As many of us have read/seen/heard, the latest research suggests short bursts of intense exercise (1-3 minutes a few times a week) appear to have great health benefits when it comes to general health/blood tests. As of yet, there has been no conclusive answer as to why and no mention of a possible link to breathing. But, I can’t help surmising that it may have something to do with short bursts of hyperventilation. (Living in a state of hyperventilation though leads to all kinds of detrimental health outcomes).
Generally, the point of kaphalabati or bhastrika (rapid yoga breathing/pranayama techniques generally taught to more experienced practitioners) is to alter our physiology in a way that leads to slower breathing. In other words, short periods of hyper-ventilation can be useful because the result is alkalinity. The body wants to be neutral though so, following the rapid breathing exercise, the breath automatically slows and the rest/digest – healing – response is induced while a practitioner engages in physical yog-asanas. Essentially, this becomes (or should become) a dynamic meditation.
The healthiest people breathe soundlessly and without force or effort. This is particularly the case if we are not engaging in strenuous exercise or activity. But activities or stressful situations that leave us gasping for breath and unable to talk should be treated a bit like cheesecake – only for sometimes! In many yoga classes, we often hear the forced and stressful sounds of ujjai breathing which only serves to put pressure on the throat. Iyengar never practised like this! (See below for Iyengar’s ujjai demonstration with a microphone)