Holding your breath while sleeping. Katathrenia while awake

Why hold your breath?

- Report from a yoga teacher class

edited by Mira

“When the breath is uneven, then the mind is restless, but when the breath is still, the mind is also still, and the yogi gets the power of stillness. That's why you should hold your breath. " (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)

They didn't block in the brain

At the beginning of the 1980s, the school's yoga teachers took part in a research project at the University Clinic in Cologne, led by the German doctor Dr. Thomas Schmidt. The effects of the breathing exercises in yoga were examined, among others. heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity (EEG) were measured.

While the yoga teachers were practicing the Psychic Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama), her EEG showed alpha waves, which indicate a relaxed state. But the researchers also wanted to study how they responded to disruptions.

Hamsananda, who took part in the experiment, reports:

“I was sitting in the lotus position doing ujjayi when one of the researchers hit a metal table hard without warning. That made a lot of noise. But that didn't bother me at all. " The researchers were used to being able to make test subjects react easily so that they left the relaxed state. But to their surprise, the yoga teachers showed no changes in the EEG.

While they were measuring another yoga teacher, the researchers suddenly seemed very excited. They discussed loudly that this person's EEG had a serious flaw, but again, alpha activity was not interrupted.

"When the yoga teachers held their breath, the alpha activity could not be blocked," the researchers concluded

The nervous system and the breath

"Professor Dr. Thomas Schmidt has researched the connections between the mental and emotional activity of the mind and the physical reactions to it (psychosomatic medicine). He confirmed to me that every change in the breath, its rhythm and speed, has a direct effect on the nervous system.

Even before Professor Schmidt knew about the yoga breathing exercises, he concluded that an effective therapeutic system could be created if one could consciously influence the breathing. Today he knows that such a system already exists and that it has been tried out in yoga for thousands of years. It has developed into a series of different breathing exercises, each with its own special effect. "
(Out Yoga, tantra and meditation in everyday lifeby Swami Janakananda)

Habits in the nervous system

When we are in a normal, wakeful state, we mostly react automatically to what we experience around us. Our usual image of the environment dominates, and we expect everything to remain as we already know it.

If, on the other hand, we are in the meditative or relaxed state that is characterized by alpha waves in the EEG, then this picture of reality is much weaker. Now we no longer automatically react to thoughts and impressions. We can see everything with new eyes and see through the filters through which life is normally experienced. You can call this a direct experience.

If you do breathing exercises or meditate regularly, these automatic reactions in the nervous system are weakened. The mind becomes more creative and flexible - it becomes easier to see things from a new angle. You communicate more clearly and can work better with other people. We call the alpha state "The open state".

Hold your breath

What is usually called breathing exercises in yoga is called in Sanskrit Pranayama. Prana means vital or psychic energy of the body and yamato master or master them. What is unique about the breathing exercises in yoga, regardless of whether you breathe slowly and deeply or quickly and forcefully, is that you also hold your breath.

In the yoga scriptures, pranayama is described as different ways of holding your breath. In one of the best known, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it says:

"Pranayama consists of holding the inhalation and exhalation" and "This dissolves what the light hides, and the mind is ready to concentrate."

In some exercises you breathe in fully and hold your breath, and in others you breathe out fully and hold your breath.


In deep meditation or relaxation, the breath can gradually weaken and eventually stop on its own - for a while. This is described as the highest form of pranayama.

Yoga or not, it works anyway

A Russian doctor recently caused quite a stir in England. He discovered that asthma patients can be helped by holding their breath for a long time after exhaling and otherwise letting them breathe as much as possible through their nose. Unfortunately, he claims that this is not yoga. How else should he be able to take advantage of his needy fellow men with high prices, which he charges for a method that he initially tried to keep secret, but which is a well-known yoga method? In yoga there is also an experience that does not only rely on quick effects. Long-term effects on the nervous system are important and therefore precisely the rules that must be observed before, during and after the exercises are given.

In the article Breathe through your nose! We have selected one example from many that shows this effect, and moreover only when holding the breath after inhaling. The example should be seen in conjunction with the article on nitric oxide.

Yoga also contains other exercises that can be used for asthma.

Sri Yukteswar

A completely different contribution to why one should hold one's breath comes from the yogi Swami Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936). He had his ashram in Puri, India. He is mentioned for the first time in the West by the author Evans Wentz - and later by his student Swami Yogananda, when he traveled to the USA at the request of Sri Yukteswar in the 1930s. Here Yogananda became particularly popular through his book "Autobiography of a Yogi" known, which deals with Kriya Yoga, among other things.

We will quote from another book here, "The Sacred Science"which Sri Yukteswar wrote towards the end of his life. The interesting thing is that he claims that holding your breath creates such calm in the autonomic nervous system that the internal organs get a rest like never before, neither during sleep nor while awake.

“Value of pranayama

Humans can keep their voluntary nerves active or - when they get tired - calm them down. When all nerves demand rest, he falls asleep on his own. And since all voluntary nerves are refreshed by sleep, they can then be active again at full power. His involuntary nerves [the autonomic nervous system], however, work independently of his will and have been active continuously since he was born. And since he has no power over her, he cannot influence her activity in the slightest. When these nerves tire, they also ask for rest and naturally fall asleep. This sleep of the involuntary nerves is called Mahanidra, the great sleep or death. When it occurs, the circulation, breathing, etc. are stopped and the material body slowly begins to deteriorate. After a while, when this great sleep - Mahanidra - is over, man awakens with all his desires and is reborn in a new physical body to fulfill his various desires. In this way he binds himself to life and death and fails to obtain final salvation.

Rule over death. However, if a person can bring these involuntary nerves under his control through the aforementioned pranayama, he is able to stop the natural deterioration of his material body and to temporarily calm the involuntary nerves (in the heart, lungs, etc.) - as well as voluntary nerves during sleep. After such a break through pranayama, the involuntary nerves are refreshed and work again with new life force.

Just as one does not need any help to wake up after sleep, when the voluntary nerves have rested, so one awakes again naturally in a new earthly body even after the complete rest of death. But if a person 'dies' voluntarily, i. H. if he can calm his entire nervous system (the voluntary and the involuntary) daily by practicing pranayama, then his whole body will work with renewed vigor ”. (Sri Yukteswar)

The alternating breath

The following articles deal with the breathing exercise Nadi Shodana Pranayama, or alternating breath as it is also called. We will consider some of the effects that we ordinary people enjoy in our everyday lives. The Influence of Nadi Shodana on the Brain - and - Getting enough oxygen during Nadi Shodana.

In the tradition, Nadi Shodana is considered to be the practice that purifies the energy currents (Nadi means purifying currents, Prana vital energy and Shodana) so that they can flow without blockages. Through regular practice, the yogi can master and control the energy and awaken and increase it through willpower.

When the dormant energy is awakened, all human abilities are expressed. Symbolically in Tantra it is said that Shakti or Kundalini rises through all the chakras of the spine that are awakened on the way to unite with Siva in Sahasrara Chakra on top of the head.

“The mind is filled with bliss.
Verily, he who practices pranayama is happy. "
(Gheranda Samhita)