Life is absolutely dependent upon the act of breathing. "Breath is
Differ as they may upon details of theory and terminology, the Oriental and
the Occidental agree upon these fundamental principles.
To breathe is to live, and without breath there is no life. Not only are the
higher animals dependent upon breath for life and health, but even the lower
forms of animal life must breathe to live, and plant life is likewise
dependent upon the air for continued existence.
The infant draws in a long, deep breath, retains it for a moment to extract
from it its life-giving properties, and then exhales it in a long wail, and
lo! its life upon earth has begun. The old man gives a faint gasp, ceases to
breathe, and life is over. From the first faint breath of the infant to the
last gasp of the dying man, it is one long story of continued breathing. Life
is but a series of breaths.
Breathing may be considered the most important of all of the functions of the
body, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it. Man may exist some
time without eating; a shorter time without drinking; but without breathing
his existence may be measured by a few minutes.
And not only is Man dependent upon Breath for life, but he is largely
dependent upon correct habits of breathing for continued vitality and freedom
from disease. An intelligent control of our breathing power will lengthen our
days upon earth by giving us increased vitality and powers of resistance, and,
on the other hand, unintelligent and careless breathing will tend to shorten
our days, by decreasing our vitality and laying us open to disease.
Man in his normal state had no need of instruction in breathing. Like the
lower animal and the child, he breathed naturally and properly, as nature
intended him to do, but civilization has changed him in this and other
respects. He has contracted improper methods and attitudes of walking,
standing and sitting, which have robbed him of his birthright of natural and
correct breathing. He has paid a high price for civilization. The savage,
today, breathes naturally, unless he has been contaminated by the habits of
The percentage of civilized men who breathe correctly is quite small, and the
result is shown in contracted chests and stooping shoulders, and the terrible
increase in diseases of the respiratory organs, including that dread monster,
Consumption, "the white scourge." Eminent authorities have stated
that one generation of correct breathers would regenerate the race, and
disease would be so rare as to be looked upon as a curiosity. Whether looked
at from the standpoint of the Oriental or Occidental, the connection between
correct breathing and health is readily seen and explained.
The Occidental teachings show that the physical health depends very materially
upon correct breathing. The Oriental teachers not only admit that their
Occidental brothers are right, but save that in addition to the physical
benefit derived from correct habits of breathing, man's mental power,
happiness, self-control, clear-sightedness, morals, and even his spiritual
growth may be increased by an understanding of the "Science of
Breath." Whole schools of Oriental Philosophy have been founded upon this
science, and this knowledge when grasped by the Western races, and by them put
to the practical use which is their strong point, will work wonders among
them. The theory of the East, wedded to the practice of the West, will produce
This work will take up the Yogi "Science of Breath," which includes
not only all that is known to the Western physiologists and hygienists, but
the occult side of the subject as well. It not only points out the way to
physical health along the lines of what Western scientists have termed
"deep breathing," etc., but also goes into the less known phases of
The Yogi practices exercises by which he attains control of his body, and is
enabled to send to any organ or part an increased flow of vital force or
"prana," thereby strengthening and invigorating the part or organ.
He knows all that his Western scientific brother knows about the physiological
effect of correct breathing, but he also knows that the air contains more than
oxygen and hydrogen and nitrogen, and that something more is accomplished than
the mere oxygenating of the blood. He knows something about "prana,"
of which his Western brother is ignorant, and he is fully aware of the nature
and manner of handling that great principle of energy, and is fully informed
as to its effect upon the human body and mind. He knows that by rhythmical
[sic] breathing one may bring himself into harmonious vibration with nature,
and aid in the unfoldment of his latent powers. He knows that by controlled
breathing he may not only cure disease in himself and others, but also
practically do away with fear and worry and the baser emotions.
In the consideration of the question of respiration, we must begin by
considering the mechanical arrangements whereby the respiratory movements are
effected. The mechanics of respiration manifest through (1) the elastic
movements of the lungs, and (2) the activities of the sides and bottom of the
thoracic cavity in which the lungs are contained. The thorax is that portion
of the trunk between the neck and the abdomen, the cavity of which (known as
the thoracic cavity) is occupied mainly by the lungs and heart. It is bounded
by the spinal column, the ribs with their cartilages, the breast-bone, and
below by the diaphragm. It is generally spoken of as "the chest." It
has been compared to a completely shut, conical box, the small end of which is
turned upward, the back of the box being formed by the spinal column, the
front by the breastbone and the sides by the ribs.
