What is Breatharianism? Meaning and Origins


Breatharianism is a spiritual practice and lifestyle that involves varying levels of abstaining from food and water, relying instead on prana, or life energy, for nourishment.So how does breatharianism work? In a detailed overview, Ray Maor explains the four distinct levels of breatharianism, ranging from those with a mere interest in the practice to those who achieve complete sustenance through prana alone. This article delves into the breatharian practice, answering a wide array of common questions. It also explores the intermittent practitioners and the curious beginners exploring the potential of this unique way of life.

SUMMARY: What is breatharianism? Meaning and Origins

The meaning of the term "breatharianism"

The term “breatharian” derives from “breath,” signifying those who use air or oxygen as their primary fuel source. While most people consider food as the main source of energy for the body, common sense suggests otherwise. For instance, humans can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without air. Therefore, air is actually the body’s primary source of energy.

What is breatharianism and how does it work?

Breatharianism is a practice where individuals reduce their caloric intake to subsist it with ‘prana’, the vital life force in Hindu tradition (also called chi), rather than on traditional food. Practitioners believe that by harnessing the energy present in the air, sunlight and practicing emotional balance – they can nourish their bodies without the need for conventional sustenance. This practice involves a series of spiritual, mental, and physical disciplines aimed at elevating one’s consciousness and tuning the body to more subtle forms of energy. Techniques often include prolonged fasting, meditation, breath control (pranayama), and sun gazing. Proponents argue that breatharianism leads to enhanced physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual growth. Breatharianism is widely criticized by medical professionals.

What are the origins of breatharianism?

The origins of breatharianism are rooted in various ancient spiritual traditions that emphasize the importance of prana or life force energy. This concept is prevalent in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, where it is believed that life energy can be harnessed through practices like meditation, breath control, and energy work. One of the earliest references can be found in ancient Indian texts such as the Vedas and Upanishads, which discuss the idea of sustaining life through spiritual practices and energy absorption. Understanding what is breatharian within these contexts highlights its deep spiritual significance. 

One modern known reference is in the book “autobiography of a Yogi” where Yogananda meets 2 breatharians. In modern times, breatharianism has been popularized by figures such as Jasmuheen, an Australian spiritual teacher who claims to live on prana alone. Despite its ancient roots, the contemporary movement has adapted these teachings to fit the New Age spirituality context, blending them with modern wellness practices. While the practice remains controversial, its mystical origins continue to attract those seeking alternative paths to health and enlightenment.

What are the historical roots of breatharianism?

The historical roots of breatharianism can be traced back to ancient civilizations that revered the concept of prana or life force energy. In ancient India, yogis and ascetics practiced extreme forms of fasting and breath control to achieve higher states of consciousness and physical resilience. Some of which are said to meditate for months at a time with no physical nourishment. The Rigveda and Upanishads, some of the oldest sacred texts, mention individuals who attained supernatural abilities and sustained themselves on spiritual energy alone. Similarly, in Taoist traditions in China, practitioners sought to harness chi through meditation, breathing exercises, and diet restrictions, aiming for longevity and spiritual enlightenment. 

These traditions were further explored by mystics and monks in different cultures, often living in isolation and dedicating their lives to spiritual pursuits. While breatharianism as a defined practice is more recent, its foundational principles are deeply embedded in these ancient practices, where the ultimate goal was transcendence of the physical realm and union with the divine. Knowing what is breatharian helps to contextualize these ancient practices in modern terms.

Are there any cultural or historical precedents for breatharianism?

Yes, there are several cultural and historical precedents for breatharianism, primarily found in ancient spiritual practices and religious asceticism. In Hindu culture, sages and yogis have long practiced extreme forms of fasting and breath control (pranayama) to achieve higher spiritual states, often described in sacred texts like the Vedas and Upanishads. These texts recount stories of individuals who lived for prolonged periods without food or water, sustained by prana or spiritual energy. Similarly, in Buddhism, there are accounts of monks who practiced severe asceticism and meditation, aiming to detach from physical needs and achieve enlightenment. Taoist traditions in China also emphasize the cultivation of chi, or life force energy, through disciplined practices such as meditation, breath control, and dietary restrictions. Even in the Christian tradition, saints and mystics have been known to fast for extended periods as a form of spiritual purification. These historical and cultural practices provide a rich tapestry of precedents for modern breatharianism, highlighting a long-standing quest for transcendence and spiritual sustenance.

Are there different types or levels of breatharianism?

Four Levels of Breatharianism: The concept of breatharianism is categorized into four levels, ranging from minimal to no consumption of food and water. Level 4 involves individuals who neither eat nor drink and rely entirely on prana (energy) for sustenance, whereas Level 1 includes those who are merely interested or occasionally practice aspects of this lifestyle.

Level 4 – Complete Abstinence: This rare level includes individuals who live without food and water, relying on metaphysical energy. They undergo significant physical adaptations, like the body recycling urine, and experience spiritual transformations that affect their overall lifestyle and physical appearance. Their skin adapts to recruiting moisture from the air.

Level 3 – Minimal Consumption: People at this level, including the speaker Ray Maor, eat and drink very little and have undergone spiritual initiations. They might consume minimal amounts of food and drink intermittently and are often more integrated into society than Level 4 breatharians. They usually consume 20%-30% of their previous diet while some event consume only 5%.

Level 2 – Intermittent Practice: Level 2 breatharians practice fasting regularly but are not fully committed. They might go through cycles of fasting and eating, facing social and personal challenges in fully integrating the breatharian lifestyle.

Level 1 – Interest and Exploration: These individuals are aware of breatharianism and may practice fasting or vegetarian/vegan diets occasionally. They are experimenting and exploring the concepts without fully committing to the lifestyle, often due to personal or logistical constraints.

✅ Now you know what is breatharianism and how does it work, we will see in the next topic: “How to become a breatharian as Ray Maor”.

👉 Next article: How to become a breatharian?

👉 FAQs about Breatharian lifestyle: Breatharian FAQ

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