Breath - The New Science of a Lost Art

James Nestor discovers the principles of boosting health through breath: Shut up, exhale, chew and hold it.

Source: https://archive.org/details/breath-the-new-science-of-a-lost-art-10



90% of us, very likely, me, you, and everyone you know, are breathing incorrectly and this failure is either causing or aggrevating a laundry list of diseases.

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On a more inspiring note [...] many modern maladies, all that asthma, anxiety and even hypertension and psoriasis [...] could either be reduced or reversed simply by changing the way we breathe.

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Part 1: The Experiment - The Worst Breathers In The Animal Kingdom (Chapter 1)

They all had enormous forward-facing jaws, they had expensive sinus cavities in broad mouths and, bizarrely, even though none of these ancient people had ever flossed, brushed or saw a dentist, they all had straight teeth.

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Mouth-breathing (Chapter 2)

The readouts reveal, what the previous days have revealed: Mouth-breathing is destroying our health.

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But the worst part about all of this, is how we feel: Awful.

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But most of the time, all-day, everyday for the past several days, Olsen and I just sit around alone in our apartments and hate life. [...] A Groundhog Day of perpetual and unending misery.

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[...] One subject, who had been mouth-breathing at a rate of 47 breaths per minute was nasal-breathing just 14 breaths. He maintained the same heart rate at which he'd started the test, even though the intensity of the exercise had increased tenfold.

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Mouth-breathing [...] changes the physical body and transforms airways all for the worse. Inhaling air through the mouth decreases pressure, which causes the soft tissues at the back of the mouth to become loose and flex inward, creating less space and making breathing more difficult.

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At my worst, I've averaged 25 apnea-events, [...] my oxygen-levels dropped to below 85%. [...] If this goes on too long, it can lead to heart-failure, depression, memory-problems and more.

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Mouth-breathing causes the body to loose 40% more water. [...] You'd think that this moisture loss would decrease the need to urinate, but oddly, the opposite was true.

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If the body has inadequate time in deep-sleep, as it does when it experiences chronic sleep-apnea, [...] the kidneys will release water, which triggers the need to urinate and also signals our brains that we should consume more liquid.

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Rats who had their nostrils obstructed and were forced to breathe through their mouths, developed fewer brain-cells and took twice as long to make their way through a maze than their nasal-breathing controls.

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Another study in humans from 2013 found that mouth-breathing delivered a disturbance of oxygen to the pre-frontal-cortex, the area of the brain associated with ADHD. Nasal-breathing had no such effects.

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Part 2: The Lost Art and Science of Breathing - Notes (Chapter 3)

The right and left nasal cavities also work like an HVAC-system, controlling temperature and blood-pressure while feeding the brain chemicals to alter moods, emotions and sleep states.

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The right nostril is a gas pedal. When you're inhaling primarily through this channel, circulation speeds up and your body gets hotter. Blood pressure and heart-rate all increase.

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Right-nostril breathing will also feed more blood to the opposite hemisphere of the brain, those areas that control things like logical decisions, language and computing.

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Left nostril [...] works as a break system, [...] lowers temperature and blood pressure, cools the body and reduces anxiety, [...] shifts blood flow to [...] areas that influence things like creative thought, mental abstractions and negative emotions.

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The tribes attributed their vigorous health to a single medicine: [...] Breathing. The native Americans explained to [George] Catlin that breath inhaled through the mouth, sapped the body of strength, deformed the face and caused stress and disease.

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Mothers in all these tribes followed the same practices, carefully closing the baby's lips with their fingers after each feeding. At night they'd stand over sleeping infants and gently pinch mouths shut if they opened.

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Every tribe Catlin visited over the next several years shared the same habits, [...] same vigorous health, perfect teeth and forward-growing facial structure. He wrote about his experiences in "The Breath of Life" published in 1862.

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He told me that mouth-breathing contributed to periodontal disease and bad breath and was the number one cause of cavities, even more damaging than sugar consumption or poor hygiene.

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Mouth-breathing was both a cause and a contributor to snoring and sleep-apnea. He recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night.

