Sei sulla pagina 1di 314


Hatha Yoga
A Manual for
tudents, Teacher ,
and Practitioucrs

11. David Coulter
W i t h a Foreword
Timulh)' McGJ.lI, M. D.

2002 Winne
Benjamín Fran . In Awa rd for
Health, Wel1ncs:-., and ut rition

A Manual for Students,
Teachers, and Practitioners

H. David Coulter


Timothy fvlcCall. M. D.

Bodv and Breath

Text une! ilIu stration s f' 200 1 by 11. David Co u lter
Foreword 2001 by T im othy McCall
Aut.hor's photog ra ph ( 2001 hy J oyce Baronio

Body une! Breath l nc. 14 ° 1) We¡.;tside Ave .• Honesdalo, PA 1843 1 USA

O') os 07 Oh OS 04 <) ~ 7 (, ')

PRECAUTIONARY NOTE: Thi« is nol a medical text, bul a

compendium ofremarh» concerning IlOW anatomy arul ph;}'siology relate
lo hatha yoga. Al,;}' medical questions regarding contraindieations and
To my parents,
cautions or any questions regarding uihether or not to proceed uiith who gu ided me lovingly,
particular practices or post ures sh o u l d he referred either to health watched my Jife with joy a nd ent hus iasm.
professionals uiho haoe an interest in m edical problems associated with suppo rted my academic and personal interests,
exercise, stretching, and breathing, or lo hatha yoga teachers uiho hove an d always t hought the best of me .
had experience uiorhing uiith. medical problems in a therapeutic setting
superoised b;)' health professionals,
All rights reserved. Wit h certain exeeptions enumerated below, no part of this book rnay
be rep roduced, stored in a retrieval systern, 01' transmitted in any form 01' by any means-«
electronic, mechanical, photocopyi ng, recording, 01' otherwise without written permission
from t.he publisher. There are three excep tin ns, First : brief quotat iuns of up to 300 words
that are ernbodied in critical articles and reviews can he used freely so long as they are
properly acknowledged. Second : blanket permission is granted for institurional and indi -
vidual photocopying, properly acknowledged, of up to one hundrr..-d copies totaling no
more t han 25 ,000 words for eae h copy with aecornpanyi ng illust ra tions (approxirnate ly
one chapter), 01' alternatively, a series of extracta from t he en tire book totaling no more
t ha n 25.()()() words, for purposes of teach ing 01 ' for research and prívate study; exeepting
that no deletions, altera tions, 01' exelusions within individual pages are permitted. For
example: eutting and pasti ng of ilIustrntio ns for st udent syllabi is expressly forhiddcn .
Only individual pagos in their entirety are to he pho tocopied, inc luding text (if uny ) and
a ll runni ng heads, captions, anel labe ls that are incurporated within each page . 'I'hird:
permission lar seanning of text , halftones, anatornical drawings, charts, and tahles reither
in isolation 01' altered as desired ) is grantcd unly for trials of elcctronic 01' hurd copy
publishing layouts : perrnission rnust be sought from the publisher 113od)' and Breath Inc.)
to use sueh illustrations for any kind of electronic 01' mechanical transmi..ssíon 01' in other
puhlications. Printcd in China,

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Coulter, H . Duvid (Her ber t Duvicl l. 19:19·

Anatomy of Hatha YOg'd : u manual for studl'nts, teadH!1 s, amI praditioners b}' 11.
David Coull el' ; lareword h)' Timothy l\feCa ll.
Includes hibi/ographical referenccs and indexo
ISB N 0-9707006-0-1 (al k. pap!"')
1 Yoga, Ha tha--Physiological a~~1s. ~ . Human mcchalli~",. 3. Human anutomy. 1.

HA78J.7.CG85 200 1
6 13.7'()46--dc~ 1
Forelvord 11

Preface 13

lntroduction 15
.. ~~ ¿}IN/- /ICtW ' /!/If'¡a/ljllh'.t/';fl I/N'll/a l a !fó((/ t4cl! Úh:ÓJj//l-
Basic Premises 17
rr/:dú: 1//~/pAi poli- /u¡;"o·l l(.1. atf::wl JI-{){U·¡1t,kÚtUtl &Z IINth

JC'//Ie/./Í~1fI / /-D ~/If clJc II/lckr .1to / tdJ.9 .91Ceatt.1¿ tt i.J O/Z /1"JI<.'I I. Chupte,. One . MOVEMENT AND POSTURE 21
The Neuro-musculoskel etal System 22
e9J;'-re i.1 .10n telÁÚtp j#'11/hdIRlcrcJ/úl¡P> ftr a reaJtJ/Z Iftvdl o
The Nervous Systern 29
t':f7I-&Út . ..5íi.Jkrdt lJ C;-7'k/l tf'cca/~}¡::F'N, //O.f1Cn c{I(';;'Fav/tI
Ref1exes 36
NI Oh#/lapc ,' /,¡{cn ; JlI'I¿ Ñ:f'UI. ~/¿ II ' O Y.:/ / U/¿ : /z/In!J?( krn- /C' The Vestibula r Syste rn, Sigh t, and Touch .47
y-il'l; N 'lá' 11' d'iJ, JI!'llr O(///{ /Zdll'/tlJh/llo ll. .- Connective T'issue Restra ints 51
Stretching 60
- Annie Dil1ard, in The Writing Life
Threo Postures 62
Putting It Al] Together 66

Chapter Tioo - BREATHING 67

The Design of the Respiratory Systern 68
The Muscles of Rospiration 74
How Breathing Affects Post u re 82
The Somatic and Autonomic Systerns 85
The Physiology of Resp iration 91
Thoraeic I3reathing 102
Paradoxical Breathing 107
Supine Abdom inal Breathing 108
Abdomi na l Breat hi ng in Sitti ng Postures 111
Diaphragmatic Breathing 120
A Traditional \Varnillg 131


Cr unch es and Sit-ups 140
The Foundati on of the Body 141
Supine Leg L ifts 160
Yoga Sit-ups 169
The Sitti ng Boat Postures 171
The Peacock 173
Th s Pelvis and Th e Analomical Peri neu m 177
Ashwi ni Mudra 182
Mula Bandh a 183

Agni Sara 188 Breathing a nd Forward Bcnding 353
Uddiyana Bandha, 'I'he Abd omin al Lift 195 Sacroiliac Flcxibility 355
Naul i
Con t rai ndications
204 ~~:.;~~~~~~~~'.. ::::::::::::: : : : ::::::::::::::: :::: :::: :::::::::::: ::: : : ::::: : :::::::: : ::::::: :::::::::::~:~
Ben efits 205 Chupler Seuen - TWISTING POSTURES 383
Chapter Four - S1'ANDING POSTURES 207 'I'he Fundamentals of Twisti ng 384
The Sk cletal Systcrn and Movement 210 ']'h e Skull, t he Atlas, a nd t he Axis 388
Anatorny of t he Spi ne 215 Movem ents 01' the Head and Neck 392
Sym mctry a nd Asymrne try 227 Thoracic Twisting 395
Standing Postures 228 Lumbar 'I'wisting 396
Four Sim ple Stre tc hes 230 1'11e Lower Extrcm ities 398
Backward Bcnding
Forward Bending
240 ~~~:~~n:~~::¡~·::::::::::: :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::~~
Side Bending 249 [nverted Twi sts .424
Wha t Makes Postu res Difficult? 254 Sitting Sp inal Twists .425
The 'I'ri angle Postures 255 Benefits .435
Two Balancing Postures 267 Chapter Eight - THE HEADSTAND .437
Bencfits 271 The Cardiovasc ul ar System .437
Chapter Fioe - BACKBENDING POSTURES 273 'fhe 1\vo Headstands .446
The Anatomy of Flexion an d Extensi ón 274 The Upper Extrelnitics .455
Brea thing and Backbending 280 Structural Imb alances .471
Th e Cobra Postures 284 Breathing Issues .474
The Locust Postures 296 Developing Strength and Flexibility .477
The P rone Boat Postur es 303 Bcnding and Tw isting in th e Hoad stand .488
The Bow Postures 305 Extending Your T ime .493
The Knee J oint 307 Benefits .497
Sup ine Backbendi ng Postures 312 Chapter Nine - 1'HE SHOULDERSTAND .499
~l eel i n g Backbend- The Cam el 320 Anatomy 01' The Shoulders tand 500
~raindications 323 Inverted Act ion Postures 50:1
I fits 324 Th e Shoulderstand 507
•apter Six - FORWARD BENDING P OST URES 325 Th e Plow 516
··..ard Bending: Head, Neck, and Chest 326 Th e Lifted Sh oulderstan d and P low 522
abar and Lurnbosacral Forward Bending 327 Circulati on 524
-roiliac Nutation and Counternutation 328 Respiration 526
I 1 -ard Bending at the Hip J oints 332 Sequ elas 528
." ard Ben ding a t the Ankles and in the Feet 334 Benefits 539
r-,'cal Matters and Cau t ions 337 Chiipter Ten - R ELAXA1'ION AND MEDITATI ON 541
Posterior Stretch 340 Muscular Relax at ion 543
Down-Faci ng Dog 349 'I'wo Relaxation Posturas 547
'. Child's Pose 352 Breathing and Relaxation 552

'I'ho Autonomic Nervous System 554
Deepening Re laxation
Med itation Postures
Maintaining the Geometry 566
Props 572
H atha yoga . Its teachers and serious students are convinced of its puwer to
The Six Postures 575 huild st rength and confidence, lo irnprove flexibility a nd balance, and lo foster
Mula Bandha 588 sp iritual pcace and contentment. And beyond its attributes as preventi ve med-
Mastering the Situation 589 icine, many of us also bclieve in the power of yoga to heal , to aid in reeoveri ng
Knower oí' the VeiJ 593 from everything frorn low back strain to carpal tunnel syndrorne an d to help
cope with chronic prob lems like arthritis, multiple sclerosis and infection with
Glossary ·················· 595 the human immunodeficiency vir us (l IIV).
But despite th e recont boom in yoga 's popularity, most seientists and physi-
Additional Sources 607 cians have been slow to embrace this discipline. '1'0 many of them pcrhaps, it
seerns like a rnystical pursuit, a quasi-religion with littl e basis in th e modern
Acknouitedgments 609 world of scienco. In a medical profession now itse lf dorninated by a near religious
reverence for the randornized, control led study, knowledge aequired th rough
lndex of A natomical Terms 611 thousands of years of direct observation, int rospection, and trial and error may
SL'Cm quaint,
Index of Practices 619 Bu t as the West has slowly opened in the past decades to Eastern, experientially
bascd fields like acupunclure-as part of a greater acceptance of alternative
Biographical Sketch 623 medicine in general-yoga has begun lo stake its c1aim. Concepts like prana 01'
chi, however, are not warrnly received by skeptical scientists . To win them over
you need lo provide the k ind of evidence they buyo Studies. Preferably
publi sh ed in peer-review jou rnals. And you need to propose mechanisms uf
action that conform with scionce as they understand it.
A significant breakthrough was provided by DI: Dean Ornish, a California-
based cardiologist who interrupted his college years to study with Sri Swami
Satchidananda. His work, published in 1990 in th e prestigious British medi cal
journal t he Lancet, showed that a program that combines hatha yoga with
dietary changes, exercise, and group therapy can actually reverse blockages in
the heart's main artcries -which doctors used to t hink wasn't possib le.
In 1998, rescarch led by Marian Garfinkcl of t he Medical College of
Pen nsylva nia and published in the Journal o{ tire American Medical
Association found th at lyengar yoga could effect ively reduce the symptoms of
carpal tu nneI syndrome, a malady of nea r epidemic proportions in this computar
age , Oí' note, Garlinkel's study lasted only eight weeks, and yet the intervention
proved efficacious. Serious yoga practilioners reali zo of course that although some
benefit may be noticed afte r even a single class, yoga's most profound effects
accrue over yea rs-s-even decades-not weeks. Yoga is indeed powerfu l medicine
but it is slow medicine.
More studies wiII be needed to convince the medical establishment, but th at
research could also be slow in coming . Funding is a porennial problem. Unlike
the situation with, say, pharmaceuticals, th ere is no prívate industry lo
bankroll the scientific investigation of hatha yoga. Given the incredible cost of
long-range studies-whi ch are more like ly t o demonstratc effe ctiven es s-
1 suspect that we're un likely to see any time soon the kind of overwhelming
proof that skeptical scientists want. This presents a philosophical question:

10 11
\Vhen you have an in t erv en tion which appears safe and eífective-i-and when its
side cffeets are almost entirely positive---should one wait Ior proof befare
trying it? This value judgrnent líes at the heart of the recent debate over many
tradi tional hcaling methods.
Ironical ly, though, even within the world of aiternative medicine yoga seerns
u nder -a pprecia ted. Two years ago, [ a ttended a Iour -day con fere nce on aIter-
native medicine sponsored by Harvard Medica] School. A wide range of topics
from herbs to prayer to homeopathy were covered in detall. Yet in the dozens
al' presentations I attended, yoga was mentioned just once: In a slide that
accompanied the lecture on cardiovascular disease, yoga was one of several L le origins of this book date Irom twenty-five years ago when 1 was teaehing
modalities listed un der "Other Stress Reduction Techniques. " Yoga is eertainly a val'ious neuroscience, mieroscopie anatomy, and elementary anato~y co~l'ses
stress reduction device but to reduce it lo just that m isses so mucho . the Deparlment of Cell Biology and Neuroanalomy at the University of
Given the s ituation, how welcome then is David CouIter's Anatomy o{Hatha ~inneHota. At the same time 1 was learning about yoga in c~asses at the
Yoga. David combines the pe rspectives of a dedicated yogi with that of a former Medítetíon Center in Minneapolis. During those years, Swami Rama, w~o
anatorny professor and research associate at two major American medical founded the Himalayan Institute, often lec tured in Minnesota, a~d one of his
schools. He has se t himself the ambitiuus goal uf combining the modern messages was that yoga was neither exereise ~O/. l'?li~on, but ~ science, and l~e
scientific understanding of anatorny and physiology wíth the ancient practico of wanted modern biomedical science lo examine it m that light. One ~f h~s
hatha yoga. purposes in eom ing to the West was to brin~ th!s about, a purpose w lllc~ IS
The result of an obvious labor of love, the book exp lains hatha yoga in reflected by the name he se lectcd Ior the instituta th~t he found~- rhe
demystífied, scientific terrns while at tho sarne time honoring its traditions, It Himalaya n Intemational Inst it uto ofYoga 8eienee and Philosophy. 'I'he I~e~ of
should go a long way to helping yoga achieve the scientific recognition it connect ing yoga with modern science resonated with me, and the ~onvICtlOn
dese/ves. Usefu l as both a textbook and as a refere nce, Anatomy ofHatha Yoga grew that 1 could be a part of such a qucst. Soon ~er I c?~muDJcatcd 1I1Y
is a book t hat all serious yoga teachers and practitioners will want on their interest Swamiji called and suggested that I pay lum a visit to talk about
shelves. It wiIl also be welcomed by sympathetic physicians-and there are more writing ~ book on anatomy and hat ha yoga. And that is how this project began
of us a ll the time---as well as physieal therapists and other health in 1976. . . . .
pro fessionals. Speaking as a doctor who had a lready studied anatomy in detail Apart from several false starts and near-fatal errors, I did httle writing on
(though forgotten more than I'd care to admit) and as a dcdieat ed student al' this subject between 197() and 1988, but still I benefited from. stu?ents'
yoga, I can happily report that this book heightencd my understanding of both qu estions in eourses on analomy and hatha yoga at the UmversJty of
hat ha yoga and analomy and-as a niee bonus- improved m)' personal pradicc. Minnesota (Ext ension Division ), more eomprehellsive courses on yoga anatomy
I realizc, however, that to those who lack scientifie tmin íng Anatom)' of for graduate students a t the Himalayan I nst it ute in. the lat? 1980s, an~tomy
Haiha Yoga may seem daunting. Sorne sections use tcrminology and coneepts and physiology eourses in the mid-1990s fol' lhe Paelfic Insilt ute fol' Onental
that may be ehaIlenging on first rcading. Ifyou feel intiInidated, my suggestion Medicine (NYC) and from 1990 lo the present, teaehing anatomy for students
is to adopt the mentality many employ when reading the ancicnt and some- of Ohashiatsu®: a method of Oriental bodywork. These courses brought me in
~s diffic uli texts of the yoga tradition. Rcnd with an open heart and if you get touch with man)' tclling questions fmm studenls interested in various aspeets
-rnls1rated , try another part or come back to it another day. As with yoga itself, ol' holistic medicine; without ibem, the seed planted by Swamiji would never
e ¡ ent students will be rewarded with an ever-grcater understanding. ha ve matured.
And so it went, from a working drafl in the summer of 1976 to 1995, when
'l'imothy McCall, MD a ller many gentIe and not-so-genile nudges, Swamiji insistcd that my time was
Boston, Massachusetts up, l was lo finish the book, finish it now, and not run away. Ir [ tried to escape,
Janua ry, 2001 he avowed, he would follow me to lhe ends ofthe earth; what he would do upon
finding me is bettcr lefl unsaid. Happily, he saw an early but complete drafl of
'. Timothy MeCall is a board-eertifiL'<1 specialist in internal mL'<1icine and the t he tcxt ayear before his passillg in November of 1996 .
• . o/' of l!.xamining Your Doclor: A Patient's Guide fo Avouling Harrnful
~( ~al Careo His work has appearcd in more than a dozen major publieations
ÍJ~lud i ng the New Englalld Journal of Medicine , the Natioll and the Los
tes Times. He can be found on the web at

l2 13
Acompl'ehensive staternent on the anatomy and physioIogy of hatha yoga
ought to have been written years ago. I3ut it hasn't happened, and myaim
is to remedy the deficiency. After considering the subject for twenty-five
years, it's clear that such a work rnight weli interweave two themes: for the
benefit of completeness, a traditional treatment of how to do yoga postures
(yoga asanas) using anatornically precise terminology, and, for correlatíons
wií.h medicaI science, an objective analysis of how those postures are
realized in sorne of the great systems of the body. In that regard, special
emphasis is placed here on the musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, and
cardiovascular systems-the rnusculoskeletal system beca use that is where
al! our actions are expressed, the nervous system beeause that is the residence
of alI the manageriaI functions of the musculoskeletal system, the respiratory
system because breathing is of such paramount importance in yoga, and
the cardiovascular system because inverted postures cannot be fully
cornprehended without understanding the dynamics of the circulation.
Most of the emphasis is practical-doing experiments, learning to observe
the body, and further refining actions and observations,
'I'he discussion is in tended for an audience of yoga tcachers, health
professionaIs, and anyone eIse who is interestcd in exploring sorne of the
structural and functional aspects of hatha yoga, The work can also serve as
a guide for students of alternative medicine who would like to communicate
with those who place their faith more strictly in conternporary science. '1'0
help everyone in that regard l've included only material that is generaUy
accepted in modern biomedical sciences, avoiding comment on non-physieal
concepts such as prana, the nadis, and the chakras, none of which are
presently testable in the scientific sense, and none of which have obvious
parallels in turn-of-the-millenniurn biology.
The book begins with un introductory discussion of sorne basic prernises
that set a philosophical tone and suggest a consistent mental and physical
approach to postures. Ten chapters follow, the first three fundamental to
the last seven. Chapter 1 summarizes the basic principIes of the anatomy
and physiology of hatha yoga Breathing is next in chapter 2 since the manner
in which we breathe in hatha yoga is important for expediting movement
and posture. Breathing is followed by pelvic and abdominal exercises in
chapter 3 for three reasons: many of those exercises use specialized methods
ofbreathing, they are excellent warm-ups for other postures, and the pelvis
and abdomen form the foundation of the body. Standing postures will then
be covcred in chapter 4 because these poses are so important for beginníng

studcnts, and because they provide a preview of backbending, forward
bending, and twisting postures, which are covered in detail in chapters 5, BASIC PREMISES
6, and 7. Tho headstand and shou lderstand, including a brief introduction
to cardiovaseular function, are included in chapters 8 and 9. Postures for
relaxation and meditation are treated last in chapter 10. The last half of the twentieth century saw many schools of hatha yoga
a will be he lpful to experiment with each posture, preferably in the ta ke root in the West. Sorne are based on authentic oral traditions passed
order given. This approach wil! lead you logically through a wealth of down through many gencrations of teachers. Sorne are pitchcd to meet
musculoskeletal anatomy, bring the academic discou rs e to life, and perrnit moder n necds and expectations bu t are still consistent with the ancient
you to understand t he body's architecture and work with it sa fely. 11' sorne a rt , scionce, and philosophy of yoga. Still others have developed New Age
of t hc sections on anatomy and physiology scem formidable, there is an tangents that traditionalists view with suspicion. Picture this title placed
easy solution. Turn the page. Or tu rn severa! pages. Go directly to the next near the exit of your local bookstore: Gel Rich, Young, arul Beautiful untli
section on postu res, in which most 01' the discussion can be understood in Hatlw Yoga. I've not secn it, but it would hardly be surprising, and 1 have
context. Just keep in rnind, however, that knowledge is power, and that to to admit that 1 would look carefully before not buying it .. .
communicate effectively with lay pcople who havc technical questions as Given hu ma n diíferences, thc many schoo ls of hatha yoga approach even
well as wit h he.alt h profess ionals to whom you may go for advice, it may be the rnost basic postures with differing expectations, and yoga teachers find
desirable lo refer bac k to the more chal lenging sections of this book as the th emselvcs facing a spectrum of students that ranges from accomplished
need ariscs. And those who do not find these sections particularly demanding da ncers a nd gymnasts lo nursing home residents who are afraid lo lie down
can look to Alter's definitivo Sc ience o{ Flexibility , as well as to other sources on the floor for fear they wori't be ab le to get back up . 'I'hat's fine; it's not
t hat are listed alter the glossary, ifthey req uire more technica l det a ils t han a problem to transcen d such dilferences, because for everyone, no matter
are providcd here. what t heir age or level of expertise, the most important issue in hatha yoga
is not ílexibility and the ab ility to do difficult postures, but awareness-
aware ness of the body and the breath, an d for those who read this book,
awareness of the anatornical and physiological principies that underlie
each postu re. From this awareness comes control, and from control comes
grace and beauty. Even postures approxirnated by beginning students can
car ry t he germ of poise and elegance.
How lo accomplish these goals is another matter, and we often see
disagreement over how the poses should be approached and taught,
T herefore , the gu idelines that follow are not set in stone; their purpose is
to provide a common point of reference from which we can discuss the
anatomy and physiology of hatha yoga.


Lock your attention within the body. You can hold your concentration on
breathing, on tissues that are being stretched, on joints that are being
st ressed, on the speed of your movements, or on the relationships betwcen
breathing a nd stretching. You can also concéntrate on your options as you
move in and out of postures. Practicing with total attention within th o
body is advanced yoga , no matter how easy thc posture; practicing with
your attention scattercd is the practice of a bcginner, no rnatter how difficult
the posture. Hatha yoga trains the mind as well as the body, so focus your
attention without lapse.

16 17
I!> ... •\ ,17 n M 1 ()F 11. 1711/1 I ()(;.1 uss«: PNI-ftll.\f:..\" 1')


We'll see in chapters 2-7 that inhalations lift you more fully into many Being in a state of si lence when you have come into a posture is soothing
postures and create a hea lthy intcrnal tensi ón and stability in the torso. and even magical, but you cannot connect with that slate except by know-
Vou can test this by lying pronc on the floor and noticing that lifting up ing how you got there and knowing where you're going, Iryou jerk frorn
higher in the cobra posture (fig. 2.10) is aided by inhalation. Paradoxically, pusture to posture you cannot enjoy the juurney, and the joumey is just as
howevcr, exhalations rather than inhalations carry you further into many important as the destination. So move into and out of postures slowly .a nd
other postures, Vou can test this by settling into a sitting forward bend and consciously. As you move, survey the body frum head lo toe: hands, wrists,
noticing that exhalation allows you lo draw your chest down closer to your rorearrns, elbows, arms, and shoulders; feet, ankles, legs, knees, thighs, and
thighs (fig, 6.13). But in either case you gel two beneíits: diaphragmatic hips; and pelvis, abdomen, chest, neck, and head . Vou will soon develop
b reathing assists the work of strctching the tissues, and your awarenoss of awareness of how the body functions as a unit and notice quirks and
those effects directs you to make subtle adjustrnents in the posture. discontinuities in your practice which you can then smooth out. Finally, as
While doing posturas, as a general rule keep the airway wide open, you learn lo move more gracefully, the final posture will seem less difficult,
breathe on ly t hrough the nose, and breathe smooth ly, evenly; and quietly.
Neve!' ho ld the brea t h at the glottis 01' make noise as you breathe cxccpt as
required 01' suggested by specifíc practices. Do you ho nor 01' ignore messages from aches and pains? If you have back
pa in , do you adjust your posture and activities to minimizo it, or do you just
tou gh it out? And do you keep a deferentiaI eye on your body, 01' do you íind
As you do each asana, anaIyze its foundation in the body and pinpoint t he that you gel so wrapped up in sorne challenge that you forget about it? If
key muscles t hat assist in maintaining that fou ndation : the lower extrem- you do not listen lo messages from your body you will be a candidate for
ities and their extensor muscles in standing postures; the shoulders, neck, pulIed muscIes, tendinitis, pinched nerves, and ruptured intcrvertebral
spine (vertebral column), ami rnuscles of the torso in the shoulderstand; disks , '1'0 avoid injury in hatha yoga you have lo develop a se lf-respecting
and the entiroty oí" the musculoskeletal systern, hu t especially the abdominal awaren ess,
and deep back muscles, in the peacock. Focus your attention accordingly on Begin your program of hatha yoga with a resolution to avoid pain.
the pertinent regional anatomy, both lo prevent injury and to refine your Unless you have had years of expcrience and know exactly what you are
underslanding of the posture. doing, pushing yourself into a painfuJ stretch will not only court injury, it
Then there is another kind of Ioundation, more general than what we will also create a state of fear and anxiety, and your nervous system will
appreciate from the point uf view of regional unatomy-the foundation of store those memories and thwart your efforts to recreate the posture, Pain
connective tissues throughouL Lhe body, espccially those that bind the is a gift; it tells us that some problern has developed. Analyze the nature of
musculoskeletal system logether. The connective tissues are like sleel rein- th e problem insteae! of pushing ahead mindlessly. With self-awareness and
forcing rods in concrete; they are hidden but inlrinsic to the integrity ofthe the guidance of a competent leacher, you can do other postures that
whole. '1'0 strengthen these tissues in preparation for more demanding circumvent the difficulty.
work with postures, cancentrate at first on toughening up joint capsules,
tendons, ligaments, and Lhe fascial sheaLhes thaL envelop muscles. 'rhe
practical method for accomplishing these aims is to build strength, ane! to Try to practice at the same time and in the same place every day. Such
do this from the inside out, slarting with lhe central musc1es of the torso habits will make it easier to anaIyze day-to-day changes. Mornings are besl
and then moving from there lo the extremities. Aches and pains frequently for improving heallh-stiffness in the early morning tells you where you
develop if you attempt extreme stretches befare you have first developed need the most careful work and attention . Later in the day, you lose that
the strenf:,'th and skill Lo protect the aU-important joints. Unless you are se nsitivity and incur the risk of injury. Cullivate a frolicsome enthusiasm
already a weightliftcr 01' body bui lder. stretching and hecoming nexible in the morning to counter stiffness. and CRutiousness in the evening to
should be a secondary cuncern. Only as your practice matures should your avoid hurting yourself And al any time, if you start feeling uncommonly
emphasis be changed to cultivale a J.,'Teater range of motion around the strong, nexible. and frisky, be careful. That's when it is easy to go too faro
20 A /\/I1rI¡\.f) ()F IIATIIA )'K;A


~tudy with knowledgeable teachers , but at the same ti me take responsibi lity
101' your own decisions and actions. Your ins tructor rnay be strong and
vigorous, and may urge you on, but you have to be the final arbiter of what
you are capable of doing. Because many hatha yoga postures make use of
unnatural positions, they ex pose weaknesses in the body, and it is up to you
to decide how and whether to procccd . One criterion is to rnake sure you
no t on ly fee[ fine an hour a fter your practice, but twenty-four hours later " f!:t.o;Y' j/,..a/·J¡(//nljl.llu~'/d .1 ÚIII~f/¡1~'Jt lid,l/Y t/Íal rd !JYI.11
as well. Finally, honor the contraindications for each posture and each class l1a""cYll'líal YaNl aÑvtllo Ilarlí tIí'etll (nl/al{.'/d/lol/} b:

of postures; if in doubt, consult with a medical practitioner who has had .11101/1/1 ti" ¡¿ /1N'lw,Y" Jk InJl//k ¿J Y ¿ 11~1 ..t1/Nll /Ilh/rlt Áí-It;!:

experience with hat ha yoga.

Jk, jtdNn /.1 o n'/~/) IOol,{/IloJler. ¡h~/E'rIIÍ(kJ.1. ('1 hrrt"/

CULTIVATE PATIENC E l//J/ú/rl Ojt-el/ liniO I//r itlln~úlrdú}IIJ ~ .1rú lI l /J IJ. ":/¡)"
Lea rn from thc tortoise. Cultivate the patience to move forward steadily, no 1É1lt1l1t/'ll.t u 'e on //./"C'//E lo rhl7.lyr m'o' rlí# IlJhE// /1 Irl~,?r
mat te r how slow your progress, Remember as well that the benefits of 1';lIt?1l;?h'//nr¡{o/UJ 1II~1'l':.1 ir/ Ih<ll "/':nclúJII. "
hatha yoga go beyond getting stronger an d mo re flexible, and that if you
_ Michael Gershon. in The Second Brain, p. )4.
are mo nitori ng on ly t hat realrn, you may be disappointed. 1"01' any kin d of
beneficial result you have to be pa tienl. The mai n culpr it is t hinking t hat
T he firs t organizing princi pie underlying human movement and posture
you sho u ld be able to accomplish sornething without making consistent
is our existence in a gravitational field. Imagine its absence in a spacecraft,
effort, That attitude has two unfortunate side effocts: Iirs t, it diverts your
where ast ronauts floa t unless they are strapped in place, and where outside
attention from the wor k before you to what you believe you are entitled to :
the vessel little backpack rockets propel th em from one work site to another.
and second, it makes it impossible to learn and appreciate what is taking
'1'0 get exercise, which is crucial for preventing [088 ofbone calcium on long
place this minute. So resolve lo practico being with your experience in the
voyages, they must work out on machines bolted to the 0001'. They can't do
present mornent, enjoy yourself no matter what, and let go of expectations.
the three things t hat most of us depcnd on: walking, running, and lifting.
If they t ried to partner up for workouts, al l th ey could do is jerk one another
back and forth. And even hath a yoga postures would be valueloss; they
would invo lve lit.tle more than relaxing an d squirrning around.
Rack on earth, it is helpfu l to keep recalling how the force of gravity
dominat es our practice of hatha yoga. We tend to ovcrlook it , forgctting
that it keeps us grounded in the most literal possible sense, When we lift
up into th e cobra, the locust, 01' the bow postures, we lift parís of the body
away from the ground against the force of gravity. In the shoulderstand the
force of gravity holds the shoulders against the floor. In a standing posture
we would collapse if we did not either keep antigravity muscles active al'
lock joint.<; to remain erecto And even Iying supine, without the need either
to balance 01' to act ívate the antigravity muscles, we makc use of gravity m
ot her creativo ways, as when we grasp our knees, pull them toward the
chest, roll from side to side, and a llow our body weight to massage the back
mu scles against the 0001'.
Keeping in mind that the earth's gravitational field influcnces every
movement we make, we'lI turn our attention in the rest of this chapter to

21 11!\;.\lD.UI (JI- JL-lTIIA ICXiA l . MO I U Uil\"r AND 1'0.\71 'UF 23

the mechanisrns that make rnovcmont ami posture possible, First we'Il look syst.em house and protect the delicate internal organs. Hatha y~~a postures
at how the skeletal rnuscles rnove the body, then we'lI discuss the way the teach us to control both the muscles that operate the extremlhes and the
nervous system controls the operation of the skeletal muscles, and then muscles that forrn the container.
wc'Il examine how connective tissues restrict movement. Ifwe undorstand
how these three function together within the field of gravity, we can begin §.!<E LETAL MUSCLE

to undcrstand sorne of the principles underlying hatha Y015d. Finally, we'll The term "muscle" technically includes both its central flcshy part, the
pul it all together in a discussion of three postures. \Ve'lI begin with the belly oí' the muscle, and its tendons. The belly of a muscle is composed .of
role of skeletal muscles. individual muscle [ibers (muscle cells) which are surrounded by connectiue
tissue [ibers that run into a tendon. The tendon in turn connects the belly
of the muscle to abone.
1'0 any informed observer, it is plain that the musculoskeletal syslem Under ordinary circumstances muscle cells con tract, 01' shorten, only
executcs a11 our acts of will, expresses our conscious and unconscious because nerve impulses signal them to do so. When many nerve impulses
habits, breathes air into the lungs, articulates our oral expression ofwords, per second travel to most of the individual fibers in a muscle, it pulls
and implements all generally recognized forms ofnonverbal expression and strongly on the tendon; if only a few nerve impulses per second travel lo a
communication. And in the practico of'hatha yoga, it is plainly the musculo- smaller population of fibcrs within the muscle, it pulls weakly on the tendon;
skeletal systern that enables us to achieve externa] balance, lo twist, bend, and if nerve impulses are totally ahsent the muscle is totally relaxed.
turn upside down, to be still 01' active, and lo accomplish all deansing and [Technical note: One of the most persistent misconceptions doggedly su,·vivi~g. in
breathing exercises. Nevertheless, we are subtly deceived if we think that the biomedical community is that all muscles, even those at rest, always keep reeervmg
is the end of the story. Just as we see munchkins sing and dance in The at least sorne nerve irnpulses. Fifty years of elcctromycgraphy with fine-wire needle
electrodes is at odds with this belief, documenting from thc 1950s on that ¡t's not
Wizard ofOz and do not learn that they are not autonomous until the end necessarily true, and that with biofeedback training we can learn to relax rnost of
of I.he story, we'l1 find that muscles, like munchkins, do not opérate in OUT skeletal muscles completely.]

isolation. Andjust as Dorothy found that the wizard kept a tether on every- A muscle usually operates on a movablejoint such as a hinge 01' a ball
thing going on in his realm, so we'll see that the nervous system keeps an and socket, and when a muscle is stimulated to contract. by the nervous
absolute rein on the musculoskeletal system. The two systems combined systern, the resuiting tensi ón is imparted to the bones on both sides of the
form a neuro-musculoskeletal system that unifies all aspecto of our actions fulcrum of the joint. In the case of a hi nge such as the elbow that opens lo
and activities. about 180°, any muscle situated on the face of the hinge that can close will
1'0 iIIustrate how the nervous system manages posture, let's say you are decrease the angle between the two bones, and any muscle situated on the
standing and decide lo sit. First your nervous systern commands the flexor back side ofthe hinge will open it up from a closed or partially closed position.
muscles (musdes that fold the limbs and bend the opine forward) lo pul! For example, the biceps brachii musde Iies on the inside of the hinge, so it
the upper part of the trunk forward and to iniliale bending at lhe hips, acts lo flex the forearm (by definilion, lhe segment of the upper extremity
knces, and ankles. Abare moment afier you initiate that movement, gravity between the wrist and the elbow), pulling lhe hand toward lhe shouldcr.
takes center stage and starts to pull you toward the sitting position. And at 1'he triceps brachii is situated on the back side of the arm (the segment of
the same time-accompanying the action of gravity-the nervous system the upper extremity belween the elbow and the shoulder) on the outside of
commands the extensor musc/es (those that resisl folding lhe Iimbs) lo the hinge, so it acts to extend the elbow, 01' unfold the hinge (fig. 1.1).
counteract gravity and keep you from faUing in a heap. Finally, as soon as
you are settled in a secure scaled position, the nervous system permits lhe ORIGINS AND INSERTIONS
extensor muscles and the body as a whole to relax. \Ve use the words "origin" and "insertion" to indicate where musdes are
1'he musculoskcletal system docs more than move the body, it also attached lo bones in relation to the most common movement at ajoint. The
serves as a movable container for the internal organs.Just as a robot houses origin of a muscle is on the bone lhat is relalively (01' usually l stationary,
and protects its hidden supporting elements (power plant, integrated and the insertion of a musde is on the bone that is most generally moved.
circuits, programmable compulen" self~repairing componcnts, and enough Flexion of lhe clbow is again a good example. Since ordinarily the arm is
fuel to function for a reasonable lenglh of time), so does lhe musculoskelelal fixed and the forearm is moved, al leasl. in relative terms, we say that the
24 ,~ NAH}MI OF 1f¡\771. 1 1 eXiA
l . 1I1(}I 'EMt.1\TAi\' /} p o sn iflE 25

b íceps brachii and t.riceps brachii take origin from th ' arrn a nd shoulder, are doin g sornet hing unusual like taking a wal k in a handstand with slightly
and t hat they insert on t he íorearm (fig, 1.1). bent elbows (which neccssitates a strong commitment from the tr iceps
The origins and insertions of a muscle can be functiunally reversed, brachü rnuscles ), the extenso r muscles do not support t he weight of the
When the latissimue dorsi rnuscle (figs. H.9-1O) pu lls the arrn down and body. In mos t practical circumstances, it is like1y lo be the flexors rather
back in a swimming stroke, its toxtbook origin is from the lower back and than sxtensors t hat act as antigravity muscles in t he u ppe r extremities, as
pelvis, and its insertion is on the humerus in the armo But when we do a when you flex an elbow to lift a package or complete a chin-u p.
chin-up the arrn is the relatively stable origino and the lower back and l'fechnical note: Throughout this book, in order to keep terminology 6i~ple and yet
pelvis bccorne the insertion for lifting the body as a whole. In the coming preci se, ['11 stick with s~riet ana~OInical definitions of a~, forearm,}~lgh, and Ic~
chapters we'll see many examples of how working origins and insertions which means never usmg ambiguous terms such as upper arm, lower arrn,
"upper leg," an d "lower leg." 'l'he sarne goes for the careles~ use of the terrn "arrn"
are reversed. tu enco mpass un undetermined portion of the upper extremity and the careless use
of lile terrn "leg" te encompass an undete r rnined portien of the lower ex tremity]

Tho muscles surrounding a joint act cooperatively, but one of them-s-the infrasp inalus
agonist-ordinarily serves as the prime mover, ass ísted in its role by function- teres minor muscíe
ally related muscles called synergists. While the agonist and its synergists
are acting on one sido of thc joint, muscles on the opposite side act as ......" '-- -clavicle
antagonists. As suggested by t he name, antagonists monitor. smooth, and
medial bord er =1loiIi"=ll"--':'4-- - spine of
even retard the movement in question . For example, when the biceps 01scapula - - - -'7' scapula
brachii and the brachialis in the a rm (the agonist and one of its synergists)
shorten lo Ilex the elbow, the tríceps brachii (on the opposite side of the
arrn) resista flexion antagonistically while incidentally holding the joint teres major musde ----=~i:;:~
su r faces in cor rect apposition (fig. lo J). "'i-- - delloid musde
Muscles a lso act in re lation to the force of gravity, In the lower extrem-
ities extensor muscles ac t as antigraoity muscles lo keep you upright and tríceps brachi i
musde ;e~ends ~-----~
resist crumpling lo the floor. Examples: the quadriceps [emoris muscle lorearm at elbow biceps brachi i
(figs, 1.2,3.9, and H.II) on the front of the thigh (the segrnent of the lower as prime mover rnuscle : Ilexes
extremity between the hip joint and the knee joint.) extends the knee joint lorearm as prime
- mover
as you slep onto a platfonn, and the calf muscles extend the ankles as you
lift your heels lo reach an object on a hígh shelf. F lexor muscles are antag-
onists lo the extensors. 'fhey can act in two ways. 'l'hey often aid !,'ravity, brachialis mllscle:
synergist lor nexion
as when you settle into a standing forwal'd bend and lhen pull yourself 01forearm
down more im;istently with your hip nexors-the iliopsoas muscles 1figs.
2.H, 3.7, 309, and fI .13). But they also ad to oppose gravity: ifyou want to ron olecranon :
bony tip 01
in place lhe iliopsoas muscle complex l1exes the hip joint, lifting the thigh elbow and - - -- - -jf-
and drawing the knee toward the chest; and ifyou want to kick yourself in insertion 01
the bu ttocks the hall/strings lfig. 3.8, } .IO, IUa, and 8.12) flex the knee, triceps
pulling lhe leg Hhe segrnent. of the lower extremily belween lhe knce and ~,...---'~ uppe r par!
lhe ankle) toward the thigh. Even so, the flexor muscles in the lower
extl"emities a re not c1assified as antigravity muscles, because under ordi-
nary postura1 circumstances they are antagonists to the musc1es that are
supporting the body weight as a whole. Figure 1.1. View of the right scapula, arm, and uppe r part of lhe forea rm from
behind and the side (from 5appey; see uAcknowledgc mcnts" for discussion of
For the upper extremities the situation is diffe rent , because un less you credils rega rding d rawings, iIIusl rati on s, and ot he r visual matc rialsl.
I MOl FII/I :I\T AflilJ /'O \17'f{1; 27

[And /lI.lOlhcr tcchnical note: Jusi lo avoid confusion, 1'11 not use t he wnrd flex lift th e torso up frorn a standing forward bend. Then as you slowly lower
exeept m regard lo the opposite of extend. Everyone knows what n first grader back down into the bend, the back rnusc les resist th e force of gravity th at
n:can~ by saying "look a~ m~ flex my rnuseles," but beyond this chi ldhood expres-
ston , Il .can I~ad lo arnbiguity For example, having someone "flex thcir b íceps"
is puIling you forward, lengthening ecccntrically to smooth your deseent.
results m fl.cxIOn ?f the f~rearm, but "flexing" the gluleal rnuscl . the "g1uls"-
results not In flexion but m extension of t he hips. For describing yoga postures it's ISO T O N I C ANO ISOMETRIC ACTIVITY
bet ter just lo avoid the usage altoget her.] Most readers are already familiar with the terms "isotonic" and "isometric:"
[And on e more: Until gc.tling used to lerminology for moverncnts of'body parts, it is Strictly speaking, the term isotonic refers solely to sho rtening of a rnuscle
one~ a puzzle whe.ther it 's better to refcr lo moving a joint through sorne range 01" under a constant load, but this never happens in reality except in the case
m O~lOn, ~r lo movmg the ~y part on the lar sirle 01" the joint , For exa mple, t he of vanis hingly small rangos of motion. Over lime, however, the term
cho1(;~ ~I?ht be between saymg: extend the kneejoint versus extend the leg , abduct
the hIPJOI~t .versus abduct the thigh, flex th e anklejoint versus flex the foot , extend
isoto nic has become corrupted lo apply gencral1y to exercise that involves
the elbow joint versus exlend the forearm, 01' hyperextend the wrisl joint versus movemen t, usually u ndcr conditions of mod érate or minimal resistance.
hyperextend the hand. Even though the two usages are roughly equivalent, the con- Isomet ric exercise, on thc other ha nd, refers lo something more precise-
text u sual~y rnakes one ur the other seern more sensible. FOl' example, sometimes we
holding still, often under conditions of substantial or maximum rosistance.
rofer ,~pcclficully lo l~he joint, as in ':flex the wrist." In that case, saying " flcx the
hand wo~lrl be am~lguous because 1I could mean any one of three things: making Raising an d lowering a book repetitively is an isotonic exercise for the
a fist, the wrist, 01' both in combination. On the other hand, re ferring to the biceps brachii an d its synergists, and ho lding it still, nei ther allowing it to
body part IS .o fie n more se lf-explanatory, as in "flex the arrn forward 90°." Although fall nor raisin g it, is an isometric exercise for the same rnuscles. Most
the alternativo-e-"flex the shoulder joint 90°"-isn ', nonscnsical, it's a little arcano
for the non-professional.] athleti c endeavors involve isotonic exercise because they involve move-
ment. J apanese su mo wrestling between equa Ily ma tched, lightly gr ipped,
CONCENTR IC SHORTENING ANO ECCENTRIC LENGTHE NING and mom en ta rily immobile oppo nents is one obvious exception. And
isometric exercise is also exemplified by any and every halha yoga posture
To unden;tand how the musculoske letal system operates in ha lha yoga we
which you are holding steadily with muscular eflort.
must look at how individual muscIes contribute to whole-body activity. The
simplest situation, concentric conlradion, or "conccnlric shorlening," is RELAXATI ON , STRETC H , ANO MOBILlT Y
one in which muscle fibers are stimulated by nerve impulses and the entire
If few or no nerve impulses are imp inging on muscle fibers, the musc le
muscle responds by shortening, as when the biceps bmchii muscIe in the
tissue wiIl be relaxed, as when you are in the corpse posture (fig. 1.14). But
forearm shortens concentrical1y to lift a book.
if a relaxed muscle is stretched, the situation becomes more complexo
When we want to put lhe book down lhe picture is more complicated. We
Working wit h a partner can make this plain. If you lie down and lift your
do not ordinarily drop an object we have just lifted-we set it down eare-
hands straight overhead, and then ask someone to stretch you genlly by
fully by slowly extending the elbow, and we accomplish that by aIlowing the
pulli ng on YOu(· wrisls, you wiIl nolice lhat you can easily go with the
muscle as a whole to become longer while keeping sorne of its muscle fibers
slretc h provided you have good flexibility. But if your partner pulls too
in a state of contraction. Whe never lhis happens-whenever a muscle
sudden ly or if lhere is any appreciable pain, the nervous syslem will resisl
increases in length under tension while resisting gravity-the movement is
relaxation and keep the muscles tense; or at the least, you will sense them
caIled "eccenlric lenglhening."
tighten ing u p to resist the slretch. Finally, if you aIlow yourself to remain
We see concentric shortening and eccentric lengthening in most natural
near your limit of passive but comfortable stretch for a while longer, you
activities. When you walk up a flight of stairs, the muscles lhal are lifting
may feel lhe muscles relax again, allowing your partner to puB more
you up are shortening concenlricaBy; when you walk back down the stairs.
insiste nUy.
the same muscles are lenglhcning ecccntrically to control your descent.
Many of t hese same responses are apparent if you set up similar conditions
And when you haul yourself up a climbing rope hand over hand, muscles ol'
of stretching on your own, as when you place your hands overhead against
the upper extremities shorten concentrically every time you pull yourself
a wall a nd stretch the underside of the arms. This is more demanding of
up; as you come back down, lhe same muscles lengthcn eccentricaIly.
your concentration than relaxing into someone else's work. however,
In hatha yoga we see concentric shortening and eccenlric lengt hening in
because you are conccntrating on two tasks al. the same lime: creating the
hundreds of situations. The simplest is when a single musclc 01' muscle
necessary condilions for the stretch, and relaxing into thal eITort. But the
group opposes gravity, as when the baek muscles shorten concentrically to
f . 01101 LllB'T A /VD {'(I.\71 un 29


same rules apply Ifyo u go loo far and too quickly, pain inhibits lengthcning,
prevents relaxation, and spoils the work. We experiencc a1l-<>r at least every thing pertaining lo the material
world-through the agency 01' specia lized, irreplaceable cells called
neurons. 100 billion 01' thcm in the brain alone, that channel infonnation
1'0 discover for yourselí' how skeletal muscles op érate in hatha yoga, try a t hroughou t the body and within th e vast supporting cellular milicu ~f th e
warrior posture (warrior I l with the feet spread wide aparl, the hands entral nerVOllS system (the brain and s pina l cord). This is a ll at:comphshcd
st retched overhead, and the palms together (ñgs. 1.2 and 7. 20). Fcel what b only three kinds 01' neurons: sensory nellrons, whic h carry the flow 01'
happens as you slowly pull the a r rns to the rear and lower you r weight. 1'0 :nsation from the perip heral neruou s system (by definition all parts 01' the
pull the arms up and back, the muscles facing th e rear ha ve to shorten nervous system excepting the brai n and spinal cord ) into th e central ner vous
concentrica1ly, while antagonist rnuscles facing the front. pas sívely resi st 5yslem and consciousness; motor neurons, wh ich carry in structions from
the stretch and possibly completion ofthe posture, As you lower your weight the hrain and spinal cord into the peripheral nervou s sys tem, a nd from
the quadriceps femoris muscle on the front 01' the flexed thigh resists gravity th ere lo rnuscles and glands; and interneurons, 01' association neurons ,
and lengt hens eceentrically Finally, as you hold st ill in th e posture, muscle s which are interposed between the se nso ry neurons and the motor neurons,
throughout the body will be in a state 01' isometric conlraction. and which transmit our will and volition t o the moto r neurona. 'I'he sensory
Severa! important principles 01' musculoskeletal activity cannol be information is carried into the dorsal horti of th e spinal cord by way of
addresscd until we have consid ered the nervous syste rn and the conncctive dorsal roots, and the motor information is carried out of the central horn
tissues in detail. For now, it is enough to realize that all mu scular activity, uf the spinal cord by way 01' ventral roots. The dorsal and ventral roots jo in
whether it be contraction 01' individual cells, isotonic or isometric exercíse, to for m mixed (motor and sensory) spinal nerues that in turn innervate
agonist or antagonist activity, concentric shortening, or eccentric length- structures throughout the hody (figs, 1.3-9)·
ening, takes place st rict ly under the guidance 01' th e nervous syste m. [Tochnical notes: Because this is a book correlating hiomedical seience with yoga,
which many consider lo be a scienee 01' mind, a few com ments a re re qui re d on a
subject 01' perennial, although possibly overwo rked , phil osophic:al ~nterest~lhe
na turo ofmind vis-a-vis th e nervous syste rn. Speaking for neu roscient íst s. I think l
can say that rnost uf us aceept as axiomat ic that neurons are collectively rosponsiblc
muscles facing for all 01' our thinking, cognition , ernotions, and other act ivities 01'mind . a nd th at
!he fronl resist the totality 01' mind is inherent in the nervous syste m. But 1 also have to say as a
pulling 01 lhe practicing yogi that according to th al tradilion , the prin cipIe 01' mind i ' separale
arms lo lhe rear - - - - - - - - - musdes facing Ihe rear from and more subtle th an th e Ilcrvous sys lem, an d is cons idere<! lo be a life pri ncipie
1 - shorten concenlncally, Ihus
that extends eve n heyon d lh e body.l
pulling Ihe arms backward
IHow and whelher· lh e.-;equeslions bccome resolved in the thi rd millcnnium is anyo nc 's
gucss. They are topics that a re not usually lak cn serious ly by wurk ing scient isls.
righl quadriceps
femoris muscle who usually consider it a waste 01' tim e lo pond er non-tcslabl e propositiun s, whic h
lenglhens are by definition proposilions that ca n not possibly be proven wrong. Such shlle-
men18 abound in new age commentaries , a nd are a source 01' mild embarrassment
""'"'"""'V~ to those 01' us who are lrYing lo exa mine older t radilions us ing lechniques 01'modern
sciem:e. This says nolhi~g abo ul lhe accuracy 01' such proposa ls. It may be lruc, for
exmupl e, l hat "lile <"8nnol con tinue in lhe absence 01'pra na." T he problem is l hat
short 01' developin g H definition a nd ast'8Y for pra nH. such a statement ca n nol be
tested- il can only be accepted, deni ed, or argued al! íllf¡ lIitIl11l.1

