How often do you think about your breath? Unless you have a reason too, you probably don’t think about it that much. Our breath is instinctive. Babies breathe. No one taught them how. I used to hate thinking about my breath. It made me feel claustrophobic. I mostly got over that though because I realized the great peace which can come by paying attention to the breath.

Why do we start with the breath? Why do we return to it often?

“Jehovah God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of lives, and man was made a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 

The Lord started with breath. He breathed into man and made him a living soul. “A living soul” Such a beautiful phrase. Breath is how the Lord created us and breath is the very first thing a baby does. But it’s not a one time thing. We keep returning to focus on our breath.

“To breathe into the nostrils the breath of lives signifies to implant the perception of good and truth.” (Interaction of the Soul and Body 8)

It makes sense that this happens at the beginning. We need the perception of good and truth right from the start. But it’s not something that we get once and are done. We keep breathing. We return to our breath over and over, re-focus. We can focus our breathing for things like yoga, meditation, or even singing. Breath is connected to everything, not just because it is active at all times, but because of how our emotions can change our breath. We think about our breathing when we are out of breath after exertion. Or we can be light of breath with excitement.

In the Greek, the word for breath can also be translated as “wind” or “spirit.” I looked up a few phrases that usually get translated a different way and plugged in the word “breath” instead:

“And my breath hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Luke 1:47

“It is the breath that makes alive; the flesh profits nothing; the sayings which I speak to you are breath, and are life.” John 6:63

“And when the unclean breath has come out from the man, he passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it.” Matthew 12:43

And in the Hebrew, the words for spirit and breath are also the same, and the connection between them becomes even more pronounced in my mind.

“Which were a grief of breath unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” Genesis 36:35

“Why is thy breath so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” 1 Kings 21:5

“The sacrifices of God are a broken breath a broken and a contrite heart O God thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17

And the list goes on and on. What do these passages have to do with breath? There is a reason these are more commonly translated as spirit. But I like thinking about the other meaning of these words because of the connection of the breath and the spirit. It can be hard to separate our breathing from our mood. I said earlier that our emotions sometimes control our breath. But we can also have our breath control our emotions because of how connected they are. By slowing down and focusing on our breath we are able to shift how we feel and how we react.

Our emotions and reactions can change our breath, but our breath can also control our emotions. And that is why we return to it and re-focus. 

“The word spirit also is derived from respiration ; and in Hebrew there is one word for spirit (breath) and wind. There are two springs of life in man; one is the motion of the heart, and the other is the respiration of the lungs. The life from the respiration of the lungs is what is properly meant by spirit, and also by soul. This acts in unison with the thought of man from the understanding, while the life from the motion of the heart acts in unison with the love of man’s will, as will be seen in its proper place.”  Doctrine of the Lord 47

About Alison Cole

Alison Cole likes to describe herself as “a freelance useful person”. There are all kinds of people and jobs out there, but she likes the freedom to drop everything when someone is in need and go off on adventures to help out with new babies or anything, especially when it's supporting marriages and family! When Alison is not off nannying, she likes to occupy her time with drawing, painting and writing!

5 thoughts on “Breathing

  1. What a good reminder! I loved seeing “breath” inserted into those passages and how it made me think differently about them. Definitely something I needed to think about. Thank you!

  2. I needed this today. Thank you for helping me to refocus on breath and for helping me see some familiar passages from the Word in a new way by using “breath” in place of the more commonly used translations. What a powerful exercise.

  3. It occurs to me also that when we die, our spirit – our breath – ceases in this world and moves on to be entirely in the world of the spirit. Thank you, Alison, for your thought-provoking piece.

  4. I am intrigued by the idea of mixing prayer and breath, cleaning the mind and body together. I like to think about it during physical exercise as well as in moments of extreme emotion. What a great selection from the Word.

  5. Thanks for this post Alison. This subject is dear to my heart as I have been asking/praying to be in relationship with my breath for decades, to let the breath lead and then how bringing consciousness into this breath and the next and the next affects me physically, emotionally, spiritually. I have learned and experienced: that upper chest breathing brings us into fight or flight activating cortisol, exhausting me, the power of being in touch with the diaphragm, that breath can uncover the held tension patterns in the body and can work to release them. Two years ago I was introduced to the Rudolf Steiner quote, All healing resides in the human breathing system. I at first thought that couldn’t be true. After these 2 years noticing what my breath does when I am physically, emotionally or spiritually out of balance and how things change when I relax and settle the breath, I am inclined to agree.

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