If you Google ‘average respiratory rate’ you’ll find that the average number of breaths per minute that most humans make ranges from 12 to 16.
What you won’t find in doing that is ‘what’s better than average’? What is optimal?
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover that breathing at a rate about of 5.5 or 6 breaths per minute might have profoundly beneficial effects for your health.
Also, you should breathe through your nose, intentionally.
Now, for the record, my average respiratory rate for this past week was 15.1, and it doesn’t change by more than a few tenths of a decimal point from week to week, even though I meditate at least once per day.
So, I am not asking you to magically breathe slowly all day long.
However, you will find that, if you try intentionally breathing for just one minute, inhaling and exhaling deeply through your nose, that you will likely end up finish after sixty seconds at right around … you guessed it … 5.5 or 6 breaths.
It’s not an accident. It’s something that yogis and monks have known for thousands of years.
Oh, you might also feel … more relaxed.
For free. With just one minute of attention to yourself.
Which you can do anytime, anyday, anywhere.
(There are many other kinds of breathwork you can try, such as 4-7-8, box, alternate nostril, etc. This 1:1 nasal inhale:exhale is a very simple way to begin.)
(Don’t ever try any breathwork in water.)
Question: “What if I can’t breathe through my nose well, because it’s clogged up?”
Answer: It’s probably clogged up because you don’t use it. Just try, it will get better. At first, it feels like you’re not getting enough air, but, you are, and, the feeling will change. This is just one minute.
Question: “What if I can’t do 6 breaths per minute? What if I can only do 8, or 10?”
Answer: Great! You tried it! Seriously. It’s OK. Paying attention to your breathing for one minute per day is far better than not at all.
Remember: Telling someone that they need to relax when they are upset only makes them feel more anxious.
Giving them the tools to calm down, on the other hand, fosters change.