IThis approach lo experi men la tion a nd ohservation doesn'l requ ire a lot ofbl"illiance.
11 simply stipul ales th at you must always a~k yoursclf ir l he na l ure an d conte nt 01' a
statement ma ke it polcnlially re futable with an experimental approach. 11' il 's nol,
you ....;11 he accu ratc 9 0 'J urthe ti me ifyou conclude that lhe idea is spurious. even
lhough il may sound invi ting or may c\"cn appear self-evidenl , a<¡ did th e chemica l
lhcory of phlogislo n in th e mid-18th ccn tury. Tu glve Ihe benefil of l he dou bt lo the
purv eyurs ofsllch slalelllcnts , it 's rare l ha l lhe)" are ou lrighl fabrica l ions. On Ihe
Figure 1.2. Warrior I pose
.10 , 1,\ A 1 0 .!1l UF II A TI IrI lUCiA 1 1I0\ '¡.'\II',\T Al' /) '" " '/1 'NI: .11

other hand, one should always keep in mind that a ll of us (including scientistst have or more fatal flaws in the reasoning. One dependab le test of a concept is whethcr
a huge capacity for deceiving ourselves when il comes to dcfendi ng our ideas and you can eonvincingly explain it, along with the mechanics of how it operates, to a
innovatio ns. The problem is that it's often impossible to distinguish fantasy, wishfu l thir d party. [1' you find yourself getting your exp lanalion garblcd, or ir your
thinking, m ild exaggeration, an d imprccise language from ou t-und-out fraud . What listener does nol comprehend your argument or is unpersuaded, please examine and
lo do? In thc end it 's a waste of lime to make a career of fer reling ou l errors -one resean:h the idea more critically, and if it still docs nol pass musler, either disca rd
can't gel rid of bad ideas by pointing them oul. On the other hand, if we tum our it or pul it on the back burner, [ invite the reader to hold me Lo these standards. To
attention lo propositions thal can be tested. the creative allention this requires ho nor them, 1'11 limit inquiries lo what we can appraise and discuss in the realm of
sometimes brings inspiration and better ideas, which in l u rn disposes of bad ideas modern hiomcdical science, and lo refine and improve my presentation, I ask for
by displacing thern. Lavois ier discredited the theory of phlogislon by poinling lo your written input and cordial criticisrn.]
br illiant experimenls (rna ny of thern carried ou t by others), nol by crafting cunning
argumcnts.] Returning lo our immediate concerns, it is plain that neurons channel
our mindíul intentions to the muscles, but we sUII need working definitions
10ne Iast concern: ir your complaint is that you can '1 understand a particular concepl for will and volition. In this book I'm arbitrarily defining will as the
an d do nol fcel competent to criticize it, don 't ass ume that the prob lem is your own
lack of inlelligence or scientific background, More than like ly, the idea wasn't
decision- making process associated with mind, and I'm defining volition as
presented in a straightforward manner, and it usually happens that this masks one th e actual initiation 01' the on and off commands from the cerebral cor tex
an d other regions 01' the central nervous sys tem that are re ponsible for
comrnan ding our actions. So "will" is ti black box, the contents ofwhich are
still la rgely unknown and at best marginally accessible lo experimentation.
The nature and content of volition, by con trast, can be exp lored with estab-
lished met hods 01' neuroscience,


The neu ro n is the basic structural and functional unit of the nervous
syste rn. Although there are other cell types in the nervous systern, namely
the neu rog lia , or "nerve glue cells," which outnumber neurons 10 : 1, these
supporting cells do not appear, as do the neurons, to be in the business 01'
tran smit ting inforrnation from place to place. So the neuron is our main
ventral right dorsal root inte rest. lt has several cornponents: a nucleated cell body that supports
rootlets (cut) gang lion wilh cell
bodies 01 scnsory growt h and developrnent, and cellular e .tensions, or processes, sorne of
neurons th em very long, that receive and transmit information. The cellular
processes are of two types: dendrites and aXOllS . P icture an octopus hooked
on a fishing lineo lts eight arrns are the dendritcs, and the fishing line is the
axon. A typical motor neuron contains many dendrites that branch off the
cell body. Its single axon-the fishing line-may extend anywhere from a
fraet ion 01' an inch away from the cell body to four feet in the cm;e 01' a
mot.or neuron whose celI body is in lhe spinal cord and whose terminal
dorsal venlral rool containmg motor
ends in a muscle 01' the foot, or even fifteen fcet long in the case 01' similar
mlxed spinal
nervc (motor and rool neuronal axons lhat course neu m ns in a giraffe. The axon may have branches lhal come off lhe main
sensory: left side) oul lo the mixed spinal nerve tru nk 01' the axon near lhe cell body (axon collaterals), and all branches,
(nght slde)
incllld ing the main trunk, subdivide profusely as they near lheir targel.s.
Dend"iles are spedalized lo receive information frolll lhe environrnent
Or from other neurons, and 8n axon t.ransmits information in the form oC
ri gu re 1.3. Micro sco pic seetíon of dorsal root ganglion (above), nerv e impulses to sorne othe!' ¡¡¡te in the body, Dcndrites of sensory neurons
and lhre e -d im e n io nal view of th e first lum ba r segmen t (l l) of
the spina l co rd , show ing pa ired d u rsa l anel ve n tra l roots and are in lhe skin, joinL-;, muscles. and intel'llal orgam,;; their" cell bodies are in
mixed (motor and sensory) sp ina l nerves (from Quain). dorsal mot ganglio, which a re locattld a longside thc spine, and lh eir axons
.\ 2 .11\\-110 111 O/'/IA7I1tl HXi,l t , MOl ¡;"/I~\ r 11¡\ ( l ¡ '()ST/ Uf.' IJ

carry sensory inforrnation into the spinal cord (figs . 1.]4]). Dendrítes of axon terrmnats 01sensory neuron
motor neurons are located in the central nervous systern, and axons of synaps ing with dendriles 01an
ce" body
01a sensory
pain endings
(dendritic) in
joínt capsule
motor neurons fan out from there (in peripheral nerves) to innervate muscIe , _ neuron in
axon 01sensory dorsal root
cells and glands throughout the body. Between the sensory and motor ganglion
neuron in Iransit
neurons are the assocíation neurons, 01' interneurons, whose dendrites lo dorsal hom 01
receive information from sensory neurons and whose axons contact other spinal cord
interneurons 01' motor neurons that innervate muscles lfig. 1.4). As a class,
the interneurons comprise most ofthe neurons within the brain and spinal
cord, including secondary and tertiary linking neurons that relay sensory
signals to thc cercbrurn , projection neurons that relay motor signals frorn
the cerebrurn and cercbellum lo interrnediary neurona that eventually (Sappey)
contact motor neurons of the spinaI cord, and commissural neurons that /'
connect the right and left cerebral hemisphcres-that is, the "right brain"
and the "Iefi brain."
Interneurons put it all together. You sensc and ultimately do, and
between sensing and doing are the integrating activities of the interneurons,
It's true, as the first-grade reader suggests, that you can think and do. but
more oíten you sense, think, and do.
'1'0 operate the entire organisrn, neurons form networks and chains that
contact and influence one another at sites called "synapses ," Synaptic
terminals ofaxons at such sites release chemical transrnitter substances
that affect the dendrita of the next neuron in the chain (fig, 1-4l. The Iirst
neuron is the pre-synaptic neuron, and the neuron affected is the
post-synaptic neuron, The pre-synaptic axon terminal transmits to the
post-synaptic dendrite-i-not the other way around; it 's a one-way street,
Two types of transmitter substances are released at the synapse: one
axon of motor neuron
facilitates (speeds up) the activity of the post-synaptic neuron ; the other passmq oul 01spmal
inhibits (slows down i the activity of the post-synaptic neuron. 'I'housands cord into ventral root,
ofaxon terminals may synapse on the dendrites of one post-synaptic and lrom Ihere inlo a
spinal nerve and lo a
neuron, and the level of activity of the recipient neuron depends on its pre- motor neuron ,
skeletal muscle cell
wilh ce" body
synaptic input. More facilita/ion yields more activity in the post-synaptic in ventral hom
neuron in the form of incrcasing numbers 01' nerve impulses that travel of Ihe spinal
cord, and
down its axon: more inhibition yields diminishcd activity. For exarnple, the axon thal
pre-synaptic input of association neurona lo motor neurons cither facili- Innervates a
tates the activity of motor neurons, causing them to fire more nerve skeletal muscle

impulses per second to skcletal muscles, or it inhibits their activity,

C8.using them to fire fcwer ncrve impulses per second. The peacock posture
musde ce" wllh 11 nuc/e1 visible
(li g . J .2Jd) requires ma.."(imum facilitation ami diminished inhibit,ion of the
motor neurons tha1 innervHte the abdominal muscles, dL'€p back muscles, Fi~url' 1.4. Cr~)ss-section of Ihe fjflh lumbar segment (l5) of lhe spinal curd
muscles t,hat s tabilize the scapulae, and ncxors of the forearms. On the wllh sensory Input from a joint receplor, a generic inlemeuron, and molor '
outpu~ lo a skeletal muscle cel!. The small arrows indicale the direclion of
other hand, muscular relaxation in the mrpsc posturc (fig. 1.\4) requlrcs n~rve Impulse.s a~d pre- lo pos~-synaplic intern~u~onal relalionships. The long
I'educcd facilitation and IXJ¡;;;ibly increased inhibition of motor neurons heavy arrows 1n<!Icale Ihe locallOns of lhe genenc Interncuron in lhe spinal
cord dorsal hom ano of lhe molor neuron in the spinal cord venlral horno
.l4 ANA7ll.1I1 or IIATlI.-l l'(X,'A
I 1/01 '/ III Kr , I,\ lI l 'n '-II '11L J5
throughout the central nervous systcm (see lig. 10 .1 for a sumrnary of cell body 01 upper motor neuron
possible rnechanisms of muscular relaxation),


Exercising our volition to create active voluntary movement involves halí-bram,

dendritic left side.
dozens of well-known circuits of association neurons whose dendritas and
medial view
celJ bodies are in the cerebrum, cerehelJum, and other portions ofthe brain,
and whose axons term ínate on motor neurons. A smalJ but important sub-
frontal lobe
set of projection neurons, the subset whose ceIl bodies are located in the
cerebral cortex and whose axons termínate on motor neurons in the spinal
cord, are known as "upper motor neurons" bccause they are important in
control1ing willed activity. These are differentiated from the main c1ass of
motor neurons, the "louier motor neurons," whose cell bodies are located in
the spinal cardo CoIlectively, the lower motor neurons are called thc "final
common patluuay" because it is their axons that directly innervatc skeletal
axon collateral rear view 01spinal cord
and paired spinal nerves :

rnuscles, In common parlanee, ifsomeonc refers sirnply to "m otor neurons," - Cl on each side we see
axons 01 most upper 8 cervical nerves (Cl ·8).
they are invariably thinking of lower motor neurons (fig. 1.5). motor neurons cross , or 12 thoracíc nerves (T1-12) .
"decussate," lo the 5 lumbar nerves (U -S).
LOWE R MOTOR N EUR O N P AR ALYSIS: F LACCID PARALYSIS opposite sida 01the bram 5 sacral nerves (81-5). and
in /he motor decussattoo. small coccygeal nerves
Thc best way to understand how the motor pathways of the ncrvous system which ís located in the
lowerrnost segment 01
operate is to examine the classic neurological syndromes that result from
/he brain stem (Ihe
illnesses, or from injuries that have an impact on sorne aspect of motor medulla oblongata)
function. We'll start with one of the most famous : poliumyelitis, comrnonly example 01a
known as polio. which destroys lower motor neurons, Anyone who grew up left right neuron wíth
sid~' ~ an extensive
in the 1940S and early 1950S will remernber the dread of this disease. AmI
then a rniracl tho Salk vaccine-e-came in 1954, putting un end to the Iear,
Poliomyelitis can be devastating because it destroys the lower motor
spinal cerd osecond
lumbar (l2) cord
~ I dendntíc trsa

ncurons and deprives the muscles of nerve impulses from the spinal cord , levet, and lower motor
neuron whose cell
'\ ~\ .
and this results in muscular paralysis, Our power ofvolition in the cerebral body is shown wilh
cortex has becn diseonnected from the pathway of action out of the spinal lour dendritic Irunks-------2::í!~

cord becausc the final cornmon pathway has been destroyed. In its most
extreme forrn the re sulting paralysis causes muscles to bccome completely
flaccid, and this accounts for its rnedical name: [laccid paralysis. 'I'he sume cell body
Figure 1.5. Upper and
thing happens in a les global Iashion when a pcripheral nerve is severed Inwer motor neurans.
or crushed, Destruction of the lower motor neurons 01' their axons al any site The cell body of an
in the spinal cord 01' peripheral nerves causes paralysis of all their muscular' upper motor neuron is
shown aboye in the left
targets, \ViII, volition, and active voluntary movement are totally fmstrated . cerebral cortex, and it~
axon 01a motor neuren
targel-the cell body of ¡IIustraled here as passing
UPPER MOTOR NEURON PARALYSIS : SPASTlC PARALYSIS a molor neuran whose out 01Ihe vertebral column
When the upper motor neurons 01' their axons are destroye<! as in an injury a)(on is destined fo by way 01lhe right l2
inoervatc the right spmal ncrve ; lIs cell body
stroke (the interruption of blood l;upply lo lhe brainl that destroys the
01' quadriccps fcmnris recelves SynaptlC inpul
molor region of lhe cerebral cortex, we lose much of our voluntary control muscle-is 00 the right from the Upper molor
side nf the spinal cord. neuren al /he L2 cord level
Jl'> A1\',\ fU,\ll ru: l/A 71/A 11)(•.,\
f .\10 1"EIIL/\'r 11¡\'f) rosrum: .\7
of the lower motor neurons, especially on the side opposile lo the site of the
hall-brain .
injury. Our will can no longer be expressed aetively and srnoothly The ultimate (Irom Sappey) left side
result of this, al least in severe cases in which a vascular mishap occurs al
a site where the axons of other motor systems are interrupted along with
those of the upper motor neurons, is not flaccid paralysis but spastic paralysis,
in which the muscles are rigid and not easily conlrolled. A sernblance of
motor function remains because other parts of the nervous systern, parts
that have been spared injury, also send axon íerrninals to the lower motor
neurons and affect motor function. The problem is that these supplemental
sources 01' input cannot be controlled accurately, and sorne of them Iacilitate
the lower motor neurons lo such an extent that skeletal rnuseles are driven a-~

in lo strong and uncontrolled stales of contraction. Although rnost of the

time the condition does not result in lotal dysfunction, severo spastic paralysis
is only mild ly less devastating than flaccid paralysis: sorne active voluntary
movernents are possible, but they are poorly coordinated, especially those
thase 3 neurons
that make use of the dis tal muscles of the extremities (fig. 1.6). represent motor neuronal systems
systems that help represented by these
SPINAL CORO INJURI ES control skeletal two neurons , as well
muscular actívity. as by the upper
If t he entire spinal cord is severed or severely damagcd at sorne specific but less precisely
motor neuron aboye.
than "upper
level, there are two main prohlems. First, sensory information that comes motor neurons" are destroyed as a
into the spinal cord from below the level of lhe injury cannot get Lo the result of oxygen
deprivatíon due to
cerebral cortex and thereby to conscious awareness. The patient is not
rupture 01a small
aware 01' louch, pressure, pain, or ternperature Irorn the affected region of blood vessel at a site
the body. Second, motor commands from the brain cannot gel lo the lower (arrowhead) !hrough
which !he axons of
molor neurona that are located below the injury. Spinal cord injuries at
all !hree systems
different levels illustrate these conditions: a pinal cord transection in the motor neurons on the course
thoracic region would resu1t. in paraplegia-paralysis and loss of sensation right síde 01!he spinaí
in the lower extrernities; and a spinal cord transection in the lower part of
coro still receive input
from the 3 neuronal
the neck would cause quadriplegia-paralysis and loss of sensation from systems represented by
the solid line
the neck down , including al! four extremities (fig, 2.. 12) . Injuries such as
these are usually the result of cither aulomobile or sports accidente.

o far our discussion has focused on neuronal connections from the top
down-from our intent.ion, lo the cerebral cortex, lo upper motor neurons, !igure 1.6. A hypothetical scheme
lower motor neurons, and skeletal muscles, But there is sornething else Lo IIIu~lra ling how injury lo a sma ll
reglo n of ~he brain could inlerrupt
consider, something much more primitive and elemental in the norvous pal hways im p o r t an ¡ for the precise
systern that bypasses our conscious choices: reflexes, or uneonscious motor cOnlrol of ske letal muscular activity the final common pa!hway
(the collective pool 01all
responses to sensory st.imuli. In this context reflexes have nothing at all to ~nd cause spastic paralysis. The dotted low:r motor neurons) ís
Ime rep rese nts the ~ystems thal have slllllnlact. but ¡ts conscious
do with Ihe lightning-fast reaclions ("fast reflexes") thal are needed for becn inle rrup led, and Ihe olid line controllS problemalic

expcrtise in video games 01' quick-draw artislry. Thesc reactions refer to represents Ihe remaining syslems Ihal
unconsdous responses carried out al lhe spinal level. cannol control muscular aClivily
accurately by the mse lves. "an = axon.
·11{ 11,\ ít TO.1/ 1 or 11/177111 1'(}( ."A

Reílexes are simp le. That is why th ey are called reflexes. They always
inelude four elernents: a sensory neuron that receives a stimulus and that
carries nerve impul ses into the spinal eord, an in tegrating center wit hin
the spinal coro, a motor neuron that relays nerve impulses back out to a
dorsal rool
muscle, an d the muscular response that completes th e action. More expliciUy, ,I--- -- - - - (sensory)
the sensory neurons carry nerve impu lses from a muscle, tendon, ligament,
joint, or the skin to an integrating center in the spinal cord , This integrating
center migh t be as simple as one synapse between thc sensory and motor
dorsal rool
neuron, 0 1' it might involve one or more int er neuro ns. The motor neuron, "t-- - - - ganglion
in its turn, innervates muscle cells that complete the aetion . By dcfinition , (sensory)
the reflex bypasses higher centers of consciousness, Awareness of the
\\-- - - mixed (molor
accompanying sensation gets to the cerebral cortex after the fact and on ly and sensory)
because it is carried th ere independently by other circuits, There are lateral head 01 spina l nerve
dozens of well-known reflexes, We'll examine three, all of which are important quadriceps
in hatha yoga . rectus
muscle spindles are \

strelched sharply
'!'he myotatic stretcli reflex, familiar lo everyone as the "kneejerk," is actually
by impact;
found throughout the body, but is especially active in antigravity muscles (fig. quadriceps lemoris
1.7l. You can test it in the t high . Cross your knees so that one foot can musc les in ttlighs
support landing
bounee up and down Ireely, and then tap the palellar tendon just below the
renexly and alrnost
kneecap wit h the edge ofyour hand. Fin d just the right spot, and the big set inslan laneously (Sappey)
of quadriceps femoris muscles on the fro nt of the thigh will contract retlexly
an d cause the foot to tly up, You have to remain relaxed, however, becausc it
is possible to override the reflex with a wiJIed efTort lo hold the leg in place.
The receptora for the myotatic stretch reflex are located in the belly of
the muscle, where the dendrites of sensory neurons are in contact with
muscle spilldles-specialized receptors barely large enough to be visibl e
with the naked eyc. Named for their shapes, cach of these muscJe spindles
contains a spindle-shaped collection of specialized muscle fibers that are
loaded with sensory receptors (fig. 1.7).
The ref1ex works this way: When you tap the patelJar tendon to activate
the reílex at the knee joint, the irnpact stretches muscle spindles in the
quadriceps Iemoris rnuscle on the front of the thigh. This stretch is as fast
as an eyeblink, but it nevertheless stirnulates the spccific sensor)' neurons
whose dendrites end in the muscle spindles and whose axons terminate one 01 two muscle cells (greatly
lumbar spinal coro enlarged in relation lo muscle
directiy on motor neurons back 111 the spinal cord . Those axon tcrrninals In cross.seclion spind le), and neuromuscular
junction (+) muscle
strongly facilitate the cell bodíes ofthe motor neurons whose axon terminals spnldle
stirnulate the quadrieeps femoris muscle, causing it to shorten and jcrk the
foot up. The myotatic stretch l' flcx is specilic in that it fceds hack only to Figure 1.7. The mvota tic stretch reflex. A 3-fool vertical jurnp moment '1
slretch l ' dI ' I a tl y
the mllsc/e in which the spindle is located. e ~~ m use e SJ?IO es 10 a I th e ex te nsor (anti-gravity) m uscle s o f Ihe lower
. xlrenlllles . lhe sp lOdlcs then prov ide d ircct (monosynaplic) and al l
As with a IlI'ef1exes, thiR one ta kes place a fmetion ofa second before you IInmediat e faci lita tu ry inp ut (-+ in ve nt ra l ho ro of sp ina l co rd) lo ~X l mos
n . l' . ~ e nsor mo lor
euron , rcsu tlOg 10 sl ro ng refle x cuntrat:tion of Ihe ind ividual m usclcs.

40 /lNA1nlll ol'IIA1UA 10CiA I MOl " vrsr AI\1J /'0.\71 NI" .j l

are aware of it consciously. You feel it happen after the fact, after the reflex a muscle spindle, but contractile tension on a sensory receptor in a tendon.
has already completed its circuito And you notice the sensation consciously This tension reflexly causes the muscle attachcd to that tendon to relax
only because sepárate receptors for the modality of touch send messages to and the joint to buckle (fig, un.
the cerebral cortex and thus into the conscious mind. 'I'he sensory receptor for the clasp knife reflex is the Golgi tendon organ,
You can feel the myotatic strctch reflex in operation in many sports in Most of the receptors are actually located near musculotendinous junctions,
which your muscles absorb dynamic shocks. For example, when you are where they link small slips of connective tissue with their associatcd muscle
water skiing on rough water outside the wake 01' a boat, the muscle spindles fibers. The Golgi tendon organ is therefore activated by the contraction of
in the knee extensora 01' the thighs are stretched by the impact of hitting muscles ceJls that are in line (in series) with the receptor. Reeent studies
each wave, and absorbing one bump alter another would quickly collapse have cIarified that the Golgi tend ón organ is rclatively insensitive to passive
your posture were it not for the myotatic stretch reflex. Instead, what happens stretch, but that it begins to tire nerve impulses back to the spinal eord as
is that each impact activates the reflex for the quadriccps femoris muscles in a soon as muscle fibers start tugging on it ,
few milliseconds, thus stabilizing the body in an upright position. You can also And then what happens? Th ís is the main idea: unlike the myotatic
feel the reflex when you attack moguls aggressively on a ski slope, run stretch reflex, here the incoming sensory axons do not termínate directly
down the boulder field 01' a mountain (fig. 1.7), or simply jump off a chair on motor neurons (which would increase their activity and stimulate a
onto the floor-any activity in which an impact shocks the muscle spindles. muscular contraction), but on inhibitory inlerneurons that diminish the
The rcílex is therefore a major contributor to what we interprot as activity of motor neurons and thereby cause the muscle to relax. If you
"strength" in our dynamic interactions with gravity. Athletes depend on it stimulate the receptor, the reflex rolaxos the muscle (fig. I.Sl. It is a precise
far more than most of them realize. feedback loop in which the contraction 01' muscle fibers shuts down their
Stimulating myotatic stretch reflexes repetitively has another important own activity. This feedback loop works something like a thermostat that
effect: it shortens muscIes and diminishes flexibility. \Ve can see this most shuts off the heat when the temperatura rises. Anecdotal reports of super-
obviously in jogging, which only mildly engages the reflexes each time your h uman strength in which a parent is able to lift an automobile offher child
front foot hits the ground, but engages them thousands 01' times in a might be due to a massive central nervous system inhibition of this reflex,
halfhour, 'I'his can cause problems if taken to an extreme, and if you tend like a thermostat that stops working and overheats a house. In ordinary
to be tight you should always do prolonged slow stretching alter a runo On life we see the clasp knife reflex in action, at least in a gross form, when
the other hand, if the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are overly loose two unequally matched arm wrestlers hold their positions for a few seconds,
frorn too much stretching and too few repetitive movements, joints can and suddenly the weakor 01' the two gives way (fig, 1.8).
become destabilized, and in such cases an activity that tightens everything Whether intentional or not, we constantly make use of the c1asp knife
down is one 01' the best things you can do. reflex while we are practicing hatha yoga. To see it most effectívely and to
In hatha yoga we usually want to minimizo the effects of the myotatic begin to gain awareness of its utility, measure roughly how far you can come
stretch reflex because even moderately dynamic movements will fire the into a forward bond with your knees straight, preferably the first thing in the
receptors, stimulate the motor neurons, shorten the rnuscles, and thereby morning. Then bend the knees enough to flatten the torso against the thighs.
limit stretch. Any dynamic movement in hatha yoga activates the myotatic Hold that positíon firmly, keeping the arms tighUy wrapped around the
stretch reflex-bouncy sun salutations, jumping in and out 01' standing thighs to stabilize the back in a comfortable position in relation to the pelvis.
postures, and joints and glands exercises carried off \\,;th flair and toss. Then try to straighten the knecs while keeping the chest tighUy in place, and
These are all fine, espccially as warm-ups, but if you wish lo lengthen hold that positiun in an in tense isomet.ric puJl for 30 seconds. Tbis is the
muscles and increase flexibility it is better to move into postores slowly. hamstrings-quaddceps thigh pull (lig. 1.16), and we'U examine it in more
detaillater in this chapter. Releasc the pose and then check to see how much
THE CLASP KNIFE REFLEX ~rther you.can come into a forward bcnd with lhe knL'eS strdight. The
The clasp kTlife reflex aets like the blade of a pocket knife when it resists dilTerence wdl be a measure of how much the Golgi tendon organs "stimu-
elosure up to a (;ertain point and then suddenly snaps into its folden position. lated" t.he hamstring muscles to rela." by way of the c1asp knife r-ellex.
It is ¡mother stretch rel1ex, but this one causes the targeted musclc to rela.x The Golgi tendon organs are scnsitive lo manual stimulation as weH as
rather than contracto The slimulus for lhe rel1ex is not dynamic stretch of lo muscular tension. If you manipulatc any musculotendinous junction in
·p ANA1IJ.I/l (JI' IJA111A HK;A
/ . \I(J n.\(J~Yr.·I.\ J) I'IJ!>77 Rf. .B
the body vigorously, its Golgi tend ón organs will reflexly cause their a:;so- dorsal root, ano
ciated muscle fibers to relax. This is one of the reasons why deep rnassage 001 body 01
sensory neuron
is relaxing, This is also why body therapists wanting to reduce tcnsion in a
- Inhibitory
spec ífic muscle wiJI work directly on its musculotendinous junctions. It's intemeuron
an old chiropractic trick-manual stimulation stimulates the c1asp knife
reflex almost as efficientIy as eontractile tensi ón. Surprisingly, the results
last for a day 01' two, during which time the recipient of the work has a
chance to correct the offending rnusculoskeletal habit that gave rise to the
excess tension in the first place.
Although you can test the effects of manual stimulation on tendons any-
where in the body, let's expcriment with the tulductor muse/es on the inside radral nerve; branches innervate
al/ three heads 01 tríceps brachii
of the thighs becauso tight adductors, more than any other muscles, limit
as well as Golgi ten don organs
your ability to sit straight and cornfortably in the classic yoga sitting pos-
tu res. First test your ability to sit in either the auspicious 01' accomplished most Golgi "tend ón" organs
are actual/y found at or near
posture (figs, 10.11 and 10.14). Then release tho pose and lie with the hips ~ musculotendinous [uncnons
lateral head 01 triceps brachii - - %-- "6. - .JI,..
butted up firmly against a wall with the knees extended and the thighs
spread out as much al; possible for an adductor stretch. With the help of a common ten don 01 msert íon for
tríceps brachii muscle ~~ ~

partner to hold your thighs abducted, try lo pull the thighs together
medial head of tríceps brachri ....:
isornetrically, engaging the adductors as much as possible, and at the same
time stirnulate the Golgi tendon organs in the adductor muscles with
vigorous rubbing. Sorne of the adductor tendons are the cordlike structures synapse
in the inner thighs near the genitals, Others are more flattened and are
located further lo the rearo AH ofthem take origin frorn a pair ofbones, the cel/ body \
of sensory ~
inferior pubic rami tfig. 1.12), that together form the rear-facing V which neuron + .
accornmodates the genitals.
A" you massage the adductors for a minute 01' so while keeping them
under tension, you wiII feel them gradualIy ralease. as evidenced by being
able to abduct the thighs more completely. Then sit up and check for
improvement in your sitting posture. The combination of massaging the
adductor tendons plus making an isometric effort with stretched adductors
powerfulIy inhibits the motor neurons that innervate thesc muscles, and
this allows them to release ami permita you to sit straighter and more
The hamstrings-quadriceps thigh pulI and the adductor massage give us
obvious examples 01' how the cJasp knifc reílex operatcs. It is also invoked axon of inhibitory intemeuron. with
rrunus siqn signahng Inhlbitory ettect Golgi ten don organ. in senes
in a milder form any time you are able to stay cornfortable in an active on cel/ body of motor neuron with the ñvo skeletal muscle
posture for more than 10-15 seconds, which is what we often do in hatha cells shown above

yoga . In this case don't hounce unless you want to induce the myotatic
stretch reflex, and don't take a posture into the discomfort zone unless you Figure 1.8. The clasp knife reflex, Muscular effurl stimulates e l ' I d

hos . h
r w ose sensory mpul to 1 espinal cord activates inhihí¡
() gl en
. on
are prepared to trigger flexión roflexes, which we'lI discuss next. (+ m dor al hom); the inhibilory inlerneurons Ihen inhibit m ti ory mlerneur<,Jns
ve n t ra I h ) rcsu lhng
urn, " In l o
ewer nerve impulseso r
per secund 'k f. l- In
to lh neurons
ele cclls (+ effecls al the neuromuscular synapse are minimized)cF~ e,ctal mt.Js-
I f I fh I . . ma result IS
re axa Ion o e muse e, 01' m this case, loss 01 the armwrestlin" match (5
'" appey).
+l AI\,OTJMI UF l/AUlA HI(.-r1
I IfOnó'\/I;,\TA,\lJ 1'(J"n 'RI:' 4~

The f1exion ref1exes (fig. 1.9) are pain reílexes. [fyou inadvertently touch a
hot skillet you jerk your hand back ref1exly. You don't have to think about
it, it just happens. As with tho other reflexes, awareness comes a moment
lateroFlexion reflexes are more complex than stretch reílexes, but they are
easier to cornprehend because pain is such an obvious part of everyone's
eonscious ex..perience. Even if it is no more than a feeling 01' stretch that lrom
wcnt too far while you were gardening, a pain in the knee or hip that devel- bottom 01
left loot
oped alter a strenuous hike, 01' a neck problcm you didn 't notice until you (L5)
started to turn too far in a certain direction, with rare exceptions your
automatic response will be flexiono You may be only vaguely aware of the
reflex itself, but you will certainly be aware 01' the fear and tension that
accompanies it.
'I'he sensory neurona (including their axons) that carry the rnodalities of
pain and tempcrature conduct their nerve impulses more slowly than those
that activate the myotatic stretch ref1ex. What is more, f1exion reflexes are
polysynaptic-that is, they involvc one 01' more interneurons in addition to ~
relaxation 01 extensors
the sensory and motor neurons-and each synapse in the chain 01'neurons (reciproca! inhibition) I
extensor motorneuron
slows down the speed ofthe reaction. You can estirnate the conduction time activatedon nght side
for temperature by licking your finger and touching a coffee pot that is hot tenth thoracic
enough lo hurt but not hot enough to cause injury. It will take almost a second spinal nerve
- (T1 O) right side
1'01' the sensation to reach consciousness from a Iinger, well over a second from
a big toe, ando 1'01' the adventuresome, about a íenth 01' a second from the spinal cord T11 spinal
tip ofthe nose. Such slow conduction times from the extremities would not segmentoU _ -nerve
serve the myotatic stretch rellex, If 1'01' that reflex, it took a full second 1'01'
nerve impulses Lo reach the spinal cord, you would he in sorious trouble axon Irom
jumping off a platfonn onto the floor with bent knees-you would collapse left loot -
(L5 spinal
ñrst lumbar
and shatter your kneecaps before the extensor muscles couJd rcact enough nerve) - spinal nerve
(U) (right)
to support your wcight.
Like the two stretch rel1exes we have just con sidered, the motor reflexes
Ior f1exion are spinal, not cerebral, So even if the spinal cord were cut off lower
from the brain, the flexion ref1ex would still withdraw a foot from a toxic extremity,
right side;
stimulus, That's why neurologists have little reason to be encouraged crossed
when the foot 01' a patient with a spinal cord injury responds to a pincho extension
up and
Flexion reílexes not only act ívate flexor muscles to puU the hand or the foot
toward the torso, they also relax the extensors, which then allows flexion Figure 1.9. Flexion reflex on the muscles
to take place freely. This is done through the agency 01' inhibitory ínter- left, and crossed extcnsion are relaxed
reflex on the right. Incoming lrom L2
neurons. While facilitatory interneurons ímpinge on motor neurons that sensorv input from bottorn of through 52
innervatc l1exors, thus causing them to contract, inhibitory int.crneurons left foot (l5) sprcads to fower
impinge 011 motor ncumns thut innervate extensors, causing them Lo relax. ~otor ncurons from L2 through
S2 for both fower extremities (Sappey) .
·16 ANA7TJ.1/r O"IIAnIA lOCA
/ . .1'(}\ ·/~\/¡'¡\T AfI./) 1'0..\7/ 'NI 47
The phenomenon is known as reciproco! inhibition, ami it is an integral if you are 111 excellcnt condition but not warmed up . Tho deep back
part of the flexion reflex (fig. 1.9). muscles are extensors of the back: they lengthen eccenlricaJIy as you bend,
Unlike stretch reflexes, Ilexion reflexes create effects well beyond the res isting forward movement and only allowing you come into the postura
site of the stimulus. \Ve can see this when a nurse pricks a child's index with creaks and wariness. Come up . Next, holding tho elbows partiaJly
finger with a necdle to draw blood. The child's entire uppcr extremity flexed, flex YoU/" fingers tightly, making fists . Holding that gesture, come
reacts, not just the flexors in the ofTended finger. A veh ement jerk back- forward again. You will immediate1y notiee that you do this more easily and
ward shows that the flexion reílex facilitates flexor motor neurons and smooth1y than when your fingers and elbows were extended. Come up, and
inhibits extensor motor neurons for the entire upper extremity. rcpeat the exercise to YOUJ' capacity
Making your hands into fists reciprocally inhibits the motor neurons
that innervate the deep back muscles. lf you are in good condition this
The crossed-extension reflex adds yet another ingredient to flcxion reflexes- merely he lps you come forward more smoothly and confident!y, but ifyour
a supporting role for the opposite side of the body. Through the agency of back is tense from excess rnusclo tone in the deep back rnuscles you will be
this reflex, as the extremity on the injured side flexes, the extremity on the arnazed at how much the simple act of flexing your fingers into fists eases
other side extends. This would happen if you stepped on a hot coaJ near a you into a relaxed bend.
campfire. You don't have lo think about either reflex; you lift your injured Why might your back be stifT from excess muscle tone'! It is usuaJIy
foot in a hurry, contracting flexors and relaxing extensors on that side- because of pain that causes the back muscles to become taut and act as a
everything at the same time-toe, ankle, knee, hip, and even the torso. And splint to prevent movement. This is fine for a while as a protective measure,
as the injurcd foot lifts, the crossed-extension reflex contracts the extensors but at sorne stage it becornes countcrproductive and leads to other problems,
and relaxes the flexors on the opposite side of the body, strengthening your When stifTness and mi ld back pain emerge, you need enough muscle tone
stance and keeping you from toppling over into the fire (fig. 1.9). to prevent re-injury, it is true, but you do not need enough to lock you up
The crossed-extension reflex is accomplished by interneurons whose for months on end. The reciproca1 inhibition caused by making your hands
axons cross to the opposite side ofthe spinal coro and innervate motor neurona into físts helps relax the extensor muscles in the back and allows you to
in a reverso pattem from that seen on the side with the injury-s-motor neurons ~ase further into a forward bend. If your back is chronically stifT, but not
for extensor musclcs are facilitated, and motor neurons for flexor muscles un' In acute pain, you can benefit by doing this exercise severa! times a day.
The flexi ón reflexes also serve many other protective functions, For THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM . SIGHT, AND TOUCH
exarnple, ifyou sprain your ankle badly, the pain endings become more se n- SOfa r we have seen how mutur neurons drivc the rnusculoskelstal system,
sitivo , 'I'he next time you start to turn your ankle, the highor centers in th e how association neurons channel our will to the motor neurons, and how
hrain associatod with volition and consciousness allow the spinal flexion sensory input from musclos, tendons, and pain receptors participate with
reflexes to act unencumbered and collapse the Iimb before your weigh t motor neurons in simple reflexes. But that's only the beginning. Many
drops fulIy on the vulnerable joint. This prevents re-injury. A "trick" knee ~the" Sources of sensory input also affect motor funcbon . Sorne of the most
demonstrates the same mechanisms-an old injury, a sudden phy sicaJ Important are the vestibular sense, sight. and touch .
threat. unresistant higher centers, and unconscious flexion reflexes. Your
bad knee buckJes quickly, and you are savcd from more serious injury.


W~ ~ave Iittle conscious awareness of our vestibular sense even though it Íl:i
C1'lhcal lor keeping us balanced in the field of gravity. ¡ts receptors lie close
Since they restrain movement, f1exion ref1exes usually influence hatha t~ the organ of hearing- -the inner ear-in little circular tubes caUed sem i-
postures negatively. but there are certain situatiuns in which we can us circular canals and in a little reservoir caUed the utriele, all of which are
lhcm to our advantage If you Lend tu be stiff and not ¡nclinee! to forward ;mbedd~,in the bony region ol' the skull just underneath the external em:
bending, lry this cxperimenl early in the morning. Fil·st. for comparison. he semICIrcular canal and the utricle are a11 involved with maintainin
slowly lower into a standing furward bcnd with your fingcrs extended. OUr 'j 'b " b g
. eqUJ I flum m space, ut within that I"ealm lhey are sensitive to
Nuticc that you hesitate to come forwanl smoothly. This may happen e"cn dlfTere nt stimuli-the semicircular canals to rotary acceleration, and Lhe
-IK A,\:tl¡V.II' W '//AnIA HX;A I .110 I L llh \ Yrt.\V P O \'l IIIlE 4<)

utricle to linear acceleration and to our orientation in a gravitational field . sensitive lo dizziness. In any case, anyone who is sensitivo should alwavs
They also participatc in different reflexes: the semicircula¡' canals coor- do neck exercises slowly. .
dinate eye movernents, and the utricles coordinate whole-body postural 'I'he second component 01' the vestibular organ, the utricle, detects two
adjustrnents. modalities: speeding up 01' slowing down while you are moving in a straight
Except for pilots, dancers, ice skaters, and others who require an acute line, and the static orientation of the head in space. The rush of accclerating
awareness al' equilibrium, most of us take the vestibular systern for granted. 01' decelerating a cal' is an exarnple of the first case. As with the semicircular
We dori 't notice it because it does almost all of its work reflexly, fceding canals, stirnulation ends after an equilibrium is established, whethcr sitting
sensory information into numerous motor circuits that control eye and still 01' going 100 miles per hour at a con stant rute on a straight road. The
body movernents. utricles also respond to th e orientation ofthe head in the earth's gravitational
Because the semicircular canals are sensitiva to rotary accoleration, field-an upright posture stimulates them the least and the headstand
they respond when we start 01' stop any spinning rnotion of the body. One stimulates them the rnost, 'I'he receptors in the utricle adapt 1.0 the stirnulus
of their several roles is to help us maintain our equilibrium by coordinating of an altered posture after a shor t time, however, which is why it is so
oye movements with movements of the head. You can experience these if important for piJots of small piunes to depend on instruments for keeping
you sit cross-legged on a chair 01' stool that can rotate, tip your head forward properly oriented in the sky when visual feedback is absent 01' confusing.
about jo", and have sorne assistants turn you around and around quickly For exarnple, a friend of mine was piloting a srnall plane and Ilew unexpectedly
for }0-40 seconds. Make sure you keep balanccd and upright. Don 't lean to into a thick bank 01' clouds. lnstantly lost and disoriented, and untrained
the side 01' you will be pitched off onto the 0001: Then have your assistants in f1ying on instruments, he calculated that he would just make a slow 1~00
stop you suddenly. You eyes will exhibir little jerky movements known a s turno Unfortunately; after having made the turn and exiting the clouds, he
nystagmus, and you will probably fcel dizzy Children play with this reflex was shocked 1.0 see that he was headed straight toward the ground.
when they spin themselves until they get dizzy and fall down. The sensation Fortunately, he had enough airspaco lo pull out of the dive.
they describe as the world "t ur ning" is due to nystagrnus. The pcrception In ordinary circumstances on the ground, the receptors in the utricle do
is disorienting at first but it slows down and stops aíter a while. more than sense the oricntation 01' the head in space: they tl'Ígger' manv
The receptors in the semicircular canals stop sending signals after about whole-body postural reflexes that maintain our balance. This is the source
}O seconds of spinning, which is why you have your m;sishmts rotate YOl of the impulse to lean into curves while you are running 01' cycling around
for that period of time. It is also why the reaetion slows clown and stops i a lrack. \Ve aIso depend on lhe utric!e for u nderlying adjustments of hatha
}O sceonds after you are abruptly stopped. Third-party observers obviousl) yoga posture that we tl;gger when we tilt the head fonvard , backward. 01'
cannot observe nystagmus during the initia! period of acceleration while lo one side. Every shift al' tite head in space initiaLes ref1exes that aid and
you are being spun around . 'fo observe these eye movements in a practica l abct many of the whole-body postural adjustments in the torso that we
settillg, we must rely on what we call post-rotator)' Ilystagmus, the eYl take for granted in hatha yoga.
movemcnts that occur aner you ha\'e been stopped suddenly. T.he well-known righting reflexes in cats can give us a hint of how Lhe
The neurological circuitry for nystagmus is sensitive to excessive alcoh ol vestIbular system influences posture in humans. If you want to sce these
and this is why highway patroÍ orficers ask suspected drunks to get out 01 reflexes ~perate, drop un amicable cat. with its legs pointcd up, from as little
the car and walk a straight line. 11' the suspect is suflcr;ng from alcohol- as a few mches aboye the flOOl: lt will turn with incredibIe speed and Jand on
induced nystagrnus. the ensuing dizziness is likely to make walkin/- alJ four feet. even ir it has becn bJindfolded. CarcfuJ study reveals a definite
straight impossible. Spontaneous (and continuing) fonns of nystagmu:- sequence of events. 'rhe utricle first detects bcing upside down. and then il
that are not induced by drugs 01' alcohol may be symptomatic 01' ncurologica J detects tile f:a 11'mg sensation
. -
of Imear aL'Cclemtion toward lhc 0001' l
resp t hi h . n
problcms such as a brain tumo r 01' stroke. onse o t s t e cal automaticall)' rotates its head, which stimu lates neck
Occasionally studcnts in hatha yoga dasses are ::;ensitive to dizziness muscles that in turn leads to an agile twisting around ofthe rest ofth bod
and . b e y
when they do neck exerciscs. They may have had such problems from a mm le landing on aH four feet. The cat does aH this in a fraction 01'a
childhood 01' they may just not be accustomed to the fael that they are ~'Cfmd . Comparable renexes also take place in human beings, although
stimulating their semicircular canals when they roiate their head. And hey are not as rcfincd as in cats.
evcn utherwise hculthy students who are jusL getting over a fever may be
SO A IVA TOM I (JI' /I. 'l771A Il X ;A

SIGHT gets boring in the abscnce of occasional squeezing and stroking. Without
When we a re moving we a re heavily dependent on visiono as anyone can movement, the awareness of touch disappears. Rapid adaptation to touch is
attest who has steppe d off a curb unawares 01' th ou ght erroneously t ha t extremely irnportant in hatha yoga postures, re laxation, and me ditation, If
one more step rema incd in a staircase. 'I'his is true to a lesser extent when your posture is stable, the receptors for touch stop sending signals back to
we are standing still. If you stand upright with your feet together and your the brain and you are able lo focus your attention inward, but as soon as you
eyes open, you can remain still a nd be aware t hat only rninuscule shifts in rnove t he signals return and disturb your state of silenco,
the muscles of the lowe r extrernities are neeessary to maintain your balance.
But the moment you close your eyes you will experience more pronounced
mu scul ar sh ifts. For a n even more convinc ing test, come into a posturc such Ifyou bu mp yo ur shin against sornething hard , ruhbing the injured region
as th e tree 01' eagle with your eyes open, establish your halance fully, and allevi ates the pain, and if you r knee hurts from sitting for a long t ime in a
then closc your eyes. Few people will be able to do this for mo re than a few cross-legged posture, the natural response is to massage the region that is
seco nds before they wobble 0 1' fa ll. hurting. There is a ne urological basis Ior t his-the gale theory uf pain,
Visual cues are especially impor tant while comi ng into a hatha yoga pos- aceording to which the a pplication of dee p to uch an d pressure closes a "gate"
ture, but once you are stable you can close your eyes in mos t poses without to block t he synaptic transmission of pa in in the spinal cord . Although it has
losing you r balance provided your vestibular system a nd joint senses are not been possi ble lo substantiate this theory as it was initiaHy proposed, we
heal th y. On t he other ha nd , if you wa nt to st udy you r body's align ment all kno w exper ient ially that somehow it works. So oven though the
objectively you can do it only by watching your reflection in a mirror. It is mcchanism is st iIJ uncertain, th e general idea is widely acceptcd as se lf-
all too easy to dcceive yourself if you depend purely on your muscle- and evident- somewhere between the spinal cord and the cerebral cortex,
joint -sen se to establish r ight-Ieft balance. touch a nd pr ossure pat hways intersect with the ascending pa t hways 1'01'
pain and either block 0 1' minimize its perception.
THE SENSE Of TOUCH We use this principle constantIy in hatha yoga . '1'0 iUustrate, interlock
The se nse of touch bri ngs us awareness of t he pleasure a nd luxu ry of como your hands behind you r back and press t he palms toget her, PulI them lo
fortable stretch, and bccau se of this it is the surest au t hority we ha ve for the real' so they do not come in contad with the back, and come into a
teIling us how far to go into a hatha yoga posture. The vestibular reflexes f~rward ben d. If you a re not warmcd up you may notice that you feel mild
an d vision he lp with balance, and pai n tells us how fa r not to go in a dll,~omfort from t he stretch . Now come up, press the forea rms firm ly
stretch . But the sense of touch is a beaco n. It both rewards and gui des . agamst th e back on eithcr side of the spine, and come forward again. The
The modality of touch includes discriminaling touch , deep pressure, an d contrast will be startling, The scnsation of deep touch and pressure against
hinesthesis. AIl thrce are brought into conscious awareness in the cerebral the back muscles stops the discornfort immedia tely.
cortex, and along with stretch reflexes, vision, a nd the vestibular sense, Is th is good 01' bad? That is a vital question, and on e ofthe chalIenges of
t hey make it possible for us to maintain our balance and equilibrium. hatba YO~d is to lcarn how fa 1" this principie can safely be taken. 11' you
Discriminating touch is sensed by receptora in the skin, and deep pressure un.derestlma te the importance of the signals of pain, and dirninis h that
is senscd by receptors in fascia~ and internal organs. Kinesthesis, which i¡.; pam.~ith inp ut from touch and pressure, you may injurejoints and tissues,
the knowledge of where your limbs are located in space, as weIl as th e ~ut 1I you baby yourself, you 'H never progress. The answer unfortunatslv
awareness of whether your joints are folded . straightened, stressed, 0 1' rs that y know i ' J '
1 ou may not 10W if you havo gone too far untiJ the next morning.
comfortable, is sensed mostly by receptors in joints, If you lift up in a f you are sore you know you misjudged.
posture such as the prone boat and support youl' weight only ~n
abdomen, you can fcel all three asp ~ts of touch--contact of the skm wlt h
the floor, dcep pressure in the abdomen, and awar'eness of extension in the OUT
' bodies are m'a d e IIp oftiour pnmary
. .
tJssues: ..
eplthe/mm , muscle, neruous
t ISSue and t" E" .
spine and extremities. h . ' COll/leClVe tlssue. .pltheha fOl'm (;overings, Iinings, and most of
Touch receptor!' adapt even more rapidly than receptors in the vestibular ~ e Internal organs. Muscle is responsible 101' movement. and nervollS tissue
system, whic h mea ns thal they stop sending signals to the cen tral nervous lB respo
nSI'ble ti01' commumcatlOn.
That leaves connective tissuc-the one
11at b" d
system after u few 8CConds of sl.illness. That 's why holding han clswit h somL'One 10 S all the ot hers logether. If you were able to remove a U t he
eon nec tive t issue from t he body, what was left wou ld flatten down on the sometimes more restrictively than we would like. Fina\ly, looso connective tíssue
floor like a hairy, lumpy pancake . You wou ld ha ve no bones, cartilage , heIPS bond the entire body together, constraining movemcnt between fasciae and
joints, fa t, 01' blood , and nothing would be left of yom: skin except ~he skin, adjacent muscle groups, and interna! organ s.
epidermis, ha ir, an d sweat glands. Muscles a nd nerves, withou t connecuve
tissue, wou ld have the eonsistency of mush. Internal organs would fall
aparto Ligaments , rnuscles, and the joint capsule itself all aid in holding the elbow
To understand epithelia, rnuscle, an d nervous tissue we have lo under- joint toget her, but underlying these supports, bony eonstraints ultimately
stand their cells, because it is the cells that are responsible for what the limit bot h flexion and extensi ón. F lexión is limited when the head of the
tissue does , Connective tissues are a different matter. With the exception radi us and t he coronoid process of the ulna are stopped in the radial and
of fat t he one connective tíssue that is made up almost entirely of cclls, it coronoid [ossae in the lower end of the humerus, a nd extension is stopped
is the extracellular (outside of cells) substance in each conneetive tissue when th e hoo ked upper end of the ulna-the olecranon process-eome..<; to
that gives it its essential character. The extraceUular materials impart a stop in a matching olecranon. fossa in the humerus. Even though thin layers
hardness 10 bone, resilience to cartilage, strength to tendons and fasciae, of cartilage soften the contact bet wcen th e radius an d ulna in relation to the
and liquidity to blood. And yet the extracellular components of connect~ve humero s, the architectural plan limits flexion and extcnsion as certainly as
tissues are entirely passive. Trying to relax a ligament or release fasciae doorstops and provide us wit h clear examples of bony constraints to move-
with our power 01' will wou ld be like trying to re lax lea ther. ment. lt is not sornething we wou ld want to a lter I fig. 1.101.
So are the connective tissues alive? Yes and no. Yes, in that living cells In th e spine we see another example of how one bone bu t t ing up against
in the various con nective ti ssues manufacture its ext racellular components another lim its movement. The lumbar spine ca n extend and flex freely, but
and organize t he tissue. Also yes, in that the ext racell ular space in connective matching surfaces of t he mova ble intervertebral joints in th is regi ón a re
t issue is teeming with electrical activity. But no, in that the extracellular oriented vertically in a front-to-back plane that severely limi ts twisting
materia ls a re nonliving. And one more no, in t hat t he on ly way we can (fig. 1.11). Beca use of th is, al most a ll the twisting in a spinal twist takes
access them is through the agency of living cells. Only through neurons place in the n eck and chest, where the matching surfaces of comparable
and their commands to muscle cells can we release tensi ón in a tendon. joints are oriented more propitiously (chapters 4 and 7l. As with the elbow,
execute weight-bearing activities t hat add bone sa lts to bone, and stirnu late ~e would n ot wa nt to alter t his designoIf t he lum bar region, isolated as it
the laying down oí' additionaI connective tissue Iibers in tendons and fasciae. lS between the pelvis and chest, cou ld twist markedly in addition to bending

