#143 Have you ever been curious about the way you breathe? Or even about your breath itself? Generally, we all go through the motions of inhaling and exhaling everyday with little to no thought. We don’t notice our breath unless we’re not breathing! But as you will hear in my conversation this week with the amazing James Nestor, there are so many health benefits that come from breathing correctly.
James is a science journalist who has written for the Scientific American, the Outside Magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times and more and in this episode he is here with me to discuss his newest book Breath: The New Science of Lost Art and the importance of our breath in maintaining our mental and physical health.
If only more of us knew how to breath correctly we would not need to rely on many medications and alike. So, if you are interested in the breath and breathwork, or if you are a mouth-breather, this one is for you.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you may also like: Re-educate Your Breathing To Support Lifelong Health & Wellbeing | Patrick Mckeown
About James: James Nestor is an author and journalist who has written for Scientific American, Outside Magazine, The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, Surfer’s Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more. He spent the last several years working on a book called Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.
His book explores the million-year-long history of how the human species has lost the ability to breathe properly and why we’re suffering from a laundry list of maladies because of it. He ended up traveling the world in an attempt to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
He discovered that the answers weren’t found in pulmonology labs but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of Sao Paulo. Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head.
Key points with time stamp:
- James’s work in his own words (2:29)
- The reception of James’s book, Breath, and the effect of the book on James (3:17)
- How did James first enter the field of Breathwork? (5:15)
- James’s first experience with breathing classes and Sudarshan kriya (9:49)
- James’s journey with writing Breath as a science journalist (11:52)
- Bridging the gap between the spiritual and medical aspects of breathing (14:58)
- The resistance around breathwork (20:40)
- How James went through some of the breathing experience in his book (22:35)
- The side effects of mouth-breathing (24:59)
- The relationship between breathing and longevity (27:43)
- What surprised James most while writing Breath (31:03)
- Is how we breathe talked about in mainstream media and western medicine? (33:13)
- The changes to James’s own habits after writing Breath (34:24)
- Breathing through the nose while exercising (38:18)
- The correlation between breathing and altitude (40:28)
- A low point which became a blessing for James (45:00)
- James’s morning routine (45:47)
- A book recommendation from James (47:29)
- What James leaves us with (48:43)
Mentioned in this episode:
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, 2020. A book by James Nestor
- The Scientific American
- The Outside Magazine
- Men’s Journal
- National Public Radio
- The New York Times
- Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves, 2014. A book by James Nestor
- The Pan American Center
- BBC Radio
- Sudarshan kriya
- Harvard University
- Yale University
- Patrick MckKeown
- Stanford University
- Wim Hof
- Dr. Jayakar Nayak
- The Framingham Heart study
- Why We Swim, 2020. A book by Bonnie Tsui
James Nestor’s Website:
Hey rockstars This is Guy, of course, your host. And if you’re hearing my voice right now, that means you press play and you’re in for a treat today, especially if you’re curious about the breath. Because obviously, I have conversations that go well beyond conventional health, wealth and wisdom. Every week, they inspire change in our lives. And this conversation certainly fits into that category. Because James is here to talk about his new book Breath: the New Science of Lost Art and one I definitely highly recommend as well, especially if you’re interested in the breath and the importance of it, because if you’ve been following me for a while, you know, I’m I certainly a big advocate of it. And I’ve explored it several times on the show in the past, but if you don’t know anything about James, essentially he’s written for the Scientific American, the outside magazine, men’s journal, National Public Radio, The New York Times and more. His book Deep: Free Diving Renegade science and what the ocean tells us about ourselves, was a finalist for the pan American Center best sports book of the year and BBC Radio four book of the week. Look Nestor, there was a great guy, we really connected and have no doubt you will enjoy this conversation today. Depending on what time of the year you’re listening to this, and how will this episode is we I think we’ve got like one or two spots left our retreat in January 2021, in northern New South Wales, Australia. So if you’re itching to get amongst this work more than Come and join us, yeah, lots coming up. What can I say? And of course, if you do enjoy this episode, the one thing I ask is, share it with a friend, pass it around, please. These conversations do help people, they inspire people. And if you’re enjoying them yourselves, then the greatest thing gift you could give to me is share it with a loved one or friend and pass this message around. Because it helps people. Anyway, that’s it. Let’s go over to James enjoy the show much love from me and I will see you soon.
James, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks a lot for having me.
I love to ask everyone on the show. Just when starting out if you are on an airplane, which probably might not happen for a while. But if you were and you sat next to a complete stranger, and they ask you what you did for a living, what would you say?
I’d say I nap a lot? Not much. And then I change the subject to ask them what they did. I’d probably tell them, tell them what I did I write things I write about interesting people. Interesting things.
Yeah. And I’m so curious to listen to your journey. Like I mentioned off air, I’ve been listening to your book, our latest progress on Audible the last few weeks, and I’m really enjoying it and the breath has been a big part of my life. And and it just seems to be the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know when it comes to this topic. And you’ve put something together in such an amazing way and explored so many avenues. It’s just been, it’s just been a goldmine if you like, I don’t know what else to say it because it’s such a confusing topic as well. And yeah, I’m curious to know what what a what is the response been like since the books been out? And how much of it has changed your life from doing it?
