Whilst in my element, travelling unburdened by the mundanities of life, I have also been revelling in the numerous opportunities that have come my way to talk to people about breathing.
Inevitably, when we meet people anew one of the first questions asked is ‘what do you do’. “Well”, I say, “I teach people how to breath”. The initial response to that is usually a quizzical look and an assumption that I have been misheard. “Fascinating stuff” I would most likely add and from thereon I can usually judge whether to continue on that particular vein or maybe switch to talking about something else, like the weather.
Getting past that first hurdle then, most people are astonished to hear that the average person breathes something like 15 times every minute – 21,6000 breaths per day! Almost no-one is aware that there is a pressure variation between the two nostrils and that which nostril is relatively more open changes around every 1 to 1.5 hours throughout the day. Carbon dioxide, an awful lot more than just a waste gas, provides the impetus to breathe rather than a need for oxygen. The air we breath contains around 20% of oxygen and we immediately breathe back out around 75% of that. It is important to breathe in and out through the nose to enable the air we take in to be warmed, filtered, humidified; nitric oxide is produced in the nostrils and essential for several functions in the body… I could go on.
Quite unintentionally, I began a journey in breathing some twelve years ago after a couple of mountain bike incidents and a realisation that I needed to make considerable changes in my life. Ever since I have been talking about breath, these last few months, in particular, I have shared what I have learned with many people I have met on the road – two young ladies from Houston remarked that what I had told them was the most interesting thing they had heard in their two months of travelling. Doctors, nurses, engineers, students and many others I have taught in workshops in places like Corsica, Dubai, Malta and the UK have fed back on how their lives have begun to change – many of them also now sharing what they have learned within their families. The journey goes on.
Through conscious breathing we truly transform in subtle, but profound ways; not just by breathing during yoga or mindfulness type meditation practices, but rather every one of those 21,600 breaths throughout the day, learning to live in the moment here and now, not with our minds stuck in the past or deliberating over an unknown future.
To quote the Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity…
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived.”*
If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy others about Barbara’s nomadic existence and her mission to improve people’s breathing at The Nomad The End of the Way Inside Out – on the Camino Santiago de Compostela The End of the World Baring All
*From ‘Shakti Manifest’ by Barbara Pidgeon.