Inhale – inspirer. Exhale – expirer. The French words for the act of breathing – la respiration – inspire me to write this post. Breathing is something I do rather well. Not to brag but I’ve been doing it my whole life.

When I was a kid, it occurred to me one day that all this life-essential breathing stuff was happening without my even being aware of it. Suddenly I became gripped with fear that I might forget to take a breath. Until some kind big person explained that even I did, my body would take over and do it for me. Later in life, a sports instructor gave me the best advice ever: “Focus on exhaling and the inhales will take care of themselves.”

The French are good at breathing. Not that they do a lot of yoga or practice breathing per se. But they take the time each day to ‘respirer’. This means stopping to smell the roses, to take a few moments for oneself. It’s probably why we take pride in not answering work emails after hours or during holidays (I’m not quite there yet…). But skipping lunch? No way. Working through the weekend? Non, merci. Foregoing a vacation? Tu plaisantes?

So much can happen in the space of a breath. Time stops as air gently fills your lungs. Oxygen energizes your body and its gentle effervescence hits your brain. The wave passes as you release it back out, along with the nasty stuff accumulated along the way. Relaxation sneaks in.

Breathe in. Can you smell the ocean? Briny, mineral, time-soaked. We are in Portugal for a few days. The sun is playing hide and seek but the air invites me to make the most of every breath.

What’s your favourite way to ‘respirer’?


  1. francetaste · August 31, 2017

    I love Pilates. It also focuses on respiration. My class is a moment of respiration in the other sense–of setting aside everything and just concentrating on the moment. It’s hard but at the end I feel like Wonder Woman (I said “feel,” not “look”).
    Another spot, which I miss so much, was when my kid was little. The bedtime story, a cuddle, a plea to stay a while longer, which I would never refuse because life is short and childhood is even shorter. I would try to adjust my breathing to something slow and calm, figuring it would slow and calm the little bundle of energy next to me. And I would fall asleep first.

    • MELewis · August 31, 2017

      Yes, yes, yes! Feeling fab is what it’s all about (and Pilates does that to me, too). And those slow-breathing moments around storytelling at bedtime: fond memories. Something about the little one and their concentrated, relaxed energy is a bit of magic.

  2. Mél@nie · August 31, 2017

    @”Can you smell the ocean?” – not yet, but incessamment sous peu… le Pacifique! 😉
    * * *
    bonnes vacances!!! 🙂

    • MELewis · August 31, 2017

      Merci beaucoup! Sweet ‘pacific’ dreams to you!

  3. phildange · August 31, 2017

    Since I was a toddler I breathed from my solar plexus . I only realized this due to some circumstances when I was an adult . I feel, so I know, 2 ways of breathing, one which is “weak”, mechanical, only allowing oxygen to come in and the complete one when the connection between breathing and the solar plexus is conscious, if not in the brain at least in the body .
    There is a profound law there, and I love that the word inspiration is used for artists and researchers . I also appreciate that the nice word in French to mean dying is “expirer”,

    • MELewis · August 31, 2017

      Breathing from the solar plexus sounds like an excellent way to focus the mind. Funny, I never thought about the connection to ‘expire’ before. It is poetic, though….perhaps it will help me (one day) to confront the inevitable with peace of mind. 🙂

      • phildange · September 1, 2017

        In English does “expiring” mean dying too ? It’s very biblical : God impulsed His breath into the mud and man became a living soul . That’s why I don’t consider abortion is a murder . No living human before the first inspiration, and no living human after the last expiration .
        Our old fathers knew it : pneuma in Greek is the soul and for us it gave “le souffle”, the blowing of air (pneumatic) . But let’s remember : the old esoteric knowledge transmitted by the French language uses another way to say dying, “rendre l’âme”, give your soul (and your breathing) back . We give back, nothing to make a big fuss about .

      • Osyth · September 1, 2017

        Yes, expire certainly means to die and is a somewhat more delicate way of expressing a death in English though these days I think most people would apply it to plants and fish rather than people, preferring the rather twee ‘passed away’ which has taken a hold from America. I’m an old fashioned girl and prefer proper language 😉

  4. · August 31, 2017

    I teach an ancient Italian voice system, combined with singers’ yoga- in non-technical terms: raise the breast bone, shove the ribs outward and forward to get ready to breath (this shoves out the diaphragm and leaves more room for the ribs.) then drop the jaw, and breath in short and fast, with wide eyes, as if you just saw a lion. Finally breath out. Slowly and concentratedly. It takes a bit of practice at first, but soon you are flooding the entire body with oxygen. And you should soon be yawning, which means you are doing it right. Ps love francetaste’s description of bedtime.

    • MELewis · August 31, 2017

      What a wonderful approach to yoga and singing! Just by doing the first two steps, which one of my favourite yoga teachers taught me, I feel lighter and more confident. Your singing method sounds fascinating, wish I could take lessons from you!

      • · August 31, 2017

        Thank you so much. Should you ever be here in Gutenberg Land you are welcome to a free lesson.

  5. George lewis · August 31, 2017

    Interesting word connections to good advice!

  6. caitlin · August 31, 2017

    this is what my (french) husband says to me every time he cracks my back 🙂 inspirer… expirer… important to do it all the time, too.

    • MELewis · August 31, 2017

      How lucky you are to have a husband who can crack your back! (And French!)

  7. acflory · September 1, 2017

    I respire in the garden. 🙂 We had a lovely day for the first of Spring – crisp and cold [by our standards] but sunny with blue skies we haven’t seen for a while. I spent almost 2 hours outside, breathing and recycling rocks from one side of the garden to another where I raised the level of a small terrace. I have no idea what I thought about the entire time, but my brain now feels refreshed.

    • MELewis · September 2, 2017

      Happy Spring! Funny that, as we begin our shift into fall…. It’s true there’s something about being outside in nature that refreshes our brains in a way that indoor activities cannot. How lovely that you managed to be productive too! xx

      • acflory · September 2, 2017

        Yeah, gardening is the perfect mix of exercise, meditation [sort of] and good old fashioned pragmatism. I work inches off my waistline and in summer I get to put it back from all the fruit. 😀

  8. davidprosser · September 1, 2017

    As long as you continue to inspirer and expirer I shall be content and you may respire any place it is pleasurable to do so provided you don’t forget to mention it.

    Cwtch Mel.

    • MELewis · September 2, 2017

      Happily shall I do so knowing that you respire along with me, David! To my last blogging breath… xoxo

  9. Osyth · September 1, 2017

    I had a tendency to hyper-ventilate which was anxiety related and found that meditation really helped the tendency. I’m a solar plexus fan too and it really helps centre the mind as well as balance the breathing.

    • MELewis · September 2, 2017

      So very true! That little discovery has also helped me through more than a few anxious moments too. Here’s to fire in the belly and the power of the third chakra!

      • Osyth · September 2, 2017


  10. Lisa @ cheergerm · September 1, 2017

    Pilates, walking and a spot of mediation help me to breath. A really lovely post Mel, enjoy every exhalation you experience in Portugal.

    • MELewis · September 2, 2017

      Portugal has been a lovely breather, thanks Lisa. Now back to reality and a week of vacation with the visiting vegan and her boyfriend. I may stop by your blog for some foodie inspiration! xx

  11. Colin Bisset · September 1, 2017

    There’s nothing quite so wonderful as sea air. Except mountain air. Oh, and spring air … Oh dammit, air!

    • MELewis · September 2, 2017

      Yes, and the lovely thing is that it is absolutely free! Although whenever I take an easyJet flight, I imagine the day when they’ll charge extra for oxygen. 😉

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s