Respiratory System and Pranayama, with David Lurey and Mirjam Wagner

Pranayama for practice, teaching and life.




24-hour online course


Unlimited access for flexible study


Downloadable manual

Eligible for 50 CEUs with Yoga Alliance


The power of the breath!

Learn how to harness the power of the breath with a variety of pranayama techniques and breath exercises. Understand how to incorporate these into your Yin or Yang practice, teaching - and life!

Western perspective

Explore the physical anatomy of the respiratory and musculo-skeletal systems involved in breathing through the lens of Western medicine, with a focus on mechanical and chemical processes that occur while breathing.

Eastern traditions

Learn about the energetic aspects of breathwork from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and how to target emotional imbalances using specific yoga practices and pranayama techniques.



  • Understand the anatomy of the respiratory system
  • Explore the powerful energetic and physiological aspects of breathwork.

  • Learn a range of pranayama techniques and breathing exercises.

  • Embody your theoretical knowledge through Yin and Yang yoga classes.

  • Understand how to incorporate breathwork into your teaching
  • Take what you’ve learnt off the mat to support yourself and others.

Breath is life, as the saying goes. But how often do we actually pay attention to that life-sustaining air that we take in and expel roughly 20,000 times a day - let alone the miraculous system that supports it? 

This comprehensive course will take you on an exploration of the respiratory system - the organs and muscles that enable us to breathe - with Yin and Yang yoga practices, pranayama, philosophy and chanting to support a full and healthy breath throughout your practice and life.

We’ll look at the respiratory system through both a Western and Eastern lens. We’ll explore the physiology of breathing and look at the mechanical and chemical processes that need to occur to make breathing possible. We’ll also discuss the concept of Meridian theory, and how according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, energetic imbalances in specific organs, can affect us emotionally.

The aim of this course is to enable you to harness the breath in a way that supports your physical, mental and emotional health - and, if you’re a teacher, share these practices with others. You’ll be offered a variety of practices to help you to integrate and embody this knowledge, including breath awareness exercises, mantra chanting, ‘breath laboratory’ sequences, a variety of pranayama techniques and a range of Yin and Yang yoga classes.

Who is this for?

  • Yoga and movement teachers
  • Yoga practitioners interested in breathwork and pranayama techniques
  • Those looking to create personalised and targeted practices to address individual needs


Course outline

Introduction (02:35)
A short welcome from David and Mirjam and an overview of what you'll learn during this course. 

Practice - Yin & Yang (40:27)
Enjoy this full body-mind-soul experience with David and Mirjam. You’ll be guided through a sequence for the respiratory system, with Yin and Yang practices, pranayama, philosophy and chanting to support a full, healthy breath throughout your life.

Manual - Presentation (03:46)
Learn how best to utilise the downloadable manual that accompanies this course.

Introduction of Breath (21:41)
Welcome to this training! We begin by singing a mantra together as a way of engaging the respiratory system:
Hey Ma Durga Hey Ma Durga Hey Ma Durga
Pahimam / Rakshamam

Following the mantra, which finishes at minute 08:40, Mirjam and David share the intentions of this module. These are: to build the bridges between anatomy and spirituality, the respiratory system and breathing practices, and the magic dance of the breath within our physical bodies.

At minute 19:05, Mirjam asks an important question for your reflection: “What do you think makes breath happen?
Take some time to reflect on this question, using your current understanding of how we breathe. Write down your ideas or record a voice note - you can revisit this later on in the course to gauge how much you’ve learned.

Physiology of Breath (41:15)
After the reflection, Mirjam shares the mechanical and chemical processes that need to occur to make breathing possible. You will learn about the muscles involved and how they work during the breathing process. This chapter is largely dedicated to the diaphragm and its location, functions and actions.

Practice - Awareness of Breath (16:34)
In this session Mirjam guides you through a practice of feeling the breath to establish new relationships with all the parts involved. This is an embodiment exercise, intended to help you to bring the names and locations of the breathing muscles and organs from the intellectual mind into the body itself.
This guided session is done lying down on the floor. Make sure that you have enough space, that you are warm enough to relax and are free from distractions so that you can focus on following your diaphragm and everything else involved in the art of breath.
In the final two minutes you’ll be asked to reflect on where you experienced the breath and what was present during the session.

Pranayama - Overview (40:06)
In this session, David offers an introduction to pranayama using stories and analogies. You will get a brief overview of how pranayama fits into the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga and why preparation and patience are an essential element in breathing practices. You'll learn the difference between ‘efficient’ and ‘inefficient’ breathing, as well as a list of variables that you can play with to alter the way you breathe.

