As broadcast this morning on Radio 4

I make a few huffing-and-puffing contributions to this week's Something Understood on the BBC, discussing yoga and doing some pranayama breathing.

The programme is entitled "Breath, You Invisible Poem", and features readings from Rilke, Haruki Murakami and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, among several others. There's also music from Maria Callas and Nick Cave, plus a haka by New Zealand's All Blacks - and Sanskrit read by me.

It can be heard online. It's billed as follows:

For most of us breathing is so continuous, so easy, that it's something we take for granted. But without breath nothing is possible. Breath energizes movement and enables bodily activities. It punctuates speech, and is central to singing and the playing of many musical instruments. And in particular situations, giving birth or meditating, it becomes the focus of our attention and is bound by specific techniques.

John McCarthy explores a range of different breathing experiences. From God's breath of life, blown into Adam's nostrils at the dawning of the World, to the Navajo Indian idea about a Little Wind hidden in our ears, he looks at how the breath has traditionally been understood as something that connects spirit and body. We talk about a first and last breath as marking the beginning and end of life, it's also affected by mood and emotion.

Produced by Whistledown.

Further Reading