Do you really understand CO2? Part 2

In this video (part 2) Simon talks about the benefits of holding your breath out. Here he demonstrates holding his breath completely out and practicing nauli (rectus abdominis isolation) and lauliki (abdominal churning using rectus abdominis as well as the oblique muscles) while expanding the chest as if inhaling to the chest but not actually inhaling. This practice, which is sometimes likened to the Mueller manoeuvre in Western medical science builds up carbon dioxide even more rapidly than the Valsalva manoeuvre and is less dangerous to attempt. It is really great for improving digestion by massaging the internal organs. You can read more about this technique in one of our earlier blogs at

Although there are many benefits to learning how to use all the muscles of breathing, and to learn to breathe in many ways, in the more advanced stages of yoga it is the art of breathing less than normal (hypoventilation) that gives the most physiological benefits. The less you breathe in and out the more you will build up carbon dioxide inside your body. Contrary to popular belief carbon dioxide and the carbonic acid it becomes in your blood has many benefits inside the body.

Carbon dioxide and carbonic acid build up inside you from breathing less than normal (mild hypoventilation):

*** brings more blood to your brain and heart (vasodilation)
*** allows more air to enter your lungs (bronchdilitation)
*** calms your nervous system
*** reduces your need and craving for heavy, processed and acid food

For a beginner the best way to do get the benefits of a build up of carbon dioxide is to try to maintain relaxed abdominal breathing as much as possible and in as many activities as you can. A great activity is to go for a brisk walk and try to keep your breath as natural and relaxed as possible. You will find this easier to do if allow your abdomen to relax more than you may normally do and allow you hips and spine to move more freely like and olympic walker. However, for more advanced practitioners there are several other things you can do with your breath that can increase carbon dioxide once your body is adequately prepared.

This 5 minute video clip, is an extract from the Yoga Synergy Yogic Nutrition Video. The benefits of holding your breath both in and out as an advanced yoga practitioner are elaborated and demonstrated.

In the first part of this video physiotherapist and research scientist Simon Borg-Olivier demonstrates how to use the Valsalva manoeuvre to lift into a handstand do a backward flip (without warming up). Simon explains that the Valsalva manoeuvre is essentially the act of breathing in almost fully then holding your breath in and performing a moderately forceful attempt at exhalation (without actually exhaling) against your closed airway. Although this is a relatively commonly used technique for increasing strength via increasing intraabdominal and intrathoracic pressure in sports such a weightlifting, it is not recommended for most people as it can dangerously increase blood pressure and if done incorrectly can cause stroke in some people. Simon uses the Valsalva manoeuvre to slowly lift his body into the air into a handstand and then using what is essentially a chest lock (a compressive uddiyana bandha) and an abdominal lock (expansive mula bandha) (see protects his lower back enough to drop into a full backward arch posture and then complete a backward flip to standing (viparita chakrasana). Here the Valsalva manoeuvre helps improve both strength and flexibility while protecting the lower back as well as other joints in the body.

WARNING: The Valsalva manoeuvre is potentially dangerous done in normal positions, but it is especially potentially dangerous when done in the exercise and movements shown in this video unless your body is highly trained in physical yoga and pranayama or at least similar Western exercise techniques. DO NOT do this exercise if you are prone to irregular blood pressure (high or low), headaches, nausea and/or circulatory system problem. You must not let any pressure come to your head during the lifting movements of handstand and the backward flip. Pressing and keeping the tip of your tongue on the roof of the mouth can help to prevent excessive pressure going to the brain and helps to replace the standard chin-lock (ha-jalandhara bandha in pranayama), which is hard to do while lifting into handstands.

See Part 1 here.

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