Well, so we weren’t even sure we were gonna be putting this book out on its release date. So the way that book publishing goes is you have to have your book all secured the date of release at least six months before the book comes out. So it goes to catalogs. So I had finished this book in September of 2019. It was all wrapped up completely finished. And we had scheduled for the end of May here in the US and come March, you know what happened? Everyone knows what happened. pandemic hit, and publishing was just brought to its knees. So distribution was all messed up. They can print stuff that can ship stuff. And so my editor was saying, Oh, we should probably delay let’s delay till next year. I said that’s that’s fine with me. It seems like a stressful time. Then a bunch of other people said no, no, no, this is this book. People need to know about it. Now they need to focus on the breathing. We’ve got a respiratory disease here. COVID everyone’s anxious. No one’s breathing, right? And it’s like, Ah, okay, well, we could release it and then I’ll just do promo next year, I was just convinced it was just going to sort of fly away into the ether of all the political news and all the other stuff going on. But the opposite happened, which shocked me more than than anything. So the response has been absolutely mental. Be really, really crazy in the best possible way. And, you know, I’ve just been, I’ve had something to do for the past three months, I’ve been sitting here doing interviews and writing about this stuff. And I’m still so excited to get the word out about about this seemingly inconsequential thing, which is our breathing.
Yeah, I’m so happy to hear that. It’s, it seems like people are hungry for this information. Right now, in this particular time, because I wasn’t even familiar really, you know, rewind 10 years, wasn’t really familiar. There were breathwork practices, like I grew up in Wales. So it’s not like, I grew up in some yogic tradition, or looking at different things that have been practiced for, for generations and generations. It was just like, this thing is like breathwork the hell, what the hell is that?
Yeah, well, I think I was just like you, I never thought about my breathing growing up. And even in adulthood, I never ever thought about it, it was just this thing in the background. That was that was just just there. You know, you notice your breathing when you can’t breathe. That’s when you notice it the rest of the time. You’re not noticing it at all. And I didn’t think it was really worthy of further study. It’s just this autonomic function and you breathing good, you’re not breathing. That’s bad. You’re, you’re unconscious, or you’re dead. So it wasn’t until, you know, I had numerous experiences over many, many years and started talking to experts in the field that a much larger, deeper, weirder stories started developing was so much stranger than I had thought. And I thought that so many of these stories that I had heard where I was like, This can’t be possible. You can’t heat yourself up by breathing. You can’t heal yourself with it. What are you talking about? You can’t hold your breath for 10 minutes this none of this is possible. But the more I waited in those waters, the more I saw the research, I saw the data, I met these people, I said, Wow, there’s something so powerful going on here, and no one’s really paying attention to it. And so that’s where I get really intrigued.
Wow. Well, what was your tipping point? Because I know you were exploring freediving before writing this book, if I’m not mistaken, was that was there things that you were seeing from the freediving world that really led you to explore that into the into this book?
Yeah, I think that there were a few tipping points. The first one was, when I this was a number of years ago, maybe 10 or 11 years ago when I had been working out all the time eating right, sleeping, right, everything right. I was getting sick all the time. Tell me a bunch of respiratory problems. I was getting chronic bronchitis. I was having mild grade pneumonia. Every year, I would get mild grade pneumonia. And I just thought it was normal. take antibiotics just move on. And so my doctor, she said, I don’t think you’re breathing properly. I was like, What? And she suggested I go to a breathing class. I’m in San Francisco. So you can’t throw a bottle and not not hit five different breathing classes. So I picked one at random and attended this class to this weekend workshop. It was okay. And then a few weeks later, I went to a follow up course. And I had just the most bizarre experience where I walked into this room and cross my legs sat in a corner was like what the hell am I doing here and started breathing in this rhythmic pattern, and started sweating like a sweat I’ve never experienced in my life while working out or anything. My hair was sopping wet. My t shirt was wet. The word sweat blotches on my jeans, like it was so weird. And other people in the class they all saw it. And I felt great. But I didn’t know what had happened. And when I asked my doctor what had happened, I figured she’s a doctor. She’s clued in, she’s gonna know what’s up. She didn’t she said, Oh, you had a fever? Or Oh, you’re wearing too heavy of a jacket. Oh, the room must have been too hot. So she had no idea. So as a science journalist, I didn’t know what to do with that, you know, I don’t write about myself. I write about other people other ideas. And, and you’re right, once I saw free divers, I realized I’m like, this stuff is real. And what I experienced is just a sliver of where breathing can can really take us on what it really does for our health, how it can really help lengthen our lifespan so it can do so much and so and you can’t deny that what free divers are doing is real. I’ve watched them hold their breath for eight minutes at a time. I’ve watched them dive down to 300 400 feet on a single breath of air I’m supposed to be impossible. They do it every day. So what else out there was there and that’s that’s what I went and spent many years finding now.
