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James Nestor

The Truth About Breathing & Why You’re Doing It Wrong

We have forgotten the power of breath.

Breathe.

Do you know the power of this single word? 

We usually take this ability for granted. But do you know that breathing, particularly if done through the nose, is not just beneficial to our physical health but also to our mental and sexual health?

Today’s episode talks about the power of optimizing something as simple as breathing and how it can make a difference in our lives. With the help of author and journalist James Nestor, we will rediscover the long-forgotten truth about breathing and finally understand how we’re doing it wrong.

Whether you’re an athlete, a sufferer of sleep apnea, or just looking for meditative ways to go through life’s challenges and surprises, you’ll surely find value in today’s episode!

So take a deep breath, and let’s dive in!

Who Is James Nestor?

My guest today is author and journalist James Nestor. He has written for Scientific American, Outside Magazine, The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, Surfer’s Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, and several other publications. 

In short, James Nestor believes that the world has lost the ability to breathe properly. 

After spending his years in laboratories and ancient burial sites with researchers from educational institutions like Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, he finally learned what went wrong with our breathing and found ways to fix it.

He discovered that the problem lies in the fact that an estimated 25% to 50% of the population habitually breathes through their mouths. He believes that being conscious of the proper way to breathe would save us from stress and diseases and give us the deep relaxing sleep we have always wanted.

From his discovery, James has spent the last several years working on a book called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. It was released on May 26, 2020, and was an instant New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, Sunday London Times Top 10 bestseller.

James continues to educate his friends and other people on the positive impacts that changing a simple habit such as breathing can do in your life and protect you against diseases. And today, he shares his breathing expertise with you all so you can improve your health, happiness, and overall life. 

The Truth About Breathing: Why We Should Breathe Through Our Noses

The beauty of breathing lies in the fact that it requires no practice. This is because breathing is something that our bodies naturally do! Though it is simple and natural for living organisms, it can be a powerful tool to achieve a life of health and happiness. 

By breathing properly, we can let go of the negativities that surround us and achieve a state of mindfulness. We all know that the ability to be positive and live in the present even during life’s challenges is a gift that only we can give ourselves.

James pointed out that despite the benefits of breathing, many do not know that there is a correct way of doing it. According to him, many of us breathe through our mouths, which is definitely not the right way to do it:

“Breathe with your nose. When you are breathing through your nose, you are humidifying the air. You’re pressurizing and filtering it so that you can use that air so much more efficiently. Yes, we can breathe through our mouths, and that’s a wonderful thing. But this does not mean that you should be breathing through your mouth the whole day.” – James Nestor

This is the first foundational truth of breathing that we need to understand. By remembering to breathe through our noses, we are opening ourselves to endless benefits to our physical, mental, and emotional health. James laid out other truths that come with proper breathing that I’d love to share with you!!

  • Truth #1. There are many negative effects of being a mouth breather. You make yourself more susceptible to respiratory ailments, and you deny yourself of more oxygen. When mouth breathing starts at a young age, you can also change your facial structure’s shape. The bones in your face and jaw will start forming to that slack jog posture, resulting in a long face. 
  • Truth #2. We take the art of practicing how to breathe for granted. This lack of understanding of how to breathe is the reason for the many challenges we are faced with as humans — whether it be our teeth, inflammation, or the ability to exert energy in workouts.
  • Truth #3. When we breathe through our noses, we dictate how the air should be coming in and how we should be using it. It’s harder to breathe through the nose because it requires more time to pressurize the air that enters it. This allows our lungs to absorb more oxygen. You get 20% more oxygen breathing through your nose than you do from equivalent breaths through your mouth.
  • Truth #4. There is no such thing as a “best breathing strategy routine.” Everyone’s different! Some people may benefit from deep breathing, while others prefer the Wim Hof Method. What is important, though, is to breathe through your nose.
  • Truth #5. There are many reasons why we cannot breathe through our noses. It can be because of sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea (which can be solved through oral pharyngeal exercises) or other environmental factors. Add pollution, allergens, or working in an office in an uncomfortable chair to the combination, and you have stress as the answer. By this time, you can’t take a deep breath, even if you want to. 
  • Truth #6. Breathing through our noses has the benefit of allowing air to enter our nostrils alternately. This natural cycle affects us physiologically and mentally. There are about 20 years of studies showing that you will lower blood pressure when you breathe through the left nostril and stimulate more of your brain’s right creative side. When you breathe through the right nostril, you’ll experience the opposite effect. It stimulates you — blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up. This is similar to a yoga practice called alternate nostril breathing. Using alternate nostrils can elicit different moods or put you into different emotional states.
  • Truth #7. Research and science back up the claim that breathing through the nose can help cure asthma or other respiratory problems.
  • Truth #8. Breathing through the nose can help those who struggle with extreme anxiety or panic attacks. By controlling your breathing, you can take control of your thoughts. 80% of the messages are coming from the body to the brain, not from the brain to the body. So allow yourself to think, but slow down your breathing to the way that you should be breathing. You will then start shooting calming messages into your brain to take control of those emotions.
  • Truth #9. Breathing through your nose releases a significant amount of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can be artificially produced in laboratories and is found in sex enhancement drugs such as Viagra. Also, nitric oxide helps to fight or reduce symptoms for viruses responsible for flu and COVID-19. 
  • Truth #10. Proper breathing can reverse aging. This has to do with enlarging lung size, leading to larger lung capacity. Lung size is a very accurate marker for life span. You can’t do anything about your genetics, but you can do something about your breathing. If you can really focus on that, your body’s health will show some substantial difference.

