The Art of Better Breathing

Better breathing is the most powerful tool we have for achieving self-mastery. And it plays a critical role in determining whether or not we suffer from stress. 

Breathing ii

If you know the breath, you will know everything — Swami Rama

At least ninety per cent of our metabolic energy should come from our breathing. – Dr Gabriel Cousens

Optimal Breathing Quantity and Quality

The slower the breath rate at rest the better.

The science on breathing

Science shows our breathing quantity and quality have the largest effect on how long we will live. This is because a primary marker for longevity is how large your breathing volume is. There is also a positive relationship between better breathing, the fullness of our lives and our longevity. 

Breathing rate

The more times per minute you breathe during rest, the higher the stress and oxygen cost of breathing. Higher breathing rates also affect the quality of our sleep. Higher breathing rates produce excessive stress responses. 

If our breathing rate is too high we experience excessive stress responses. If our resting breathing rate is high we want to work on lowering it. 

A breathing rate that’s too fast can lead to a range of conditions such as:

  • nervousness anxiety and panic attacks
  • heart conditions, high blood pressure, strokes
  • attention problems
  • asthma
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue
  • allergies
  • weight issues 
  • shortness of breath when speaking, singing
  • sleeping issues

Resting pause length

The resetting pause length is the time (resting phase) between our in and out-breath. The resting pause rate. We want to lengthen our pause if it is less than 2.5 seconds. 

A short pause rate can correlate with severe and/or multiple maladies or predispositions to illness such as anxiety, panic attacks, heart conditions, high blood pressure, weight problems, fatigue, and excessive stress. 

To use the automobile metaphor, with a pause that is too short, your engine is in effect still at high revolutions even while standing still at a stop sign. With this form of UDB, your body does not really rest, even while sleeping.

Oxygen is critical for health and longevity

Oxygen is critical for health and longevity. So much so that pulmonary (lung) function is an indicator of general health and vigour and a primary measure of potential life span. A thoracic surgeon and psychologist Phil Neurenberger studied 152 heart attack victims and found all had a serious breathing irregularity. 

Better breathing allows for a slower breathing rate, and a calmer nervous system. And breathing volume is also key factor in our biological age.

There are many benefits to better breathing

ncreasing breathing volume and ease increases oxygen absorption into the blood cells. This in turn strengthens every healthy biochemical reaction in the human body. It’s also important to realise how we breathe during the day shapes the way you breathe while sleeping or resting.

Some of the combined benefits of better breathing (increased breathing volume) are:

  • Increased toxin elimination from the body
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased immunity
  • Increased recovery times from stress, illness, wounds and trauma
  • Enhanced oxygen to the brain
  • Germs, viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeast are killed
  • Superior neutralisation of free-radicals
  • Increased vitality and endurance
  • Increased sleep benefits
  • Calming the nervous system
  • Increased attention and concentration skills
  • Enhancing the body's waste treatment systems in the lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder, colon and lymphatic system
  • Reduction in stress
  • Better recovery from physical exertion 
  • Better sleep 
  • Increased sports performance 
  • Enhanced creativity 
  • Increased focus and mental clarity from enhanced brain function
  • Strengthened sexual energy
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Increases alertness and attentiveness
  • Enhanced emotional wellbeing
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Grounds us better into the present moment

The optimum breathing rate

The optimum breathing rate is 5.5 breaths in and 5.5 breaths out per minute. We can consciously practise slower and deeper breathing and extending our exhalation.

We breathe in through the nose for a count of 5.5, then hold the breath for 2.5 seconds or more. Then we exhale slowly breathing out for 5.5 seconds. And repeat. 

Practising the optimum breathing rate:

  • Inhale slowly through your nose for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5
  • Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.

Your breathing is a valuable tool for calming the mind and body. Stay aware of your breathing and you tend to stay aware of the moment you’re in. 

Breathing Techniques and Exercises

The first step to improving your breathing is to become aware of it. This is sometimes called conscious breathwork. 

The Optimum Breathing Rate

The optimum breathing rate is 5.5 breaths in and 5.5 breaths out per minute. We can consciously practise slower and deeper breathing and extending our exhalation.

We breathe in through the nose for a count of 5.5, then hold the breath for 2.5 seconds or more. Then we exhale slowly breathing out for 5.5 seconds. And repeat. 

Practising the optimum breathing rate:

  • Inhale slowly through your nose for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5
  • Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.

Horizontal Breathing

Breathing really well into your belly using your nose is the foundation of healthy breathing. Belly breathing is also known as horizontal breathing. 

Exercise 1: Put one hand on your belly and one on between your collar bones between your chest. Now breathe slowly and deeply from the diaphragm, expanding your belly on the inhale, while keeping top hand should be still.

Exercise 2: Lie on your back with a large book on your belly. Inhale deeply into your belly to raise the book, and repeat this 50 times. Over time add heavier books to help strengthen your core breathing muscles.

