Breathing for Health

A few days after my official retirement, I “caught” my first cold since the start of COVID-19. Since pretty much everyone I was having contact with (including my mom) had been vaccinated for weeks, I relaxed my standards. I stopped wearing my mask anywhere that wasn’t public space and worried less about sanitizing my hands and the objects I used in private and semi-private spaces. JBLM and Governor Inslee both made these precautions optional. So I am almost recovered from my summer cold. (I still have a nagging dry cough and some sinus congestion.) And I am convinced three things helped speed up my recovery and one will improve my health long term. I doubled up on my Vitamin C and Vitamin B Complex and I used hot Theraflu with honey. I also did everything I could to breathe from my nose and not my mouth.

I read BREATH: THE NEW SCIENCE OF A LOST ART by James Nestor. The crazy thing is I’d heard much of the history, techniques and research that he drew together. I came away with: always, always, always breath through your nose (you can exhale through your mouth if desired) and pay attention to the shortened or held breaths that often happen when you’re multitasking or stressed. Routinely follow ideal breathing for health. Even if you only do it for a few minutes a few times a day, it will improve existing health and “mental” issues and may cure or prevent others. The ideal breath is inhale through the nose for 5.5 seconds, exhale for 5.5 seconds and do this about 5.5 times a minute. For even greater progress, trying exhaling longer than inhaling on each breath.

The book includes the idea that evolution doesn’t always mean progress and life can change for better or worse. Modern living (over the last 300 or so years) have passed down traits and adopted behaviors detrimental to human health. The concept of “dysevolution” explains why our backs ache, our feet hurt and our bones are more brittle. Dysevolution explains why we are breathing so poorly and experiencing so many health conditions without proximate causes.

“The quickly growing brain needed space to stretch out, and it took it from the front of our faces, home to sinuses, mouths, and airways. Over time, muscles at the center of the face loosened and bones in the jaw weakened and grew thinner. The face shortened and the mouth shrank, leaving behind a bony protuberance that replaced and squashed the snout of our ancestors.” Voila, the protruding nose. These and other changes to the throat and larnyx led to homo sapiens becoming the only animals, and the only human species, that could easily choke on food and die.

Just in general, scientific studies have found that chronic insomnia (including irritable bladder) is usually a breathing rather than a psychological condition. No amount of snoring is normal and no amount of sleep apnea escapes the risks of serious health effects. It even matters which nostril that you breath through. The right nostril speeds up your circulation and activates the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” mechanism that sets the body into more elevated state of alertness and readiness. Inhaling through the left nostril has the opposite effect of acting on the parasympathetic nervous system and acting as a sort of braking system on the “rest and relax” response. Bodies operate best and more efficiently in a state of balance between action and relaxation, daydreaming and reasoning.

In addition, mouthbreathing contributes to “periodontal disease and bad breath, and was the number one cause of cavities, even more damaging than sugar consumption, bad diet, or poor hygiene.” In the end, the greatest indicator of life span isn’t genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise. It is lung capacity and breathing practices. All organs remain malleable throughout our lives and various breathing techniques and practices can improve function not matter when in our lifespan we start using them.

I hope to find the time in retirement to include healthy routines and some of those are going to be breathing and energy flow techniques. I just need to get over the lingering effects of this cold.