Q&A

Breathe better, live better

how many breaths per minute does normal breathing have?

For an adult at rest, when there is no specific physical or emotional stress, one considers an average breathing rate between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. However, many people breathe faster. 

The number of breaths per minute we recommend for a healthy and normal breathing frequency is between 6 and 10.

What is a normal number of breaths per minute in the elderly?

In the elderly, the normal respiratory rate may increase slightly. This may be due to changes in lung function and general physiology that occur with age. It is generally considered about 25 breaths per minute to a normal respiratory rate.

breathing frequency

What is healthy breathing and when is it abnormal?

Regular, calm and unburdensome. Abnormal breathing can be faster or slower than normal, shallow or deep, and accompanied by symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.

How high should healthy breathing be?

We speak of an increased breathing rate above 20-25 breaths per minute.

Determining what is considered a "high" respiratory rate requires an understanding of the physiology of breathing, the role of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the factors that may affect respiratory rate.

Respiratory rate and CO2 regulation:

Respiratory rate is regulated by a complex interplay of chemical and physiological processes in the body. One of the main regulators of breathing is the level of CO2 in the blood. Normally, the body is tuned to maintain a certain balance between oxygen (O2) and CO2 in the blood. A higher level of CO2 stimulates breathing to remove excess CO2 from the body. A high respiratory rate may indicate that there is an imbalance in CO2 regulation in the body. This can result from various factors, including stress and anxiety, hyperventilation, physical exertion or medical conditions

What is abnormal breathing?

This can vary in terms of breathing frequency, depth, rhythm and other characteristics. Abnormal breathing is often a result of several factors and an indication of health problems. Here are some examples of abnormal breathing patterns:

Cheyne-Stokes breathing:

A pattern of breathing that starts with shallow breathing, gradually deepens, then becomes shallow again and may end in a period of apnoea. This is common in conditions such as heart failure and brain injury.

What is in exhaled air?

Exhaled air consists mainly of nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour (H20), along with small amounts of other gases and trace elements.

How much CO2 are you breathing in?

The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) you breathe varies from several factors, including the concentration of CO2 in the ambient air, your breathing rate and depth, and your physical activity. In general, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is low, about 0.04% to 0.05% of the air we breathe. In Belgium and other parts of the world, an average CO2 concentration of about 400-420 ppm (parts per million) is generally measured in the atmosphere. This means that there are about 400-420 molecules of CO2 present in every million molecules of air you breathe.

How do you test your breathing?

Measure and improve your respiratory health with the BOLT score

The BOLT score, which stands for "Body Oxygen Level Test", is a measure used to assess breathing and the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the body. A higher BOLT score indicates more efficient and healthy breathing and better CO2 and stress tolerance. Here's how to measure your BOLT score:

Step 1: Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit.

Step 2: Make sure you sit upright with good posture. This will help fill your lungs completely.

Step 3: Breathe in and out normally before starting the test.

Step 4: Breathe in gently through your nose, without holding in, and then breathe out normally through your nose. Note: do not breathe in or out very deeply, just normally.

Step 5: Hold your breath after the normal exhalation, and stay seated without moving. Make sure you don't put any force on your breath holding. Try to stay calm.

Step 6: Look at the clock and note the time in seconds when you feel the first signs of a breathing urge. This is the point at which your body begins to crave a breath.

Step 7: Relax and breathe in and out calmly after completing the test.

Step 8: Calculate your BOLT score by adding the time of your first breath drive to 5 seconds. This gives you an estimate of your maximum CO2 tolerance.

The BOLT score can vary from person to person, but generally a score of 20 seconds or more is considered healthy. A lower score may indicate lower CO2 tolerance and possibly respiratory problems. Measuring your BOLT score can make you aware of your breathing pattern and help you breathe more consciously and deeply, which can improve overall health and well-being. However, it is important to remember that breathing exercises and assessing your BOLT score are best done under the guidance of a qualified professional, especially if you have health problems.
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The importance of personal growth:

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How should you breathe in and out?

Inhale:

Nasal breathing: Breathe in through your nose, not your mouth. Nasal breathing has many benefits, including filtering, warming and humidifying the inhaled air, as well as helping the body maintain the optimal ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide.

Abdominal breathing: Breathe in through your belly, not your chest. Place your hands on your belly and breathe so that your belly expands as you inhale. This stimulates the use of the diaphragm, an important breathing muscle.

Deep and slow: Breathe in slowly and deeply. Let the air fill your lungs as your belly expands. Keep your shoulders relaxed.

Exhale

Slow and controlled: Exhale slowly and evenly. Avoid rapid, shallow exhalations.

