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Friday Practical Pointers: Your Respiratory System is More Than Just a Pair of Lungs

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter

Friday Practical Pointers: Your Respiratory System is More Than Just a Pair of Lungs

Cloudscape by Melina Meza

When we inhale, our breath delivers air to our lungs, which extract oxygen for use as fuel. And when we exhale, we release carbon dioxide, a waste product delivered to our lungs from our blood stream for removal. To make this all happen, many different organs and systems in your body work together to enable us to do what we simply call “breathing.” Airways. The openings of the nose and nasal passageways, the mouth, the pharynx (back of throat), larynx (the passageway by the vocal cords), trachea and bronchial tree that leads to the air sacks inside your lungs make up the airways that allow oxygen to come into your lungs and carbon dioxide to be released from them. Breath practices will help you learn whether the upper and lower passages are open and relaxed. If not, you can use calming breath practices or stress management tools to try to reopen them. You can also use stress management tools to support your immune system, lowering the chances of infections, such as sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia, and for those with asthma and allergies, to relax the bronchial tree so air can flow more easily through it.
Lungs. Although our lungs are essential to breathing, they actually depend on the contractions of our respiratory diaphragm and other helping muscle groups to draw air in for the inhalation and push it out for the exhalation. So to maintain the health of our lungs, we can use our asana and breathing practices to support the health of the muscles, connective tissue, and bones that surround the lungs, and work on maintaining healthy breathing patterns. Respiratory Diaphragm. Positioned just below the lungs, the diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing, which allows the lungs to expand on the inhalation and deflate on the exhalation. If you are relatively active and healthy, the diaphragm does not need any special “exercising.” However, if you have been sedentary, suddenly gained weight, suffered from periods of inactivity or developed poor posture, your diaphragm may not be working optimally. In these cases, you can use your asana practice to stretch areas of restriction and re-establish healthy posture. And you can use breath practices, such as gradually lengthening your inhalation and exhalation, to improve your lung capacity over time. Chest Cavity. Made up of your ribs, breastbone and spine, your chest cavity provides the housing for your lungs and respiratory diaphragm (as well as your heart and its arteries and veins, and your esophagus). The muscles and fascia that connect the bones in and around your rib cage assist in your breathing by expanding your chest cavity on your inhalation and compressing your chest cavity on your exhalation. For a healthy person, a well-balanced yoga practice will help you maintain optimum functioning of your chest cavity. For a person who has gained weight, being sedentary or inactive, or has poor posture, you can use your asana practices to improve the strength and flexibility of your chest cavity and restore your posture to a healthier state. Circulatory System. To carry out its functions, your respiratory system depends on your circulatory system. The circulatory system circulates blood that has passed through your lungs to the trillions of cells in your body to provide them with oxygen for fuel. And it returns blood containing waste carbon dioxide from the cells back to your lungs for removal. Therefore, yoga practices that support a healthy cardiovascular system also support your respiratory system (see Techniques for Improving Cardiovascular and Heart Health).Brain and Nervous System. Both your lungs and the muscles that stimulate your inhalations and exhalations are in continual communication with your brain through your nervous system. Your brain monitors your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide moment by moment to modify the rate and depth of your breathing to match the energy demands of the activities you engage in. Your brain then sends messages to the your breathing muscles to either speed up or slow you’re your breathing. So without good communication between our brains and respiratory systems, we simply could not breathe. In addition, chronic stress can disrupt the normal balance between your brain and your respiratory system by causing unhealthy breathing patterns. That’s because when you are stressed and triggering your Fight or Flight response, your brain reacts by stimulating your respiratory system to take in more oxygen to prepare you for action. But if you’re chronically just “feeling” stressed, you don’t actually need to take action, though you’ll still be breathing as if you do. By using yoga stress management techniques and spending more time in a state of relaxation, you can rebalance your brains input to your respiratory system and re-establish healthier, more appropriate breathing patterns.On a very simple and urgent level, we all need to breathe well to live. So using yoga practices to support the optimal functioning of your respiratory system and the systems with which it is connected will provide benefits for your overall health. For information on techniques for using yoga to support your respiratory system, see Techniques for Supporting Your Respiratory System.Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook ° Join this site with Google Friend Connect

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