All the notes were taken directly from the source mentioned.
– – –
Even so, if the free divers and the ancient texts were to be believed, how we breathe affects all things. How could it be so important and unimportant at the same time?
Pulmonologists, I learned, work mainly on specific maladies of the lungs collapse, cancer, emphysema. We’re dealing with emergencies,
Yes, breathing in different patterns really can influence our body weight and overall health. Yes, how we breathe really does affect the size and function of our lungs. Yes, breathing allows us to hack into our own nervous system, control our immune response, and restore our health. Yes, changing how we breathe will help us live longer.
This book is a scientific adventure into the lost art and science of breathing.
Most of the techniques I’ll be exploring have been around for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. They were created, documented, forgotten, and discovered in another culture at another time, then forgotten again. This went on for centuries.
Breathing is not binary.
How we breathe really matters.
The lack of chewing associated with this soft diet stunted bone development in his dental arches and sinus cavity, leading to chronic nasal congestion.
Simply training yourself to breathe through your nose, Douillard reported, could cut total exertion in half and offer huge gains in endurance.
This also explains why, after we’re warmed up, exercise feels easier. The body has switched from anaerobic to aerobic respiration.
Finding the best heart rate for exercise is easy: subtract your age from 180. The result is the maximum your body can withstand to stay in the aerobic state.
Inhaling air through the mouth decreases pressure, which causes the soft tissues in the back of the mouth to become loose and flex inward, creating less overall space and making breathing more difficult. Mouth breathing begets more mouth breathing.
The first step is the recovery phase I’ve just done. To breathe through my nose, all day and all night.
The nose is crucial because it clears air, heats it, and moistens it for easier absorption.
Scientists have known for more than a century that the nostrils do pulse to their own beat, that they do open and close like flowers throughout the day and night.
The right nostril is a gas pedal. When you’re inhaling primarily through this channel, circulation speeds up, your body gets hotter, and cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate all increase. This happens because breathing through the right side of the nose activates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight mechanism that puts the body in a more elevated state of alertness and readiness.
Inhaling through the left nostril has the opposite effect: it works as a kind of brake system to the right nostril’s accelerator. The left nostril is more deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest-and-relax side that lowers temperature and blood pressure, cools the body, and reduces anxiety.
It’s called nadi shodhanain Sanskrit, nadi means channel and shodhana means purification or, more commonly, alternate nostril breathing.
Surya bheda pranayama, which involves taking one breath into the right nostril, then exhaling through the left for several rounds.
He recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night.
Nasal breathing alone can boost nitric oxide sixfold, which is one of the reasons we can absorb about 18 percent more oxygen than by just breathing through the mouth.
Like other parts of the body, the nasal cavity responds to whatever inputs it receives. When the nose is denied regular use, it will atrophy.
A postage-stamp-size piece of tape at the center of the lips Charlie Chaplin mustache moved down an inch.
After much trial and error, I settled on 3M Nexcare Durapore durable cloth tape, an all-purpose surgical tape with a gentle adhesive.
The stretches, called the Five Tibetan Rites, came to the Western world, and to me, by way of writer Peter Kelder,
The smaller and less efficient lungs became, the quicker subjects got sick and died. The cause of deterioration didn’t matter. Smaller meant shorter. But larger lungs equaled longer lives.
Herbert Nitsch, a multiple world record holder, reportedly has a lung capacity of 14 litersmore than double that of the average male.
As we inhale, negative pressure draws blood into the heart; as we exhale, blood shoots back out into the body and lungs, where it recirculates.
What powers the thoracic pump is the diaphragm, the muscle that sits beneath the lungs in the shape of an umbrella. The diaphragm lifts during exhalations, which shrinks the lungs, then it drops back down to expand them during inhalations.
But slowly, very slowly. He inhales and exhales three times slower than the average American, turning those 18 breaths a minute into six.
What hasn’t changed is his oxygen. From start to finish, even though he’s been breathing at a third of the rate considered normal, his oxygen hasn’t wavered:
I cranked the pedals harder and faster, I forced myself to breathe softer and slower.
