Lungs and Nature

Lung Health and Kaiut Yoga

As we move toward being in public again, there’s no doubt that many of us are focused on boosting our immune system and keeping our lungs healthy.

Lung health has only recently become more of a public health concern with a circulating upper respiratory virus. In general, lung health is not something that most of us spend a lot of time thinking about. Breathing is often something that we take for granted as it’s a function of the autonomic nervous system – a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions, such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.1

The lungs are an incredible structure. Below are a few lesser-known facts about the lungs.

  1. Your lungs aren’t the same size. To accommodate your heart, the right lung is generally larger than the left.
  2. Lungs can float on water. Most people don’t know, but the lungs are the only organs in the human body that can float.
  3. If the lungs were opened flat, the surface area would be about the same size of a tennis court.
  4. Seventy percent of waste is eliminated through your lungs just by simply breathing.
  5. Oxygen only plays a small part in breathing. The air we breathe contains 21 percent oxygen, but our bodies only use 5 percent- the rest is exhaled.2

The lungs have a respiratory function as well as an immune function. Simply said: the lungs are responsible for gas exchange, meaning how the body is able to take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide; also, the lungs provide a layer of defense within the body’s immune system. For the purpose of this article, we will link these two functions. As lung health improves so too improves the lungs’ ability to enhance the immune system.

Research has found that there is a positive correlation between yoga and lung health. 

After looking at nine different studies that focused on pulmonary function in 609 individuals, researchers have determined that yoga techniques- breathing, meditation, and poses- all have a positive impact on lung function. As a result of these studies, researchers suggest practicing yoga for a minimum of two days a week for one hour at a time. Most students will experience improved lung function in about 10 weeks.3

You might not realize it, but your lungs are an organ in that they need to be stressed appropriately to enhance function. 

There are various ways that Kaiut Yoga is able to target and improve lung health (as well as have an effect on how the lungs impact your immunity).

  1. Parasympathetic mode: One of the signatures of Kaiut Yoga is that it’s very important to change modes at the beginning of class. All-day long, most of us operate out of a “doing mode” that is more linked with the sympathetic nervous system. While both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems need to be operating in a healthy balance, in Kaiut Yoga we cultivate the parasympathetic response as a balance to a consistently stimulated an overwhelmed nervous system. When in the parasympathetic mode, most students will notice the breathing rate slowing down, the ‘doing’ mode softening and resetting in a way that’s conducive towards healing (including improved circulation and the body’s organs becoming more relaxed and efficient).
  2. Shoulder work: In Kaiut Yoga, we approach the joints as an avenue to gaining deeper access {physically, biochemically, as well as emotionally} into the body. As we spend time in shapes that focus on the shoulders, most of us will feel feedback from the shoulder itself. However, as we continue to spend time here and spread our awareness throughout the upper torso, many of us may feel a response that resonates towards the lungs. Depending on what is happening in our individual system, we might be able to use this access point to reduce rigid areas and even thicknesses in the lung tissue itself. As the Kaiut method utilizes gravity and the floor as tools to stimulate the shoulders in a way to expose and diminish tightness and rigidity in the rib cage, thereby improving lung function.
  3. Head rotations: Head rotations work much in the same way as the shoulder access. When we add neck work in Kaiut Yoga, we are beginning to establish a connection between the upper body, head, and neck. Any rigidity found in these areas can impact blood flow and breathing mechanics over time. Reintroducing movement to these areas- may maintain and even improve lung function.
  4. Addressing the body as a whole: Perhaps the key to Kaiut Yoga’s success in working with various ailments in the body is the perspective of working the body as a whole. Everything is connected- when we’re talking about lung health the best response will come when we integrate the lungs’ capacity with the rest of the body.

Our own Darvin Ayre (owner/teacher at Kaiut Yoga Boulder) has used Kaiut Yoga to boost his own lung function over the last three years. Darvin explains:

I was diagnosed with asthma at a very young age as I was allergic to just about everything growing up on the farm (various pollens, alfalfa, etc) By the time I was in high school, I started using an inhaler when my breathing became compromised.
I’ve always found that my asthma has had a couple of elements for me. On one hand- there is a physical response where I can’t breathe as well. On the other, when my breath is compromised there is also an often strong and habitual emotional response.
My progress around lung health with Kaiut Yoga has been remarkable. Just this past year, (after almost 4 years of Kaiut Yoga practice under my belt), I’ve completely gone without my inhaler. I really never imagined that I’d be able to forgo the use of an inhaler. That's been a huge shift for me and I attribute that remarkable improvement to my Kaiut practice.

As we move more towards a “safer from home” policy, lung health and immune health becomes even more relevant for most of us. To be able to move out into the world knowing that you’re doing the best you can to support your health from your home is invaluable.  Yoga- and Kaiut Yoga in particular- is one avenue that we can use to empower ourselves in our self-care habits. And just as the article states above, the commitment doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Positive results can be delivered with just one or two sessions each week.

At Kaiut Yoga Boulder, we’re helping people through our complex global situation by offering daily, online, interactive classes. If you’re curious about Kaiut Yoga – contact us – we’d love to hear from you.

References:

1. Wikipedia Contributors. Autonomic nervous system. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomic_nervous_system. Published April 17, 2020. Accessed May 5, 2020.

2. Ribeiro M. 8 Fun Facts About Lungs. Pulmonary Hypertension News. https://pulmonaryhypertensionnews.com/2017/12/20/8-fun-facts-lungs/. Published December 20, 2017. Accessed May 5, 2020.

3. Thapoung K. The Simple Way to Breathe Easier. Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19944923/the-simple-way-to-breathe-easier/. Published April 15, 2013. Accessed May 5, 2020.

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