Yeah, totally. I gotta ask you as well when you went to that class and have that experience what what? What kind of breathing Do they have you do and that led you to that moment was it just basic stuff
This was through the art of living. And so there’s this practice called Sudarshan Kriya. That has, it’s amazing because there’s about 70 independent scientific studies showing that this practice has a huge effect on anxiety, depression, even autoimmune problems, asthma on and these are studies done at Harvard University at, at Yale at the top universities. So what it is, is at the beginning, it’s basic, put your arms and certain positions you breathe in, and very mellow stuff. But the last part of it is called this purifying breath, and you breathe really slow, and then you and then you pick up your pace, and then you breathe very slow again, and you pick up the pace and you do this, the cycles over and over and over. And the deeper you go into it, the Stranger Things get like my mind always wanders, but wanders, but my body that the physiological reaction was just outrageous. And since that experience, I’ve talked to so many other people. They’re like, yeah, that same thing happened to me. Yeah, like, oh, that that’s the only thing that happened to you. Well, this happened to me and this. So it seems like this is pretty commonplace stuff.
Wow. Well, I’m, I’m fascinated, right? Because it’s easy from the outside looking and go on the breath, you inhale your exhale. And how could this get so complex? Right. And I had Patrick McKeown on the show a few months ago. And yeah, beautiful, made beautiful human being, you know, he’s a fellow Celtic as well, I’m, well, he’s Irish, you know, the good connection, and, and just through his boutique of breathing and that I couldn’t believe the complexity of, of where you can go with just learning to breathe through your nose, right? And what I was really curious about with yourself, being a science journalist, and going about to put a book together like this, where do you start? How do you start? Because there is so many rabbit holes, I’m sure you can go down all the way from the mystical experiences all the way to the science to the practicalities of everyday breathing. I mean, what did you do?
So I thought I had a good roadmap. And so when you when you sell a nonfiction book, you sell it on a proposal that proposals about 50 pages long, you have all the chapters, you have all the people you’re going to talk to you have, it’s just a layout. It’s like a script for for a movie. And I thought I had it figured out and then once I started really getting deeply into the field, I started talking to these experts, they referred me to another expert, another expert, I had to throw out six months of work and start over again. So I was so overwhelmed by the amount of different areas of breathing, breath work, physiologically, mentally narrowed, neurologically, biologically, I mean, on and on and on, and I don’t have a medical background. So breathing, how we breathe, touches, every single cell of our body is tied to that. So in order for me to understand this, I had to understand that whole process of how the human body works, which was a complete pain in the butt. Um, my father in law is a pulmonologist been pulling all this for, for 40 years. So he was really helping me out. He’s like, you essentially did like the equivalent of a PhD in this stuff, because I kept finding things that didn’t make any sense to me. That medical books, were saying one thing, saying what these people were doing was impossible. But then I could go and meet these people. And you know, according to what their data was saying, what they were doing was impossible. But then there they were. And here’s a videotape of them doing that thing. And here I am in a room watching them do that thing. So I’ll be honest, this this book was so difficult, I had to start and stop so many times. It was years and years and years of constant work just to try to get a very simple worldview of the potential and all the problems associated with with breathing. I read probably 300 400 books in the process, medical libraries, all that stuff. Because I was curious what was it never really felt like like arduous work? Because I kept finding these questions that medical people couldn’t answer, but then spiritual people could but then the spiritual people didn’t have a medical background so they couldn’t explain what was happening physiologically. So then I go back to the medical people. So it was just this crazy matrix of conversations with with people, but like I said, it was as hard as it was. It was also complete joy to wake up and be curious about things and then be able to find answers for those questions.
Wow. Yeah, well Do you think is that there is that disconnect, and that the medical people haven’t been looking at this deeper because it because it’s interesting with the breath, as I’m sure you’d agree, once you experience it and have a practice in place and do things you can feel the changes, but actually just trying to think about it and read about it. It’s very hard to correlate.
I think it’s, it’s mostly and this is what I heard from several doctors, including my father in law, including several doctors at Stanford. And at Harvard, they said, We are taught to deal with pathologies. So we are taught to cut out cancer, we’re taught to cut out disease lungs, we’re taught to inject people with antibiotics. And they do an amazing job at that, you know, I very likely wouldn’t be alive without Western medicine. So this is not pointing fingers. If I get a car crash, man, I don’t want to breathe, I want to go to the emergency room and use all the latest technology. So So this isn’t a US or them kind of thing. But they just don’t have the bandwidth, they aren’t taught you would think a pulmonologist would know the proper way of breathing, they have no idea because that’s not what they’re taught. That’s not what they have time for. So they’re looking at what happens when people can’t breathe, when they have emphysema when they have COPD, so that that’s what they’re doing. So on the spiritual end of it, people know the therapists know this stuff is working, they wouldn’t be using it if it wasn’t working. But they’re not concerned about the medical side of it. So they’re like, this is working great for my patient. I don’t care what this textbook says, I know what works. I’m doing empirical studies every single day of my life and seeing what works. So I wanted to bridge that gap is to go in as a journalist is totally objective. I have no skin in the game. I’m not trying to defend medical institution, I’m not trying to defend this the spiritual aspects of breathing. I’m just completely open, who’s got the data, who’s got the facts and, and to try to put these together and form something that that is true, that really makes logical sense. That’s what I tried to do with a book.
