Health and Wellness

Anatomy of breathing | Respiratory Process

Breathing: The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.

Respiration term is different from breathing. Respiration has three distinct processes: breathing, exchanging gases and cellular respiration. Here’s a breakdown:

• Breathing: also called pulmonary ventilation scientifically, it involves the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Breathing is comprised of two distinct phases inspiration and expiration.

• Exchanging gases: This takes place between the lungs, the blood and the body’s cells in two ways:

• Pulmonary or external respiration: This occurs in the lungs when blood receives oxygen and loses carbon dioxide

Systemic or internal respiration: This happens in and out of small blood vessels when the blood releases some of its oxygen and collects carbon dioxide from the tissues.

• Cellular respiration: Oxygen is used in the breaking down of substances like glucose for the production of energy, thus producing CO₂ as a by product.

MECHANISM OF BREATHING | Anatomy of breathing | Respiratory Process

To complete a normal inhalation, the diaphragm (muscle present at the base of lungs) contracts. This pushes down the thoracic cage ( ribs and sternum which protects our lungs and heart) thus increasing the volume of the lungs. An increase in volume leads to decrease in pressure (known as Boyle’s Law). So, the pressure of the air already inside the lungs drops below the pressure of the air outside our bodies. Because gasses move from higher pressure to lower pressure, air flows into the lungs. For a deeper inhalation, we contract the intercostal muscles (between the ribs), which pull the ribcage out increasing the volume and dropping the pressure inside the lungs lower – more air can come in. Exhalation is a passive process, that is, we don’t tell the lungs to breathe out. We simply stop telling the diaphragm (and the intercostal muscles if they’re engaged) to contract. When they relax, volume decreases and pressure increases and air is forced out.


  • Healthy lungs take in about ½ litre of air about 12-15 times each minute.
  • All of the blood in the body is passed through the lungs every minute.

Despite the automatic nature of breathing, most people have a lot to learn and improve upon. We tend to huff at a fairly quick clip most of the time anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute which is about three times faster than the 5 or 6 breaths per minute proven to help you feel your best, which can be achieved by practising Pranayam Kriyas.”Pranayam is control of Breath”. “Pran” is vital energy in the body. It teaches you to slow down, gain power over your thoughts and essentially ‘control your life force’ through breathing.

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