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Nasal-breathing alone can boost nitric-oxide sixfold, which is one of the reasons we can absorb about 18% more oxygen than by just breathing through the mouth.

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All I or anyone else really needed, was a post-it stamp-sized piece of surgical tape at the center of the lips, a Charlie-Chaplin moustache moved down an inch.

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Exhale (Chapter 4)

The path to everlasting life involves a lot of stretching: Back-bends, neck-bends and twirling.

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The colonel was old: A jumble of sloping shoulders, grey hair and wobbly legs, but he believed that there was a cure for aging and it was locked in a monastery in the Himalayas. The usual mystical stuff occurred up there.

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Four years passed. [...] The colonel was waiting outside. He looked twenty years younger, he was standing straight, his face vibrant and alive, his once balding head was covered in dark hair.

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He'd found the monastery, studied the ancient manuscripts and learnt restorative practices. He'd reversed aging through nothing more than stretching and breathing.

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[Peter] Kelder described the techniques in a slim booklet titled "The Eye of Revelation", published in 1939.

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The greatest indicator of lifespan wasn't genetics, it wasn't the diet, or even the amount of daily exercise we got. It was lung capacity. The smaller and less efficient lungs became, the quicker subjects got sick and died. The cause of deterioration didn't matter.

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She would stand in front of a mirror, twist her body and inhale into one lung, while limiting the air in the other. Then she'd hobble over to a table, sling her body on its side and arch her chest back and forth to loosen her rip-cage.

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[Katharina] Schroth spent five years doing this. At the end she'd effectively cured herself of incurable scoliosis. She breathed her spine straight again.

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What the bodily form depends on is breath and what breath relies on is form. [...] When the breath is perfect, the form is perfect.

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The most important aspect of breathing wasn't just to take in air through the nose. [...] The key to breathing, lung expansion and the long life that came with it [...] was in the transformative power of a full exhale.

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Slow (Chapter 5)

Breathing heavy, breathing quickly and as deeply as you can [...] is the worst advice anyone could give you. [...] Big heavy breaths were bad for us, because they depleted our bodies of, yes, carbon dioxide.

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Let's say you're about to take a river cruise. You're in a waiting room of the dock when a ship arrives. You pass through security, board the ship and head off. This is similar to the path oxygen molecules take once they reach the alveoli.

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Blood with more CO2 in it will appear blue. Blood still filled with oxygen will appear red. It's these gases that give veins and arteries their distinctive colors.

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That CO2 we release with every breath has weight and we exhale more weight than we inhale. [...] We loose weight through exhaled breath. For every ten pounds of fat lost in our bodies, eight-and-a-half pounds comes off through the lungs.

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The lungs are the weight-regulating system of the body.

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Carbon dioxide also had a profound dilating effect on blood vessels, opening these pathways so they could carry more blood to hungry cells. Breathing less allowed animals to produce more energy, more efficiently.

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Oxygen is in no sense a stimulant to living creatures [...]. If a fire is supplied with pure oxygen instead of air, it burns with enormously augmented intensity, but when a man or animal breaths oxygen or air enriched with oxygen, no more of that gas is consumed.

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No more heat is produced and no more carbon dioxide is exhaled than when air alone is breathed. For a healthy body, overbreathing or inhaling pure oxygen would have no benefit.

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Once again, no matter how slowly I breathed, or how hard I paddled, my oxygen levels stayed steady. [...] When breathing at a normal rate, our lungs will absorb only about a quarter of the available O2 in the air.

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The majority of that oxygen is exhaled back out. By taking longer breaths we allow our lungs to soak up more with less.

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[...] The most efficient breathing rhythm for the body occurs when both the length of respirations and the total breaths per minute are locked-in in a spooky symmetry: 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths per minute.

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Even when practiced for just five or ten minutes a day, the results can be potent.

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Chew (Chapter 7)

A Monoblock: [...] It consisted of a plastic retainer with a dowel-screw that forced the upper pallet to grow outward. Within a few weeks, his patients mouths grew larger and their breathing was significantly improved.

