To provide our cells with the energy they need to maintain themselves, to grow, to defend themselves and our bodies to treats from the outside (viruses) and to propagate they need energy. They get this energy through an aerobe process. For this process they need oxygen and form carbon dioxide (CO2). Our respiratory system provided them with this oxygen and expels the CO2.
In western society we mainly see the air we breathe in as oxygen, according to the yogis (and other Eastern philosophy) this air is much more: it’s prana – life energy. Without this prana there is no life.
Parts of the respiratory system
- We breathe the air in through our nose (best option) or mouth. It passes our sinuses, which help to regulate the temperature and humidity of the air we breathe.
- Next the air passes our pharynx and larynx (voice box) and goes into our trachea (windpipe). From here the air branches into the bronchi, which are two tubes that transport the air into our two lungs. The bronchial tubes are lined with tiny hairs (cilia) that carry mucus up and out. The mucus is a sticky fluid that collects dust, germs and other things that should not be in our lungs. We get rid of this contaminated mucus when we sneeze, cough, spit or swallow.
- The bronchial tubes lead to the lobes of the lungs. The right lung has three lobes; the left lung only has two, because our heart is situated on the left. Lobes have small, spongy sacs inside them. In these alveoli the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. Blood passes through tiny blood vessels, the capillaries, in the walls of the alveoli. The CO2 is moves from the blood to the lungs and oxygen moves from the lungs into the bloodstream.
- The diaphragm controls breathing and separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. It is a bow shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs. The arch of the bow is upwards. When we breathe in the bow flattens, creating more space for the lungs. When we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and gets back in its normal place.
Functions of the respiratory system
- Exchange of O2 and CO2 (see above).
- Carrying O2 and CO2 from and to the lungs
- Protection of the alveoli against dehydration, change in temperature and de.fence against pathogens.
- Creating sounds (speaking, singing etcetera).
- Sense of smell.
Effects pranayama on respiratory system
There is a lot of research done into the effects of yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) on the body, including the respiratory system, and mind. Doing yoga and especially pranayama will lead to:
- Respiratory rate becomes slower. This deeper and slower breathing activates the para sympatric nervous system, reducing stress and rejuvenating the body. As a result you feel more calm and centred and sleep better.
- Better supply of the oxygen by opening the alveoli in the lungs thus allowing the lung to absorb more oxygen.
- Stronger diaphragm.
- Removing impurities from the breathing tube.