The ribs are twenty-four in number, twelve on each side, and emerge from each
side of the spinal column. The upper seven pair are known as "true
ribs," being fastened to the breastbone direct, while the lower five
pairs are called "false ribs" or "floating ribs," because
they are not so fastened, the upper two of them being fastened by cartilage to
the other ribs, the remainder having no cartilages, their forward ends being
The ribs are moved in respiration by two superficial muscular layers, known as
the intercostal muscles. The diaphragm, the muscular partition before alluded
to, separates the chest box from the abdominal cavity.
In the act of inhalation the muscles expand the lungs so that a vacuum is
created and the air rushes in in accordance with the well known law of
physics. Everything depends upon the muscles concerned in the process of
respiration, which we may as, for convenience, term the "respiratory
muscles." Without the aid of these muscles the lungs cannot expand, and
upon the proper use and control of these muscles the Science of Breath largely
depends. The proper control of these muscles will result in the ability to
attain the maximum degree of lung expansion, and to secure the greatest amount
of the life giving properties of the air to the system.
The Yogis classify Respiration into four general methods, viz:
- High Breathing.
- Mid Breathing.
- Low Breathing.
- Yogi Complete Breathing.
We will give a general idea of the first three methods, and a more extended
treatment of the fourth method, upon which the Yogi Science of Breath is
(1) High Breathing.
This form of breathing is known to the Western world as Cavicular Breathing,
or Collarbone Breathing. One breathing in this way elevates the ribs and
raises the collarbone and shoulders, at the same time drawing in the abdomen
and pushing its contents up against the diaphragm, which in turn is raised.
The upper part of the chest and lungs, which is the smallest, is used, and
consequently but a minimum amount of air enters the lungs. In addition to
this, the diaphragm being raised, there can be no expansion in that direction.
A study of the anatomy of the chest will convince any student that in this way
a maximum amount of effort is used to obtain a minimum amount of benefit.
High Breathing is probably the worst form of breathing known to man and
requires the greatest expenditure of energy with the smallest amount of
benefit. It is an energy-wasting, poor-returns plan. It is quite common among
the Western races, many women being addicted to it, and even singers,
clergymen, lawyers and others, who should know better, using it ignorantly.
Many diseases of the vocal organs and organs of respiration may be directly
traced to this barbarous method of breathing, and the straining of delicate
organs caused by this method, often results in the harsh, disagreeable voices
heard on all sides. Many persons who breathe in this way become addicted to
the disgusting practice of "mouth-breathing" described in a
If the student has any doubts about what has been said regarding this form of
breathing, let him try the experiment of expelling all the air from his lungs,
then standing erect, with hands at sides, let him raise the shoulders and
collarbone and inhale. He will find that the amount of air inhaled is far
below normal. Then let him inhale a full breath, after dropping the shoulders
and collarbone, and lie will receive an object lesson in breathing which he
will be apt to remember much longer than he would any words, printed or
(2) Mid Breathing.
This method of respiration is known to Western students as Rib Breathing, or
Inter-Costal Breathing, and while less objectionable than High Breathing, is
far inferior to either Low Breathing or to the Yogi Complete Breath. In Mid
Breathing the diaphragm is pushed upward, and the abdomen drawn in. The ribs
are raised somewhat, and the chest is partially expanded. It is quite common
among men who have made no study of the subject. As there are two better
methods known, we give it only passing notice, and that principally to call
your attention to its shortcomings.
(3) Low Breathing.
