The Breathable Body

Transforming Your World and Your Life,
One Breath at a Time

The Breathable Body Book

In The Breathable Body, Robert Litman shares the insights and practices he has discovered during more than 30 years of professional experience in conscious breathing and movement. Born with breathing difficulties and suffering from asthma as a child, Robert found ways to overcome his own childhood PTSD and now shares trauma-sensitive teachings to help people breathe and live better.

Most of us are born with the ability to breathe freely and naturally, but as the years go by, our breathing becomes labored—compromised by fear, disappointment, trauma, and pollutants. So we contract our breathing body and create ways that feel protective of our vulnerable selves but actually constrict the oxygen intake and thus the nourishment our body receives.

Breath moves in wavelike motions. When breath flows freely within the body, we live in a natural state of harmony, making choices that enhance well-being and generate energy. Each individual breath travels through us in a unique way depending on its flow, texture, speed, and patterning Like a leaf falling from a tree that spirals to the ground, waves of breath travel through the airways of the body in a spiraling motion. This is the way air moves, the way breath moves, and the way oceans, rivers, and lakes move, too. When we tighten our passageways and compromise our breathing, our health suffers.

You can transform your life—including alleviating symptoms of asthma, snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, digestive difficulties, and fatigue—by changing how you breathe. The techniques in this book will teach you how to support and protect your body and its respiratory system. Through conscious breathing, movement, sound, and a clear understanding of anatomy and respiration, we learn habits that support healthy and natural breathing.

Why did I write the The Breathable Body? On the surface this may sound obvious and maybe even a little ridiculous …breath has saved my life. We know that without breath we cannot stay alive. The most important thing that we can do in the next moment is to take a breath. To breathe. Breath is life. It is the life-giving force that must happen moment to moment, whether we are conscious of breathing or not. Breathing is often put on the back burner of our awareness until we perceive that our breathing is giving us difficulty and may be the reason why health can seem elusive.

Breathing is the difference between life and death. We arrive at life when we inhale that first breath; expire when we take our last exhalation at the end of our lives. What we don’t realize unless we are struggling to breathe is that each cycle of breath contains that same truth. We inspire, and we feel the force of the breath of life bringing us to this moment. When that breath begins the exhalation process, we are ending this moment of life and we do not have any absolute knowledge that there will be another breath to follow. We take it for granted. This truth brings an immediacy to the moment.

How can I breathe in a way that gives me the best opportunity to have the next moment of life be as fulfilling and enlivening as possible? Or, turning that around, how can I be inside of myself in a way that gives breath the opportunity to be nourishing?

Breathing is a behavior. Its behavior has been conditioned over a lifetime of breathing dependent upon the circumstances of your upbringing. It is influenced by how we are treated while being nurtured into adulthood as it is by cultural expectations. We learn to love, trust, and fear by watching behavior. We learn to predict actions based on repeated behaviors. Outside influences alter behavior.

This is my story of applying a contemplative study of the behavior of breath as a pathway to regaining a fulfilling life after a childhood of repeated traumatic episodes. Breath became my guide and my teacher. It was both the message of how I was living (nervous system) and the messenger that delivered the message. It became obvious that when conditions were not favorable for sustaining life – breathing suffered.

I have been a breathing teacher for over 35 years, studying the phenomenon of breathing and sharing that knowledge in my classes and private practice. I have studied with and learned from many teachers. They honed my focus on how breath and body behave in relationship to each other.

My purpose in authoring this book is to share what I have learned about the relationship of body and breath and offer it as a guide to discovering breathing health; emotional, mental, physical, and heart health.

Breath has been my most influential teacher. When I ask what it has to teach, there has always been an answer. This is a great responsibility – to take on the teachings of breath. Breathing is a sacred process. Honoring the sacred is an essential pathway for sustainability.

Robert Litman shows how you can change your health, your mood, and your connection to all of life by changing how you breathe. Whether you struggle with breathing, need effective strategies for self-regulation, or want to more fully enjoy the pleasures of being alive, this book will provide insight and solutions to some surprisingly common health conditions. The Breathable Body is an essential tool for good health!

Sharon Weil, Registered Somatic Movement Educator, author of ChangeAbility: How Artists, Activists and Awakeners Navigate Change

This loving book comes from the heart of love of a daring explorer of the mysteries of the body. Open anywhere and be reminded how delicious it can be to simply take a breath.

Lorin Roche, Ph.D., author of The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight and Meditation Made Easy

If I had to choose among the many books on breath and breathing, The Breathable Body is without question the one I would choose. While clarifying the anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and mechanics of breathing, Litman shows how breathing is a whole-body phenomenon of our dynamic, fluid organism. His depth and breadth of knowledge are present in each explanation and exploration, and if you are one of the millions suffering from a breathing, sleep, or anxiety disorder, chances are the information you need is in this book.

Don St John, Ph.D., author of Healing the Wounds of Childhood and Culture: An Adventure of a Lifetime

Litman draws on more than three decades of experience working with clients to bring together a resource accessible to everyone. What sets The Breathable Body apart is the connection it highlights between body and breath, and how breathing and movement are linked. Your doctor may not have told you about the benefits of breathing re-education. The Breathable Body does just that! If you breathe, this book is for you.

Patrick McKeown, Director of Education and Training at Buteyko Clinic International and author of The Oxygen Advantage

Robert delivers a message in The Breathable Body that has the potential to not only improve your health but also enhance the quality of your life. He has managed to bridge the gap between cognitive understanding of the scientific knowledge of breathing processes while guiding his readers into an immediate somatic participation with the material. This book offers a transmission of intimate presence with oneself and a reminder that the sacred resides in the present moment

Gael Rosewood, Continuum teacher, certified Rolfer, and CE teacher and mentor for both modalities

Robert Litman takes us on a psychological journey, leading us through his own history with breathing and the metaphor for life that it has come to hold for him. Based on his hard-won wisdom, he guides us in practical ways that have helped so many—how to bring conscious breathing meaningfully into our lives

Peter M. Litchfield, President, Graduate School of Behavioral Health Sciences, lecturer in respiratory psychophysiology, self-regulation science, and many other subjects