Why the way we breathe is so important to our health


Who says so?

It seems a great many people do. A current google search using a keyword such as “breathing” will produce many tens of millions of references, many pointing to advice and information, much of which is clear It and helpful in our daily lives. It is clearly an important subject.So why add to the many millions of words already swirling around the internet, and elsewhere in books and magazines? Some messages are so important that they cannot be reinforced in the general population too often, one such is : Breath is Life.

Well, what do you mean? You may ask. After all, breathing is an involuntary reflex, and all of us have been doing it all our lives. Where I wish to go with this is the way we breathe.

Why is it so important?

Until the beginning of the latter half of the 20th-century, what was known of the mystic physical healing practices of the Eastern cultures was to the Western mind just that, mystic but in an unlikely or over other-worldly sort of way.Then leading writers began to change this perception.The lid began to be lifted on the secrets so long kept by a few followers, to the wider benefit of the world at large. One inspirational writer was Yogi Ramacharaka who wrote the Science of Breath . Not to spoil a good story, the author was said to be writing under a pseudonym and is believed actually to have been William Walker Atkinson,an American attorney and prolific writer and publisher who died in 1932. The book was possibly attributed to the Indian mystic of the same name, but this seems not to have been verified. It maybe a mystery. Be that as it may, and whatever the truth, there is no doubt of the influence of this book (first published in 1904), along with others written under several pseudonyms by Atkinson which have been in print since the early 20th century.

The main premise of his book was the idea of the complete breath ,a simple exercise which would act as the system fundamental to other breathing exercises.The complete breath, as with all forms of breathing,was promoted because it used the whole capacity of the respiratory system of the human body.So the argument goes, complete breathing exercises the internal organs and muscles, and gives aid to better digestion by the proper level of oxygenation in the blood derived from a proper supply of oxygen through the lungs. Most of us in our daily lives, particularly in sedentary occupations, breathe shallow breaths for much of the day.In this way, only a portion of the lung cells are brought into play,and a great portion of lung capacity is lost.

The Yogi Complete Breath

Some Facts About Deep Breathing

In general, the human organism was not designed to breathe deeply at all times and in all situations. The depth of our breath, whether it is shallow, medium, or deep depends in large part on what it is we are doing. If we are sitting quietly reading, for example, we do not need to be breathing deeply. If we are working hard and expending a great deal of energy, however, we might well need to breathe deeply. Another situation in which deep breathing can be beneficial is when we are trying to revitalize our energy or for special or healing exercises.This and some further information are available via dennis lewis.org

So developing the habit of deeper breathing at the appropriate times of day, or several times a day as an exercise, is advocated as good for our general health and wellbeing.

The Science of Breath advocated the following simple exercise to be completed several times a day either standing or sitting erect (in front of a mirror is optional but can provide a helpful focal point) :

Step One – By drawing air through the nostrils and systematically filling first the lower part of the lungs (involving the diaphragm) and then the middle part (pushing out the lower ribs,breast-bone and chest), and thirdly filling the upper part of the lungs (protruding the upper chest). In this latter movement, the lower part of the abdomen will be slightly drawn-in.

Step-two -Retain the breath for two or three seconds only,before

Step-three- exhaling quite slowly, with the chest in a firm position, again drawing the abdomen in a little.When the air is fully exhaled, relax the chest and abdomen; then repeat the three steps.

You can practice your own series of complete breaths, it is suggested several minutes at a time only. BUT DON”T OVERDUE IT.This should not be a strenuous exercise for you. Note: Like any other form of physical exercise to which you may not be accustomed, you should consult your doctor or physician first,if you have a bodily weakness or physical illness.

The simple things are often those that are the most underrated and valuable. Complete breathing is one. Remember it is an exercise though and it does need a little practice to avoid a jerky series of inhalations, and to gain a continuous smooth series of breathes which should be inhaled several time a day.

Now,why is it important to carry out a regular series of complete breathes. Science of Breath details many benefits among which are the following six :

  • improved posture, including chest development
  • greater immunity from “colds”
  • cleansing the system of disease germs
  • aid to better digestion
  • general improved feeling of wellbeing
  • a help to stimulate the action of the brain, towards producing clearer thinking and reasoning


Deep breathing,or complete breath,whatever it may be called by different people,  is said to have a restorative effect health wise. It can help to you to sleep better. I believe it.I have had a copy of Science of Breath on my bookshelf since I was a young man.It introduced me to the concept and importance of proper breathing in martial arts training in later life.There are many similar books with a similar message about consciously taking time to breathe properly several times a day. It really is a simple idea.

I also have a copy of Healing with Ki-Kou. Chinese medicine has embraced healing with breathing techniques for the last 800 years.

Exploring the power of chi, the many easy to follow line illustrations take you through the secrets of Ancient Chinese breathing techniques. Throughout, every workout is preceded by the warm up with chi-shi, and finishing with cool down with shi-kon.By the end of the book these two practices are second nature to you.Ki-Kou breathing is illustrated as being similar to the complete breath.

Healing with Ki-Kou: The secrets of Ancient Chinese Breathing Techniques

If you have been,thank you for reading. Hands-up those who while reading this shifted their posture even just a little; perhaps you inhaled a little more deeply, and sat-up straighter. Quite a lot of you,I guess, and hope.


4 thoughts on “Why the way we breathe is so important to our health”

  1. Yes, just thinking about breathing, reading about it, I’m reminded to notice it. A positive result of practicing the Alexander Technique is improved breathing – it happens as a result of noticing ease in our bodies.

    Thanks for the resources, I’ll be checking them out.

  2. Many thanks Laura for your comment re the Alexander technique.The body’s ability to heal itself through the stress reducing qualities of breathing techniques and exercises never ceases to amaze me. Glad you like the post.Will be revisiting this subject quite often.

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