Can you breathe?



HAVE you ever experienced not being able to breathe for sometime? I had this lesson in “holding your breath” when I took a breathing exercise program called Buteyko under Jac Vidgen.

Buteyko teaches one to breathe using the nose and not the mouth. It helps those who snore, those with asthma and those who are overweight. Sometimes, snoring is also cause by being heavyset. In Buteyko, you learn to hold your breath for 60 to 80 seconds until you are about to pop or seem to die but you don’t. You just gasp after a long spell of not being able to breathe but it improves circulation.

Lately, we were in Davao City for our Coffee Summit and experienced a haze which apparently has been causing many residents to have cough and cold and pulmonary illnesses. I was too scared to have a bout of asthma or bronchitis so I stayed away from breathing normal air outside. I stayed indoors and did my “Buteyko” trick when moving from car to hotel and hotel to car. Luckily, I got home unscathed and still breathing.

Then I left for Malaysia where the haze is supposed to be worse. Luckily it rained the evening I arrived and my Indonesian carmate told me that only rain can wash away the haze. What an irony! We burn the forests then hope it rains to stop the fire that insidiously gets deep into the peat or soil. Besides the haze, many animals (primates and orangutans) die because of the disappearing forests. And why is it being burned? To make way for plantations of oil palm, the tree that makes palm oil. Why palm oil? Because palm oil is cheaper to grow than coconut and other oils.

They used to say that wise business people have big noses. Why? Because the air is free. Well, that was before. Today the air we breathe could cause disease and cost us money. So, even air (which is the free thing we need to survive) suddenly comes with a cost. So we end up hiding in air conditioned places and end up sharing the air with thousands more of people…not a very healthy habit as well.

How can we breathe clean again? Even when we exercise, we will need clean air and not air-conditioned air. When would this happen without costing us our health? I remember a friend who moved to Singapore for six months on doctor’s orders so she could cure her asthma. That was then. Today, Singapore is also affected by haze coming from her Southern neighbors. And not all the money in the world can clean Singapore’s air … at least not yet. Even with seeding clouds, you need cumulus clouds to be able to “let it rain.” Again, even money cannot buy clean air!

When you have the time to breathe fresh air, do it. And thank God for the blessings of cheap clean and free air. Because today, you’ll never know when the air you breathe will be dirty that you may have to forego outdoor exercise and you may have to wear the mask that is such a hassle.

Let’s protect our forests and make sure we still have Nature’s “lungs” which are the trees. And don’t start a fire or we may be too poor a country to handle the situation other developed countries are still trying to solve.

Thank God we still have clean air to breathe. Thank God we can drive to Tagaytay or Antipolo to get some fresh air and it’s still free.

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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City and Antipolo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at


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