Breath is Life


Have you ever played that game as a child where you tried to hold your breath as long as you can? I don’t know about you, but I never lasted above one minute before my body gave me the signal to take my next breath to get fresh oxygen into my lungs and body. If we don’t train to hold our breath, then our body suffocates every minute, every second even, when it doesn’t get enough oxygen.

Breathing is something we do every day. But how many seconds, how many minutes or hours a day are you aware of the way you breathe? Do you catch yourself sitting concentrated in front of your laptop for hours and then all of the sudden grasping for air? Or you’re listening to a very exciting story of a friend and then you realize midway that you’ve been holding your breath for the last minute or two?

Most people breathe unconsciously throughout the day. Breathing is something we’ve never learned how to do, we just started doing it from the moment we were born.

We breathe in habitual patterns, like holding our breath when something exciting is happening or we’re very focused. Every moment that we’re not aware of the way we breath, it has a negative effect on our physical, mental and emotional health. Our body rarely gets the oxygen it needs to heal and mend itself including all of our organs.

These are the three ways we breathe every day:

  • Sleeping Breath = 8 hours per night >> 33% of our day
  • Resting Breath = biggest part >> 50% of our day
  • Active Breath = not very often >> 12% of our day

You can see from these numbers that most of the time nowadays, we breathe a resting breath, that is really not much bigger than a sleeping breath. And if you’ve ever lied next to someone and watched their breath while they’re sleeping, you will know that this breath isn’t very big, sometimes it’s even hard to tell if someone is still alive when they’re sleeping.

“The quality of your breath determines the quality of your life.” 

Peter Clifford

We’ve lungs so big that if you’d cut them open and spread them out, they would have the size of a tennis court. Yet we only use 10% of the volume of our lungs, instead of 5-6 liters, we only breath 0.5 liters with every breath we take. Why would we have given lungs so big if not to use them?

With a resting breath, our body hardly gets enough oxygen. It doesn’t complain but it adapts.

We breathe for 70-100 trillion cells in our bodies and these cells need oxygen to create energy.

The cells use the respiration of oxygen to burn glucose (a sugar) and with that create energy. The by-product of this process is water, which is great because we consist of 70-75% water.

If we don’t provide the cells with enough oxygen, there’s a back-up system where the cells ferment the glucose to create energy but with this process, the cells not only create 36 times less energy, but the by-products are also toxins, which are stored in our fat tissue.

Some of the direct consequences are:

  • A lower metabolism, which increases the toxicity in your body, up to 1.5 kg new toxic body waste per day
  • A change in your digestion
  • You can become intolerant to some foods
  • It lowers your immune system, which opens you up to disease
  • It changes your endocrine system, which can make you intolerant to some chemicals

We’re always so worried about our diet, we think that it’s the food that gives us energy, that it’s the way we eat, how often and how much is what makes us healthy. And of course, this also plays a role, but it really is the quality of our breath that determines the quality of our life. It takes 60-90 days for us to die without food, 6-9 days without water and only 30 minutes for us to die without oxygen. These figures alone should make us think what really the most important thing for our body is to receive.  

The more you breathe, the more potential you have to create more energy. If you’re barely breathing, you’re barely alive. So, the next time, you feel that afternoon low, instead of making yourself a coffee, take 10 minutes to breathe in and out as much as you can, to fill your lungs, your body, your cells with new oxygen. 

For these questions to be able to even come up, you need to make room for them, to create moments of stillness in your life, a space within your busy life to just be with yourself where you can reflect, wonder, be curious… a space of discovery, of learning something new about yourself. It’s in these moments of stillness that you can truly connect to your inner self, to find out what your heart’s desires are and to see if you’re still heading in the right direction of this journey called life.

Author: Caroline Altmann