Biofeedback for Breath Work and Pranayama

by on March 6, 2012 · 0 comments

in Yoga Notes

In so many yoga and pranayama practices I find emphasis being placed more on the inhalation than the exhalation. It’s important to note that the overall quality of a breath cycle is just as dependent upon the quality of your exhalation as it is upon the quality of the inhalation. Through experience with various methods of pranayama, I find that the quality of my exhalation is what determines the overall quality of my pranayama practice. The inhalation process happens naturally and without effort after the completion of the exhalation process.

Give this a try.

In your next breath, exhale all the air you can possibly expel from your lungs by opening your throat, and using the abdominal muscles to press the belly button to the spine. Once you have exhaled all the air that you can, simply relax and observe what happens next.

Did you notice that by simply relaxing your muscles in your abdominal area, that you came into your next inhalation?

The importance of this type of exhalation, or Bahya Vritti, is to completely expel all the carbon dioxide from the lungs so that the next breath completely saturates the lungs with oxygenated air. If you have ever known of anyone that had emphysema , you will likely know that the measurement of impairment is determined not by how much air one can breathe in, but the volume of air that can be expelled from the lungs. Thus the measurement of our breath quality overall is measured by the same process. Just remember that the breath adjusts to meet the demands of the body and mind.

Using a Peak Flow Meter

There are many devices that are used to measure quality of breath, one of the most simple being a mechanical peak flow meter, which is a devices with a ball or plastic marble that is lifted alongside a

A most useful aid for Breath Work

scale as the user blows into one end of it. These are great to establish a baseline in your quality of breathing and if you utilize one on a regular basis, you can track your progress overtime. Peak flow meters provide bio-feedback, allowing you to reach your maximum volume of exhalation just after a few uses, and studies have been conducted that prove the quality of breath can improve over time with regular use of a peak flow monitor. These devices can range from less than $10 for simple designs, to hundreds of dollars for small, compact digital peak flow meters.

 The Straw Breathing Method

The Cheapest Breath Work Aid.

Another popular method that I have seen used in speech therapy for bringing awareness to breath is straw breathing.  The idea is to breathe through a plastic drinking straw so that the mind can be conditioned to the idea of a full breath for effective speech.The exercise can also help condition your diaphragm to relax and contract harmoniously and move slowly and evenly through its entire range of motion. Straw breathing exercises can also help empty your lungs more completely on exhalation, and allow a larger, more spontaneous inhalation.  As breathing is modified with this method, the breath naturally adjusts to expelling more air on the exhale so that the body can get the oxygen it needs in response to a slowed breathing pattern.


Blowing bubbles is great for breathwork practice

The Most Fun aid in Breath Work.

Blowing Bubbles

My Son had asthma between the ages of 3 and 6, and one tip that helped him greatly improve the quality of his breath was blowing bubbles. It was a tip that was given to me by a yoga instructor who had helped some of her own students with asthma. I was told that it functioned methods similar to pranayama with the purpose of developing an strong exhalation. If you think about it, blowing bubbles is much like ujjayi  breathing. You take a deep inhale, and then slowly, with control, softly blow onto the plastic bubble wand. You can increase the rate of exhalation to make several tiny bubbles or lengthen the rate of less forceful exhalation and blow larger bubbles. The reason blowing bubbles is successful in developing the breath is because it too provides a method of bio-feedback much like a peak flow meter. It’s also relaxing and a lot of fun!

These methods provide excellent visibility into the quality of your breath and can be continued to develop a stronger exhale and overall, improve the quality and awareness of your pranayma practice. Experiment with these methods to see if they can benefit your practice.

Previous post:

Next post: