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#61: The Science of Breathing - James Nestor

by FitMind LLC
December 22nd 2020

James Nestor is a science journalist and bestselling author.

His most recent book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, explores the fascinating evolutionary biology and ancient p... More

and he was able just to sit softly in one space and change the temperature of his hand from his thumb to the other side of his hand by 11 degrees, just by focusing and also fluttering his heart 300 beats per minute by sitting there and focusing on. So those guys, they're like, That's next level shit. Hello and welcome to the Fit Mind podcast where I speak with experts on the mind, from neuroscientists and psychologists to monks and navy seals. They share cutting edge research, fascinating stories and proven advice for creating a fit mind, one that's full of focus, vitality and joy. I'm your host, Liam the founder, fit mind, a mental fitness company and a reminder to check out fit mind, our neuroscience based advanced mind training app in the APP store. Okay, my guest today is science journalist and author

James Nestor James. Most recent bestselling book is Breath, the New Science of a Lost Art. He's also written about free diving in the ocean, and I think after this episode you'll have a newfound appreciation for the power of breathing and why most of us are doing it wrong. I hope you enjoy. All right, Mr James. Nestor, it's great to be with you virtually over the Internet. Thanks a lot for having me. Yeah, well, so you've written this book on breathing and the breath is something that I was already paying attention to. I'd read Theocracy, Gin Advantage by Patrick McEwen and a couple other books. But your book really took this kind of to the next level and investigating some of the historical factors for why this is something we should be paying attention to. And I think it's a little bit counterintuitive because it seems so obvious and simple

. And I remember telling my great aunt that breathing was something that was being taught. And she said Breathing already do that. And so I think that's kind of the attitude a lot of people have. So why? What's wrong here? Why should we be paying attention? Thio breath, Well, eating. We already do that as well, right? But we can eat different foods. We can eat different foods in different ways, and it's gonna just us and affect us differently. And breathing is really the exact same. And this is I never intended to write a book about breathing. I mean, I'm a science journalist. I've been writing for a long time, and breathing was just never on my plate. But I kept finding these stories that were so extraordinary and so unbelievable. But the more I went into them, the more research them. The more I realized that there was a much larger tale to be told about all this. There's a lot of books about how to breathe, right? There's a zillion yoga bucks take in, breathe into the count of three and exhale kind of seven. All that's great

. But I was really looking for a deeper understanding of how these things affected does what? What they did to our bodies, where it all came from. And so that's what I spent several years doing. Yeah, and so what is the problem here? I mean, where does this, Um where does this become an issue for people? It becomes a problem because our faces have changed so much. Our mouths, they're so small. Are airways have changed. This all occurred in the past few 100 years. This was something I had never heard about until I got very deep in this research. A few years ago, and it's affected the way we breathe. And it's made us the worst breathers in the animal kingdom. And if you don't believe me, go look at the steps. Go look at the amount of people who have asthma, who have COPD, who have sleep apnea who have snoring. I could keep going down this list. It's thes things there so prevalent that we just assume they are normal. But there's nothing normal about choking on yourself every

night, or about not being able to walk a couple blocks before collapsing having an attack. So if you look back at the skeletal record, which is something I spent months and months doing, you see that our ancestors had these huge pron attic jaws thes very wide faces. They had much larger airways than we do now, much larger nasal apertures. And you can see this because you can look at their teeth and their teeth are all perfectly straight. If you look at modern humans are teeth are crooked because their mouth they're so small, smaller mouth, smaller airway breathing problems. So you know, it's so obvious what's happened. But I was pretty shocked that no one was really talking about this. We just assumed that asthma was a normal part of growing up chronic sinusitis. Having your nose plugged suffering from all these respiratory problems is normal. It's not normal, right? Yeah, And this is something that seems to be a common feet with a lot of health issues. When we look at the

root causes of them, a lot of it is does seem to be evolutionary and the fact that our diets have changed so much and we're not chewing as much in all this. So, um, what can folks do Thio to remedy that That and like, how? How should we think about solving just the fact that our jaws are, um are so different? I've I've seen also this exercise project product called Jazzercise that I wanted to ask you about, but I'll just throw all that out there. Yeah, so now a lot of the damage has been done. I didn't want to just focus on the bummer stuff in the book. I started off the block bye bye, explaining very clearly what's what's happened to us. Why were the worst breathers and how that's directly affected? Our health made us more susceptible to heart disease, thio cancer, the metabolic problems, the diabetes. Who would've guessed the breathing was implicated in all those things? But but it certainly is and that that science is very clear. But I really wanted to focus

the book on what we can do about it. Yeah, we're screwed. But let's let's fix ourselves. And so that's that's what the majority of the book it's about. So it's easier to fix these things when you're young because the faces modeling you can. Actually, your aural posture will dictate how you look later on in life and will dictate how you breathe is well. So if you're constantly cruise around like this with your neck out like that and look around the streets and that's the majority of kids right now, that's gonna affect how their how their bones grow, how their musculature models around those bones and again. Not a lot of controversy about that, but when you get into adulthood, it's harder to fix yourself. But we can show some clear, measured improvements, and that's what I try to do to my own messed up breathing, my own messed up face and a lot of success with it. But the book wasn't about my journey. It was about what the science says and what other people could do. So actionable items. So the first thing that people

