Yoga helps healthy people take bigger breaths and improves posture, according to a study from Khon Kaen University in Thailand published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Physiological Sciences.
We know aerobic exercise improves respiratory capacity, but this clinical study suggests a 20-minute Hatha Yoga sequence does, too. To get the most respiratory benefits from all the yoga you do, correctly breathe in synchronicity with your movements as described by your instructor or book. Correct breathing techniques are important for all aspects of yoga, including yoga poses / asanas, yoga breathing exercises / pranayama and meditation.
Healthy, Young Women and Men
To investigate the respiratory benefits of yoga, researchers enrolled 58 healthy, university students between the ages of 18 and 25 in this study and divided them into two groups: a yoga group of 21 women and 8 men and a control group of 20 women and 9 men. The yoga group attended a 20-minute Hatha yoga class, three times per week, for six weeks.
20-Minute Yoga Sequence to Increase Lung Capacity
This short and sweet 20-minute Hatha yoga series is proven to improve lung capacity, probably without breaking a sweat, and there are only five poses. It can also serve as a productive home practice when you don’t have much time to do yoga on a busy day. Perform the poses below in the order they appear, if you want to emulate the yoga class in the study. All five poses are known to have positive effects on chest expansion:
1) Tree Pose – Vrikshasana: With on leg in a half-lotus position so its resting on the crease between the hip and thigh of the leg your standing on. Your arms are overhead in the final position and you breathe deeply. Repeat on the other side.
2) Cat-Cow Pose – Marjari-asana: Repeat several times. Exhale in Cat Pose and Inhale in Cow Pose.
3) Seated, Half Spinal Twist – Ardha Matsyendrasana: Do this pose once on each side. First, with your left foot over your right and then with your right foot over your left.
4) Psychic Union Pose – Yoga Mudrasana: With a lifted arm position attained by interlocking your fingers behind your back and raising them into the air as you bend over your folded legs, which should be in lotus or half-lotus pose. Repeat this pose two times. First, with your right foot and right finger on top, then with your left foot and left finger on top.
5) Camel Pose – Ushtrasana
6) Shavasana – Corpse Pose: This pose was not included in the literature of this study. I am placing it here because this is the standard way to close any Hatha Yoga class. As this study is from 2006, it is not as detailed as more recent studies.
Can You Increase Lung Capacity with Yoga?
To find out what happens when you to yoga to increase lung capacity, researchers measured the participant’s chest expansion and lung volume rates at the beginning of the study and again six weeks later. The results show the yoga group had significant improvement in lung volume and increased exhalation force, along with improved posture. Their chest wall expansion had increased 38 percent in the upper chest, 19 percent in the mid-chest and 15 percent in the lower chest.
Based on these positive results, the researchers concluded their “study suggests that short-term Yoga exercise improves respiratory breathing capacity…These data provide more scientific evidence to support the beneficial effect of Yoga practice on respiration and muscle strength.” Additionally, the improvements in posture may also contribute to increased lung capacity.