pollution etc.

A better air flow or ventilation of the lungs is achieved with yogic breathing techniques involving a slow breathing rate and a large tidal volume, or a fast breathing rate and a small tidal volume.

When this is achieved through controlled practice, it brings about slow and deep rhythmic respiratory patterns and changes the . The elimination of waste gases improves. The heart and the circulatory functions are regulated and arrhythmic heartbeat is rectified. This condition induces a state of relaxation throughout the body-mind complex.


The practice of yogic breathing techniques called Pranayama develop the ability to take deep breaths, to breathe in more than 500 ml maybe 1000 to 1500 ml and with mastery of breath, maybe even 5000 ml of air per breath.

With Pranayama, it is possible to improve lung capacity.

Under stress and tension, breathing is rapid, short and shallow. During rest, it is slow, deep and long.

Longer and deeper breathing reduces emotional, nervous, cerebral and muscular stress and anxiety.


It is important to learn the right way to breathe and utilize more of the capacity of the lungs. If you begin to use even half your lung potential, two or three liters, it is a big improvement.

The stamina, strength, vitality, health and physical immunity can increase manifold if you learn to breathe correctly.

In yogic breathing you learn to regulate the breath, increase the lung capacity and master the process of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath.


Yoga has maintained that proper breathing allows the individual to live a longer and healthier life.

Poor respiration can also become the reason for asthma, anxiety, hypertension, stress, nervous disorders and hyperactivity. It can deplete minerals in the body and lead to skeletal deformities.

When people reach middle age, the lung capacity reduces by at least 10%, and this decline continues due to lack of proper breathing and poor physical health.

'Health is the ultimate wealth' and yogic practices allow you to gain this complete health. Therefore make yoga a sustainable habit and routine in your life.


For your information

Medical reports show that the present covid-19 pandemic has left the lungs completely unrecognizable. In those patients who spent more than a month in hospital, massive damage was suffered by the lungs resulting in complete disruption of the lung architecture.

It was also found that people in highly polluted urban areas were more vulnerable to the impact of the virus due to already weakened and compromised respiratory and cardiac systems.

  • In yogic breathing techniques or pranayamas, the practitioner is always advised to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth.
  • Breathing through the nose is the first line of defense for the body against pollution and particulate matter in the air. It is essential for health of the lungs, gives more energy and brings balance to body and mind.
  • As ambient oxygen passes through the sinuses, it diffuses across the nasal epithelium and is used by the nasal cells to produce Nitric Oxide.
  • When nitric oxide reaches the lungs it diffuses into the capillaries of the surrounding alveoli, expands blood vessels and increases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  • The release of nitric oxide helps to control blood flow via diffusion to the underlying muscle cells. The vasodilatation effect of nitric oxide leads to increased oxygen intake and arterial oxygenation as well as reduces pulmonary vascular resistance.
  • Benefits of enhanced nitric oxide include increased aerobic capacity, reduced hypertension, capillarization and growth of blood vessels.
  • Increased nitric oxide, through nasal breathing, regulates autonomic functions like heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and digestion along with mood, sleep cycle, and fluid balance.
  • Another benefit of enhanced nitric oxide is neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons form in the brain strengthening synapses for learning and memory.

In the time of crisis, when breathing becomes difficult and challenging for the untrained lungs, it is always better to practice yogic breathing techniques to overcome the crisis situation. It will improve health, vitality, stamina and internal immunity to enable the body to fight with external viruses and bacterial agents which affect health and wellbeing.


Presented here are eight simple yet very effective breathing exercises, taught by our Paramguru, Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati, for you to develop healthy lungs and breathing habits.


1.Preparatory breathing technique - Frontal stretch

Stand up upright with arms to your sides.

Inhale long and deep and raise your arms from the front above the head. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds with the arms stretched above. Exhale and lower your arms to the starting position.

Repeat this 10 times as shown (in the video at 14'48").


2.Preparatory breathing technique - Side stretch

Stand upright with arms to your sides.

Inhale long and deep and raise your arms sideways and up above the head. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds with the arms stretched above. Exhale and lower your arms sideways to the starting position.

Repeat this 10 times as shown (in the video at 15'45").


3.Preparatory breathing technique - Back stretch

Stand upright with arms stretched in front.

Inhale long and deep and take your arms sideways towards the back.

Take the hands behind the back as far as you can comfortably. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds. Exhale and bring your arms to the starting position.

Repeat this 10 times as shown  (in the video at 16'41").


4.Preparatory breathing technique - Abdominal breath

Lie flat on the bed and relax the whole body. Place the right hand on your abdomen. Close your eyes.

Inhale slow and deep allowing the abdomen to expand fully and then exhale gently.