to do is breathe out of your nose all the time, all the time. So unless you're doing like a Wim Hof practice or really intensive breathing practice, if you're focusing on a different breathing techniques that has you breathe through the mouth perfectly fine. But the other 23 a half hours of the day, you gotta breathe through the nose. So, you know, there's many other hacks along with that. They're extremely simple. And yet so few people are really using these things and abiding by these simple rules. Yeah, it was actually your book inspired me. Thio have ah deviated septum. And I was inspired to get this surgically fixed early next year. Um, because I realized how important this nose breathing is. And then you also inspired me to choose this kind of flavor gum called failing. I've been munching. I want them to sponsor me as, uh, Jersey shed, powered by Fillion, Turkish hard gum. So I don't know who else

would buy this stuff unless they were trying to fix their their fix their jaws. But do you want to explain for the listeners what this is all about? So, um, just to be clear, I am not a doctor. I'm not an anti, so I can't prescribe anything that anybody But I was ableto hang out with some of the experts in this field for years and years. One of the first things I learned from Dr Jack or Nyack, who is the chief of Ryan ology research down at Stanford. He's really at the the top of his class. He told me that 70% of the population have a deviated septum that is clearly visible to the naked eye. So if you get a CAT scan and you go in and you're NT is, there is like a deviated septum. We gotta fix that right away. This is the vast majority of the population. My nose is more messed up than anyone's. I've broken it probably three or four times. My septum is extremely deviated of all these other problems in here, But what I learned I walked down

the hall from Nyack and he said hey was very clear about this. And so it was Doctor and Kerney, director of speech language pathology at Stanford, said that were messed up. But we can use our natural body to heal ourselves. And by that she said that our noses are all covered in this, this erectile tissue, and it flexes just like any other muscle. The less it's used, the less we can. We can use it. So the less we breathe through her nose is the more stuffed up. It's gonna okay, So that doesn't mean people don't need surgical intervention. Some people absolutely do. But the vast majority of us should start slow and soft. So Nyack has found that with a neti pot LoDo steroid worked for so many of his patients no longer needed surgery. Dr. Ann Kearney was slated for surgery. Found that just by breathing through her nose by using a little piece of tape at night, she no longer needs surgery. So again, not to say people don't need surgery. Surgery is a life changer for so many people

, but it is a good recommendation that I've followed, um, to start off slow and easy and see what your own body can do for you, everyone. It's Liam. I have a quick favor to ask. We don't run ads here, but if you're finding this podcast helpful, please take 10 seconds to share this episode. Now with one friend who could benefit, for example, by tapping the three dots in the bottom right corner of apple podcast there is the option to text it. Her email it. This would help us out a ton and spreading the good word and really appreciate your help if you feel moved to share. Okay, back into it. So I've been taping my mouth now for a couple of years at night, and that helps. And I actually recently got a CPAP um, kind of Sketchley off of Craigslist, but just to try that out at night. But it definitely makes a huge difference. And I can I know it's not like placebo or anything, because there's times where I wake up a couple times where I've for gotten and I wake up and I'm like, Man, I feel

so sluggish this morning, and then I remember Oh, yeah, I didn't take my mouth last night, so it clearly makes a difference, but it seems pretty counterintuitive. because you see people especially exercising and they're gulping through their mouth and you would think that that's getting more oxygen. And so what? What is the deal with nose breathing? Why is that so important? One of the problems of having a mouth that's too small for your faces when the mouth doesn't develop right in that upper palate doesn't fall down and widen. I'm a perfect example of that is the palate contend to grow upwards, and when it grows upwards, that can push into the Sinus cavities and actually impact your ability to breathe through the nose. So you become an obligate mouth breather. So mouth breathing is so I could give you a whole laundry list of the problems associated with mouth breathing. You get less oxygen. You're exposing your lungs to everything in the environment without a filter. Um, you're exposing them to cold air. You're exposing them to pollution on and on and on again. Not a lot of controversy. We know it's really bad news, but so few people

tend to breathe through through their noses. This is your first line of defense, so more oxygen you slow down air. Um, you're gonna calm yourself. Lower heart rates, I mean innumerable benefits. So if you think if you're focusing on nasal breathing through the day, that's great. It's about two thirds of your life. But then, if a third of your life you're spent, which is certainly what I was doing for decades, that's going to cause some real damage to your body. We know that you don't even need to have medically diagnosed snoring to suffer from the neurological and other health effects from that. Any resistance in the airway is bad news. And Dr Christian GMO has been saying this for 50 years and has found that so breathe through the nose, especially at night. It's It's also a little counterintuitive that you get less, uh, more oxygen through the nose. Um, my understanding is that this is because you're you

know, it has nothing to do with how much you're taking in. It's more how much is released into your tissues by the blood. Is that Yeah, so? So, speaking of that, it's a number of things when you're breathing through the nose, you're pressurizing air and you're slowing it down so you can try breathe through your mouth. No, resistance at all, bringing through the nose. There's a vacuum coming in and there's positive pressure coming out, so that slows down the air. And that pressure and that slower air gives your lungs more time to extract oxygen. Also, you get a huge boost of nitric oxide when you're breathing through your nose, which also helps in gas exchange. It's a great vaso dilator, so just breathing through your nose is gonna increase your oxygenation for those reasons. But above that, it's by breathing slowly, you're gonna balance your co two levels. This gets super technical, but by having balanced by having more CO two in your bloodstream, you're gonna be ableto offload