Mouth/Nose - Inhale/Exhale/Pause - Length/Time - Location - Repetitions

Temperature - Volume - Pressure - Speed - Texture - Flavour - Depth

Pranayama - Asana Practice (22:06)
A short asana practice where we focus on fully exhaling the air in order to make space for the next inhalation. We practice some lunges and arm movements to create some space for the diaphragm and lungs. Throughout the class, try to concentrate on exhaling completely.
This mini-sequence is intended for all levels of practitioners and you are invited to explore the effects of emptying the breath while exploring poses.

Pranayama - Increased Exhalation (16:52)
In this chapter you’ll learn a follow-up breathing technique / exercise to the previous asana practice - a guided breathing experience intended to increase breath capacity.
After a short introduction, the practice begins at 06:12.

Tuning in (32:00)
For this session, please have the following items to hand: earplugs, block, blanket. 
This practice invites you to tune into present moment awareness, the sound of your breath and your inner dialogue. Before putting in your earplugs, please turn up your volume so you’ll be able to hear the guided instructions.
First, David shares ways to find the centre of the head and then we use our earplugs to practice inner listening. After the initial tuning in, we balance a yoga block on the forehead, which is intended to calm the mind and create a deep inner awareness. If, instead, this brings about anxiety or fear, please remove it: it’s not essential, it’s just a tool.

Yin & Yang Practices (15:15)
This is an overview of the important principles of Intention, Alignment and Action in Yin and Yang practices. Mirjam and David share their philosophies and methodology and explain how we can apply these principles to these two complementary ways of practicing yoga.
You will also learn some valuable information about how to teach a balanced practice, as well as some valuable questions to ask yourself while preparing your classes.

Asana Practice - Equanimity (1hr 37mins)
For this full-length Yang asana sequence, please have two blocks ready. We’ll practice a slow flow with physical emphasis on expanding the side body and armpit / chest region. We'll also incorporate equal-length breathing.

The practice begins with a centering and follows with David’s favourite ‘rolling the joints’ sequence. After the mobilisation, David introduces the theme of equanimity, and the equal-length inhalations and exhalations continue throughout the rest of the practice.

If you’d like to repeat this practice, the beginning of the asana practice starts after the warm-up at 18:50.

Yin Yoga - Introduction & Practice (48:50)
Prepare for a Yin Yoga practice which focuses on emptying and clearing out the old to make space for the new - and have your bolster, block and blankets ready.
Mirjam begins the class by explaining how to create space and why it is so important to empty ourselves first before taking in new energy. We also learn why the emptying of air is so important in Yin yoga - and life.
The physical focus of this practice is on the region of the lungs to facilitate the flow of breath and release tension in the upper chest. The movement part of the session (which starts at minute 14) starts with some shaking to ‘stir things up’ and we continue with the Yin poses from there.

Lungs - Western Medicine (1hr 8mins)
In this session, we take a look at the physiology of the respiratory system and learn how the individual organs function. We'll also look at the concept of Meridian theory, and how according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, energetic imbalances in specific organs, can affect us emotionally.

We start this session with a mantra and the student/teacher prayer:
Radhe Radhe Radhe Govinda

The mantra singing is a breathing practice and a wonderful support for the respiratory system:
Sahana Vavatu
Sahanau Bhunaktu
Saha Viryam Karavavahai
Tejasvi Navaditamastu
Ma Vidvishavahai

We also practice a ‘lung awareness’ exercise to help you to feel the location of the lungs in the body and how they interact with the ribs and upper chest muscles. From there, Mirjam leads the class, focusing on the chemical and physical functions of breathing.
This session includes quite a bit of technical information and aims to give an overview of physiology, which can be a starting point for a deeper exploration into the anatomy of breathing.

Yin Yoga - Poses (55:07)
Continuing our exploration of the lungs, Mirjam teaches Yin Yoga poses that focus on the lungs themselves.
This session includes information about entering and exiting poses and where the target areas are. You are given enough time to get into each of the poses so that you can integrate the information you’ve learned and cultivate your own experience.
Have your Yin yoga props ready and enjoy this part-theory, part-practice class.

Yin Yoga - Practice (34:17)
Have a blanket, block and bolster nearby and get ready for a soothing Yin yoga practice.
Mirjam guides you through this gentle yet opening practice to bring your awareness towards your lungs and help them to fulfil their vital functions with kindness and trust.

Defining Qualities of Breath (15:01)
After reviewing the variables of pranayama techniques, you'll learn about qualities that can form part of your exploration of breathing techniques and enable you to measure or analyse various parts of breathing.
This list of qualities will be part of several breathing practices we will explore, and can be used to keep track of your evolution as a pranayama practitioner.

