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Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
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“A last word on slow breathing. It goes by another name: prayer. 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.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“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. 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 nostril’s 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 side 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.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Each breath we draw in should take about three seconds, and each breath out should take four. We’ll then continue the same short inhales while lengthening the exhales to a five, six, and seven count as the run progresses.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Some cultures ate nothing but meat, while others were mostly vegetarian. Some relied primarily on homemade cheese; others consumed no dairy at all. Their teeth were almost always perfect; their mouths were exceptionally wide, nasal apertures broad. They suffered few, if any, cavities and little dental disease.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“It turns out that when breathing at a normal rate, our lungs will absorb only about a quarter of the available oxygen in the air. The majority of that oxygen is exhaled back out. By taking longer breaths, we allow our lungs to soak up more in fewer breaths.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Left-nostril breathing shifts blood flow to the opposite side of the prefrontal cortex, the right area that plays a role in creative thought, emotions, formation of mental abstractions, and negative emotions.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“cause of cavities, even more damaging than sugar consumption, bad diet, or poor hygiene. (This belief had been echoed by other dentists for a hundred years, and was endorsed by Catlin too.) Burhenne also found that mouthbreathing was both a cause of and a contributor to snoring and sleep apnea. He recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night. “The health benefits of nose breathing are undeniable,” he told me. One of the many benefits is that the sinuses release a huge boost of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen into cells. Immune function, weight, circulation, mood, and sexual function can all be heavily influenced by the amount of nitric oxide in the body. (The popular erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil, known by the commercial name Viagra, works by releasing nitric oxide into the bloodstream, which opens the capillaries in the genitals and elsewhere.) 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. Mouth taping, Burhenne said, helped a five-year-old patient of his overcome ADHD, a condition directly attributed to breathing difficulties during sleep. It helped Burhenne and his wife cure their own snoring and breathing problems. Hundreds of other patients reported similar benefits. The whole thing seemed a little sketchy until Ann Kearney, a doctor of speech-language pathology at the Stanford Voice and Swallowing Center, told me the same. Kearney helped rehabilitate patients who had swallowing and breathing disorders. She swore by mouth taping. Kearney herself had spent years as a mouthbreather due to chronic congestion. She visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist and discovered that her nasal cavities were blocked with tissue. The specialist advised that the only way to open her nose was through surgery or medications. She tried mouth taping instead. “The first night, I lasted five minutes before I ripped it off,” she told me. On the second night, she was able to tolerate the tape for ten minutes. A couple of days later, she slept through the night. Within six weeks, her nose opened up. “It’s a classic example of use it or lose it,” Kearney said. To prove her claim, she examined the noses of 50 patients who had undergone laryngectomies, a procedure in which a breathing hole is cut into the throat. Within two months to two years, every patient was suffering from complete nasal obstruction. 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. This is what happened to Kearney and many of her patients, and to so much of the general population. Snoring and sleep apnea often follow.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Prayer heals, especially when it’s practiced at 5.5 breaths a minute.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Mouthbreathing, it turns out, changes the physical body and transforms airways, all for the worse. 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 space and making breathing more difficult. Mouthbreathing begets more mouthbreathing.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“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. 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 nostril’s 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 side 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.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“the greatest indicator of life span wasn’t genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected. It was lung capacity.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“50 percent of kids with ADHD were shown to no longer have symptoms after having their adenoids and tonsils removed.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“* One thing that every medical or freelance pulmonaut I’ve talked to over the past several years has agreed on is that, just as we’ve become a culture of overeaters, we’ve also become a culture of overbreathers. Most of us breathe too much, and up to a quarter of the modern population suffers from more serious chronic overbreathing.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Breathe normally through the nose and hum, any song or sound. Practice for at least five minutes a day, more if possible.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“he noticed that patients in the worst health all seemed to breathe far too much. The more they breathed, the worse off they were, especially those with hypertension”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Balloon sinuplasty, as it’s commonly called, creates more space for mucus and infection to pass out, and air and mucus to pass in. In one unpublished case-control study, Nayak found that, of the 28 selected sinusitis patients who received the procedure, 23 needed no other treatment. Sometimes the nostrils are the problem, not the sinuses. Nostrils that are too small or that collapse too easily during an inhale can inhibit the free flow of air and contribute to breathing problems. This condition is so common that researchers have an official name for it, “nasal valve collapse,” and an official measurement, called the Cottle’s maneuver. It involves placing an index finger on the side of one or both nostrils and gently pulling each cheek outward, lightly spreading the nostrils open. If doing this improves the ease of nasal inhales, there’s a chance that the nostrils are too small or thin.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“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 blood pressure, cools the body, and reduces anxiety.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“More than sixty years of research on living systems has convinced me that our body is much more nearly perfect than the endless list of ailments suggests,” wrote Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Györgyi. “Its shortcomings are due less to its inborn imperfections than to our abusing it.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“the most efficient breathing rhythm occurred when both the length of respirations and total breaths per minute were locked in to a spooky symmetry: 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute. This was the same pattern of the rosary. The results were profound, even when practiced for just five to ten minutes a day. “I have seen patients transformed by adopting regular breathing practices,” said Brown.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Expression is the opposite of depression! Go for it!”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“The fix is easy: breathe less. But that’s harder than it sounds. We’ve become conditioned to breathe too much, just as we’ve been conditioned to eat too much. With some effort and training, however, breathing less can become an unconscious habit.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“In school, when I was young, teachers walked around the classroom, man, and pop-pop-pop.” He smacks the back of his own head for emphasis. “You’re breathing from your mouth, you get pop,” he says. Mouthbreathing leads to sickness and is disrespectful, he told me, which is why he and everyone else he grew up with in Puebla, Mexico, learned to breathe through the nose.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“When the nasal cavity gets congested, airflow decreases and bacteria flourish. These bacteria replicate and can lead to infections and colds and more congestion. Congestion begets congestion, which gives us no other option but to habitually breathe from the mouth.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Many people with this condition receive minimally invasive surgery, or use adhesive strips called Breathe Right or nasal dilator cones. If these simpler approaches fail, the drills come out. About three-quarters of modern humans have a deviated septum clearly visible to the naked eye, which means the bone and cartilage that separate the right and left airways of the nose are off center. Along with that, 50 percent of us have chronically inflamed turbinates; the erectile tissue lining our sinuses is too puffed up for us to breathe comfortably through our noses.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“This measurement of highest oxygen consumption, called VO2 max, is the best gauge of cardiorespiratory fitness. Training the body to breathe less actually increases VO2 max, which can not only boost athletic stamina but also help us live longer and healthier lives.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“After much trial and error, I settled on 3M Nexcare Durapore “durable cloth” tape, an all-purpose surgical tape with a gentle adhesive. It was comfortable, had no chemical scent, and didn’t leave residue.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“What if overbreathing wasn’t the result of hypertension and headaches but the cause? Buteyko wondered.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“The stretches, called the Five Tibetan Rites, came to the Western world, and to me, by way of writer Peter Kelder, who was known as a lover of “books and libraries, words and poetry.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“In colder climates, our noses would grow narrower and longer to more efficiently heat up air before it entered our lungs; our skin would grow lighter to take in more sunshine for production of vitamin D. In sunny and warm environments, we adapted wider and flatter noses, which were more efficient at inhaling hot and humid air; our skin would grow darker to protect us from the sun. Along the way, the larynx would descend in the throat to accommodate another adaptation: vocal communication.”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
“Breathing just 20 percent, or even 10 percent more than the body’s needs could overwork our systems. Eventually, they’d weaken and falter. Was breathing too much making people sick, and keeping them that way?”
James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

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