oxygen from hemoglobin more easily. And we've known this for more than 100 years. You need CO two to extract oxygen. And yet so few people have been looking at this, and people are thinking they're walking around accident to my hunk. You're not. You're doing the opposite, which is why your head feels dizzy, Which is why your fingers or tingling and cold because you're inhibiting circulation to those areas, right? Yeah, And that's the part that I was referencing there that I think It's called the Boer Effect, where it's the presence of CO two that is telling the hemoglobin to release oxygen to the tissues. So I think this is also something that, um you are mentioning the book. A lot of people get wrong because they think that, for example, there's those oxygen bars where people think they need to be getting a lot of oxygen. And they're like huffing this stuff. And that actually isn't increasing theocracy Jin the blood oxygen levels, is that right? Yeah. So

oxygen is a lifesaver for people with emphysema for people with severe symptoms of Kobe did when you're at altitude. Yeah, but for the healthy body, if your blood SATs are already at 97 98 even 99% huffing and more oxygen is going to do nothing for you on again. This is something we've known for over 100 years. Did that stop oxygen bars from from opening up in all the airports of the world? No, it didn't. I've even seen a can where they have pure oxygen can you're supposed to tow. It's gonna do zero for you because you can inhale that oxygen in, But you're just gonna exhale it without using it. Because if you're healthy, you already have plenty of oxygen in your bloodstream. What you need is a balance of co two to offload that oxygen. So this is bad news for oxygen bar owners. I haven't heard from to too many of them. Um, but, you know, it's important to look at

the science and and toe look at the research and to look at the Oxy hemoglobin disassociation curve, which is exactly what you were talking about. And then it's all there, so it's very clear. Mhm. I think you just ruined a lot of young entrepreneur entrepreneurs. Dreams right there. But oxygen, you know, altitude. It's important. A lot of people getting cove it. It's really important for that. So maybe that's a new new market, the chronically ill. Yeah, right. So the one area where this was very confusing to me at first was that when you're exercising, it just seems like you really need to go bare through your mouth. I mean, that's like the urge you get. So why does why the athlete? Why is that our natural instinct to take these massive breath through your mouth when we're exercising, Why should athletes be breathing through the nose? So what dictates that need to breathe is not oxygen. It is carbon dioxide. So right now, if you exhale and you hold your

breath after maybe 10 20 seconds, you're going to feel this nagging need to breathe That is caused by rising CO two levels, not oxygen. So the reason why so many people feel out of breath, they feel that they constantly need to breathe when they're working out is because they have a very low threshold for co two. So if you increase that threshold for CO two, you will not feel that need to breathe having more co two. But that same amount of oxygen is gonna allow you to offload oxygen more efficiently, is gonna allow you to go further faster for longer again. This is something we've known for decades. And yet the vast majority of people I see here around San Francisco jogging are Some of that has to do with them having chronic nasal issues so they can't breathe through their nose because of severely deviated septum or other problems. But for a lot of them, well, they don't realize that if they

start training themselves to breathe through their nose, that knows is gonna open up significantly. The problem is that this can take weeks or months, and that's why people try it for a couple of days. They screw this totally not working. I'm going back. But what I've heard from numerous respiratory therapist numerous doctors is do not work out harder than you can breathe correctly. So if you notice your jogging or working out CrossFit, whatever in your breathing is you need to slow way down and build up your aerobic base and build upon that. Yeah, it's gonna take a while, but the benefits will be pronounced once you do that. Okay? Yeah, that makes that makes a lot of sense. Um, does this have something to do with the fact that when you're if you're able to breathe through your nose, you're staying in the kind of anaerobic, uh

, phase, whereas you become aerobic and that's less efficient If you're breathing through your mouth? No, we're breathing through the nose. Is gonna keep you, um, or aerobic mouth breathing is gonna is gonna shuttle you into anaerobic energy. Anaerobic. You know, for elite athletes toe. Working out the the anaerobic system is is great for the rest of us. You really wanna build your aerobic base because you get 15 times more energy when you're burning aerobically, then you do an aerobically so and by burning an aerobically, you're gonna be releasing a bunch of free radicals and other problems. So you wanna be building the aerobic base? That doesn't mean you can't for temporary amounts of time going toe anaerobic Chris fish. That's fine. Our bodies do that all the time. But all the therapist, all the trainers I've talked to is it's all about building the aerobic base, and that means going slow and low for a long time and building up from there. So and the science there is very clear because

you're you're consuming more oxygen more efficiently if you breathe through your mouth when you're running. If anyone has a stationary bike, there's something I spent weeks and weeks doing. I would have a pulse ox on, and I'd work out on a stationary bike. But you notice your heart rate when you're breathing through your nose is way lower than breathing through your mouth. So you were exerting less energy at the same threshold that you would be mouth breathing. Um, which allows UME or energy to push, get harder to go further and to go farther, and and to G o. And it also allows for much better recovery. Dr. John Do Yard has has spent 40 years researching this stuff, and his studies are fantastic. And could this help kind of strength athletes who are just doing short bursts as well as the endurance athletes? Yes, for sure. I mean, it can help. Well, so So there's two different things going on for for the average Joe, like like me. I'm not gonna

push into anaerobic zones, too, too hard. But I know people very elite athletes need to access that at some time. But what you want to do is is further build that aerobic base and you can do do this. This is where it gets so confusing by practicing breathing less by increasing your tolerance for CO two. Because again, more co two more oxygen is going to disassociate more quickly. Eso So that is that is really the key, and people say, well, it's impossible to sprint on, got breathe out of your mouth. Check out Sanya Richards. Ross. She was the top sprinter for 10 years. Tough sprinter in the world for 10 years. Obligate nasal breather. You know, 400 m. She's destroying everyone beside her. Is her mouth disclosed, breathing to her nose, killing everybody. So she is a huge proponent of this. And the proofs in the pudding. 10 years top sprinter. That's pretty good. Yeah

