Breathing (Functions of diaphragm)

Breathing is something that we are doing every single moment of our life. Most of the time, we do not think about our breathing as it is a non-voluntary movement. Yet, breathing is also a voluntary movement, as we are able to hold our breaths when we want to.

While reading about the respiratory system, I learnt that I had misunderstood the respiration process for a long time. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle and it assist with the inhalation and exhalation process. It also separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Previously, my concept of breathing was that inhalation is due to the contracted diaphragm pulling air into the lungs, while a relaxed diaphragm pushes the air out of the lungs. Only part of this concept is true. Inverse relationship of the pressure versus volume of the lungs when the diaphragm moves creates the inhalation and exhalation movement. The table below will help to better understand:

Inhalation Exhalation
Diaphragm contracts (Flat) Diaphragm relaxes (Curves up wards)
Increase in lung volume Decrease in lung volume
Lower pressure (compared to the atmosphere outside of the body) Higher pressure (compared to atmosphere outside of  the body)
Air rushes in Air rushes out

Using the new concept learnt, it would be useful for my personal practice and also during teaching when performing both asanas and pranayamas. In each breathe, carbon dioxide is just waiting to be exhaled and for oxygen to be inhaled. Through this, we can also learn that something new can happen only when we make space for it to happen. Maybe, this is why we are encouraged to calm down and breath deeply when something negative happens. With each breathe, we let to accept or let go. Only then, can something better happens 🙂


Chang Rui Fen

March 2018 (Weekend class)

23 April 2018

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