Breatharianism is a belief system that preaches humans can live without food and water and exist solely on air. It has its roots in ancient practices such as Yoga and Bigu.
Yoga is an ancient spiritual science rooted in self-actualization and discovery. Its principles involve special techniques designed to help one center themselves and calm outside noise.
The yoga sutras are a collection of texts created thousands of years ago to teach people how to lead a more productive life following the tenets of Yoga. The third sutra describes a group of people with supernatural abilities. These people are believed to be breatharians.
Like Yoga, qigong is a practice that involves exercises that help increase blood flow and movement. Bigu is in the same family as qigong. Bigu is a Daoist technique that involves heavy fasting.
Bigu followers believe the universe’s healing energy provides the “food” necessary to live. Followers adhere to a strict diet that allows certain fruits and vegetables to be eaten after they break fast. Typically, fasts last for 108 days.
Modern-day breatharians take cues from these ancient religions. They refer to the energy they receive from the sun as prana, a Sanskrit term meaning vital life force.
One breatharian leader, Jas Jasmuheen, claims she can survive for months just by drinking a cup of tea. She wrote the book Living on Light: The Source of Nourishment for the New Millennium, which is a guide to breatharian beliefs and practices.
However, doctors advise against this practice. They warn that living without any caloric intake is dangerous and unhealthy. In fact, breatharian author Jas Jasmuheen has been caught ordering food on a plane and dropping out of a four-day televised fast.
In 1999, a Scottish woman died after fasting and authorities found Jasmuheen’s teachings in her diary. Currently, researchers aren’t sure if breatharianism classifies as an eating disorder.
Clinical dietician Rick Miller spoke to Broadly about its effects,
“Your body is able to draw on stored fuels, such as body fat to conserve energy for some time but in the short term, internal monitoring systems (such as blood glucose levels) recognize the persistent lack of food and start to shut down any non-essential processes to conserve energy for vital organ function. This leads to the drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, as well as little movement from the person due to excess fatigue from no fuel. If you could prolong that further despite the incredible hunger, you would likely start to feel confused and could hallucinate, slip into unconsciousness, and there’s a real risk of eventually passing away.”