Conscious Breathing

The first step to improving your breathing is to become aware of it. This is sometimes called conscious breathwork. 

Conscious Breathing is the practice of connecting our inhale with our exhale. This experience is a merging of the inner breath with the outer breath. Conscious breathing is integrating spirit, mind, and body. Practising conscious breathing is one of the most valuable and intelligent things we can do for ourselves.

How are you breathing? Place your right hand on the lower belly, and your left hand on the upper chest. Take a few breaths and notice which part of the body rises more?

Are you holding your breath more than you realise? Are you taking shallow breaths?

Getting back to sleep breathing

Tense all the muscles in your body as you breathe in through the nose. Then release all the muscles in your body as you exhale through the mouth. Repeat this a few times.

The next back to sleep breathing exercise is to create space between your teeth and with your tongue placed on the hard palate. Breathe in through the nose for a count of three and hold it for a count of four. Breathe out through the mouth, relaxing the tongue, while counting to five. 

Peace and energy are an unbeatable combination.

Breathing FAQ

Breathing properly is the single most important intervention you can make for your own health.

  • Why practice better breathing?

    Breathing properly is the single most important intervention you can make for your own health.

    Breathing in a shallow way can result in a shortening of life span. Poor breathing can also contribute to a range of illnesses.

    Conscious breathing can relax any kind of intense emotion or physical sensation we might be having. Conscious breathing has been called spiritual breathing, intuitive breathing, conscious connected breathing and rebirthing breathwork. 

    To really feel alive and enjoy longevity we need to learn to breathe better now.

    Optimal breathing is about breathing easier and fuller. Breathing really well through the nose and into our bellies is the foundation of the optimum breath. The practice is to nurture breathing that is slow, relaxed and smooth.

    Optimum breathing saturates our bodies with oxygen. This keeps our nervous system in balance and provides it with what it needs to operate at its maximum potential.

    Optimal breathing is achieved by conscious slow and deep breathing. This breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response). Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite to the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system. 

    Without practising breathing we will by age 70 lose over 70%

    Dr Arthur Guyton proved all chronic pain, suffering, and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level.

  • Breathing facts and figures

    You breathe 7,000 to 30,000 times a day. We take in 23,000 breaths a day

    Germs, viruses and bacteria cannot survive in a high oxygen environment (they are anaerobic).

    Babies breathe deeply into their tummies until they’re about three. Just like animals do. But at some stage, they start to sit for long periods, move less, and experience emotional stressors that affect their breathing. 

    We are designed to take shallow breaths while under threat. Modern life can make it feel like we are under threat all the time. Modern life stops us from breathing well as stress is associated with small, quick breaths. Shallow breathing in turn, makes us feel even more frazzled.

    But at a certain, we start breathing vertically, which is what we also do when faced with a genuinely stressful situation. Many of us spend all day taking incredibly small breaths. 

  • What are the Wim Hof breathing exercises?

    The patented Wim Hof Method in basic terms is hyperventilating, then holding the breath. However, the breathing exercises are only one of the Wim Hof methods ‘three pillars’. The other two pillars are cold therapy and training your mindset.

    Hof has proven what science says was impossible: we can in fact tao into our autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, lymphatic system, immune system and vascular system. His method also employs cold baths/showers to revitalise our ability to respond to nature.

    How to do the WHM breathing:

    1: Inhale deeply through the nose or mouth, and exhale through the mouth repeatedly and immediately inhale again. For each inhalation, fully inhale through the belly, then the chest and release the breath. Experiencing light-headedness and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet are expected side effects and completely harmless. 

    2: For the last inhalation, inhaler as deeply as possible, then let the air out and stop breathing. Hold with all the air expelled for 1 minute for the first cycle, and 1 and half minutes for the following 2 cycles. After holding on the exhale. inhale as deeply as you can and then hold the inhaled breath for 15 seconds. 

    3: Repeat steps one and two 3 times.

    Wim created a breathing bubble video guide for this exercise.

  • Does better breathing increase longevity?

    Breathing has much more to do with life than taking in oxygen.

    Our nervous system responds to the way our breath is taken in. Not breathing easy overstimulates the organs and muscles. 

    Much of longevity comes from a life of being in the flow.

    Unbalanced breathing can break down the body’s resistance to disease.

  • How do you do Buteyko Breathing?

    The Buteyko Breathing Method is a natural breathwork technique. The method can help solve dysfunctional breathing patterns. And has shown success in reducing problems like asthma, snoring, sleep apnoea and hay fever. It’s a natural breathing technique. 

    The Control Pause

    1. After a relaxed exhale, hold your breath. 

    2. Use your index finger and thumb to plug your nose. 3. Retain your breath until you feel the urge to breathe, which may include an involuntary movement of your diaphragm, and then inhale.

    4. Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds. 

    5. Repeat several times.

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