This form of respiration is far better than either of the two preceding
forms, and of recent years many Western writers have extolled its merits,
and have exploited it under the names of "Abdominal Breathing,"
"Deep Breathing," "Diaphragmic Breathing," etc., etc.,
and much good has been accomplished by the attention of the public having
been directed to the subject, and many having been induced to substitute
it for the inferior and injurious methods above alluded to. Many
"systems" of breathing have been built around Low Breathing, and
students have paid high prices to learn the new (?) systems. But, as we
have said, much good has resulted, and after all the students who paid
high prices to learn revamped old systems undoubtedly got their money's
worth if they were induced to discard the old methods of High Breathing
and Low Breathing.
Although many Western authorities write and speak of this method as the
best known form of breathing, the Yogis knew it to be but a part of a
system which they have used for centuries and which they know as "The
Complete Breath." It must be admitted, however, that one must be
acquainted with the principles of Low Breathing before he can grasp the
idea of Complete Breathing.
Let us again consider the diaphragm. What is it? We have seen that it is
the great partition muscle, which separates the chest and its contents
from the abdomen and its contents. When at rest it presents a concave
surface to the abdomen. That is, the diaphragm as viewed from the abdomen
would seem like the sky as viewed from the earth—the interior of an
arched surface. Consequently the side of the diaphragm toward the chest
organs is like a protruding rounded surface—like a hill. When the
diaphragm is brought into use the hill formation is lowered and the
diaphragm presses upon the abdominal organs and forces out the abdomen.
In Low Breathing, the lungs are given freer play than in the methods
already mentioned, and consequently more air is inhaled. This fact has led
the majority of Western writers to speak and write of Low Breathing (which
they call Abdominal Breathing) as the highest and best method known to
science. But the Oriental Yogi, has long known of a better method, and
some few Western writers have also recognized this fact. The trouble with
all methods of breathing, other than "Yogi Complete Breathing,"
is that in none of these methods do the lungs become filled with air-at
the best only a portion of the lung space is filled, even in Low
Breathing. High Breathing fills only the upper portion of the lungs. Mid
Breathing fills only the middle and a portion of the upper parts. Low
Breathing fills only the lower and middle parts. It is evident that any
method that fills the entire lung space must be far preferable to those
filling only certain parts. Any method which will fill the entire lung
space must be of the greatest value to man in the way of allowing him to
absorb the greatest quantity of oxygen and to store away the greatest
amount of prana. The Complete Breath is known to the Yogis to be the best
method of respiration known to science.
The Yogi Complete Breathing.
Yogi Complete Breathing includes all the good points of High Breathing,
Mid Breathing and Low Breathing, with the objectionable features of each
eliminated. It brings into play the entire respiratory apparatus, every
part of the lungs, every air-cell, every respiratory muscle. The entire
respiratory organism responds to this method of breathing, and the maximum
amount of benefit is derived from the minimum expenditure of energy. The
chest cavity is increased to its normal limits in all directions and every
part of the machinery performs its natural work and functions.
One of the most important features of this method of breathing is the fact
that the respiratory muscles are fully called into play, whereas in the
other forms of breathing only a portion of these muscles are so used. In
Complete Breathing, among other muscles, those controlling the ribs are
actively used, which increases the space in which the lungs may expand,
and also gives the proper support to the organs when needed, Nature
availing herself of the perfection of the principle of leverage in this
process. Certain muscles hold the lower ribs firmly in position, while
other muscles bend them outward.
Then again, in this method, the diaphragm is under perfect control and is
able to perform its functions properly, and in such manner as to yield the
maximum degree of service.
In the rib-action, above alluded to, the lower ribs are controlled by the
diaphragm which draws them slightly downward, while other muscles hold
them in place and the intercostal muscles force them outward, which
combined action increases the mid-chest cavity to its maximum. In addition
to this muscular action, the upper ribs are also lifted and forced outward
by the intercostal muscles, which increases the capacity of the upper
chest to its fullest extent.
If you have studied the special features of the four given methods of
breathing, you will at once see that the Complete Breathing comprises all
the advantageous features of the three other methods, plus the reciprocal
advantages accruing from the combined action of the high-chest, mid-chest,
and diaphragmic regions, and the normal rhythm thus obtained.
