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Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Us In An Ever-Changing World?

Jan 15, 2021
Originally published on May 21, 2021 7:41 am

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Breathe

Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on breath and impermanence.

About Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.

This segment of TED Radio Hour was produced by J.C. Howard and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour. You can follow us on Twitter @TEDRadioHour and email us at TEDRadio@npr.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ANDY PUDDICOMBE: The breath is almost a conduit between body and mind, so when we focus on the breath, not only do we help sort of unwind the busyness of the mind, but we also allow tension to be released from the body. So it is a particularly effective object of focus, I think.


This is Andy Puddicombe. He's a mindfulness expert and TED speaker. He was actually on our show a few years ago to talk about the importance of meditation. And so we thought it would be perfect to ask him back to share his thoughts on breath.

When you work with people, what do you find is the sort of - I guess, the challenge that they face when it comes to breath? Is it that they don't feel connected to their body, they don't know where to go with it or - I'll give you my own personal example - that I tend to hold my breath when I'm doing...

PUDDICOMBE: Yeah (laughter).

ZOMORODI: ...Things that stress me out? What do you see?

PUDDICOMBE: So, look, there's a lot of - I think within the world of meditation and yoga and relaxation, there's often an idea that we have to breathe in a certain way. In the tradition that I trained in, that's not the case, actually. Of course, we all breathe in different ways. And a lot of that breathing comes about through our lifestyle. So, as you say, kind of some people tend to hold their breath. Some people tend to breathe a lot through their chest or their shoulders. I always encourage people rather than trying to do - meditation is about not doing. So rather than sitting down and trying to do the breath, trying to breathe in a special way, just allow the body to breathe naturally. Over time, if we can do that without interfering too much, the breath will naturally calm down. The body will naturally let go of tension. And in turn, the mind will also begin to slow down as well.

ZOMORODI: Andy, we're almost at the end of the show. What do you want to leave us with?

PUDDICOMBE: The sort of interconnectedness of breath - the breath brings us together. I think, in a world where there's a lot of division, there's a lot of conflict, I think very often opinions and beliefs can create barriers between us. And amidst all this, I think there's something beautifully pure about the breath 'cause the moment we let go of all of our thinking and we focus on the breath, no matter who we are, where we're from, what we believe, we're interconnected. We're united in silence. And we're united in this sort of sense of humanity, this shared human existence.


PUDDICOMBE: So for me, this is arguably the most valuable use of breaths. When we pause - and we can do it right now, where we just take a moment, again, to step out of the thinking mind. Take one big deep breath. As you breathe out, just gently closing the eyes. And although we're not intentionally thinking of others, arguably in coming back to the breath, that thing we all share, feeling more connected with the people and the world around us.

ZOMORODI: Oh, that was lovely, Andy. Thank you so much.

PUDDICOMBE: My pleasure, Manoush. Thanks for having me.

ZOMORODI: That's Andy Puddicombe. He's a mindfulness expert and the co-founder of the meditation app Headspace. You can see his full talk at ted.com. And if you'd like to hear more thoughts and reflections from Andy on the power of breath, please check out the podcast version of this episode. You can find the TED Radio Hour wherever you listen to podcasts.


ZOMORODI: Thank you so much for listening to our show this week on Air and Breath. To learn more about the people who were on it, go to ted.npr.org. And to see hundreds more TED Talks, check out ted.com or the TED app.

Our TED radio production staff at NPR includes Jeff Rogers, Sanaz Meshkinpour, Rachel Faulkner, Diba Mohtasham, James Delahoussaye, J.C. Howard, Katie Monteleone, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Christina Cala and Matthew Cloutier and Farrah Safari with help from Daniel Shukin. Our intern is Janet Lee. Our theme music was written by Ramtin Arablouei. Our partners at TED are Chris Anderson, Colin Helms, Anna Phelan and Michelle Quint.

I'm Manoush Zomorodi, and you've been listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.