And on ly with cells derived from epithelial tissues can we accomplish th e forward and backwa rd , it would be hope lessly unstable.
absorption, manufacturing, and eliminatory íunctions that are necded for
supporting the tissues 01' the body in general. In the end , our a im of mo ldinc
and shaping the extraceJIular componente of our conneetive tissues can Cartil ag e has the consistency of rubber or soft plastic, It gives shape to the
only be accomplished indircetIy. . nose and external ears, and it forms a eushioning layer at lhe ends of long
The fad lhat the various connective tissues are 80 unlike one another I ~ bones . Ou r m am . concern In
. th'15 d'Iscusslon,
. however, is not with these
l1 refledion of the fad t.hat tbeir extracellular materials are diametrical!) es
:x:mpl but with lhe joints called symphyses-the intervertebral disk<;
different. Bone contains bone salts; te ndons, ligaments, and fasciae contaifl e Wecn adjacent vertebral bodies lfigs . 1.11. _p o b, . p I, and 4.nhl as well
as th b' . - ,
dense accumulations of ropy libers; loose connective tissue contains loof'l aH e p u le b?'mphYSIS between the two [Jubic bones (figs. 1.12 amI .~ . 2). At
accumulations of the same liben;; e!astic connective tissue contains elastic th ' ~ these SItes symphyses restrict movement. something like son bllt
libers; amI blood contains plasma. So we can't work with connective tissu es 11..' ruhber gaskets gllled between blocks ofwood that allow a Iittle move-

in general; we ha ve to envision and work with eaeh one : e nt hu t no slippage. '1'0 that end the pubic symphysis is secu r'e enough lo
Connective tissucs not only give us shape, lhey also rcstram aetIVlt)~ Bone IOd th e two halves of the pelvic bowl together in front and yet pelTIlit
butting ab-rainst bone brings motion to 8 dcad stop. Cartilage const~n. Postural shift..-. and deviations; intervertebral disks bind adjaeent vertebra.
motion, but more softly than hom' . Ligaments constrain movements aecording .togeth er t 19 ' h t IY and yet permit the vertebr'al column as a whole to bende
lo their' architectural arrangements arou nd joints. RhL>e\.s 01'fasciae. whieh are and twi st.
essentiaUyluyen; (11' connective tÜ!sue. endose and org-.mize musdes and nerves,
,-! A"i11TJMI or u /n/M HJGA
medial view of ríght elbow ¡oint
11-- -- humerus
By definitiun, tendons connect rnuscles to bones, a nd ligam ents connect bone
to bone. They are hoth made up of tough, ropy, densely packed, inelastic
ulnar collateral connective tissue fibers, with only a few cells interspersed betwecn large
ligament, two packets offibers. Microscopically, tendons and Iigarnents are nearly identical,
although the fibers are nut packed as regularly in Iigaments as in tendons.
ulna - -- -
In a tendon the fihers extcnd frum the belly of a muscle intu th e su bstance
olecranon process of a bone, lending continuity and s t re ngt h to the whol e complexo
Ligamenls hold adjoining bones together in joints throughout the body,
disarticulated elbow left
ofien permitting smal l gliding motions, a nd usually beco rning taut at th e
humerus joints . tront views
end of a joint's range of mntion.
I /"-... Ligame nts and tendons can accomrnodate no more than ab out a 4~
increase in length during stretching, after which tearing begins. This can
fossae be a serious problern. Because the extracellular connective tissue fibers in
radial ---,,,-,_ -- fossa
tendons and ligaments depend only on a Iew scattered living cells Lar repair
fossa - - --/--'-- ulnar and rep lacement, and because the tissue is so poorly supplied with blood
ligaments vessels, injuries are slow to heal. 'I'he most comrnon of these is tendinitis,
which is caused by tears in the fibers al the interface between tendon and
radial collateral
collateral Iigament !ransverse processes inferior
ligamenl 01 l1 articulati ng

l "~'l
process of
processes Ll (ñght

left articulat ing
- - radius process 01
l2 (righl
right left side)
ulna ulna
rear view
process of
rear view
ot spinous
olecranon process process ot

vertebral body of inferior articulating spanaí orientation of articulatin g

l5 trorn Ihe front process 01 l5 process es prevents lumbar twisting

Fi ure 1.10 . Bony stops fur elbow f1~xio~ and exte.nsion, with Ihe join.l ~apsule .,.
figu re 1. 11. Lumbar vertebrae frorn the front, side, and behind. The vertical,
.gt ed above [ront vicws of the disarticulated right and left elbow ¡Olnt.s
ron l.-to -b ack orientation of the artículating processes and their [oint 5urfaces
p~c u~ in the ~iddle, and a longitudinal cut through the joint and two of its
~h~:~ bones shown below. Extension is stopped where the olecranon proc,:ss provl.des a bony stop that preven ís lumbar twisling. paces that represent th e
lorallo n for the intervertebral disk between L2 and l3 are indicated by arrows
butts up against its f05S3, and f1exiun is stopped where the ~ead of the. radius (Sappey ).
and curunoid process butt up agai nsl the radia l and coronoid fossae (Sappey).
l. I I() n~ lII; fI"I' ,·I:,./) 1'0.\1 I 'Il/: ')7

joints ha ve several roles: t hey provide a container Ior the slippery synouial
bono. If sorneone keeps abusing this interface with repetitive stress,
fluid tha t lubricates the mating surfaces ofthe opposing bones; they house
whether typing at a cornputer keyboard, swinging a tcnnis racket, or trying
the t>J'Tw vi al membrane that secretes the synovial fluid; they provide a
compulsively to do a stressful hatha yoga posture, the injury can take a
tough coveri ng of tissue into which ligaments and tendons can insert; and
year to heal, ur even longer, of spedal interest to us here, they and their associated liga rnents provide
The main purpose of ligaments is to restrain movable joints, and this
about hal l' the total resistance to move ment.
bocomes a majar concern in hatha yoga when we want to stretch to our
Th e shoulder joint reveals an exce llent example of a joint capsuIe. Like
maximum . \Ve might at first think of loosening them up and stretching
the hip jo in t , the shou lder joint is a ba ll and socket-the ball being the head
them out so they do not place so many restraints on hatha postures. But
of the hurnerus and the socket be ing t he g lenoid cavity of the scapula tfig,
ligamen ts don't spring back whcn st retched and lengthened (a l least not
1.13). The joint capsule surrou nds the entire complex and accommodates
beyond their 4 '1(1 maximurn ), and if we per sist in trying lo str etch them
tendons that pass through or blend into the joint capsu le, as well as Iiga ments
bcyond their Iim its we afien do more harm than good. Once lengthcned
that reinforce it on t he outside . To feel how it restricts movernent, raise
they become slack, and the joints they protect are prone to dislocation and
your arrn overhcad and pull it to the real' as far as possi ble: within the
injury. Ligaments have their purpose; let them be. '1'0 improvc ranges of
shoulder you can feel the join t caps ule and its ligame nts tighteníng up .
mo tion and Ilexibility, it is better to concentratc on lengthening muscles.
Extensile ligarnents are not rea lly ligaments ; they a re skeletal muscles he Id
Joint capsules are conncctivc tissue encascments that surround the work-
at rela tiv ely static lengt hs by mot.or neurons firing a con tinuous train of
ing surfaces of the class of joints known as synouial joints, including hinge
nerve impulses. T hey have greater elast icity than connect ive tissue ligamen ts
joints, pivot joints, and ball-and-sockct joints. Joint capsules for synovia l
because of their mu scu lar nat ura, but other tha n that they function lo
maintain our posture like ordinary Iigam ents, What they don't do, by definition,
is move joints through th eir full range of motion, which is what we us ually
right left expect from skeletal mu scles. According to the conventional defíni tion, extcnsile
pubie pubie
bone bone ligaments are mostly postura! muscles in the torso, bu t it is arguable t hat for
maintaining a stable meditation posture, every musde in the body lexcep ting
righl superior pubie ramus
the muscles of resp irat ion t beco rnes an extensile liga ment o
Unlike connective tissue Iigaments, the length of extonsile ligaments
can be adjusted according lo th e number of nerve impulses impinging on
the mu scle. And since every rnuscle associated with the torso a nd vertebral
colum n IS . represented on b oth sidos
. of the body, t he mat chin g rnuscles in
each pair shou ld receive the sarne n um ber of nerve impulses per second on
each side, at least. in any slaUc, bilaterally symmetrical posture. If that
left number is un eq ua l, the paired m uscles wiII develop chronically unequal
nghl Isehium
ischium lengths tha t result in repercussions throughout the cen tral of the
~y. In ha tha yoga, this condition is especially noticeable because it is the
pnrnary sourcc of right-Ieft muscul oskeletal imbalances.
is chial luberosities (sitting bones) Axia! imbalances can be spotted throughout the torso and vertebral cotumn
but th ey are especially noticeable in the neck, where the tiny suboccipitai
mu scles funct ion as extensile ligaments lo maintain head position (lig.
8. 20 1. If your head IS chronícally twisted or lipped slight1y to one l:lide it
rnaY mean t h at you ha ve held t he matching muscle¡; 011 the two sides' at
ngure 1.12, Pu b ic sym p hysis show n w he re il ¡oi ns lh e lw o sides o f th e pelv is.
Th is enlargemcnl o f lh e IWo.puuic I~()~cs and iscl~ia (fro nt vicw) is ta klm fmm llnequaI len gt hs over a long period of t ime. Motor ne urons have bl'come
fig. 3. 2, w hich shows lh e cn llre pel VIS In per'ipccllve (Sappey).
1 .\ /0 \ t:<Irü\"1 AAV /" lH rilE;' 59
Sil t1,\A7rJ.H)' orn» 111,1 HX .A
hab it uated to long-establish ed firing patterns, the bel lies of the rnuscles
thern:;elves have becorne shorter on one side and longer on thc other, and
\ - - - - - clavicle
glenoi d th e connective t iss ue fibers within and surrou nding the rnusc le have
cavity corocoid adju sted to t he unequal lengt hs of the muscle Iibers, Correcting such
process 01
scapu la
imbalances requires years of unrelenting efTort; neither the bellies of the
muscles 01' their connective tissue fibers can be lengthened 01' shortened
articular ~_-~~::I~~1iIII quickly.
hoad 01
humerus FASCIAE
medial border
- - -- 01 scapula Fasciae are shects of connectivo tissue that give architectural supporl for
tíssues and organs throughout the body, ho lding everything together and
C"::ir ---- - front surface 01 pl'oviding Ior a stahle infrastructure. They are crudely like leather gloves
scapula (laces that form a boundary around your hands. Underneath the skin and
back side 01
chest) subcutaneous connective tissue, fasciae organizo and un ify groups oí'
tendon 01 origino
long head 01 muscl es, individual rnusc les, and groups of muscle fibers within each
lriceps brachu muscle. T hey form a tough envelope around all the body cavities, ami they
___ ~ subscapularis rnuscle surround t he hea r t wit h a heavy connective tissue sack-t he fibrous
..J* ~ takes origin from \he pericardiu rn. We have superficial fascia just underneath the skin , and deep
Iront surlace ot the
capsule 01 scapula (behind the fasciae overl ying muscle gro ups. The singular and plural terms are almost
shoulde r jomt chest) and helps hold interchangea ble- we ca n say deep fascia of the back, fascia of the body, 01'
the head ol the
lendon 01origin, humerus againsl the fasciae of t he body.
long head 01 the glenoid cavity Fascia is flexible ir we kecp moving, slretch ing, and breathing, but if we
biceps brachií - - - --1'+ allow any part of the body lo remai n irnmobile, its fasciae become less flexible
tendón 01 msertion 01 the
subscapularis muscle , one and even tu ally restrict our movernents, like glove that fit so tightly that you

srte 01attachment 01 tendon 01origin olong

.1 01the relator cuff muscles can't bend your fingers .
librous capsule 01 head 01 triceps brachií
Ihe shoulder joint to
.~ 3 rotator culf muscles:
\he rear bo rder olthe Loose connectioe tissue is cornposed of ground substance, scattered fibers,
glenoid cavity - - - - - - -r.-~ - - - supraspinatus,
. ~ - - - inlraspinatus, and and cells. It fills in the spaces between the three primal)' tissues that are
T...~_ _- - Ieres minor ; these
muscJes stabilize the most ly cellular-musc1e, cpithelia, and nervous tissue-and between all
capsule 01 shoulder joinl---
shoulder joint and the other connective tissues, including bone and cartilage, blood and
keep it lrem being
Iymph , tendons and ligaments, joints and joint capsules, fasciae, fato and
lendon 01 origin olong
Iymp hatic tissue, But loosc connective tissue is more than a filie): Its
head 01 triceps brachii neck 01 humerus ground substance is crudely comparable to glycerine-it lubricates and
smoothes movement throughout. the hody. The ground substance perrnits
slippagc of adjacent structure:; as wcU as slippage of individual connective
Figure 1.13. Disarticulated right shou lder joinl as viewed from Ihe ~ronl ~top .
t iss ue fibcrs relative to one another in tendons and Iigaments. Were it not
¡mage); righl sho ulder joint wilh its ca psule, .also from the fr~lOt (mldd le I~age),
and righl shoulder joinl with ils cap~lIle as vlewed fro m behmd (bo llom I mag~) . for th e connective tissue fibers and lheir submicroscopic attachments lo
Envision the chest as being located In front o f Ihe scapula and lo the observer s rnuscle fibcrs, nerve fibers, and epithelia. 1,'Tound substance would leL
right in Ihe lup Iwo ¡mages (the s~rface of I I~e, scapllla shown he re faces Ihe everyt hll1g slip and slide apartoThis would be as unwelcome-by itself-as
back o f lhe c hesO. In Ihe bollo m .mage. enVISlon lh e back of Ihe scap ula as
!leing locat ed to the obse~ver'~ le.h;.exce p l fm be'ing a .dee~er and mo~e un oil sp ill on an icy road.
co nCi ne d d isse cli on. this vlew IS simil ar lo Ihe o ne sho wn m figure 1.1. Astensks Ground subslance is normally l1uid, but it congeal8 and loses moisture
indi cale sta b ilizing ligaments. a nd arrows indica te rotatm cuf( lendon s (Sa pray).
60 Al\A7n.l11 orruriu lOCA t . I/(JI ,-1//;,\TA,\IlI'O\71 '/{I ' 61

if the surrounding tissues are inact ive. And as it loses moisture it loses its what happens during programs of prolongad stretching, 'I'he connectíve
lubrícating properties. The entire body tightens down. Tendons, ligaments, tissue gradually follows the lead uf the muscle libers, the muscle as a whole
a nd joint capsules become brittle, muscles lose much 01' their elasticity and gets Ionger, and flexibility is irnproved. Hatha yoga stretches are a safe and
abil ity to íunction smoothly, and the tissues become suscepti ble to injury. effeetive way to bring this about. And in the occasional cases when we want
These reversals are the main reasons for morning stifTness, and they are a to tighten everything down, all we have to do is stop stretching so much
compelling argument for beginning every day wit h a session of hatha yoga. and concéntrate on repetitive movements and short ranges of motion , The
'ro rehydrate the ground substance a short, lazy practice is not as efTective musc le fibers will quickly get shorter, and the connective tissues will soon
as a long and vigorous onc, and you get what you pay for; The benefít is follow suit.
wcll-being; the payment is work and stretch.
Th e issue of periphcral nerves is another matter. Nerves are sensitivo to
If you ask most people what it takes lo lift a barbell overhead they will say st ret ch but are not robust enough to limit it: they can accommodate to
muscles, bones, and joi nts. If you as k them what is needed for running a stretch only because they dori't take a straight course through the tissues
marathon they will say heart, lungs, and legs , And if you ask them what is that surround thern and because their individual nerve fibers rneander
required for dance 01' gymnastic performance they will say strength, grace, back and forth within the connective tissue ensheathments of the nerve
and agility. But if you ask them what is most important for increasing itself. Dur íng the course of stretching a lim b, the gross path of a nerve
flexibility they will probably just give you a blank look. And yet those of through thc surrounding tissues is first straightened, and as the stretch
us who practice hatha yoga k now that improving flexibility is one of our con ti nues, the serpentine course of the individual fibers within the nerve
greatest challenges. Even the sirnplest postures are difficult when one is is also straightened. And even after that, the enveloping connective tissue
stifT, and that is why instructors are always encouraging us 10 stretch. But has eno ugh elasticity 10 accommodate about 10-15%. additional stretch
what cxactly do they mean? withou t dam aging the nerve fibers.
Given what we have discussed so far, we know that we should be wary With ou t their conneetive t íssue ensheathments nerves would be hopo-
of increasing flexibility by trying 10 free up bony stops or loosening up lessly vu lnerable, not only to stretch but also to trauma and cornpression
eartilaginous restraints, joint capsules, tendons, and ligaments. What we am ong tense muscles, bones, and ligaments. The protection is not fail-safe,
can do is lengthen nerves and the bellies of muscles, the two kinds of however, becausa in extreme cases these ensheathments can accommodato
extendable anatornical structures that run lengthwise through limbs and to even more strctch than the J0-15~ that is safe for their enclosed nerve
across joints. ~bers. 'I'he early warning signs are numbness, sensitivity, and tingling, ami
If these are ignored, sensory and motor deficits may develop. Your best
protect ion is awareness and patience-awareness of why nerve stretch is a
Muscles have t.o be lengthened only a little to permit a respectable improve- poten tial problem and the patience to work slowly when and ifmilrl symptoms
ment in a joint's range of molion. But when we are stretching them ano emerge. rf nerve pain keeps tuming up chronically, seek professional help.
looking for long-term results, are we dealing with their individual musclp
fibers 01' with their aSRociated conncctive tissue fibers? The answer is both . w.. THE LAST A NA LYSIS

'rhe individual mru;cle fibers within a muscle can grow in length by th e Rese arch has shown beyond question that the length of muscle fibers mn
addition of little contractile units calle<! ~a,.comeres . We know this from be increas ed as a resutt of prolonged stretching, 01' decreased as a I'esult of
studies of muscles that have been held in casts in stretched positions. An d chronic for eshorte ning. It is also clear' that the connective tissue ensheath-
by the same token, if a muscle Ü. held by a cast in a foreshortened state. ments of either muscles 01' nerves can be stretchcd too muchoBut there is
sarcomeres are lost aod the muscle fibers become shorter. ano ther factor in the equation: the nervous system plays a pivotal role in
It is not enough to in crease the length of muscle fibers a1one. A match- cau sing muscles to either I'clax or tighten up, and this either permits stretch
ing expam;ion ofthe connec:tive tissue within and around the muscIe is also 0 1' limits it. So is it Lheactive role of the nelvous system 01' the passivc role of
needed, including the overlying fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds ~he L'onnective tissues that ultimatcly restrains movement? Since nerve
packets of mm;c1e fibcrs, and the wrappings uf individual liben;. And this is IInpul He8 kccp stimulating muscIe cells during ordinary activities, there is
only one way to find out for certain: to check someone's range of motion with the ideal. First, let's say you hurt your right shoulder playing basket-
when they are under deep anesthesia. when the nervous system is not ball earlier in the day. Tension in that region is still high and stands oul
stimulating any skeletal musele cells except those needed for rcspiration. painfully in eontrast to the relaxation in the rest of the limb and on the
This has been done, inadvertently but many times. Any operating room other side . In addition, you have an old back injury and the muscles around
attendant can tel1 you that when patients are anesthetized, their musc1cs the vertebral eolumn are holding it in a state of tension. You would like to
become so loose that care has to be taken not to disloeate the joints, and lift your knecs to relieve the stress, but you do not wish to seem unsporting.
this will happen even if the patient is extremely stiff in waking life. So why So you override the impulses of the flexion refloxes and continue to suffer
can't therapists take advanlage of anesthesia-induced ílexibility to increase with your knees straight,
the range of motion around joints? The answer is that wilhout the protcction This is absurdoAH problerns in the body tattle on themselves in one way
of the nervous systern the tissues tear-muscle fibers, connective 01' another, and you cannot relax your body because it is rebelling. You

tissue fibers, and nerves. And this preves that even though connective would not be in so mueh pain ifyou were walking around the block bccause
tissues provide the outerrnost limits to stretch, it is the nervous system the movement would keep you from noticing it, but when you try to relax
that provides the practicallimits in day-to-day life. When we have reached you are aware of nothing else. The posture becomes increasingly irritating,
those lirnits the nervous system warns us through pain, trembling, 01' and your mind, far from being still, is oseillating between awareness of the
simply weakness that we are going too far, and most important, it warns us diseomfort and longing Ior escape, lf your instructor holds you in this pose
before the tissues are torno for more than a minute 01' two you are in the wrong class. You are not yet
ready for this work. You need to hcal, rnove, and stretch-not lie still,
T H R E E POSTURES Those who are uncomfortable can sometimos improve the situation by
Thrce hatha yoga postures illustrate the principles of movement we have sirnply moving into partially flexed positíons-i-bending the knees, placing
been díscussing. They are all simple to analyze and study bccause they the hands on the chest, and supporting the head with a thick pillow. For
exhibit bilateral symmetry, in which the two sides of the body are identical restful sleep, it is not surprising that rnost people lie on their sides and curl
in structure and perform identical movements. Eaeh one presents difTerent up in an attitude of Ilexion.
challenges. We'Il hegin with the corpse posture.

THE CORPSE POSTURE The prone hoat posture demonstrates the simplest kind of movernent
The eorpse posture reveals several eommon probloms that arise when pcople against gravity. Tu experience this lie face down on the floor. Stretch your
try to relax . Lie supino on a padded surfaee with the knees straight, the fect arms toward the Ieet, straight out to the sides, 01' overhead, as you prefer.
apart, the hands out from the thighs, and the palms up . Relax completely, Raise the arms, thighs, and head away from the floor all at once, keeping
aliowing your body to res! on the floor under the influenee of gravity tfig, 1.14 )· the knees and elbows extended (fíg, Ll5) . You are lifling into the posturc
When you first lie down most ofthe motor neurons that innervate the skele tal with the muscles un the posterior (back) side of the body The neck, back,
museles are still Iiring nerve impulses, but your breathing gradually hamstring, and ealf museles are all shortening coneentrically and drawing
bccomes even and regular, a nd the number of nerve impulses per second to the body up in an are.
your muscles starts to drop. If you are an exper1. in relaxation, wi1.hin a
minute 01' two the number of nerve impulses to the muscles of your hands
and toes goes to zero. Then, within five minutes 1.he motor neuronal inpul
to 1.he muscles of your forearms, arms, legs, and thighs diminishes and also
approaches zcro. The rhytbmical movcment of the respiratory diaphragm
lulls you into even deepcr relaxation, finally minimizing the nerve impulses to
tbe deep postural musclcs of the torso. 'fbe connective tiSSUC8 are not
restraining yOU. Pain is not registen..'CI from any part of tbe body-Ihe posture
is entirely eomfortahle. 'fhis is an ideal relaxatiun.
In the early stngc. of practice any number of prublems can intcrfere Figure 1.14. The eorpse pasture. Curwhole-body relaxation.
Although by most standards the prone boat is an CHSY posture, especially rnuscles on the back side of the thighs resist, but you can undercut the
with the hands alongside the thighs, it can be challenging ifyou are in poor hamstring resistance by activating their clasp knife reflexes. Just massage
physical condition, A set of muscles is being used which is rarely exercised the musculotendinous junctions of the harnstring muscles behind the knee
as a group in daily life, and ifyou keep your elbows and knees extended you joints while you are trying to press your hips up (fig. 1.16).
may not be able to lift your hands and fect more than an inch or so off the At this point the quadrieeps femoris muscles are shortening concentrically,
floor. The combination ofinOexibility and unfarniliarity keeps the antagonist straightening the knees, and raising the body up against the force of gravity.
muscles on the anterior (front) sido of the body active, and this in turn At the same time the hamstring muscles, which are antagonists lo the
restrains the lift. Whole-body extension is the essence of the prone boat, quadriceps, are actively even though unconsciously resisting. Ir you are in
but the puU of gravity, lack of strength posteriorly, muscular resistanee good condition your nervous systern allows you to press upward to your
anteriorly, an abundance of f1exion ref1exes, and various connective tissue personal maximum, but if you ha ve recently hurt your knee or sprained
restrictions in the spine may all Iimit you . For beginners the activity of the your ankle, flexion reflexes responding to pain will limit you . As you press
nervous system is the main impediment to the posture. up you are making an isotonic movement. If you go lo your maximum but
Fascia is the main obstacle for intermediare students. The nervous then keep pressing, you are exercising isometrically.
system is commanding the posterior muscles lo contract strongly and the If you were lo bounee, which we do not want here, you would strctch the
anterior muscles lo relax, but connective tissues and the design of the muscle spindles dynamicaJly and stirnulato the myotatic stretch reflexes. If'you
joints prevent marked extension. With time and practice the anterior rnove slowly,you will be stimulating the Golgi ten don organs and eliciting the
muscles will relax and perrnit a fuIl stretch. Finally, advanced students c1asp knife reflex in both the quadriceps femoris and tho harnstring musclcs.
confidentIy lift to their maximum and play with the edges of neuronal Although this will tend lo relax both sets of rnuscles, the focus of your will is
control, tugging on their connective tissues with an educated awareness to straíghten the kneejoint, with the result that the higher centers ofthe bruin
while at the same time kccping the breath even and regular without straining override the reflex in the quadriceps femori and aIlow it Iuller rein in the
01' faltering. harnstrings. NeurologicaJ circuits for reciprocal innervation also probably
inhibit the motor neurons whose axons inncrvate the harnstring muscles.
The main resistance to Iiíting up comes from the hamstrings. If you are
This standing forward bend demonstrates the intcractions among agonist an advanced student and not feeling any trace of'joint pain, you can try to
muscles, their antagonists, gravity, and the clasp knife reflex. Stand with relax the harnslrings and extend the knee joints more completely,
the feet about 12 inches aparto Flexing the knees as neeessary, bend forward contracting the quadriceps as much as your strength and health permit.
and press the torso tightly against the thighs, which keeps the back rela- This posture is different from the prono boat, in that your attention is
tively straight and prevents strain, Now, holding the chest and abdomen more rcstricted. In the prone boat you are trying to relax the entire front
firmly in place, try lo straighten th e knee joinL The quadriceps Iernoris side of t.he body; here you are trying lo relax only the harnstrings.
museles on the front of the thighs try to accomplish this, and the hamstring

Figure 1.16. Standing hamslrings-

~Iuadriceps thigh pull . The first priority
IS placing the lorso solidly againsl Ihe
lhighs in order lo prolecl the Jower
back. Under Ihose circumstances,
Irying to Iifl lhe hips forceably in hamslnng
combinalion wilh massaging lhe Golgi muscles
Figure 1.15. The prone boal.l\s you lifl up into lhe posture, muscles on thc back lendon organs in the hamslring
side of the body ~hortcn concentrically; as you 510wly lower yoursdf down, lendons cncourages deep relaxalion
lhey lengthen eccenlrically. Tension in ~usdes and conneclive tissue.. on lhe and evenlual lengthening of lhe
front side of lhe body increases as you 11ft up amI deCfeases as you come clown. hamstring musdes lsimulation).
(.6 A ,\A TOMI Of' I/A77IA IOGA

If you are reIatively heaIthy, as you reach the Iimits of nervous system
control, the fasciae bcgin to play an important. ro le in limiting your efforts CHAPT'ER TWO
10 straighten the knees and mise up. You reach a point at which the connective
tissu e fihers within and surrounding the hamstring musc les wiIInot allow any
more lífting, Theyare now like wires pu lled taut, stretched tu their limit. The
onIy way to get more length in the system is to paticnUy Icngthen the rnuscles
and nerves with a long-term program of pro longed stretches.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER ":7J/ h/~f/J u n I l la ca l l/' a n 'ce j j J o Jo /'n rl("<'-'1r1 4r1'¿11 l/Íal

We have covered a great deal of lerritory in this chapter, but in so doin g we /1~IIf.jY II'oa/é/ j / U /I 1(' ¡f"II/f! .yle1ú l/(y- 1/'I"lh"tY'U IJ/1 I// a I l n,¡"!

have laid the foundation for everything that is to come. '1'0 sum it up : /ol¡f";1'('1/ 11 Ih i" t:j/e.1 /I/lr I¡jy,//I UtI' úllr l¿:d. ·¡;'/; N:Y.("JII.("I tA~
sensory input to th e brain and the power of wiII both ultimately influence lOi Jh, /1 ha.; ("I.(JI' r« ~C/I .?/'a/tler/I(' tVfJ/ O/f¿'. ltJ /t"l 1"1 I I/ Ú I ".0I//
the motor neurons, which in turn preside over the actions of the mu sculo-
lo Ik h~'aJt a-l,d'/uk o /t /nJ//f.. I"kl,¡-,f/N.1:J 14cllr rftll/I.rk-P .1r /'I Y!:J
ske letal syste m. The reflexes a re in the background and out of our imrnedia te
awarencss, but without them we would be in dire straits, Without th e o//I/¿/,w Y>. .:J't?P tJ/al?"o/l ,fe 9 adJ r/ Ih, ¿;'rp, t.k IíNl? .1

strelch reflexes ou r rnovernents wouId be jerky and uncertain, likc film ("{!b/u; /lJ t/JÁn/I¡¿¡/I? ;;IWI t?4t:n' l"l/úVI, C/nJt: ¡;Y''//I tÁeú'
portrayals of Frankenstein's monster. And without pain receptora and /111J.t' e//lol! a/ldc('l /o/, J,.,. o lo/I.r-¿ 0 /1 Ih¿ ;;:-':11 ¿¡IÚ'a./lr,.,. o/¡;j-h l
f1cxion reflexes we wou ld soon be a battlcground of burns and injuries.
o",d';c{/-~Y:I'cl/llúw. .$ / ICC .1l/eh a/? (?//C'/Y'I IIU o/~'Ylt/nl/o/I
Without the reflexes from our vestibular sys tern we wou Id teeter about,
/l/NI (", .1(")d~ r/~(y II/Cw.rk-/: .Allí 1ft / 11.1' rb-al/J /N'/l/' l o I/JI"
uncertain of our balance and orientation. Without sensation from touch
and prossure pathways we wou ld lose rnost of the sensory input that gives Úl//lOJ! IIllO!1 o-lld r{,,/l./O'/II/I~ Jo o¡(¡("'u/t. a /110110 ; //lI"I - it" al
1" "
us pleasure--and aIong with its 108S, its guidance. In the end. the nervous ca MI. a .?II"-C.M.
system drives the musculoskeletal system, and these two in cornbination - J ohn Mayow, in Tractatus Quillque (1674), quoted from
maintain and sculpt conneetive tissues, which in turn passively rc strict
Proct or 's A History of Breathinq Physiology, p. IS.l.
movement and posture. AlI of this takes place within the field of gravity
under the auspices of wiII and creates the practice of hatha yoga .
~gis kn ew nothing of physiology, at Ieast in terms that would have been
helpfu] lo 17th and 18th century European scien tists and physicians like
":7(;dll.//~/U¿/. J{:(l'Ilr / /J jr;:rt:n "crl úlf/. 7/ífnlél'l"/' l b hod 1:.1 Jo hn Mayow, but Ior a long time they have made extraordinary cla irns
d?¿'~?, I.n l.M'I:I'UllllOlJ).- h /'.(J/l lf J ,f/Ir'I/VI.rl/ 11l j l o/l J 1;;;'j l n /I y ' r rk. " about the value of st udying the breath. They say flatl y for exa mple that
- Gershon, in Th e S econd Brtun, P.3S. th e brea th is th e lin k betwccn the mind and the bodv and that ir .'
Cont rol '. J' w e can
end . our respiration we can. control . every aspect of OUI' bcing. This . . th
Evepomt, they tell us, that begins with simple hatha yoga breathing exercises.
th ry aspect of our being'! That's a lot , by any standard. No malter: even
t hough such comments may stimulate our cUI;osity, lh eil' pursuit is outsid e
.c ~ope ofthis book. Our objective here is to pursue st udies in breat hing
~s::r as thcy can be t~sted . objectively and experientially, and th en to
ss sorne of the relatlOnshlps between yoga and re spiration that . b
corrclated ' t h ud . ean e
brcat h . WI m em blOmedical science: how different pattern~ f
ffi " ~ o
fl' Jng ~ ect us In dlfferent ways, why this is so, a nd what we can learn
om pl'actlce and observation,
Brea th ing usually opcrates at the cdge of our awareness but w'll d
volit' . ' 1 an
Ion are always at Olll' rhsposal. Just as we can choose how many limes

to chew a bite of food 01' adjust our stride when we are walking up a hill, so travels in the opposite direction, first from the cells ofthe body to the heart
can we choose the manner in which we breathe. Most of the time, however, in the systemic circulation, and then from the heart to the lungs in the
we run on "automatic," a1lowing input from internal organs to manage the pulmonary circulation (fig, 2 .1 and chapter H).
rate and depth of our breathing. Yogis ernphasize choice. They have discovered
Everything about the respiratory systom is accessory to the movemcnt
the value of regulating respiration consciously, of breathing evenly and of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Airways lead frorn tho nose and mouth into
diaphragmatically, of hyperventilating for speciíic purposes, and of suspending the lungs (lig. 2.2). Air is pullod backward in the nose past the hard and
the breath at will. But even though these aims might seem laudable, readers
soft pala les, where it makes a 90° turn and enters a l'unnel-shapcd re!:,'ion,
should be made aware that the cJassical literature of hatha yoga generally
warns students against experimenting intcmperately with breathing exercises. top: lhe pulmonary circul al ion
of blood lo and from the lu ngs the pulmonary capillaries lie
Verse 15 of Chapter 2 01' the Hatha Yoga Pradipiha is typical : 'aust as lions, in intimate appositíon to lhe
elephants, and tigers are gradually controlled, so the prana is controlled alveoli ; lhey transport carben
dioxide from the blood into
through practice. Otherwise tho practitioner is destroyed." This sounds like atmosphere:
the alveoli and oxygen from
----.. oxygen in ..
the voice of experience, and we ought not disrniss it casualIy. We'lI revisit lhe alveoli into lhe blood
" ' - carbon dioxide " " - -
the issue of temperance at the end of the chapter afier having examined out
the anatomy and physiology of respiration. There are reasons for caution.
To understand the benefits of controlled breathing we must procecd step the pulmonary
the pulmonary vein carries bíood
by step, beginning with a look at the overall design of the respiratory
arlery carries high in oxygen
system, and then at the way skeletal rnuscles draw air into the lungs. Next blood low in and Iow in carbon
we'lI see how breathing affects posture and how posture affects breathing. oxygen and dioxide Irom the
high in carbón lungs to the left
After that we'Il explore how the two rnajor divisions of the nervous dioxide from 1---- - - - atrium 01the heart
syslcm-somalic and autonomic-interact to influence breathing, Then the right
venlricle 01 - - - - -_ _+.
we'll turn to the physiology of respiration and examine how lung volumes 10rthe systemic
the heart lo
" " - - - - -- círculat íon, the
and blood gases are altered in various breathing excreises. 'I'hat will poin t lhe lungs
aorta carries
us toward the mechanisms by which respiration is regulated automatically oxygenaled
the vena cava---,fZ::- blood lrom lhe
and at how we can learn to override those mechanisms when we want to. left ventricle 01
carries blood lhal
Finally we'll examine four diíferent kinds ofbreathing-thoracic, paradoxical Is high in carbon the heart lo lhe
body as a
abdominal, and diaphragmatic-and the re lationships of each lo yoga dioxide and low in
Oxygen Irom lhe
breathíng practices. At the end of the chapter we'll return to the issue of capillary beds 01
moderation in planning a practice. Ihe body back lo
lhe right atrium 01
lhe heart; lhis is cells 01
!he syslemic :H--- ...,.. lhe body
Every cell in the body nceds to breathe-taking up oxygen, burning fuel "venous relum "

generating energy, and giving off carbon dioxide. This process, known a ' lhe capillaries 01!he
systemic circulation lie
cellular rcspiration, depends on an exchange-moving oxygen a1l lhe way in close apposition to
from the atmosphere lo lungs, to blood, and to celIs, and at the same tim e the cells 01 the body;
7 -----::""- lhey transport oxygen
moving carbon dioxid e from cells lo blood , to lungs, lo atmosphere. The lo the cells and
body accomplishes this cxchange in two steps. 'or step one we draw air into bott om: the syslemlc circulalion of carbon dioxide away
blood lo and Irom Ihe body as a whole 'rom them
the lungs, where it comes in contact with a large wet surface area-the
mUed ive hundred million alveoli -into which oxygen can dissolve and
from which carbon dioxide can be eliminated. For step two oxygen travels Figure 2.1. Cardio-respiralory sy temo As indicated by lhe arrows, oxygen is
transpo r l ed from lhe atmosphere lo lhe cell of the body: from airways 1 I
in the pulmonar)' circulation l'rom the lungs lo lhe heart and in the t~ t~e p~lmonary circ~lalion, heart, and finally to lhe systemic circulation~~~~~n
systeOlic cil'culation froOl the heal1. to thc cclls ofthe body. Carbon dioxidc d.'O)(Ide.l s transported lO the o!her direclion: from !he cells l o lhe syslemic
C1rculatron, heart, pulmonary circulalion, lungs, airways, and almospherf' (Dodd).
2 . B/U"tnflNG 71
70 AN,11nlll ot: 11,1111,1 H)GA

the pharynx. From there it continúes downward into the larynx, which is the of the lungs the appearance of a delicate laey network. The trachea and other
organ for phonation and whose vocal cords vihrate to create sound. Below the large tubcs in the airways are held open by incompletc rings of cartilage, and
larynx air passes into the trechea, the right and leñ primary bronchi, and then the alveoli remain open because a special surfactant on their walls limits
into the two lungs, each ofwhich contains 10 broncJwpulmonary segmenis that their expansion during the course of a full inhalation and yet prevents surface
are served individually by secondary bronchi. The socondary bronchi in turn tensi ón from collapsing them during the course of a full exhalation.
divide into tertiary bronchi and smaller subdivisions tbronchiolesí that collec- The pharynx is a crossroads Ior the passage of air and food, Air passes
tively compose the bronchial tree (fig, 2.3). The terminal bronchioles ofthe down and forward from the nasopharynx into the laryngopharynx and then
bronchial tree in turn open into the tiny alveoli, giving a microscopic view into the larynx and trachea. Food is chewed in the mouth, and from there
it is swallowed backward into the oropharynx and across the pathway for
air into the esophagus, which is located behind the trachea just in front of
nasal conchae

apex, right lung

'P"'.'''' loo, \

,_~;::"~~7.!'Jl~+--r:=-=-- hard,
bronchus ----,F--H~...-~~~~¡r::
rnupharynx ---T~~
left --righl
spinous process pulmonary pulmonary
ofsecond ..dII~~+--- tongu e artery artery
cervical carnes carnes
vertebra (C2) carbón carbon
dioxide to dioxide lo
Ihe left the righl
lung lung
verbebral epiglottis righl
body, C5 - --=;=l:H--frR pulmonary
veins carry veins carry
mtervertebrat oxygen
Irom the Iromlhe
Iefllung right lung
backlo back to
!he heart Ihe heart

vertebral canal esophagus lertiary bronchi lor left right

(tube housing (pathway lor trachea (pathway bronchopulmonary ventncle ventricle
spinal ccrd) lood between lor air between segments 01 lhe inlerior
oropharynx larynx and lobe 01 lhe left lung
and stornacn primary bronchi

Figure 2.3. lsolated heart-lung preparatíon as viewed frorn behind. 1 he aorta

and superior vena cava are not visible from this perspectivo. The bronchial tree
Figure 2.2. Nearly mid-sagittal cut (just to the leít of the nasal septum) showing ~ranches inlo right and left primary bronchi, 5 secondary bronchi (3 for the
the leít halí of the head and neck, and revealing the crossing passageways for rrght lung and 2 for the left), and 20 lerliary bronchi to the bronchopulmonary
food (solid line from the oral cavily into the esophagusl and air (dashed lines s.egments (10 for each lung), Branches of the pulmonary arteries and veins are
from the nasal passages in lo the trachea). (from Sappev). hkew ise associated with each of the bronchopulmonary segments (Sappcy).
71 A"A1n.1/}' or /fA in» 1V< ;A
.1, flIU:Al1t1SG 7,\

the vertebra] column (fig. 2.2). The glottis, which is the narrowed aperture (two times per sccond ) "s wa llow" air into your lun gs 10-15 ti mes Ior inhalation,
in the larynx al the level of the vocaL cords, closes when we swallow. You closing the glottis after each swallow, To exhale you sirnply open th e glottis, For an
can feel that happen if you initiate either an inhalation or an exhalation interesting exercise in awareness , and to feel for yourself how the lungs effortlessly
get smaller when you open your glottis to exha le, hold your nose and breathe thi s
and then swallow sorne saliva. You will find, no matter what part of the way for 2- ] rninutes .]
breathing cycle you are in, that swallowing obstructs breathing. If it doesn 't,
The remedy fOI" pneumothorax in a hospital setting also illustrates the
food may "go down the wrong way," as children pul it, and we choke .
architecture of the systern. !t's simple, at least in principie. Tubes are
The lungs are rnostly composed of air: 50t¡( air after full exhalation and
sealed into the openings of the chest wall, and the air is vaeuumed out of
80% air after full inhalation. If you slap the side of your chest you '11 hear a
the pleural cavities. This pulls the external surfaces of the lungs against
hollow sound; contrast this with the lower-pitched liquidy sound that
the inner wall DI' the chest and upper surface of the diaphragm, and the
comes frum slapping your hand against your abdomen. A slippery mem-
muscles of respiration can then operate on the infl ated lungs in the usual
brane that is itself irnpervious to air covers the lungs, which can in turn be
likened roughly to blown-up balloons that fill the rib cage, excepting that
A seeond emergeney situation involves an obstruction in the airway,
the "balloons" are not tied off al their necks. So why don 't they deflate just
perhaps a big ehunk of food that has dropped into the larynx instead of the
like loosed balloons that Ily away? The answer is fundamental to the design
esophagus, Ir it is too big to get all the way through into the trachea, the
of the respiratory syst.em. The lungs have an inherent elasticity, and they
obstruction may gel. stuck in the larynx, block the airway, and prevent you
remain inflated inside the rib cage only because they faithfully track
from breathing. In su eh cases the natural reaction for most people is to try
changes in the volume of the chest as it gets larger and smaller. How can
this be? It is because nothing lies between the outer surfaces of the lungs
erector spinous vertebral vertebral body
and the ehest wall except a potential space, the pLeuraL caoity, This cavity inferior lobe spinae
eontains no air; only a vacuum which holds the lungs tightJy against the of right lung musde
inner surface of the chest wall, along with a small amount of lubricating
fluid that perrnits the lungs to expand and contract as the chest expands
and contracts through the agency of the surrounding muscles of respiration
righl pleural inferior lobe
(figs. 2.4, 2.Ó, and z.o). of left lung
cavity - - -....'1/


of righllung -t-irH--:--
'I'wo emergeney situations will put all this in perspective. First, if your rib
left atrium
cage were penetrated on one side in a traurnatic injury, air would rush into receivmq left pleura l
the pleural cavity and cause the lung on that side lo collapse. This is calle d cavity
b100d by
pneumothorax. How quickly it develops depends on the size of the injur~. wayof
With a large enough opening, the lung eollapses almost like letting lhe ai r pulmonary
supenor lobe
out of the neck of a balloon, as might be surmised from Mayow's astute of left lung
obscrvations more Lhan ~oo years ago . if chest wall is
More perilously than ~neumothoraxfor one lung, if both sides of the rib P8netrated ,
lung col/apses,
cage are grossly penetrat.ed, both lungs collapse lo theiI·. ~lI1irnum si.ze ~d and air rushes
shrink away from the chest wall. With the pleural cavltleS filled w¡th al r, ITlto pleural
cavity. creating
the muscles of respiration cannol get purchase on the external surfaces of pneumolhorax
the lungs 1.0 create an inhalation, and unlcss someone holds your nos~ ~d SUperiorvena cava
blows direcUy into your mouth t.o give you artificial respiration, you wlII die
in a few InÍnutes.
Fig ure 2.4. Cross-sectional view through the upper chest, looking from aboye at a
ITcchnicnl nole: There il" one other allernlltivc. Ir you wero thinking rasl en~ugh 5ection Ihrough the lungs and pleural cavities, and al a Ihree-dimensional view of
anu nol too distrnctpd by the injury. ynu could bulloon out your checks anel quu:kly Ule up pe r portion ol lhe hearl with great vessels, pericardial cavity, i1nd fibrous
Pl'rk a rd ium . Pericardial and pleural cavities are greatly exaggeraled (Sappey).
74 AfúlTUM)' orusrn» )"()(;,I .l. BR EA 7711"'(; 75

to inhale more forcefully, but this will almost certainly reinforce rather and contract the chest (figs. 2.5 and 2.9). Two sets of these muscles, one
than relieve the obstruetion. Trying lo exhale may be more productive. Or under the other, act on the rib cage. The external intercostal muscles run
a sccond person, someone who knows first aid, could try the Heimlich between the ribs in the same direetion as the most external sheet of abdominal
maneuver, pulling sharply in and up on the abdominal wall from behind to muscles (figs . 2.7,2.9,3.11-13, and IUl); they lift and expand the rib cage for
create enough intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure to force the inhalation, like the movement of an old-fashioned pump handle as it is liftecl
object from the laryngopharynx back into the oropharynx, where it can up from its resting position. The inlernal intercostal muscles run at right
either be coughed out externally or swallowed propcrly. angles to the external layer; they pull the ribs closer together as well as
The emergency surgical remedy for a complete obstruction of the larynx down and in for exhalalion (usually a forced exhalation). Ifyou place your
is a trachcotomy, making a midline incision betwcen the larynx and the pit hands on your chest with the fingers pointed down and medially (to wa rd
of the throat, quickly separating the superficial muscles, and opening the the midline of the body), this approximates the orientation of the externa]
exposed trachea with another midline incisionjust below the thyroid gland. intercostal muscles, and if you place your hands on your chest with the fingers
'I'his allows inhalation and exhalation to take place below the obstruction. pointing up and medially, this approxirnates the orientation of the int.crnal
In the case of pneumothorax, when the chest wall has been penetrated intercostal muscles (fig. 2.';). The external intercostal muscles do not
and the lungs are collapsed, the muscles of respiration can expand and con- a1ways act eoncentrically lo lift the rib cage; during quiet breathing they
tract the chest, but the effort is all for nothing since the requisitc contact
between the inner surface of the chest wall and the outer surface of the entrance to lirst thoracic
chest cavity vertebra lirst nb
lungs has been lost. lt's like a car stuck in the snow-the whcels turn but
they can't move you forward. The second case is like a car with its drive costal cartilages
wheels immobilized in concrete-the blockage in the airway completely lor second, lhird.
and lourth ribs on
frustrates the aetion of the muscles of respiration. In both situations we ~Ieftside
are trying lo pull air into the lungs by using our force of will but we are
unable to support our inner needs with our external efforts. '/ external
\..;......,:~~ intercostal
lnhalations can take place only as a result of muscular activity. Exhalations internal intercostal lifth rib
muscles run down
are diíferent: the lungs havo the capacity lo gel smaller bccause their elasticity and laterally
keeps pulling them, along with the rih cage, to a smaller size, And as airead) '~~-:i~~~~--- intercostal
-.' internal
mentioned, the size of the lungs follows the size of the chest in lockstep: any- costal muscles
thing that expands and contracts the chest also expands and contracts th« cartilages
lar fiflh.
lungs, whether it is lifting or compressing the rib cage, lowering or raising sixlh,
the dome of the respiratory diaphragm, releasing or pressing inward wit h sevenlh, floaling ribs:
the abdominal muscles, or allowing the elasticity of the lungs to draw i eighth eleventh (tip)
the chest wal\. ribson twelllh (tip)
Thc way in which the muscles of respiration accomplish breathing is right side
01 chest
more complex than the relatively simple way a muscle creates movemen te Iower border 01 rib cage to
around a joint. Three main sets of muscles are active when you breathr which respiratory diaphragm
(notshown) altaches
normally: the intercostal muscles, the abdominal muscles, and the respinüo ry
diaphragm . We'll start our discussion with the intercostal muscles.
Figure2.5. Surtace view of ches!. The internal intercostal muscJes are visible in front
near the sternum where they are not overlain by the external intercostals and they
THE INTERCOSTAL MUSCLES are also visiblelaterallywhere the external intercostals have becn dissect~d away
When we breathe, and in particular when we emphasize chest br'eathing, (between the frfth and sixth ribs). As a group, the external intercostal muscles lift
the rib cage up and out to support ¡nhalation, and the intemal intercostal musdes
the short intercostal (bctwecn the ríbs) muscles operale as a unit to expand pull it down and in lo complele a full exhalation (from Morris).
7(, Alv111UII I OF 111117111 1(1(1.1
.l tuuurutr«, 77

also act isomet rically to keep t he rib cage fro rn collapsing inward when t he side), but you can 't feel it behind because the deep back muscles are in the
respiratory diaphragm (see below} creates the vacu um that draws air into way. You can a lso oceasionally feel the region whero the crura (plural form)
t he lungs. of the diaphragm attach to tho lumbar vertebrae, especially in someone
slender who is lying Ilat on the floor, becausc the lumbar regi ón sometimos
arches forward to within an inch or so ofthe surface ofthe abdomi nal wall.
In breathing, the abdominal muscles (figs. j .u -rj, 8.R, B.ll, and KI3-14} 'I'his vividly i\lu strates how far forward the diaphragrn can be indented by
fu nction mainly in deep and force d exhalations, as when you try to blow up th e spinal column.
a ball oon in one breat h. For that task the muscles shorten concentrica\ly, The diaphragm has lo be one of the most interesting and complex muscles
pressing the abdominal wall inward, which in turn pushes the abdominal in the body. Because it is a thin sheet. its shape bears t ho impressíons 0 1' its
organs up agains t t he relaxed (01' relaxing) diaphragm. In cornbination immediate surroundings-the rib cage, the heart and lungs, and the abdominal
with t he action of the interna! intercostal rnusc les , this forcibly decreases organs, and it is dependent on the existence and anatomical arrangements 0 1'
th e size of the chest cavity a nd pu shes a ir out of the lu ngs . You can also feel these structures 1'0 1' its function, The diaphragrn's extensivo relationship with
the ac t ion of the ab dominal m uscles by pursing the lips and forcing the
breath out through the t iny opening, In yoga the abdominal muscles are
impo rtant Ior what yogis refer to as even breathing, and they are also key
elements for many hreat hing exe rc ises,