Yeah, beautiful. And I’m guessing as well as to research the book and you’re looking at all these different aspects, you’re then going and trying all these different modalities and putting yourself like a human guinea pig. Would that be fair to say through each of the breathing exercises?
I guess so. But I I really never intended to put myself in this book at all. When people read the book. Now, they’re just like, what? That was not my intent. But what I found is there was such a dearth of studies and even the most simple breathing techniques. So you look at something like Sudarshan Kriya, which we know it works, okay. It’s there’s so many studies showing it works. But no one could really explain to me what happened to the body, while while you were practicing this, and I didn’t see any studies where anyone actually went into a lab and did blood work, and were hooked up to machines. So as a journalist, I’m lucky enough to be able to call the people at University of California San Francisco hypoxia lab, one of the oldest hypoxia labs in the nation here and say, Hey, I’m working on this. Do you want to do a little experiment it’s gonna get a little weird Are you game and, and so a few phone calls later, I’m able to go in there and I couldn’t find anyone else to do this. Because so I ended up doing it and, and it’s just interesting to see the reactions of medical researchers. So they were taking bloodwork I’ve catheters out of my arm, the crap on my face sensors, you know, heart rate, you name it, I was on a gurney. And I did this breath work, the same breath work that I broke into that crazy sweat with. I did this in a lab. And these guys were so completely freaked out. Like they had a hard time looking me in the eye after it was like I done something really wrong in their lab because when you breed This way, you get this thing called tetany. When you start hyperventilating where your hands start crunching up like this, a lot of people on the spiritual side say on becoming a bird and becoming, that’s all cool, but on the medical side, what’s really happening is album is clean to calcium, which is inhibiting your muscle action, right? So that’s what’s actually happening. So this started happening, I was really going for it and this breathing of just pushing it all the way to and they were so that they said you were able to elicit a reaction in your body that would be like red level emergency room. This guy is gonna frickin die any second. And then two minutes later, I breathe in a way and it all went away. And they didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with this, but it just kind of shows you it’s like, they’re understanding, just looking at imbalances and pathologies. But it’s very different when you consciously Place yourself into this space and use this as a healing modality. Because to make yourself more flexible, to put your body in the states of stress and complete relaxation, are enormously healing for us. And so just shows you this this gap between those two worlds.
I’m looking at both here. And I think that’s where Wim Hof has been great as well, in the in the last, especially the last few years, because I remember going I did spend a week with Wim back in 2016. And it’s funny, you’re you’re explaining those things, because I went through all those experiences, but without the doctors being there. But you know, him been putting himself under the microscope and seeing some of the results that he has had, people have really stood up and taken attention to look at this work, which is just a beautiful thing. You know,
and that’s, that’s what’s great about Wim is, he’s not one of those guys who is just preaching to his minions, he has his hand up at all times, saying, I will go into any lab at any time if you don’t believe that this is possible. And what he’s done was considered medically impossible until he did it. And it’s interesting that I’ve talked to researchers, I’ve showed them those studies released in nature, the top scientific journal in the world. And they went, Ah, no, that’s crazy. Oh, no, no, no. Anyway, moving on. So a lot of a lot of people still say Wim is only allegedly able to do this, even though there is data, there’s film, there’s lab experience. So it just kind of shows you the, the mindset of a lot of people in this field like scientists, by virtue have to be open minded to be scientists, because science doesn’t have an endpoint. It is constantly changing. We’re constantly learning. So the second you close off your mind, you are no longer a scientist in my book, according to the definition. So it’s amazing that there’s so much resistance, even if there’s undeniable facts, people will still resist things if it compromises their worldview.
Yeah, blows me away, blows me away. I’m really interested as well, with what did you find the greatest difficulty with it when writing this book and the breathing? Because like, I’m aware, there was a point, I think you opened up the book with it, where you banged up your nose for 10 days. And I remember when the moment you said that, I was like, Oh, my God, I just couldn’t imagine the hell would you suddenly go through it was it..was it hell?
