Optimal breathing

All you need is less

Ask someone if it’s healthier to breathe more or less and most people will answer more. It turns out that breathing less is much healthier, and for many people, breathing less can be life changing.

Research is showing that we are becoming chronic over-breathers and hyperventilation is delivering more oxygen to the body than it needs, causing carbon dioxide levels to drop. This upsets the delicate balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide required for the exchange of gases in the blood and the delivery of oxygen to the cells in the body. Carbon dioxide acts as a catalyst for hemoglobin in the red blood cells to release oxygen for use by the body. When the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood are low, the body cannot access the oxygen in the blood and manifests in poor body oxygenation.

By way of an example, it is a common fallacy that taking deep breaths before an exam or appearing on stage help to calm the nerves. The sudden deep breaths constrict the blood vessels and reduce oxygenation in the brain by half, causing brain fog, lack of concentration and poor memory recall. Breathing less by slowing and calming the breath has the opposite effect, that of increasing oxygenation to the brain. Breathing less is more effective and efficient for the body.


Signs of hyperventilation include breathing through the mouth, breathing too deeply, breathing too fast, breathing in the upper chest and irregular breathing, with sighing or frequent breath holding – email apnea is a term coined by Linda Stone, a former Apple executive, to describe breath holding when emailing or working on the computer! Breathing pattern disorders affect around 29% of the adult population with asthma and 75% of those with anxiety.

James Nestor, in his book Breath: the new science of a lost art, observes that exercise-induced asthma is brought on by overbreathing in 40% of athletes. Asthmatics, whether resting or exercising, tend to breathe much more than those without asthma. Once an attack starts, air gets trapped in the lungs and airways constrict, making it difficult to get air in and out creating feelings of increasing breathlessness resulting in more constriction, panic and stress.  He relates the dramatic improvement of reducing asthma symptoms ’… simply by decreasing the volume of air in their lungs and increasing the carbon dioxide in their bodies’.

What is healthy, optimal breathing?

Healthy breathing is gentle, calm and effortless with a natural pause after the exhalation. Breathing is through the nose, even during light exercise such as walking, and there are no feelings of breathlessness during rest and sleep. Visible breathing movements are rhythmic and gently flowing with no breath holding.

Slow breathing at 6 breaths per minute is optimum. Most people breathe 10 to12 (or more) breaths per minute. Many asthmatics are breathing 23 breaths per minute.

BKS Iyengar, a world renowned yoga teacher, spent years in bed as a sickly child, until he learned yoga and breathed himself back to health. He wrote that a yogi’s life is measured by the number of breaths, not by his number of days. Slow breathing retains a slow resting heart rate and contributes to longer life. He died at the age of 95.

I used to struggle with my health. It was always 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Then I learned how to correct my dysfunctional breathing patterns, breathe optimally and supercharge my health.

Simple breathing exercises, such as those I teach in Easy Breather, tailored to your individual needs, can, in a short space of time, radically change your breathing from dysfunctional to optimal breathing.

Louise Hay, author of bestseller You can heal your life, recognised that the lungs represent our capacity to take in and give out life and hyperventilation may be as a result of fear, resisting change and lack of trust in life.

Mentoring, coaching and training to holistically integrate breathwork into your lifestyle in one-on-one breathwork sessions can really impact on your overall health and wellbeing for the long term.

Take some time to observe your own breathing:

  • nose or mouth?
  • abdominal or upper chest?
  • heavy or light?
  • natural pause between breaths?
  • visible movements of breathing?

Most importantly, just keep breathing less – feed your body the right amount of air at the right time to perform at your best and allow the body to heal.

I’m always happy to get your feedback. Post a comment below or you can reach me at: info@moyabreath.com

Further reading:

Bostock, Richie. Exhale. London: Penguin, 2020

Hay, Louise. You can heal your life. London: Hay House. 2005

McKeown, Patrick. The Breathing Cure: exercises to develop new breathing habits for a healthier, happier and longer life. OxyAt Books. 2021

Nestor, James. Breath: the new science of a lost art. Penguin Life. 2020

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • You think that you breath?
    Well, you just need to meet Pat, she will take you for a journey, that you see what is possible … breath of fresh air. Thank you Pat. 🙏

  • Patricia Liebetrau
    March 23, 2022 2:14 pm

    Thanks for your kind words, Martha. x


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