Because the resp ir at ory dia phragm is cornpletely hidden inside the torso.
right phrenic nervc
most people have only a rudimentary not ion of what it looks like 01' how it Jeft clavicle (cul)
(white profile)
operares. T he sirnp lest way to descr ibe it is lo say tha t it is a dorne d sheet
01' corn bined muscle a nd tendon t hat spans the entire torso and separates
the chest cavity from the abdominal cauity (figs. 2.ó-9). Its rim is attached
to the base of the rib cage and to the lumbar spine in the real'.
The diaphragm is shaped like an umbrella, 01' an upside-down cupo left pleural
except t hat it is decpl y indented to accommodate the vertebral column. It cavity
consists of a central tendon, a costal portian, and a crural portian, The space)
central tendon forrns the top surface of the dome, which floats there freel y,
~~--;-- left fifth rib
attached only to the muscle fibers of the costal and crural portions of th e
diaphragm . It is thus the only "tendon" in the body which does not attach right vemncle ~ Ieft ventricle
directly to the skeleton. The largest part 01' the diaphragm is its costa! 1---.. pericardial cavity
right pleural cavity surrounding heart
component, whose muscle fibers fan down from the central tendon a nd between nght lung
ano diaphragm librous pericardiu m
attach all around to the lower rim 01' the rih cag e (figs. 2.7-9}. The crura l <, where it sits on lop
portien 01' the diaphragm consists 01' the right crus and left crus, whic h 01 diaphragm
attach to the forward arch 01' the lumbar spine <figs. 2.7-8 ), These are right sevenlh rib. /
and COslal cartilage abdom inal muscles
separated from one another by the aorta as it passes frum the IhoraC1C' (tranversus abdom lnis)
cavity into the abdominal cavity. The archilecture 01' lhe diaphragm th m;
pennits it lo move lhe central tendon 01' lhe dome. lhe base of the rib cage, Figure 2.6. Fron l view of lh e ches t, w ilh the firsl sil( ribs c1avides and slem I
away t I l ' I . . ' , urn cu
the lumbar spine, 01' any comhination of lhe three. I o n~\:~a t le Inlern a organs, w hlCh m clude: th e lary nl(, Irachea, lungs and
p Cural C3V1 hes; th e hear l, grca l ves!iels (ao rta, ven a cava, pu lrnonary ar le d
You can note tIJe site of the costal attachment 01' the diaphragm by hooking pulmonary vein, not all shown), per ic ardial cavity, and fi b ro us p~ricardiur~ ;~n
your fingers under the rih cagc an d tracing its lower marginolt is high in front upper front p ortio n o f lhe resp iratory d iap hragm ; and lhe ri ghl and left p h ~
whcn~ il atlaches lo t he slernum, a nd lower whcre you trace it laterally (lo th e ~erves. Thp pl eural cavities are rc presenled by Ih e thin \\Ihitc spaces bClw:~~'~e
ungs and fh e body \\Iall, and h ' l ween th p lungs and di aphragm ISap pcy).
7/l ANlll0"'l OF /MJ1M lC)(.·.l
L IJR/"l77/1NL 79
the chest wall ls a case in point. Evcn though the costal portien of the THE FUNCTlON OF THE DIAPHAAGM

diaphragm extcnds to the base of the rib cage, the lungs are never pulled To analyze the origins and insertions of a muscle that is shaped like an
that far inferiorly (toward the Ieet), and for much of its area the costal indented umbrclla is a bit daunting, but that is what we must do ifwe want
portion of the diaphragm is in direct contact with the inner surface of the to understand how thc diaphragm functions in breathing and posture.
rib cago, with only the potential space of the pleural cavity separating the Wc'll bcgin with the simplest situatíon, which is found in supine postures.
two, This region into which the lungs never dcsccnd is called the zone of Here the base of the rib cage and the lumbar spine act as fixed origins for
apposition (fig, 2.9); without its slippery interfaces, the outer surface of the the diaphragm, and under those circumstanccs the central tendon has to
diaphragm could not slide easily against the inner aspect of the rib cago,
and the dome of the diaphragm could not move up and down srnoothly
when we breathe, scalenes inserting
on left c1avicle
left lorearm
is partially
(not quite
clavicle enough lor
costal libers 01 lhe diaphragm X-like conñq -

hialus attaching lo cartilage al Ihe
and its lor vena uralion 01
hialus in Ihe cava radius and
respiratory ulna lo be
diaphragm apparent)

left crus 01

intercos tal
lhree layers
internal , and
01 abdominal
muse/es :
eleventh nI
oblique.- - ---\IIII (lIoaling)
abdominal left quadratus
oblicue, lumborum lorearm supinated
transversus muscle (radius and ulna in
abdominrs paraJleIconfiguration)
left psoas muscle

Figure 2.8. Respiratory

Figure 2.7. A view oí the respiratory diaphragm looking al its underneat~ side diaphragm and other
from below. lt's like a rejected upside-down bowl that a potter pushed In on deep muscles of the
one sido. The pushed-in place is the indentation for the vertebral column, and body. Wilh internal
the botlom of the bowl contains hiatuses (openings) for the esophagus, aorta, Organs removed and
and inferior vena cava. The central tendon of the diaphragm is represented by rnosr of the rib cage
the large lightly contrasted central arch. The muscle fibers of the diaphragm ar e and sternum cut
disposed' radially from the central tendon: the costal íibers allach lo the base of away, the dome-like
the rih cage most uf Ihe way around (approaching the viewer in the third slructure of Ihe
dimension); and the righl and left crura attach lo the lumbar vertebrae below rfiaphragm is readily
(between and in fronl of Ihe origins of Ihe psoas muscles). (from Morris) apparenl (Albinus),
/lo A '\AJVMI (11' 11.-1'17'" r()(;A "1I/l/"IHII....c; 1'1

act as the movable insertion. The dome of the "cup," including the central anteriorly 1forward > as the dome of the diaphragm descends during
tend ón, descends and flattens during inhalation. putting pressure un the inhalation, and it moves back posteriorly (toward the back of the bodyl as
contents of the abdomen and crcating a slight vacuum in the chest that the diaphragm relaxes and rises during exhalation. Only in supine and
draws air into the lungs. By contrast, the dome of the diaphragm is drawn inverted postures do we scc the diaphragrn act with such purity of movement.
upward during exhalation by thc inherent elasticity of the lungs, and as This kind of breathing is carried out in its entirety by the diaphragm,
that happens air escapes into the atmosphere. but it is often referred to as abdominal breathing; 01' belly breathing;
Whenever the chest and spine are fixed, as typically occurs during beca use this is where movement can be seen and felt. It is also known as
relaxed breathing in a supino po ition, the top of the dome of the decp diaphragmatic breathing in recognition of its effects in the lower
diaphragm is pulled straight downward during inhalation, like a pisten. abdomen. Finally, we can call it obdomino-diaphragmatic breathing to indicate
with the chest wall acting as the cylinder. During a supine inhalalion th e that the downward movement of the dome of the diaphragm not only draws
fibers of the diaphragm shorten concentrically and pull the centra! tend ón air into the lungs, it also pushes the lower abdominal wall anteriorly
inferiorly, During a supine exhalation its fibers lengthen cecentricaIly as Another type of diaphragmatic breathing operates very differently.
the central tendón is both pushcd from below and pulled from abov Amazingly, its principal mcehanical features were accurately described by
pushed by gravity aeting on thc abdominal organs and pulled by the elastk Galen (a first century Roman physician and the founder of experimental
recoil of the lungs. The ahdominal wall remains relaxed . It strctches OU l physiologyl alrnost two thousand years ago, even though his concept of why
we breathe was pure fantasy. During inhalation the prirnary act íon of this
Ihe liver and us impression 01 hear1 is lacated here raspiratory diaphragn
type of breathing is not lo enlargc the lungs by pulling the dome of the

/~ sixlh ri t
large impression
on the inferior diaphragm inferiorly, but to lift the base of the chest and expand it laterally,
surfaca 01the posteriorly, and anteriorly. It works like this, If there is even mild tensi ón in
{j stornach and
the lower abdominal wall, that tension will impede the downward movement
us nnpressroi of the dome of the diaphragm. And since the.abdominal organs cannot be

externa! ar- compresscd, they can act only as a fulcrum, causing the diaphragm to
zone 01 intemal
apposilion: ~ intercostals canlilever its costal sito of attachment on the rib cage outwardly, spreading
pleural cavuy the base of the rib cage to the front, to the rear, and to the sidos, while at
IS shown as 1J!f..--- spleen and j
the same time pulling air into the lower portions of the lungs. In contrast
a subslantial I impression
space lar to the pump handle analogy for intercostal hreathing, diaphragmatic
_ _ _ eleventh n
clarily; Ihe breathing has Leen likened to lifting a buckct handle up and out from its
~í ­
3layers 01 resting position alongside the bucket (see Anderson and Sovik 's }oga,
al Ihis site
is aClually in abdomina
Mastering the Basics for illustration and further explanation). Without the
apposilion lo
in lig. 2.7 resistance of the abdominal organ¡¡, lhe diaphragm cannot create this
the chesl resulto The intercostal muscles serve to support the action of the
wall descendi ' diaph ragm , not so much to lift and enlarge lhe chest but to kecp it ti'om
collapsing during inhalation.
lower end 01
ascending -
unna ry ~Technical note: Precise language does not exisl. al least in English, (01' deR:ribing
colon I~ 11 single wOI'd 01' phrase how the I'espiratory diHphragm operutcs to expand (he
groater I'Ib cage in diaphragmatic brcathing. A "ca ntilcver truss,~ however, from civil engí-
omentum neering, describes a hOl'izonlal tmss supporled in the middle und sust.'lining a load
(draping al both ends, and this comes clase. In lhe speciul ruse of the human tor:::o, lhe
down Irom ahdominal organs and íntra-abdominal pressure províde horizontal l:iUPp0r(. for the
slomach) dome of the diaphragm. and lhe lifl and outwanl expansion of lhe base of the rib
cage ís a load sustaim.'Ci al the perimeter of the base of the rib cage.1
Figurp 2.'1. Abdominal organs in place. with lhe diaphragm amllower half of lh!" The origins and im;ertions of the diaphrawn for abdominal inhalations
rib cage cut lo iIIustrate I~e exlensive zone of ap'posili~lI. into. which the lungs are difTerent than for diaphragmatic inhalations, and understanding the
do nol descend t'ven durmg lhe (:ourse of a maxlmum mhalallOn ( appey).
subtleties of these functional shifts will further clariíy the differcnces particular use of the diaphragrn to come into this position. Now inhale and
between the two types of breathing, For abdominal breathing in the corpse exhale deeply through the nose. Notice that each inhalation mises the
and inverted postures, both the costal attachment to the rib cage and the upper part of the body higher and that each exhalation lowers it (fig, 2 .10) .
crural attachment tu the spine act as stationary origins; the only part of th e Because you are kecping the back muscles engaged continuously during
diaphragm that can move Ithe insertion, by definition l is the central tendon both inhalution and exhalation, the lifting and lowering action is due
in the dome, which moves inferiorly during inhalation and superiorly entirely to the museles of respiration,
(toward the headl during exhalation. By contrast, for diaphragmatic In this variation of the cobra pose we hold the hips, thighs, and pelvis
breathing, the central tendon is held static by the relative tautness of th e firmly, which stabílizes the lower back and the spinal attachment of the
abdominal wall and serves mainly as a link betwcen the spinal attachments crus of tho diaphragm . Inhalation creates tensi ón at all three of the
ofthe crura, which now act as the stationary origino and the costal attachment diaphragrn's attachments: one on the vertebral column, one on the base of
to the base of the rib cage, which now acts as the rnovable insertion. the rib cage, and the third on the central tendón. But because the hip and
'1'0 surnrnarize, diaphragrnatic breathíng occasions an expansi ón of the ril thigh muscles have becn tightened, the spinal attachrnent is stabilized,
cage from its lower border. To differentiate it from abdomino-diaphragmatic excepting only a slight lifting effeet that is translated to the hips. What
breathing, in which the rib cage remains static, we can call it thoraco happens in the torso illustrates clcarly how respiratory movernents influence
diaphragmatic breathing, It should be rnentioned that the terms abdomina l posture: with the abdomen pressed against the flOO1; thc contents of the
breathing, belly breathing, decp diaphragmatic breathing, and diaphragrnatk abdominal cavity cannot easily descend, and this restricts the downward
breathing huye all becn in casual, aIthough generally noncritical, use for . movement of the central tendon, which now acts as a link between the two
long time, but the terms "abdomino-diaphragmatic" and "thoraco muscular portions of the diaphragm, With the crural attachments stahilizod,
diaphragmatic" have not appcared in the literature before now. the only insertion that can be mobilized without difficuIty is thc one at the
base of the rib cage. This attachment therefore expands the chest from its
base, draws air into the lungs, and lifts thc upper body. If you are breathing
The way breathing affects posture and the way posture affcets breathin.. smoothly and deeply you will Ieel a gcntIe, rhythmic rocking movcrnent as
will be continuing themes throughout the rest ofthis book. The importanc the head, neck, and che t riso and fall with each inhalation and exhalation.
of these issues have long been recognized in yoga. but most commentarip This is a perfect illustration of thoraco-diaphragmatic breathing.
are vab'lle and impn.'Cise. Here J am aiming lor simplicity: pholograph l In this exercise the action ofthe diaphragm dm;ng inhalation reinforces
records of exha!ations and inhlllations, and superimpositions of compule l the activity of the deep back and neck muscles and thus deepcns the back -
generated tracings of inhalations (since these are always larger) on Ih, ward hendo Dm;ng exhalation the l11uscle tibers of the diaphragm (engthen
exhalations. As seen in both this chapter and in chapters 3 and S. su c eccentricaJly as they resist gravity. When they finally relax al the end of
images provide a sourcc of raw data nol only lor how inhalations re sult i exhalation. the backward bend in the spine is maintaincd only by the deep
movements of the chest and abdomen but also for how they alTect the bol
from head LO toe . The single most important key to understanding aH SUL , ---- inhalation
eIrcels is the operation of the regpiratory diaphragm. and to introduce ti
subjeet, we 'lI e"lllore two exercises that will help Y0l! heeome aware of il ," '¡.-----__L _
anatomy and understand lwo of ils main roles in movement other t h!
those fOl' respiration itself.


Lie face down 011 the floor and interlock your arms bchind your bad
b'Tasping your forearms or elbows. Or you can simply place your hands 11
the standard cobra position alongside the chest. trongly tighten all f,hl
Fi~ure 2.10. Cobra variation wilh tightly engaged lower extremities.
muscles from the hips to the toes, and use the neck amI deep back musel D1ilphragmatic inhalation (dotted line) lifts the upper half of Ihe body Ovcr and
1.0 lift the heud, ncck. and chest as high as possible. YOl! are not making sn) aho ve what can he accomplished by the back muscles acting aJon (halflonel.
Contrast with !.he diaphragmatic rear IiU in figure 2.11.
114 .1"'A7o.lll· CJI' I/A7HA I'OCA L . 11/( &1'17///1(; IlS

muscles of the back and neck. This is an excellent exercise for strongthcning You can feel the diaphragmatic real' lifl. most easily if you breathe rapidly;
the diaphragm, because after you have lifted to your rnaxirnum with the the quick inhalations whip the hips up and away Irom the floor and the
deep back muscles, you are using the diaphragm, aided by the external sudden exhalations drop them. But ifyou breathe slowly and smoothly you
intercostal rnuscles acting as synergists, to raise the upper hall' of the body wiIl notice that each inhalation gradually increascs the pull and tensi ón on
even higher-and this is a substantial mass to be lifted by a single sheet of the hips and lower back, oven though it does not create much movement,
muscle acting as prime mover. Furthermore, if you keep trying as hard as and that each exhalation gradually cases the tension, When you are breathing
possible to inhale deeply without closing the glottis, you will be creating th e slowly enough, you can also feel the muscle fibers of the diaphragrn shorten
most extreme possible isometric exercise for this muscle and its synergists, the concentrically during inhalation and lengthen eccentrically during exhalation
external intercostals. But be watchful. If this elfort creates discornfort in as they control the gravity-induced lowering of the hips toward the floor,
the upper abdomen on the left side, please read the section in chapter 3 on The origins and insertions of the diaphragm are reversed in the diaphrag-
hiatal hernia before continuing. matie real' liñ, in cornparison with the cobra variation. and this creates reper-
cussions throughuut the whole body. In the cobra variation wc fix the hips
THE DIAPHRAGMATlC REAR LIFT and thighs, allowing the costal attachment uf the diaphragm to lift the rib
Next try a posture that we can aptly call the diaphragmatic rear lift. Agai n cage, and with the rib cage the entire upper half of the body. In the
lie face down, placing your chin against the floor, with the arrns along th e diaphragmatic real' lift we do just the opposite: we fix the rib cago, rcJax the
sides ofthe body and the palms next to the chest. Keeping the chest pressed hips and thighs, and allow the crural insertion of the diaphragm to lift the
firrnly againsl the floor; relax all the muscles from the waist down, including lumbar spine and hips.
the hips. Take 10-15 nasal breaths at arate of about one breath per second. These two posturas also show us how important it is that the diaphragm
With the t highs and hips relaxed, and with the base ofthe rib cage Iixed is indented so deeply by lhe vertebral column that it almost encircles the
against the flOO1; the action of the díaphragm during inhalation can be spine. This enables it to act both from above and behind to accentuate the
translated to only one site: the spinal attachrnent of the crus. And because lumbar arch during inhalation. lifting the upper half of the body in the cobra
the deep back muscles are relaxed, each inhalation lifts the lower back aru variatíon , and lifting the sacrum and híps in the diaphragmatic rear lift.
hips, and each exhalation allows them to fall toward lhe floor (Hg. 2.11
Make sure you produce the movement entirely with the diaphragm, not bv
bumping your hips IIp and down with the gluteal (hip ) and back museles Tho way we breathe affeets far more than our posture, and we can best
Beeause the inhalations increase the lumbar curvature, this exercise wil explore those rarnifications by looking at the two great functional divisions
not be comfortablc fol' anyone with low back pain. of the nervuus ISYlStem-somatic and autonomic-and at the tissues amI
organs they each oversee. The somalic llerVOllS system is concerned wilh
evcrything from the control of skcJetal muscle activity to conscious sensations
such as touch, prcssure, pain, vision, and audition. For the autonomíc neruous
syslem, think first ol' regulabon of hlood prcssure, viscera, sweat glands,
digestion , and elimination-in fact , any kind of internal fllnction of the
body that you have little or no intel'ei:lt in trying to manage consciously.
--- _... This system is concerned with sensory input to the brain from internal
organs-generally more for autonomic reflexes than fol' inner scnsations--
as well as for motor control of smooth muscle in the walls of internal
organs and blood vessels, cardiac muscle in th · wall of the heart, and
glands (figs. 10.4a-b). Both sYlStcmlS are involved in brcathing.
Figure 2.11 . Diaphragmalic rear lifl..~ith lhe rib .cage anchorecl againsl
lhe flúor, its lower rim acts as an ongm for lhe d,aphragm ralher than an !!:!.E SOMATIC SVSTEM
inscrtion (as happens in lhe cobra poslure in fig. 2.10). If lhe gluteal region
and lower exlremilies remain cumplelely re laxed, lhc crural attachmenls Sincc breathing draws air inlo the lungs, and Hince the lungs are internal
of lile diaphragm lhen Iifl lhe hips during inhalalion and lowcr lhem back organs, we might SllppoSC that the mllsclelS 01' respiration are controlled by
duwn during cxhalalion.
X6 1.'\".,UIII or 11/1'11 lA I (lG/I
2 . HHFA111h\(; 117
the autonomic nervous systern. But they're noto The act of breathing is a lhis neuron represents all
inffuences on breathlng a) a lesion
somatic aet of ske letal muscles, In chapter 1 we discussed the somatic nervous in motor
Irom aboye lhe pons and
systern, although without narning it, when we discussed the control of the medulla palhways
skeletal muscles by the nervous syslem. Respiration makes use of this system. ponsleaves
whether we want lo breathe fast or slow, cough, sneeze, or simply líft an respuation
the pons and enlirely
object wh ile going "oornph." When we participate consciously in any of a neuron in its under Ihe
these activities we breathe willfully to SUPPOlt them, and we do so írom the respíratory control 01
con trol center Ihe pontine
command post in the cerebral cortex that iníluences the lower motor neurons

for respiration. If you are consciously and quietly using the diaphragrn as medullary
you breathe, you are activating the lower motor neurons whose axons lhe medulla and a respiralory

neuren in ItS control
innervate the diaphragrn by way ofthe phrenic llaves (figs . 2 .ó and 2.12l. If cenlers
respi ratory control
you are eight months pregnant the diaphragm can't function efficien t!y, center
and in order to breathe you will have to activate lower motor neurons b) a eomplele Iransection 01
the lelt phrenic Ihe brain slem al lhe lower
whose axons innervate t he intercostal muscles by way of the intercostal nerve innervates end 01Ihe pons leaves
nerues . And if yo u are trying to ring the bragging bell at a state fair with a !he left side 01 respiration under Ihe erudesl
Ihe di aphrag m; possible control 01the
sledge hammer, you will make a mighty effort and a grunt with YOlIl ns cell bodies medullary control eenter
abdominal rnuscles, again calling 011 motor neurons from the thoracic cor are located in alone
spina/ cord
to transmit the cerebral com rnands to the rnuscles of the abdominal wall.
seg ments C3-5:
The cell bodies for the phrenic nerves are located in the spinal cord in thr cult ing these
nerves al Ihe ·s e) a lesion that deslroys
región ofthe neck (the cervical region), and the cell bodies for the intercosta motor palhways lor respira.
woul d cause
nerves are located in the spinal cord in the region ofthe chest (the thoracu co mplele lion between lhe medullary
paralys is olthe control eenler and C3 results
region l. In the neck the spinal cord contains eight cervical segmenta (CI-8 1 in immediale cessation 01
diaph ragm
and in the chest it contains twelve thoracic segmenta (TI-12; figs, l.'; a ru brealhing. and dealh
2.12). The diaphragrn is innervated by the right and left phrenic nerves
the left inte rcostal
Irom spinal cord segments Cj-S; the intercostal and abdominal muscles an nerves (whose eell
bodies are íocated d) a Iransection 01Ihe spmat
innervated by the intercostal nerves Irorn spinal cord segments TI-l2 (figl- eord jusi betow e5 spares
In spinal co rd
l.') and 2.12). segments TI -12) the phrenie nerve and Ihe
lunction 01 !he diaphragm
Both the phrenic and intercostal nerves are necessary for the fuI Innervate bolh lhe
(permitting lile lo be
inlerco stal museles
expression of breathing. Ir for any reason the intercostal nervcs are no and !he abdominal sustained) . bul paralyzes all
lhe intercoslal and abdomi-
functional, Icaving only the phrenic nerves amI a fllnctioning diaphragn museles en lhe left
side nal museles. and results in
intact, the diaphragrn wiU slIpport respiration by itself (fig. 2.12, site d l. B" I quadriplegia (see chapler 1)
in that event the external int~rl'OstaJ muscles will no longer rnaintain th
shape of the chest isometricaUy, and cver'y time the dome of the diaphragn
e) a Iransection 01 Ihe spinal
descends and creates a vacuum in the lungs and pleural cavity, the chelo cord al L 1 spares lower
waU wiII be tugged inward. On lhe other hand, if for sorne reason t h! Figure 2.12. Cen lral motor neurons ler all lhe
nervous system palh- museles 01 respiralion .
phrenic nerves are not functional lsee asterisks lig . 2.12), but the inter whieh in turn permits normal
Ways and peripheral
costal nerves and muscles are intact, the vacuum produccd by activity nerves for the motor brealhIng, bul results in
the externa! intercostal muscles will puIl the dome ofthe flaccid diaphragn paraplegia (see ehapler 1)
c~>ntrol of respiration.
higher in the chest during the course of every inhalation. Sltes of Icsions thal
Like a1l typical sornatie motor neurons, thOHC for respiration are con - affcc-I brea lhing and/or
thal cau e q uadrip legia
lroll ed from higher centen; in t he brain, and lile cannot be :supported by ~nd paraplegia are
spinal conl transections aboye C3 ( fig. 2.12, site el. A tran:section at C6 is Indicatcd al asle risks
and al a-e (Sappey).
llll ANt17T1M I OF 11..1tu» I O C;A

not qu ite as serious. It spares input fro m the brain to the somatic motor states our breathing becomes jerky and irregular. Watch a baby struggle to
neurons whose axons travel in th e phrenic nerve, and in that manner breathe wh ile it is preparing to cry, or think of how uncontrollable laughing
spares the function ofthe diaphragm, as me ntioned a boye, bu t it eradicates affects a teenager's breathing. By con trast, when we are calm, the somatic
input to t he somatic motor neurons that innervate the intercostal and motor circuits for respiration will be delicately ba lanced and our breathing
abdominal muscles, as well as to the rest ofthe skeletal m uscles ofthe body will be smooth and even. Maintaining such even-tempered states is one of
Irom the neck down, rcsulting in q uadriplegia (fig. 2.12 , sito d; also seo th e aims of yoga.
chapter 1). If a complete transection occurs at LI-the first lumba r segmcnt of
the spina! cord -aH input to all molor neurons for all muscles of respiration is
spared an d hreathing is normal, although such a transection woul d result When you think of the autonomic nervous system, th e Iirst point ís noto lo
in paraplegia (fíg, 2.12, site e ; seo also chapter 1). confuse the terms a utomatic and autonom ic. We can breathe automatically
courlesy of the somatic nervous system, but the word autonomic is derived
frorn "autonomy," the quality of being independent. In the context of the
Breathing goes on twenty-four hours a day. We can regulate it mindfully two great divisions of t he nervous syslem, th e au tonomic nervous system
from the cerebral cortex if we want, in th e sarne way that we can regulate is largely independent ofthe somatic system: it consists ofa vasto auxiliary
our movement and posture, but rnost of the time our minds are occupi network of neurons t hat controls vísce ra, b lood vessels, and glands
elsew he re and we rely on other motor centers to manage respiration, Thes« throughou t the body. lt is not, however, completely auto nomous, because it
respiratory control centers are located in the two lowest segments of thc int eracts with t he somatic nervous system-it bot h fceds scnsory informatinn
brain stem (t he continuation of the spinal cord into the brain), A crudc from within the body into the somatic systems ofthe brain and spinal cord
rhythm for respiration is generated in t he lowest of these segments-s-the (in this case our main concer n is t he res piratory centers), and is affected by
medulla-and this is fine-tuned by the next high er segment-the pons (fig the somatic motor systems in re turn.
2 . 12>' Inp ut from these centers to the motor neurons of respiration i ~ We cons tantly depcnd on smoot h interactinns between the somatic and
unconscious. Willed respira tion, of course, is directed from the cerebral corte. autonomic nervo u s sys tems. You race around the block using you r skeletal
and can override the rhythms generated by the lower scgments of t hr muscIes, which are controlled by the sornatic nervous systern, but you
brain. But even if higher centers have been dcstroyed by a strokc or traumati. would not get Iar unless your autonomic nervous system sped up your
head injury (fig. 2 .12, site al, the controlling centers for respiration in tlu hea rt, stimulatod t he release of glucose from your live r, and shunted blood
pons or even just t he medulla may still survive, al lowing sorneone who I from th e skin to the s keletaI muscIes. And ir, instead al' running around the
otherwise brain-dead to continuo breathing indefinilely. block, you sit down and read a book alter dinner, you flip t he pages using
We dcpend on the respiratory centers lo manage sornatic aspects l your skeletal rnusc les and depcnd on the unconscious operation of your
breathing automatically, but somctirnes the rnechanisms do not wor ~uton om ic nervous system to digest your meal , Respiration , as it happens,
pcrfectly. In arare form of sleep apnea-the central hypooentilatior IR th e foremost function in the body in wh ich signals from internal organs
syndrome-i-úie autornatic control of ventilation is lost but the ability t ha ve a constant and cont.inuing effect on somatic function, in this case the
brelithe voluntm'ily is preservCd. Thi8 is roughly similar to a circumstanc rate and dcpth of breathing, twenty-foul' hours a day.
immOlialized in Jean Giraudoux's play Ondinf! . Ondine, a water nym p 11' we Iook at an overview of how the aulonomic nervous system opemtes,
and an immortal, married llans. li mortal, even though she knew that sud controlling aulonomic influences from lhe central nervous system (the brain
a wJion was forbidden and that Hans was doomed to die if he was unfaithfl and spina! cordl are reIayed t o thcir VÍS<.'Cral targ-ets by lwo systems of
to her. When the prophecy was fulfilled, Hans was dcpJ;ved of his automat l' au tonomic motor neurons: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The
functions. "A single moment of inattention," he tells Ondine, "and 1 forg( b~/IIpathetic n erL'OUS system prepares lhe body for emergencics t"fight 01'
to breathe. He died, they will say, because it was a nu isllnce lo breathe." Anc fllght ") and thc parasyrnpath elic nermllS s)'stem maintains the supportivc
so it carne lo be. This fonn of s lcep apnea is now known as Ondine's curse functions ofthe interna! org-dI1S. Between them, by definition, these two systems
Although lhe respiratory pathways in the brain stem support Lhe most exc<:ute the autonomíc motor commands from lhe brain and spinal COI-d. !\ilore
p.-imitive form uf rhythmic breathing, hig her centers can eit her smooth of these interactions \ViII be discussed in chapter 10 , in which we'JI be
t his ou t or d isru pt it. We a ll know Lh8t whcn we are in inte nse emot ional concelTled wilh l.hc importancc orthe autonomic nervous system in relaxation.
'JO AI\:4TO.I/I ·UrIlAnl.~ lOCA

Here our concern is limited mainly to breathing, and the Iirst thing tu 2:1 BREATHING

note is that the most important autonomic rclatíonship involving the control One breathing technique that can produce a beneficent effcct on the
of respiration is sensory. This does not mean sensory in regard to sorne- autonomic nervous systern is 2:1 breathing-taking twice as long to exhale
thing you can feel: it refers to influences from sensory receptors that have as lo inhale. For those who are in good condition, ó-second exhalations and
an impact on breathing. SpecificalJy, the sensory limb of the autonomic j-second inhalations are about right, and if you can regulate this without
nervous system earries information on oxygen ami carbon dioxide levels in stress, the practice will slow your heart down and you will have a subjective
the blood and ccrebrospinal fluid to the respiratory control centers in the experience of relaxation . As with almost all breathing exercises in yoga,
brain stem. You would see the important respiratory linkage between the both inhalation and exhalation should be through the nose .
autonomic and somatic systcms in operation if you were suddenly rocketed This connection between heart rato and breathing, known as respiratory
from sea leveJ 10 the top of Alaska's Mount Denali . You would immediately sinus arrhythmia, involves reflex activity from the circulatory system to
begin to breathe faster because your somatic respiratory control centers the brain stem that causes the heart to beat more slowly during exhalation
receive autonomic sensory signals that your blood is not getting enough than it does in inhalation. It is a natural arrhythmia, called "respiratory"
oxygen, not because you make a conscious somatic decisi ón that you ha d because it is induced by respiration, and called "sinus" because the receptors
better do something 10 get more airo that stimulate the shifts in heart rate are located in the aortic and carotid
There are also purely autonomic mechanisms that afTect breathing in sinuses, which are bulbous enlargements in those great vessels. If you take
other ways, 'I'he most obvious example is familiar to those who suífer from longer to exhale than to inhale, especially when you are relaxing, the slowing-
asthma, or from chronic obstruetive pulmonary disease (COPO) combined down effect of exhalation will predorninate, This is an excellent example of
with bronchitis, and that is the difficulty of moving air through constric how we can willfully intervene to produce effects that are usually regulated
airways. It is not very helpful to havo healthy skeletal muscles of respira by the autonomic nervous systern,
tion if the airways are so constricted that they do not perrnit the passage o' There are limits on both ends lo the effects of 2 :1 breathing. If you are
airo Although this is a complex and multifaceted problem, the autonomic walking briskly, exhaling for two seconds and inhaling one second, you will
nervous system involvement appears to be straightforward. In quiet time not get this reaetion, and ifyou take it too far in the other direetion, which
when there is less need for air, the parasympathetic nervous system mildl: for most people rneans trying to breathe fewer than five breaths per minute
constriets the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways, especially tlu (Ii-second cxhalations and 4-second inhalations), the exercise may become
smaller bronchioles, and thereby irnpedes the flow of air to and from thr stressful and cause the heart rate to increase rather than slow down. 'I'he
alveoli. But in times of emergency 01' increased physical activity, t h goldcn mean-that which is entirely comfortahle-is best,
sympathctic nervous system opens tho airways and allows air to flow moro There is one well-known practical consequence of respiratory sinus
easily. Those who have chronic respíratory diseases have an acute aware - arrhythmia. For deeades doctors have known ernpirically that pursed-lip
ness of how difficult it can be to medicate and regulate this system. breathing against moderate resistance is helpful for those with obstructive
lung disease. What is not generally realized is that the practice is helpful
mainly bccause it lengthens exhalations, slows the heal't rate, decrea<;es
A11 of our roncems so far have been with how the nervous system influem:e the amount of air remaining in the lungs after exhalation. and reduces fear
brellthing. These are aH widely recognizcd. What is not as well-known is th~ and anxiety. Knowlcdgeable yoga teachers realize that the same end can be
diITerent methods ofbrealhing can affect the autonomic nervous system a nl accomplished through a different approach-Ien¡,rthening cxhalations by
have an impact on the functions we ordinarily consider to be under unconsciou ~ pressing in gently with the abdominal muscles while at the same time
control. Abnormal breathing patterns can stimulate autonomic reaetions al . breathing through the nose .
ciated with panic attacks, and pOOl' breathing habits in emphysema pBtien t
produce anxiety and chronic overstimulation of lhe sympathetic ncrvou> THE P H YSIOL OGY OF RESPIRAT ION
system. By contrast, quiet breathing influences the autonomic circuits th al Different batha yoga breathing exercises affect respiration in differcnt
slow the heartbeat and reduce bluad pre¡;sure, pl'oducing calm and a senSl ways, but before we can undersiand how they do this we need a little more
uf stahility. Our ability to control respiration consciously gives us access to background. Wc'lI start OUT discussion with a look at the amount of air
autonomi funetinn thot no other system of the body can boast. found in the lungs and airwuys at diffel'ent stagcs uf the breathing cycle
92 Al'únnMI 01 ' nl"fllA H/{i,l

These values--the lung volurnes, capacitics, and anatomic dead space- díscussed earlier, is lo drastically decreasc this value so that the fresh air
vary according to stature, age, sex, and conditioning, SO to keep things simple that you inhale is mixed with a srnaller volume of oxygen-poor airo
we'Il always use round numbers that are characteristic for a healthy young Lung volurnes and capacities differ markedly in different hatha yoga
mano The numbers are generally smaller for women, for older men and postures and practices, For example, agni sara (chapter J) almost obliterares
wornen, and for those in poor physical condition. That's not so relevant to the expiratory reserve volume and increases the tidal volume from 500 mI
us here. Our main interest is not in how the lung volumes and capacities lo possibly I,Mo 011 (figs . 3.31-33); invertad postures (chapters 8 and 9)
vary in diffcrent individuals; it is in how they vary with different breathing decrease the expiratory reserve volume and shift the tidal volume dosel' to
practices and postures, 'I'he numerical representations in fig. 2.13, as well the residual volume; and the bellows breath, which will be discussed al
as in alI the charts on respiration, are only simulations, hut they wiII be ¿ length later in this chapter, minimizas the tidal volume.
useful starting point for more rigorous inquiry. The anatomic dead space is another extremely irnportant c1inical
value-the air-Iilled space taken up by the airways, which include the nasal
passages, pharynx, 181}'J1x, trachea, right and left. primary bronchi, and the
There are tiJUI' /ung uolumes (fig, 2.13). We'JI begin with the tidal uolum e branches of the bronchial tree that lead lo the alveoli. It is called a dead
which is the amount of air that moves in and out in one breath, Textbook space because it does not, unlike the alveoli, transport oxygen into the
state that in our healthy young man it amounts to one pint, 01' about 'io e blood and carbon dioxide out. This space ordinarily totals about 150 mI, so
ml (rnilliliters) during relaxed breathing, but this volume is obviou sl for a tidal volurne of seo mI, only 350 mi of fresh air actually gcts to the
circumstantial-when we are climbing stairs it wilI be greater than whe alveoli. You can get an immcdiate idea of its significanro when YOII are
we are sitting quietly. The inspiratory reserve uolume, about 3,300011 <.3 1 snorkeling. If you breathe through a snorkol tubo with a volume of 100011
quarts), is the additional air you can inhale after un ordinary tidal inhalatíor the practica] size of the anatomic dead space increases frorn 1')0 ml to zxo
The expiratory reserve oolume, about 1,000 rnl, is the additiunal air you ca
exhale after a normal tidal exhalation. The residual oolume, about 1,20 1
rnl, is the amount of air that remains in the lungs after you have exhal mi
as much as possihle,
Lung capacities, uf which lhere are also íour, are combinations of two ( e 5000
more lung volumes (Iíg. 2.13). First, the oital capacity is thc total amount e
air you can breathe in and out: it totals 4,Hoo rnl and is the cornbination ,
~ 4000
the tidal volurne plus the inspiratory and expiratory reserve volumes. T h mi
is the most inclusive possible definitiun of the yogic "complete hreath." an '"
is an important c1inical value. ra
ra 3000
Second, the lolal/uflg capacily is self~explanatory. In a healthy you n <J

man is amounts to about ó,ooo mI and is the sum of all four lung volume ra
01' alternatively, the sum of the"vital capacity and lhe residual volume. '"
'I'hird. lhe inspiralory capacity is the lotal amount of air you can inilal ,.
al the beginning of a normal tidal inhalation. This is a rcstricti\'e definitiol Ol
c: 1000 f---j
of lhe yogic "complete breath," which is the combination of the tidal volum ~ mi H
and inspiratory reserve volume labout 3,Hoo mD.
Fourth, the {u1!c:tiona/ resldua/ capaclly, 2,200 mI, is the combination o mi '----~.....;.._....:... _ _.....:._:.......__
residual exp,rBtory lJdal Insp¡ralory runCllonal IIlSpnalory Vital
Lhe residual volume and lhe expiralory reserve volume. As its ml/ll l voIlJme reserve volume
reserve residual capac,!y capac;ly
implies, this is an especiaIly practical quantity-the amounl of air in th . voIumc voIlJme capacity
lungs at the end of a normal exhalation that wiII be mixed with a fres !
inhalation. This usually amounts to a lot of air-more than four times 8l- Figur.e 2. n. lhe four lung volumes(on Ihe lefl) and Ihe four lung capacilies (on
much m; an ordinary Lidal volume of SOO mI. Onc point of pursed-Iip brealhing, lhe nghtl. l~e lall~r are combinaliuns uf lwo or morL' lung vulurnes. Al! lhe
values are SUTlulalJons fur a hL'althy young mano
¿ 1JI1E.171/1,\'(; 9S
94 ,1,,/I '/VMI or IIATIIA IOC,l
mi, you have to inhale 600 mi through the end of the tube just to get 3'50
mi to the a lveo li, and you might have a few moments of panic before you 'fhe whole point of breathing is to get oxygen from lhe atrnosphere to the
adjust to the need for deeper breaths. Clinical concerns with the anatornic cells of the body and carbon dioxide from the body into the atmosphere,
dead space are often grim: in terminal em physema patients its volume and to understand how this happens we need to know how diffusion and
sometimos approaches and excccds the vital capacity. press ure difforcntials drive those processes. l lere's how it works: A gas
moves frorn a region of high concentration to one of low concentration, just
ALVEOLAR ANO MI N U T E VEN TllAT I O N as a drop of dye placed in a glass of water gradually diffuses throughout,
When we consider how much air we inhale and exhale over a period oftime. sooner 01' later equalizing the mixture unlil it has colored al1 the water in
the first thing we think of is the minute ventilation, the arnount of air we th e glass uniformly, Very crudely, sornething similar happens in the body.
breathe in and out over a period of 60 seconds. This is what we feel-s-th e Therc is much conccntration 01' (01' pressure from: oxygen in the atmosphere,
touch of the breath in the nostrils, in and out, over a period of one minute. less in the alveoli, less than that in the arterial blood, and less yet in the
AII you have to do to calculate your minute ventilation is measure your cells of the body that are using the oxygen. By the same token, there is
tidal volume and multiply that value times the number ofbreaths you take mu ch concentration of (01' pressure from) carb ón dioxide in the vicinity of
per minute. According to lextbooks, this would be 500 mi per breath times th e cells that are eliminating it, somewhat less in the veins and alveoli, and
12 breaths per minute, and this equals 6,000 mi per minute. alrnost none in the atmosphere.
The minute vcntilation does not tell us everything we need to know Th e standard measure of pressure we use for gases is millimeters of
however, because what is most important is not the amount of air th a t mercury (mm Hg), which is the height of a column of mercury that has the
moves in and out of the nose 01' mouth, but the amount of air that gets pas t sa me weight as a column 01' gas that extends al1 the way out lo the strato-
the anatornic dead space into the alveoli. This is also measured over a peri sphere, In other words, ifwe think 01' ourselves as bottom-dwellers in a sea
of one minute and is called, logically enough, the alveolar ventilation . It i of a ir, which we assuredly are, the weight of a column of air aboye us at sea
our primary concern when we wanl to know how breathing affects the conlent level is the exact equivalent of the weight of a column of mercury of the
of oxygen and carb ón dioxide in the blood, and that is OUT main interest il sarne diameter that is 760 mm in height, We use this unit for measuring
yoga breathing exercíses. To calculate the alveolar ventilation, subtract th
size ofthe anatornic dead space from the tidal volume before mu ltiplying b.
breathing rate 12 brealhing rate 24 brealhing rate 6
the respiratory frequency. For example, '500 mi 01' tidal volume minus 150 ro breaths per min; brealhs pe r min ; breaths per min;
of analomic dead space cquals 350 mi por breath, and 350 rnl per breath lim e 5000
!idal volume 500 mi; tidal volume 325 mi: tidal volume 850 mi;
12 breaths per minute yields an alveolar ventilation of 4,200 mi per minut
~ minute venlilalion minute ventilation minute venlilalion
The values given 1'01' lung volumes and capacities, as well as for minutt !!l 6000 miper min; 7800 mi per min: 5100 mi per mln;
and alveolar ventilation, are only lextbook example it is not uncommOl iE 4000
alveolar venlilation
4200 miper min
alveolar ventllation
mi per min
alveolar ventilalion
4200 mi per min
lo breathe more rapidly and take in a smaller tidal volume for each hread 4200
Ifyou walch a dozen people c1osel)' in cm;ual situ at ions , such as when the. IJ)
at~ sitting on a bus wilh lheir arms folded across their chests, you can casil. E

count the breaths lhey take per minute, and it is usually raster than th l o,.
lextbook standard of 12 breaths per minute: 1-4-30 brcaths per minute is 1 :g inhalation exhalation inhalation exhalalion
lot more common. This is of no great consequem.'e because everyone simpl~ 1.25 sec 1.25 sec 5 sec 5 sec
adjusts their tidal volume so that their alveolar ventilation stays within ¡ 1000
normal range (fig. 2 .14 ). In ml.'<!itation the rate of breathing generall)
seems to slow clown. but it can still vary widcly and may either be faster 01
o mi ~o:--c----:~----:~--;;;;---~---==--~::----_J
5 10 15 20 25 30
slower than the standards cited in the medical literature on respiration . 35 40 45
Here too, you adjust the rate of breathing and the tidal volume so lhat lhl' time In seconds (sec)
alveolar ventilalion comes in line with lhe metabolic requiremcnts of the Figure 2.14. l h ree molles of breathing wilh idenlical a lveolar venlilalions. lhe
practicc. nu m e rical val ues are simulalions ior a hcallhy young mano
many va lúes: total atrnospheric pressure; the at.mosphere's iternized least from personaJ experie nce, is that the rnomcntary discomfort of smothering
content of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases; t he docreased oxygen and is a warning of something more serious: that the cells of the brain and
increased carbon dioxide in the aJveoli; and the eontent of oxygen an d carbon spina l coro are acutely sensitivo to oxygen deficits, t hat asevere deprivation
dioxide in the blood. of oxygen will cause temporary damage to the tissue in less than a minute,
Atmospheric pressure decreases with inc reasing altitude. At sea leve l it and t ha t neurons totaUy deprived of oxygen Ior about five minutes (as in
is 76 0 mm Hg, and of this total, t.he oxygen share is abo ut 150 mm Hg , the th e case of stroke) will die.
nitrogen share is about 5Ho mm Hg, and water vapor is about )0 mm Hg,
depending on the humidity. At the summit of Pikc 's Peak in Colorado
dry airo moisl air, warm alveolar arterial venous
atmospheric pressure is 450 mm Hg (oxygen 8) mm HgI, an d at the summit 75 ,80%
gases any tern- (98.6") gaseous blood blood
of Mount. Everest in t he Hima layas it is 225 mm Hg (oxygen 4 2 mm Hg l. peralure relative wet air pressures gases gases
Going in the other directio n to a depth of 165 fee t under water (which is
consi de red by divin g experts a prudent maximum depth for breathing oxygen 159.1 150 149.2 104 100 40
atmospheric air that has been pressurized by t he depth al' the water) , carbon dioxide 0.3 0.3 0.3 40 40 46
atrnospheric pressure is 4,500 mm Hg and oxygen is 900 mm Hg.
water vapor 0.0 30 47 47 47 47
Returning to more ordinary circumstances, let 's limit ourselves for th «
moment t o what wo wou ld see inside and outside the body at sea level . Ir nitrogen 600.6 579.7 563.5 569 573 627
we are quietly breathing atrnospheric ai r at our favorite seaside resort. totals, in 760 760 760 760 760 760
where the oxygen content is about 150 mm Hg, we'U end up wit h oxyge mm Hg
levels of about 104 mm H g in t he alveoli, which is reduced from 150 mm Hg
Table 2.1. The abo ye eha rt shows pressur es in mm Hg (millime te rs of
because of the transfer of oxygcn from t.h e a lveoli into the blood. Passing mereury) expeeted during the course of relaxed breathing at sea level ;
on down t he pressu re gradient , arterial blood contains slightly less oxygen . the most imp ortant eight values are shown in boldfa ee. Nitrogen is inert:
a bout 10 0 mm Hg. Venous blood, 01' blood that has just released its oxyger its values are det erm ined so lely by altilude and the su mme d sp ecific
pressures for oxyge n, ca rb ón d ioxide, and wa te r vap or.
in the tíssuos, con tains dramatically less, abo ut 40 mm Hg. Ca rbon dioxidi
dec reas es in the other direction from the blood to the atrnosphere, from a
high of 46 mm Hg in venous blood to 40 mm Hg in arterial blood and th c Hypovent ilat ion, 01' underbreathing, is a related matter, and another
alveuli, and finally to a negligible o.j mm H g in the atmosphere. condition that is familia r to people with respiratory pro blems. They call it
T he nurn bers for atrnospheric, a lveolar; and blood gases ron al l be com shortness of breath. Hypoven t ilat ion is not usually a serious matter Ior
pared convcniently in table 2.1. The ones we are especially concerned wit l any one who is in good health, for whom a few deep breaths willusually step
when we look at pulmonary ventilation and breathing exercises in yoga are up the alveolar venti lation enuugh to bring the oxygen and carb ón dioxide
the pressures for oxygen and carbon dioxide in atmospheric air, alveoli levels in to bal ance. T his is also the aim of severa l hatha yoga breathing
arteriaJ blood, and venous blood. exerc isos that increase ventilatory ca pacity, especially the bellows breath,
Too little alveolar ventilation is hypooentilation, and too much is hyper
oentilation, Both conditions will have repercussions in the alveoli, arteria l
gases alveolar gases arterial blood gases venous blood gases
blood, and venous blood, as well as on tissues throughout the body
Hypoventilal.ion will result in reduced levels of oxygen and increased levell' relalive hypo· normal hyper- hypo- normal hyper- hypo · normal hyper-
venlilalion ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!. ven!.
of carbon dioxide at aUl.hose sites, and hyperventilation drives the figuref
in the opposite direction (see tablf' 2.2). Oxygen 90 104 140 85 100 120 32 40 60
50 40 15 51 40 15 56 46 30
HYPOVE NTlL A TI O N dio xide
Everyone has an intuitive undel'standing that we have to have oxygen to live,
und mast pcople huye experienced an undcrsupply of oxygen at one time 01' lable 2.2.The abo ve eha rl shuws simu lalions of a lveo lar and lJlood gases in mm
I-Ig for hypove nlilal ion, normal brealhing, and hypervenlilalion. The six figures in
ano ther, if on ly from holding lhe breath. What's not always recognized. a1. boldface are Ihe norms, re peated from table 2.1.
y!\ , 1NA mMl 01 : IMUIA nXiA 2 11/(/:'·1'17/1/\'(,' 9Y

But vigorous practice of bellows brcathing brings up the question of hyper- dioxidc increases carb ón dioxide levels in the blood and opens the cerebral
ventilation, or overbreathing, and this, paradoxical1y, can create a deficit in cireulation. 'l'here are better solutions, however, and triage nurses who
the supply of oxygen for the cells of the central nervous system where we have aIso had sorne training in relaxed yogic breathing practices would he
need it the rnost. more imaginativo, perhaps suggesting something as simple as having the
pationt lie supina and breathe abdominally with their hands 01' a moderate
HYPERVENTILATlON weight on the abdomen.
Let's say you are hyperventilating during the course of an extreme bellows Extremely low blood levels of carbon dioxide can cause you to pass out.
exercise, If this involves breathing in and out a tidal volume of 500 mi three Children at play sometimos hyperventilate, hold their breath alter a decp
times per second, you will end up with an alveolar ventilation of 180 inhalation, and then strain against a closed glottis, If they do this for only
breaths per minute times 350 ml per breath, which equals 63,000 mI per 3-4 seconds they will drop to the 0001' like stones. Increasing intrathoracic
minute, or Iifteen times the norm of 4,200 ml per minute. If you were in pressure from straining will have diminished the venous return to the
world-class athletic condition and running full speed up forty flights of hea rt (and thus the cardiac outputl imrnediately alter the cerebral circulation
stairs, this would be fine . During heavy exercise your body will use all thr has been partially occluded by hyperventilation, and these two ingredients
oxygen it can get, and it will also need to eliminate a heavy overload of carbor combined cut off enough of the blood supply to the brain to cause an irnmediale
dioxide. It's not, however, a good idea for an ordinal')' person to breathe ir but temporary loss of consciousness. The danger of passing out Irom con-
this way. Extreme hyperventilation when you are not exercisíng strenuously stricted brain arterioles is also why lifeguards do not allow swimmers to
skews the blood gases too much o hype rvenl ilate vigorously before swimming underwater. Hypcrventilating
OUI' first thought is that hyperventilation rnust drive loo much oxygen int r followed by holding the breath after a deep inhalation is not harrnful to
your tissues, but this is inaccurate. Except for a few special circumstances children on a grassy lawn who will begin to breathe normally as soon as
such as breathing 100% oxygen for prolonged periods, or breathing oxygen at th ey lose consciousness, but it is dcadly under water ,
high pressure in deep-sea diving, you can't get too much, and the increasec One of the most demanding tests of aerobic capacity is mountain climb-
oxygen in the blood that resuIts hum hyperventilation is certainly not harmful ing without bottIcd oxygen at altitudes higher than 25,000 fect. Supcrbly
The problem with hyperventilation is not that it increases arteria conditioned athletes are able lo mect this standard and reach the summit
oxygen but that it decreases arterial carbon dioxide, and that can havo ar of'Mount Everest by hyperventilating the oxygen-poor atrnosphere (42 mm
unexpected side effect. What happens is that a substantial reduction il 1Ig al 29,000 feet) aIl the way to lhe topo They can jam enough oxygen into
arterial carbon dioxide constricts the small arteries and arteriales of t h, their arterial blood to survive (about 40 mm Hg), and that's good; but the
brain and spinal cord, The way this happens, al' at least the end result, i hypel'ventilation also drives their alveolar carbon dioxide down to less than
very simple: an arteriole acts crudely like an adjustable nozzle on the en r 10 mm Hg, and that's not so good. They have to train rigorously at high

of a garden hose that can open to emit a lot of water or clamp down to cm l altitudes to adapl the cerebral circulation to such extremely low levels of
only a fine spray. As carbon dioxide in the blood is reduccd. the artcrioll' C"'drbon dioxide. If mosl of us were transportcd unpreparcd to su eh an
clamp down and the blood supply to the tissue is restricted until there is l:il altitude (as would happen if we suffen.'<i a sudden loss of cabin pressure in
IiUle blood nowing to the brain lhat it doesn't matter how weU it I an airliner eruising at 29,000 feel), we would expelienee so much reflex
oxygenated. Not enough blood land therefore not enough oxygenl can gt.' hypervcntilation and subsequent constriction of the cerebrol circulation
through the arterioles to the capillary heds and adequately support. t h. lhat wilhoul supplemental oxygen wc would pass out in about lwo minutes
neul'ons. and die soon thercafter.
Hyperventilating vigoroul:ily enough to dramaticaIly lower blood carhOl Beginning hatha yoga students who practice the bcllows hreath exces..'>ively
dioxide docsn't nccessarily reHult in death 01' even obvious clínical sym p ~ay expericnce sorne adverse symptoms of hyperventilation , especially
toms, but it can cau:,;e more general complaints such as fatigue, irritabilit) llTitabilily. But ir they continuc the practiee ovcr a period of t.ime, the cerebral
lightheadedness, panie attacks, 01' the inability to concentrate. It's no circulation graduaIly adapts to decreased levels of earban dioxidc in the blood,
illogica1 that the {olk remedy rol' panic attacks, which is sUB routinely and they can intensi.fY their practice and safely gain the bcncfits of alertness
administered by triage nul'ses in cmergency moms, is to have someone who and well-being associated with higher levels ofblood oxygen.
is in such a state hreathe into a papcl' bag oRebreathing our exhaled carhon
.l. fjf{fjHl/lfl,(," 101
100 A .'\~ ,rJ,UI nI' H,'U'A Ir )(;A