Yeah. So this is another one of those things that I never ever, ever anticipated doing. But no one else was going to do it. So I am very close to Stanford University, which is, you know, top research institution in the world. I’m in San Francisco, they’re about half an hour away. So I go to their Medical Library all the time I talk to the experts down there, they’ve been very open and amazingly supportive. So I got to be friends with Dr. Jayakar Nayak, the chief of rhinology research down there, big, big nose guy. And he knows all the benefits of the nose. I mean, this this is this is his jam, one of the world’s leading experts. And he knows all the damage of mouth breathing. So when we breathe through your mouth, we’re bringing an air that’s untreated, done, humidified, it’s unconditioned. And this can cause respiratory problems, it can cause neurological problems. Everyone knows it. So this is very clear, but no one knew how quickly that came on. So we’re at lunch. As I said, You’re at Stanford, man, why don’t why don’t you study this? And so he didn’t have any money allocated. He’s like, well, that’s such a weird study what you’re going to study how mouth breathing is different than nasal breathing. I said, this is what you talk about every day. Let’s let’s do something. Let’s work on something. And so we put together a very quick study. We had to pay for it. Which sucks because it was at Stanford, which is not a cheap, cheap place. He had no money allocated for it. He cut us a lot of deals. I probably shouldn’t say that cut a lot of corners there. But it was me and one other person where we spent 10 days with silicon up our noses to breathe only through our mouths. I know how ghastly that sounds. And I’m not saying it was fun, but 25 to 50% of the population habitually breathes through its mouth. So what we’re doing essentially is just lowing us into a position that a large part of the population already knew the difference was we were just collecting data to see what would happen
Yeah, wow. side effects. What did you notice personally in those 10 days while collecting data, just just to put in perspective, because it might be mouth- breathers, listening to this today,
I’m sure there is. I was, I was a mouth breather for decades and decades. So. So the first thing with with mouth breathing is you’re taking too much air and that air is and treated, your body doesn’t know what to do with that. So it compensates, you stress yourself out, I won’t go into it any deeper than that. Beyond that, there’s, I’m not making this up. This isn’t my opinion, there’s a foundation of science has been around for 40 years showing this. It’s not very controversial. But it’s a whole other thing to experience this in your body. So we thought, like we knew this wasn’t gonna be pleasant. I knew it wasn’t gonna be pleasant, but we thought that maybe there’ll be some changes after about five or six days. So within about two hours, my blood pressure shot up to 168 over 100, which is a critical stage of stage two hypertension. I’ve never ever seen my blood pressure that high in my entire life. That was right out right out the door. Yeah, yeah, exactly a little worrisome to so I was like, what’s gonna happen after 10 days. And then a couple hours after that, I went to sleep. And for the first time that I’ve known I snored, I snore for an hour and a half, from not snoring at all, because we took baseline data about two weeks of baseline data. And within a few days, I was snoring for hours throughout the night. So half the night I also started choking on myself by that I mean, I had sleep apnea where which is so injurious to the body. I mean, it’s directly linked to Alzheimer’s, neurological disorders, diabetes, cancer, I mean, I could go on and on and on. So that happened within a few days, breathing through the mouth. And the other subject in the study, Anders Olson, breathing therapist, awesome guy came from Sweden to be a part of this study. His was way worse than mine. And, and I was suffering enough. So he had his sleep apnea was was far worse. So we were instantly miserable. And we stayed miserable the whole time. And it was getting worse and worse and worse. And I kept thinking, there’s an endpoint for us, right? We only have to do this for 10 days. But what about a kid who’s chronically congested? Or what about someone else who’s just habitually mouth breathing, their bodies are going through this every day of their lives. And that’s why so many of their bodies are just breaking down after a while. Yeah, massive. And
because I was curious as well. It really caught my attention when listening to your book about the relationship between breathing and longevity. And I’m assuming that would be one of the contributors the way you breathe, but with the other aspects as well, that that you discovered when looking at the longevity side of things.
So there’s been the study here in the US has been going on for something like 70 years, 70, 80 years called the Framingham study, it was looking at heart disease. When they crunched all the numbers in this was in the 80s. In the early 80s. They found out the most accurate predictor of lifespan was not jeans wasn’t heart health, it was lung capacity, it was your ability to breathe easy breaths, because our lung capacity decreases after around the age of 30. Our lung capacity starts decreasing precipitously, so it starts decreasing about 17% 15 to 17%, from 30 to 50. After 50, our lungs just start shrinking. One of the reasons is because our rib cages here, and our muscles and our bones become more brittle, we lose more bone mass, we’re not able to take in those deep, easy breaths, because we get so tight here in the chest. So I thought that was fascinating. I found another study where they found that people who had lung transplant, those who were given larger lungs lived longer lives. So no matter how you got those larger lungs, whether you did that yourself or whether you were transplanted with those lungs, you were gonna live a longer life according to the data. So the neat thing about this, just like everything in this book is you can affect how you breathe. And by affecting the way you breathe, you can directly affect your lung capacity in your respiratory health, with if you look at the data can help extend your life. And this is available to everybody you know, at any time,
because I was gonna ask them I was like, saying, Well, how do I make my lung capacity bigger, you know, from breathing,
You can breathe through your nose. First of all, when you breathe through your nose, you’re breathing deeper into your lungs, okay? you’re breathing into those Those deeper lobes, you can breathe a little deeper focus not, don’t force it don’t. But just softly breathe deeper, what you want, I’m sure Patrick McEwen might might have told you this I learned so much from him is you want your hands if you have them just above your hip bones to move out laterally. So everyone’s concerned with belly breathing, which is important to keep that loose. But you also want your hands and move out this way, that means you’re really engaging your diaphragm. So just by doing that, by engaging your diaphragm a little more by extending your lung capacity, researchers have shown that people with emphysema, were able to overcome so many of the problems of that athletes gained better performance. I mean, because what you’re doing is you’re allowing yourself easier access for fuel. You don’t want to struggle 20,000 times a day to breathe, you do that your body can compensate. But it’s gonna it’s gonna wear down after a while and you’re gonna suffer those consequences.
