Breath: The Medicine You Didn’t Know You Needed

Listen up, all mouth breathers! Breathing through your mouth deprives you of protection against pollution and vital prep work that delivers warm, moist air to your lungs. Breathing through your mouth diverts air from a wonderfully ornate labyrinth of structures designed for great conditioning—the sinuses. Skipping nose breathing exposes your lungs to every pollutant and toxin in the air, and bad breathing habits can damage your health. Journalist James Nestor recounts this finding in his new book Breath. Nestor writes about breathing techniques that can balance your health and ease chronic conditions.

The nose is an incredible organ that functions to keep our body balanced, says Nestor. Inhaling through the nose can trigger a flood of different hormones into our bodies. Nose breathing can lower our blood pressure, regulate our heart rate, and even help store memories.

Proper Breathing Puts the Body in Balance

Nestor shows how proper breathing can improve conditions like anxiety, asthma, sleep apnea, ADHD, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and even dental issues. The concept isn’t exactly new. Ancient medical texts from India, China, and Greece reveal thousands of years of advice on healthy breathing.

Hundreds of years of research in Western medicine have shown how healthy breathing habits can improve many chronic conditions. Recently, Western medicine has been so closely tied with pharmaceuticals that we forget to think about simple things like breathing. Nestor says, “what we’re finding is you really do have to show up and do some of this work for your body to stay balanced.” He found researchers recommend taking time to “consciously listen to yourself and [to] feel how breath is affecting you.”

No Longer Taking Breath for Granted

The Covid-19 pandemic has many of us thinking about the breath we so often take for granted. “Breathing is something we carry with us all day long. It’s 25,000 times a day we’re breathing and if we’re doing that improperly, the body is just never going to be healthy,” Nestor said on CBS This Morning. He recommends taking “slow and low” breaths through the nose to relieve stress and reduce blood pressure. Breathing slowly and deeply through the nose is associated with a relaxation response. As the diaphragm lowers, more air is allowed into your lungs, and your body switches to a more relaxed state.

“This is the way your body wants to take in air,” Nestor says. “It lowers the burden of the heart if we breathe properly and if we really engage the diaphragm.” The perfect breathing rate would be 5.5 seconds inhaling and 5.5 seconds exhaling—or 5.5 breaths per minute for 5.5 liters of oxygen.

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art ($16.80, click here) is a #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Extreme Sports category.


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