CHEMORECEPTORS you are at an altitude that cuts your arterial oxygen in half (that is, from 100
The levols of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and cerebrospinal mm Hg lo 50 mm Hg), the input ofthe peripheral chemorcceptors to the brain
fluid are monitored by chemoreceptors, specialized internal sensors of th e stem respiratory centers will quadruple your alveolar ventilation from a
autonomic nervous system. Scnsory nerve endings associated with these norm of 4,100 ml per minute to about ló,OOO mi (ió liters) per minute. Even
receptora then transmit nerve impulses codcd for distorted levels of oxygen if you are well enough conditioned lo walk up a 30° grade at sea leve l with
and carbon dioxide directly lo the circuits of the somatic nervous system only moderate increascs in alveolar ventilation, you will find yourself panting
that regulate breathing (fig. z .is). Accordingly, the chemoreceptors are when you hike up that sarne grade at a high altitude.
important keys to linking the autonomic and sornatic systems. Although the pcripheral chemoreceptors respond to large dcereases in
There are two classes of chemoreceptors: peripheral and centra!. Thr- blood oxygen, they do not respond significantly to small decreases, If you
peripheral chemureceptors, which are located in the large artories leadiru are only somewhat short of oxygen you may simply lose the edge of your
away from the heart, react quickly to substantial reductions of arteria alertness and just feel like yawning and taking a nap, which is the point at
oxygen and strongly stimulate respiration. Ifyou restrictyour breathing, 01' 1 which yoga breathing exereises are indicated.
Central chemorec:eptors, which are located on the suríace ofthe brain stern
immcdiat ely adjacent to the somatic respiratory control centers, stimulate
external carotid artery and main branches (supplies lace and scalp) th e rute and depth of respiration in response tú increased levels of carbon
internal carolid artery (travels deep here to supply brain) dioxide, and dampen respiration if levels of carbon dioxide fal!. They are
more sensitivo to small changas than the pcripheral chernoreceptors, but
they are lower to react bceause the cerebrospinal Huid in which they are
bathcd is isolated {mm the blood supply and does not respond instantly lo
changes in blood carbon dioxide.
The differing sensitivities of the peripheral and central chernoreceptors
sometimes results in their working at cross-purposcs. For examplc, at high
altitudes decreased oxygen stimulates the peripheral chernoreceptors to
increase ventilation, but this also lowers cm'bon dioxide, and when that happens
the central chemoreccptors start lo retard ventilation. You may require the
autonornic extra air for the sake of the oxygen, hut the response to decreased carbón
system input: dioxide confounds that need. Training the system lo adapt to such conflicting
peripheral signals is part of the process of high-altitude acclimation,
receptors to THE R O L E OF WILL
Dozens of physical, mental. and environmental factors cooperate to influence
respiration, and sorne of' these work at odds with one another. Our will can
central chemoreceptors
Override most of them. You can cou nter the state of being bored and sleepy
(in oblong whito space) bul bo! by practicing bellows breathing, If you are bicycling behind a srnelly bus
are sensitivo to carbón enlargemenl l
dioxide In cerebrospinal carotrd sin us vou can hold your breath, at least momentarily, to escape the fumes. If you
nuid (esF) ; they help with periphere have the habit of breathing irregularly you can learn oven meditativo
regulale respiration by chemoreceptor
Ihat respond ••
breathing. Ifyou are upset you can breathe slowly and evcnly lo calm down.
way 01the medullary
respiratory center (small reduced levels e Most
. i mpo rtan, t you can 1caro to observe hcalthlCr. . breathing patterns
arrow) blood oxyger whl~e you are doing hatha yoga postures; then you can carry the refined
ha blts over into your daily life. To scc specifically how thi. wOl'ks in lhe
Figure 2,15. Brain stem and cerebellum on the:' left (wilh central chemoreceptor
ncar the front surface of the medullal. and on Ihe right. the carotid sinus (with practical environment ofyoga postures, we'lllook al four diITerent kinds of
peripheral chemoreceptorsl just below t h~ bifur<:ation of.the common carotid brca t hing: thoracic, paradoxical. abdominal, and diaphrawnalic.
arlery io lo the internal and external carohd arterles (Qualn).
102 AI\'A70¡\n 'OFIIA71/A YOGA 2 IIRf~I77I1:"(; 103

THORACIC BREATHING '[he oth er two are more subtle: many of t he musc les uf the upper extremities
Specialists in holistic t herapíes oíten condernn th aracic, or chest, breathing serve either as synergists or as antagonists to the external intercostal muscles
but there are two possible scenarios for this rnode of breathing t hat sho uld bl for enla r¡,'i ng the ehest. Thc relationships are straightforward: any position
considered separately: one is empowering and has an honored role in hathi that favors the syn ergistic efTects will increase inspiratory capacity, a nd any
yoga, and the ot her is constricting and can ereate physi cal an d mental heal tl position t hat favors the antagonistic efTects will d~creasc .it. . .
pro blems if it is done ha bitual1y. First, wc' Il look at the beneficial version. One of the most efTective training exercises for mcreasmg your ins piratory
capaeity takes its cue from a standard barbell exercise. In this case you can
E M P O W E RE D THORACIC BR EAT HING sirnply swing a broomstick or a light barhcll without added weights from your
'1'0 get a feel Ior the best of empotoered thoracic breathing (fíg, 2.29a), staru
thighs to 180 overhead, doing 10-15 repetitions while keeping your elbows
up , int.erlock your hands behind your head, pull your elbows t.o the real' a extended. Exhale maximally as you bring the broornstick or barbell to your
much as possible, bend bac kwards moderately, and inhale, expanding th, thighs . an d inhale maximally as you bring it overhead. As a barbell exercise,
chest maximally, Lift your elbows and expand t.he chest until you feel t h th is is designed to develop and stretch chest muscles sueh as the pectoralis
intercostal muscles reach their outermost limits ofisometric tension. majar (fig, 8.R-9), but many of the muscles needed for moving the barbell
through its are also aet synergistically wit h t he externa! inte rcostals to faeilitate
1Technica l note: Although the diaphragm is not. as obviously involvedin this rnethr
ínhalation. This is also a great exercise for children with asthma, who often tend
of breathing as the intercostal muscles, it supports inhalation synergistically, How
Its muscle fibers resist lengthening by keeping the dome of the diaphragm fror t.o be parsimon ious when it comes to using th eir ehests for breathing. If thoir
being pulled freely toward the head m; inhalation ~roceed.s (u~ like what we'lJ so~ asthma is t.ypically ind uced by exercise, they should of COUl'SC use a broom-
¡;ce for paradoxical breathingl, a nd al the peak of inhalation , It holds momentan l stick instead of a barbell, and be sensitivo to their capacity.
in a state of isometric tension.]
In hatha yoga general ly, inhaling as much as you can is an exce llent
Next, let your hands hang down and pull you r elbows slightly to t.he rea l chest exercise any time you are doing simple whole-body standing back-
agai n while bending baek rnoderately and inhaling as much as you can. If YOl ward bends (fíg. 4.19), dia phragm-assisted back bends (Iig, 5.7), cobra
observe carefully you'lI see t.hat you can slightly increase your inspirator: postures (especially those shown in figs. 2.10 a nd ).9-12).the u pward -facin g
capacity wit h the arms in th is more neutral position. How can you prove this dog (figs, 5.13-14), prone boats and bow postures (fig, 5.20-23), variations of
Go back to the first pos t.ure, in ha le as much as possible, then hold your breatl tho cat pose in which the lumbar regi ón is arched forward (figs. 3.30 and
at the glottis at th e end of your Iullest possible inhalation. Still holding YOUI 3.34b), or possibly best of all, any one of several variations of the fish
breath, assume the second position with your hands hanging and elbows baek posture (figs, 3.19a, 5.28, and 9.191. In fact, whenever an instructor suggests
and you will imrnediately confirm that you can inhale a little more. Then as • taking t he deepest possible inhalations, this can on ly mean placing an
control experiment.just te becertain, try it.the opposi te way, first. a maximun emphasi s on empowered thoracic breathing, and it wOl'ks well in any
inhalat ion with the hand" down and elbows baek, and second with the hand relatively easy posture in which it is natural to thrust the chest out.
behind the head and the elbows strongly lifted and pu lled to the real'. You'1
lind that eoming into t.he' position secondarily (after locking the glotti~ CONSTRICTED T H O R A C IC BREA THING
in the first position ) mandates a release uf ail' once you open the glottis. 'rhesE- Constricted thoracic brcathing (lig. 2.29b) is typicalIy shallow. rapid. and
are not yoga practices, of course, but experiments te test the efTects of partic- irregula r. It is commonly assoeiated with stress and tension, and our main
ular arm posit.ions on your inspiratory reserve volume during the course of int.erest in analyzing it is lo understand why it is inadvisable to breathe
empowered thoracie breat.hing. You can also experiment with any number th at way habitualIy. Whenever someone criticizes chest breathing, this is
of other standing postures. If, for example, you grasp your elbowl5 tightly what they are talking about.
behind your back with your opposite hands, 01' come into a forward ben d To help students understand why constricted thoracie breathing is
&'Uppor ting your hands on the thighs just aboye the knecs, you will find undesirable, ask them to líe in the corpse posture (figs. 1.14 and 10.2),
that these arm positions markedly limit your inhalation . placing the left. hand on the abdomen and t.he rigbt hand on the chest. First
In general. there are three major reasons for variations in inspiratory of all they should eoncentmt.e on moving only thc front surfaee of the
capaeity that are due to posture. One is obvious: sometimes the position ofthe abdomen when they breathe; the right. hand should be statiunary and the
upper extrcmities (.'o mpresses the chest and limits inhalation mechanically. left hand shou ld rise toward t.he ceiling during inhalat.iun and come back
.1 RR Ji-l"/7Uf\ 'G l OS

down during exhalalion . Ask them lo nol ice t hat this is natural an exhal ation. This is fine for empowered thoracic breathing, but it feels out
comfortable. 'I'hen, to do thoracic breathing, ask them lo breathe so th al ofplace in the supino posture,
the left hand is stationary and the right hand is lifted toward the ceiling 'l'he role of the internal intercostals, whether standing or supine, is
This feels so unnatural, at least in the supine posi t ion, that many student, not so obvious. In the first place they do not become ful ly active except
in a beginning class won 't be ab le to do it, You will probably havo to dernon in forced exhala tion, even in someone who has hcalthy breathing patterns,
strate and explain that you are not toaching a re laxed or empowered yogu Second, habitual chest breathers are generaIly compulsive about
breathing practice; you simply want students to experience this form 0 1 inh alation, as though they are afraid to exhale, and because of this they
thoracic breathing so they can contrast it with other options. rnay not make rnuch use of their internal intercostal muscles under any
In thoracic breathing the hand on the abdomen is stationary becaus- circumsla n ces.
rigid abdominal muscles prevenl the dome of the diaphragm from movi ru, Oth er muscles in the neck, chest, and shou lders also support thoracic
and the only way you can inhale is to lift and expand the upper part of t h breathing as a side eífect to sorne other action. The scalenes (figs, LX and
chest. This is not a relaxing breathing pattern, and sorne people will kn o 8.13), which take origin frorn the cervical spine and insert on the c1avicle
in advance that the exercise will be slressfu l-don't insist that everyor (the collarbone ) and first rib, have their primary effec t on t he nee k, but
they a bo liñ t he chest during the course of a complete inhalation. We call
When you breathe thoracically whi le standing (fig. 2 .IÓ), you can feel ti th is clavicular breathing to differentiate it from lifting the chest with the
external intercostal muscIes expand t he rib cage, especially during a del intercost a l muscles. In addition, as mentioned earlier, mos t of the muscles
inhalation, and you can fcel them resist its tendency to get smaller durii that stabilize the scapula and move the arrns also have indireet effects on
breathing for thc simple reason that they attach to the chest.


During con stricted ches t breathing both inhalation and exhalation are
hesitant an d te ntative, This breath ing pattorn is not eomrnon among
experienced yoga studcnts, who have a largo repertoire of more usefu l
,, I forms of breathing, but you sce it oceasionally in beginning classes, And
r I

, I
I once in a whi le during the course of a classroom demonstration you '1 1even
.., ,,,,
inhalation - -- - -; I

hear someone say "That's how 1 always breathe!" 'I'he abnorrnal upper
, , body te nsi ón associated with this forrn of breathing is palpable-both
··, ·· I

literally and figuratively-in faces, necks, and shoulders.

·· ·

Habitual chest breathing not only reflects physical and mental problems,
il creates them. lt mild ly but chronically ovel"Stimulates the sympathetic
ncrvou s system, kceping the heart rat~ and blood pressUl'C too high,
preeipitating difficulties with digestion and elimination, and cau sing cold
Figure 2.16. Thoraeic
hreat hing. lhe dotted line ·,

and dammy hands and feet. In common usage chest brcathing is known as
reveals the profile for a "shallow" breathing, and if you watch people bn~athc in this fashion for
moderalely empowered
Ihorade inhalalion, with any lengt h of time you wiII notice that every once in a whilc they wiIl sigh.
lile slernum lifled up and yaw n, 01" take a much dceper breath to bring in more airo
oul in aeeordanee wilh If you reaIly want to understand shallow breathing you have lo cxperi-
Ihe "pump-handlew anal- ment with yoursclf. In either a supine 01' upright posture. try taking 2 ]0
ogy. lhe abdo men and
respiratory diaphragm const r icted thoracic breaths, lilhng only the upper part of the chest. Be care-
remain relalivcly fixed in fui not to move lhc abdomen, and try lo keep lhe lower part oflhe chest from
position, and lhe head is moving. '1'0 do this you have lo keep the abdominal wall J'igid a nd hold the
pullcd lo lhe rearol he
halflone profiles a normal lower part oflhe slemum and the loweJ' ,i bs still. Ifyou are healthy this will
exha laliun.
L. 1J1U~41711;\ú 10 7
106 _. ,\' ,17-0.11" (JI' IIATIIA H )(;,1

give you an unusuaJ and unsettling íeeling, and pretty soon you'lI have al PARADOXICAL BREATHING
irresistible urge to take a deep breath-if not two 01' t hree , You'U wonde: Empowered chest breathing carried lo extremes is paradoxical breathing
how anyone could possibly deve lop this breathing pattern as a liletime habit (fig. 2.2ljC). Try inhaling so deeply that the abdominal wall moves in during
Chest breathers often Ieel short of breath becausc conslricted thoraci. inhala tion rather than out. 01' imagine a situation which shocks YOU . Lct's
breathing pulls rnost of the air into the upper portions of the lungs. Bu say you dart into a shower thinking that the water will be warrn, and
when we are upright it is the lower portions of the lungs that get most I instead find it ice cold. You will probably opon your mouth and suck in air
the blood supply. Why? The pulmonary circulation to the lungs is a 10 \\ with a g'dSp. Try brcathing this way three 01' four breaths under ordinary
pressure, low-resistance circuit in which the average pressure in t h circu mstances and notice how you feel . This is paradoxical breathing,
pulmonary arteries is only 14 mm Hg. By contrast, the pressure in artera so-named because the abdominal wa ll moves in rather than out d uring
of the systemic circulation averages about 100 mm Hg (chapter X). 'I'h e I inhalation, and out rather than in during exhalation (fig. 2 .17). Unloss
mm Hg pul mona ry arterial pressure is more than enough to perfuse bloo 1 someone is in a state of considerable anxiety, we rarely see this in the
into the lower pa rts 01' the lungs, but it is inadequate to push the blood in r corpse posture-s-it is more common whi le sitting 01' standing.
the upper parts 01' t he lungs. This means that when you are tak i i Duri ng a paradoxical inhalation, the external intercostal muscles en large
constricted thoracic inhalations, you are bringing the bu lk 0 1' t he air in and liít t he rib cage, lift the abdominal organs and the relaxed diaph ragrn ,
the parts of the lungs that are most poorly supplied with blood. You cal' t and suck in the ab dominal wal l. During a paradoxical exhalation, the
mak e efficienl use of the extra vent ilation to the upper parts al' the lun abdom en moves back out beca use the rib cage relaxes and re leases the
becausc of the poor cir culation , and yet you gel scanty ventilation to t l vacuum on the diaphragm and abdominupelvic region ,
lowe r parts of the lu ngs that are getting the bulk of the blood supply. TI Paradoxical breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system even
no wonder those who breathe thoracically need to take occasional breat s more th an tho raeic brcat hing. ln an average class only a few stu dents will have
that will fill their lungs from top to bottom.
T he disadvantages 01' cons tricted chest broathing are ordinarily empha-
sized, bu t this mode of breathing is occasionally necessary. If you sh oi :l
happen lo overindulge in a ho liday meal an d t hen follow it up with a r '1
dessert, try ta king a walk. You wiIl notice that the restricted form -f
thoracic breathing is the on ly comforta ble way you can breathe. A five -rn e
walk can be useful. but the last thing you'lI wanl lo do en route is to prr s inhalation - - - - - -
against your stomach with your diaphragm (figs. 2.1) and 2.29b).


In addition to certain postures in hatha yoga , thoracic breathing W OI s

beautifully in aerobio exercisc, in which a freer and more vigorous stylc 11'
thoracic breathing is combined with increased cardiac output. The arou- d
heart creates pulmonary arterial pressures high enough lo perfuse t e
entire lungs with blood al the same time they are being ventilated from I P
to bottom. In hatha yoga this also happens in a series of briskly exccut <1 Figure 2.17. Par ad oxical
sun salutations 01' in any other postures that stress the cardiorespíratc Y breathing. LJu ring inhalation.
the ext erna] intercosta l an d
systern, such as triangles (chapte 4) 01' IUl1ging postures (chapter 7), esr other acces so ry muscles of
cially when performed by bcginners. In hatha yoga we aJso frequently ti e r(.'Spiralio n create a vacu um in
an empowcred and healthy forro of thoracic brealhing 1'01' the comp le e the ch est lhal p ulls the relaxed
breath (which we'U discUSH later in this chapter) and in most ot h -r diaphragm up an d the relaxed
abdominal wa ll in. lhe e nd
circumstam:es in which you are ta king fewer t ha n two breaths per minut stage of a natural exha lation is
Profiled by Ihe halfton e.
IOH 1.\'.-170. 111 or / hl n/A 1 r J<i A


the cunfidence to try il. enthusiastically, and th ose who do it for 10-1'; deo ) ~

breaths may get jurnpy and nervous. This is its purpose: preparation for fig' Sin ce th e abdominal organs and the dome of t he diaphragrn ride to a higher
01' flight, Paradoxical br eathing gives you an immediate jolt of adrenaline. T I than usu al pusition in the chest in a supine posture, less air than usual is
prob lem is that sorne people breathe Iikc lhat much oí'the time, making lifc I len in t he lu ngs at th e end of a normal exhalation. This is reflected in a
constant emergency. Our bodies are not built for remaíning this keyed up, al ., decre ased expiratory reserve volume. You can preve this to yourself if you
keeping the sympathetic nervous system in a constant statc of arousal is ha l brea t he ab dominally first sitting upright and then lying clown supine, and
on the supportive systerns of the body. Digestion, circulation, endocr i e hiectivelv
5l I ~ •
compare the two expiratory reserve volurnes. What you do is
function, sexual function , and immune function are all either put on h( ti come to the end of a normal exhalat ion in each case and then breathe out
01' are stressed by continual sympathetic discharge. as much as possible-all the way clown to YoU!" residual volume. H will he
obvious that the supine position decreases the amount of air you can
breathe out to about one-half of your upright expiratory reserve volurne,
The antidote for chronic thoracic and paradoxical breathing is abdom i¡ let 's say from 1,000 rnl to about soo mi (fig. 2 .IHl.
breathing; 01' obdomino-diaphragmatic breathing (fig, 2.29dl. lt is sim j Supine abdominal breathing is both natural and efficicnt. sing the
natural, and relaxing-especially in th e supino position. To try it, Iie in 1 e aboye figures. if you were to maintain a tidal volume of 500 m i when you
corpse posture, and again place the right hand on the upper part of t are supine, you will be rnixing that tidal volume with on ly 1,700 mI of air
chest and the left hand on the upper part of t he abdomen. Breathe so ti L ínstead of th e 1,200 mi in your functional resid ua l capacity when you are
the left hand moves antcriorly (toward the ceiling: during inhalation a l j upright, An d because your tidal volume for each breath is getting mixed
posteriorly (toward the floor) during exhalation. 'l'he right hand should n t with a smaller lu nct ional res id ual capacity, you will not need to breathe as
move. Take t he same amount of time Ior exhalation as inhalation. Not I e
that inhalation requires moderate effort and that exhalation seei
relaxed , T his is abdominal breat hing. As discussed earlier, it is accon
plished by the respiratory diaphragm.
Because the contents of the abdominal cav ity have a liquid ch aracti r.
gravity pushes them to a higher than usual position in the torso when Y'
are Iying down . The diaphragrn acts as a movable dam against this wall •
abdominal organs, pressing them inferiorly (toward the feetl durir
inhala lion and restraining their movement superiorly (toward the hca-
during exhalation. As the diaphragm pushes the abdominal organs inferior
during inhalation, thc abdominal wall is pushed out, thus pressing the IL
hand a nt.eriorly.
We perceive the gravity-induced exhalation as a sta te of relaxation , bl
careful observation will reveal that the diaphragm is actually lenglhenill
eccentrically throughout a supine exhalation. In other words, it is resistin
the tendency of gravit.y to push the diaphra{,>'JTl superior ly. You can feel Hu
fOl' YoUl"self if you breathe normally for a (ew breaths, making the hrea t
smooth and even, without jerks, pauses, or noise. Then, at the end of
normal inhalation, relax compl etely. Air will whoosh out faster, proving th a
some tension is normaIly hcld in the diaphrU{,>'JTl during supine exhalat iom·
You can re lax the diaphragm suddenly if you like. but exhalations that a n
rest rained actively are more natural, at least for anyone who has had soml Figure 2.18. l ielal volume simulations for abdominal brealhing in a silling poslure
training in yoga. (far fefl), ancl for Ihree cond ilions of ahdominal brealhing in a supine posilion ,
Ihe firsl wilh alveolar ventilalion iden tical lo Ihe silling poslure, secund wilh Ihe
brealhing rale slowed down, and Ihird wilh Ihe Lidal volume decreased.
110 11\A 77),\/ ' OF IIA f /111 'Ut,A

deeply or as fast., In faet, ir you werc to keep your alveolar vent.ilatio Betivity ofthe diaphragm that you will be ab le to sense its de lieate eceentric
constant at 4,.WO mí/minute as a textbook norm, the improved efficiency r resistance during exhalation without any weight at all . After a bou t twenty
the alveolar cxchange would soon be refleeted in increased blood oxygc decP br ea th s with a sandbag you'lI also notíce that it i natural to stop
and decreased blood carbon dioxide. What happens, of course, is that ,}T breathi ng for a few seconds at the end of an exhalation, and that this yields
either slow your rate ofrespiration or decrease your tidal volume (or botl B moment of total relaxation. Here again, once you havo experieneed this
and that keeps blood oxygen and carbon dioxide within a normal range. with a sandbag you will notiee that the same thing can happen with free
relaxed abdominal breathing.
Caution: Don't pause the breath habitually. It's unnatural while inhaling
The corpse posture is a good place to learn one of the most importa r l and exhaling, or at the end of inhalation, so those times are not usually 8
skills in yoga: smooth, even breathing. When you are relaxed and breathn .{ problem, but at the end of exhalation, it 's tempting. Don 't do it except as an
nasally and abdominal1y, it is easy to inhale evenly, smoothly merge ti experi ment in understanding the operation of the diaphragrn, The medical
inhalation into the exhalation, and smoothly exhale. You may pause t lore in yoga (the oral traditiun ) is that the habit of pausing the brcath at the
the end of exhalation, but if you do so for any length of time t end of exhalation causes heart prob lerns.
diaphragm will have relaxed completely during the pause and you m.
find tha t you are starting your next inhalalion with a jerk, The bE' t
prcventio n Ior that dis t urbance is to begin your inha la t ion conscíou: Ifyou are not using a sandbag, t he extent to which the intercostal muscles
just 8S exhalation ends. are acti ve during supi no abdominal breathing is an open qucstion . 'l'hey
may be serving tu rnaintain the shape of t he rib cage íso met r ically during
inhalation (as in upright postures), but this rnay not be the case loward t he
'l'he movements 01' the diaphragm are delicate and subtle, and not alw a end of a lon g and successful re laxation in the corpse posturo, At that time
easy to experience, but when you are supine you can place a sandbag t h the t idal volume and t he minute ventilation a re reduced so markedly that
weighs 3-15 pounds on the upper abdomenjust be low the rib cage, and yr little te nsion is placed on the rib cage by breathing, and the intercostal
wil1 immedia tely notiee the additional tensi ón needed for inhalation al muscles may gradually become silent. It wou ld require electromyography
controlled exhalation. Make sure the chest does not move and that ti usin g needle electrodes placed dirccUy in the intercostal rnusc les to settIe
weight is light enough to push easily toward the ceiling (fig. z.zza). TI the point.
exercise is valuable both Ior training and strengthening. lt he lps studen l Th ere will be no doubt about the activity of the intercostal muscles
lea rn to sense the activity of the diaphragrn by increasing the amount 1 if you use a sandbag for this exercise. Now the diaphragrn has to push
work and tensi ón needed for inhalations (concentric shortening of ti' the sa ndbag toward the ceiling, and as its dome descends its costal
muscular parts of the diaphragm> and for control1ed exhalatiUJ1 attachmen ts pull more on the base of the rib cage than
(eccentric lengthening of the muscular parts of the diaphragm) . T h would othenvise be the casco This puB can be countered only by
cobra variant and the diaphragmatic rear lift (figs. 2 .10-11) give t h isometric tension in thc intercostal muscles; you can fcel it develop
diaphragm more exercise by requiring it 1.0 Iift large segments of th . instantly if you make a before-and-after compa¡-ison, lirst without a
body, but a light sandbag brings the student more in touch with th . sa ndb ag and then with une.
delicacy of its fundion.
Since breathing evenIy with a sandbag mereases neuromuscular activil. ABDOMINAL BREATHING IN SITTING POSTURES
in the diaphragm, this makes you aware of the challenges involved ÍI We discussed abdominal breathing in the supine corpse posture lirst
moving it up and down without starts, stops, and jerks. And developing thl becau se in that pose we lind the simplest possible method of breathing: the
control necessary lo accomplish this is an important aid to learning eve¡1 diaph rélf,'lTl is active in both inhalation anel cxhalation, the intercostal muscles
breathing. First try it with a 58ndbag wcighing 10-15 pounds to feel ti Bcl only to keep the chest stable, and the abdominal muscles remain
pronounced increase in muscular activity, and then try it with a book 0 1" completely relaxed_Abdominal breathing in silling postures is quite difTerent.
much lighter sandbag weighing 1-3 pounds_ After you have practiced with Fir st of all, when we are upright, gravity pulls the abdominal organs
a lighter wcight for a while, you will have become so sensitive to the subtIp inferiorly instead of pushing them higher in the torso, and this is what
111 \ ,\' ,HOA/l oru.u u« ¡ O<ir!

causes the shift in expiratory reserve volurnes Iro rn approximately 500 1I of th e mattcr, What we want from r olaxed , even breath ing is no jerks-j ust
in the supine posture to about 1,000 mI in th e upright posture. It a the sensation th a t you are rnaking a transition fmm inh ala t.ion to exhalation
means that the diaphragm cannot act as purely Iike a piston as it can n an d Irorn exhalation to inhalation. The actual pattern ofbreathing is elliptical
s upine and inve rted postures. rather tha n circular, but tho image of a Ferris wheel is still use ful, espe-
The other rnajor difference betwccn supino and upright abdomi 11 cially for beginners. 'I'he main point is t ha t even though no air is moving
breathing is that wh en we are upright we can choose between exh al 19 in 01' out at the ends ofinhalation and exhalation, you can merge inhalation
actively 01' passively We CHn sim ply relax as we do when we sigh, allow 19 with exhalation (and exhalation with inhalation) without effort ifyou focus
the elasticity of the lungs to implement exhalation, or we can m st on smooth movement a long the ellipse. There will be different challenges
exhalation with the abdominal muscl es, which we do in many yoga brea th 19 at each junction, so we' ll look at thcm separately.
exercises and for all purposcful actions such as liíting a heavy weight Ir
yelling out a command. A quiet breathing pattern with rel axed exhalati, s
is simpler, so we'll look at that first, The end of inhalation is the least troublesome. erve impulses keep
impi nging on the rnuscle fibers of the respiratory diaphragm oven after
ABDO MINA L BREATH ING WITH A RE LA XED ABDOM EN exhalation begi ns, and this operates to smooth the transition between the
Breathing abdominally with a re laxed abdomen is a prelude to meditar ·e end of inh alation and the beginning of exhalation. Picture your inhalation
breathi ng because it gives one an opportunity to understand the sul le as you Ieel it , If you make the transition frorn inhalation into exhalation in
problerns involved with brea t hing qu iet ly '1'0 begin, s it st raight in a eh Ir. slow mot ion, initiating you r exhalatio n ever so slowly, you will feel a slight
Don 't slump but don't pitch yourself Iorward with an arched lu nu I r hesitation as you start to exhale, which rellec ts the continuing Ilow uf
lordosis, eithcr, Ma ke sure t he lower ab domen is not rest rained by ti It nerv e impulses into t he diaphragm as its dome begins to ascend. If you
clothing. Because the abdominal museles wrap around lo the rea r it is bet ' 1' havo healthy breathing habits liltle offort is needed Lo tune t his mechanism
not to lean against thc back 01' the chair , Now breathe so that tho lov -r dclicately and make an even t ra nsition [mm inhalation into exhalation, but if
ab domen moves outward during each inhalation and comes passiv y you find you rself ho lding your breaLh at l he end of inhalation it is beLte/' to
inward during each exhalation. Breathe evenly and nasally, making S I 'e firsl concentrate on breathing evenly in bending, twisting, an d inverted
the chest does no1 move. The abdominal muscles have to be compl ete y posturcs-t he poses 1hemselves corred bad habitE .
free . Ir th ey are even mildly tensed you wil! not be doing abdominal brca1hi -!.
Notice, even so, that the ahdominal movement is minimal and that th e TI .t
01' the body is stable excep1 for a slight backward movement 01' the h(' I
during inhalatiun (fig. 2. 19 ).
When you are sitting, the two most critical moments for relaxcd, e\ ' / .
breathing are at the transitions-one between inbalation and exhalat i Figure 2.19. Abdominal, or

an d th e other between exha la ti on a nd inhalation. Th ese a re the tim abdomino-diaph ragmatic

brcathing. During inhalation, .

when 1he breath is more likc!y tojerk 01' become uneven . But ifyou imagiJ
tha1 your breath is making a circular pattem it is easier lo accompl i ~
Ihe lower abdomen comes
forward and tbe dome of the

Inhalalion \
thesc transitions smoothly. Pretend you are on a Ferris wheel. Going up diaphragm descends. There 1
is little movement or
inh aJing; com ing down is exhaling. The upward excursion smooth . enlargement of the rib cage,
decelerates to zem as you circle up to the top; the downward excursio • Ithough the external inter-
smoot hly accelcrates from zero as you start coming down. At the botton Costal muscles are active
just the opposite happens: a downward deceleration (exhalationl mergt cnough to keep the chest
fm m collapsing inward as
smoothly into an upward acce leration (inhalationJ. ~he dome of the diaphragm
11' you are riding a real ¡'erris whecl with your eyes c10sed you know YOl 15 pulled downward. l he

have renched th e top and bottom 01' its circular movement by feel-the on l, h~ad and neck are pulled
. hghtly to the rcar during
time there is ajerk is when it stops Lo let someone 0lT. And therein lies the nu l Inhala l io n .
114 AfIoA7HMt' UF IIA71M tOG,1 2 I/IlE 1/ 711f1oG 115

[Tech nical note: In an uprrght postura the dia phragrn continuos lo receive ner must be loose so there are no restrictions on the movement of the lower
impulses as its dome starts lo rise during exhalation, but refe r r in g' to its muscu h
abdomen . Begin by taking z-second exhalations and z-socond inhalations.
eomponents as lengthening eeccnlrically during thal lime would be pushing the u
01' lhe term eecentric too far, The phrase eccentric lengthening is customnn Imagine the ellipse, th e exhalation going down and th e inhalation going up,
applicd only lo a muscle's resi stonce lo the force of graoi ty, There is no doubt th one eount each second : down, down, up, up, down, down, up, up . Then create
eccentric lengthening of the diaphragm oecurs during exhalation in a su pi an imuge in your mind in which you are actively pressing in the abdominal
posture and even more obviously in inverted postures (in other words, gravity ai
exhala ti on and the diaphragrn resists as its muscular cornponents lengthen l, bu muscles during exhalation and releasing them forward during inhalation.
arn not using the lerm eecenlric here because the primary cause 01' the UPWit , till riding the ellipse, think "travel down" the ellípse and "push in" the
excursion 01' the diaphragrn during relaxed exhalations in an upright postura is I abd omen fur exhalation, and think "travel up" the ellipse and "ease out"
elasticity of the lungs, not gravily. On the eontrary; under these circumstances grav
actually has the opposite effeet: rather lhan uiding exhalation and resisting inhalati, the abdomen for inhalation: clown and in, up and out, down and in, up and
in upright postures it resists exhalation and aids inhalation. Why? The liver is firn out . Assisting exhalations with the abdominal rnuscles does two things:
adherenl lo the underside 01' the diaphragm (this association is shown artificia it masks any jerks and discontinuities that come Irorn starting up the
dissected and pulled aparl in fig. 2.9 ), and the heart is situated just above t
conl.ract ion ofthe díaphragm, and even more impor1:ant, it keeps alive your
diaphragm. Under these conditions the force of gravity lends lo pull all three (1
liver, the dome al' the diaphragm, and the heart) down al thc sarne time, mildly aid i i intent to br ea t he evenly
inhalation and restricting exhalation rather than the other way around.]

THE JUNC TION OF E X H AL A Tl O N WI TH INHA LATION No br eathing tcc hnique will work u nless you are sitting correctly, as two
As oxhalation in an up righ t posture continuos, the diaphragrn finally relaxr simple expe rimenls will show. First sil. perfec tly straight and breathe evenly,
and loward the end of exhalation ils moto r neurons have la rgcly ceascd ) remaining aware of lhe elliptical na lure of lhe breathing cycle and making
lire. This makes it diflicull to negotiate a smooth transition bctwt>en lhe el sure that you are not creating pauses or jerks at eilher end of the ellipse.
of exhalation and t he beginning of inhalation becau¡;e the motor neurOl Now slump forward slightly and alIow the lumbar lordosis to collapse. Notice
creatc a jerk in the system when lhey start firing again, something Ji three things: inhalalion is more la bored , exhalation starts with a gasp, and
starting a cold car that cranks in fits and coughs before it runs smooth it is impossible to use the abdominal muscles smoothly lo aid exhalation.
I n an average beginning class, two or t hree times 8..<; many students w' 1 Breathing evenly is impossible and meditation is impossible. 'rhe less on is
find it more difficult to avoid a discontinuity at the junction of exhalalü obvious : Don't slump.
and inhalation than at the junclion of inhalation amI exhalation. Now sit un the edge of a chair. Keep the lumbar lordosis maximally
arched but lean forward , making an acute angle between lhe torso and the
ABDOMINAL BREATH ING WITH ACTIV E EXHALATIONS thi ghs. Watch your breathing. 'rhe abdominal muscles now have to push
It i.s very easy to remcdy the jerk at the beginning of inhalation. Allyo l ron gly against a taut abdomen to aid exhalation. Then, at the begiJ1IÚng
have lo do is maintain tension in the abdomen throughout exhalatiOJ of inhalation, ifyou relax your respiration, air rushes inta the airways. Try
especially toward the end, and merge that tension into the cycle ofinhalatiOl rest raining inhalation and notice that active abdominal muscles are
If you are um:crmin of how to do Ihis, Lirst leam to emphasize exhalalion i requi rcd lo prevent lhe sudden inOux of airo The lesson here? Don 't lean
a contrivL'C! siluation. Purse the !ips so lhat only a smal l amount of air cal forward, even with a straight back.
escape, and blow gentIy as if you are blowing up a balloon. Not ice lhat lh
abdominal muscles are now responsible for the exhalation. Keep blowing a
long as you can. Afier you reach your limit notice thal inhalation is passive Th e belIows breath (bhash'ilw ) and Iwpalahhali are both highly energizing
especially at its start. Why? If you have exhaled a lmost to your residua abd omina l brcathing exercises. In their mild form they are excellent for
volume, the chest will spring open passively and the abdominal wa ll wiJ. beginners , because they rcquire only that students be acquainted with
spring forward of its own accord, ut leas t until you have inhaled your even abdominal breathing. The belIows breath imitatcs the movement of
nOJ'mal expiratory reserve volume. Then, as you begin to inhale yom the blacksmith's bellows, and kapalabhat.i requircs sharp exhalations and
nonnal tidal volume, the diaphragm begins its active deseent. Passive inhalations. The chest should not move vcry much in either exercise
Aftcr you have gotten a fccl for exaggeratcd exhalations, try even eVen though the intercostal muscles remain isometrically active.
abdominal breathing while you are sitting in a chair. Again, your c10thin g To do the belIows exercise, sit with your hcad, ne{:k, and tl"Unk straighl
116 ¡ INA "HJM Y OF IIA I IIA 10(;11

an d u nsupported by a wall or the back of a ehair. '1'0 begin , exhale and minute. By contrast, ir you take two breaths per second fOI" kapalabhati,
inhale small puffs of air rapid ly and evenly through your nose, breathi ng you r alveolar ventilation would be 120 breaths per minute times 150 mi per
abdominally and pacing yourself 10 breathe in and out eomfortably about breath, or IH,ooo m i per min ute .
jo times in 15 sceonds. Keep your shoulders re laxed and yo ur chest still. Look ing carefully at th e graph (fig, 2.21), notice not, only that kapalabhati
The hlacksmith's bellows operates by pulling ai r into a collapsiblc charn be¡ ereat es more alveolar ventilatio n than the bellows, but that its funetional
and then blowing it foreibly into apile of glowing coals. In the bellows brea U residua l eapacity is smaller. The reason for this is that each sharp exhala-
the dia phragrn pulls air into the lu ngs and the abdominal muscles force it out tion in kapa la bha ti begins beíore you have inhaled up to the point at which
And just as the blas t of extra oxygen from the air in the blacksmith 's bellow an ordinary tidal inhalation would begin in the bellows, On the other hand,
ki nd lcs additional combustion in the coals, so does the additional oxyg e i kapalabha1.i is nearly always practiced for a shorter period of time than t he
pulled into the lungs by the bellows exercise increase the potenti al f bellows. So even though t he projected alveolar ventilation is 50% greater
eombustion t h roughout the body. in kapalabh a t i, doing t he be llows (01' longer t imes can easily make up the
T'he bellows is an easy and rewarding exercise if it is not overdone. T h difference.
main problem begi nning students encounter is eoordinating the aetions 1
the dia phragm and ab dominal mu scles withou t hr ea th ing t horacica lly (
paradoxicaIly. 'I'he secret is to start with active, even, abdominal breath in
Watch ing yourself in a mirror, breathe evenly, usi ng z-second exhalatiot
and z-secon d inhalations liS breaths per minute). T hen gradually increa
'. ,
your speed, taking i-second exhalations and I-second inhalations ( /
, ,,
breaths per minute), rnaking sure not to move your shou lders 01' hea v , ,,
,, ,,
,r I

your chest up and down. Not ice that the entire body is stable durii ,, ~ , I

inhala tion except for the ab domen (fig. 2.20a). Then take one breath pt
I ,I I

second , then two breaths per second, then three, the n possibly four. Mal inhalalion I

su re you give equal emphasis to both phases of the cyclc. When and if YI 1 ,
lose control, slow down.
Kapalabhati is similar to bcllows breathing except that it consists of 1
s ha rp inward tap with the abdominal muscles, a quick pressing in t h
results in a sharp exhalation. '1'0 inhale, just relax . Inhalation is pa ssi -
and requires only releasing tensi ón in the abdominal wall (fig. 2.20b). '1'
the exercise for one breath per second al first, and gradually increase yo
speed as you get more eonfidence and experience.
Kapalabhati is one 01' the six classic cleansing exercises in hatha yog
and ií is especially effect ive in lowering alveolar carbon dioxide in the 10 \\ [
segmenls of lhe lungs. Like thc bellows, kapalabhati is not only energizi Figure 2.20a. l he bellows breath, Figure 2.20b. Kapalabhati, an
il develops strength and stamina, and il teaches you tu cOOl'dinate ti which is acco mplished by abdominal brea thing exercisc in
abdominal muscles for skilll'u l use in olher exercises such as agni sa l brealhing abdomi nally at the rale which exhalalions are em phasizcd
?f 1--4 brea lhs per second, wilh by sharp ly prcssing in with Ihe
utldiyana bandha, and nauZi, all 01' whieh we'U diseuss in chapler 3· Inhalations and exha lalions abdominal muscles. Inhalal ions
The physiological eorrelales of bellows breathing and kapalabhati diDi eq~ally emphasized and equa lly are mostly passive and Ihe lidal
(lig. 2.21 ). Ir we ru;¡;ume a tidal volume 01'200 mi for the bellows and 300 n I 3l11\1e. lhe exercise mimics a volume is abo ul 30U mI.lhe
blacksmith's be llows, wilh a lidal exhala lions lhrust the hea d. neck,
rOl' kapalabhati, we'JI gel 50 mi 01' alveolar ventilalion per brealh for ti \lolumc of aboul 2011 mI. and chcst slightly forward even as
bcllows and 150 mI of alveolar ventiIation per brealh 1'01" kapaIabhati. At lhey drive Ihe dome of the
mte 01' three breaths per sC<."Ond, yow' a lveolar venti lation 1'01' the bellow relaxcd diaphragm toward Ihe
wuuId be IXO brcaths per minute times ')0 m i pe1' brealh, 01' y,ooo mi pe head and lhe abdominal wall to
lhe rearo

IIH AfI,IHI'\/r(JFIM'I71t1 IO<.A

Which exercise should be learned first? The simplicity and case of In bot h exercises it is important not to maintain any terision in t he lower
moderately paced bellows (two breaths per seeond) argues for concentrati n abdomen during inhalation, for if you do, it wilJ impede the downward
on it first, but ifyou compare a few sccon ds of'kapalabhati with one minut displacement ofthe dome ofthe diaphragm and force a lateral expansion of
of a fast-paced bellows breath, kapalabhati will be the milder exercise a no the chest (thoraco-diaphragmatic breathing), 0 1' even frankly thoracic
less likely to result in hyperventilat.ion. Ei thcr cho ice is fine. After a litt breathing. Th is is impraclical because the chest is a cage-rigid in comparison
experience students naturally adjust the rato, extent, and depth of th e to th e ab dominal wall-and except for speedy thoraco-diaphragmatic an d
respiration so that both exercises are comfortable. thoracic breath ing in aerobic exercise, it ís un reasonable physiologically and
For beginners the most common challenge ofthcse two exercises is to st, unsettling neurologically to breathc by en larging and contracting such an
re laxed and not breathe diaphragmatically, thoracically, or paradoxi cal' enclo uro qu ickly. The most efficient way to breathe rapidly in ha tha yoga
The chest and shoulders should remain still except for the moderatc impa exercises suc h as the bellows breath an d kapalabhati is to create most of the
on th e chest of movernents that originate from the lower abdomen. It motion in the softest tissues-and that means the lower abdomen. This is
easier to accomplish th is with kapala bhat i because al1of the emphasis is . 1 easier lo regu lare in kapala bhati t ha n in t he bcllows because 01' th e extra
the lower abdomen . In th e bellows, if it is difficul t to keep th e chest SI emphasis on exhalation.
the on ly solution is to re turn to even abdominal breathing and start ov, Once you have ma stc red t he techniqu e of qu icken ing the bellows to one
Go slowly enough to rnaintain control, eve n if you have to slow down o breath per seco nd with even ab dominal breathing, it isn't too diflic ult lo
}0-60 breaths per minute. increase th e speed to over 120 breaths per minute. Serio us st udents
can speed up gr adually lo I HO- 2 4 0 breaths per mi nute, and adva nce d
practitioners approach jOO breaths per minu te. It 's fun, an d the faster the
better, But beware of hy perventi lati ng: build your capacity slowly but surely.
6000 . - - - - - - -- - - - - - ---,.- - -- - - - - - - - -
bellows breath kapalabhati TH E LON G V IEW OF LEARNING AND TEACHING
180 breaths/min 120 breaths/m in
5000 1--- - -- - - - - - - + -- - -- - - - - - -- Bad breathing habits are likely lo be insidious, but they are not intractable.
tidal volume 200 mi lidal volume 300 mi Even though th ey go on 24 hour a day year in and year ou t, change is still
funetional residual capacity 2.200 mi funct iona l residual capacity 2,000 r
possíble because the respiratory motions are entirely controllcd by somatic
4000 1--- -- - - - - - - - - + -- - - - - - - - -- motor neurons--you have t he pote nt ial 01' thinking the actions through
minute ventilation 36,000 ml/mln
minute ventilation 36.000 rnl/mi n and controlling the m willfu lly.
alveolar ventilation 9,000 ml/min alveolar ventilation 18,000 ml/rrun
30001-- - - - - - - - -- -+-- - - -- - - - -- - How to proceed? Whether bad breathing habits involve constricted
chest breathing, reversing the movement of the abdomen in pa radoxical
breathing, jerking the breath, 0 1' pausing bctween inhalation and cxhalatíon,
anyone who has such problema should first master abdominal breathing,
exhalation, inhatation, exnalauon, inhalation. Thoraco-diaphragmatic brcathing is not advisable at first; it will be
1/6sec 1/6 sec 1/8sec 3/8 sec especially confusing to chronic chest breathers. 'I'he best solution for
10001- - - - - - - - - - - - -1-- - - - - - - - - -
such st ude nts is a regular of a variety 01' postu rcs in hatha yoga.
and th e corpse posture is the place to start, In the supine position almost
o mi L ..L_ _~ - - - - - - = _ --
eVeryone can learn to breathe in a way that a llows a ha nd 01' sand bag
O 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
on th e ab domen to move smoot hly toward t he ceiling. As soon as problem
time In seconds (sec) breathen; have t hat mastered, t hey should work with a bdominal
breathing whi le sitting u p s traight in a chair, first, just inhaling and
exhaJing natu rally. This means: first, maki ng sure that th lower
Figure 2.21. Bell ow s and kap alabhat i, si '~lU la t~d ~om pa ri sons. The bcllow s . abdomen r ela xes com pletely and protrudes during inhalation . and that
exe rcise is u suall y raste r, but kap alabhat i o rd ma n ly ma ke s use o f a larger tíd al
vo lume an d a d ecreasc d funct iona l residual capaci ty. th e chest does not lift up and out; and second, allowing the abdominal
lllusclcs to rernain passive duri ng ex halat ion , thus permi t t íng the
120 A IV.~H1M}· OF 1M 11M H)(~A 2 . flRlirl71I1f1.'C 121

abdominal walI to sink back in . It may help to make tiny sighs t.o inSUTI to wa rd the 1100r during ex ha lation. T hen , to create t horaco-dia ph ragmat ic
tha t each exhala tion is ent.i rely passive. breat.h ing, hold enough mu sc1e to ne in t he a bdomi nal muscles as you
Mer mastering abdominal breathing with passive exhalations in a • inhale to prevcn t t he lower abdomen from moving anteriorly d\:r in~ that
upright posture, students should learn lo URe the abdominal muscles lo al phase of th e cycle. You can feel what happens next. Since thc tensron JO the
exhalation and cu ltivate even breathing. This will lea d naturally to t h bdomi na l muscles does not a llow t he ab dominal waIl to prot rud e as the
be Jlows breath and kapalabhati. Both of those exercises should I
a . al
central tendon starts to descend, t he diaphragrn can act only at its cost
approached with a sense of exp erimentation, observation, and pla insertion to lift and expand t he rib cage, Thi s draws air into th e lungs and
Rushing yourself or sorneone else into developing new hreathing habits W I I al the sume t ime enlarges the upper abdomen, as opposed lo the lower. As
on ly create anxiety and disrupt rather than benefit the nervous system . in abdominal breathing, the external intercostal muscles rcmain active;
yOu can feel them lengthen actively against the resistance of the lungs'
elasticity as t he chest wings out during inhalation, especialIy toward the
Yogis are not the only ones who know about diaphragmatic breathing (fi end of inha lation. Diap hragma tic broathing in the corpse posture requ ires
z.zce). Martial artists, public speakers, and rnusicians are all united in I more attent ion than a bdominal breathing, and because of this it is usofu l
praise. But even those who practice it have a hard time describing prec ise as a concentration exercise and Ior the deep inhalations and long exhalations
what they do and how thcy do it. This is not surprising-it's a difll ci in 2:1 br eal.hin g.
concept. We'lI approach it here by looking at how diaphragmatic breathir
differs frorn abdom inal and chest breathing and take note of how it fe<' SANDBAG BREATHING

and where you fee l it in the body. In the corpse post ure , sa ndbags of various weigh ts wiIl st.rengthen a nd
Abdominal breathing, or abdomino-diaphragmatic breathing, brint furthcr ed úca te the d ia phragm, intercostal m uscles, and a bdom inal
your attention to t he lower abdomen. If you sit with it for a while • mu scles. As mentioned ear lier, a sandbag weighing 3-1') pounds is best
meditation you will be re laxed, but your attention wil1 be drawn to th for trainin g in ab domi nal breat hing because it ca n be comfor tably
pelvis and the base of the torso. [t. is a good tech nique for beginners, but J pressed tow ard the cei ling with each inhalation, and its falI can be co rn-
the long run it results in a depressed, overly re laxed sensation. T horac fortably restrained du r ing exhalation . The chest is stable , and bot h the
and paradoxical breathing go to the other extreme. They bring you uppcr a nd lower ab domen are t h rust a nteriorly (a long wi th the sandbag)
attention to the upper chest a nd spin you off into realms that are not want by inhalation (fig. 2.22a).
for rneditation: hea dy sensations for thoracic hreathing, and tangents 1 1'0 intensify the exercise and create diaphragmatic breathing, increase
anxiety and emergency for paradoxical breathing, Diaphragmatic breathing the weight of th e sandbag to t he point at wh ich it is a bit awkward lo press
or /hora co-c1iaphragmatic brea/hiT/g, iti lhe perfect compromise. It bring it toward the ceiling. This m uch weight, about 20-30 pounds for a healthy
your at.tention squarely to the middle of the body, to the borderlinl yuung man with good strength, makes it more convenient to breathe
betwecn the chest and lhe abdomen, and from il can balance ane diaphragrnati caIly than abdominaIly. If you adjust the amount and place-
integrate the opposing polarities. men t ofthe weight perfectIy, the tension on your uppcr abdomen will cause
Dia phr af:,'1l1a tic breathing is also the most. natural way to breathe ir th e diaphraf:,'1l1 to fiare the rib cage out from its base. You have t~ play with
everyday life. Whenever you gear up mentally and physically for any activity. the resul t ing sensations and analyze the movements carefully. In this case
the additional concentration is retlected in diaphragmalic breathing. And (fig. 2.22b), if a 25-pound bagoflead shot is placedjust beneath the rib cage,
in the yoga post.urcs that cal! for it, the ef1i:nt to maintain the required tensio inhalat ion lill.s t he chest and uppcr abdomen up and forward, but the
in the abdominal musclcs will bring you more control and awareness of th l' movem cn t of the lower abdomen is checked, at least in comparison with
torso than any other typc of breathing. abd omi nal inhalation shown in fig. 2.22a.
If you inerease the weighi. even more, to }0-50 pounds or so , you wiII
crea te so much tentiion in l.he abdomen that the dome uf the diaphragm
We'lI start with diaphragmatic breat.hing in lhe corpse posture. To begin, is una ble to descend al. aH. In that. evenl the only way you will be able to
lie supine and br eathe abdominally for fivc or six rounds, allowing th e breathe comfortably will be by lifting the upper part of the rib cage and
lower abdomen to relax and protrude during inhalalion and to drop back brea t hing t-horacically (fig. 2.22C). P lacing two 2')-po u nd bags of lead shot
122 ANA7nM l or IIA7/M 1"(X ;A .! 811/ ;'1 ruu«: 12.'

