Sadhguru looks at how the way you breathe is an integral part of yogasanas, and explains how the body gradually comes to ease with regular practice.
Questioner: Sadhguru, people who come to the yoga class with experience in aerobics or other types of exercise tend to breathe through their mouth while doing yogasanas. Does it make a difference whether we breathe through the nose or mouth? And why should we breathe slightly deeper than normal?
Sadhguru: If you are running at a certain pace, there is a tendency to open your mouth because breathing through your nostrils may not be sufficient. But you never ever breathe through your mouth during asanas. This is not an aerobic exercise – asanas are about building internal strength of the organs and the whole system. Within a few weeks of practicing asanas, naturally, your system will become more capable and your pulse rate will decrease.
Breathing through the mouth is both unaesthetic and unscientific. You should always breathe through your nasal passage – except in emergencies. If you are just born and they hold you upside down, or you are running a marathon and your pulse rate goes beyond a certain level, or it is your last breath and you want to live for one more minute – then it is all right. Otherwise, always breathe through your nostrils because the nasal passage is there for this purpose – make use of it. There are many benefits to this. One is the purification of the air. Another is that the temperature of the air gets adjusted to your body temperature before it enters the lungs, which is important.
In yogasanas, there is absolutely no necessity to breathe through your mouth. You should never push yourself to the point where you have to open your mouth. You must steadily build it up in such a way that your ability to breathe keeps increasing. We say you should breathe slightly deeper than normal because otherwise, if you go into an extreme position and I say “breathe normally,” you will not get enough oxygen and after some time you will gasp. Any gasp is an aberration in the breath. Any aberration in the breath naturally has an effect on various aspects of the body.
If you breathe in hot air, even if you are at sea level and there is enough oxygen, you will gasp as if you were in high altitude. The human body is comfortable at a certain temperature and it needs a certain air mixture. When I used to ride my motorcycle across the country and I would go up a mountain, from about 4000-5000 feet above mean sea level, the oxygen becomes less and the engine starts behaving differently. Since I always wanted the same level of power, I would stop, open up the carburetor, make the necessary adjustments, and only then ride on. If you come down to sea level, the engine starts knocking and you have to adjust the cylinder head again.
Bringing the body to ease
Recently, I was at the Volvo truck plant and they were showing me the electronic instruments that are attached to the engine nowadays. It detects the efficiency of the firing inside the internal combustion engine, the fuel temperature, the oil temperature, and if there is any small aberration, it informs the driver that this is what is happening. The driver may not be educated enough to make use of this information, so there is another computer which is correcting all these things. For a truck that is lugging up to 130 tons, even a small change in engine performance will translate into a big overall performance drop. This is just a small imitation of what your body always does. Even a small change in the air temperature will affect it, but the body has correction measures if you are breathing properly. It will correct itself for the rareness of air and for even a small change in the air temperature.
This time when we went to Kailash, we were at an altitude of over 16,000 feet for almost eight, ten days. Except for the Sherpas who always live in that altitude, I was the only one who did not take altitude-sickness medication, even though all the other participants were practicing more yoga on a daily basis than I do. But if you build your system over a period of time, you can enjoy the benefits on all levels, all the time – not only in high altitude. If the body comes to ease, the other possibilities open up. If the body is not at ease, the other possibilities will not open up because everything is focused on making the physical part right.
This is what yoga is about – you want to bring your body to such a state of ease that you do not even know whether your body exists or not. You cannot forget the parts of your body that hurt right now. You can only forget what is at ease. To bring the body to such ease, you must breathe slightly deeper than normal, and over time, in any asana, if you are in the perfect posture, your breath should become normal. If your body is in good shape and you are within a certain age range, after about 12 to 18 months of intense practice, you will come to a point where in a full asana posture, there will be no need to breathe deeper than normal anymore. Just the normal breath will be more than enough, without gasping. If you remain in the full posture for one minute and there is no aberration in your breath or your pulse rate, it means your body is coming to ease. If it comes to such a state of ease, there will be no dis-ease. And if there is no state of dis-ease in you whatsoever, then the body has energy to explore other dimensions of life. Otherwise, the body keeps you busy for the rest of your life.