, yeah, not bad. Um, and it also you met you mentioned in the book. I think that Ah, lot of or no, maybe this was oxygen advantage I'm thinking of. But hey, points out that a lot of athletes naturally have facial structures that permit this kind of nose breathing, with the exception of swimmers, because they're not doing that. But most, most athletes, whether it's cause and effect, there is kind of hard to parse out, but it seems like they have the noses for it. Yeah, that's that's Patrick. That's definitely from his his book. I didn't go too deeply into that. It gets a little sketchy because you don't know correlation, correlation, causation. You're not sure which is which, but it is surprising you look at these football players you look at these athletes, they have these very broad faces, right? And, uh, and and their airway spaces much larger pronounced jaws as well. So having that jaw that goes out a lot more, more airway space, it's easier to breathe. It's the same thing with swimmers

. Your you're breathing through your mouth the whole time. When you're swimming, there's no way of breathing through your nose. Um, so it's It is interesting again. I can't speak to two widely to that, um, but But he's certainly dead. And to the great job of it now, you mentioned a couple of times that it's the It's the presence of CO two and our, um, lack of tolerance for co two. That's giving us the urge to breathe in. And I imagine that applies to when you're underwater to trying to hold your breath. So how to free divers build up their tolerance that they're able to spend so much time under the water. They do this and they hold their breath for about four or five minutes, and then they do this on they do it again. They just keep going. Okay, so you can train that just by holding your breath. This'd is interval training and their APS that do this they have you breathe for about two minutes. Hold your breath for a minute. Breathe for about two minutes. Hold your breath for men and a half

Breathe for two minutes. Hold your breath for two minutes and then they flip it. There's CO two training and an oxygen training. So, uh, they're just allowing you to become more comfortable with a higher threshold of co two. Uh, this gets dangerous, though, when you start hyperventilating. Because if you look at these two graphs of co two and oxygenation our bodies air really smart as CO two reaches a certain level, that's usually at the point when oxygenation starts going down. That's what triggers us to breathe. But when you hyperventilate too much, you blow off so much co two that by the Times CO two is up at that level that you want it you need to breathe. Euro two is gonna be pretty low. Does that make any sense? You could see these thes graphs on how this works, so you don't want to hyperventilate before you free dive and you don't wanna really hyperventilate before you do anything near the water because that balance gets disrupted and you can have a lot of you could black

out, have a lot of trouble. Yeah, I was reading about a couple of guys who are We're trying to sue him off because they were their wives were trying to sue him off because they had passed out in the water. He's pretty clear that you shouldn't do this around the water. But that's actually another thing I wanted to talk to you about was the Wim Hof method that you've got me attending occasionally these Monday night sessions with a Wim Hof instructor. Remind me his name again. It's, uh, e wasn't on last night. Um, but I really enjoy him. Yeah, Chuck McGee, The third. He's, uh if you just Google and I think you confined his like meet ups, it's every Monday and Sunday, I think. And, um yeah, but tell us more about this kind of to mo method. Yeah, so, you know, this is something that I was getting pretty confused about when I was researching the book because I saw all of this very clear science showing that slower, lower light or breathing has huge benefits. Doesn't matter

if you're exercising, running, jogging, sprinting, lifting, weights, rowing, whatever it has huge benefits. Then you've got Wim Hoff. Who? What is he doing? Your your breathing like a madman that the difference here is those therapies I'll call them techniques. Someone call them therapies. But Wim hof method to mow prana Yama Sudarshan crea thes They're all doing the same thing right there. You are consciously increasing your respiratory rate toe access different things in your body for winds method. You're specifically breathing over your metabolic needs so that you get stressed out. So stress sympathetic stress is part of the magic of Tomo a whim off of Sudarshan crea And then what do you do? You stop and you hold your breath. So you're just flipping your nervous system back and forth. You're flipping your pH up and flipping it down. So there are so many benefits to doing this to taking control

of your nervous system and having the power there. So, um, there. I don't find these things at odds. These air just more tools in the toolkit. Uh, there's There's several studies that have looked at both Sudarshan Korea and to mow and look at their effect on auto immune problems and look at their effect of anxiety and depression. And it's very clear these air having real benefits these people. So so it doesn't have to be one thing or the other. There are so many different ways of breathing. Depends on what you're looking for. Depends on what you should use. One of the things I was really interested about with two mo was that I was reading some of the research on this and they found that, uh, these were this was the Tibetan traditional version of tomb I should mention. So Wim Hof is kind of this adapted version, I would say of e guess there's kind of the fast breathing version of tuna, and there's the more meditative, slow version of tomb. Oh, and they found all these incredible abilities for them to generate body heat. But they also found that

something about the fact that when they had him do it with a visualization and without it was very different. And you didn't get nearly the heat effects when the visualization and kind of meditation component was missing. So I don't know if that's something you got into it all. But I just found it really interesting. So the original to mow, um, that has been around for thousands of years that actually decreases oxygen consumption. So they found that it was the lowest finding they could ever find in a lab study where these guys were able to decrease their metabolic rates by over 65% which is insane. And yet they were able to increase heat in their fingers throughout their bodies by 17 degrees so they would put them in this cold room, and they put a wet sheet on them, and they were able to drive this sheet within a half a now er by decreasing their medal. So that doesn't make any sense. Toe Westerners and all we did was say, Look