“We carry our breath with us all day long and we can focus that breath and you will see instant benefits from doing this. The science is very clear.” @MrJamesNestor  

Why We’re Doing Breathing Wrong

With all these fantastic benefits that come with breathing through the nose, you might wonder why many of us still breathe the wrong way. Why is that? Well, we’ve been breathing the wrong way for many years. As James put it, we will need to retrain our bodies how to breathe.  By doing this, though, we can definitely overcome these negative breathing habits. Here are some things to watch out for as you breathe: 

  1. We breathe too fast.

We might think that taking quick breaths of air would result in more oxygen. In reality, what happens is the opposite. James explained it like this: 

“If you take ten to 20 big breaths, you’re going to feel some lightness in your head. You’re going to feel some tingling in your fingers. If you keep breathing that way, your extremities will get a little cooler. That’s not from an increase of oxygen, but from a lack of circulation in those areas. So by breathing slowly, you actually can increase circulation and deliver more oxygen to these areas.”- James Nestor

  1. We breathe too much.

I’ve been training for a marathon, and while running, I noticed that I tend to breathe more. According to James, though this might be the most common way that our bodies respond to sports or any strenuous activities, the better thing to do is to practice breathing less. 

“So there [is] slow breathing, and there’s less breathing. And these are two different things. … If you’re breathing slow[ly], … you’re taking in a larger volume that is still breathing at your metabolic rate. But by decreasing your breathing — something called hypoventilation training, which is getting huge right now — you can mimic the effects of altitude training. ” – James Nestor

If you are not familiar with the concept of altitude training, think of individuals fighting frostbites and hyperventilation in cold winter weather as they climb Mount Everest. By breathing less, you train your body to use your oxygens level more efficiently

  1. We offload too much CO2.

Science teaches us that we take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide in the process of respiration. This knowledge has probably taught us a secret dislike for CO2. 

“In reality, having CO2 in our bodies, particular if you have no existing health condition[s], is beneficial. The presence of CO2 means we need to breathe. Without this gas, our bodies have to work harder to get oxygen. “- James Nestor

By abandoning these unhealthy breathing habits, we are one step closer to achieving greater wellness. Remember — breathe slowly, breathe less, and exhale and inhale through the nose. 

How Breathing Can Increase our Mindfulness

After hearing James’ findings from the extensive research he’s done, I completely understand now how we’ve been breathing wrong all along.  Except for conditions such as sleep apnea or poor oral posture, the loss of our ability to breathe properly has to do with the things that we deal with daily — work deadlines, a call we need to take, or the nagging brightness of our phone screens. All of these take away our attention from practicing proper breathing technique, which as we know by now, could positively impact the quality of our lives, our actions, and thoughts.

“So it’s almost like you could be stressed out in your mind, but the moment you start to slow your breathing, it’s going to send a signal back to your mind that everything’s better. You don’t need to stress as much. If you can control your body, you’ll control your mind.” – James Nestor 

And you know what happens when you have full control of your mind, right? You see things in a different light. You appreciate the vibrancy of colors and the beauty of your surroundings. You can enjoy the warmth of the sun or the touch of the gentle waves on your feet. A controlled mind makes you live in the present, — aware of where you are and what you are doing. By engaging in mindful living practices, we can find happiness, joy,  meaning in our lives. 

“Breathing …will increase oxygen to your brain. It will slow your heart rate. It will increase circulation, and [your]systems of your body will enter the state of coherence. And you can see this with heart rate variability. All those lines that are disjointed suddenly become these beautiful sign waves. And this is your body really working at peak efficiency.” – James Nestor

So I encourage you, today to just breathe. Enjoy the present moment. And just as Oprah said, “Breath. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”

Why You Need to Listen to This James Nestor Podcast Episode Right Now… 

I love that something as simple as breathing has the power to change our lives. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to interview James Nestor on this fascinating topic. As he has illustrated and supported with scientific evidence, proper breathing can do many wonderful things to our bodies and minds!

There’s been a lot of pain, stress, anxiety recently as a result of this global pandemic, so I encourage you to practice the foundations of breathing that James shared with us. Breathe through your nose. Breathe slowly, less, and don’t forget to exhale. 

If you want to learn more about how to breathe properly, make sure to get his book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. You can also get to know him better through his website and Instagram

If you enjoyed this message, please share it with your friends and help spread this beneficial message! Just take a screenshot of this and share it on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag James, @mrjamesnestor, and me, @lewishowes, with your key takeaways!

That’s it for today, friends. In case no one has told you lately, let me remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. So, go out there and do something great!

To Greatness,

Lewis Howes - Signature

“There is going to be an explosion of focus on breathing. There used to be. We forgot about it for 40 years, and here we are again.” @MrJamesNestor  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Is there ever a good time to breathe through your mouth?
  • What do you think about the Wim Hof Method?
  • Have you seen people who have healed asthma just through breathing?
  • What is the benefit of increasing your lung capacity?
  • What is the best way to heal sleep apnea?
  • What is the strategy when you get congested?
  • What do you still struggle with in breathing practices?
  • Why haven’t we been taught at a younger age to be a nose-breather vs. mouth-breather?

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The difference between breathing through the mouth vs. the nose.
  • How to increase CO2 in the body.
  • The best breathing routine to start the day.
  • How to breathe when you’re dealing with anxiety and panic attacks.
  • How to maintain and increase your lung capacity even through old age.
  • How breathing affects our immune system.
  • Why the diaphragm is considered the second heart.
  • Plus much more…

Show Notes:

Connect with
James Nestor

Transcript of this Episode

Music Credits:

Music Credit:

Kaibu by Killercats

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