Natural breathing pattern-concern?

I started yoga and meditation over 6 years ago and have consistently noticed my own natural breathing pattern: a short inhale, slightly longer exhale, then a long pause on the out-breath. I mean, that out-breath hold is longer than the in/out breath combined–about twice as long! That means I am literally not breathing for more than half the time. What are the implications of such a breathing pattern?

This breathing pattern matches what some practices call for intentionally. But it doesn’t strike me as necessarily good to live with this breathing pattern all the time. I’m wondering if I should be concerned, and if so, what can I do to help my natural breathing pattern? Thanks in advance!

Dear Sylvia (if that’s your name),

I’m interested in the description because you talk about your breathing pattern as though this is how you breathe all the time. When we don’t interfere consciously with our breathing pattern, it means that our brains are regulating CO2 levels in the blood and we are triggered to inhale when these reach a certain level. So there’s no right or wrong way to breathe naturally for you or anyone else - unless you have a lung disease or disorder, your breathing is looking after itself. First, then, let go of any anxiety around this. If your breathing pattern changes when you become conscious of it, perhaps because you’ve become used to pranayama practices that involve controlling the breath, then you can manipulate the levels of CO2 in the circulation, and this can have an impact on your overall health, so needs to be very carefully understood. You could try working with different rhythms, to change your habitual control patterns. You could try ‘square breathing’ to start with because that’s not far off what you’re currently doing - count 4 in, hold 4, out 4 and hold 4 - and gradually change this to reduce the pause after the exhalation if that’s what’s concerning you. Unless you’re feeling dizzy or unwell, however, your body is probably managing perfectly well with its breathing. Sometimes it’s good to imagine that you are being breathed, rather than breathing, and that you are simply observing a process, rather than controlling it. This can be really helpful if you’re anxious about your breathing - imagine it is doing itself (in a very real sense, it is) and that you are simply the witnessing consciousness.

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Hi Sylvia,

When in deep meditation we are very relaxed and our body is in place of deep rest somewhat similar to sleep. The body requires less breath and might fall into the same pattern of breathing you have while sleeping. If it feels natural and right while meditating I don’t see any need to change it. You can bring in a simple pranayama practice during meditation if you wish, this may help to set a rythm. 3 to 4 second inhale through the nose and 3 to 4 second exhale through the nose.