Breath

On average, we breathe 25,000 times in one day. But are we truly aware of how we breathe?

I remember in one of my therapy session, my therapist brought to my attention of the way I breathe. I was caught totally unaware and realised that I don’t even pay attention to the way I breathe. It was a huge moment for me as it dawned upon on me that I could manage my anxiety attacks through breathing. It felt funny at first, but it proved to be a powerful technique.

I did challenge my therapist about this though. How do you expect to do focus on my breathing when the person in front of me is triggering me? This was back in 2014. Today, I am extremely aware of my breathing, the way I breathe, whether it’s shallow or deep breathing. Anything that stresses me out, I immediately focus on my breathing.

I also realised how important it is to breathe when I recently undertook my first scuba diving experience in Dubai. The entire time I spent diving, I was able to calm myself down through slow, deep breathing.

We don’t realise that we take on a lot of stress and it affects our bodies as well. One of the things that affected my breathing was the stress of a divorce. It was a painful and difficult process. As much as I would have liked to brush it off, I subconsciously allowed the stress to affect me. As a by product of that stress, my breathing became short and shallow. I would run out of breath if I climbed a set of stairs. I would run out of breath if I had to do a short run. Initially I had thought its because I am unfit. Even when I started my gym workout, my breathing was still the same- short and shallow. My breathing was definitely affected by the stress that I had allowed myself to experience more than it was needed.

Thankfully, it was only when I sought to address the root cause of my stress that my breathing became a lot better.

This is why this book Breath by James Nestor becomes an extremely book to read. It is a very insightful and interesting journey through the art of breathing. He shares his own journey as he and a colleague undergo series of breathing methods to see how the correct methods of breathing actually begins to heal them.

We follow alongside the author as he documents his own journey, more like an experiment, of understanding what it is to breathe. “The book is a scientific adventure into the lost art and scientific of breathing. It explores the transformation that coccus inside our bodies every 3.3 seconds, the time it takes the average person to inhale and exhale.”

What the book will help you see:

  • You will understand why modern humans are the only species with chronically crooked teeth, and why that’s relevant to breathing.
  • Why our breathing has deteriorated over the ages, and why caveman never snored.
  • You will know the basics of restorative breathing.
  • You will know the benefits of serious, conscious breathing.
  • You will know what it is like to deep breathe, where your nervous system can benefit from it.
  • Finally, you will know how breathing affects every moment of your life and how to harness it to its full potential until your final breath.

Part One covers the basis of the experiment that the author and his friend undergo, whereby they are told to plug up their nose and do mouth breathing. We find out exactly why mouth breathing is so damaging to our bodies. Breathing through the nose allows us to take in 18% more oxygen than through the mouth.

Part Two covers the different aspects of our body systems that can aid in better breathing.

One of the most fascinating things I discovered was how important it is to breathe through our nose. Our right nostril is connected to the left side of the brain, and the left nostril is connected to the right side of the brain. Which is sometimes we are told to breathe through one side only to calm our bodies down.

The Right Nostril: circulation speeds up, body gets hotter, and cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate all increase. This happens because the right nostril activates the sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” system.

The Left Nostril: this activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and relax side that lowers blood pressure, cools off the body, and reduces anxiety.

See how you feel about yourself and your body next time you are in a stressed out situation when you breathe through the left side only.

Some words of wisdom:

“The best way to prevent many chronic health problem, improve athletic performance, and extend longevity was to focus on how we breathed, specifically to balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in our body. To do this, we’d need to learn how to inhale and exhale slowly.”

“Carbon dioxide has a profound dilating effect on blood vessels, opening these pathways so they could carry more oxygen-rich blood to hungry cells.”

“What is considered normal is a dozen to 20 breaths a minute.”

“Breathing less is not the same as breathing slow.” When we breathe slow, we take deeper longer breaths which allows for oxygen to go way inside the organs.”

“Mammals with the lowest resting heart rates love the longest.”

“Our ancient ancestors chewed for hours a day, every day. And because they chewed so much, their mouths, teeth, throats, and faces grew to be wide and strong and pronounces. Food in industrialised societies was so processed that it hardly required any chewing at all.”

“Chewing. The more we gnaw, the more stem cells we release, the more bone density and growth we’ll trigger, the younger we’ll look and the better we’ll breathe.”

In summary:

  1. Shut your mouth
  2. Breathe through your nose
  3. Exhale
  4. Chew
  5. Breathe more, on ocassion
  6. Hold your breath
  7. How we breathe matters

The Perfect Breath is this: Breathe in for about 5.5 seconds, then exhale for 5.5 seconds. That’s 5.5 breaths a minute for a total of about 5.5 litres of air.

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