The Yogi Complete Breath is the fundamental breath of the entire Yogi
Science of Breath, and the student must fully acquaint himself with it,
and master it perfectly before he can hope to obtain results from the
other forms of breath mentioned and given in this book. He should not be
content with half-1earning it, but should go to work in earnest until it
becomes his natural method of breathing. This will require work, time and
patience, but without these things nothing is ever accomplished. There is
no royal road to the Science of Breath, and the student must be prepared
to practice and study in earnest if he expects to receive results. The
results obtained by a complete mastery of the Science of Breath are great,
and no one who has attained them would willingly go back to the old
methods, and he will tell his friends that he considers himself amply
repaid for all his work. We say these things now, that you may fully
understand the necessity and importance of mastering this fundamental
method of Yogi Breathing, instead of passing it by and trying some of the
attractive looking variations given later on in this book. Again, we say
to you: Start right, and right results will follow; but neglect your
foundations and your entire building will topple over sooner or later.
Perhaps the better way to teach you how to develop the Yogi Complete
Breath, would be to give you simple directions regarding the breath
itself, and then follow up the same with general remarks concerning it,
and then later on giving exercises for developing the chest, muscles and
lungs which have been allowed to remain in an undeveloped condition by
imperfect methods of breathing. Right here we wish to say that this
Complete Breath is not a forced or abnormal thing, but on the contrary is
a going back to first principles—a return to Nature. The healthy adult
savage and the healthy infant of civilization both breathe in this manner,
but civilized man has adopted unnatural methods of living, clothing, etc.,
and has lost his birthright. And we wish to remind the reader that the
Complete Breath does not necessarily call for the complete filling of the
lungs at every inhalation. One may inhale the average amount of air, using
the Complete Breathing Method and distributing the air inhaled, be the
quantity large or small, to all parts of the lungs. But one should inhale
a series of full Complete Breaths several times a day, whenever
opportunity offers, in order to keep the system in good order and
The following simple exercise will give you a clear idea of what the
Complete Breath is:
(1) Stand or sit erect. Breathing through the nostrils, inhale steadily,
first filling the lower part of the lungs, which is accomplished by
bringing into play the diaphragm, which descending exerts a gentle
pressure on the abdominal organs, pushing forward the front walls of the
abdomen. Then fill the middle part of the lungs, pushing out the lower
ribs, breast-bone and chest. Then fill the higher portion of the lungs,
protruding the upper chest, thus lifting the chest, including the upper
six or seven pairs of ribs. In the final movement, the lower part of the
abdomen will be slightly drawn in, which movement gives the lungs a
support and also helps to fill the highest part of the lungs.
At first reading it may appear that this breath consists of three distinct
movements. This, however, is not the correct idea. The inhalation is
continuous, the entire chest cavity from the lowered diaphragm to the
highest point of the chest in the region of the collarbone, being expanded
with a uniform movement. Avoid a jerky series of inhalations, and strive
to attain a steady continuous action. Practice will soon overcome the
tendency to divide the inhalation into three movements, and will result in
a uniform continuous breath. You will be able to complete the inhalation
in a couple of seconds after a little practice.
(2) Retain the breath a few seconds.
(3) Exhale quite slowly, holding the chest in a firm position, and drawing
the abdomen in a little and lifting it upward slowly as the air leaves the
lungs. When the air is entirely exhaled, relax the chest and abdomen. A
little practice will render this part of the exercise easy, and the
movement once acquired will be afterwards performed almost automatically.
It will be seen that by this method of breathing all parts of the
respiratory apparatus is brought into action, and all parts of the lungs,
including the most remote air cells, are exercised. The chest cavity is
expanded in all directions. You will also notice that the Complete Breath
is really a combination of Low, Mid and High Breaths, succeeding each
other rapidly in the order given, in such a manner as to form one uniform,
continuous, complete breath.
You will find it quite a help to you if you will practice this breath
before a large mirror, placing the hands lightly over the abdomen so that
you may feel the movements. At the end of the inhalation, it is well t9
occasionally slightly elevate the shoulders, thus raising the collar-bone
and allowing the air to pass freely into the small upper lobe of the right
lung, which place is sometimes the breeding place of tuberculosis.
At the beginning of practice, you may have more or less trouble in
acquiring the Complete Breath, but a little practice will make perfect,
and when you have once acquired it you will never willingly return to the