Breath - James Nestor on a Podcast

3 Min Read

James Nestor is a journalist who has written for Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, Scientific American, Dwell magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Atlantic, the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, and others.

His latest book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, was an instant New York Times bestseller.

I will preface this with what James states himself on the topic of what should an asthmatic do in hearing this information -

"I'm not a breathing therapist. I'm not a doctor. And one should continue going to his doctor and taking their bronchodilators. So I'm a journalist who went into this field with zero slant, with zero objective. Then I would tell one after that disclaimer that I would seek a therapist who has experience dealing with asthma attacks and using breathing to help them there."

Related article: What is Asthma?

In this episode, James discusses with Joe:

Key Takeaways

  • Breathing is essential to recovery, endurance, and performance
  • “If you’re not breathing right, you’re never really going to be healthy” – James Nestor
  • Breathing allows levers into systems we can’t otherwise control
  • Breathing needs to move from something mystical to everyday practice
  • Nasal breathing is the most efficient and beneficial way of breathing with beneficial effects for asthma, anxiety, blood pressure, and much more
  • For breath work newbies: Start with a 6-second inhale and a 6-second exhale

For Asthmatics

  • Noticeable benefits of breathing depending on the level of fitness – athletes who use nose breathing regularly will need more intensive practice than someone with chronic asthma who will notice improvements almost immediately
  • James claims studies have shown that teaching asthmatics to take control of breathing can reduce the number of asthma attacks within one month
  • Recommended breathing techniques for asthmatics (under therapist supervision): Papworth, Buteyko - these are actually mentioned in the mayo clinic article here.

See articles on Asthma here.

See below for a video of some introductory Buteyko breating techniques:

For more information on breathing for asthma and guided practice, see: Patrick McKeown, Dr. Richard Brown, Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, and Chuck McGee.

Breathing Techniques for Exercise

  • Athletes and people who train hard would benefit by slowly taking in air from nose
  • Benefits of nose breath training are similar to training at altitude: increased red blood cells and VO2 max
  • Individuals vary so it’s best to find a therapist to worth with on specific breathing techniques

Breathe Less to Gain More

  • It’s a common myth that the more we breathe, the more air we get
  • In reality, most of us breathe too much – 75% of the oxygen we take in, we breathe back out
  • When we breathe too much we’re not gaining oxygen, but actually making it harder for the body to offload oxygen into the tissues, muscles, and organs
  • Breathing less and more deeply allows us to optimize each breath as much as possible
  • You’re slowing breath when you breathe in through the nose
  • Can’t discredit that surgical intervention is sometimes necessary – 75% of the population has a deviated septum visible to naked eye
  • The need to breathe during exercise is not dictated by the need for oxygen but actually increased carbon dioxide

Techniques to Try

  • For breathing: start with inhaling for 6 seconds then exhaling for 6 seconds
  • For sleep: If you sleep with your mouth open, try taping your mouth shut using tape with light and easy adhesive, about the size of a stamp and attaching to lips

Unfortunately it is an exclusive to Spotify so you will have to make an account (you can make a free one) and click the below to listen.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Weekly content on COPD

Tips and tricks to help you manage your health

Get notified of community events like Q&A sessions with respiratory therapists and doctors

Sign Up to our Newletter

Weekly content on COPD

Tips and tricks to help you manage your health

Improve your symptoms and reduce your anxiety so you can get back to living