on t he abdomen creates lwo results: it requ ires thal there will be a crocodile posture. First, lo experience abdominal breathing, lie prone, with
substantial increase in the anterior disp lacernent ofthe upper chest during th e feet apart, the elbows flexed, and the arms stretched out in front, Your
inhalation, an d it holds the middle and lower portions ofthe abdomen fixed hands should be pullcd in enough for the forehead to rest on the bony part
in position. of th e wríst. This is the most relaxcd variation of the crocodile (fi g, 2.231-
1'he position of the arms restricts thoracic breathing, the position of the
BREATHING IN THE CROCO DIL E POSTURE chest against the floor restricts diaphragmatic breathing, and the position
If you still have trouble sensing the ways in which abdominal am of the lower abdomen against the floor restricts what we conventionally
diaphragmatic breathing operate and diífer from one another, the distinc thin k of as abdominal breathing. Still, in a modificd form, abdominal
tions will become more clear if you try breathing in two variatio ns of t h. breathing ís what this is, with the hips and lower back rather than the
fron t of the abdomen responding to the rise and Iall of the dome of the
inhalalion diaphragm.
Abdominal breathing in this sleepy, stretched-out crocodile requires a
, more acti ve diaphragm than abdominal breathing in the su pino posi tion .
- -- .. - ' \
\.. -
Why? The weight of the en tir e torso against the floor in the prone position
restrai ns inhalation more t han the weight of the ahdominal organs by
th ernselves in the supine position-it feels something like breathing in the
corpse postura with a lead apron spanning you r entire chest an d ab domen .
Ir you make a nominal effort lo breathe evenly, the diaphragm also has to
Figure 2.22a. Abdominal, o r abd o mino -d iaphrag matic b rea t hing, with a
14-pound sa ndbag. The diaphragm pushes aga inst Ihe abdominal o rga ns, work more strongly lo restrain exhalation. At the end of exhalation, of
ultirn at ely pressing the abdo minal wall and sandbag toward the cc iling. course, it can relax comp letely, just as it does in the corpse posture.
Next, lo experience an unusual form of diaphragmatic breathing, Jie in
inhalalion th e more traditional easy crocodi lo with the elbows flexed and the arrns

al a -l5-90o angle from the torso. The hairline should rest against the
..- ' " "
.., -.
Iorearrns. Adjust the arms so that the lower border of the chest is barely
touching the 0001'. This arches the back and creates a mild backbending
postura (fíg, 2.24) . Now we are entering complcx and unexplored territory.
Th a lower abdomen still cannot prolrude because it is against the floor:
lhoracic breathing is restricted by the extreme arm position even more
Figure 2.22b . Diaphragmatic, or lhoraco-diap hragmatic breathing with a 25-
pound bag of lead shot. lhe extra weig ht is somewhat more difficult lo lift Ihar th an in the previous posture; and the attempt of the diaphragm to descend
the 14-pound sa ndbag, and this creates mo re of a lendency for the rib ca~~ II is chec ked becausc thc base of the rib cage and upper abdomen is still held
be en larged fro m its base than for the weight to be pu shed towa rd the ceilin g. in positi on. The only parts of the hody that appcar to yield for inhalation



.. '
-.L .
rigure 2.22c. Thoracic breathing, as required by "O pounds of weighl placcd
on the abdomen and lower border of Ihe chest, After a modesl downward Figure 2.23. A specialized Iype of abdominal b..eathing crealed by a stretched-
excursión of the dome of the dia ph ..agm (inha lation), its muscle fihe rs remain n~t crocod ile po t u r e, lhe floor cannol yield lo Ihe d escpnd ing dome of lhe
in a slate of iso metric co nl..action and Ihe brunt o f inh alatio n mus l be bo rne dlaph..agm during inha lalion, so lhe lowe r back and hips are lifted by defaull.
by lhe externa l inte..coslals.
2 HHf:H1WI,'C 125


a1'C the 10wCl' back and hips (fig. 2.24), just as in the stretched crocodiJ
Isolated comparisons 01' the dashod superimpositions for inhalations Ir you examine your body carefully when you are breathing d íaphrag-
these two postures is not helpíul to our analysis, however, because ti rnatically in the easy crocodile (Iig. 2.24), the cobra (fig. 2.10), 01' the
expcrience 01' breathing in thcm is compJetely different. Although it is 1" diaphragmatic rear lift (fig, 2.111, you will notice that inhalation raises your
reflected in the photographs, inhalation in the beginners crocodile creat posture up and back, and that exhalation lowers it down and forward. This
a characteristic tension at the base 01'the rib cage which is absent in 1 e principie also holds true when you are standing, sitting straight, 01' even
stretched-out posture, For that reason we can-indeed we must--elas. lounf.,>lng in a soft chair. During inhalation in all such postures the head
breathing in the beginner's crocodile as thoraco-diaphragmatic breathii rnoves back, and during exhalation it comes forward. During inhalation the
cervicallordos;.o; (the forward arch in the neck) decreases, thus raising the
head: during exhalation it increases, lowering the head. The shoulders
'1'0 experience the centcr-of-the-trunk sensation that characteriz move back during inhalation and forward during exhalation. The thoracic
diaphragmatic breathing in sitting postures, sit upright in a chair and fi hyphos;s (the posterior convexity in the chest) decreascs during inhalation
review abdominal breathing as a hasis 1'01' cornparison. Then to brca t, and increases during exhalation. Final1y, if you are sitting straight the
diaphragmatícally, inhale gently while holding just enough tcnsion in ti lumbar lordosis increases during inhalation and deereases during exhalation.
abdominal muscles to make sure that the lower abdomen is not displac
anteriorly during inhalation. 'I'hcrc is a sense 01'enIargement in the 10 \'0
part 01' the chest and a Ieeling 01' expansion in tho upper part 01' t
abdomen just bcJow the sternum. The lateral excursion 01' the rib cage (ro
2.25a) is more pronounccd than the anterior movement (fig. 2.25b), but YI 1
may have to take a few slow, deep inhalations to confirm this. . ,,
AH 01' these observations wiII be lost on chest breathers bccause ti

· · I

difference between the miId lower abdominal tension that crean

··, ,··

diaphragmatic breathing and the frank rigidity 01' the entire abdomi n
walJ that is associated with constricted thoracic breathing is far loo suht
·· .·
inhalation ~
1'01' them to feel and comprehend. They will get mixed up every time
discussed earlier, anyone who has the habit 01' chronic chest breathir


should not try to do thoraco-diaphragmatic breathing until they ha

beco me thoroughly habituated to abdominal breathing. Their Iirst g , I
rnust be lo break the habit 01'constricted chest breathing forever. I




Figure 2.25a. Diaphragmalic, Figure 2.25b. Diaphragmalic

or lhoraco-diaphragmatie breathing from the side,
Figure 2.24. Objectively this beginner's crocodile posture again appears lo lifl breathmg, from a fronl iIIuslrating the forward
the \ower back and hips as in abdomino-diaphragmalic hreathing, but appear- view, Holding moderale movemenl of the chest
ances can be deceiving. The subjeelive red of lhe poslure is lhal lhe mild baek- Icnsion in the abdomen when rnoderale lensíon is
bending posilion severely restricts lifling of lhe lower back; more emphasis is dictales lhal the diaphragm held in lhe abdominal
feH al the base of the rib cage. For lhal reason. and because the exlreme ann will cantilever lhe base of muscles during inhalalion.
position also reslricls lhorade brcalhing. this poslure is admirably slliled for lhe rib cage oul and up (lhe
lraining in thoraco-diaphragmalic breathing. "bllcket-handle" analogyl.
12(, A.'\'A mM I o r /I/n/IA HK;,1 2 . llRfitll7l11\'(i 127


The movernents are su btle, but if you purposely try to make thern in Lht
opposite direction, you will see inst antly that they are contrary lo th e norm al Many of the principies underlying even abdominal breathing apply to
pattern. even diaphragmatic breathing as we ll. Make sure there are no jerks in
An understanding of these principies is of practical value to rneditat ors your brea t h . This is more difficult in diaphragmatic breathing than it is
because they can t.ake advantage of the slight pos t ural changos cause: in abd om in al breathing becau se t he process is more complex and you
by breathing to adjust and improve their si tting postures, Try it . Si , ar e consta nt ly monitoring the tension in your abdomen. ntil you get
comfortably on the edge of a st r aight chair and breathe evenly anr accustomed to doing this, it may create s light disruptions during
diaphragmatically in a cycle of 4-ó seconds for oach round of inhalat ioi inhal ations.
and exhalaban. Resolve not to make noticeable movernents for the nex Be careful that you are not creating a pause at th e end of inhalation.
five minutes. Now, with each inhalation lift your posture, allowing th 'I'his is less of a prohlem in diaphragmatic breathing than it is in abdominal
inhalation to pull th e head back, flatten the thoracic kyphosis, an brcathing beca use the additional tensi ón in the abdomen (as well as the
increase t hc lu mba r lordosis. These adjustments shou ld bc so s light tl u focus al' mental attention at the junction of the chest and abdomen) keeps
they are barely perce pt ible, even to the practitioncr, Press the abdome the diap hragm in a state of tensi ón well into exhalation. Be even more
in actively during cach exhalation so as not to Jose ground. Pretend ths watchful that you are not creating a pause al the end of exhalation. As with
the breath is acting like a ratcheting mec hanism on a pu lley t ha t abdominal breathing, it is important to assist exhalation with the abdominal
lifting a weight. With each inhalation you gain a single cog, and d u riu muscles, causing that part 01' the cycle to flow smoot hly and naturally into
exhalation the ratchet prevents the weight from faJling. You can al - th e inhalation. As inhalation proceeds, however, there is an important
imagine that the breath is a thread which lifts th e posture du rin difference between abdominal and diaphragrnatic brcathing: during
inhalation a nd then ho lds it from falling during exhalatio n. The resolv abdom inal breathing, the abdominal mu scles Iacilitate even breathing only
not to move in this exercise is critical, so good concentration is requ ire - at th e beginni ng 01' inhalation, but during diaphragmatic breathing, they
If you make adjustments that are externaJly visib le, the body accepts t i, remain active throughou t inhalation so that their isometric tensi ón can
habit of moving, and the posture deteriorates when cuncentration lap ses force the diaph ragm tu spread its costal attachrnent laterally and enlarge
Next check the effects 01' diaphragmatic breathing when you a l the rib cage.
slouched. You will notic e the sam e problems you encountered with abd ornin Breathe through your nose, and try not 1.0 create noise . Il' your breath-
breathing in a slouched posture: labored inhalatiuns, BJ1 inability to su ing is noisy, you may have to work with cleansing, diet, allergies, and
exhalations without gasping, and t he difficulty of using the abdomi . breath ing exercises to solve the problem, but this is essential. Noisy
muscles 1.0 aid exhalation. 'I'he ent ire torso is lifted up and back with cal breaLhing will distract your mind as long as it lasts.
breath, but each exhalation drop s il forward . You can see an ext reme examl· Observe in your mind's eye th e ellipLical nature of th e breathing cycle.
ofth is ifyou dip your head forwa rd while you are sIouched . Each inh alatil Smoothly dccelerate your rate of inhalation and mcrge it into exhala t iun
roUs th e body up , and each exha lation rolls i1. down . exactly as you would round ofI' an eIJipse al lh c top 01' a chalkbuard.
Now t.ry :o; tling pcrfed:ly st ra ight (but without a rching your torso forwat 1 Smooth ly accelerate your exhalation under th e control of your abdominal
from lh e hips l-Notice that the postu re itself defines diaphragmatic breathin musdes as you draw the chalk down the ellipse; smoothly decelerate your
Unless you a re too l1abby. th e abdomen is held taut enough by th e post.u o exhalation and merge i1. ¡nto lh e inhalation as you ca rry your mark a rou nd
tu make abdominal breathing inconvenient. You ca n play with the edges the bottom of the ellipse.
this. Hold the posture Iess rigorously, and you will see that you begin . UntiI you have maslered even breathing don't lry to len gihen your
br ea1.he a bdo minalIy. Sit straight, an d th e tuut abdomen will force you mhalalions and exhalations. A 2-second inh alation and a 2-second inh alation
breathe diaphragmati cally. Ca n-ying th is to a n e>.:t reme, if you ben is fine, ur a littIe faster or slowel'. Th e longe r you try lo make the cycle, th e
forward from the hip s marked ly wh ile maint.aining a prom inent lumrn more difficult it is to make it even. So be completely natural at first with-
lordosis , th e a bdomen gets w tuut that inhalatinn bL'Comes vcry labariou. out thinking oftrying to accomplish anylhing.
You wil! th en eit her have to res ort to chest breathing 0\' make cxcess ive eflbl Afier several months of practice you ca n slowly work up to mak ing your
tu bt'calhe diaphragmaticaIly breat hs longe", so long as you are still not jerking, pausing, ur making
noise. If you BJ'e taking fewer th an six brcaths per minute, you will be
121\ AI\ATOMI IJFIf,.1nlA lOCA

han ds stretched overhead, usually al the end of a class 01' at the end of a
adding a thoracic component to diaphragmatic brealhing, which mear
series of sun salutations. Most instructors will suggest filling the lungs
that you are activating the external intercostal musc!es concentricaU
from beluw-expanding the lower, then the middle, and finally the upper
especially toward the end of inhalation. You will also be pressing m or
insistently with the abdominal muscles to lengthen the exhalation. And parts 01' the lungs.
A eommon and less extreme variation uf the complete breath is lo simply
you carry this to un extreme, going slowly, you will final1y approach breathir
inhale and exhale your inspiratory capacity instead of'your vital capacity, and
your vital capacity with each cycle of exhalation and inhalation. This is ti
unless the instructor specificaIly asks you lo exhale as much as you poss íbly
complete breath, our next topic .
can before starting the complete breath, inhaling and exhaling the inspiratory
THE COMPLETE BREATH cnpacity is what most people will do naturally
The complete breath is one of the sirnplest and yet most rowarding of , [Technical note: In addition to the preven anti-aging effects 01" a calorie-restricted
the yoga breathing exerciscs. '1'0 begin, breathe in and out a few tim and high-nutrition diet in experimental anirnals, the ability to quickly inhale a
commodiolls vital capacity appears to be one of the most reliable predictors of
normally and then exhale as much as possible, all the way down lo Y 0 1 longevity in humans. Whclher this argues for the principie of trying lo increase
residual volume. Then for the complete breath inhale as much as poss ibl your inspiratory and vital capacity is not so certain, but it certainly can't hurt any-
which will he your vital capacity (fig, 2.261. Continúe by exhaling and inhalii one who is in good cnough health to do the postures. In chapter 3. we'Il concentrate
on exercises that focus on exhalation rather than inhalalion-increasing your vital
your vital capacily as many times as you want. capacity by developing the ability to exhale your full expiratory reserve volume and
This is a lot of vcntilation even if you breathe slowly. If you inhale al rninirnize your residual volume.]
exhale your vital capacity three times in one minute, your minute venti
tion will be 14,.10 0 mi per minute (4,800 rnl per breath times three breat
per minute), and your alveolar ventilation will be 13,Y50 mi per minu
(4,650 mi times 3 breaths per minute). After just six such breaths y I mi
blood gases will have shifted perceptibly-a!"terial oxygen will have movc ':1 five normal breaths ,
beginning wilh an
Irorn perhaps 100 mm Hg to 120 mm Hg and arterial carbon dioxide fro 1 5000 exhalation and ending
perhaps 46 mm Hg to 35 mm Hg (fig. 2.27). For this reason the comp k mi with an inhalation;
alveolar ventüation is
breath is both cleansing and energizing, but if you do it slowly and eve
1 4000
4,200 ml/min; b100d
oxygen leve! is 100
it will also produce a sense of calm and stability, e mi
mm Hg; blood carbon
You can practica the complete breath when you are sitting, standing, r ~ dioxide is 46 mm Hg
Iying down, but it is most commonly done in a supine position with t E
E 3000
<n mi
> 2000
iñ mI
\ 1000

·,,, I
mI three complete breaths , alveolar venJilation is 13950
ml/min; estimaled final blood oxygen is 125 mm 'Hg;
estirnated final blood carbon dioxide is 35 mm Hg
inhalatian - - --.-.;'
,, Oml
Figure 1..2(,. The complete
breath, or inhalalion and
· I
O 10 20 ~ ~ ~ ro ro 00 00

exhalation of lhe vilal

eapadty. The halftone
I time in seconds (sec)

shows a profile of lhe

h . 2.27 . S·mlUlalmns
' o f three compl -te breaths (in this ease inhaling and
fullest pussible exhalation. ~x ahng lhe vilal eapacity) following an inilial exhalation of the expiralury
and Ihe dolted oulline I~rve volume. Even Ihough Ihe subject is only taking three brcalhs per
shuws lhe fullesl possible 1l1~~~le. b~ealhing in imd uul lhe full vital eapacity a few times is expeelcd lu
subscquenl inhalalion . edly mercase blood oxygen and deerease blood earbon dioxide.
IJO ANA "lnlll' Uf'IIA"llIA InCA
2 IIUfJrl7l¡'\~; 1.\1


The following version of this exercise is the one ordinarily taught in
One uf the best breathing exercises for calming the nervous system S hatha yoga classes even though it is more elaborate and demanding 01'
alternate nostril breathing, 01' nadi shodanham . This is a concentrat i n concent ra tion than the previous exercises, sing the same hand mudra as
as we ll as a hreathing exercise, and it is possibly the single most im p, . for the seeond exercise, exhale through the left nostril and inhale through
tant preparation for meditation in hatha yoga. There are dozens rf the right three hreaths, then exhale through thc right and inhale through
variations to suit difTering needs, ahi lities, and temperaments. At r e the left three more breaths. Then breathe threc breaths evenly with both
ex treme. mental patients, flighty 01' hyperactive chi ldren, 01' anyone \\ o no::;trils open. Ne},.'Í, exhale through the right and inhale through the lefl.
has difficuJty cuncentrating can simply sit up straight, rest their el b, 's th ree times, then exhale through tho left and inhale through the right
on a desk, press the right nostri l shut with the right index fínger, d three times, and again take three even breaths with both nostrils open.
exhale and inhale three times. Thon they can press the left nostril ~" .it That's 18 breaths. Repeat this three times, for 54 breaths total. As before,
with the lefl. index finger and again exhale and inhale three times. T is your concentration will beon postura, abdominal 01' diaphragmatic breathing,
simple exercise can be repeated for 5 minutes at a pace of 1- to z-seo d and, above all, on even breatbing.lfyou can avoid sacrifícing even breathing,
exhalatiuns and 1- to z-second inhalations ( 15-30 breaths per mim e) you can slow down 10 J-second exhalations and j-seccnd inhalations, 01' ten
using abdominal breathing, It trains concentration because it req u ~ breaths per minute.
sitting straight, cuunting the breaths, switching nostrils at the prr r If you do this practico threo times a day, it centers the attention and calms
rnornent, and, most important of all, breathing evenly with no n( e, the mind, and it is lhcrefore ideal for anyone who wishes to remain balanced
jerks, 01' pauses. and focused . For a more advanccd practice, studonts will gradually slow
A slightly more cumplex versi ón of alternate nostril breathing b 18 down the pace ofbreathing until they are fina\ly taking zo-second exhalations
with making the classicall1l11dro (gesture) with the right hand, curling le and zo-second inhalations. ltimalely they will practice pranayama, 01'
index and middle fingers in toward the palm. Closing the right nostril th breath retent ion (which , as will be discussed shortly, should never be under-
the t humb, ex ha le and inhale once through the left nostril (fig. 2._ 1). taken exeept under the supervision of a competent instructor>.
Then, closing the lefl. nostril with the ring (fourth) finger (fig. 2.28b) ex. le
and inhale once through the right nostril. Go back and forth like that I 5 A TRADITIONAL WARNING
min utes. Breathe abdominally 01' diaphragmatically as your abi l es Caut ions to be judicious and respeetfuJ of breathing exercises abound in the
permit. literatllre on hatha yoga. And it does indeed seem from anecdotal reports of
explorers in this field that the rhythm and record of our respiration
resonates throughout the body. It sceffiS to accentllate whatever is in lhe
~ind, whether it be benevolence 01' malevolence. harmony 01' disharmony,
:u- tue 01' vice. On the negative side, experienced teachers rcport that quirk-
mess of any sort gets accentuated in students wbo go too faT. It might be
an. abusive streak, laughing inappropriately, speaking rudely, nightiness,
' R'Igh t to left phy::;ical imbalances also become
tWltchines's, 01' nervous t ICS.
eX~gerated. Unfortunately, novices ofien c10se their ears to wW'nings:
havIng bccome addicted to their practice, lhcy will not be denied.
Competent teacheTs of hatha yoga will be watchful of these simple matters
;d waTY of tutoring refractory stlldents. Even the beginning exercises
Isrussl>d in thi s chapler should be treatcd with re pect.
Apart from psychoIogical concerns, thl! special physiological hazards
ofbr th ' .. .
ea lI1gexerclses IS that they can cause problems without rriving .
trad ' . . ' . .,' us
Jet i It lOnal warnmg us doing s.o me l.h ing harmful. In ath-
rigure 2.28a. Alternate nostril . Figure 2.28b. Altc rn at c nostril
breathing, c10sing the righl nostnl . cs, the practlce of asana, expenrnents Wlth dlet, 01' just tinkcring
b reat hing, c10sing the left nostril wil
with Ihe right thum b . Ihl' right Cour th fingt'r. wllh any object in lhe physical world, we depcnd on OUT senses lo tell
IJ2 AI\A"H)MI O/-1M/l/A !"lX,A
e. R/l EAn/l/\'C 13.\
us t hat we are exceeding our capacity or doing sorncthing inadvisah
But breathing exereises are dífferent., In that realm we are dealing wi 1
an empowered thoraclc inhalation
phenomena that our senscs, or at least ou r untutored senses, are oft n
unable to pick up, even though they can sti ll affect the body. A el
beca use of this, advanced exe rcises should be u ndertaken on ly by t hr e
who are adequately prepared. Given such preparatinn, and given tl 'L
une is enjoying a balanced life uf cheerful t hough t s, positivo feeli n ;,
an d productivo actions, the yoga breathing exercises have the potent 11
for producing more powerful and positive benefits than any other pract 'e
in hatha yoga. Again, that's a big claim, but experienced yoga instruct 's
wiII agree.

" l/i.i/f n :yu:d IAr/1 I/' Ih~ l/.1c o/rcYII)nlt"/i/I, /I//Io,? h a¡jt'//Iu/
Ik'al IZ/I n rr/níJ/i//I-t''IhÚty' e.1Jud/n/'"//1 I~ ml/fileN 'r 1"1 mny
chesl is
k ,/lfl,J.1eJ I /II./J Ik //10.1.1 o/~ &'od ~/dl/luJ aú' dÚI{)// rlfll expanded
lo ils near
/'I!/ir &/~? 1- lAe.1I.- mlnl/tn.rl/ck j k~M¿'I;.? l u '/! d'l7/.//r·d¡J"IJ//I maximum
11, /.1 / l/' 1!'//;Y'(',I'jÍ'Ijhr h-cal¿úlf/ rtf/O/./l . .,

- J ohn Mayow, in Tr actatus Quinq/le (1674), quo tcd fro m

P roctor's A History uf Breathing Physio logy, p. 162.

--... but taut

Figure 2 29 E ' .
1) The d' a. _ m puw~red thoracrc b reat h ing: ính alatt o n,
Ihereb orn e of I~e diaphragm re ísts being p ul/ed lo ward the head and
2) Th YSUpporls ínhalation indi reclly. '
3) The wa ll is relaxed bu l ta ut ,
4) lh e ~x le.rna l mt ercostal ~uscles ac tive ly Iifl the chest up and out,
S) n nb ca ge expa nds lo its near m áximu m.
le mental sta te is celc bratory.
2 . lil<E-I17I1/\'(j 1.1<;
1,14 Ar.", '/ OM1 'OFIfAT//r1 l()("l

a constricted thoracic inhalation a paradoxical inhalation

chest is expanded chest

and litted, but within expanded
the confines 01 maximally
"shallow breathing "

abdom inal abdominal

wall held wall rs
rigidly pulledin
and up

Figure 2,29b. Constrictcd thoradc breat~ing: in~alation. Figure 2.29c. Paradoxical breathing: inhalation.
1) The diaphragm is relaxed an? ~Imost irnmoblle. 1) The diaphragm is complelely relaxed and Iifted by the chest,
2) The abdominal wall is he Id ng,dly.. . 2) The abdominal wall is pulled in and up passively
3) The external intercostal muscles actively lift the chest up and out. 3) Th c e.xtemal intercosta l muscles a tively lift the ches t up and out.
4) The rib cage cxpands lo within se~f-imposed a nd constricted limits. 4) The rib cage expands maxirnally,
5) The mental state can hecunte anxrous, 5) Overdone, the mental state can become anxious and panicky.
.1, BRE4TI/ING 1.' 7
\J6 ANATOM I' 01' IIA111J1 10CI1

a dlaphragmatic (thoraco-diaphragmatic) inhalation

an abdominal (abdomino-dlaphragmatic) inhalation

inlereostal muse s
are held in a gel e
state 01 isometr
eontraetion to k. p
the chest Irom
collapsing ínwat
during inhalatior

upper abdominal
:=> wall is pressed
out along wilh
the lower bordar
01 the rib cage
(movement is

exagg erated)

low er abdominal
abdomin al 1I wall is held some-
is relaxed al 1 whal taut , either
pushed torw rd by a) muscular
by !he actior 01 resistanee. or
me diaph ra ~ n b) by silting or
standing straiqht,
or el by both in

Figure 2.29d. Abdominal (abdomino-diaphragmatic) breathing: inhalation.

~:g~:e 2..2 ge. Diaphragmatic (thorac~-diaphragmatic)breathing: inhalation.
2) The d'ap hr~gm pres~es do~n against the abdominal organs.
1) The dome of the diaphragm moves down in a rairly simple piston-Iike ac t« n,
3) lhe ?bdomrnal wall is relal~vel~ ta ut, in part !rom muscular activity.
2) The lower abdominal wall ls relaxed and pushed forward by the diaphrag n 4) 1 e I ~lerco st a l muscles rnaintam the overall integrity of the chest wall
3) The intercos tal musdes aclively hold the chest wall in a stable position. S) The rib cage is flared at its base by the costal altachment of the diaph;ag
4) The rib cage re rnains about the same size in all parts of the breathing cydt he men ta l state ís dear and at tentive, and is focused on Ihe mid-Iorso. m .
5) The ment al state ¡s ralaxed an d may ge t sleepy,
13 R Al\'lrtDMl OI '///1T1IA HIGA


".~I'I/ .1a~YL 1'111'171'1.1 ' C-..'I O YÜ/1'1 fl d ;' .10&.1' ~51Jln/l, . d ; ana o/
l/l(. I'~ a j jocialt"aI IPIl/ / ('/&r .1tÚJI'I. s1?l't / Ja r a a lJo ;;'/11'/21.1
d io I0tue4 Ilaal& r. /tcmotlJ ~~JIr//l> cú '(# /r/lo/,Y' JyJÉE//I¡ a"td
'E/tn'w'iMlú'" 151:J1u /I- ~7n / l'I.&- l'!.r,o-r-/JEJ I/ÍLJ O/N tJ I/ÍI" //I~jl
¿;I't~'c/al. {lLIaI t/iú/tt' /.J {le/Y Jk H"t- il //Iajl ¡;./tapn/l/'l'/
akll'tC. N

- Sri Swami Rama, in Exercise Witholl/ Mouement., p. :;3.

