How to breathe with purpose

I’ve always wondered about this.

When someone sees you squeezing yourself through a narrow gap, why do they tell you to ‘Breathe in’?

If you do so, your lungs fill with air and from what I know about the way balloons work, this expands your chest, making you bigger, not smaller – and therefore less, rather than more, likely to get wherever you want to go.


Call me old-fashioned, but wouldn’t it make more sense to tell you to breathe out?

After all, in one of those lateral thinking puzzles, it’s letting the pressure out of a truck’s tyres which allows it to pass under a bridge which is otherwise slightly too low.

Now, until I raised this subject, it’s pretty unlikely that you were aware you were breathing.

We both know you are, though.

(If you’re not, I’m talking to myself.)

Respiration is one of those essential things you generally do without thinking, but perhaps there’s sense in making yourself rather more conscious of it now and then?

Really deep breaths feed your brain and body with vital oxygen, and breathing out expels carbon dioxide.

That’s a pretty neat trick.

Who knew you could turn one gas into the other so quickly and effortlessly?

Anyway, taking more mindful deep breaths can also be a smart way to imagine yourself taking in goodness, and getting rid of badness by breathing out again.

So breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth, deliberately filling and emptying your lungs while you tell your worries where to go.

(To avoid strange looks, probably best to do this last one under your breath, though.)

Try to take the time to breathe consciously today.

5 thoughts on “How to breathe with purpose

  1. Thanks for this, I have practiced mindfulness for a few years now but it is always great to have a reminder to pay attention. Tasking about breathing in to get smaller/thinner this reminded me of something… My brother and I used to breath in as much as we could to see if we could see our backbones through our stomachs! We were skinny kids! Btw I just listened to the Ruby Wax Sane New World from your survey reading list. Really excellent book, funny and with good advice on mindful practice. Do you have the booklist available on this site anywhere? I’d maybe like to dip into a few more… ME

  2. Hi me, there is a book list at the top of this page…it might be the one Jon published a few days ago….

    Hi Jon, as soon as you mentioned breath and breathing, I started to notice mine again!! And also, like ME, above, I remember that when someone in the TV or radio asks someone to take a deep breath…in, hold it, and …breathe out….phew…..I do it with them! Even though I know whatever they are doing has nothing to do with me, I just start doing it!!! Lol!

  3. Your point is simple yet packs such a punch! Not something I had thought about before but you are so correct- it would be better to breathe out rather than in when dealing with trying, stifling circumstances. How eye-opening! I will stash this great nugget away in my memory bank and come back to it countless times, I am sure. Thank you.

  4. You recommend breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth but this goes against the mindful running advice from Michael Sandler. He says we should all breathe in and out through our nose.

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