We all would agree that breath is life and hence breathing is very critical for living. As per Indian texts (many of us would have heard this from elders), at birth every one of us has fixed number of breaths and when we exhaust them we die.
Species that breath slowly live longer, for eg Tortoise, Whales. Below is some data points that could help us believe that such assumption/theory might be true
- Mouse – respiratory rate/minute (rr/m) 60-230, lives 1.5 – 3 years
- Rabbit (rr/m) 30-60, lives 5-6 years
- Monkey (rr/m) 30–50, lives 20–30 years
- Elephant (rr/m) 12, lives 60 years
- Humans (rr/m) 12–20, lives 70–80 years
- Whales (rr/m) 3–5, lives 100 years +
- Tortoise (rr/m) 3-4, lives 150-400 years
Do we have any other relevant observations that could help us understand this concept further? When we are stressed or anxious our breathing no longer remains deep and relaxed, it becomes short and shallow, we breathe rapidly reducing the life span. In fact, it is said that yogis with great control over their breath, hold their breaths, to be able to conquer death.
Another area that makes me wonder is that, if the given assumption regarding the correlation between respiratory rate and life span is true, can running and intense cardio actually reduce your life span (assuming it increases your respiratory rate along with heart rate)? There are studies that have pointed out that ‘too much’ of running or intense workout could shorten life span but this would always be debatable (on medical grounds), and we might not be able to prove or reject this theory as we never know how many breaths are we born with. Exercise like running or intense cardio have gotten into our life as we started moving away from a more natural lifestyle. With less movement, activity and time, we needed something fast and instant to make us feel good and burn those calories. That does not necessarily mean you should stop doing cardio or exercise! In fact, these practices can help you improve your lung capacity, reduce stress levels. Problems like obesity (caused due to low activity) can lead to lower tidal volume in breathing and higher respiratory rate; so in long term it could shorten your life span. So we can say, one should do cardio/running if you don’t have any other way to keep yourself active, healthy, happy (AND you want to live longer). And if you choose to do cardio, try relaxing yourself sufficiently so that the faster respiratory rate does not carry over during the day.
I don’t want to make any conclusion here except the fact that relaxed and deep breathing definitely can certainly help you to live longer (in terms on number of years of life)!
(Note: It is an attempt to combine yogic knowledge with some research findings with some of my own thoughts and understanding. Please do share your views or suggestions on how could we take this understanding further!)