Asure way to develop what yogis call inner strength is to tone the abdominal
regi ón. If energy in the arms and shoulders is weak, a strong abdomen can
give you an extra edge, but if the abdomen is weak, look out, because even
the strongost arms and shoulders are likely to fail you . One of the most
memora ble hoxing rnatches of the century (Muhamrnad Ali vs. George
Forema n, DcL 30, 1974) is a perfect example. Ali knew he had lost his edge
for dancing around the ring "like a buttorfly," and that he probably couldn 't
win un less he adopted uneonvcntional tactics. Suspecting that Foreman
would not have the stamina Ior a long bout, Ali had prepared a stcc ly but
resili ent belly with thousands of repetitions of sit-ups and other abdominal
exerci ses. He called on this secret strength early in the match , repeatedly
going to the ropes and letting his opponcnt punch himself to exhaustion.
Reality hit in the eighth round-with a few precise strokes AH brought
Forema n down for the count.
Thc structural foundation for abdorninopelvic st rengt h and energy (th is
is obviou sly a literary rather than a scientific use of the term "encrgy,"
something Iike saying sorneone has "a lot of pep," or "a 101 of guts") is the
pelvis and abdomen, a complcx region whose archilecture can be under-
slood most easily by studyíng two simple and familiar exerciscs: crunches
an d si l-u ps. 'I hen we'Jl be able lo make more sense ofth general design of
the abdominopelvic regi ón in relation lo the chest and lower extremities.
This in t ur n will cnable us to discuss leglifts , sit-ups, the boat postures, and
the peacoc k. These sccmingly diverse exercises not only strengthen lhe
torso, they st irnulate abdominal energy by using t he abdomen as a fulcr'um
140 A¡\A /VMt O¡'-/1/I7HA tD(;,1
i . A /II )(J.I /I,\ ()PU .·/e /~\"fROSES 141
for manipu lating la rge segmsnts of the body in re lation lo one another il
~~~~tr .
In the second half of the chapter we'll shif], our attention to the anatomica, To un dersta nd how crunchas, sit-ups, and leglifts operate mechanicalIy, as
perineum and discuss practices that work with t ha t region ~nd with. th . well as to lay tho groundwOl'k for discussing standing, backward bending,
abdomen and pelvis in relativo isolat íon, in contrast 1.0 the abdommal exercises forwar'd bending, twisting, and sittíng postures in la ter chaplers, we must
whieh demand use of t he body as a whole, The practices in the second half (1 look al the pelvis and its re lationships with the spine and thighs in detail.
the chapter inelude asluoini mudra, mula bandha, agni sara: /l~di.l:a fll THE HIP BONE S AND SAC RU M : TH E PE L VIC B OW L
bandha, and nauli hriya. Last, we'lI take a criticallook at contraindication
and benefits. We'I1 first examine the pelvic bouil, whieh is formed from the eombination
of th e two peloic bolles (the hip bones¡ and the sacrum-lhe lowest 01' the
CRUNCHES ANO SIT-UPS four main segments of the spine. 'I'ho pelvic bones have two roles: one is to
If you asked the instructor at your local healt h elu b to show you the be link th e vertebral column with the th ighs, legs, and feet; the otber is to
alxlominal exercise, you would probably be told to do crunches. You would.' define (in eom bina t ion with the sacrum) the base of the torso and provide
down supine, draw the feet in, bend the knees, interlock the finge rs ~hn a skel etal framework for the pclvic cavity and the organs of elimination
and reproduct ion.
the head, and then pu l! the upper half of your body into a fou r th of a sit-u
just enough to lift your shoulders weU off the 1100r. Then you would 10W t In th e fetu s eaeh hip bono is made up of three segments: the ilium, the
yourself bac k down and repeat the movement s as many limes as you wa i ischium , a nd the pubis. We ofien speak of thcm individually, but in adu lts
T his is not abad exercise, lt strengthens th e abdominal muscles and stretcb they a re fused together ioto one piece, with one hip bone on each side. To
the back in one of the safest possible positions. Sit-ups are a difTerent rnat t. the rea r; t he iliac segments of the pelvic bonos form right and left sacroiliac
joints wit h t he sacrum (fi g. }.2-4).
In high school gym classes from years gone by, students used t:o L'Oun.l ti
number of rapid-fire sit-ups (jerk-ups, actually) they cou ld do 10 a rrunu To und ers tand the lhrce-dimensional architectw'e of the pelvic bowl,
with the knces extended and the hands interlockcd behind the neck. If YI .1 there is no substitute for palpating its most prominent landmarks. You can
are strong and under eighteen this prohably won't hurt you, but if you start by feel in g the crests of the ilium on eaeh side at your waistline. Then
older and have a history of back problcms it is likely to make them wo~' locate th e isch ial fuberosities (thc "sitting bonos") behind and be low; these
The muscles responsible for cnmches and sit-ups include both abdomu I are the protu hcran ces upon which your weight rests whon you sil on a bicycle
seat or on lhe edge of a hard chai r.
museles and hip flexors . 'rhe abdominal mUtieles encircle the abdomen ti el
extend [mm the chest to the pelvis. The hip f1exors, which are local~.d~ p 1'0 cont in ue YOur exploration, locate lhe two pubic lxmes in [ront, just
in the pelvis (and thus hidden from view ), flex the temu,. at the hl~ J OI above lh e ge nitals. 'Ihey join one another at lhe pubic symphysis, a fibl'O-
Tbey inelude the iliac/ls amI psoas musclc.c; (or the iliopsoas, conslden ~ ~artilaginous joint which keeps the two sides of the pelvis locked logelher
the two of them logether as a team). They run from the pelvis lo the up r r In fronl (figs. 1.12 and 3.2-4); their romi (ramus means "b ra nch" ) conocet

part of the femur in the case of tbe iliaeus, and from lhe lumbar spine to t le wilh t he ilia and ischia on each sirle (figs. .1,2-4). First trace the upper margin
femur in the ca..«e of the ptiOélS ([jgs. 2.R, 3.7, and R.13). uf e~ch pubic bone laterally, \Vhat you are fceling are the superior pubic
Crunches are relatively safe because the knees are bent and the lum L r rana , bony projections that extend into the groin toward the ilium on eaeh
region is rounded posterior!y (lo the rear). nder thes~.cireumstanc~s, t . ~ IliOP50a .
abdominal muscles pull you up and forward, and the Ihopsoas mu~cles s muscles (hlp nexors) acl as synergists lo braco !he pelvis
that movement as syoergists by bracing the ilia and the lumb8l' regIon (1 :.
) By ontrasl if you do sit-ups with the knees straight, the psoas m
~ .l . C , cd .. t ' Y
~Ics first pulI the lumbar spine into a more fully arch posltlon an enOl
(lo lhe frunt), anrl lhen they pulI lh torso up und fonvard .lfyou have ba It
pl·O blems, I't'IS t/lis. initial puU 00 fhe lumbar arch that can create prohlerr
. eFigure 31
rUnen exe rcise,
Later in this chapter (lig. 3 .21U-b) we'U see severa l ways to approaeh Slt-I ) safe/y lifting up
exerciscs more saICl): iIlld fOrWard
with benl knees.
abdominal muse/es aet as agonists (prime movers)
1.12 ,1.\'.-170.111 (JJ. Il.H7ft1 )()(itl
.l . tl/ilH1.l llll O/ 'N. I / ( /'.\""U.-JS"\· 1.1.1

side, An inch or SO lateral lo the pubic symphysis, these projections a more mobile than those for men in comparable eondition. VVe')) cxplain the
overlain by the iliaeus and psoas mu ..eles passing out of the pelvis lo th . nature of the complex movernents that are possible at the sacroiliac joint
combined insertion on the front of tho femur. And beyond the softness f in chapter 6.
these rnuscles, the superior pubic rami connect with the ilia, which a Anatomical differences account for sorne of the variations in sacroiliac
again easily palpable. mobility between men and women, along with the female hormones estrogen,
Next 100'8te the inferior pubic rami, which connect to the isehia (figs . 3.2- progcsterone, and relaxin. The latter all becorno especialIy important in the
'1'0 find them, stand with your feot wide apart and locate the bonos t 11 t last month 01' pregnancy for loosening up the sacrciliac joints, along with
extend from the base of the pubic regio n inferiorly, laterally, and posterior (. the pubic connections in front, AlI must yield lo permit the passage of tho
They form a deep upside-down V. About halfway back each inferior pu e baby through the birth canal.
ramus mergcs into the next cornponent of the hip bone, the ischium. J s Internally, the sacroiliac joints sorne times become Gnllylosed. which
hard lo locate the lateral border of the inferior pubic ramus because I .e means they havo formed a partial or complete bony union. Older men are
tendons ofthe adductor muscles (figs . 2.M, 3.8--9,and 8.13-14)are in the w y. particularly apt lo develop this condition, and once it begins, their sacroiliac
And in the male it is also difficult to palpate the inside, or medial, bol ' -r components can slip relativo lo one another only wíth considerahle difliculty
of the inferior pubic rami because the penis is rooted in the converg g and unpleasantness, Such slippage usually happens as a result of a fall, but
arrns of the V. Jn the female the medial borders of these bones are m 'e any impact that disturbs the partially locked relationshíp bel wecn the two
accessible. In either case, following them posteriorly will finally lead yot o sides of the joint will traumatiza the opposing surfaces and probably cause
the isehial tuberosities. extreme pain. Sacroiliac sprain« (tears) al' the binding ligaments are yet
Heturning to the ilium, which continues laterally from each su pe: Ir another problem: in this case they are a comrnon cause of lower back pain.
pubic ramus, you will find a prominent bony point, the anterior super Ir
iliac spine, and just below this protuberance, the less obvious anterior in ft I Ir
iliac spine (figs. 3.2-4). Ifyour abdomen is not in the way, you will b le
erest of !he righl ilium
aware ofthe right and left anterior superior iliac spines when you lie pr le
on a hard surface. From these landmarks, trace the crests of the ilia latei ly top bordar of sacrurn (males
along the waistline. If you are slender and not heavily muscled, you m wi!h intervertebral disk
~---between L5 and the saerum
poke your thumb inside the iliac crest and feel the top half inch or so 01' le
inside ofthe pelvic bowl from which the iJiacus muscle originates. Ther as anterior
you follow the crest ofthe ilium around to the back, you wilJ come lo a . Id iliae
mass of muscle, the erector spinae, below which the ilium articulates .h spme

the sacrum,
iliae spine
The two pelvic bones connect with the rest ofthe torso through the sa cr m
at the two sa.croiliac joinls (figs. 3.2-4), which are formed on each sid of left aeetabulum
......... (socket for hip
lhe sacrum at thejunction oftwo rough but matching surtaces (figs. J.j 1d joint)
6.2)-the lateral surfaee ofthe sacrum and the medial surface ofthe p< l ic
left superior
bone. Even though these are movable synovial joints whose mating su rto es pubie ramus
ri9hl ischral tuberosily
are bathed in synovial fluid, and even though their matching L-sh l ~ (Slltll"lg bone)-- ~q,:,¡,...
______ left inferior
groove-and-rail arehitectUJ'e permits sorne movement in childrcn nd pubie ramus
healLhy young adults, heavy bands 01' decp fasciae and well define<! sacro! aC
and ilinlumhar Iigame1lts (lig . 3·4) bine! the joints togcther on lhe out e :~~~re 3.2. !he lemale pelvis, with saerum and Iwo hipLones. lhe saerum
and J'l'stl'ain their movement in most pL'Ople over the age 01' l5. Ath h ic art :cula les I~ Ihe rear wilh t~le ilia al Ihe sacroiliac joinls, and the two hipbones
young women are notable exceptions; thcir sacroiliac joinh; are genen Iy Ih c~lille wllh one another In fronl (by way of thl:' righl i1nd left pubic bo ) I
t' libro
car 1'1 b' ' .
I agenous pu le symphyslS.Also see Ilg. 1.12 (Sappey).
nes a
1.14 A¡\ATOMI 01' IIA"I1/A rUGA J . A BlJ/)M /II 'I J/ 'l;'/ 1'/1..' IiX/:R(./.V:\ 1.1)

Because the sacroiliac joints in adults bind the pelvic bones so firrnly o post eriorly. On the other hand, pulling the top oí' the pelvis forward , which
the sacrurn, every tilt, rotation, and postural shift of the pelvis as a wlu e is defincd as an anterior peluic tilt, increases the deplh of the lumbar
affects the vertebral column, and with the vertebral eolumn, the en l e lordosis. And ir you stand on one foot the tippod pelvis will ereate side -to-
body. [fyou rotate the top ofthe pelvis posteriorly (which is hy definitim a side daviations oí' the spine,
posterior peluic tilt , 01" colIoquially, a pelvic "tuck"), the top of the sac n n
is carried to the rear, and this causes the lumbar curvature to flatten II d
lose its lordosis (forward arch), 01" in the ext reme lo becorne rounr d
lransverse process, L4 iliolumbar ligaments

lefl iliae erest

spine - - - - .3,,;:1

iJjac ...-~ aeetabulum
Figu re 3.3. The ve rteb ral spine
T6 (hip socket)
eo lumn (far rightl is víewe d
superior pubic ramus -
fro m its righl side, and Ihus
reveals the sac ral artic ular
su rface of th e right sacroiliac isehialluberosily
pubic symphysis
joint. The right hip bo ne
(below and lo the Id O is
iliolumbar ligamen! from behind
disa rticulaled from the
saer um and f1i pp e d
ho rlzon ta lly, thu s revealíng righl sacroi liac
its inside su rfaee and the ilial [oint and
face of the right sacroiliae ~""E-"'="----ligamenls
joint (Sappey).
erest of the ihum
anterior super ior iliae spine
iliac spine

anterior inferior iliae spine

shared bordar 01
anal and urogenital
left ischial tuberosuy lriangles

F.i~ure 3.4. Pelvic restraining ligamenls from the fron f (above) and from Ihe
SI ~ and behind (below), The borders uf t he diamond-shaped ana tomical
articu lar surtaee (i1ial)
the sacroi líac ¡oint
¡.erm cum are shown below, an d inelude the anal trianglc behind Idotled
te? and the urogenilal lrianglc in fronl (das he d line), wilh a shared bu rder
ischia l luberosity salid line ) eonnccting the two ischia l tu ber osities (Sappey).
146 _U\'A 7UM I · ()F /lA 11 M I OG.·¡
.1. A H{)()MI.\Of'EJ. \ f e "-'"f.ROSE\ 147
Th e pe lvic bowl is the foundation for al l rnovements of the thighs at the
Most peop le understand the hip joints intuitively so long as t hey are dea l hipjoints , incfuding Ilex íon , oxtension, abduetion , udduction, and rotatíon.
ing with a simple imperativo such as "bend íorw a rd from the hips," To flex the thig h in a legl íft (figs, ].15-17J you contraer the psoas and iliacus
understanding t hat a simple "hip rep lacernent" invo lves rcplacing the hea mu~cles (fígs. 2.1>, .\·7, and 8.1]), which , as we have seen, run frorn the pelvis
of the fémur with a sleel ba ll t hal will lit in to t he hip socket, Questionc lo the uppcr part of the femur in thc case of the iliacus, and frorn the
beyond that, most peop le will fall si lent; t hey have no nolion of what ma k lumb ar spine to the fémur in tho case of lhe psoas, For activities such as
up t he socket or how move ments take place . Bu t now we have begun liftin g each knee (as in running in place ), or for stepping Iorward (as in
develop a distinct image of the pelvic bow l. We have seen how t he two pch walki ng ), the origíns of these museles are on the torso and their insertions
bonos are united in front at the pubic syrnphysis and how the pelvic bon are on th e th ighs, but for sit-ups a nd crunches (fig. J. I), the origins and
a rticu late with t he sacrum behind, and we have palpa ted several bo r insertion s a re I'eversed-the thíghs are fixed and lhe entire body is pulled
la ndrna r ks on each side. \Ve only nced a few more details to complete t I up and forwar d.
píctu re. T~ exte nd the thigh actively in a pos turo such as th e locust (Iigs . 5. 15- 11)
'I'he acetabulum (socketr for each hi p jo in t is located at the lateral a you tighten th e gluteus maximus muscle (figs . J.8, and 8.<)-10), which takes
infe rior aspects of th e pelvic bowl (figs. ).1. and ).4-5). You can't feel t e origin from t he posterior su rface of'the i1ium and wh ich has two inser t.i ons ,
acetabulum , but you ca n feel the bony protuberance just bclow the jo
_ _ _ _ _ iliac crest
t hat sometimes bu mps into thin g the greater trochant er of the fen antenor
(figs. J .S-6). If you s tand up and locate th is la nd ma rk near where yo r superior
hand s fall alongside you r t highs, you will notice that it moves around s ihac sp ine <.., .' ilium

you swing yo u r t high back and fort h . anterior ~

iliacspme ~
neck 01l em ur head 01 lemur (baH) i1ium

g reater
I \

gluleus minimu s pubic
muscl e, ramus
and allachmen t
sile on grealer
su pe Jr trochanler ---~
pu b«

shañ 01
site 01 altachmenl 01
libr ocartilageno us
lemur pubic symphysis
(upper ~Iofemoral Iigament
attacnrne l
site 01 pI IC
pubofemoral ligamen!
ischial tuberosity inlerior pubic ran IS
Figure 3 fi R' h h' b . .
Figure 3.5. Righl femur (on the left) as vi~we d rmm Ihe rront, and righl hip Pubor . . Ig. t 'P on~ . .rem~r, aod JOlOl caps.ulc, wilh Ihe iliofemoral and
bon e (on lhe right) as viewcd fmm Ihe Ide. lhe head or the femur fits snugly beh' emo ral Ilgam(>~ts VISible 10 fronl. ilnd the Ischiofemoralli gaml'nl hid I
into lhe acel abulum, forming a hall-and-socket ¡oint (Sappcy). andInd. Thc!r~ Ihr~ "ga~ents in comhination bccome taut duriog hip cxt~~~on
Illose durlOg hlp nexlOn (ror example, when the kOl.'C is lifled); (from -"apPaY):
1.111 A¡\:-l 7VM I ' or I !AUIA I OC, I
1. A IJI)()MI.\ W'r:/.I 1<: J'.XJ3l<.'I.V-S 1.11,1
one on the femur (fig, j. io b), and the other in a tough band of connect iv,
ilioremora/, isc:hiofemora/ , and pubofemnra/ ligaments (lig. .1.ól. You won 't
tissue-the iliotibial trlU't-that runs all the way down past the kn ee to t hr
feel this spiral unless you know it is there, but it will becom e increasingly
leg (figs. ).8-9 and R.12l. You can feel the activity of the gluteus rnaxim u-
tau t as the thighs are extended. When that happens, th e head of th e femur
becorne pronounced if you stand up and pu ll the thigh to the rear wh ih
is dr iven into the acetabulum of the pelvic bone in a near-perfect fit, and
pressing against. the gluteal region wit.h your hund o By cont.rast., ma n
th e thigh wiJ1 extend no more. The spira l will unwind as th e thighs a re
other postures such as the camel (figs. ;.34-)5) hypcrextend the hip jo in
nexed.l f t his sp íral is removed a nd the hipjoint opened up , the head ofthe
passively, and this is resisted both by the psoas and iliacus muscles (fig s
[emur and the acetabulum become visible (fig. .i .s).
2.R, }.7, and R. 13), and by th e rectus [emoris component of the quadricep
femoris mu scle (figs . .1.9, ) .11, and R. 1).
'1'0 abduct th e thigh , which you do wh en you lilt th e foot st raight out t
the side, you t ighten the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus mu sen
ríght gluteus ríght gluleus ríghl
(figs. J.R, j.roa-b, R.9-IO , and R.12), which take origin from beneath t h maximus maximus: gluteus
gluteus maximus and insert on the greater trochanter, '1'0 adduct th musele orígln (cuí) maximus :
thighs, which you do by pulling thern together, you tighten the adducu insertion
laseia overlying gluteus m ed íus in iliotibial
muscles, which take origin from th e inferior pubic rami a nd insert bel tract
on the femurs and tibias (figs, 2.R, .~, 9 . and R. I)-1 4 ).
lasaa overty,ng ríghl
If the muscles of the hips and th igh s are strong and flexible, and if Yl side 01saerum
are comfortable extending the thigh s fully in any standing, kn eelin g, e greater
prone posture, you'lI finally encounter resistance lo extcnsion in a del ) Irochanler
spiral of Jigaments that surround the ball and socket hip joint- t l

twelfth thoracic
- vertebra (T12)

l\\.f'-, - - - - - - _ twelfth

psoas major gemellus

erest 01 e
iliaeus ----,¡'""¡Iiijiii¡~. left ilium
mtervert ebral disk "';lIIf'-- - _ cut end 01 le 1 tract

between L5 and the psoas mus 3
saerum hamstríng museles:

superior put
&:''''r-- _ _ ramus
lateral head
bíceps lemoris 01 quadri eeps / .. . .
addUClOr muse/es (0)
greater trocnant sem,membranosus lem oris muse/e ,lrolJbl8l
joint mserticn 01right
iliopsoas eombination r-- - - -- 1eft lemul
~\~ure ~.8. Righ l gluleal regíon and upper Ihigh from behind, with Superficial
aw:ecllo n on the Ieft (a).and deeper ~isseclion on Ihe right (b) . The partíaf cut-
Figure 3.7. Deep disscction of Ihe'pelvi~ ~nd h~wer ~bdomen revealing Ih e
!Ji Y of the gluteus rnaxrrnus on the nght (b) exposes deeper muse/es of the
psoas and iliacus musdes an,d Ihelr co nJ~m~d mser llo~s on t~e ft'm urs ,
Tht'ir conlrac lion lifls Ihe Ihlghs, Ihus hnng mg abou t hl p f1cxlun (Sappey).
iIiP,.a~ well as a e/ear picture of th > dual inserlion of Ihe gluleus maxirnus lo he
ollhlal trael and I he femur- (Sappey).
l . A /lI / o. l lIl\ Op n . I '1<. f.'\l'l/nsrs 'SI
150 A.\'A70MI· or//AHfA !(/GA

THE aUADRICEPS FE M OR I S MUSCLE tbis is the muscle that gives thern pause when they want to c1imb up or down
stairs without holding onto a handrail. It is ruso Waterloo for inexpericnced
The quadriceps femoris is the largest muscle 00 the íront of the thigh <fig
skiers who are trying lo negotiate a bowl of deep powder for the first time:
1.2, } .I), and H.S-9) and the forernost anti-gravity muscle in the body. 'J'.1I
they are firrnly (ove n though wrongly) convinced that they have to keep their
of its four components, or "heads," take origin from the femur and aet (
weigbt back and their ski tips visible lo avoid loppling over into the snow,
t he l ibia by way of the patellar tendon. Its fourt h head, the rectus Ierno r
Allbough t hat can indeed happen-it's called a "face plant" or "headet·"-
(flgs. J.9, }. II, and 8.R-y), takes origin from the front ofthe pelvis (the anten
must novices overcompensate for the possihil ity and quickly pay íor their
inferior iliac spine, figs, 3.2-6) and joins the other three components bek
The quadriceps fomoris is the rnuscle, more than any other, that stands y ,1 error : quadriceps fernoris muscles that are soon burning with pain.
up from a squatling position. You can test its strength by standing in a THE HAMSTRING MUSCL ES
bent-Irnce position íor }O seconds with your back flat against a wal1 n J
then slowly rising. For those who are older and in a weakened condit ir 00 th e back sides of the thighs are the hamstring muscles, rnost 01' which
have t heir origin on the ischial tuberosities. Like the quadriceps femoris
muscles, the hamstrings insert below the Irnee joint, in this case both medíally
and lal e rally (figs . 3. 10, 8.10, and 8 .12). Tight hamstrings are the bane of
iliacus - disk between
runncrs- t hou!i8nds of repetitivc strides make these rnuscles shorter and
L5 and L4 shorter untiJ they a re barely long enough to permit full extension 01' the
musc le knecs.
As two-joint rnuscles that pass lengt h wise across two joints ins tead of
one (from th e ischial tuberosities of the pelvis all the way to thc proximal
ends 01' t he tibias and fíbu las), the hamstrings contribute both to exlension
of the thi ghs at the hip joints and lo flexi ón of the legs at the knee joints,
adductors Th is architectural arrangernent facilitates walking and running beautifully,
but it crea tes a prohlem in hatha yoga. Since the harnstrings reside on the
back sides 01' two joints-the knee and the hip ach of which is crucial in
iliotibial tract its own way for forwa rd bending, these muscles are major obstacles to such
_ sartorius
~ovemenls . It 's obvious that you could relieve tension on the hamstrings
In forwa rd bends by easing up either on hip flcxion 01· knee extensi ón. but
releasing flexion of the hips would he contrary to the whole idea. Whal
everyone does naturally is lo flex their knees slightIy, insuring that the
quadriceps femoris muscle
(three 01 Ihe lour heads. """",,=--+-i hamstring rnuscles don't lug so insistently on the base oftbe pelvis as one
including the reclus temoris , attemp ts to bend forward. This was the principie involved in chapter I
are visible in Ihls superficial
dissection) ; Ihe 10000rth head
____ quadriceps temons ter 1n
~hen we bent the Irnees befare pulling lhe torso clown agaiost the thighs
01 Ihis muscle is racated In t he standing hamstrings-quadriceps lhigh pull, and this is why we kccp
deep lo these three
~he knecs hent in crunches. It is also why lhe knees should be bent if you
. palellar tendon tnsis.l on doing high-specd sit-ups. Otherwise lhe hamslring muscles tu~ on
the lschial tuberosities from below and create too much tension in lhe
lower back as you jerk yoursclf up and forward .


The pelvic howl is not merely the link belwccn the lhighs and the llpper
hall' orthe body; it is also the foundalion for the torso. Knowing lhis, ifyou
Figure 3.9. Righ t side of pelvis (decp dissection), right thi gh, a nd right knoe, 3' look al a skeleton, even with one glance, you will sense an immediate cause
viewed rrom lhe fronl (Sappey).
l.. 1lI1JfJ.lI/¡WI/'H.\ 't e: /~\l-:JlaSM ISJ

gluteus minimus and for alar m: there are many bones and rnuch skeletal density in the pelvis

/ its nerve branches and lots of ribs and vertebran in the up per torso, but there are only five
pirifermis (erigín
Irom the underside r gluteus medius lumbar ver tebrae connecting the two regions (figs . 4.3-4). This arrange-
01 the sacrum) and >"" / and its nerve ment could not provi dc adcquate support to th e torso if it were acting
its nerve branches . branches
alone. lt needs t he help of t he soft tissues, espccial ly sheets of rnuscle and
gluteus maximus fasciae. '1'0 that end the skeleton is supported by a "tube" containi ng the
aOO nerve branches
Ihal emerge lrom abdom inal organs, a tube that is boundcd in front and on the sides by the
benealh tne pirilormis abdominal muscles, braced posteriorly by the spine and deep back muscles,
(dotted line)
cBppcd by the respiratory diaphragm, and sealed oIT below by the peluic
diaphragm . The tube runs all [he way from the sternum to the pubis in
front but is qui te short laterally.
gluleus rnaxirnus
cutaneous (insertions on lem u
nerves (to and iIiotibial traen
skin) and nerve branche iliae crest

_______ gluteus minimus

adductor museles = - --7. ~ pirilormis lendon

and some 01 lheir piriformis muscle
nerve branehes occupied Ihis spaee - insertion 01 gluleus
medius on grealer

:~,~~ main lrunk 01 so IC q uadratus lemoris

. nerve

' '

semimemb ranosus l·
muscle and íts nerve / ¡lVfsn
branehes I!f'~ :
_ _ eommon peroneat nf ve ,~r----:¡------ long head 01
semitendinos us / ', . bíceps lemoris
(short head,
rnuscte and its nerve -~
wilh its origin
branches semimembranosus - - - - - - on the lemur,
== is located

medial head, ------~~:.., ~ nerve branches le deep lolong

the lateral head o
and lateral head -------Jll-J."
01 gaslrocnemius
the gastrocnemiu Figure 3.10b. Right thigh,
rnuscle, and muscfe knee joinl and hams tr ing
their nerve ~us le s from th e rearo The
branches ~Ip disseelion. no w reveal - ....r A---.!Jl......----laleral and
Ing the gluteus m inimus, is ~----- m ed ial heads 01
eVell de ep er th an the o ne gastrocnemius
f igure 3.10a. Nerves to m uscles o f the bae k of the hip and thigh originate frm
show n on the r igh t sid e oí muscle
spi nal segment l4, l5, 51, and 52, an d run down the b aek of the th igh on the
fig. 3.8. The pir iform is and
extenso r side of th e hi p join \. The large sciatic nerve and associaled b ranehes 1
gluleus m ed ius are n ow
the gluleus maxim us emerge írorn ju sI undcmcath th e p iri fo rm is muscle (shov '1
removed exce pt for the ir
inlaet in fig. 3.8b, in t w o parts con necled by the dolled li nes he re in fi g. 3.10il
tendons of insertion on - tascia overlying Ihe
and rem o ved cxcept for its tend ón o f inserlion in fig. 3.10b). Nerves lo th e glule ~ soleus musc1e
Ihe gr eal er l ro ch an ler. an d
m cdius, glu teus minim us, an d pi r ifoml is are shown ab ove, il n d nerv es t o Ih e
lhe only rema in ing pa r l of
hams trings. gastroene mius. and adductors are show n b elow. A superficial b ran
o f lhe co m mon p er on cal nerve sw ings around l o an anteri or, sub cu taneous, al ~he gluteu s m axim us is il s (Irom Sappey)
vulnerabl e posilion jusI bel ow th e kne e (chapter 10); (frolll Sappey). emoral allaehm enL
We have four pairs of abdominal muscles (fi gs , 2·7, 2·9, 3·11-1.), S.H, H.I back to front. These three layers together act as a unit. hclping to support
and 8.1)). Th ree of these form layers t hat encircle the abdomen, and tl ll th e upper body and contrihuting to hending, twisting, and turning in a log-
fourth is a pair of longitudinal bands. The extemal abdominal oblique laye ícal fas h ion. '1hey are also necessary for coughing, sneezing, la ughing, and
runs diagonally from aboye downward in t he same direction as t he extei vari ous yoga breathing exercises.
nal intercostal muscles. If you place you r han ds in the pockets of a shoi 'rile Iourth pair 0(' abdominal rnuscles, the rectus abdominis muscles
jacket with your ñngers extended, the fingen; will point in the direction 1 (rectus means "straight"), run vertically on either side of the midline between
the external abdominal oblique musele fibers , The internol abdomitu the pubic bone and the sternum. As d iscussed earlier in this chapter, the rec-
oblique layer is in the middle, Its fibers also r un diagonally but in th e opp tus a bdominis muscles are the prime movers (agonists) for Flexi ón of the
site direction, from laterally a nd be low to up a nd medially in t he sa n spin e in crunches, whilc the hip flexors serve as synergists for bracing the
direction as the internal intercostal muscles. T he inn ermost third laye r, tl pelvis and lum bar region . The ro les are then reversed for old style sit-ups, in
transuersus abdominis, runs hori zontally around the abdominal waIl fro which th e hip Ilexors become the prime movers for jerking the torso up and
forward a t the hip joints, and the rect us ab dom inis rnusc les serve as syn -
crgi¡;ts for brac ing the spine .


left stemocleldoma stl :1 With in t he "tu be" of the torso are the thoracic, a bdominal , and pelvic
right clavicle muscle caviti es, as well as rnost of t he internal organs. The heart, lungs, and
esophagus lie within the thoracic caoity, wh ich is bounded externally by the
deltoid rib cage an d in feriorly by the respiratory diaphragm Cfigs. 2.6-91. The

serratus anterior

interna l intercostals
serratus anterior ...........
(ñve segments) ,..~~
two 01 three
_ _ _ _ _ latissi IS
~-- inscriptions
~ dorsi

serratus anterior /
(!ive segments
showing) fascia covering
rectus abdominis
!ascia overlying rectus
abdominis muscles

________ sperrnanc cr d

suspen s y
_ I i g a men l )! _____ spermatic cord in

right sartorius muscle -r penis ingUinal canal

·.. - - - - - - te5lis
nghl rectus temoris ~
Figure 3.12. External a bdomina l o bliq ue an d re cl us abd ominis fasda on
Figure 3.11. Torso, with superfidal rnuscles uf the c~est an~ ne ck, fascia cove ring th Ihe tor o's right side, a nd internal abdomina l obliq ue a nd exposed re ct us
rec tus abllo min is mu sclcs, and the exte rna í abdominal oblique mu scles (Sappev). abdominis mu scle o n Ihe tor so 's left side (Sap pey).
156 A¡\A n),I1I ' ot: l/A I7IA 1'(l (;A

stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys are containr abdominal and pclvic cavities, the perifonea! membranes surround the
within the abdominal cauity (figs. 2.9 and J.14), which is separated from ti abdominal and pelvic organs and enclose the perifonea! cauity, Like the
chest by the diaphragrn, protectcd posteriorly by the spine and deep bUI pleural and pericardial cavities, the peritoneal cavit ies are potential spaces
muscles, and surrounded anteriorly and laterally by the abdominal musck only, as illustrated by a schematic midsagittal section through this región
The urinary bladder; the terminal end of the colon, and portions of tl (fig. 3. 1-4). These spaces contain only a small arnount of fluid which allows
reproductive systcms lie in the pcloic cauity (figs, 2.M and } .7) and open the organs to move relativo to one another. The most famous trick question
the external world by way of passages through the pelvic diaphragm al ti lJ1 a medical gross anatomy course is: Name all the organs in the pleural,
base of the pelvic howl (figs, z.zca-e, J.14, and }.24 -26). 'I'he pelvic cavity pericardial, and pcritoneal cavities. The correct answer is: None.
defincd above by the upper limits ofthe bony pelvis and below by the peh
diaphragm, but otherwise it is confluent with the abdominal cavity Th i
we refer to thern together as the abdominopeluic cauity (fig, }.14. illustratn 1 Lubricating fluids in the peritoneal cavity impart a liquid character to the
on the right). internal organs in the abdominopelvic cavity and allow that regi ón lo act
Most ofthe internal organs are not fixed in position hut can slide arou .l as a hydraulic (ha ving to do with liquid) system, 'I'his means that ir sorne-
by virtue of slippery external surfaces: pleural and pericardial membra i s t hing presses against the abdominal wall, hydraulic pressure is transmittcd
in the chest, and peritoneal membranas in the abdomen and pelvis . Witl n throughou t the entire regi ón just like squeczing a eapped tube of tooth-
the thoracic cavity, t.he perlcardial membranes surround the heart a -1 puste at one site will cause the tube (o hulge out everywhere else, 'I'he
enclose the pericardia! cauity while the pleural membranes surround t e
lungs and enclose the pleura! cauities (figs, 2.4 and 2.Ó). Within both t l '

ascendingl rectus abdominis respiratory diaphragm


kidney -..-.:~-':'.ol
ínternal transversa
abdominal colon
Oblique .~ external
right side ............... /abdominal small
/ obhque inlesline

uterlls ____ grealer

abdominal omcntum
paired rectus transversus abdomi nis pubic
abdominis (innermost 01three symphysis
muscles layers 01 abdominal
muscles: left side) vagina lemale urelhra prostate

:~gute 3.~4. Schemalic drawings of the peritoneal cavity and a Iew abdominal
d pelvlC organs: rnale on the right, female on the lower left, and gender-
ne~lral cross section on the upper left. White spaces indicate lhe peritoneal
figure 3.13. Internal abdominal oblique a.n~ exposetl ~ectlls abdorninis o,~ t~is ~~vIlY (~reatly ~xagg.etate~l) ~n all ~hree d.rawings. The e~lirety uf lhe
torso's right side, and trans~ersus abdonllOls and sechoned rectlls abdorntnls ~omlr1opl'lvlC cavlty (wlthlr1 whlCh reSide thl' abdomlr1opelvic organs and the
mllscle on lhe lorso's left SI de (Sappey). Perrlo neal cBvity) is iIIl1straled in lhe mid-s<lgillal seclion on lhe righl (Sappey).
ISIl ..1"'-110.11" UF l/A 'li lA )()("iA

abdominal wall is the soft part of the tube, and the respiratory and pelvi. differen t situation from the first one. Here it is the respiratory diaphragm
diaphragms seal it al. either end. A sep árate unit, the chest, is bounded b rather than the glottis that seals the top uf the tubo and eounters the
the rib cage and the respiratory diaphragrn. 'I'he glottis can seal the al act ion of the abdominal muscles and pelvic diaphragm. Just the same, it
within the chest, with the result that the chest can act as e pneumatic (havin cases strain on the intervertebral disks in the critical lumbar region. The
to do with air) syslem, Such a systern remains at atrnospheric pressure an y main difference between the two lechniques is that now the thoracic region
time the glottis is open, but if you inhale and close the glottis, the syste r- is not involved because the airway is opcn and intrathoracic pressure is not
can be cornpressed (a nd is indeed often compressed) by the action of th increased.
abdominal rnuscles and external intercostals. The third way to protect the spine, and (me that comes naturally to most
Even though the thoracic and abdominopelvic regions are anatomicall of us, is lo mix and match the options. Prepare yoursolf with an inhalation
independont, the former functioning as a pneumatic system and the lattr partially close the glottis, press down with the diaphragm, and coordinats
as a hydraulic system, the trunk as a whole operates as a cooperative un i your lift ing effort with a heavy grunting sound, which is a signal that the
For exarnple, ifyou bend over from an awkward position to pick up a heav glottis has been partially closed . What happens exactly? You start with an
object, and if you have to do that with your knees straight, your spine intent to use method numbor two-vincreaslng intra-abdominal hydraulic
vulnerable to injury frorn too much stress on the lumbar region. Ir y pressure alone-but augment that effort by increasing pneurnatic pressure
were to try that maneuver frorn a bent-forward position when you a in th e chest at the precise moment that m áximum protection for the back
breathing freely r oven worse, if Y0l! were lo hold your breath after is need ed. This is the choice of championship weighUifters, who continue
exhalation-thc weight of the object would create a frighteningly efficie i to brca t he during the easier portions of the Iiít, and then emit a mighty
shearing effect on al! the intorvertebral disks betwcen the chest and H- gr unt lo complete it.
sacrurn. Were it not for our ahílity lo supplement skeletal support with t ' In all hatha yoga postures that involve bending forward and then lifting
hydraulic and pneumatic pressures within the abdominopclvic and thorac back up in a gravitational field (for practical purposes this rneans anywhere
cavities, the intervertebral disks in the lumbar region would quickly degene ra but in a swirnrning pool), it is increasod intra-abdominal pressure far more
and rupture. To prolect yourself you will have to increase intra-abdomill than lh e action of individual rnuscles that protccts and braces the back. If
pressure. and you can do this with 01' without lhe aid of compressed ai r 1 you want lo strcngthen lhe abdominopelvic region lo the maximum. and if
the chesL you wan t this region lo link the uppcr and lower halves of the body in the
You can protecl. your spine with respect to how you use your hydrau mosl effective and efficient manner, you \vill have lo exercisc the sccond
and pneumatic systems in one of three ways. First, before you lift you c' 1 option-kecping the glottis open-when you do the exercises and postures
inhale, dose t.he glottis, and hold your breath. 'rhen you can tighten y I l' lhut follow, This means alwuys placing the burdcn fol' creating intra-
abdumen. pelvic diaphraf.,'lTl , and internal intercostal muscles al1 al I abdominal pressure on the respiralory diaphmgm, the abdominal muscles,
same time so thal lhe pneumatic prcssure in the chest comes into equilibri and the pelvic diaphragm . The first option. holding lhe breath at the gloltis,
with lhe hydraulic pressure in the abdominopc1vic cavity, This allows tI should be ul;t!{1 unly as an emergency measure for extl'icating yourselfsafcly
respiratory diaphragm to remain relaxed and increases pressure in t i from a posture lhat is beyond your capacity.
torso as a whole. That increased pressure then supports the action of l
back muscles in two ways : it creates a laut, reliable unit from which lo II
lhe objecl, and il produces a lengthening effed on lhe spine which sprea l Yoga is concernerl firsl and foremost with the inner life and lhe
~d()~ l ' . ,
lhe vertebrae apart and eal:ies stmin on the interveJ1ebral disks. (lt shou nope VIC eXCI'CISCS are no exception. On the most obvious level yoga
be noled lhat fnr older people, especially lhose who mighl be vulnerable I post ure ' strengthen the abdominal region and protect the back. Bul when
cardiovascular problems, lhis is a n emergency measure only, because it w you do them you also come alive with energy that can be feH from head t
resull in an immcdiatc increase in blood pressure.> loe L lift ' h ' . < o
. eg s, Slt-UpS, t e slttmg boal pm;lures, and the peacock all creale
A sccond way to pmlect your back, if you have a strong rcspiralor lhesc effects thl'Ough manipulating lhe limbs and torso in a gravitat¡' al
diaphragm and know huw lo use it. is lo keep the glottis and a irway ope field h ' on
Vi de you are using the abdominal region as a fuIcrum fur your efTorts.
al:i you lifl, and at the same tim e preSl:i down with the diaphragm, in witl J\nd the harder you work the mOl'ecncrgizing the eXl:!rcise.
I he abdominal mu!.'c1cs, and up wilh lhe pclvic diaphragm . This is a ve .
.1, . uu»» ""\Of'I'I . I '1(.' ISE/lCI.W-:\ 16 1

SUPINE LEGLIFTS What ha ppens in single leglifts is that the psoas and iliacus muscles Ilex
"Safety first." is a wise slogan, and t he Irai lt.ies (or challenges) of ti the hi p while the quaclriccps fernoris m uscle keeps t he knee exte nded . The
human frame offer us ma ny oppo rlunities lo pract ico it . Ifyou have not he rectus fem or is (the straigh t head of t he quadriceps Iemoris ) assists in both
much experience with abdominopelvic exercises, please read the scction e roles: it aids Oexion 01' t he hip because 01' its or igin on the anterior inferior
contraindications at the end of this chapter before doing t hem. Even ti i1iac spine, and it assists the rest 01' the quadriceps in keeping t he knee
simplest leglifts a nd sit-up exercises should be a pproached with cautio extended (fig, 3·9)· T he posturo itself creates th e stable conditiuns th at
The first ru le: ntil you know your body and its lirnitations well, your fir make single leglifts an easy exe rcise. First, the hamstring muscles of the
line 01' proteetion is to keep the lower back Ilattened against the 0001' as )', íde bein g lift ed pulJ inferjorjy on t he ischial tuberosity on that sarne side,
do th ese exercises, Wit h a Iittle training you can confidently make skillful u which kecp s the pelvis anchored in a slig ht ly lucked position an d th e lum bar
01' the hydraulic nature 01' the abdorninopelvic region, and after you a spine flattened against the 0 001", and second, kee ping the oppos ite thigh
certain of yo urself you can explore other options, and leg fla t on t he 0001' irnproves the stabi lity 01' t he pelvis and lu m bar
spine even mor e. The combination perrni ts flexi ón of one t high with little
SUPINE SINGLE LEGLIFTS or no stress on th e lower back.
Supine single leglifts are the safest beginning leglift ing exercises beca r
t hey are not likely lo strain a n inexpe rien ced or sensitivo baek. Start w h
the thigh s adduc ted, the knees exte nded, the fect extended (toes poiru j To further prepare for more difficult yoga posturas, and to get bot h lower
away from you), and the hands a longside the thighs, palms down. SlO\ y extrernities into th e picture but stiU wit hout placing a great deal more
raise one foot as high as possible (fig, J.15) and then slowly lower it ba ck o stress on t he lower back than is occasioned by single leglifts , flex bot h
the Iloor, Repeat on the ot he r side. Keep brea th in g. 11' you a re comfortal knees, draw them toward th e chest, an d bicycle YOU I' feet arou nd and
you can t ry severa l variations 01' th is exe rcise, One is to kee p th e kr e around. Next, and a little ha rd er, lower your fee t doser lo t he 0001' and
extended. pull th e tlexed thigh as close as possible to the head (using t le pump th em bac k a nd fort h horizontally. Intensifying even more, straighten
hip Ilexors , not the u pper extrern ities), and hold it t here 1'01' 30-60 seco "l . your knees a nd press yo ur Ieet toward t he ceiling. This is easy if you ha ve
And after you have come rnost 01' the way down yo u can ho ld the foot ,- enough llexibil ity to keep yo ur th igh s and legs perpendicula r to the 0 001'. Ir
metricallyan ineh or two away from the floor; you can'~ do t hat, bend your knees slightly, and from that position, kee p
one leg lifted and slowly lowe r the opposite foot to within an inch of t he
0001', straighten ing t he kn ee on the way down; the n raise it back up and
repeat on. t he ot her side. Keeping one foot up whi lo lower ing and raising
the oth er IS almost as easy as keeping one leg flat on the 11001'. You can a lso
cre~~ a scissori ng motion, wit h t.h e Icet meeting midway 01' near the highest
POsl~lOn. And any time you need to ereate less pulJ on the underside 01' the
pelVIS from t he hamstl;ngs, bend the knecs.
~en you do varjations that are more demanding than the simple bicycling
mot!Un, )lou 'lI fmd that your abdominal muscles tighten inereasing jntl".-
abd . I , <
~m tn a pressure and pressing the lower back against the 0001' in coop-
e~atlon wit h t he respiratory dia phragm . This ussumes uf course that your

. I'1' you loc k 1t
iS· opcn; ' at the glotlis, the diaphruhTffi
" wjll <remain
re1axed an d you will miss one of the majn poin~ 01' the exercise.
!.!!~...F I R E EXERCISE

As Soon as you are comlortable doing single Icglifts and their va"i<ltions fi
')-1 0 . < or
minutes, you can tr.y the fire exercise, named from its energizing
Ii gure 3.15 . Sing le (e glif!. This poslure is a safe hamslring slre lc h for lh e f1excd
lhigh he cause lhe pel vis an d lower back ar e stahili;¡ed against the f1oor. efTcets on t he body as a who lc. To get in position for t his one, sil on the
l . , 1BOOM/M J/' I':/. I "le EXEII<:ISF.,'i 163
162 , l ¡\ A TOM }' UF II AHIA }()(;t1

0001' lean back, support yourself on the forearms, and place the hanc Like hea lth club crunches, two features of this practico make the fire
under the hips 01' slighUy behind thern , palms down , 01' up, if that feels ea sic exercise sale: the back is rounded posteriorly, and the psoas muscles help
Keep ing t he feet together, extend the toes, feet, and knees, and draw .1I lifi, th e thighs írorn a stabilized origin on th e inner curvature of the lumbar
head Iorward while keeping the back rounded. Exhale, and at the same tI spine (fíg, 3 . 111) . If you start with the back straight 01' less firrnly rounded
slowly lift the feet as high as possible, drawing the extended knees ~~Wal j to th e real', the psoas muscles will destabilize the lumbar regi ón by pulling
t he head (fig, 3. 16 ). Slowly come back down, not quite to the 0001' l~ YOl it forwa rd before they begin to flex the hips: this is fine if your back is
strength permits. Come up and down as many times as y~u ca.n witho. st rong and healthy, but too stressful if it is noto
strain inhaling as required and always breathing evenly. H commg all t You will immediately sense the difference between the straight and t he
way up and down is too difficult , simply tighten t he muscles, lift the fl '1 curved-to-the-rear positions of the spine if you do the following experimento
an inch 01' so, and hold in that position isometrically. After a few days Y' 1 First round your back and try the fire exercise in íts standard formo Sense
may have enough strength to do the full exercise. . . your stability. Then (provided your back is sound) try lift ing your fee t alter
T be fire exercise is intended for breath tra ining as well as for buil di g lowering your head and shou lders tú the real' a nd Iet t ing the lumbar region
abdominal strength, and ifyou watch your breathingcareful!y, you'll not e relax and come forwa rd. The instability of the second starting position will
th at the posture feels more powerfu l when you exhale. As is true for ma ,y shock you. T he lesson: if you are u nab le tu maintain a stabilized posterior
day-to-day activities, inhalation is mostly a preparation for the intens y curvature , don't do t he fire exercise. Instead, work with crunches and the
associated with exhalation. In the case uf the fire exercise, it's a matte r ,f single leglift variations until you are strong enough to keep the back
muscle mechanics: to support. the posture eflicienUy with ínt ra-a bdomir a.l rounded to the rea l'.
pressure, t he diaphragm must be continuously active, and to do this it m t
opérate .....ithin a fa irly narrow range with its musc le fibers. m~Cl'at ly
stretched and its dome high in the torso. For t his reason you will find yo 1'- No matter what kind of leglift you try, if you do not do it while keeping your
self exhaling almost as much as you can and taking small ínhalations If lower back flattened against the floor in the supine position 01' rounded tú
you take a deep inhalation as an experiment, you will immediatcl~ se n- a the real' when the head and upper back are lift ed , it has lo be considered
10 88 of abdominal and diaphragmatic strength. As always for exercises SI :h an advanc ed practice. T he supine double leglift is a case in point. Lying flat
as these, unless you are faced with an unexpeeted emergency keep t.~e 1'- with th e legs extended, a small amount of space will usually be found
way open, supporling the posture on ly with hydraulic pressure m le between the lum bar region and the floor, and if this is allowed tú remain
abdominopelvic unit. when the psoas muscles Oex lhe thighs, those muscles will not be pu lling
from a stabilized lower back that is pressed to the rear, but from a wavering
and incon sta n t lumbar lordosis . It is lherefore ess entia\. before st arting the
s~pine double legl ift, to press this region to the floor with a posterior pelvic
tIlt a nd hold it there for the duration of the exercise.
To begin the supine double leglifl, lie down wilh your thighs adducted,
knees extended, feet and toe s extended, and hands alongside the thighs,
palms down . Next, in order to establish enough intra-abdominal pressure
to dominate the lumbar ('egion decisively, st rongly engage the abdominal
muscles along with the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms, and holding
lhat .posit ion tenaciously, slowly lift the feet (by flexing the hipsl &'i high as
Figure 3.16. Fully lifted po lble <fig. 3 .17) and th en lower them to within a n inch of the floor. Come
position for the firc
exercise. Ils key feature ~p and down for as many repetitions as you want, breathing evenly
is that the back remains hroughou t the exercise.
rounded posleriorly. An Since the muscular leverage for pressing th e lumbar region to the floor
altema tive and slightly
easier hand position is cOmes fm m the ab dominal muscles, especially frum th e rectus abdominis
to place them under learning lo actívate t hose muscles is l.he most important part of Ule excrcisc:
lhe pelvis, palms up.
1f>4 ANA 7U 1n ' O r "A 7J1A H)(.A J. AIII)(JMItWJPELI /C /:X / i /{(."JSES 16')

If you cannot get the feel oftightening them when you are lying flat on I e several peop le are struggling, you shou ld stop everything and dcmonstrate
0001; which is the case for most. beginning students who have never b( n lh e proper technique. Try this: Lie down and ask two volunteers, one on
very athletic, lift your head and shou lders while holding your har either sirle of you, tu press their right hands against your abdominal wall
against your abdomen for feedback-il is impossible to lift your upper br y and place their left hands under your lower back . Then tig hten your
withoul engaging the abdominal muscles, Then try to generate thal sa e abdOlni naJ muscles. This will push their right hands toward t he ceiling,
fecling as a preparation for tho leglift, but without lifting the upper boc and at the same time it will Ilatten your lumbar region lo the floor against
Double leglifts are difficult not only because they depend on st n g their left hands. 'I'hen do a double lifl showing first how the lower back
abdominal muscles that are acting in a manner to which they are not acc 3- should be kept down , and second, letting it lift inappropriately away from
tomed, but also because the knees rnust be kept fully extended. To flex le the floor. Keep up a stream of conversation lo prove that you are su pporting
hips with the knees straight, a tremendous force has lo be exerted on le the effort with your diaphragm and not ho lding your breath.
insertions 01' the iliopsoas muscles at the proximal (near) end of the fen Ir, If stu dents have the knack hut not the strength to keep Iheir backs
and this is like t rying to lift a board by gr ipping it with your Iingers al le agRinst th e floor during the double Iegliít (which is very cornmon), another
end. The rectu s femoris musc les aid leglifts as synergists because th ey ~e trick is lo try th is exercise: before begin ning the lifl tell them to bend t he
pullingfmm th e Iront ofthe pelvis to their insertions on the patella (kn eec p) knees enough to raíse the t highs to a j o-4S0 angle, then lirt the feet off the
instead of from the pelvis to t he proxim al portion 01' the femur, but p -n 11001' and straighten the knees. 'l'his will ma ke it easier to kecp t he back
with help from these muscles, the exercise is sti ll a les t of strength Ir agamst the floor an d make it possib le to complet e t he leglift properly from
ma ny students, The en deavo r is further complicated by the fact that k, )- the higher angle. Th ey sho uld corno partially down in t he same way, being
ing t he knees straight during the leglift stretches the hamstring mu se O:, sensitive to when th ey can no longer keep their back braced against the
which are antagonists lo the iliacus, psoas, and rec tus fernoris muse s, floor, at wh ich time they should ben d th eir knees and eit her liít back up or
T hat stops a 101 of peop le in a hurry, come all the way down .


There are fewer sights more un nerving lo a yoga instructor than wat cl- 19 Tha respective natures of the chest and the abdominopelvic regions of the
a b'TOUP of beginners struggle with double leglifis, permitting lheir lum ir torso are very different from one another: the abdominopelvic cavity is like
regions lo lift off lhe floor as they start lo mise their feet, and at lhe .:· le an oblong rubbery egg filled with water, and the egg 1S topped by a cage of
time holding their breath at the glottis. Ifyou are teaching a c1ass in wl -h bone filled with airoEveryone doing leglifl s shou ld increase pressure only
In the egg. You will have lo squecze down from aboye with the respiratory
diaphr8f:,'Ill. up from below with lhe pelvic diaphragm, amI in with the
abdominal muscles. 'fo maintain this p1'essure the respiralory diaphragm
has lo be slrong enough during both inhalation and exhalation to countcract
lhe elfects of t he abdominal muscles, and this effort must be sustained
throughout the exercise. So when do we breathe? AlJlhe time. And how? It
de~ends. If you have excellent hip Oexibility, you will be able to lin the
thlghs 1)0° , exhaling as you lift , and when you have reachcd that position
~ou. can relax and breathe a ny way you want. But if you 1' hip flexibility is
hn1Jled, an d if you have lo keep working againsl tight hamstring muscles
Figure 3.17. End posilion for eVen in the up position. your breathing will be intense and focusedon exhalation
Ihe sup ine double leglift. a11 ~he t ime. Vou will be.taking tiny inhalations w~enever you can.
lhe key requircment of Ihis ou can take breathrng one step further and mtemiify the energizing
poslure is lo aClively keep
Ihe lo\Ver hack f1attened e~e t of leglifting cxercises, as well 8h their difficu1ty, by kecping 8h much
againsl lhe fluor using lh • RIr Out of the lungs as pos..<;ibJe, exhaling all lh • way to your residual volumc
abdom inal musclcs. and lh en taking I'mall inhalations. If your residual voJume is 1,200 m i. you
1f>6 ANAroMl (JI' HA77M IOGA
3 . A l mOM /,\'O PN, I'/C / o"},·/ R ( .I.V S 1f>7

might breathe in and out a tidal volumc between 1,200 mI and 1.400 l1oor. Raise up only as far as you can without degrading tho arch in th e
instead ofbetween 1.400 mI and 1.600 rnl, which approximales what wou back. Ir you have excellent harnstring flcxibility you may be ab le to flex
be most natural in the active stages of double leglifts (fig. 3.IIH. Breatlu { your thighs to a JOo angle (fig. 3.19b), or even more, but rnost pcople will
this way is more difficu lt because the already hard-working abdomii ,1 only be able to mise th eir feet a Iew inches before the harnstrings start tugging
muscles (especial ly the rectus abdominis) now have lo work even harder J so much on the base of lhe pelvis that they pull the lower back toward the
kecp air out of the lungs. 1100r. So you hav e a choice: either (in your feet up and down and allow the
back to follow in reverse-back down feet up , followed by back up feet
down--{)r lift your feet only until thc lower back starts to lose its emphas ized
\Ve have seen that the lumbar region can be stabilized for leglifts either y forwa rd curve, 'I'h e main benefit of the exercise comes not from how lar
rounding it posteriorly as in crunches or the fire exercise, 01' by keepi np t you raise the feet but in experiencing the intense pull of the hip Ilexors on
flattencd against the floor. But anyone with a sound back can al so y th e accentuated lumbar arch. Keep breathing, but for this posture focus on
leglifting ...vith the lu mba r region stahi lized in an arched forward positi , l. inhalation rather than on exhalation, beca use emphasizing exhalation will
This is a variation of the Iísh posture (figs. 3.19a. ';.28, and 9.19)-a postl e press the lumbar regían posteriorly and defeat your purpose.
I'm calling a superfish leglift (fig 3.19b).
To do this posture place your pal ms u p under the hips, stretch you r fl -t TH E SlOW lEG lI FT W IT H A R E lAXED ABDOMEN
ou t in front , and support all or rnost ofyour weight on your forearms. L- t This next leglifting exerciso turns everything we have said so far on it s
your head barely touch the f1oor. Now urch up maximally by lifting e head because it is carriod out with relaxed abdominal muscles; Ior this
chest and abdomen inlo the most extreme poss íble position. This . U reaso n it is only for advanced students with healthy, flexible, and adven-
s ta bilize the lu mbar arch tfig..l.19a). T hen kecping lhe feet together, é d turesome backs. Thc sequence of rnovernents is not only an excellent
the toes. feet, and knecs extended. slowly raise the heels away fro m l e strength-bu ilding exercise for the ilíopsoas m uscles, which will be doing

sitting posture supine posture normal leglifts intense leg lift s
normal breathlng normal breathlng accelerated accelerated
(see tig. 2.18) (see fig . 2.18) breathing breathing
12 brealhs/min 12 breaths/min 60 breaths/rnin 60 breath s/min
liclal vol. 500 mi tidal vol. 400 mi !idal vol. 200 mi !idal vol. 200 m
FRC 2200 mi FRC 1700 mi FRC 1400 mi FRC 1200 mi
alveolar alveolar alveolar alveolar
venlilation venlilation venlilation ventilalion
4200 mi/minut e 3000 mi/minute 3000 mi/minute 3000 m/fminutl Figure 3.19a. Fis~ posture. The c~est and abdomen are lífted as high as possihle
3000 and the posture IS supporled rnainlv by the upper extremities.

l\fV ..--..
"-J 'C/
IV\lVVV\J\f\NV Wvvvvvv
blood oxyge n blood oxygen blood oxygen up blood oxygen I
and carbon and carbon blood carbó n blood carbo n
dioxide normal d ioxide normal dioxide down d íonde down
Om I 40
O 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
time in secones (sec)

Figure 3.18. Simulated shifts in.respiration du ring I ~glift ing..The two c~mJitio n '
on the left are repealed from flg. 2.18. FRC= funchonal residual capacrly. ~~ure ~.1'}b. Superfish leglifl. ~he .lhighs.a!e f1~xed as much as p~ssible withou l
gradrng lhe lumbar arch, whlch IS stab.lrzed m lhe fon.vard POsllion.
most of the work, it is also a golden opportunity to observe com pl x
muscular action . In a second variation of the leglifl with relaxed abdominal muscles, instead
Begin in the supine position. Keep the abdominal rnuscles relaxed , <' d of focusing primarily on exhalation as we do for the fire exercise and ordi -
in slow motion develop enough tensi ón in the iliopsoas muscles to prepare o nary doublc leglifts, inhale slowly as you develop tension for raising the lum-
lift your feet. Notice that as tension develops, the lumbar arch increa -s bar regi ón and for starting to lift the feet off the 11001', This facilitates arching
(fig.·3.20a). This is a formidable concentration exercise. What you are do 19 the lumbar region forward . Then to continue the leglift, exhale as you flex
is diametrically opposed to the standard double leglift, and keeping le th e t highs to 90° while your lower back is being pulled down against the
abdominal muscles relaxed as you increase tension in the hip flexors l2 's üoor by the harnstrings and abdominal muscles. Breathe to suit yourself
against every natural inclination. while resting at l)0" of hip flexionoThen brace yourself and exhale while low-
It is important to sense that the iliopsoas muscles are raising the lu m .ir ering the feet back to a few inches away from the floor, Next, inhale as you
arch maximally befo re they lift the heels off the floor, Follow the move m nt cautiously relax the abdominal muscles, which allows the lumbar arch to
of the lumbar region to its limit. As soon as that point is reached the ¡ -h become re-established. Then lower the feet the rest of the way, exhale and
wiII be stabilized and the hip flexors will finally begin to lift the thighs g. rest with your feet on the floor, and inhale again to begin a new lifting
~.20b), Al. that precise moment focus your concentration un not, repoat rt , cycIe.
tightening the rectus abdominis muscles. Although this is counter to ~ U I' This rnethod of breathing helps you coordinate the chaJlenging músculo-
natural predilections, any tension in those muscles puIls thc lower l 'k skeletal requirements of the exercise, When you start the sequence, the
toward the floor, As with the superfish leglift, unless you have ,lg th ighs are the fixed origins for the iliopsoas muscles, and the lumbar region
hamstrings and exceptional hip flexibility you will not be able to lift ip an d pelvis serve as the insertions. Then, as soon as the lumbar region is
very far and at thc same time maintain the deep lumbar lordosis. Ne 'Iy liíted to its rnaximum, the origins and insertions reverse: the lumbar
everyone will find that their hamstrings start pulling the lower 1 ck region and pelvis serve as origins and the thighs become the insertions,
toward the floor before they can even gel. their thighs flexed 45°, m eh Coordinating the breath with all of this while you are watching the activity
less 90°. of th e rectus abdominis museles and the hamstrings, and at the same time
kecping in mind everything else that is going on, will rnake you aware of
the architecture ofthe abdominopelvic region more than any other exercise.


Yoga sit-ups are a far cry from the fast, jerky exercises in a high sehool gym
class, For (me thing, they should always be done in slow motion. For another,
they should always be done with full awareness of the spine as you roIl up
into a sitting position "one vertebra at a time," as hatha yoga teachers like
Figure 3.20a. For Ihe first stage of a double leglift with a relaxed abdomen. 10sayo Yoga sit-ups also differ fundamentaIly fmm leglifls in that for sit-ups
tension in Ihe i1iacus and psoas muscles liflo; Ihe lumbar arch forward as Ihe yoU are rolling up the part of the body (the torso) thaí controls the move-
abdominal muscles remain complelely relaxed.
