Brilliant book written by James Nestor on the importance of the breath and how a simple art has been lost in our busy lives – causing sickness.
Our breath can be a powerful tool to help improve our health and reduce illnesses. This book has terrific references and information from many scientists, doctors, psychologists and Eastern philosophy on how breathing techniques can heal.
I have paraphrased parts from this book to highlight to you the importance of controlling your breath.
I hope you enjoy and if you like the highlighted areas, then definitely buy the book – great addition to my resource library.
BREATH: by James Nestor
Breathe through the nose more than the mouth (mouth breathing changes the physical body and transforms airways, all for the worse).
Mouth breathing causes the soft tissue in the back of the mouth to become loose and flex inward, creating less space and making the breathing more difficult.
Inhaling through the nose forces air against all those flabby tissues at the back of the throat, making the airways wider and breathing easier.
After a while, these tissues and muscles get “toned” to stay in this opened and wide position.
Sleeping with an open mouth exacerbates these problems.
Whenever we put our heads on the pillow, gravity pulls the soft tissues in the throat and tongue down, closing off the airway even more.
After a while, our airways get conditioned to this position; snoring and sleep apnea become the new normal.
Whenever oxygen falls below 90%, the blood can’t carry enough of it to support body tissues.
If this goes on too long, it can lead to heart failure, depression, memory problems, and early death.
During the deepest, most restful stages of sleep, the pituitary gland, a pea size ball at the base of the brain, secretes hormones that control the release of adrenaline, endorphins, growth hormone, including vasopressin (hormone in the brain) and other substances, which communicates with cells to store more water. (This is how animals sleep during the night without feeling thirsty or needing to relieve themselves).
But if the body has inadequate time in deep sleep, as it does when it experiences chronic sleep apnea, vasopressin won’t be secreted normally.
The kidneys will release water, which triggers the need to urinate and signals to our brains that we should consume more liquid. We get thirsty, and we need to pee more.
The difference breathing through the right and left nostril
“The right and left nasal cavities help control temperature, blood pressure and feeding the brain chemicals to alter our moods, emotions and sleep states”.
The right nostril is an accelerator. 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.
Breathing through the right nostril will also feed more blood to the opposite hemisphere of the brain, specifically to the prefrontal cortex, which has been associated with logical decisions, language and computing.
Inhaling through the left nostril has the opposite effect: it works as a kind of brake system to the right nostrils accelerator. The left nostril is more deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest-and-relax” side that lowers blood pressure, cools the body, and reduces anxiety.
Left nostril breathing shifts blood flow to the opposite of the prefrontal cortex, to the area that influences creative thought and plays a role in the formation of mental abstractions and the production of negative emotions.
To create balance, there is a yoga practice dedicated to manipulating the body’s functions with forced breathing through the nostrils.
It’s called nadi shodhana (in Sanskrit, nardi means “channel” and shodhana means “purification”) – or, more commonly, alternate nostril breathing.
Here is where sinuses release a huge boost of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen to the cells.
Immune function, weight, circulation, mood and sexual function can all be heavily influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body.
Nasal breathing alone can boost nitric oxide six fold, which is one reason why we can absorb about 18% more oxygen than by just breathing through the mouth.
Slow breaths help aerobic endurance
Slower, longer exhales mean higher carbon dioxide levels.
With higher carbon dioxide you can gain a higher aerobic endurance. This measurement of highest oxygen consumption, called VO2 max, is the best gauge of cardiorespiratory fitness.
Training your body to breathe less actually increases VO2 max, which can not only boost athletic stamina but also help us live longer and healthier lives.
Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko attended medical school in the Soviet Union and he is now famous for the findings of how breathing less helps to heal many health concerns.
He had his own health concerns – his blood pressure soared and doctors only gave him a year to live. However he started to breathe less and relax his chest and found the pain in his head disappeared.
He went on to work with others with asthma, other chronic inflammation, disturbances in blood circulation and metabolism. He analyzed hundreds of patients with their breathing techniques and helped change their breathing rates, which led to cure them.
He later developed a protocol based on breathing habits : Voluntary Elimination of Deep Breathing.
The techniques were many and they were varied, but the purpose of each was to train patients to always breathe as closely as possible to their metabolic needs, which almost always meant taking in less air.