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Teeth will always grow in naturally straight if they have enough room. Expanding-devices return the mouth to the width it was intended to be, offering a larger playing field.

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The first stop to improving airway-obstruction wasn't orthodontics, but instead [...] maintaining correct oral posture, [...] holding the lips together, teeth lightly touching, with your tongue on the roof of the mouth.

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When sitting or standing, the spine should J-shape, perfectly straight until it reaches the small of the back, where it naturally curves outward.

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We can grow bone at any age. [...] All we need are stem-cells. And the way we [...] signal stem-cells to build more bone in the face is by engaging the masseter, [...] by clamping down on the back molars, over and over. Chewing.

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Part 3: Breathing+ - More on Occasion (Chapter 8)

Breathing [...] is more than just a biochemical, physical act.

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He instructed them to lengthen the breaths, with the goal of reaching a half-minute. "Anyone who mastered this," Rama promised, "will not have any toxins and will be disease-free."

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The cave was very cold. Nāropa harnessed the power of his own breath to keep himself from freezing to death. The practice came to be known as Tummo, the Tibetan word for inner fire.

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Auto-immune diseases have no known cure and even the causes are debated. An increasing body of research has shown that many are tied to the dysfunction of [...] the autonomic nervous system.

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McGee tried Wim Hoff's heavy breathing technique. "For the first time in a long time, I slept peacefully", he told me.

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He signed up for Hoff's ten-week video course and soon-after his insulin-levels normalized, pain subsided and blood pressure plunged. He quit taking Enalapril and reduced his insulin-intake by around 80%.

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"Fight it", "No pain, no gain", that's all bullshit. That's how you get hurt. [...] The point was to re-balance the body, so that it could do, what it is naturally adapted to do.

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There are dozens of stories. Men, mostly in their twenties, who'd suddenly been diagnosed with psoriasis or depression who, weeks after practicing heavy breathing, no longer suffered any symptoms.

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Hold it (Chapter 9)

Feinstein [...] found a study in which human subjects were administered a single breath of carbon dioxide. Even with a small amount, patients reported feelings of suffocation [...]. Their oxygen levels hadn't changed.

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The subjects knew they were in no danger, but many still suffered debilitating panic attacks. [...] It wasn't psychological. The gas was physically triggering some other mechanism in their brains and bodies.

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When we're breathing too slowly and carbon dioxide levels rise, the central chemo-receptors monitor these changes and send alarm signals to the brain, telling our lungs to breathe faster and more deeply.

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When we're breathing too quickly, these chemo-receptors direct the body to breathe more slowly, to increase these carbon-dioxide levels. This is how our body determines how fast and often to breathe, not by the amount of oxygen, but by the level of carbon dioxide.

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Those with the worst anxieties consistently suffer from the worst breathing. They have low CO2-levels and a much greater fear of holding their breath. To avoid another attack, they breathe for too much and eventually become hyper-sensitized to CO2.

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Fast, Slow and Not At All (Chapter 10)

Rama stayed in this comatose state for about a half-hour. [...] When he "woke up", he gave a detailed recap of the conversation in the room that had occurred while he was displaying a brain-state of deep-sleep.

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He called it "yogic sleep", where the mind was active while the brain was unconscious.

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He recommended students began by harmonizing their breathing, by removing the pause between inhalations and exhalations, so that every breath was one line, connected, with no end.

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Epilogue - A Last Gasp

Diseases of civilisation; Nine out of ten of the top killers, such as diabetes, heart-disease and stroke are caused by the foods we eat, the water we drink and the houses we live in. These are diseases humanity created.

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That thirty pounds of air that passes through our lungs every day, and that 1.7 pounds of oxygen our cells consume, is as important as what we eat or how much we exercise.

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The bones in the human face don't stop growing in our twenties, unlike other bones of the body. They can expand and remodel into our seventies and likely beyond. Which means we can [...] improve our ability to breathe at any age.

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The perfect breath is this: Breath in for 5.5 seconds. Then exhale for 5.5 seconds. That's 5.5 breaths a minute for a total of about 5.5 liters of air.

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