A book we're loving: "Breath" by NYT Best-selling author, James Nestor

How can we live healthier, richer lives when our days are already so full? Our scratch-made paleo and gluten free granola packs simple, but dense nutrition into your daily routine-without fuss. Beyond how we eat, what if we simply changed the way that we breathe? In James Nestor’s book “Breath”, he unveils the argument for just how much power our breath may hold. A great choice for summer book club- the autobiographical voice is both witty and deeply informative as James shares his journey of uncovering mysteries of human breath, with takeaways you will likely immediately work into your life. 

A skeptic (James) sits in on a 45-minute breathwork session one afternoon and leaves inexplicably transformed- and looking for answers; what happened? You may be familiar with the concept of meditation but have you heard of “pranayama?” It’s the umbrella term for exercises and techniques that harness the breath- often with benefits ranging from grounding, calming, reducing anxiety, and even energizing. When we spend even 5 minutes on a breathing exercise, we can shift our attitudes and mental capacity to take on the rest of the day. James highlights that not only are we often breathing too much, we are typically not exhaling completely

Try it! The ideal breathing interval for activating our “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system is 5.5 breaths per minute, a few cycles of slow breathing is all it takes to bring our body systems into peak efficiency or a state of coherence.*

Inhale (through the nose) for a count of 5, and exhale for a count of 5. Continue this cycle of counted inhales and exhales 6 times (keeping track on your fingers) for the equivalent of one minute’s time. An exercise like this allows a break from the thinking mind as focus shifts entirely to the breath. Notice how you may feel afterwards- refreshed or less tense? This is a great exercise to do before giving a presentation or to center-in before an important conversation or stressful situation. And the best part is, you can do it anywhere- and, no one will know! Feeling adventurous? Practice the technique for 5 minutes (or 30 cycles). 

To experiment with your exhalation, take a natural breath in through the nose, gently begin to exhale while counting aloud to 10, repeat this 1-10 vocalization until the voice softly trails out and becomes a whisper so that you have fully exhaled. You may be surprised at how many 1-10 cycles come from a single breath! You’re engaging the full potential of the diaphragm, which is often underactive, especially if you’re prone to breathing quick or shallow breaths. Not only can long exhales act as a preventative tool for respiratory and heart health, it may also be the key to enhancing athletic performance, delivering more oxygenation to the body’s cells than when panting, for example, running uphill.**

The biggest and easiest breathing takeaway Nestor’s book shares- one you can incorporate as soon as you finish reading this post- Breathe exclusively through your nose! To find out why this makes such a profound difference for our bodies over “mouth-breathing,” pick up your own copy of “Breath” from the local library. Happy Reading (and Learning)!

*Find more information on Resonant (Coherent) Breathing on page 221 of “Breath”

**Explore more about the power of exhalation in Chapter 4: Exhale, pg 53-68