When we are relaxed our breathing is slower – each breath is long and relaxed. When we are stressed, anxious, worried, fearful our breathing is faster – each breath is short and sharp. This is common knowledge. Consider this:
- An average adult person breathes 16-20 breaths per minute – each breath is 3-4 seconds long.
- With just a few yoga lessons most people can easily bring that down to 8-10 breaths per minute – each breath is 6-8 seconds long.
- With consistent practice (weekly lessons) many people can bring that even further down to 4-6 breaths per minute – each breath 10-15 seconds long.
- With a personalized and consistent practice (~daily) practitioners can bring it down further to 2-3 breaths per minute – each breath 20-30 seconds.
- Given time (years of practice) that number goes down to 1-1.5 breaths a minute – each breath 40-60 seconds.
- … and this goes on
Now consider this:
“As per the traditional view, all human beings are endowed with a constant number of breaths. This is equivalent to living for one hundred years at the rate of fifteen breaths per minute. The total number of breaths per day is 21600. If one breathers more than 21600 times a day, his life span will obviously be lowered.
We all know that breathing becomes faster, when one is unwell or disturbed. This shows the importance of Yoga practice in regulating the breath and thus prolonging the life span.”
(Krishnamacharya commentary from “Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya” 1.35)
Assuming this is true, we are, as a species, under-performing. Krishnamacharya lived to 101 years old. My teacher tells a story that on Krishnamacharya’s 100th birthday he was asked to say something – so he uttered “Om” for one full minute (that would be a 60 second exhale). When asked how he managed to do it he replied that when he was 60 years old he could do 5 minutes.