By taking longer breaths, we allow our lungs to soak up more in fewer breaths.
I realized then that breathing was like rowing a boat: taking a zillion short and stilted strokes will get you where you’re going, but they pale in comparison to the efficiency and speed of fewer, longer strokes.
When Buddhist monks chant their most popular mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, each spoken phrase lasts six seconds, with six seconds to inhale before the chant starts again. The traditional chant of Om, the sacred sound of the universe used in Jainism and other traditions, takes six seconds to sing, with a pause of about six seconds to inhale. The sa ta na ma chant, one of the best-known techniques in Kundalini yoga, also takes six seconds to vocalize, followed by six seconds to inhale. Then there were the ancient Hindu hand and tongue poses called mudras. A technique called khechari, intended to help boost physical and spiritual health and overcome disease, involves placing the tongue above the soft palate so that it’s pointed toward the nasal cavity. The deep, slow breaths taken during this khechari each take six seconds.
Prayer heals, especially when it’s practiced at 5.5 breaths a minute.
Most of us breathe too much, and up to a quarter of the modern population suffers from more serious chronic over breathing.
Extend the length of time between inhalations and exhalations. The less one breathes, the more one absorbs the warming touch of respiratory efficiency and the further a body can go.
Mammals with the lowest resting heart rates live the longest. And it’s no coincidence that these are consistently the same mammals that breathe the slowest. The only way to retain a slow resting heart rate is with slow breaths. This is as true for baboons and bison as it is for blue whales and us.
They discovered that the optimum amount of air we should take in at rest per minute is 5.5 liters. The optimum breathing rate is about 5.5 breaths per minute. That’s 5.5-second inhales and 5.5-second exhales. This is the perfect breath.
These were the first farming cultures, and in these primitive communities, humans suffered from the first widespread instances of crooked teeth and deformed mouths.
Then, about 300 years ago, these maladies went viral. Suddenly, all at once, much of the world’s population began to suffer. Their mouths shrank, faces grew flatter, and sinuses plugged.
By around 1500, the farming that had begun in Southwest Asia and the Fertile Crescent ten thousand years earlier took over the world. The human population grew to a half billion, 100 times what it had been at the dawn of agriculture.
Societies that replaced their traditional diet with modern, processed foods suffered up to ten times more cavities, severely crooked teeth, obstructed airways, and overall poorer health.
The modern diets were the same: white flour, white rice, jams, sweetened juices, canned vegetables, and processed meats.
The problem had less to do with what we were eating than how we ate it. Chewing.
Even what’s considered healthy food today smoothies, nut butters, oatmeal, avocados, whole wheat bread, vegetable soups. It’s all soft.
Gelb said, is preventative. It involves reversing the entropy in our airways so that we can avoid sleep apnea, anxiety, and all the chronic respiratory problems as we grow older. It involves expanding the too-small mouth.
The exercise, which Mike’s hordes of social media fans call mewing,
Chewing. The more we gnaw, the more stem cells release, the more bone density and growth we’ll trigger, the younger we’ll look and the better we’ll breathe.
The more time infants spent chewing and sucking, the more developed their faces and airways would become, and the better they’d breathe later in life. Dozens of studies in the past two decades have supported this claim. They’ve shown lower incidence of crooked teeth and snoring and sleep apnea in infants who were breastfed longer over those who were bottle-fed.
People, pigs, whatever. Whenever they switched from harder foods to soft foods, faces would narrow, teeth would crowd, jaws would fall out of alignment. Breathing problems would often follow.
Inner Fire Meditation, and it’s been practiced by Tibetan Buddhists and their students for the past thousand years.
The vagus nerve, a meandering network within the system that connects to all the major internal organs. The vagus nerve is the power lever; it’s what turns organs on and off in response to stress. When perceived stress level is very high, the vagus nerve slows heart rate, circulation, and organ functions.
They told stories of monks wearing nothing but a single layer of clothes throughout the winter, heating themselves in frigid stone monasteries by day and melting circles in the snow around their bare bodies by night.