Belfor the dentists findings:
He had been taught, like everyone else, that bone mass only decreases after the age of 30.
Women will suffer much more bone loss than men, especially after menopause.
By the time a woman reaches 60, she’ll have lost more than a third of her bone mass. If she lives to 80, she’ll have as much bone mass as she had when she was 15.
Eating well and getting exercise can help to starve off the deterioration, but nothing can stop it.
Sagging skin, baggy and hollow eyes and sallow cheeks all result from bne disappearing and flesh having to go nowhere but down.
This leads to airway obstruction – bone loss partly explains why snoring and sleep apnea gets worse as we get older!
BUT Belfor found this to be wrong and through his studies, the bone that makes up the centre of the face, called the maxilla, is made of a membrane bone that’s highly plastic.
We now know we can grow bone at any age with stem cells. And the way we can produce and signal stem cells to build more maxilla bone in the face is by engaging the asseter – clamping down on the back molars over and over…
The vagus nerve, a network 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. It’s like how mammals play dead, we do the same but it’s called fainting.
Some people are so anxious and oversensitive that their vagus nerves will cause them to faint at the smallest things.
When we stay in a stressed or anxious state the vagus nerve stays half stimulated.
During these times blood flow will decrease and communication between the organs and the brain will become like a staticky phone line. Our bodies can persist like this for a while; they can keep us alive, but not healthy.
It’s no coincidence that eight of the top ten most common cancers affect organs cut off from normal blood flow during extended states of stress.
Willing ourselves to breathe slowly will open up communication along the vagal network and relax us into a parasympathetic state.
Breathing really fast and heavy on purpose flips the vagal response the other way, shoving us into a stressed state. It teaches us to consciously access the autonomic nervous system and control it, to turn on heavy stress specifically so that we can turn it off and spend the rest of our days and nights relaxing and restoring, feeding and breeding.
Wim Hof method
The Hof method shows ability to control heart rate, temperature, and immune system, and stimulate the sympathetic system.
The practise of heavy breathing along with regular cold exposure was later discovered to release the stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine on command.
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.
Prana: The importance from centuries ago…
The concept of Prana was first documented around 3000 years ago, and was the bedrock of medicine in China and India.
The Chinese refer to ch’i and believe in the prana power lines connecting organs and tissues.
The Japanese refer to it as ki, as did the Greeks (pneuma), and Hebrews (ruah), and so on.
Over the millennia, these cultures developed hundreds – thousands – of methods to maintain a steady flow of prana.
They created acupuncture to open up prana channels and yoga postures to awaken and distribute the energy.
*Spicy foods contain large doses of prana, which is one of the reasons traditional Indian and Chinese diets are often hot.
When we breathe, we expand life force.
The chinese called their system of conscious breathing qigong: qi, meaning “breath”, and gong, meaning “work” or put together, breathwork.
Albert Szent-Györgyi studies on Cellular respiration
Albert wanted to understand the process of breathing, at a molecular level.
He wanted to know how life gained energy from air.
The more oxygen life can consume, the more electron excitability it gains, the more animated it becomes.
When living matter is bristling and able to absorb and transfer electrons in a controlled way, it remains healthy.
When cells lose the ability to offload and absorb electrons they begin to break down.
“Taking out electrons irreversibly means killing” wrote Albert.
This breakdown of electron excitability is what causes metal to rust and leaves turn to brown.
Humans “rust” as well! – As cells in our bodies lose the ability to attract oxygen, resulting in unregulated and abnormal growth.
Tissues will be “rusting” in much the same way as other materials. But this is not “tissue rust”, this is called cancer.
This helps explain why cancers develop and thrive in environments of low oxygen.
Breathing slowly, 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.
Healing is accomplished by moving energy
While some of us may be genetically predisposed toward one disease or another, that doesn’t mean we’re predestined to get these conditions.
Genes can be turned off just as they can be turned on.
What switches them are inputs in the environment. Improving diet and exercise and removing toxins and stressors from the home and workplace have a profound and lasting effect on the prevention and treatment of the majority of modern, chronic disease.
Breathing is a key input.
James Nestor has written a fascinating book full of references to studies in psychology, biochemistry and human physiology, this is a book worth reading to help you look outside the square when it comes to your health.