Yoga Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II Pose


Each organism has a particular way of associating metabolism and respiration. This association also varies in function of one’s lifestyle. Certain individuals therefore hyperventilate more easily than others. The hypothesis is that the more an organism can utilize a large quantity of oxygen, the more active it can become. This notion suggests that breathing exercises influences physiological resiliency. The neo-Reichian psychotherapists have also observed that, at least in some cases, reducing the quantity of oxygen one lives with is a way of reducing not only one’s vitality but also the intensity of one’s needs and affects.

In my practice, I have observed that some patients who breathe poorly grew up in an early environment that could not integrate the activities and demands of infants and little children.38 In the two schools (psychotherapy and yoga), for different reasons, practitioners work with the assumption that such individuals should learn to tolerate more oxygen to reinforce their physiological and affective vitality. Modifying the balance between a vast numbers of heterogeneous mechanisms without creating undesirable secondary effects is a complex business. Therefore, a process that wants to support the accommodation of physiological processes to a greater quantity of oxygen requires time and regularity. Time is necessary not only because regular practice is required to change the dynamics of organs but also because the therapist needs to calibrate the exercises he proposes in function of the patients particularities.

Some Dynamics of Prana Known Today

Certain ways to measure out overoxygenation via exercises can have complex implications for psychophysiology, notably in the modulation of the concentration of the neurotransmitters in the organism,39 the composition of the blood (the diaphragm is also a pump for the venous blood of the legs), and the nervous system. The rapport between the hormones and the respiration is so rich that Tarja Saaresranta and Olli Polo (2002) have even proposed that the studies of this topic form the discipline of respiratory endocrinology. For the moment, this research mostly shows how the hormones influence respiration, but cybernetics duly noted this implies that respiration is included in the regulatory systems of the hormones, which is also responsive to the functioning of respiration.40 It is therefore possible to relate effects of respiration to a cascade of chemical implications that diffuse themselves throughout the body.

Having said this, the recent knowledge on the influence of oxygen on the metabolic activity does not explain all of the phenomena associated with prana. Expressed differently, the clinical impression of the Hindus, concerning the relationship between their way of handling respiration and certain physiological phenomena, can be empirically sound. But that does not imply that their explanation is sound.

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