, that's weird. Anyway, let's move on because usually by increasing your consumption of auction, you you're releasing more energy. So women's doing the exact opposite thing. They're increasing their consumption of oxygen. Women's shown that his double the average oxygen consumption 40 minutes, even after doing the Wim Hof method, so there's still some unknowns there. But what I find is interesting about this visualization for for the monks. They believe that this is a vital part of doing what they dio of Tomo for Wim Hoff method. You can think about whatever you want to think about, and you're huffing and puffin. And he sat in a in an ice bath for for two hours and didn't suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. So you know there's there's this, the ancient Eastern version. There's a modern version where we just want to sit in front of Instagram all day long. But what? What I think is a great about breathing is it doesn't require

this visualization. It doesn't require you to sit in a dark room. There are benefits to doing that, no doubt. But they're also profound benefits just to change in your breathing while you're driving while you're looking at Instagram while you're watching Netflix while you're sleeping, right? Yeah, it's a lot easier to you to tap into your physiology, using the breath and to use your mind to try to control your mind. And a lot of meditation traditions have been using it. I think largely for that reason, you can get into a parasympathetic state very quickly, using the breath rather than just trying toe. You know, slow down your thoughts, using your thoughts. Essentially. So for sure, and and their masters. I mean, once you get really advanced in meditation you look at what Swami Rama was able to dio, and he was able just to sit softly in one space and change the temperature of his hand from his thumb to the other side of his hand by 11

degrees just by focusing and also fluttering his heart 300 beats per minute by sitting there and focusing on. So those guys, they're like, that's next level shit which I don't get too too far. And you got to go sit in the Himalayan cave for about 10 years to get that stuff. But I was focusing on the stuff that basically anyone could anyone could do. Wim hof method. Unless you're epileptic or pregnant, okay? And don't do it in the water. People don't be an idiot. Don't do any of this stuff near near water. Um, so I was I was focusing more on that. Yeah, but that's very interesting kind of them. Or extreme cases of this, like what the mind is and and breath that are capable of, um and certainly like I was reading some more traditional books on yoga and just the claims there. It's just it's interesting, and you do mention you're kind of tryto parse out some of the Western science of like prana or energy, because you're definitely feeling changes in your body

. Um, and you can see why they have created, like, a map out of it and like, have a name for it. But I just It's really interesting that there's all these energetic changes from breathing that seemed to lead to some pretty incredible mental states, for sure. And this is something we do all day, every day, and we get 90. I heard this from Bryan Mackenzie yesterday. We get 90% of our energy from our breath. So by changing our breath, we're changing the energy in our body, and I don't find this really a conflict with with science. There's a lot of things we could measure with breeding, and I went well into that world for years and years. But I think it's exciting that there's still things we can't quite explain. There's still these empty holes, and science is the exploration of the unknown. So let's let's go in these places and really check it out. Look at those monks. How can you decrease your metabolism and increase vastly

increase your heat? How can someone focus on his hand and change one side's gray? The other side is red and flushed with blood. I mean, this is crazy stuff. When I mentioned this to doctors and researchers, their responses Oh wow, that's trippy. Or now it's a placebo fact anyway, eso. But to me, that's an opening to explore some some other potentials to the human body. Yeah, no, it's It's pretty wild, that world. And I feel like it'll stop being ignored by signs, hopefully at some point and taken seriously because there's just too many reports like that. Teoh. Ignore them. Well, some of the top scientists now are studying this stuff, you know, that's what at stake. I was just speaking of Stanford Medical School two days ago. Harvard's onto it. Yale is onto it, so it really feels like there's a sea change happening in our awareness to our breathing. And this is the studies you

just mentioned are concerning, like the more extreme stuff for what exactly they're They're starting to look at the studies with Wim off his hand is permanently up. He's like anyone who wants to study May I'll do whatever so been poked and prodded in all kinds of ways. And those studies have been reprinted in nature, which is the top scientific journal in the world. Not too easy to get into nature. And he's He's forced textbooks toe have to be rewritten for what he has found with our our ability to modulate our immune function, our ability to modulate our autonomic nervous system, which is supposed to be autonomic automatic it's not. We can tap into it through breathing. And, yeah, pretty incredible. I was reading like the end of toxin study where they injected some untrained. You know, he hey said like it's there's nothing special about me. Anyone could do this. And so they injected

some of his students or some, I guess, willing participants with an endo toxin. And then they learned his method were able to flush it out. Yeah, for four days of training. So So this is classic of what happened when showed that he was able to shut him up with the coli. He was able to breathe in a way that he didn't suffer any effects from it. And then they said, Well, you're just super weird. Dude, you yell a lot your hippie And he said, Okay, we'll give me some rent. You pick the people, give them to me. I'm going to spend four days with them. We're gonna bring them in the lab and shoot them up with equal. None of them suffered any any side effects, whereas the 16,000 other people throughout the years that they had done this to all suffered these horrendous, miserable effects from E. Coli. So even after that was published, I've literally heard people, researchers say, the alleged effects of breathing on the immune system It's like this

