Ajan Raghunathan


"Find a place where you are alone. Train yourself in the following way: When you breathe in, experience breathing in. When you breathe out, be fully conscious that you are breathing out. If you cherish and practice this, it will bear great fruit. Whatever you are doing and wherever you are, you will find steadiness, calm, and concentration if you become conscious of your breathing." - Majjhima Nikaya. From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000.

This is the most important of all biological functions. It is true that we do not have to deliberately do our breathing but still paying greater attention to one's own breathing can do. Experts are of opinion that we need to learn how to breath effectively because most of us are not at all breathing correctly. You can take a simple self-test designed by Dr.Buteyko to see your breathing is correct and sufficient or not. (See the Buteyko Breathing Test given last).

The body needs oxygen for producing energy for doing work. The pH level of the blood is to be maintained so that we can function effectively. The body also need carbon dioxide for the effective functioning of the body.

A balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide is required for the body to function properly. The maintenance of normal pH (acidity-alkalinity balance) is done by retaining adequate carbon dioxide in the body. If you over breathe, the depletion of carbon dioxide results and consequently we are unable to use oxygen properly.

It has been observed that asthma patients breathe an average of 27 litres per minute. Reducing this to 9 litre per minute often reduced the need for medication in asthma patients.

According to WHO in good breathing we breath 6 litre of air per minute. Good breathing uses the diaphragm where as bad breathing uses the upper chest alone. The movement of the diaphragm gently massages the abdominal organs. This helps to correct acid reflux and gall bladder problems. Good breathing keeps 5.5 to 6.5% of carbon dioxide in the lungs which helps regulation of the pH levels of the body.

The Importance of Carbon Dioxide

Tolerance to carbon dioxide is low in bad breathers. Carbon dioxide tolerance can be improved by swimming, walking, running, aerobic exercises etc. Highly processed foods (like fast foods) contribute to bad breathing.

Increased acidity levels in the body tend to increase one's breathing. Higher levels of acidity is the result of 1. Disease 2. Mineral deficiency 3. Excess of protein and grain in diet. Acidity may also increase as part of allergic response.

Respiratory alkalosis, a condition in which the body becomes more acidic due to the loss of minerals and bicarbonates, can result from over breathing.

When you breath more, you lose more carbon dioxide from your system which results in the constriction of blood vessels leading to high BP. If the breathing is normalized, BP lowers.

The nervous system becomes more excitable due to a drop in the carbon dioxide levels in the body. Heart pounding, breathlessness, tingling and numbness in hands, feet and face, dizziness, feeling of unreality etc. may result if one breathes quickly and deeply for a few minutes. By proper breathing, these symptoms can be removed.

The immune system is also significantly affected by breathing. It is found that good breathing improves immunity significantly. Because cancer cells use anaerobic metabolism, correct breathing can check the growth of cancer cells.

Bad breathing also results in fatigue. Anxiety and other emotional reactions gives the sympathetic nervous system dominance resulting in the waste of a lot of energy. This causes fatigue and laziness. Normalizing breathing have helped people to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Breathing can be used for restoring rest, relaxation and energy of the body. Researches have also shown that both the production and sensitivity to insulin are significantly improved as a result of normalized breathing.


Buteyko Breathing Test

This breathing test is based on that developed by Dr. Buteyko, and tests whether your breathing is correct or not.

You need a stop watch to measure the time. You can also use a wrist watch if you are adept at using it for measuring a duration. You can even seek the help of someone else to note the time for you.

  1. exhale normally
  2. hold breath and simultaneously start the stop watch
  3. hold on breathing until you want to resume breathing.
  4. Resume breathing and stop the stop watch simultaneously
  5. Find out how many seconds elapsed and refer to the following table for a description


Reading in seconds



41 to 50

31 to 40

21 to 30

Less than 20

Great; your breathing is perfect


Not good, but you may not have big problems

Bad; you may have some problems related to breathing.

Problem zone; you may have asthma or the like