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I have just finished reading the book “Breath” by James Nestor and am once again astounded at how important our breathing is.  I have been on my own quest as far as the breath is concerned for a long time.  As a swimmer and athlete who used to do long-distance running as well as an ex-smoker (can you believe the madness) and someone who also suffer from severe and chronic sinusitis as well as bouts of asthma.  Breathing, unsurprisingly, has been at the forefront of my mind and my yogic practice for a long time.

I still feel that one can do more, learn more and practice more. I strongly believe that correct breathing, although it cannot cure everything as James Nestor reiterates, can cure and relieve a lot of ailments we generally suffer from. 

In his book, James talks about a tribe who pinches their infants’ mouths until they learn to breathe only through their noses as they sleep and the obvious effects it has on this tribe with their beautiful strong, lean bodies and enviable teeth. It makes mee sorry that our parents didn’t pinch our mouths closed as infants, but then what would our dental surgeons do for a living if they didn’t have to remove wisdom teeth on the colossal scale they are doing these days.

James focuses on the fact (and volunteered himself as a guinea pig to prove this fact) that mouth-breathing and nose-breathing is not nearly the same thing and that just by breathing through your nose more, you can stop snoring, cure sleep apnoea, lower blood pressure and a host of other things. Almost too good to be true, you would say, but this is something that the ancients and yogis have always known and practiced.

I love the quote from a Taoist text of the 18th century which calls the nose the “heavenly door” through which breath must be taken in. “Never do otherwise” it warns, “for breath would be in danger and illness would set in”.

Genesis 2:7 “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”.

Dr Jayakar Nayak : “The nose is the silent warrior, the gatekeeper of our bodies, pharmacist to our minds, and weathervane to our emotions.”

What happened to us that we lost this knowledge that was evident in the Bible and other religions.

He also talks about out-breath that should be longer than in-breath (which is practiced in Kriya breathing and yogic breathing as well).  And also to eat foods that need chewing as the processed foods we eat that don’t require much chewing are weakening our mouths and resultantly our breathing apparatus.  Interesting, isn’t it!

The benefits for athletes are enormous as the research that was done shows anything from 1% to 10% improvement in performance after learning how to breathe properly.  What athlete would not be over the moon to have this extra advantage going into an event.

These are just some of the physical benefits. Can you imagine the emotional benefits of reducing stress and being able to cope with life’s challenges in a healthier and more effective way and just having more energy to do the things you need to do while still having reserves to do the things you enjoy.

I, myself have been practising yogic breathing, Kriya breathing and Wim Hof’s method for quite some time now, but feel I still want to go deeper.  After reading the book I am also doing a little experiment of my own by taping my mouth in the evenings on going to bed to teach my body to breathe only through the nose at night. Even though it’s only been a week, I already see a reduction in my resting heart rate, my sleep is uninterrupted and I feel more refreshed in the mornings (I have an exercise watch that can monitor all these things.)  I am going to keep the taping up for at least 20 days, a period of time I think is long enough to reteach my body how to breathe at night and will give you a little update afterwards to inform you on how things are going. 

I guess, firstly, I’m promoting the book as it makes for a fascinating read and have so much more in it than what I can talk about in such a short little blog. Secondly, I want to challenge you : How do you breathe…and how can you improve your breathing?

*All quotes taken from the book “Breath : The new science of a lost art” by James Nestor

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