was a top tier study. But when you learned something and you preach something for 30 years and someone comes and upsets it, you know it's hard. That's a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow. But again, as I just said, science has no ending point, right. There is no finish line. It's constantly moving, so if you're not open minded to change your views when looking at data then then that's really dangerous. Yeah, yeah, certainly eso We've been talking about some of them or kind of crazy stuff out there. But just for folks listening, I always like to give them pretty, like practical steps that they could take. And you've already given a lot of them, like, you know, breathing through your nose. But is there a method that you would recommend that you could just kind of walk us through? That would be like a simple under practice. Um, you know, if someone just had a couple of minutes a day or something So the simplest thing you can dio and this seems so simple and subtle, it's not gonna do

anything for you. But again, look at the science and look at the studies. And look at how breeding this way we'll immediately affect heart rate variability. How it will affect your circulation, how it will lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate on and on and on, and I'll show you what I mean before I tell you specifically how to do it and don't get, you know, prepared for something very complicated because it's so simple. Just if you just inhale to account about six and exhale to account about six so on. Do it again. Put your hand over your heart Now feel your heart rate as you inhale and feel your heart rate As you exhale, you're gonna notice your heart rate increases when you inhale, and it decreases when you exhale. So you are tapping into your nervous system. When you do this, inhalations are associated with a sympathetic response. Ex elation

are associating with parasympathetic response. So so much of prana yama is built around. This is variations on the same theme of increasing inhalation to amp. You up increasing X elation to calm you down. But throughout most of the day, we want to remain balance. So a great breathing technique is to inhale the six and exhale to six through the nose. Don't push it. This isn't. Relax yourself and I use my phone. I use this this silly app, but it works good enough have awful you X. But it just has this little tone that goes on. It just trains me, especially in the morning when I'm stressed out. There's 50 email that gets it back to everyone to just breathe in this very fluid way, and it's interesting if people have borderline higher blood pressure like Ideo. Take your blood pressure before

your blood pressure just a couple minutes after breathing. This way, I've seen drops about 10 to 15 points by breathing at a rate of about six. Press a minute, 5 to 6. Press a minute, which is about 5 to 6 seconds in 5 to 6 seconds out. They use this for anxiety. These air pretty depression, these for 9 11 survivors. So if you want, If you tend to be more amped up and more stressed, breathe into a rate of about four and exhale to six. You notice what's happening there. You're exhaling longer than you're inhaling, so people who are chronically stressed adjust it that way you can before bed. Why don't you exhale to account about 10 or 12 and inhale to about five? That's going to seem very long, but you're going to notice something. You're gonna get very tired and very sleepy because you are calming yourself down with your breath. Now I noticed that you breathed out there through your mouth. Does it matter as much on the Exhale? If you're breathing out through nose your mouth for

exercises. It is not that important because I'm doing this for a couple of minutes for chronic breathing. Absolutely. You want to exhale through your nose, you definitely want to exhale through your nose. So for some of these, for people who want to accentuate the breath a little more who want to really focused on it, you can do this. That's very calming. What you're doing is you're slowing down your breath. It's very similar to nasal nasal exhales, and a nice little trick for before going to bed is to inhale the account of four. Hold for seven exhaled eight So 478 breathing and on the Exhale. A lot of people like to go inhale before I'm holding for seven. Fast forward here and then I don't find that that's necessary. I find nasal exhales or just

as effective. If you're breathing through your mouth throughout the day, you're gonna lose about 40% more moisture, which is especially important if you're a jogger and your there's a reason some people wear those belts with all those water bottles you know on. You're not gonna need that if you're actually going through your nose. You're gonna so for fitness. It's It's very important to do that. Mm, Yeah, I've been I learned that 478 breathing from Andrew Weil. And I was, so I was curious about the hold at the top. I mean, this seems to be a thing with a lot of prana yama techniques where there's ah, hold sometimes at the top of the breast, sometimes at the bottom, sometimes both. What is that whole doing exactly? Is that just creating a more regular pattern? Or what's the deal with that that magical molecules? CO two. When you hold your breath, CO two goes up. So you notice in 478 and you're right. Dr Andrew

Weil made Made This famous has a great YouTube video. Have it on my site that you can follow along with your either holding your breath or you're exhaling for three quarters of that exercise. So by doing that, you're relaxing your body so breath holds are away of accumulating more co two of focusing yourself. When you hold your breath, your heart rate goes down. Which is why, if you've done too with Chuck McGee after you've done those those You were the pilot, not the passenger. Awesome. Love his stuff for free. He just had his kid, Andi. He's leaving his family to go. Teach hundreds of people that I mean, this guy's got a heart of gold on day. If you've noticed when you're holding your breath, your heart rate is just slowing down. So you're just putting yourself into that parasympathetic space. Your co two is increasing and you're relaxing. Yeah

