I have taught fast / rebirthing breathing for 40 years. During hibernation, I discovered a slower breath: Resonance Frequency Breathing (RFB). This breathing integrates and optimizes our respiratory system, the rhythm of our heart beat, our circulatory system, our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathic/vagal nervous system. The erotic potential of this breathing practice is being explored within the profession of Sexological Bodywork.
Humans in Western society normally breathe between 12 and 18 breaths per minute. Breathing at approximately 5.5 breaths per minute is perhaps the healthiest pace we humans can breathe. This is called Resonance Frequency Breathing.
“For all my travels and travails there is one lesson, one equation that I feel is at the root of so much health, happiness and longevity…The perfect breath is this: breathe in for about 5.5 seconds, then exhale for 5.5 seconds. That’s 5.5 breaths a minute, for a total of about 5.5 liters of air.” James Nester in Breath: A New Science of a Lost Art (p.212)
Resonance Frequency Breathing (RFB) gets its name because it brings into resonance our respiratory system, the rhythm of our heart beat, and our autonomic nervous system. This breathing at 5.5 breaths per minute (BPM) helps all of these systems to function more efficiently and synergistically, promoting an incredible integration within our body. The optimal Resonance Frequency does vary among individuals, but for most people, it falls between 5 and 6 breaths per minute. Many practices and forms of meditation demand mindfulness; if you are breathing at 5.5 breaths per minute, this resonance of body systems happens even if you are distracted.
- You can either sit or stand while practicing RFB.
- RFB practice sessions are usually between ten and twenty minutes long. Most RFB practice videos on YouTube are ten minutes long.
- Begin your breathing session by scanning through your body, noticing your current state. You may wish to set an intention for your practice. Do this same scan at the end of your practice and reflect on your intention.
- RFB is best practiced by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose or mouth.
- As much as possible, breathe into your abdomen/belly using your diaphragm muscle (rather than your chest muscles).
- Your inhale should maintain a consistent pace for 5.5 seconds. Llikewise, the pace of your exhalation should be maintained for 5.5 seconds. Learning this may take several practice sessions.
- Many people find it helpful to move their hand up while inhaling and to move their hand down while exhaling. This smooth movement of the hand can help the respiratory muscles maintain a fluid movement of inhalation and exhalation.
- Many people walk while doing RFB because the movement supports their mindfulness.
- Clenching of muscles during RFB adds another dimension to the physiological integration that is taking place. You can clench muscles in just one part of your body or clench as many muscles as possible. Let the clenching of the muscles be gradual through the whole 5.5 seconds. Also allow the relaxing of the muscles to take 5.5 seconds.
- When you first add muscle clenches to RFB, tighten your tissues for just two or three minute segments. Some people intersperse muscle clenches with shaking or bouncing. This resets the muscles for the next round of clench and release.
There are many breathing apps available to assist RFB. The Apple iWatch can be programmed at either 5 or 6 breaths per minute for a five-minute long session.
The downloadable audio clips below can support your practice of breathing at 5.5 BPM.
YouTube Practice Videos. There are more than 30 RFB practice videos on YouTube. Search for “5.5 paced breathing.” You can also search for breathing videos at 5 or 6 breaths per minute.
We recommend Dr. Brown’s breathing with hand movements.