- Updated on October 29, 2020
Proofread by Samson Hui Proofreader on July **, 2019
Breathing Myth #1. Breathing is regulated by a want for oxygen
If you open any medical or physiological textbook and read the section describing the factors controlling respiration, you will find that under normal conditions, breathing is regulated by the CO2 concentration in the arterial blood and the brain. Whatever we do (sit, walk, eat, run, sleep, etc.), arterial CO2 concentration is kept within a narrow range (0.1% accuracy) by the breathing center located in the medulla oblongata of the brain.
Breathing Myth #2. CO2 is a poisonous or toxic waste gas and a waste product to get rid off
When a healthy person tries to hyperventilate or is forced to breathe deeply and fast, they experience “hypocapnia” (CO2 deficiency) in the blood and other fluids, tissues, and cells. The real immediate effects are constriction of blood vessels (CO2 is a powerful vasodilator) and reduced blood and oxygen supply to the brain, heart and all other vital organs. This is the reason why it is so easy to faint or pass out after 2-3 minutes of forceful hyperventilation. Another CO2 effect is the suppressed Bohr effect or diminished release of oxygen from the blood in the tissues due to the same hypocapnia. Apart from these phenomena, there are many other vital functions of CO2 in the human body (see links to medical studies below). Meanwhile, reduced tissue oxygenation is sufficient to promote cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions.
Breathing Myth #3. When a person is healthy, they can feel how they breathe
If people with normal breathing are asked what they feel about their breathing, they will say that they feel nothing at all (as if they are barely breathing).
“The perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing” Lao-Tzu, circa 4th century BC.
Indeed, if you have any healthy people around you and observe their breathing for 20-30 seconds, you will see and hear nothing. The medical norm for breathing is tiny. It is only 6 L/min or only 12 breaths/min with tiny 500 mL for one breath, while most modern people have about 700 mL. They are deep breathers.
Breathing Myth #4. My breathing is OK and I know how to breathe
Less than 10% of people have normal breathing parameters and body oxygen stores these days. While breathing 2-3 times more than the norm, most people believe that they are “barely breathing”, as in a popular music album. You can check the Homepage for 24 medical and physiological respiratory studies done on ordinary or normal subjects during the last 80 years.
It is a fact that the medical norm established about a century ago is not the norm anymore. Modern people breathe about two times more air than we did 100 years ago. Hyperventilation results in tissue hypoxia and many other biochemical abnormalities. Your breathing is normal, if and only if you have normal body oxygenation. How can you check it? You should be able to easily hold your breath for at least 40 s after your usual exhalation and with no stress at the end of the test.
Breathing Myth about deep breathing and over oxygenation
Breathing Myth #5. If I hyperventilate, I’ll pass out due to over oxygenation
During minuscule normal breathing, oxygenation of the arterial blood is about 98-99%. Over oxygenation, while breathing normal air, is impossible. (Blood over oxygenation is possible with breathing pure oxygen or hyperbatic breathing 100% pure oxygen. However, these methods increase blood oxygenation to only a small degree: about several percents.) Note that normal breathing is invisible and inaudible. It is so light that most people do not feel it.
As a result, breathing more air cannot get much more oxygen in the blood. It follows that, no matter how deep and fast one breathes, he or she cannot get over oxygenated blood using normal air, while pure oxygen is toxic for the lungs tissue.
Hundreds of published studies have clearly shown that hyperventilation (or breathing more than the tiny medical norm) REDUCES oxygen supply to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and all other vital organs due to losses in CO2. (There are hundreds of studies presented on this website that proved this fact.)
You can pass out, due to hyperventilation, because of too low brain oxygenation (see the brain image above).
Nevertheless, on TV, radio, and in everyday life situations, people who have little knowledge of physiology say, “Take a deep breath, get more oxygen”, or “Breathe deeper for better oxygenation”, “Over breathing is good” etc.
Breathing Myth #6. Sick people notice when their breathing becomes abnormal
100% prevalence of hyperventilation at rest for the sick people is confirmed by over 40 published western studies (see the Homepage of this site). These sick patients breathe about 2-3 times more than the norm (see this Table with Minute Ventilation Rates for Chronic Diseases), and usually do not complain or even notice that their breathing is heavy or too deep. Why? This is because air is weightless and the main breathing muscles (diaphragm and chest) are very powerful: we can pump 25 times more air during maximum exercise (or about 150 liters of air in one minute), than we require for normal breathing at rest (only about 6 L/min). People may notice that their breathing is heavy during heart attacks, stroke, asthma attacks, or morning hyperventilation (between 4 and 7 am), when they breathe 4-5 times more than normal.
The top illusion for Breathing Myth of yoga and meditation teachers
After speaking with numerous yoga teachers and meditation-mindfulness instructors, as well as analyzing their approaches and vision of Breathing Myth, I found that there is one illusion that is common for over 90% of these people. You can find out about their illusion as your bonus content
When thinking about breathing, yoga and meditation instructors immediately have associations, in their brains, with doing some breathing exercises. It nearly never happens in the minds of these people that it is more important how the person breathes for the remaining 23 hours, not while doing some breathing exercise.
- Hyperventilation (From MedlinePlus.gov)
- What Causes Hyperventilation? (From HealthLine.com)
- Causes of Hyperventilation (From WebMD.com)