, I I try to do that as often as possible, especially when I've been working on the computer for a while because I noticed this thing you mentioned called email apnea, where you just tend when you're looking at a device, you tend to kind of stop breathing and you don't even notice it. And there's one estimate that says, like 70 to 80% of office workers suffer from this, and one way of finding out if you are suffering from it, is where pulse oximeter you can use. I think an or Rincon do. This is well, but I've noticed my breathing get so crappy the minute I sit down at my desk on Oh, someone just called. Oh, there's email e start holding my breath and I start going. It becomes so disjointed, like all those waves, which should be these really smooth sine waves are just all over the map. So that's one of the reasons I like Thio when in the morning, get my phone and put it in front of me and just start to breathe very

slowly. So Dr Margaret Chesney studied this stuff for something like 30 years, but the N I H of how many office workers hold their breath and breathe in this dysfunctional way, and Chief found that that can have some real health problems later on. The same health problems that associated with storing and sleep apnea can also affect office workers who aren't breathing properly throughout the day, Which makes sense 89 hours a day at a desk. You're not breathing properly. You're like this. You're not taking deep breaths. Your deferment, your diaphragmatic breathing is inhibited. It's of course it's gonna affect you. And why is that component so important? Because so many breath techniques have you breathing into your belly into your diaphragm and then sometimes diaphragm and into your chest. So why, Why the diaphragm? Yeah, Esso the largest muscle in our bodies are diaphragm on if it's like a parachute underneath our lungs so we can't like your lungs, don't inflate and deflate all on

their own that they aren't covered in muscles that allow them to do that. That's what the diaphragm does. Most of the diaphragm is attached at our back, So when you take a big inhale, what you want is you want your your hands to move out laterally. Everyone thinks it's all about belly breathing. Belly breathing is important to be able to keep that flexible, but what you really want is the hands to move out laterally. That's that's when you're really engaging your diaphragm the most. And it's no coincidence that think of every yoga move is stretch this way. Inhale stretch This way. Inhale. This is keeping your rib cage very flexible. The intercostal is very flexible so that your lungs can expand properly in your diaphragm can move fluidly, something I just learned from from a doctor. I talked with her for a couple of hours a couple of weeks ago. She was saying that diaphragmatic movement is not just helpful for the biochemistry of the body but

for the biomechanics, because when you engage your diaphragm or than 40% which is a pretty deep breath, you are massaging all of the organs around the diaphragm, and that helps leach out lymph fluid and then a zoo. You exhale. You helped pump out lymph fluid. So this is how our bodies were able to get rid of waste and people who don't have this fluidity of movement. This fluid can accumulate and start to harden and become almost like a plaque. So the first thing that she does is she She treats all of her patients this way is to improve diaphragmatic movement and get all those juices flowing. You want everything in the body to be flowing softly all the time, and that's what the diagram, which is this huge pump, helps us dio. That's so interesting. I've heard that a lot in yoga classes that you're like helping these internal organs, and I always thought it was like a little bit woo, but that makes a lot of sense. It's

This stuff is crowded together. There's not a lot of separation between your kidneys and your liver and your intestines, and so when you're moving, especially when you're moving like this. You're inhaling. Of course you're massaging these organs and really intensive breeding. I mean, you can feel Cem Cem bowel stuff happening right there because you're just forcing your your intestines toe move around, become fluid, and all of that's good. You want things to be flexible. You want fluids to be moving. Great. Well, listen, do you have some time for some rapid fire questions? Let's do it. Okay. Who is your favorite? Uh, master of breathing that you've encountered? Master of breathing. There's so many. I don't want to choose favorites. Um, I would say this 70 year old asthmatic who

had suffered for asthma for for 60 years have been able to walk a couple blocks, learned how to change her breathing no longer suffers from asthma, is now going on these crazy hours long hype. So I won't call our master of breathing. I will call her someone who has just managed to find the balance of breathing to show a profound effect to her existence. Yeah, that's inspiring. Um, okay. Who? What is your own breathing routine, if you have one? Well, people think that since I wrote this book about breathing, I would be the best breather in the world. I'm not. I'm still on my own journey. I'm getting a lot better. So I try to be focused on my breathing all the time. Whenever I'm working out. If I'm surfing, if I'm doing yoga, whatever I am in tune with my breathing and I'm breathing through my nose. So just that right there is your You're on the right path right there. You would figure, you know, being

active in water sports. You weren't able to breathe through your nose, and I always assumed I couldn't. So I always breathe through my mouth. But you can train yourself. You can purge that sea water you can breathe through your nose so I dio more vigorous pronto Hamas Or when Hough method or to mow whatever you want to call it a few times a week. Huge fan of it. Science is very clear that this has a really profound ah fact on our immune health. In our nervous system, health and I also breathe slowly on I breathe less. And whenever I'm walking, I try to walk a t least 45 minutes a day here in San Francisco when I when I can get away and I'm walking through my nose breathing through my nose the whole time, Um, every single step of the way and it's very uncomfortable in the beginning. Once it opens up, you really feel the benefits of Mm. Right on. Um, right. What is your most recommended book other than your own

? Self reliance by Emerson is a pretty important one. If you need a little pick me up. Uh, that's a good one beyond that, you know, I don't want to mention a fiction book, but, ah, book. I recently read why we swim by Bonnie Sway. Eyes a fantastic read. Uh, just full disclosure. She's a friend. Um, but I wouldn't be saying this if I didn't truly believe that that book was amazing. It's about the human connection to the water and, uh, just relief. And it is really awesome. That's great. I'll have to I love these. Why we? I like the why we sleep. And another. We had a guest on another. Great. Why we sleep is a great one to Yeah, on deer was Wallace J. Nichols wrote a book called Blue Mind that sounds similar to why we swim. I know. I know. J quite well. Yep. Oh, nice. Yeah, he's been on this podcast. Um, so All

