Updated 16 April 2013

Power of a single breath

The heart, skin, kidneys, blood and lungs all need oxygen to function, and breathing is the mechanism we use to acquire it.


The heart, skin, kidneys, blood and lungs all need oxygen to function, and breathing is the mechanism we use to acquire it.

Yugesh Pillay, Art of Living teacher and businessman, says the simple method of breathing will allow us to live to our full potential. The power of a single breath is something we often underestimate.

Breath statistics

  • We inhale and exhale more than 10 000 litres of air daily.
  • We breathe about 25 000 times per day.
  • Breathing through the nose is much more beneficial to one than through the mouth.
  • Inhaling and exhaling through the nasal passage delivers oxygen to the lungs more efficiently, helps calm the mind and rejuvenate the body.
  • On average a person has about 12-20 breaths within 60 seconds.
  • 90% of the toxins in our body can be excreted through the breath
  • On average we use only about 30% of our lung capacity.

“Through our lives we learn facts and figures, but at no point do we actually learn how to deal with our stress and negative emotions. No one sits down and says this is how we deal with it,” says Pillay. As amazing as the human body is, what we don’t know is that it has the potential to deflect any kind of off-putting emotions by just combining our body, mind - and our breath.

The brainstem, which is located at the top of the spinal cord near the neck, allows us to breathe unconsciously. It controls and coordinates the rate and profundity of breathing depending on the body’s needs at any time by signals from brain.

Breath and emotions

“Every rhythm in your mind has a corresponding rhythm in your breath,” says Pillay. “When you get angry, what happens to your breath? It gets intense, warm and your body starts heating up with anger. What happens when you feel happy? Your breathing becomes light and full. What happens when you’re sad? It gets dull and heavy. What happens when you get nervous? Your breath gets that little fluff.”

Pillay, who follows the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation, says that it is very hard to control the mind but we can control the breath because it is more tangible. “Think of the mind as a kite and the breath like a string. So like you control the kite with the string, you can control your mind with your breath. When we relax the mind and we calm the mind, we unlock the mind’s full potential.”


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