Breathe out relaxed: If you make no effort, exhaling should be spontaneous and effortless. With effort, you can actively exhale.

Through the nose

Key points:

Maintain a rhythmic pattern in both inhalation and exhalation. Avoid irregular breathing.

Breathe as naturally and relaxed as possible. Don't force it.

Breathe consciously and coordinate your breathing with your activities and emotions.

Why can't I breathe through properly?

There could be several reasons why you have trouble breathing properly. It could be due to stress, anxiety, physical problems such as lung disease, allergies, infections or other medical conditions. If you regularly have trouble breathing, it is important to seek medical advice.

Feeling unable to breathe properly, also known as breathing restriction, can have several causes ranging from physical factors to psychological and environmental influences. Some of the main reasons:

Physical causes:

Airway obstruction: Physical blockages or constrictions in the airways can restrict airflow, making you feel you cannot breathe properly. This can result from conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergies or infections.

Lung diseases: Various lung diseases, such as pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis or pulmonary embolisms, can reduce lung function and make breathing difficult.

Breathing difficulties: Weakening or problems with the muscles involved in breathing, such as the diaphragm, can lead to breathing problems.

Psychological and emotional factors:

Stress and anxiety: Psychological stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, hyperventilation and the feeling of not being able to breathe deeply enough.

Hyperventilation: Emotional stress can cause hyperventilation, where you breathe shallowly and rapidly, which can result in dizziness, anxiety, restlessness and a feeling of breathing restriction.

(dysfunctional) or incorrect breathing technique:

Mouth breathing: Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can lead to disturbed breathing patterns and the feeling of discomfort.

Shallow breathing: If you do not breathe fully and deeply, you may feel like you cannot breathe properly.

Environmental factors

Air quality: Poor air quality or allergens such as pollen in the air can cause breathing problems.

Height: At high altitudes, there can be less oxygen in the air, which can affect breathing, especially if you are not well acclimatised.

Can you breathe too slowly?

Yes, breathing too slowly is also known as bradypnoea. Bradypnoea refers to an abnormally low respiratory rate. 

It is usually referred to as bradypnoea when the number of breaths is less than 12 per minute in an adult at rest.

deep breathing

Rapid breathing during sleep

Rapid breathing during sleep can occur in response to certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea, in which the airways are temporarily blocked, resulting in short breaths followed by rapid breathing. Here are some possible reasons why someone might experience rapid breathing during sleep:

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts again repeatedly during sleep. This can lead to snoring and rapid breathing as the body tries to maintain oxygen levels.

Central sleep apnoea:

In this form of sleep apnoea, rapid breathing is due to temporary failure of the respiratory centre in the brain, causing breathing to be disrupted.

Hyperventilation syndrome

Some people may hyperventilate during sleep, resulting in faster breathing.

Why is deep breathing so important?

Because it has multiple beneficial effects on the physiology and function of the body. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, engages the diaphragm (the main respiratory muscle) and increases lung capacity. What happens physiologically:

1. Improved gas exchange: Increases the efficiency of gas exchange in the lungs. By breathing in deeper, more lung alveoli are involved in airflow, making a larger surface area available for oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release.

2. Oxygen supply: Leads to increased oxygen uptake in the blood. This increases oxygenation to tissues and organs.

3. Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system: Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and recovery.

4. Increased lung elasticity: Deep breathing stimulates the movement of the diaphragm and increases the elasticity of the lungs. This helps in better expansion and contraction of the alveoli, improving overall lung function.

5. Improved lymphatic drainage: Helps promote lymphatic drainage, supporting the body in removing waste and toxins.

Superficial breathing (chest breathing) can be less efficient because it involves mainly the upper parts of the lungs and uses the diaphragm less actively. Prolonged shallow breathing promotes stress and tension in the body, contributing to health problems such as fatigue, anxiety and digestive disorders.

deep breathing

Chronic hyperventilation

People suffering from chronic hyperventilation often experience a wide range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, tingling in the hands and feet, and feelings of tightness in the chest. These symptoms are often confused with other conditions. Besides anxiety and stress, several other factors can contribute to chronic hyperventilation, such as incorrect breathing techniques, disturbances in the body's acid-base balance, and emotional tensions that subconsciously affect breathing. Fortunately, several proven treatment methods are available to manage and reduce chronic hyperventilation. Breathing exercises, such as retraining breathing patterns and cultivating awareness of breathing, are often helpful. In addition, relaxation techniques, meditation and professional counselling can help reduce symptoms and restore a healthy breathing rhythm.
hyperventilation

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