right. What's speaking of the the ocean? What's your favorite cetacean species has to be a sperm. Well, uh, they're so rare. But once you dive with these animals, which are the size of a school bus, uh, it really opens up a door in your life that you never really can close again. So there, the animal I'm most fascinated with in the ocean. And how is your project going? I was reading. There's an artificial intelligence project toe. Learn how they learn their language. So after years and years and years of scraping by and the vast majority of work here was done by David Gruber, Marine scientist, because he's in the field. I'm just a meager journalist here, but he had read my book deep and was like, Why isn't anyone working on this? I said, why aren't you working on this? Your your National Geographic explored like I can't do any more than I've already done. I wrote a book. You know that that featured some of this eso after years of assisting him

basically being his his bat boy, we just won The Ted are audacious prize. So multi year studies, the largest study of interspecies communication ever attempted. And we're starting with form wells. So we've got, uh, directors of engineering at M I t at Harvard top institutions who are doubling down and we're gonna talk to these animals. Damn, it's And I'm sure they're just going to say go away. But hopefully they they can allow us Thio to share in their their wonderful stewardship of the earth. They've been around for, you know, tens of millions of years and have had the earth and balance. We've been around for 300,000 years and ruin this place, so hopefully we could glean some ancient knowledge from them. So this will be a I that will pick up their communication and start to get a sense for what they might be talking about and then be able to spit back out the same

communication. Yeah, So it's It's all using machine learning. There's so many advances in machine learning right now using some of the same algorithms that Google can use to translate from one language to the other. Obviously, they're not speaking a human language, so there's a good chance their languages is more digital than than tonal. But the only way to find out is to record a bunch of it and put it into a computer and see what the computer finds, because we do not have the brain capacity to understanding animal that is probably shared the same language. For tens of millions of years, human language has been around, what, 50,000 years? You've got an animal that's been around so much longer brain size six times the size of ours in those a bunch of stuff, and it probably knows how to communicate much more efficiently than than we do. And so hopefully we're gonna find out. Yeah, it's really interesting. Yeah. So I was reading that John C. Lilly, the inventor of the isolation

float tank, was would take LSD and go go into these sensory deprivation chambers and claims he could talk to dolphins. Um, and this was a guy who was hanging out with, like, Richard Albert in them back in the fifties. It was, uh, it was then that book Alter. Yes. Sorry. Go ahead. Yeah, not not only Dolphins but but other entities. Aliens. It was going into all of it. The thing about Lily, though, he's got a really bad rap now. His early studies with Dolphins were published in Nature. They were published in the top scientific journals and totally, totally legit. But I think drugs did sort of sent him off on the deep end. Or maybe he was just tuned into something that that a few of us will ever realize. Who knows, right? Someday the signs will catch up, Um or yeah, we'll see. I mean, that's just a different like worldview. I can't even wrap my head around that. But, um, anyways, last kind of rapid fire question for you is that you have a 15 2nd commercial

that goes out to the world. Could be anything breath related or not. What would you say? Stop being a dick? I think that's that's what it all comes down. Thio. People are that the male ego is one of the most polluting things on the planet, and so many of the problems on this planet can be so easily solved if people just stopped being complete ass hats about everything and I'm a true believer, having traveled so much through my my life Been lucky enough to do that that you know, 99% of the people you meet, no matter what country are gonna be honest, Awesome, incredible people. And less than 1% are the ones causing so many problems in this world. So I think if there was anything that was kind of craft what I just mentioned, I'll tone it down here for the kids. But I just think be respectful off people and and be mindful of your place on this planet, the nature is gonna win

everyone. So we may not be around for too long, but the planet is gonna be just fine without us. Why not try to incorporate our lifestyles into some natural, sustainable system? Awesome. Well, listen, uh, I guess finally, where can people check out your work and connect with you? My website. M r, James nestor dot com. Mr. James, nestor dot com has all the references to the book. There's about 500 studies up there. There's breathing practices. All of this is free. There's X rays for all this stuff we're talking about That seems completely impossible to be true. There's pictures, there's X rays, there's data behind it. And I'm also trying to get better at this instagram thing. I'm old. So you know, Instagram is a whole new, strange, awful world. But I'm trying to put out some just things associated with with breathing Not a lot of pictures of my my food or my dog who's super cute, by the way

, my dog Gorgeous, gorgeous, beautiful dogs. He's right over there. But I'm not gonna take pictures of her. Put it on instagram. Just gonna focus on breathing right on. Well, listen, this has been a real pleasure, and I should mention our sponsor failing sponsor this episode. Uh, get out your family If I make t shirt to this, Do you want one? I e I think I really think someone needs to make a t shirt of that. Okay, man, I'm on it. I'm very glad you're with us. They're definitely confused as Hellas toe. Why? They're getting so many orders now. You know, for a few years while I've been chewing this stuff, you know, they have, like, seven reviews. It was always in stock and then for the last couple of months. They must be so utterly confused that really have this taste for, like shoe leather. E. I think it's a co vid thing or something. Exactly. The loss of taste from Cove it. Well, I've got a friend who's a designer. There's

a flame shirt coming your way. Right on. I'm pumped for it. Thank you for checking out the fit mind podcast. If you enjoyed the podcast, please take the time to leave it to review. I really can't tell you how much I appreciate reviews. This allows us to reach others who might benefit from these conversations as well. And if you'd like to keep hearing expert insights on the mind of meditation when the episodes come out, please subscribe to the show. Thanks for listening. And I'll see you here next time.

#61: The Science of Breathing - James Nestor
#61: The Science of Breathing - James Nestor
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