Breath Laboratory Sequence - Part 1 (1hr 9mins)
For this practice, please have the following items ready: earplugs, bolster, blanket, belt, block.

This full-length pranayama practice is a ‘laboratory’ for you to explore your inner world while paying attention to the qualities of breath discussed earlier. The class alternates postures with breathing throughout. David guides each pose/movement and then offers variables for each breathing technique. The breathing can be performed with or without earplugs.
Due to the length of this practice, the videos are divided into two sessions but comprise one complete class.

Breath Laboratory Sequence - Part 2 (36:18)
Part two of the 'breath laboratory’ alternating postures with breathing throughout.

Neti Pot - Introduction (16:59)
In this session you’ll learn how to cleanse your nasal passages with the Neti pot yogic practice. There’s step by step guidance of why, how and when to practice cleansing the nasal passages, along with a visual demonstration. For Neti pot practice, you will need warm, purified water, salt, a neti pot, tissues and a place to drain your nose.
As you move deeper into pranayama practice, the Neti pot is a valuable tool. It can be found in many pharmacies and yoga accessory shops.

Vayus - Introduction & Demonstration (53:52)
Looking through the yogic lens again, this chapter introduces the ‘internal winds’ of the Vayus and invites you to experience their effects. This session begins with mantra singing and the student/teacher prayer:

Jay Ganesha
Jay Jay Ganesha
Jay Jay Ganesha Sharanam
Sharanam Ganesha Sharanam

Following the chanting, you’ll be introduced to the movement of energy and given an overview of how the yogis describe the natural currents within the body. You will also learn the names, locations and breathing techniques for each of the Vayus. (The techniques and names are all in the course manual too.) You’re now invited to dedicate more time in your practice for each of the Vayus and begin your own exploration of how energy moves.

4 Purifications - Introduction & Demonstration (49:10)
In this session you’ll learn about the ‘Four Purifications’ - four commonly-practiced breathing exercises put together in one sequence - which originate from Baba Hari Das of Mount Madonna Center. David breaks down the theory behind each purification (you’ll find details in the manual too) and explains how the sequence is intended to create balance, clear the mind, stimulate digestion and support an upward flow of life force.

Asana Practice - Diaphragm Awareness (Asana with Pranayama) (1hr 20mins)
For this Yang asana sequence, please have two blocks ready.

This full Vinyasa sequence has been designed to help bring about greater awareness to the diaphragm. It invites you to activate or stimulate the diaphragm with ‘blasts’ of inhales which strengthen the muscles that draw air into our bodies. This breath practice is intense, so try to exercise caution and stay sensitive to your responses. This technique is not appropriate for pregnant women or those with high blood pressure - however, you can still take this class and skip the blasts of inhales.
The session starts with a three-part inhalation practice called Breath of Joy, then moves through various waves of yoga poses and movements with invitations to practice the diaphragm activation in a variety of shapes. This is intended to help you develop new awareness of the inhalation - plus, after all of the effort during the practice, you may notice it’s much easier to release and let go in the final relaxation.

Anatomy of the diaphragm (30:26)
Immerse yourself in the magical world of the diaphragm. Mirjam explains in more detail how this muscle works. You will gain a greater appreciation of the complexity of breathing that includes the movement of the diaphragm, its effects on the organs close by, as well as the essential circuit of blood in our lungs and heart.
This session gives you an important insight into the various processes of breathing and the interaction of the organs involved.

Yin Yoga - Practice (1hr 14mins)
Mirjam guides you through a soothing Yin Yoga Sequence to open the space where the diaphragm separates the chest cavity (which contains the lungs and heart) from the abdomen.
Please have blankets, a block and bolster ready and make sure you are warm.

Asana Practice - Inhalation (1hr 20mins)
Another full length Vinyasa-style, Yang practice that focuses our attention on the inhalation.
The class begins with Agni Sara Dhauti, from the four purifications. This technique stimulates digestive fire and softens and strengthens the abdominal region to allow the inhalation to occur more easily.
We’ll then practice some ‘waves’ of poses that flow sequentially and synchronise with our breath. We focus on the inhalation throughout the practice and tune into the effect of bringing fresh life (force) into our moving body.
We finish with a soft, reclined sequence, placing our awareness on the air coming into the body. Finally, we arrive in Savasana, let go of the breath focus, and allow our inhales and exhales to flow naturally.