Feel the hand move up and down with each respiration.

The breathing should be like the swell of the sea with no jerking or unnecessary strain.

Practice this for 50 gentle breaths fully filling and emptying the abdomen as shown (in the video at 17'47").


5.Preparatory Pranayama technique - Sahaj Purak Shwasan

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Keep the spine straight.

Place your hands on your thighs as close to the hips as possible. Push your elbows slightly back until you feel your chest open up and expand.

Relax in this base position.

Now breathe in and push gently downwards with your hands on your thighs. Don't hunch your shoulders, rather keep them relaxed and loose. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds and then gently breathe out, relaxing the pressure on the thighs.

Breathe silently through your nose and not through the mouth.

Repeat this 11 to 21 rounds comfortably as shown (in the video at 19'31").


6. Preparatory Pranayama technique - Utthita Sahaj Purak

Stand upright and straight. Shoulders relaxed and arms to your sides.

Fix your gaze at a point in front of you.

Inhale gently, slowly lift your heels off the floor and stand on your toes.

Hold this position for 5 seconds. Exhale and slowly bring the heels back to the floor.

Breathe silently through your nose and not through the mouth.

Repeat this 11 to 21 rounds comfortably as shown (in the video at 20'42").


7. Preparatory Pranayama technique - Viloma Pranayama

In viloma pranayama, the breathing is interrupted throughout inhalation and/or exhalation.

Sit comfortably on your chair or bed. Relax the body and allow the breathing to become regular, steady and stable.

Begin inhalation with a series of short pauses: inhale-pause, inhale-pause, inhale-pause. Continue like this until the lungs are full. The diaphragm and abdomen should remain firm after each pause.

Imagine that you are breathing up a set of stairs. This will make the practice easier.

On completion of the interrupted inhalation, exhale slowly and smoothly until the lungs are empty. Do not strain.

Repeat 10 rounds and then relax and breathe normally  (in the video at 22'22").


8. Preparatory Pranayama technique - Simple Nadi Shodhana

Sit comfortably on your chair or bed. Relax the body, close your eyes and allow the breathing to become regular and stable.

Place the index and middle fingers of your right hand at the eyebrow centre and with the thumb, close your right nostril. Inhale long and deep through the left nostril mentally counting 7 seconds.

Open the right nostril by removing the thumb and close the left nostril using your ring and little finger. Breathe out slowly and gently through the right nostril mentally counting 7 seconds. Then again inhale through the right nostril mentally counting 7 seconds.

Close the right nostril with your thumb again and open the left nostril.

Breathe out gently through the left nostril, counting 7 seconds.

This is one round of simple nadi shodhana. Practice 10 rounds, then relax and breathe normally (in the video at 24'17").


Final word

  • Pre-Pranayama or yogic breathing techniques increase the level of physical vitality, thus strengthening the force of internal systems resulting in overall health.
  • They strengthen the respiratory muscles and the lungs become more elastic, resulting an a healthier process of respiration.
  • During normal respiration, the stomach, pancreas, liver, bowels and kidneys are exercised, but this is accentuated during pranayama by the massage given to them by the conscious, controlled and deeper movement of the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles.


These breathing techniques also

  • Minimize the daily stress of the cardiac system.
  • Harmonize, purify, neutralize and balance the secretions of the endocrine gland systems and calm agitated thoughts and behaviour.
  • Slowly reduce the dissipations, distractions, agitations and velocity of the mind and the power and clarity of mind increases.
  • They sharpen concentration and gradually reduce nervous and cerebral tensions, emotional imbalances and mental stress.


Yoga publications on this subject can be found on

Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Prana and Pranayama

by Swami Niranjananda Saraswati

Asthma & Diabetes

by Dr. Swami Shankardevananda

Common Diseases

by Dr. Swami Karmananda

  • They develop a greater sense of self-reliance by regulating breathing patterns.
  • Boosts the blood circulation in the brain and body, and
  • Clear toxins and impurities of the physical system giving a boost to the feeling of lightness, energy and vitality.
  • These simple breathing practices can be done by people of all ages, whether they be yoga practitioners or non-practitioners.
  • With prayers for health and wellbeing.




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Bihar Yoga Breathe for Healthy Lungs





This yoga program is meant for those people who have an average level of health and fitness. If you are a beginner yoga practitioner or have any type of health issues and concerns, please consult your medical doctor and follow their advice in regard to this yoga program.

Copyright © Bihar School of Yoga, 2020. Copying, reproducing, sharing, modifying, or transmitting the contents of this program without the express, written consent of Bihar School of Yoga is prohibited. Instead the URL of this page can be shared.

Copyright © 2020 Bihar School of

Yoga, Munger, Bihar, India

Prepared June 2020