ment itself, while in leglifts you are raising up a part of the body that is
merely connected to the lifiing unit.
n 1,'he initial position for sit-ups is lying supine, keeping the thighs together;
exmg the feet and toes, extending the knees, and pressing the lower back
to the floor, Thon, with the hands point~d toward the reet and the lower
back held against the floor. flex the head toward the chest. Breathing evenly,
Continue to mil up one vertebra at a time Hig. 3·2Ia) untiJ you are in a sitting-
POsit ion. Concentratc on the aetion of the abdominal museles, and streteh
Fgure 3.20b. Complelion of slow leglifl wilh relaxed abdomen. lis key featu n is the hands forward as much as possible. Come clown from the posture in
k~eping Ihe lumbar arch slabilized in the forward posilion before and while I e reverse order, slowly mIling clown, first the saerum, then the lumbar
Iccl are lifled slighlly off lhe noor.
170 A/\/I/OMI" or 1//1T1I/I HI(;,l .J. Al1lXIM/,\/ nn.rvtc ¡.:xrRClS¡'~'· 17 1

regiun, chest, and finaIly lhe head and neck, breathing evenly all the .... don 't have enough control lo kecp the hack against the floor, bond the
If you are unable tu lift up significant!y, just squeeze up as mueh as knecs before you do the sit-up just as you would in crunches.
comfortable, hold the position isornetrically Ior a few seconds, and slov V Sit-ups in yoga, whether done with extended or flexed knces and hips,
rol! back down. You will still benefit frorn the poslure. \Vork on il every d. complement legliíts because they involve sorne of the sarnc muscles. But
and you will soon be lifting up with ease. When you have developed en ou '1 there the similarities end. Leglifts sirnply flex the hips, but Ior sit -ups,
strength to do sit-ups with the hands pointing toward the feet, you ( '1 muscles from head to toe on the front ofthe body act first to brace and then
work with progressively more difficult hand and arrn pos ítions-e-pl ac g to bend the torso up and Iorward like an accordion. The iliopsoas and rectus
the fists in the opposite armpits (figs. 6.13-14), catching the opposite earlol. femoris rnuscles first aet as synergists, bracing t he pelvis and lumbar
interlocking the hands behind the head, and stretching the arrns overhea rebrlon and merely supporting the action of the rectus abdominis. Then as
Holding your hack flat against the floor while initiating a sit-up pow -; the upper body is pullcd further up and forward, the hip flexors take a more
fully activates the abdominal muscles, and this enables thern to act active role. Picturing the loeations of all three hip flexors plus the rectus
prime rnovers for rolling you up and forward, but ir you start with le abdominis muscle from the side makes it obvious that the rectus abdominis
lower back arched forward, beware. 'I'he abdominal muscles wiIl be rela -d is th e unly one of the four that has a good mechanieal advantage for initiating
and less effective, and the psoas muscles will create excess tension a l le th e sit-u p, especially when the knees are straight and the thighs are flat
lumbar lordosis, exactly as in old-style sit-ups. Do not let that happen. Ir 'u against t he Iloor (fig. J.2Ib) .
Even if you are careful to keep the lower hack against the floor as you
start th e sit-up, the exercise still compresses the spine and should be done
for only a few repetitions. lfyou are looking for an athletic abdominal exorcise
that can be repeated hundreds of limes, al! modern trainers recomrnend
th at you do sit-ups by first bending your knees and pulling YOUI' heels
toward your hips, When the hips are partially flexed as in fig. J .I, the iliopsoas
a nd the rectus femoris are able to act more powerfully as synergists from
the beginning to support rolling up and Iorward, kceping the pelvis stabilized
at t he crucial moment the sit-up is being initiated by the rectus abdominis

Figure 3.21a. Inlermediate position for a slow easy yogic sit-up. THE SITTING BOAT POSTURES
Leglifts and sit-ups are dynamic exercises that feature isotonic movements,
i1iacus and psoas rectus abdominis whereas sitting boats are classic yoga postures that are held isomctrically.
muscles lirst brace o musdes act as The latter resemble boats when viewcd from the side, and are even as tippy
!hen pull lorward prime movers tor
actively to complete initiating sit-up as boats because of the way you must balance YOUI' weight on the pelvic
the posture bowl.And since the sitting boat postures are ordinarily held for w-60 seconds
Lh ' . . . ,
ey reqUlre more eoordll1atlon and balance than leglifts 01' sit-ups. \Ve'll
rectus lemoris muscles pull ~Pl~re two variations: one makes use .of a rounded back-a nat-bottom
lorward on pelvic bowl ~ at, and the other makes use of a strmght back-a boa! with a keel.


'rh .
. .c boal posture wlth the back rounded should be mastered lirst because
It lS safer and more elementary, and because it doesn't require nearly as
quadriceps lemons muscles kecp knees ~luch hip flexibility as lhe posture with the straight back. Start from a sit-
extended and thighs braced
:l1lg POl>ition with the fingers interlocked behind the head ur neck, the feet
nd toes extended (poinled away from the headl. and the knees extended.
Figure 3.21lJ. lU(;3tions of musdc5 invul\cd in 510w sit-up5.
' 72 III\'A 70.\ 11, (11' 111I771A HX"" 1, ..llIlXM/J¡\()"EJ.\'/( I x/;'m:/.H'-\ 173

Round the Uackposteriorly and slowly lean to th e rear. You will be lengt hern tryin g tú lift up in a duuble leglift whi le keeping the abdomen rclaxed, AH
the iliopsoas and abdom inal muscles eccentrically as gravity pulls your hp ,1 such postures, including this straight-back boat pose , are irnpossible if hip
and shoulders cIoser to the f1oor. Then lean back even further whi lc flexi ~ nexibilit y is poor, And even interrnediate-Ievel students find it diffícult to
the t highs, and right after that pull the torso forward with the abdorn ir u resist the hamstring st retch and at the same time su mrnon the st rengt h to
rnusc les. Final ly, flex the thighs as much as possible with a cornbination If calmly hold t he posture in its ideal form o
the proas, iliacus, and rectus fernoris muscIes. Keep the knees extenr ;
and ho ld the pose isometrically for 10-6 0 seconds (fig. ].22a). If you st t
shaking, you 've gone beyond your capacity and should come back dm Peacocks are said to havc extraordinary powers uf dige stion and assimilation,
Your back should be rounded enough for your weight to be supported on t e and that is one reason the posture has been given this name, The hatha yoga
relative ly flat surface of the sacrum-the flat bottom of the boat- o Iitera ture tc lls us that the peacock pose so enlivens the abdominopelvic
balance ought not be a serious problem, but if it is, sit on a softer su d : e regioo th at if' you have mastercd it and hold it regu larly for three minutes
01' a pillow. a duy, you ca n ingest poison without harm. It might be wise to take that
The other way lo come into this posture is to mise up from a supine posi l. with a grain of salt, but the pea cock is certainly t he supreme post ure Ior
With t he loes , fee t, a nd kn ees extended, press the lower bac k to the fl. Ir developing ab dominopelvic energy. What is more, the com pleted posture
us ing th e a bdominal musc les. Holding tha t position, raise t he head ¡ d looks Iike a male peacock as it struts its stuff wit h a long plume of colorful
pull the shouldors up a nd forward, a nd when that rnovement is part u o' feathers trailing behind.
underway, tight en the psoas and iliacus mu scles concent rica lly to flex t e Th erc are several ways to approaeh and com plete t he pos tu re , Here's
thighs. If you have developed the requisite st rength from legl ifts ¡ Id one: '1'0 come into the preparatory position, you first kneel with the thighs
sitt ing- up exe rcises, t he entire scq uence shou ld be easy. 'I'ry it slowly o abducted and the toes Ilexed. Then you lower the top of th e head lo the
analyze its components. You will probably [lid yo urse lf minimizing yo Ir Iloor, and place the palms on the floor between the knees with t he fingers
ti da l volume a nd focusing un exha lation, exactly as you did with th e e
exercíse and most of the othor leglifts.


The back is kept straight in the second sitting boat posture, and this r y
not be easy. From a sitting posi tion with the feet togelher and with the t ·S Figure 3.22a. F1at-bottomed
and knees extended, sit ramrod straight, which includes arching the 10 \ -r boat. This is a beginner's
baek forward . Next, stretching your hands out in front of you, lean b ~ounded- ba ck posture, and
ISespecially valuab le for
ward, keeping the hips Ilexed at a 1)0 angle, wh ich of course lifts the f t. thuse with p o or hip
You will be supporting the postura with the psoas, iliacus, and abdom al flexibility.
rnusc les, ami especially (in contrast to the round-hottom buaO , wit h le
rectus femoris muscles (figs. j.(), /l.!), and 1(11) , which are prime moven; Ir
keeping the front of lhe pelvis pulled forward and for maintaining lhe JO
angle between the pelvis and t he lhighs. Hold the pose isometrically Ir
10-60 seconds (fig. 3.22bl . It is harder to balance in this posture than in le
previous one because you are poisl'<.! on your sitting bunes lthe keel of 1 le
boaO instead of the l1at of th e sacr um. Again. use a pillow if balanci nl- s
~igure 3.22b. Slraighl-back
too difficult. ct'1 boal. for advanccd
If you have limited hip l1exibility because of tight hamstrings, you 11 student s who have good
find yourself stl'Uggling tu keep yuur back straight. The problems are c slrength and hamstrings
lon~ enough lo permil 9UO
pamble to tho&! faced by studcnts trying to do 90° leglifls while keepl ~ of hlp flexiono
their lumbar regions arched forward in t he su per fish leglift , as well as 1
174 , IJ\'A 7U.II I OF flAn/A I'OGA .J A 1J1XJ'\/I ,\OI'N 17C EXERUS/i.\ 175

pointing bchind you . Bring the wrists and elbows together tightly, and r II fingertips. You have to keep the body rigid enough fOI" the toes to lift off the
the hands toward the head until the forearms are perpendicular tu the nI Ir ñoor (fig. 3.23dl, and the back rnuscles have to be very powerful to accornplish
and the elbows are in contact \..rith the abdomen (fíg, 3·23a). The wrists .. 11 this. especially if you want to keep the back re latively st raight in the final
be extended about 1)0°. If this is a problem because of previous w .¡t pose. Alt hough wc' ll de lay detailed comments on the design of th e upper
injuries or wrist inflexibility, you may not be able to do the peacock U I il extremil ies until chapter R, the musc les that stabilize the two scapulae (tho
the situation has been corrected wit h other st retches. Most women II shoulderblades J are also crucial to t his effort, especially one-the serratus
have lo squeeze their breasts botwccn the arrns above the meeting poin t rr anter¡or- t hat keeps the scapula flat aga ínst the back an d pul led to the side
the elbows. If you try to create more room for the breasts by alIowin g le (figs. 3. 11-1 2 and 8.1)) .
elbows to come apart, one or both elbows will slip to the side and otl le Assuming that your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and scapular
abdomen when you attempt to complete the posture. supporting rnuscles are strong enough lo support the posture, and assuming
Holding this position , take the knees back as far as possible and t -n that you have been able to keep the elbows in position, the main problem
straighten thern, sliding the toes as far back as you can. supporting j U I" for most people is develo ping enough strength in the Ilexors of the fore-
weight on the top of the head, the hands, and t he feet (fig, 3·23b). 'I'his .1Y arrns lo pcrm it a slow and controJIed eccentric extension of the elbows . To
be all you can do. If so, remain in this position for 20-60 seconds to b Id complete th e posture, the forearm Ilexors have lo support t he entire weight
your capacity of the body. They lengthen eccentrically as you bring your weight lorward ,
Sti ll keeping the elbows in position, lift the head . 'I'hen slowly take j UI" and as you t ry to come into the final isometric position you may exceed
weight. lorward by extending th e elhows, supporting most of your we ht their limi ts . One of three reactions is typical: you may fall forward on your
on t he hands and sorne of your weight on t he extended Ieet (fig. 3· ~ l . nose as t he flexors suddcnly relax and give way under t he influence 01'
Again , you may fi nd it useful to remain in this position for 20-60 seo ds inhibit ory inpu t to motor neu rons from Golgi tendon organs; you may fall
rather than go fu rt her and Iall forward.
Now, whi le bracing the back and thighs to keep the body as straigh as
possible, pitch your weight forward by extending the elbows until yoi re
ba lancing all of your weigh t on the hands, paying spccial attention to le

figure 3.23c.Third posilion for the peacock, with weight supported only
between the feet and the hands,

figure 3.23a. Preparatory posilion, peacock .

forearm ftexors

i~g,ure 3.2.1d. Peacock posture completed. As the weight comes further forward,
Figure 3.23h. Second position. pe aco ck, with elbows f1exed aboul 9llo. e forearm f1exors lengthen eccen lrically to suppo rt the poslure.
J , ABf)(J,II/MJ/'/:LI1C E\'ERClSES 177


to one side, usually as the weaker arm slips off the abdomen; 01' your m 0 1'

pathways may just deliv er up a resounding objection hecause they se n at A fllmous conductor, rehears íng the chorus for the Verdi Requiem , once
sorne level that you will not have the strength to SUPPOlt the final post re. stop ped the mu sic and s hou ted to the performers , "No! o! Squeeze it in-
In this last case students oft en do something silly, like tossing thei r Jet push it up!" He may not have known it, but he was telling thern to seal off
into the air as if they were trying to levitate . T heir foet , of course , fall ick and contro l the anatomical perineum-the base of the pelvis-and thereby
to earth just like anything else that is tossed in the airoYou can com¡ te eultiv ate what we have been calling abdominopelvic energy. AlI trained
this posture, at least using thc approach dcscribed here, only by brin ng singers have learned th at the purest and richest sou nd originates from Ih is
your weight forward . region. In th e lan guage 01' si ngers , the base of the body "supports" the voice.
A successful peacock puse depends to a great extent on your body 'pe Th e perineum and pelvis not only establish a foundation for creating an
and weight distribution. If you have a big chest and sma l! hips and t h ths intensely lyric sound, they form the lowermost portio n of the abdominopelvic
the bu lk ofyour weight will be Iorward and you will not have to extem he unit , support the weight of the abdominal and pclvic organs, and bea r their
elbow s a 10110 complete the posture. But ifyou have a smal l che sl, big .,IS, full share of intra-abdominal pressure. As an experiment, next time you
and heavy thighs and legs, a greater proportion of your weight wil! to sen se an impending sneeze or a li t of violent coughing, notice that you
the real' and you will have lo extend your elbows more fully As you do iat, prepare for t he sharp increases in intra-abdominal pressure by pu lling the
however, the forearm flexors start losing t heir mechanical adv antagc md base of th e body in and up with an intensity that will match the expccted
the pose becomes more difficult to complete and hold . This is easy tu I .ve, explosiveness of t he expected sneeze 01' cough.
If it happens that you can complete the posture easily you'lI not havc my For singers and public speak ers who are engaging an audience, a tripartite
trouble supporting a zv-pou nd weight on your midback withou t add il nal musc ular effort within the torso ís apparent. The anatomical perineum
extcnsion of the elbows. But if someone were to place a s-pound weigl on pushes up against the pelvic organs, the abdominal muscles squeeze in Irorn
your feet , the increased elbow extension needed lo bring your weight foi .ird the front, the sides, and behind, an d the muscle libers of the respiratory
to a point of balance will probably drop you to the floor like lead. diaph ragrn len gthen against resistance, s lowly submitting to the ascent of
1t is commonly saíd that the peacock is more difficult for wom en ian Ihe dom e of t he dia phragm during exhalation. AII three act together to
for men because they have less upper body strength, but the ma in n -on oversee a whole-body regulation of the passage of air past the vocal cords
that women have more difficulty is that a greater proportion 01' eir in the larynx.
weight is distributed in the lower half of the body. It follows , then, th lo
make th e posture easier, all they need to do is to Iold in sorne oftheir 1 ver
111 The pelvis and t he perineum mntain the pathways for eliminalion, serve as
body weight. The classic solu tion: do the posture with th e legs folded
th e lotus pose so the elbows will not have to extend as much to su p it . focal points for sensual pleasure, and accornmodatc all aspects ofprocrcation;
Th is is possibl e, of course, only ü· you are comfOlt a ble in the lot us. bul even though these functions are all enOl'mously sign ilicant lo us
'rhe peacock develops more intra-abdominal pressure than a ny ( ler peroonally and are tI'eated al lengt h by aH esoteric traditions, our main
posture because th e abdominopelvic unit (which is boundcd by the resp iro nry ~urpose here is lo u ndersta nd how the pelvis and perineum are important
diaphrawn, the pel vic diaphrawn, and th e abdominal muscles ) is su p Irt- In postu res and breathing exercises. '1'0 that end we'U simply outline th cir

ing the weight of the body through th e elbows and arms. And becauR he anatorny and concentrate on several important practices that ena ble the
diaphragm is working so hard, you can breathe only under du 'ss' st udent to sensc their architecture experientially and lay the b'TOundwork
Neveltheless, you should always keep breathing. lt is lcmpting to hol he for mor advaneed study.
glotlis shut a nd cqualize intra-abdominal pre5!:>'Ure with intrathoracie r cs- Th e pelvis ~md perineum are dillicult terms to eomprehend because the
sure. but that is impractical because you can hold your br ealh for on SO words
. "pel ViS,
. "" pe lVIC,
' " an d " pcrmeum
. .. eae h h ave more than one meaning.
. lId F1rs t consi der the pelvis. 'I'he way we used this woro in lhe finst half of the
long. In addition, the su hstant ial increa ¡.;e in intrathoracl pressure e
be dangerous to th e heart and eirculation. lt is much better lo kcep t he ir- current chapter was in reference to t he pelvic howl, which , in addition lo
way open and limil the increase in pressure to the abduminopelvic ca ty. thp two pelvic bones, includes th e pubic symphysis plu s the sacrum, the
Obviously the peacock is only for those who are in sp lendid athl tic sacroili ac joints, and a U lhe pe lvic l'estraining liga ments (lig . J .4). But lay
condition. !X'llple occasionally refer lo the pelvis more generally as including the
17tl AIIA1YJM I or I/A H IA }"(I( ;A .l A IIIXI,\/1JW W El I7C EXl'RUS/·S 17'J

región of the body between the upper portian of t he thighs and the lo", r part of the perineum, which IS obvious to any slender person sitting
abdomen, a nd indeed, in the section of t his chapter on intra-abdomit \1 upright on a hard seat.
pressure , we referred to the pelvic cavity as a part of the comb ii d
abdominopelvic region. And final1y, we commonly make reference to e
contents of the pelvic bowl, that is, lo t he pelvic organs. We can best un derstand the structures inc luded within the anatomical
The word "perineum" also has more than one meaning. Gross anato IY perin eum if we build our understanding from the inside out. The deepest
textbooks usually include a chapter titled "The Anatomical Perineum" tl u layer, the peluic diaphragm , is a broad, thin sheet of muscle and fasciae
describes th e contents of a diarn ond-shaped region that forrns the bas, If [hat spans the entire diarnond-shaped region, encircling the anus posteriorly
the pelvis a nd that contains the anus, t he genitals, and their supporr Ig and Iying deep 1.0 t he genitals anteriorly. Seen in three dimensions it is
muscles. T he more common definiti on of t he perineum, however, refer ' 0 shaped like a deep hammock. Stand up and en visíon such a hammock at
a much srna ller region , not inclusive of the anus and t he genitals, I ut the base of t he body. It is suspended between the pubic bones in front a nd
between thern . T his is t he site hatha yoga teachers are referring to VI' -n the sacrurn behind, and it supports the internal structures of the pelvic
th ey tell you to place one heel in t he perineu m , and this is the regi on l ile
obs tetrician stices through lo do an episiotomy, T hese variations in u. g-e
are rarely a problern, however, for anyone who has awarencss of I th
sigmoid colon
possibilities, beca use t he meaning of the term is nearly always clear f, -m
its context.


T he contents ofthe pel vic bowl a re best see n in a dissection in which a lid·
sagittal cut has been made from the wais t down (figs. 3.24-25). The re; on unnary
for th is is sim ple: most of the pelvic structures in which we are intere ed
either tic in the midline 01' are vis ible from the perspeclive of a fron . 0 -
back cut that runs straight down the rniddle of the body. I n both sexes. he pubic
skeletal íramework of the lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal spine are vi- ile
behind, alo ng with the pubic syrnphysis in front. Also in both mal e -id
female, the recturn, anus, bladder, and urethra are plainly secn. The p is, corpus
. ./ spong iosum
prostate gland, and scrotum are found exclusively in the male (fig. 3· -t ), 01 penis
and the uterus, vagina, labia, and clítoris are found exclusively in he
mal e urethra
female (fig 3.2<;). (dark profiJe)
rectum ----"
The anatomicaJ perineurn is shaped roughly like a diamond . lt is define- by ~ - ' - - septum
four points: the inferior border of the pubic symphysis , the tip of the el vx between
rear.midsagiltal / corpora
lt he tailbone), and t he two ischial tuberosities. The diamond is made. u of Portian 01 pelvic cavernosa
two t.riangles: the urogenital triangle antcriorly, and the anal tnat tle dlaphragm
01 penis
posteriorly (ligs. 3.4 and 3.27) . Thesc two triangles sha re a common b. .;e ,
which is nn imaginary line between the two isehial tu bcrosit ics , but ex pt proslatic glans penís
urethra scrotum , wilh lestis
for this one line, the two triangtes tie in different planes. The anal trial :le
exlcnds up and back to the coccyx, and the urogenik'll triangle ext end. IP Figu~e 3.24. Mid sagittal (Iongilud ina l. Ironl-t o -baek ) seetion lh rough lhe male
and forward along lh e inferior pubic rami to th e pu bic symphysis (fig. 3 ..l. pelv ~s reve alin g mid line pa rts a f lhe reproductiv e system, lh e midl ine lerminal
'rhe tine connecting the two isch ial tuberosities is lower th a n any ot el' ~~lrlJons 01 lh e dig estive and uri nary syste ms, a nd lh e re ar portion o f lh e pel vic
13 phragm (Ironl portion is interrupted by lh e ge nila ls). (Sappey)
l . A IJIXI,\/¡'WJI'I,/ 17C E.\LRf.f.\D> 1!!1
l /lo Af>i lHH /I ' o F IIA 711A ¡ 'OC A

cavity just as a hammock in your back yard suppo rts th e human fr arne. 1 e In hatha yoga th e pelvic diaphragm is activatcd consciously by two practices:
mid sagittal segment oft he hammock that runs fr orn the a nus to the coo x ashwini m udra and mula bandha. There are su btle a nd not -so-subtle
is visible to the real' in figs . 3.24- 25. The pelvic diaphragm is interrupted y differcnces between the two. We'll begin with as hw ini mudra.
the anus a nd its sphi ncters to the rear, and by the midline structu re s of't e
genitals in front. A frontal section [rna lel through the pro state gla nd < d
urethra illu strates how the borders of the hammock extend up an d o Ash wini is the Sans krit word for "mare" ("horse" would be an appropriate
either side (fig. 3.26). In a superficia l dissection of either male or fem e tran slat ion except that the word m ud ra, which means "gesture," is a
only the rear half of the funnel cumes ín to view because the geni ta ls en -r feminine noun in Sa nskrit a nd requ ires a feminine modifi er), a nd as hwini
it in front (figs. 3.28-29); in a deeper dissection (female) with th e genil ls mudr a in hatha yoga is narned for th e movement of the pelvic diaphragm
rem oved (fig. 3.27>, it becomes obvious that the pelvic diaphragm for él
in a horse after it has expelled the contents of its bowel. During the expu lsi ón
sl ing around cross sec tions of th e vagina and uret hra. phase, the cone- shaped pelvic diaphragm moves to th e rear; a nd alter the
conte nts ofthe bowel are dropped, the museles ofthe pelvic diaphragm pull
strongly inward. In so doing they cleanse the anal canal. In human beings
thc same thing happens-you first bear down, opening the anus and
cxpellin g the contents of the bowe l, and then the pelvic diaphragm pulls
intervertebral disk
between the lifth lumbar inward and upward while contracting the anal sphincter. The pulling
vertebra and lhe sacrum inward motion , which we also do reflexly from moment to mom cnt during
sigmoid colon the day, is ash wini rnudra . This is not as obvious as it is in a horse, because

sacral promonlory

ureters opemng
prostate gland inlo urinary bladder

- - -I-H - - - ul- JS
$;~---¡'T:i~- left o ry
coecyx internu s
urinary blal .er
mu sele

rectu rn Pelvie diaphragm _ _ --=;;;~'-t;~
pelvie diaphrag m
_ _ _ _ _ cll ris
sagíttal sec-
l ion through
rear po rtio n Inferior pubc ramus
Corpus cavern osu m
01 pelvie
(crus 01 lhe pe nis)
male urethra corpus spo ngiosum
anus (from

d~~ure 3.2&. fr~>ntal (longitudinal, side-to-side ) section !hrough the mal e pelvi c
vagina female ureth ra
. phragm, urmarv bladder, prostate gland, prostatic urethra, and corpus spo n-
f~osu m. as well as the paired corpora cavernosa. inferior pubie rami and i1ia
figure 3.25. Midsaginal sectiun Ihrough. lh~ fema le. pelvis r~vealing mid l!ne . p ~'pelvic diaphragm forrns a deep hammock that extends lengthwise hum 'the
parts of the reproduclivc system, the rnidline termma l.po~llOns of the digest b« s u ~s l o lhe coccyx and that supports the in le rn al pelvie organs. Here we see a
and urinary svs tems, and the rea r segnll'nt of the pelvic diaphragrn (Sappcy). . echlln th ro ug h the sides of the ha rnrno ck, and in fig. 3.27 we see it as a whole.
in hurnans the whole regi ón is onveloped in loose connective tissue id Sorne post ure s rnake apure ashwini mudra easy, and ot hers make it
covered with t he superficial structures of the perineum. but it is the same gest 'e, difficult. If you stand with the Ieet well apart an d bcnd forward 20-}00, you
As a natural movement, ashwini mudra is often forceful, especially w -n v.'Í1l find it awkward to contraer the anus and pelvic diaphragrn, and alrnost
it is associated with keeping the base of the abdominopelvic cavity ses -d impossib le to contract thern without aclivating the muscles around the
during sharp or extreme increases in in1ra-abdominal pressure, or when lS genitals as well. Now stand upright with the heelE and toes together and
used as a las t-ditch means for retention (think of restraining diarrhea), a rry it again, This is easier, Ir you don't tighten too vigorously you may be
yoga practice, ashwini mudra is not so intense, but it sti ll aets as a peru al able to isola te the pelvic diaphragm and the gluteals from the museles of
scal, fort ified in this case by tightening the glu teal rnusclos along with le the gen it als . Next, bond backward gentIy, keeping the heels togcther and
pelvic diaphragm and anal sphincter, The rnudra is applied for a few se -\s, th e thighs rotated out so the feet are pointed 90" away from one another,
released, and repeated. Ideally, on ly the gluteals, the pelvic díaphragm , Id Keep the kn ees extended . 'I'hen tighten gently behind and try to rclcase in
t he anal sphincter are activated, but t he proximity of muscles overlying he front. This ís one of t he easiest upright postures in whic h to accornplish a
gen itals a nteriorly sometimes rnakes th is difficult, and you will often -el pure as hw ini mudra. Last, bring t he toes together and rot a te the hecls out.
thern tighten along with the res t when you try to create th e gesture. This again makes it di fficult.
Th ese simple experirnents iHustratc the general ru le: a ny posture that
pulls the hips toge ther will rnake ashwini rnud ra easier, and any post u re
that pulls the hips apart will make it more t1 ifficul t. That, as it ha ppens, is
one prohlem with a ll cross-legged s itting pos tures. T ry it. Whe n t he thighs
are flexed with respcct to t he spine and abductcd out to the s ides, it is
pelvic diaphr j rn , almost impo ss ible to con tract the gluteals and on ly a little less diflicu lt to
righl sida
ísolate the anus and pelvic d ia phragm fro m the genitals. But if you t ry the
mudra in the sho ulderstand or hcadstand with the hccls together antl the
toes out, you will find t ha t it is easy bccause gravity is alrcady pul1ing the
pelvic diaphragm toward the floor, Little or no cffort is needed lo achieve a
fully pulled-in fec ling, and tha t effort need not involve the genitals, Now lie
supine on th e floor and notice tha t you can easily tighten up in the rear
without recru iting muscles a round the genitals. Pronc, it is more diffícult,

atoleast in me n, in whorn the muscles associated with lhe genitals are
r shmulated by contact with the floor.
On e of the best post.u res for ashwini mudra is the upward-facing dogoAs

\ long as the pelvis is lifted slightly offthe naor (figs . 5.I.H 4), it is impossible
too do thi s pose wit hollt activa ting the pelvic diaphragm , yet it does not
stJ~ulatc the muscles in the urogenital triangle in the least. The down-
fa~lng dog (figs. 6.17 and 8.26), not surprisingly, creates the opposite e!fect:
anal lriangle
(dotted lina
thls postur e is one of t he easiest poses for recruiting the muscles of t he
plus solid line) ~rogenital region in isolation, but a pose in which it is a lmost impossible lo
(Iro • 180late the muscles associated with ashwini mudra.
Mor s)
left sacroiliac jDint sacrum right ilium
Figure 3.27. A deep d isse c tio n of the p elvic diap~ragm of t~e fema le (view fr· rn lnash . .
WIllJ mud ra we stronglY ac t ivatc t he pelvic diaphragm, the anus, and
b elo w ). The superficial muscles a nd ex te rna l ge mta ls (se e flgs. 3.28 -29) have I th e gluteals. Mula b¿mdha is more delicate. llere we mi ldly activate the
been re mo ved, rev e alin g the u nd erl yin g hammock-like pelvic d iaphragm (se f Pel ' . .
figs. 3.24-26), as we l! as t~e genital .and ~ nal mangle s (se e a lso fig. 3.~). A VlC dt aphragm plus-more strongly- the overlying muscles of the
co m pa ra b le m a le dissect lO ~ IS alm~sl .d entlCal , e xcep t that a cross-se ctlUn u f lJto~enital t r ia nglc, which includes t he mllsc!es associated with the
th e pe nis a nd mal e ur ethra IS "ubstltuted fur Ihe vagina and fernale ur elhra.
IX-l ANA7Tl.\/1 (JI' IIrlT1IA H lG/I
.l . ..11Jl}( 1.1I/;\ O / 'i::/,I /C 1i.\EIIU .\ / :\ 1 1l~

genita ls and the urethra, Therefore, to u nderstand mu la bandha we h. 'e

nnd certai n ly none in the gluteal muscles. This describes the roo l lock. You
to examine the anatomical disposition of these muscles .
don't ha ve to make extreme efforts. The cushion on which you are sitt íng
TH E MUSCLES OF THE URO GENITAL TRIANGLE pJaces enough pressure on the rnuscles of the urogení tal triangle to focus
your awareness on the lock.
Looking at a su perficial disseetíon, we see that three pairs of museles OVl ie
Now t ry the sanie exerciso in a slumped postura with the back rounded
the genitals. In both male (fig, 3.28) and fema le (fig. .P9), the superfi Ji
lo th e real'. T his changes everything. Jt shifts your attention frorn the front
transuerse perineal muscles course laterally in t he shared border of le
ofthe anatomical perineurn to the rear; and it elicits a mild ashwini mudra
urogenital and anal triangles, extending lateral ly Irom a heavy ban r of
instead 01' mu la bandha because you are tipping baekward toward the plane
centrallv located connective tissue-the centra l tendon ufthe perineum tu
al' th e anal triangJe and away frorn the plane of the urogenital triangle.
the iseh'iaJ tuberosities. The bulbospongiosus muscles in lhe ma lo en ci le
the base of the penis; in the female those sarne m uscles encircle the va; la
and urethra, The ischiocaoernosus muscles in bot h t he maJe an d fem a h ie
superficial to t he erectile tiss ues of t he corpora cauemoea, which t h u-
left side 01 scroturn
se lves course fr orn the in ferior pu bic rami lo the body of the penis in he
wilh left testis
male and to the clitoris in the Ie mal e. In a slight ly deeper plane 01' he
u roge n ita l dia phrag m (in bo th rnal e a nd fe rna le ), the deep trans i se bulbospongiosus
perineal muscles spread out late ral ly in sheets that a ttach to the infi ur muscfe (feft side)
pubic ram i, and the uret hra l sphincters encircle the uret h rae.
MULA BANDHA . THE ROOT LOCK muscle (lett side)
Unlike ashwini mu dra, which is often a response to sharp and sur en
increases in abdominopelvic pr essu re, mu la bandha (the root lock : a
gentle contraction of t he pelvic diaphragm and the muscles of the uroget
triangle. It does not counter intra-abdom inal pressure so mueh as it ~ lis
urogenital energy within the body, controlling and restraining it d u ng
breathing exercises an d meditation (again, t his is a Iiterary rather th 1 a
scientifíc use 01' t he term "energy"). What actually happens is more ( .¡ ily
sensed than described , so we'lI begin with a series 01' exercises.
First try sitting in a ha rd chair eovered with a thin cushion. In a nei al
position, neither perfectly upright 01' slumped, try lo blow out but wit l .ut
letting any aír escape. Try hard. Notice that the pelvic region contracta Id
lifts up involuntari ly enough to countcr the downward pu sh from th e {' -st
and abdominal wall . Now try the mock blowing maneuver again, bu t iis
tim e keep the pelvie region relaxed, and notice that it feels like st ra il ng pelvic diaphragm.
for a bowe l movement. TI'Y it one last time, but this time lift the el' are real' portioo. left slde
anatomical pel'ineum consciously, and you will qllickly sensc that t I ,; C
eITorts bring both the pelvic diaphragm and the muscles of the uroge al
righl iSChial luberosily anus lip 01 coccyx leh gluleus maximus muscle
region into play.
Ncxt sit really straight. arching the lower hack forward . Exhale, pr~ 19
in with t he abdominal museles, an d not ice that it is nat u ral to find a fOl .15 ~igurc 3.28. Male a nafomira l perineu m. l he ana l porlinn of Ihe pelvic
'aph.ragm is hown hel ow (in fhe a na l trian gle ). lhe externa l gen ila ls and lhe ir
for yuur a l lention at a point between t he a nus and genitals. You may sel '; C
=~SoCl.aled mu sclcs a re shown a boye (in lh e urogenilallrian gle ). w he re lhey are
a slight tcm;i on in the musclcs orthe geni taLs, but HUle or none in the an s, IfrPenmposed ove r (and fhu s hid e) lh e fron l po rtion of lh e pe lvÍl. dia phragm
orn Sappey).
$_ AI/l)(JMIA'/If'/:'I. nc I:'X¡;I<ClSI~\' II!;'
186 ;lNA7TJ" n - 01' IIAnlA HK;A
but íf you are careful to sit straight it will becorne easy.
(The angle between thcse two planes is shown clearly in fig . 3-4)· Silt Ig
With practico you will be able to sense the contraction of successive layers
straight rocks you up and forward so that contad with the cushion Ia v rs
of muscles from the outside in. Starting superficially and with a minimal
the root lock. The lesson : sit straight if you wish to apply mula bandha
effort, you can feel activity in the ischiocavernosus, bulbospongiosus, and
If this is still confusing, it will be helpful to first experience a gross ven- 'n
superficial transverse perineal muscles. And with a Iittle more attention
of the root lock. The best. concentration exercisc for this is to sit upri ht
and try brcathing in concert with slowly increasing and decreasing ten s -n
yOu can actívate the deep transverso perineal muscles and the urethral
in the perineum. With the hoginning of exhalation gradually tighten le sphincter. And with yel more effort you can actívate the pelvic diaphragm.
'I'he central tendon of the perineum, which as discussed previously is
muscles of the pelvic diaphragrn and genitals, aiming for rnaxi rn m
located al the dividing line between the anal and urogenital triangles,
contraction al the end of exhalation. As inhalation begins, slowly re x.
appears lo be the key structure around which the more delieate versions of
Repeat the eycle for ten breaths several times a day. At first it ma. ne
difficult to tighten the muscles without also tíghtening the gluteal mu sco -s, mula bandh a are organized. This is an extremely tough fascial regi ón into
which th e superficial and deep transverse perineal rnuscles insertoIf you
can learn lo focus your atlention on this tiny regi ón while creating mini mal
physical eontraction of the nearby musc1es, you will be Ieeling the mol. lock.
(Yoga teachers who speak ofplacing awareness on the perineum are referring
to thi s regíon.) Conc éntrate on the sensation, and in time mula bandha wiIl
ischiocavem us
muscle , left ~ e feel n atural and comfortable. With experience you can hold the lock
constantJy, which is what yogis recommend for meditation.
vaglnalopl' IOg A MOD I F I E D CAT 5TRETCH
In add ition lo the down-facing dog (figs. 6.17 and 8,26), which was just
e menli oned in the section on ashwini mudra, one of the best yoga postures
for help ing you come in contact with the de licacy and precision of the 1"O0l
lock is a modified cat pose. From a kneeling position, bring your chin lo the
rse 0001', swing your elbows out, and bring the upper part of the chest as low
as possible, arching your back deeply and mimicking a cat peering undcr a
c~uch (fig, 3.30). Then tighten the perineal region generally You will imme-
dlately notice that the exposed anus in this position brings the sensations
loward the front of the diamond-shaped perineum rather than behind and
that eve n 1if you
vou squeeze
soueeze vigorously
vi '
the gluleal muscles rornain relaxed.
t er ~er you have practiced this pose severa] times and gotten accu stomed to
It8 associated sensatiion s, you can try to find the same feelings when you

apply the root lock in sitting postures,

pelvíc diaphra g n
rear portien, left de

left gluteus maximum mu le

anus !ip 01 coccvx

figure 3.29. Female anatomical perineum: The anal portian of lheyelvic

diaphragm is shown below (in the anal lnangle), The external genltals and th 4 r
associaled muscles are shown above (in the uro genita l tria ngle ), where lhey a e Figure..3 "'JO, M o d'fi
ilsh I le d cat strelch, for sensing mula handha in prefercncl:' lo
superimposed over (and thus hide) the front portion of the pelvic diaphragm Wlnl mud ra.
(from Morris).
IRS .r,\ /l 10 M I OF /M111A HIGA
.r. AH/XJllth\ O P/:'/.I'/< E \ /:R <.'I.\ I·S 11\<)

AGNISARA as yoU exhale, a ll the whi le bolstering the effort with the ches t. You r fi rst
Agni sara, or "fa nning the tire," is a breathi ng exercise, an abd om inal exer -e, impulse is lo emphasize the upper abdomen. T ry it, several ti mes , observing
and a powerful stimulus to abdominopelvic health . When it is done ' h exaclly where the various effccts and scnsations are felt. Notice t hat the
fu ll at tention a nd for an adcquate span of da ily practice, it sto kes th e re elfort in t he upper abdomen is accompan íed by a slight feeling ofweakening
of the body like no other exercise. But before t rying it we'Il first do a tI Il - in the lower abdomen. The lowor region may not actually bu lge out physical ly,
ing exe rcise for acti ve exhalations, and then we'll wor k with a mod a- te hut it feels as if it might. Now try lo ex hale so that t he u pper a bdomen, t he
practice- A a nd P brcathing-i-that is accessible to everyone. lower abdomen, and the sides are given equal ernphasis, as though you are
compressi ng a ball. Exhalation might take 6-7 seconds and inhalation J-4 .
ACTIVE EXHALATION lnhalation is mostly passive (releasing) and manages itself naturally, Take
During the coursc of re laxed, casual breathing, you make moderate efi ts 10-1 5 breaths in th is manner.

to in bale a nd you usu ally rclax lo exhale. but all of the exercises that (01 'W Much of inha lat ion is passive in A an d P brea t hing because the chest
m a ke use 01' active exhalat ions, in sorne cases breath ing out all the ty prings open and the abdominal wa ll spri ngs Iorwa rd of their own acco rd .
down lo you r residual volume. To ge t an idea of what is involved, t ry le The strong em phasis on ex hala tio n rneans tha t you are breathing in and
followin g exercise: In hale moderately through the nose, purse the lips, nd out a tidal volume which is t he combination of your norm al t idal volume
exhale as if you were t ry ing lo blow u p a ball oon in one breath. Try lis for an upright pos ture plus part 01' yo ur expi ratory reserve. Your revised
sc veral t im es.lf you slowly breathe out as rnuch air as possible t h ro ugh e tidal volume for A and P breathing mig ht be about ~oo mI for each hreath
resistance of t he purscd lips, you'Il notice that exhalation is accompa rather than the tex tbook tidal volume of 500 ml, and along with this, vour
by a tightening of the rnuscles throughout the torso, including the abdo ial new expira to ry reserve volurne would become about 600 mi rather than
muscles, the intercostal m uscles in t he chest, and t he muscles in the f or 1,000 mi (fig. J ·32, lefl-hand pa nel). In any case, A and P b reathing boosts
of the pelvis. At first you will notice the abdominal muscles pressing he your en ergy by increasing blood oxygen a nd deereasing blood carbon dioxide.
relaxed d iaphragm up (a nd pushing th e air out) with the chest in a relati ·Iy It is a simple exe rcise. but ono that is bot h re laxing and invigora t ing.
fixed posit ion: t hen you '11 notice the chest being compressed inward ; id
finally, toward the end 01' exhalation, you will notice the contraction f he
pelvic diaph r agrn . This sequence of eve nts will also take place if '1U A a~d .p breathing can be done by anyone, but agni sara and its more complex
breathe out normally, but creating resistance through the pursed ps ~llrI~tlOns are intenso prac t ices that req uire training a nd con di tioning.
makes the muscu lar effor ts much more obvious. Iheir effects on th e body are powerful enough for them to be con traindicated
by severa! rned ical condit ions (see the end of this chapter). 'fhey should
A AND P BREATHING also be done on Iy on an cmpty stornaeh and afíer evacuating the bowels
This preliminary exercise Lo ab'lli sara, called allllm:/zana prasarana or . Like A and P breathing, lhe c1assic agni sara is usually don e standi;lg
A and P brealhing 101' short, involves active exhalations and re Jaxed inhal at lS. w~th Ihe torso a l a 60-70° angle fro m u prigh t, the feet apart. lhe knees
T he literal meaning of the phrase js apt : "squeezing and releasing." SI Id shghtly bent , the hands on t he thighs just above the knces the elbows
extended ,an d t h e arms supportmg ' ' brealhing
the torso. And like A and P
with the Lrunk pitched forward, the hands on the thighs jll st above le
thc practicc foc uses
. on ex ha! a t Ion.
' But mstead
. of utIhzmg a mass contraction'
. . .
knees, the elbows extended, the feet about a foot and a half apart, and le
01' abdo minal I . .
knees slightly bent. Much of the weight 01'the torso is placed on the fr lt d . musc es , agnl sara reqUlres a stcp-by-stcp muscular effOlt. To
ol'the thighs. Brealhe in and out a few l imes nor mal ly, lJnd observe that le o th e practJce, focus your attention on lhe a rca jllsl aboye the pub l's a d
pres . th b ' . . " en
posture and the angle ol' lhe body pu lls the abdominal organs forward Id . S e ti domen m at that slle before prcssing in with the middle remon
oí th e abd
h' . omen.
Th .
en con tll1uc to exhale, gradually rccruiling muscles
creates a mild tcnsion against the abdominal wal!. Notice thal counter 19
lhe tension produced by lhe force of gmvity requires that a mild effort le o IRher ~n the abdominal wall and ending with the internal intercostal muscles
made cven at the heginning of cxhalation, and the greater the for wl ·d : t~e n b cage-all the time holding tension 0010"": Exhale as much as possib l
angle lhe greater the cffect. otlce t ha t exhalation not only presses lhe abdomen and chest in it al ~.
'1'0 do A and P brealhing, assume th e ¡.;ame posture as in the trial r tl 1, presses the bac k to t he real' (lig. 3.31). For in halation revers e th e p'roce so
fela . ss,
and press in slowly (squeez ing) from a B sides wilh the abdominal muscl s Xll1 g t he chesl and u ppe r abdomen ¡¡rsl and lowel' abdomen las1.
II}O rl 1\A T O,\/ l orn.vtu» HKiA
3 rll/l )(J,I I/tIO I '1:l 17C EXF/U olo' /-S 1';11

If you watch yourself from the pubis lo t he sternum when you have 110th g For t hose who are interested in numbers, minute and alveolar ventilations
on, it will be eas ier to Iearn, but even then it may take severa! weeks of d: Y are easily calculated (fig.
J .Jz ). A reasonabl e practico ís lo breathe out and
practice and concentration before you can do the exercise with confidenco then in 4 times per minute. which would yield a minute ventilation of 6,00 0
ITechnica.l note : Th erc's no unambiguou s la nguage for indicating in a simple ph i -e rnl (1 ,50 0 mi per breath times 4 breaths per minute), and an alveolar'
the souree of th e movement involved in cxha.lation. Som et irnes tea chers say "push oe ventil ation of 5,400 mi per minute (1,.~50 mi per breath times 4 breaths per
abdomen in," but muscles, of eourse, never push . Others say "pull the abdomen
but thi s sounds as though somcthing oth cr than the abdom inal muscles th erns- 'S
minu te >' With practico and se lf-con trol you can slow down even more, to as
might be respons ible, as we'lJ soon see is the case for uddiyana bandha Alth« -h )jUle as two breaths per minute, yielding a minute ventilation of J,OOO mi
"press the abdomen in" isn't perfect, it's at least general enough not lo be rnislead i o) and an alveo lar ventilation of 2. 700 mI per minute . You might be conc erned
The roctus abdorninis rnusclcs are not single mu scles extending fro m e that 2,700 ml pe!" minute will not supply enough fresh air lo the alveoli in
pubis to the ste rnu m , but a series of short muscles that are isolated fl TI comparison to the standard 4 ,200 mI per minute mentioned in chapter 2,
one another by horizontal lines of eonnective tissue called tendir IS but in that case we were mixing 350 mi of fresh air with a functional residual
inscriptions, which are responsible for the muscular segmentation d capa city of 2 ,200 mI, and here we are mixing 1,350 ml of fres h air in each
washboard look in the abdomen of a bodybuilder, The wave of abdom lI breath with only 1,200 mi of residual volume. It's plenty.
contraction in agni sara is possible only because each segment is separa Iy Duri ng agni sara the diaphragm rern ains generally passive, It is relaxed
innervated and can be controlled individ ually. throughout rnost of exhalation, although it probably resists lengt he ning
In agni sara the modifications of the lung volumes an d capacities re toward th e very end of exhalation as it oppnses the upwa rd movcrnent of
more extreme than in A and P breathing. Here exhalation comb ines ) Ir the abd ominal organs, And likewise , during inhalation the dome of thc
normal tidal exhalation (500 mIl with your entire expiratory reserve vol le diaph ragm moves downward pass ívely as you breathe in what is ordinarily
(1,000 mi), creating a tidal volume of 1, 50 0 mi , a n expiratory res, 'e your expíratory reserve volurne, [fyou have controlled t ho release into this
volume of zero, and a functional resi dual capacity which is now equr o
your residual capacity of I,ZOO mi (fig, 3 .32) . As with A and P breat h. g,
A and P breathing; ag ni sara; agn i sara;
inhalation takes care of itself and is passive except for the last 500 il, 6 breaths per mio 4 breaths pe r mln 2 breaths per min
Inhalation ordinarily takes about halfto three-fourths the time as exhala n 5000
and is aceompanied by thc gradual relaxation ofthe intercostal and abdo ,11 tidal valume 900 mi; tida l valume 1500 mi; tidal valume 1500 mi:
minule ventñatíon minute ventilation minute ventilatian
muscles. 5400 mi per min: 6000 mi per min: 3000 mi per min:

:[ alveolar ventilation alveolar ventilatian alveolar ventilatian

4500 mI per min 5400 mi per min
~ 2700 mi per min
Figure 3.31 . Agni sara.
lhe halftone revea ls .. _--

,, ,,
the prol1le fo r full
, , ,,
exhalation, and the '\ \; ,

dotted line reveals the , ,

profile for ¡nhalation. 1 r inhalatían exha latia n IIlhalalian
Exhalation is taken all , 1
5 sec 20 sec tO sec
,, r
the way through the
expiratory reserve '., ··, r
1 o mi 0--:30---¡f¡¡---Oñ--~~--~~---"/
30 60 00 1m 1~ 1~
,. · ,
volume (in othe.. 1
lime In seconds (sec)
words, to the residual 1
· ,

~igure 3.32 . Simulated comparisons of agni sara wi th A and P breathing in a

volume), but inhalat ion I

doesn't extend into foung ma noCompare these three modes of breathing with no rmal breathing .
what would ordinarily ~g. 2.14. Even though taking only two agni sara breaths per minu te (above rig~~)
bt' the inspiratory t1~ap th e a lveolar.ventilation p redpitous ly (lo 2700 mi per mi nu te), exhaling all
reserve volume. e Way to th e rl'sld ua l vo lume is adequale for maintaining lhe b lnod gases.
1. AlIIXI,lIli\V/'D.I '/C E."(f:RC I sI ;\ 193
19 2 11\i17HIII"m'JlAHIA ¡"C;,I


phase of inhalation slowly, you'll notice that it is not the diaphragm bu t le ;.---

abdominal rnuscles that are in command, lengthening eccentrically to Ifyou have a problem doing agni sara standing, you can try it in other postures.
restrain the gravity-induccd drop of the abdominal organs until you n 'h First you can kneel, with the body lifted up off the heels, the hands on the
what would have been your normal tidal range. At that point they reh -;e thighs, and the torso pitched forward (fig. J -,U ). Or you can rest the
more completely and allow the diaphragm to preside over an ordinary t a l buttocks on the heels and drop the hands or elbows either to the thighs 01'
in ha la tion of the last 500 rnl, tu the floor just in front of the knees. Or you can place the elbows on the
Although the chest does not at first glance seem to playa prominent ,le knecs and touch the abdomen with one hand lo give yourself feedback and
in agni sara, the interna] intercostal muscles do become activated Ir encouragement when you try to exhale and inhale in a wavelike motion. 11
compressing it inward during exhalation, especially in the last stages \\ -n is also comfortable to do agni sara in cat stretch variations, arching the
you are approaching your residual volume. 'fhen, as you begin lo in l le, back up as rnuch as possible during exhalation (figs. 3.J4a-b. halftone
the chest springs open passively, restrained only by the abdominal mus es images) . And for a potent combination of breathing practices, the cat
and inlernal intercostals. Since the emphasis of agni sara is on exhala t n, strctch poses are also excellent Ior going back and forth between agni sara
the chest shows only a modest enlargement during the period of 1, al exhalations and empowered thoracic inhalations (chapter 2) that take you
would havo been an ordinary tidal inhalation in normal breathing. to th e oute r rnost limits ofyour inspiratory capaeity for these posturas (figs.
The airway is open in agni Rara, and intra-abdominal pressure re m ns 3.348- b, superimposcd dottcd lines).
in approximatc equilibrium with atrnospheric pressure, SO it is not neces ry If t hese standard poses for agni sara are inconvenienl for you , you can
to apply mula bandha. And it is not only unnecessary to apply as hv ni still do the practice in a chair or in a meditative sitting posture, It works
mudra-in the bent-forward position it is impractical. Beginners, howc el', best t o sit up straight, arch the lumbar lordosis, and pitch yourself forward
may find it helpful to ostablish the .-001 lock while they are learning Lo act i ite at a slight angle. This will enable you to feel the countering tension of the
the wavelike recruitment of abdominal rnuscles from beluw. Focusing t -ir abdominal muscles in each regi ón of the abdominal wall .
attentiun on the front uf the perineum may help thern develop and re ne If you are chronically short of breath you wiII have a fine personal practice
the practice. After that they should stop paying special attention to th e lOt if you aim for 10-15 breaths per minute for only one minute. Every bit of
lock. It is not a part of this practice. extra exhalation induced by agni sara is a hlessing. Even if your alveolar
We are not looking for speed in agni sara, but for control. A corru un vent ilation remains exaetly the sume as it is in ordinary relaxed breathing,
mistake ís to whoosh air out too quickly at the beginning of each exhala! JO. it wiII be more efficient for bringing in oxygen and removing earbon dioxide
'l'ry to make the rate approxirnately equal throughout so that you still l ve from the blood, just as we saw for kapalabhati (chapter 2) . If you have
a third of your agni sara tidal volume left when you have a third of \ ur chroni c obstructive pulmonary disease and do agni sara several times eueh
time lo go. Approach the end of exhalation by recruiting the highest of he day you wili please and surptise yourself, yaur family, and your doctors.
abdominal muscles, a nd keep pre ssing. Your lime for exhalatíon 'ld
inhalalion will lengthen with practice, working up quickly lo 6--10 SC('I ds
. it
for exhalation and 3-5 seconds for inhalation: with a little more prac!J<
is ea S" to manage three or even two brealhs per minute. In the hegim 'lg
it help s lo sel a dock on the (loor und walch the second hand, bul th i~

soon become a distraction. Discard the dock after a few days and concenl te
on the senRations. :,
For un even more ¡ntense prnetice of agni Rara, and for an occasÍl nI ~glJre 3.33. Agni sara kneeling. .._.:"
change of pal'C, you can exha le w; usual, and then instead of releasin~ f Iy gain, the halftone reveals the
profile fOI" full exhalation and
into inhalation. take a minimal chest inhalation and then immedIa Iy the dotted line reveals the
re -establish an even more powerful exhalation. Rep eat this several tin ·S profile for inhalalion. The tidal
Inhalation and exhalation ,
before inhaling as in the traditional agni sara diHCUSsed above. 'f IS
combines an ordinary tidal ,,
exercise, which can only be ['epeatcd a few times befo re you have to in h: e ,
\lollJme wilh the entire
fllliy, dramaticalIy increasc~ the powcr of agni sara. eXPiratory reserve volume.
.l . A/JIXJMIt\'l}/'UI7C E\:J ,RUSJ:S 195

Ifyou are in ordinary good health a meaningful practice ofagni sara 1I is proba bly more important. Finally, if you really want to learn agni sara,
require at lea st 10 minutes at the rate of 3-4 breaths per minute, and as -u YOu have lo both stay within your capacity and at the sarne time explore
gradually increase your time you will achieve an enriched sense of w 1- your lirnits. You'lI not scnse the power of this practice unless you do it
being, If you get up early in the morning and do agni sara before do Ig .10-40 minutes a day for \0 days in a row,
hatha, it will give you a burst of energy and onthusiasrn. And if you 'e
unable for one reason or another to practico hatha yoga postures, Ub111i ~ ra
If you are an advanced student, you can use agni sara (or A and P breathing)
lo intensifY the hatha yoga postures in which you are cornfortable. You will
, .. '_.....-..... have to breathe íaster than usual, of course, because the postures wiII

/, .,.
'\ increase your needs for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, You will al so
have to modify the patterns of exhalation according to the dernands of the
-,. 1
l. ...
"', <, post ure . For example, in a deep standi ng forwa rd bend you can both see
\ ... -..... ... .........
, ......... _--- and feel what is happening, but a standing backbend 01' spinal twist permits
....... "
líttle obvious movement in the abdomen. 'I'hat's fine . Either way, it's the
attempt to press in from below that generates the surge of energy. And for
; <,
\ -----------¡ , I
all standin g pos tures in which you are emphasizing an empowered thoraeic

, I
inhal ation (chapter 2), you can not only increase your inspiratory reserve

: volume by trying to inhale more deeply, you can use agni sara to exhale
I most 01' all of your expiratory reserve volume, thus inhaling ami exhaling
\"--......... -- your vital capaci ty (íhe volume of which is speci fic lo the particular posture)
with every breath.
After you have worked suecessfu lly with agni sara, bellows breathing, and
Figure 3.34a. Han ds-and -knees pose. The ~a~im um i.nhalation (das hed Ii ~e) kapalabhati for sorne t ime, you can experiment with an agni sara type of movc-
with head up and maximum lumbar lordosis IS supe nm posed ~~ the rnaxi rm n ment during the exhalation phases of the bellows breath and kapalabhati,
exhalalion with head dow n and the back arched toward the ce lling (halíto n Exhalatíon will produce un upward-rnoving wave of contraction-a pushing in
and up sensatíon, rather than a mass contraction of the abdominal muscles.
You can Ieel th is ií' you span your hand across yuur abdomen with {he middle
Iinger on the navel, the thumb and index fingers above, and the ring fínger and
liUle finger below. You will feel the little finger on the lower abdomen moving
inward du ring exhalation, and little or no movement where the thumb is located
on the upper abdomen. Using this technique for the bellows and kapalabhati
creates a mild scooping-up sensation. It requires more control than the standard
f.echniques for bellows and kapalabhati, so you will need 10slow dO\vn-perhaps
lo as few as 60 breaths per minute. Vou willnever be able 10 do it as fast as the
stand ard tcchnique, but it is still a powcIful alxiominopelvic exercise and is
excellent fOl' training the abdominal muscles for more advanced practices.
---_...... - '\

. .. -- ... - ............


...... - -- I
Mula ban dha scals the anatomica! pel"ineum, ami agni sara teaches liS S}X.'Cial
~ki lls for using lhe abdominal musel!:?s. When you have bccome prolicient
L' 3 34b Cat slretch. The maximum inhalation (dashed line) with lhe hea l
1~ lgu re. . . h . I b id . . In bot h , you are read}' to learn tohe second great luck in hatha yoga:
el right foo t up in combination wlth 1 e maxnnum um ar or OSIS, IS super-
~~posed on the maximum exha lation with the head down and knee to nose Uddiyana oondha, or the abdominal lift. To do it you musto exhale, hold
1'}6 ANAIH\/1 (JI' 11"111.'1 j '( X . A

your breath out (as it's said in yoga), and create a vaeuum in your el st To make holding the glotlis shut lee! more natural and comfortable, a
that sueks your diaphragrn and abdominal organs to a higher than u. al t.hird lock, jalandhara bandha (the chin lock), can be estahlished by flexing
position in the torso. This can happen only if the body is sealed aboye Id th e head forward so the chin is tucked into the suprasternal notch, the little
below-above at the glottis and below at the perineum. Without these s- tls concavity aboye the sternum at the pit of the throat, It is possible lo do the
air would be drawn into the larynx and lungs aboye, and into the elimina ry abdominal lill without the chin lock, but its addition will make the closure
and reproductiva organs be low. You ho ld the roo t loek reflexly and witI ut of the glottis feel more secure, and many teachers consider it absolutely
having to think about it, but the glottis has to be held shut voluntarily ncces sa ry. Fixing the eyes in a downward position also cornplements both
udd iyana bandha and jaJandhara bandha. Try looking up as you try them
UDD IYANA BANDHA an d you 'lI sense the efficacy of looking down.
The best time to practiee the abdominal lift is early in the mo rn 19, Come ou t ofuddiyana bandha in two stages. First, while still holding the
certainly befo re breakfast, and idealIy after having evaeuated the bov Is. glotti s shut, ease the vacuum in the chest by re laxing the external inter-
The same eontraindications a pply as in agni sam (seo the end of this eha p 1'). costal mu sclcs, which wiHlower the dome of the díaphragm and the abdo minal
To begin, stand with you r knees slightly bent and your hands br ed organ s to a lower position in thc trunk. 'l'hen, as soon as the abdominal
against the thighs. As with agni sara, this stance lowers the abdorr ial wall is eased forw a rd , press inward s t rongly with the chest and abdomen
organs downward and forward. Ex hale to your maximum. Notice that ou until t he pressure aboye and below the glottis is equalized. You have to
do t his by pressing in first wit h the abdomen and t hen with the chest, '1 en compr ess in war d just as forceful ly as when you first exhaled for uddiyana
do a moek inhalation with the chest, c\osing the glottis to restrain ai r I un bandha ; if yo u don 't , air will rush in with a gasp when you open the
entering the lungs, and at the same time relax the abdomen . You sh lid glotti s. As soon as the pressure is equalized, open the glottis and breathe
fee l the chest lift . Ho lding the glottis closed for a few seconds, try ha rd- to in gentIy.
inhale, keeping tho abdomen relaxed. The upper abdomen will forrn a -ep Where does the vacuum come from? In uddiyana bandha we are trying
concavity that extends up and underneath the rib cage. This is ud di: na lo inh ale without inhaling. and this makes the thoracic cage larger, expanding
handha (fig. 3.35). If you get eonfused about how to prevent air from en tt ng il from side to side and from front to back. And since no air is aJlowed in
the lungs, Iorget about t.he abdominallifi (01' a wcek 01' so and sirnply pI' ice the air pressure inside the chest has to decrease, which in turn creates
trying to inhale after full exhalations while you are blocking your m ith cnough 01' a vacuurn to pull the diaphragm up (provided it is relaxed) in
and nose with your hands. proportion lo the expansi ón of the rib cage. Coming down from uddiyana
bandha, the side-to-side and front-to-back expansions of the chest are first
relaxed and then cornpressed hack into their starling positions offull cxhalation,
and th e dome of the diaphragm and abdominal organs move inferior\v.
ddiyana handha is the only practice in hatha yoga that f