Yeah, beautiful. Interesting. It’s like the Superman pose. I’m standing in it now actually feeling into it as you were talking about it. Isn’t it anything that surprised you about writing this book that you might have had like preconceived ideas? And going Oh, yeah, but then totally, like, crept up on you.
There were so many things that surprised me. I mean, I just kept finding things over and over and over, that did not make any sense to me, they were so counter intuitive. Like, by breathing slowly, and breathing less, we get more oxygen into our body, we deliver more oxygen endora cells, like the fact that humans have become the worst breathers in the world, because our faces have changed over the past few hundred years. And they’ve changed so much so that our teeth no longer fit, which is why they’re crooked. And that’s also why we have so many chronic breathing problems, because when you have a small mouth, that’s not big enough for straight teeth, you also have a smaller airway. It’s one of the main reasons we so many of us suffer from snoring sleep apnea, on and on and on. So I kept finding these things. But what was shocking to me is that I had to like dig for this research. Like why aren’t people taught this stuff that breathing can have such a massive affects your health, to your ability to think that it’s a direct conduit to control your emotions, that it’s free, that it’s available for everyone. And again, the science is very clear this 500 scientific references in the book so you can look at those if you want. But what was more shocking was was just that it’s been there for so long. And no one’s been really opening up those books or asking those questions. And so it was a real treasure hunt for me to just get deeper, I got so obsessed with it. I was every night reading bugs every day, grinding away my wife didn’t see me for months at a time I just entered in my little hobble because I really wanted to, for my own health and for other people’s health to find the truth of what was going on here.
Yeah, it’s, you know, when you look at not that I watch mainstream media much, but the breath never gets mentioned in from what I’ve done here in Australia, anyways, any preventative measures to help one person as a strategy, you know, which blows my mind…blow my mind.
Well, you think about when you get I don’t know how it is out there. But you know, medicine is privatized out here. So there’s and this is something I heard from numerous doctors, they’re like, Well, of course you haven’t heard from it, who’s gonna make money off of breathing. And if you think about going to your, your doctor for a checkup, so at least out here, they take your blood pressure, listen to your heart, listen to your lungs to see if you’re getting air in there, ask you if you’ve had headaches, how are you sleeping, how you breathe, affects all those things, I can drop my blood pressure about 10 to 15 points by adjusting my breathing right now after a couple of minutes. And yet, what we’re given instead are some pills to take control of our blood pressure. Our pills take control of our headaches, but but no word about breathing. I do see that starting to change now. Which has been very inspiring.
Yeah, totally. Another question occurred to me and it’s more for the listener just to tie things up as we move on to a few other questions is with yourself researching all this book, you must have changed some habits, some things within your life. What significant changes have you done when it comes to breathing and breath practices? Because as well, you know, I know people who are in the Wim Hof community and doing different reasons sometimes. I think why are they doing that press twice a day every day kind of thing is like is that really the best thing or is there other things We should be applying, you know, what do you do in your personal life?
Well, a lot of people think I’m, I’m now the best breather in the world. Because I spent so much time in this. I’m not that’s, that’s not my job, I’m still just on my own journey here trying to improve it. I think I’ve been a poor breather for so long me and so many other people that you can’t help when you’re researching this stuff and talking to these experts, and finding these people who had type one diabetes who had chronic depression, chronic anxiety, high blood pressure, who asthma who were able to show measured improvements by changing their breathing, you can’t help being affected by that and not wanting to incorporate some of these breathing methods into your own life. So beyond the crazy stuff, right, plugging my nose mouth breathing for 10 days going and doing heavy Kriya breathing on a at UCSF, there’s just simple things, I don’t suggest anyone do either of those things. Okay, I’ve been there. They’re heavy, heavy duty stuff, you don’t need to do that. But it’s, it’s just so it’s so simple, and so subtle that no one thinks this stuff is going to really help with their conditions, until you start taking measurements of it, and tell you start feeling it for yourself. And then it’s so obvious what it’s doing, what you’re doing is bringing your body into a state of balance. And when it’s balanced, it’s able to heal itself, because their bodies every single day, every minute, they’re repairing damage constantly. And the less they’re able to do that the sicker you’re going to get. So if you’re constantly stressed out, that’s why those people with chronic stress, have a laundry list of diseases. It’s directly tied to cancer and hypertension, and, you know, neurological problems on and on. And no one’s no one’s really debating that. So, back to your question. I’m aware of my breath almost all the time, almost too much so. So you become a real neurotic when you’re writing a book about breathing. So it doesn’t mean I’m the best breather all the time. But especially when I’m working out when I’m walking, I’m breathing through my nose all the time. And I walk around San Francisco about 30 to 45 minutes every day, breathing through my nose. When I sit down at my computer, and I see there’s 60 emails, and they’re all yelling for four different things. I slow down my breathing, I sometimes I get my phone, I use a little very simple free app, I put my phone right in front of my computer. That is when you need to think clearly. And logically, when you’re stressed out. That is when you need to slow your breathing. And by slowing your breathing, he will send messages back to your brain that tells your brain that everything’s okay. That it can relax, that you can focus. So a lot of people think the brain is dictating all the functions in our body. The body dictates how the brain is working as well. And that’s something that really needs to be recognized and acknowledged. And breathing is the quickest way of taking control of that.
