Monday, October 12, 2020

More Science of Breathing

You’re invited to a foot race. You walk towards the starting line, only to be turned away. The people in charge move you back 30 yards behind the start. You look around. People are scattered all over the track, a large group at the starting line, a few runners twenty yards ahead of the line, one even 30 yards in front, a few standing with you. You turn around and see two runners twenty yards behind you and you say to yourself, “I’m not so bad off after all, now that I see those chumps.”

Footrace - Bilbao, Spain Dec. 20115

A race with people starting from various positions on the course instead of at the starting line is not capricious handicapping, it’s a simplistic metaphor for the breathing issues now plaguing civilization. As noted in the previous episode on the Science of Breathing, debilitating respiratory conditions are multiplying: COPD, asthma, infections like influenza, the deviated septum, pneumonia and tuberculosis, anatomical irregularities like malocclusion, sinus, allergies, and even lung cancer.

This hasn’t always been the case:

“Until the seventeenth century most of the great physicians and anatomists were interested in the respiratory muscles and the mechanics of breathing. Since then, these muscles have been increasingly neglected, lying as they do in a no-man’s land between anatomy and physiology.”
~ Breath - James Nestor, author.

Nevertheless, we’re now saddled with all kinds of maladies derived from breathing through the mouth and eating soft, easy-to-chew foods. Not all of us but a goodly proportion of us. And when we learn about the issue, when it affects us personally, that’s when we find out we’re 30 yards behind the starting line. Way behind.

“Most of us aren’t that sensitive. It’s much more common, especially in the modern world, to never experience full-blown, life-threatening stress, but to never fully relax either. We’ll spend our days half-asleep and nights half-awake, lolling in a gray zone of half-anxiety. When we do, the vagus nerve stays half-stimulated.

“During these times, the organs throughout the body won’t be “shut down,” but will instead be half supported in a state of suspended animation: blood flow will decrease and communication between the organs and the brain will become choppy, like a conversation through a staticky phone line. Our bodies can persist like this for a while; they can keep us alive, but they can’t keep us healthy.”
~ Breath - James Nestor, author.

Everyone breathes differently; some more efficiently than others. The reasons are partly physiological; partly psychological. Historically, the only sources for breathing guidance came from yoga and meditation literature.

“You cannot influence or control the heart rate directly; it’s an autonomic function. So, once again, you use a “handle” to accomplish it — diaphragmatic deep breathing, which, once you master it, makes your breathing more profound and more regular. What do I mean by more profound and regular? Profound means still, as in silent; regular means rhythmic.

“When you extend the belly, pushing it outward on inhalation and then pulling the belly in to expel air, you are embarking on a regimen of abdominal and diaphragmatic calisthenics. Starting this activity for the first time — whether sitting, walking, reclining, or lying down — you may feel a burning sensation. That is the muscles of the abdomen telling you that you are beginning to breathe correctly. Using the belly muscles is like pump priming, that is, using the handle of a pump (the belly) to activate the pump mechanism (the diaphragm).”
 ~ The Golden Flower Meditation website - JJ Semple, author.

Contrast the above with the following excerpt:

“Breathing is an autonomic function we can consciously control. While we can’t simply decide when to slow or speed up our heart or digestion, or to move blood from one organ to another, we can choose how and when to breathe. Willing ourselves to breathe slowly will open up communication along the vagal network and relax us into a parasympathetic state.”
~ Breath - James Nestor, author.

The two orthodoxies — physical science and metaphysical science — are coming together. So how do we get everyone, every breather, to the starting line? Can we wave a magic wand?

James Nestor wrote Breath only after gathering extensive information from a diverse number of sources and then fitting them together in an organized manner. His book offers many solutions, the first of which is to select an assessment procedure to tell you where you are — at the starting line, behind it, or out in front.

Once you have this information you can evaluate the methods for correcting your breathing disorder – the ones your assessment uncovered. The book proffers many of them.
Why should this matter to you? Why is correct breathing so important? You want to do this because correct breathing isn’t confined to only respiratory issues; it’s the key to a healthy body.

“The best way to keep tissues in the body healthy was to mimic the reactions that evolved in early aerobic life on Earth—specifically, to flood our bodies with a constant presence of that “strong electron acceptor”: oxygen. 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.

“In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy,” said Szent-Györgyi. The moving energy of electrons allows living things to stay alive and healthy for as long as possible. The names may have changed—prana, orenda, ch’i, ruah—but the principle has remained the same. Szent-Györgyi apparently took that advice. He died in 1986, at the age of 93.”
~ Breath - James Nestor, author.


  1. Of all the crimes against humanity, simply not teaching children as they become of age, how to breathe must rank amongst the greatest

  2. The content you've posted here is fantastic because it provides some excellent information that will be quite beneficial to me. Thank you for sharing about lung training device. Keep up the good work.