top of page

The under-estimated power of Breathing

Be the pilote of your nervous system with your breathing

The book “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor was life changing for me. In a few words, it opened the knowledge that I have free access to my autonomous nervous system to calm down, focus, lower pain or go beyond sport performance.

I am breathing about 22,000 times a day and after reading this book, I realized I am missing out on the benefits it can really bring.

The content is both well documented scientifically and very hands-on. Reading this book made me realize the importance of breathing with awareness. The fact that James Nestor is not a viking coming from the ice covered land or a buddhist monk, also brought confidence in my own capacity to follow his step and use my breathing as a window to pass through my internal nervous system.

Indeed breathing is an immediate way to connect with the vagus nerve.

However, breathing is the most immediate way to come into contact with our nervous system and in particular with the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a network of nerves in our nervous system that flow from the skull to the major internal organs through the neck and spine. It controls our heart rate, our digestion, the amount of blood that flows into our organs. It conveys motor, sensory, sensory and above all vegetative information.parasympathetic. By exercising control over the vagus nerve, through breathing, we can command and regulate.

Breathing allows us to become the pilot of our nervous system.

But you will tell me, we breathe all day!

Yes but badly.

James Nestor indicates that we have lost certain fundamental breathing practices. In antiquity, from Greece to China via India, the practice of different types of breathing had therapeutic virtues and longevity.

This is what he invites us to discover in his book:

What is the nose for?

The nose is made up of a set of channels and cavities that keep the humidity in the air, filter it and therefore protect us from bacteria, viruses and various particles. The various specificities of these channels in addition to their lengths allow air to enter the body gradually.

On inspiration, the air, penetrating through the nose, retains its humidity. It is also warmed gradually before entering the lungs. Finally, the nasal cavities filter around 80% of the hundreds of billions of particles that we inhale per day.

On expiration: The air leaving the lungs carries its heat and humidity into the nasal cavities, and rejects the particles engaged in the nasal cavities.

The nasal cavities are specialized in the treatment of inspirations and expirations by offering a powerful filter system and self-cleaning of this filter, thermal regulation and humidity conservation.

The evolution of our species has made breathing through the mouth possible to increase our chances of survival but must be used as an extra breath. When it becomes the main source of our breath, it causes the deterioration of the excellence of the nasal system.

Breathe yes, but how?

Research noted by Nestor shows that mouth breathing is a major cause of snoring and sleep apnea. When breathing through the mouth, the sinuses become congested and clogged. Left unused, the tissues atrophy.

Intentional breathing through the nose restores tissue vitality and function.

Following the advice of Dr. Burhenne, updated through his research on the link between sleep apnea and mouth breathing, Nestor experimented with sticking a rectangle of surgical tape the size of a postage stamp between the two lips to keep them closed all night. (the “sleep tape”). Having tried the experience, I do not hide from you that the feeling of sleeping with a square of plaster stuck to your lips is suffocating, especially if your nostrils are congested and you suffer from sleep apnea and snoring. but the idea is precisely to reactivate these tissues so that they can play their role.

Nestor recommends starting small. Increase by a few minutes daily depending on your tolerance.

Another reason why breathing through the nose is beneficial is that the sinuses play an important role in the creation of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an important role in the circulation of energy and the delivery of oxygen to the bodies. cells. The immune system, weight, blood circulation as well as sexual functions are greatly influenced by the amount of nitric oxide your body produces. Nitric oxide is the molecule that the body produces under the influence of taking viagra for example. Just by breathing through your nose, you can absorb 18 percent more oxygen than through your blood.

The strange erectile properties of our nostrils

Interesting research on the tissues lining the inside of the nostrils indicates that erectile properties allow these mucous membranes to swell and deflate during the day. We experience this every day, in an alternating rhythm, the interior tissues of our nostrils become gorged with blood, obstructing and slowing the flow of air in their ducts. While one nostril inflates, the other provides easy airflow. This alternation of the nasal cycle, occurring several times a day, also has the function of pulsating blood circulation in the opposite part of the prefrontal cortex.

Imagine the right nostril as the accelerator pedal. When you inhale correctly through this nostril, the circulation speeds up, the body warms up, the level of cortisol, blood pressure and lice increase.

Breathing through this nostril pulses more blood into the opposite, left hemisphere of the brain, particularly into the pre-frontal part of the cortex, that associated with logical decisions, language, and information processing.

Conversely, like pressing the brake pedal, inhaling through the left nostril, has the opposite effect. More deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, breathing through the left nostril relaxes us, releases tension, lowers blood pressure, cools the body and reduces anxiety. It connects us more particularly to the right part of the prefrontal cortex, the one that influences creative thought, and the formation of abstract thoughts and the production of emotions.

Breathe less

The respiratory system is a collection of tubes, ranging from the largest with the throat, trachea and sinuses to the smallest with the alveoli. This network allows our body to take a large quantity of air from the atmosphere, to take oxygen, the gas that nourishes our tissues and organs, to distribute it in a few seconds in our smallest cells and to reject, waste gas, carbon dioxide.

The distribution of oxygen in the tissues as well as the elimination of carbon dioxide takes place in the alveoli of the lungs, which are transported by hemoglobin. To represent the scene, one can imagine wagons stopping at the lungs to load up with fresh oxygen and take away the waste, the carbon dioxide. But carbon dioxide plays a more complex role and is not just a simple waste gas. Studies show that a blood loaded with carbon dioxide accentuates the hold of oxygen on hemoglobin wagons. Also muscles that are very stressed during physical effort and therefore very loaded with carbon dioxide thus receive more oxygen. Carbon dioxide also has a dilating effect on the channels opening the valves to deliver even more oxygen. By breathing less, we produce more energy and we use it more efficiently. It is the production of carbon dioxide that allows our blood to take on more oxygen. Also taking deep and rapid breaths is exhausting because they empty our body of carbon dioxide and do not promote the absorption of oxygen. Deliberately slowing down your breathing is more nourishing for the tissues.

Another relatively unknown specificity of carbon dioxide release is the relationship between weight loss and carbon dioxide release. For 10 kilos of fat lost, 8.5 comes from carbon dioxide mixed with steam, the rest disappears in urine and perspiration.

Breathe in slow motion

Another way to slow down your breathing is to say prayers. A comparative study was made on the duration of the respiratory cycles of the prayers of Buddhist monks and of the rosary of the Ave Maria in Latin. It has been observed that the duration of breaths in this state of prayer recitation is 5.5 breaths per minute. When the subjects followed this rhythm, the blood flow in the brain was accentuated as well as the coherence between the functions of the heart, the circulation and the nervous system. As subjects returned to more spontaneous breathing, their hearts began to beat more erratically and the integration of these systems dissipated as a few slow, relaxed breaths restored this coherence.

The breathing cycle, 5.5 seconds on the inhale, 5.5 on the exhale has been found to be one of the most efficient ways to breathe and by a funny equation, that works out to about 5.5 breaths per minute. This is called cardiac coherence and many studies have been done on the benefits of this breathing.

We could write lines about the benefits of different breathing techniques, but the best thing is to try. Breathe intentionally every day and measure the benefits.

This is what we will offer you in our next series of videos.


bottom of page