Beautiful. I’m curious, breathing through the nose when exercising feels very counterintuitive. Very, I’ve been I’ve been practicing myself a lot more lately. But how do you how have you found that with the changes for yourself personally, by doing that you find to get easier. You find yourself feeling fitter from it?
Oh, it’s really hard at the beginning, especially if you’ve been breathing through the mouth. So you know, a lot of people may breathe most of the time through through the nose when they’re not working out. But then when they’re jogging, they’re breathing through the mouth, they’re like I’m not able to get enough air. So that’s not true. So one of the first things you should do is get a pulse oximeter. And there’s various versions of this. And you can see that your oxygen levels if you’re a healthy person are going to be completely fine that need to breathe is dictated by carbon dioxide. And so what you need to do is become active acclimated to more co2. So this is a big pain in the butt when you’re first doing it just like changing anything that you’ve been doing for decades big pain in the butt. And a lot of people give up after a couple of days. What they don’t realize is that to switch the pathway through which you breathe at very intense states of exercise takes a long time, weeks and weeks, sometimes months to get back up to the level where you were before. But here’s the trick. Once you build the proper Foundation, you build those proper movement. You will be able to go far belong far beyond where you were able to go with mouth breathing. This has been proven and study after study. After you get more oxygen, your heart rate is lower at the same level of endurance, which means you can push even harder and go even further than you were before your recovery is cut in half. I mean, so many, so many reasons to nasal breathe during exercise. It’s just a real pain in the butt at the beginning. But if you stick through it, I think that you’ll see that the science is very clear that the benefits are innumerable.
Yeah, beautiful. I have one last question for you while we’re on this topic. This is my, my personal again, this question. And that is around altitude. Is there been any studies and breathing correlation? Because I was someone that way before I learned any of this work hiked in the pole, at altitude in Peru, and a separate altitude sickness twice heavily? And what are your thoughts on that?
I so happened to be you can see me looking around on my desktop. So happened to have a study out here. This look just looking this up. So the short answer for you is you need to breathe slower, you need to breathe through your nose, and you need to breathe deeper. So they did this study. This is a French study where they took subjects and I can even read it from you right now at 15,000 feet, so about 5000 meters for two or three days, then they brought them up to 5400 meters for 12 to 16 days. And they had the two groups, one were able to breed the way that they wanted to breed right, what they felt was natural. The other group, they breed at a rate of about six breaths per minute. And they looked at their oxygen of these two groups, the group that was breathing, the way that they felt was was natural and good. Their blood SATs were about 80%, which is pretty, pretty low. The other group, their blood sets were about 88 to 89%, by breathing slower. So by breathing slower, and through the nose, you had this huge advantage for oxygenation, which greatly reduced altitude sickness, I was just talking to a doctor who has built this mask for altitude sickness. And what it does is it forces you to breathe slower, and it increases your co2. Okay. And he said it will be impossible to get altitude sickness with this. Because altitude sickness is related to your pH it’s related to not getting enough arch. It’s it’s you’re blowing off too much co2. And when you’re constantly alkaline, it’s harder for oxygen to get to where it needs to get, which is why you get a headache, faster constriction in the brain, on and on and on. So and this is one of many studies here that show that it’s so again so counterintuitive. When you’re at altitude, you’re, oh man, I am out of breath, I’m not getting enough oxygen. You breathe deeper, you should be breathing slower, and at a more wismec rate, and you will be getting more oxygen. And it’s been proven time and time again.
Wow, amazing. Thank you for that. I really want to put that to the test. When things open up again.
Well, I will warn you that that reaction to breathe, right is dictated by co2. So if your threshold for co2 is very low, you’re gonna six breaths a minute is going to feel very difficult, which is one reason we should be practicing the slow breathing this breathing less now to get that higher threshold of co2 to let everything operate in our body. Much in much more balanced much more healthfully.
Yeah, beautiful. I was gonna say so probably the last two years I’ve been much more aware. There’s a breather, I’ve been taping in my mouth up at night, like Patrick suggests and slowing it down training exercises for the nose, and really bringing awareness to all of that. And I felt I didn’t measure anything, which is a shame. I just kind of started doing it. But on a personal note, this definitely made a big difference without a doubt. So even doing that I was going to say I wonder how much that would help support. Next, I’m going to altitude you know,
appso-, I think those that’s the foundation, right? That’s the first foundation nasal breathing. When I say nasal breathing, that’s not just while you’re walking. That’s not just in the daytime. That is That night, too. So Patrick turned me on to sleep tape. You know, he’s a big fan of that he turned me on to kids to Myo tape, which I have right here, which is amazing stuff. So this is by breathing through your nose, you will be breathing more slowly your co2 levels are going to go up so it’s naturally going to acclimate yourself then you can build off that base, you know, in a very controlled way instead of going up to altitude and trying to hold your breath and fighting through it. Let your body naturally adjust to it and have that good foundation built.
Amazing. Fantastic. Thank you. I got a few questions I ask everyone on the show before we wrap it up. And the more personal questions just to get to get to know you a bit behind the, you know, outside of the book. And the first one I like asking everyone is, has it been a low point in your own life that later on has become a blessing?
