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I’m sick of being told to breathe. Are you?

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I had a photoshoot this weekend with a professional photographer (because, you know, I’m fancy like that), and she gave me a piece of advice that resulted in awesome photographs.

The advice?  Breathe.

Yeah yeah, I know.  We hear that all the time.  But she showed me the difference.  It was right there in her camera, undeniable, staring me in the face: when I took a deep breath and then let it out, my face relaxed, my eyes opened up, and I looked more present and connected.  When I wasn’t breathing I looked nervous and tense.  I had visible proof that breathing makes a difference.

So what’s the big deal?  We all breathe.  And we tell ourselves and one another all the time to slow down, stop and breathe.  I’ve said it here before.  We all say this. But what does it mean?

We breathe somewhere between 18000-50000* times a day.  Each one of us, every day.  That’s a whole lot of breathing.  In, out.  In, out.  All day long.  You’d think after all that we’d have this thing wired!  But no.  We don’t.  We hold our breath when we think.  We hold our breath when we’re tired.  We breathe shallowly, using only part of our lungs.

So any time you pay even a sliver of attention to your breath (say, if you’re having your *cough* photo taken or something), you change your breathing just that little bit.  And a little bit is good.  You can set times throughout the day to remind yourself:  every hour on the hour, for example, just think about your breath for that moment.  That’s all.  Easy.  Just for that moment.  There’s nothing else to do, no relaxing, no concentrating, nothing.  All you are doing is noticing.

Little changes add up to big ones.  You already know this about your kids; every day they grow imperceptibly and one day you notice their pant legs are up around their knees.  How did that happen?

Get yourself thinking about your breathing throughout the day and I guarantee you’ll notice changes adding up in yourself.  What those changes end up being is up to you.

*Internet, I am so disappointed in you!  I went to five different sites and got five REALLY different answers (from 18000 to 50000? Is someone joking here or just math-incapable?).  Want to know how many times you breathe in a day?  Or am I the only nerdy-curious one here?  Time yourself for one minute, counting your breaths, and do the math.  Or if you are lazy like me, go 30 seconds.  I used this clock and breathed 6 times.  Of course, thinking about your breath will change how you breathe, but ignore that a moment.  I got 17280.

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4 comments so far...

  • this is SO TRUE! especially this time of year (for those who live in climents that change ha!) it’s AWESOME to walk outside and breathe deeply! it does remind me that even when sitting in an office all day - it’s good to stop and breathe for a bit each day.

    Kate  |  October 8th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

  • I look at it a little differently because I have asthma. Breathing is good; I don’t ever want to take it for granted.

    Daisy  |  October 8th, 2008 at 5:48 pm

  • Kate: Ah, you are breathing in the air of CHANGE around you! Wonderful!

    Daisy: Excellent point. I’ll bet you do look at breathing differently from most of us, and I can imagine that your awareness of it is at a much more conscious level.

    Karen Murphy  |  October 8th, 2008 at 5:53 pm

  • I am so glad you brought that up. I did a little 2 second research on the topic and found some things I wanted to share. Breathing is much more than just breathing



    A 20% reduction in oxygen blood levels may be caused by the aging process and normal breathing habits. Poor breathing robs energy and negatively affects mental alertness. Unless breathing is exercised, aging affects the respiratory system as follows:
    Stiffness: The rib cage and surrounding muscles get stiff causing inhalation to become more difficult. Less elasticity and weak muscles leave stale air in the tissues of the lungs and prevents fresh oxygen from reaching the blood stream.

    Rapid, Shallow Breathing: This type of breathing, often caused by poor posture and weak or stiff muscles, leads to poor oxygen supply, respiratory disease, sluggishness, or heart disease.


    The following exercises are simple ways to deepen breathing and to cleanse the lungs. These exercises will also increase energy and decrease tension.
    Lie flat on your back to get a proper sense of deep breathing. (Have some small pillows available to reduce strain by tucking them under the neck and knees. The natural course of breathing in that position will create a slight rise in the stomach upon inhaling and a slight fall upon exhaling.)
    Place your hands palm down on your stomach at the base of the rib cage. (The lungs go that far down. What fills them deeper is the pushing down of the diaphragm. The diaphragm creates a suction which draws air into the lungs. the air is then expelled when the diaphragm pushes up. In this process, the life-giving oxygen fills the lungs and gets into the blood stream for distribution to the cells. Carbon dioxide is expelled from the blood into the about-to-be exhaled breath, thus cleansing the body and blood of waste products.) Lay the palms of your hands on your stomach just below the rib cage, middle fingers barely touching each other, and take a slow deep breath. (As the diaphragm pushes down, the stomach will slightly expand causing the fingertips to separate somewhat.

    This movement indicates full use of the lungs, resulting in a truly deep breath rather than the “puffed chest” breath experienced by many as the greatest lung capacity. Chest breathing fills the middle and upper parts of the lungs. Belly breathing is the most efficient method. Infants and small children use only this method until the chest matures. The yoga breath or roll breathing combines belly and chest breathing.



    1. Sit up straight. Exhale.
    2. Inhale and, at the same time, relax the belly muscles. Feel as though the belly is filling with air.

    3. After filling the belly, keep inhaling. Fill up the middle of your chest. Feel your chest and rib cage expand.

    4. Hold the breath in for a moment, then begin to exhale as slowly as possible.

    5. As the air is slowly let out, relax your chest and rib cage. Begin to pull your belly in to force out the remaining breath.

    6. Close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing.

    7. Relax your face and mind.

    8. Let everything go.

    9. Practice about 5 minutes.

    Linda  |  October 9th, 2008 at 11:31 am