The burst of adrenaline gave heavy breathers energy and released a battery of immune cells programmed to heal wounds, fight off pathogens and infection. The huge spike in cortisol helped downgrade short-term inflammatory immune responses, while a squirt of norepinephrine redirected blood flow from the skin, stomach, and reproductive organs to muscles, the brain, and other areas essential in stressful situations.
To practice Wim Hof’s breathing method, start by finding a quiet place and lying flat on your back with a pillow under your head. Relax the shoulders, chest, and legs. Take a very deep breath into the pit of your stomach and let it back out just as quickly. Keep breathing this way for 30 cycles. If possible, breathe through the nose;
Each breath should look like a wave, with the inhale inflating the stomach, then the chest. You should exhale all the air out in the same order.
At the end of 30 breaths, exhale to the natural conclusion, leaving about a quarter of the air left in the lungs, then hold that breath for as long as possible. Once you’ve reached your breath hold limit, take one huge inhale and hold it another 15 seconds. Very gently, move that fresh breath of air around the chest and to the shoulders, then exhale and start the heavy breathing again. Repeat the whole pattern three or four rounds and add in some cold exposure (cold shower, ice bath, naked snow angels) a few times a week.
This flip-flopping breathing all-out, then not at all, getting really cold and then hot again is the key to Tummo’s magic. It forces the body into high stress one minute, a state of extreme relaxation the next. Carbon dioxide levels in the blood crash, then they build back up. Tissues become oxygen deficient and then flooded again. The body becomes more adaptable and flexible and learns that all these physiological responses can come under our control.
I’d heard about a practice called Holotropic Breathwork created by a Czech psychiatrist named Stanislav Grof.
The nagging need to breathe is activated from a cluster of neurons called the central chemoreceptors, located at the base of the brain stem. When we’re breathing too slowly and carbon dioxide levels rise, the central chemoreceptors monitor these changes and send alarm signals to the brain, telling our lungs to breathe faster and more deeply.
Nobody knows how Maurice Daubard, Wim Hof, and their followers can sit naked in the snow for hours and not get hypothermia or frostbite.
Every technique I’ve so far described in this book from Coherent Breathing to Buteyko, Stough’s exhalations to breath holding first appeared in these age-old texts.
The word prana, which translates to life force or vital energy. Prana is, basically, an ancient theory of atoms. The concrete in your driveway, clothes on your body, spouse clanking dishes in your kitchen they’re all made of swirling atomic bits. It’s energy. It’s prana.
Around the same time in India and China, some 3,000 years ago, and became the bedrock of medicine. The Chinese called it ch’i and believed the body contained channels that functioned like prana power lines connecting organs and tissues. The Japanese had their own name for prana, ki, as did the Greeks (pneuma), Hebrews (ruah), Iroquois (orenda), and so on.
Breathing slow, less, and through the nose balances the levels of respiratory gases in the body and sends the maximum amount of oxygen to the maximum amount of tissues so that our cells have the maximum amount of electron reactivity.
It’s from these Sanskrit translations that we get the Vedas, religious and mystical texts that contain the earliest known documentation of the word yoga.
The Sanskrit word asana originally meant seat and posture.
Ancient yoga, and its focus on prana, sitting, and breathing, has turned into a form of aerobic exercise.
It is simply a different practice from the one that first originated 5,000 years ago.
I had practiced an ancient pranayama technique called Sudarshan Kriya
Alexandra Davidel warmed herself with it in a cave in the Himalayas, and Swami Rama focused it on his hands and heart. Buteyko rediscovered it by a window in the asthma ward of the First Moscow Hospital, and Carl Stough taught it to dying veterans at the VA Medical Center in New Jersey.
Like all Eastern medicines, breathing techniques are best suited to serve as preventative maintenance, a way to retain balance in the body so that milder problems don’t blossom into more serious health issues.
Two months after the Stanford experiment ended, Dr. Jayakar Nayak’s lab emailed Anders Olsson and me the results of our 20-day study. The major takeaway we already knew: mouth breathing is terrible.