Yeah, I think all of my chronic breathing problems I when I first went to that breathing class, not only was I having some respiratory issues, but I was completely overworked. I was stressed out, I was rebuilding a house that was 100 years old. And I thought it doesn’t get much worse than this. But but I noticed at that moment, some doors open that hadn’t been closed before. And I walked through and ended up with a very different life from where I was headed before.
Yeah, beautiful. What is your morning routine look like?
I’m usually pretty tired. Because I’ve been staying up late, late at night doing interviews when you book, I do some very simple stretches. If I’m being a good boy, I’ll do some breathing in the morning. If I’m being really good, I’ll take a cold shower. I’m a big fan of the Wim off Cold Shower again, scientists clear on that, if I’m being really good, I’m not going to eat until around 11 or 12. Sometimes I’ll skip breakfast altogether to go into an intermittent and fast for about 16 hours, 14 hours. Again, science is very clear on that too. It has so many benefits then I’ll eat a big lunch and have a nice dinner. So I’m not saying I do all that all the time there are there are times when I got and get a croissant and coffee and and don’t do any stretches. But you know, life You should mix it up sometimes.
Yeah, I think I’ve done over 200 interviews in China, so many different people and you never there’s never been one person that’s just perfected everything and just lives that way. Totally. You know, we’re also
To me, it’s a boring way of living like it’s it’s fun to, you know, mix things up. But what I find with so much wellness, if you’re miserable your whole life, being such a control freak about being well, then what’s the point of wellness, the point of wellness and being healthy is to enjoy life to its maximum. So if your prescribed mode of health is stopping you from enjoying life, that isn’t the right road for you.
Yeah, totally. Absolutely. Now, normally, I was gonna ask you a book that you’ve read over the last 12 months, but maybe even over the last three or four years, you mentioned three 400 books that you’ve researched with him. Is there one book you would recommend that stood out?
I know that’s such a simple question. I’m gonna give you a convoluted answer. Um, there were many academic books that completely blew my mind, but pretty bad readerly experience. I like a book called Why We Swim by Bonnie sway about the human connection to the water. I think it’s a beautiful book. I disclaimer, she’s a friend. That’s not going to stop me from promoting her amazing book. I think self reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson available for free online is such an important thing to read, especially in this age of political garbage, everyone hating everyone else, everyone trying to take everyone else down. You just got it. Just get rid of that noise and just follow your path and and try to speak speak the truth. And I think that that’s what’s going to benefit yourself and other people around you.
Yeah, beautiful. Thanks for sharing those. There’ll be in the show notes for everyone listening as well. And last question with everything we’ve covered today is anything you’d like to leave the listeners to ponder on.
I would say be conscious of your breathing that sounds so cheesy and cliche coming from me but that is the first step beyond all these fancy mouth tape and breathing exercises. Just notice this miracle that is happening inside of your body. Every second we take 30 pounds of air in and out of our bodies every other every day. So that how you take in that air and how you use it absolutely affects you and breathing is a gift and so celebrate and see where it can take you yeah beautiful thank you so much James Do you um, do you active on social media or like where can we send people I’m trying to be I yeah, I’m old so so this Instagram thing is a whole trip for me but I have a handle Mr. James Nester at Instagram. I’m trying to only post stuff related to breathing. There’s some short interview with Patrick McHugh in there with with Anders Olson. So I want to make This repository of the new things I’m discovering, and to be a supportive place for people to learn new hacks that are free that they can incorporate into their life to, to improve their health,
of course, and your book is, I’m assuming is available pretty much everywhere, like I grabbed it on Audible. Amazon while the good places
all the good places will be out and 30 other countries next next year, so that’ll be a trip to go and tour you know, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But to me that’s that’s great news that this stuff’s getting out there. And you know, maybe it was last for a little while but but it seems like the word and awareness is getting out and it’s just been such a privilege to bring this research that I got so much benefit from to other people.
Yeah, well, thank you for putting it together. I’m you know, you’ve done an amazing job, I sincerely mean that mate, and to be able to come to have a book and have a reference and have a look at all these different aspects of the effects of the breath and different breathe things and how it’s incorporated into your life. all coming together under one book is is like a roadmap. It’s beautiful. So it’s from my in person is really appreciated. You know.
Thank you very much. Really appreciate hearing that
No worries, James, thank you and all the best in the future.
Thanks, Guy. Take care. Thank you.
Awesome. That means if you hear me now you enjoyed this conversation. Myself and James have made it to the end. And I certainly did. Like I said, definitely check out his book. It’s fantastic. And of course if you want to find out what we’re up to with our retreats, our group coaching in we have a free seven day meditation challenge that’s now freely available. Just come back to GuyLawrence.com.au or Liveinflow.co and just subscribe to our newsletter. Have a look around the website. It’s all there for you. There’s some amazing resources. And even if you just pause this now there’ll be links below, on this podcast wherever you’re listening to. Anyway, that’s it. Have an amazing week. I hope I get to meet you in person one day soon. Yeah, that’s all for me.