Heart - Physiology (47:45)
The session looks at how the heart works, and its cooperation and collaboration with the lungs.
We begin with mantra singing to help us to connect with each other and activate the respiratory system:

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave
Scchidananda Murtaye
Nisprapanchaya Shantaya
Nira Lambaya Tejase

We follow this with the student/teacher prayer.
At minute 12:20, the class continues with a gentle, balancing pranayama practising alternate nostril breathing with a focus on the exhalation. The physiological study of the heart comes at min 18:40. You’ll gain a detailed understanding of chemical and physical processes, including how our blood moves around, and the connection between blood circulation and breathing.

Heart Dance (09:05)
Mirjam takes you through an embodiment practice to integrate the flow of blood between body, heart and lungs. David and Mirjam's teacher, Gil Hedley, created this heart dance with the intention to help us to move our body in the same directions as our blood takes when flowing in and out of the heart and lungs.

Asana Practice - Directing the Flow (1hr 20mins)
A full Vinyasa practice which explores Vyana Vayu - the internal wind that flows in all directions and originates at centre - and how to and move and distribute energy throughout the whole body.
We begin with some seated mobilisation and rolling around to activate the joints and major muscle groups. The main wave of the sequence includes some lunges and other poses that mobilise the shoulders and spine - these are synchronised with our breath to encourage the flow of breath and energy in all directions.
The spinal mobilisation leads to some back bending poses, and we finish with a guided relaxation to move prana / life force through all parts of our body.

Chinese Medicine (22:25)
In Chinese medicine, the heart and lungs offer important insights into the ‘invisible’ world of energy, emotions, stagnation and movement.
Mirjam talks about the concept of Qi and its movement and we learn more about the process of human development in the embryo. This session also explores emotional connections to organs and aims to give a general overview of the complex and profound world that we can neither see nor touch.

Yin Yoga - Practice (33:16)
Welcome back to the yoga mat for a Yin yoga experience to clear the energy in the heart. The practice begins with some ‘workout’ elements to increase the heart rate. The rest of the sequence focuses on the expansion and compression of the upper chest and heart region.

Asana Practice - Sensing the Pause (49:16)
A practice which pays attention to the sacred space between the in and out breaths.
This full-length Vinyasa sequence invites you to rest your mind in those pauses at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale. The free-form flow of the poses invites a lot of exploration through hip opening and flowing movements with a constant connection to breathing rhythms and pauses.

Tummo Pranayama (15:40)
The final pranayama technique of this program is a powerful tool that can help support you emotionally (integrating life experiences) - and physiologically (softening the abdomen). It involves holding the breath and therefore is not appropriate for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure.
The session begins with the overview of the technique which is as follows:

Inhale ‘high’ into the chest with your abdomen softly engaged. Hold the air in the upper chest and eventually exhale a small fraction of the air. Inhale immediately to the full capacity in the upper chest again.

With the same air/breath held in, relax the abdomen and allow the belly to expand to a full soft and round state, even pushing the belly out slightly. Hold the breath in the lower belly and eventually exhale, energetically, up the spine and out through the top of the head.

Once you understand the instructions and can commit the sequence to memory, you can skip directly to the guided practice which starts at minute 05:24.

Assignment (03:07)
Information is only valuable when you remember it and it grows in value as you share it.
This assignment is intended to help you to reinforce and integrate what you have learned so far and find ways of sharing it with others through yoga.

- Create a Respiratory System Sequence of 60 minutes.
- Clearly define your Intention, Alignment and Action.
- Include Yin, Yang and Pranayama practices.
- Assume an “average” student with no respiratory or physical issues.

*As bonus work, you can create longer sequences for specific issues, but the main assignment is outlined here.

Thai Massage - Lungs & Heart (51:54)
This is a guided Thai Massage practice which allows us to understand and experience the theory and information of this course through touch.
For this session, you’ll need someone who is willing to be your demonstration buddy (or body!). This practice is done fully clothed. Try to stay comfortable and relaxed, and focus simply on synchronising with each other through your heart beat and the rhythm of your breath. You don’t need any experience - just trust yourself and enjoy this healing practice.

Closing message (01:20)
A short message from David and Mirjam as you wrap up this course.

Yoga Alliance Accreditation

Respiratory system and Pranayama, with David Lurey and Mirjam Wagner is eligible
for 50 Continuing Education Credits with Yoga Alliance.

Meet your teachers:

David Lurey and Mirjam Wagner

David Lurey, E-RYT 500, has studied different aspects of yoga and movement with teachers from all over the world. David often interweaves spiritual teaching themes into his teaching, along with intelligent sequencing, a heartfelt passion for music, and a dose of humour.

Mirjam is a highly experienced osteopath and yoga teacher. She loves to share her knowledge of Yin yoga, organ health, hormones and the feminine archetypes to empower and support women to connect with themselves deeply and heal from within.