The benefits of nasal breathing extended beyond the bedroom. I increased my performance on the stationary bike by about 10 percent.
Carl Stough spent a half century reminding his students of how to get all the air out of our bodies so that we could take more in.
As basic as this sounds, full exhalations are seldom practiced. Most of us engage only a small fraction of our total lung capacity with each breath, requiring us to do more and get less. One of the first steps in healthy breathing is to extend these breaths, to move the diaphragm up and down a bit more, and to get air out of us before taking a new one in.
PreIndustrial Age skulls at the Morton Collection had three things in common: huge sinus cavities, strong jaws, and straight teeth.
Which means we can influence the size and shape of our mouths and improve our ability to breathe at virtually any age.
Your diet should consist of the rougher, rawer, and heartier foods our great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers ate. The kinds of foods that required an hour or two a day of hard chewing. And in the meantime, lips together, teeth slightly touching, and tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Chuck McGee at that roadside park in the Sierras, I’ve been practicing Tummo
Lungs right down to the cellular level. Today, the majority of us breathe more than we should, without realizing it.
Willing yourself to breathe heavily for a short, intense time, however, can be profoundly therapeutic.
Experimenting with carbon dioxide therapy,
Donald Klein had died. Klein was the psychiatrist who spent years studying the links between chemoreceptor flexibility, carbon dioxide, and anxieties.
Only when the body becomes overwhelmed by carbon dioxide would their chemoreceptors kick in and trigger an emergency signal to the brain to immediately get another breath.
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 liters of air.
Before we know it, breathing slow, less, and through the nose with a big exhale will be big business, like so much else.
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING (NADI SHODHANA)
This standard pranayama technique improves lung function and lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and sympathetic stress. It’s an effective technique to employ before a meeting, an event, or sleep.
(Optional) Hand Positioning: Place the thumb of your right hand gently over your right nostril and the ring finger of that same hand on the left nostril. The forefinger and middle finger should rest between the eyebrows. Close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril very slowly. At the top of the breath, pause briefly, holding both nostrils closed, then lift just the thumb to exhale through the right nostril. At the natural conclusion of the exhale, hold both nostrils closed for a moment, then inhale through the right nostril. Continue alternating breaths through the nostrils for five to ten cycles.
BREATHING COORDINATION This technique helps to engage more movement from the diaphragm and increase respiratory efficiency.
Sit up so that the spine is straight and chin is perpendicular to the body. Take a gentle breath in through the nose. At the top of the breath begin counting softly aloud from one to 10 over and over (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). As you reach the natural conclusion of the exhale, keep counting but do so in a whisper, letting the voice softly trail out. Then keep going until only the lips are moving and the lungs feel completely empty. Take in another large and soft breath and repeat. Continue for anywhere from 10 to 30 or more cycles. Once you feel comfortable practicing this technique while sitting, try it while walking or jogging, or during other light exercise.
For classes and individual coaching, visit http://www.breathingcoordination.ch/training.
RESONANT (COHERENT) BREATHING
calming practice that places the heart, lungs, and circulation into a state of coherence, where the systems of the body are working at peak efficiency.
Sit up straight, relax the shoulders and belly, and exhale. Inhale softly for 5.5 seconds, expanding the belly as air fills the bottom of the lungs. Without pausing, exhale softly for 5.5 seconds, bringing the belly in as the lungs empty. Each breath should feel like a circle. Repeat at least ten times, more if possible.
Appendix BREATHING METHODS
Video and audio tutorials of these techniques, and more, are available at mrjamesnestor.com/breath.
My favorites apps are Paced Breathing and My Cardiac Coherence, both of which are free.
CHAPTER 7. CHEWING Hard chewing builds new bone in the face and opens airways. But for most of us, gnawing several hours a day the amount of time and effort it takes to get such benefits isn’t possible, or preferable.
CHAPTER 8. TUMMO
CHAPTERS 910. SUDARSHAN KRIYA
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