James Nestor’s is author of Breath: the Science of a Lost Art. He is also the author of DEEP: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What The Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves and has written for numerous publications including The New York Times. Nestor has appeared on dozens of national television shows, including ABC’s Nightline and CBS’s Morning News, and on NPR. He lives and breathes in San Francisco.

490: Relisten: How To Breathe (231)

James Nestor

Are you breathing well?

Is your child?

My guest today is James Nestor, author of “Breath,” which explores how the human species has lost the ability to breathe properly over the past several hundred thousand years and is now suffering from a laundry list of maladies — snoring, sleep apnea, asthma, autoimmune disease — because of it.

Relisten: How to Breathe - James Nestor (231) [490]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Hey there, it's Hunter, and welcome to Throwback Thursday. Most Thursdays, we are going to re release one of my favorite episodes from the archives. So unless you're a longtime listener of the show, there's a good chance you haven't heard this one yet. And even if you had, chances are that you are going to get something new listening to it this time around.

[00:00:17] James Nestor: This is because our mouths have shrunk over the last 500 years. They've gotten so small that our teeth no longer fit. So they grow in crooked. And the real problem, beyond aesthetics. Is that a smaller mouth also means a smaller airway, which means it's harder to breathe.

[00:00:34] Hunter Clarke-Fields: You're listening to the Mindful Mama podcast, episode number 231.

Today we're talking about how to breathe with James Nester.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. I'm Mindful Parenting. We know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course. It's free! And I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome back.

I am so glad you are here today. This is a fascinating episode, and of course, a new, nice episode. Especially kind and warm welcome to you if you are new, my friend. Welcome, welcome. It really is a fascinating episode. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with James Nestor, and he's the author of Breath, the Science of a Lost Art.

He's also the author of Deep, Free Diving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves and has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times. He's appeared on dozens of national television shows, including ABC's Nightline. And CBS's Morning News, and on NPR, and he lives and breathes in San Francisco, but this is Episode is fascinating.

Uh, we find out that our mouths and our jaws have shrunk evolutionarily over the last 500 years, and it's impeding our breathing. And it may be impeding your breathing or your child's, and it can have as far reaching, far reaching effects. So we're going to talk about how to breathe properly, and I'm going to want you to listen for some Takeaways about how our, how our airways have shrunk, how ADHD can be helped by fixing sleep breathing issues, and how changing the way we can breathe can transform our health.

This is a incredibly fascinating Uh, episode, at least I found it really, really fascinating, so be sure to listen all the way through. He has so many interesting little nuggets. All right. And now, let's, let's dive in, right? Join me at the table as I talk to James Nestor.

James, thanks so much for coming on the Mindful Mama podcast.

[00:03:15] James Nestor: Thanks for having me.

[00:03:17] Hunter Clarke-Fields: I'm happy to have you here. And as someone who's studied yoga before and, and like, I'm, I'm interested in breathing, but you are really, really interested in breathing, James. This is many pages on breathing. Uh, and I'm wondering how you got so, so interested.

Where, where did this whole, all this research on, on breathing come from? How does it start?

[00:03:40] James Nestor: It, it, it happened and there were really two jumping off points for me. One of which was. When I had this very weird experience, uh, several years ago, maybe 10, 11 years ago, where I went to this breathing class, my doctor suggested I go to a breathing class because I was having problems with a bronchitis and it's getting pneumonia, mild pneumonia every year.

I was starting to wheeze, which is strange because I was pretty into fitness, surfing a lot and all that, but constant respiratory problems. So I went to this class and just sat in the corner of the studio and breathed in this certain way and had this very powerful. Reaction where, um, started sweating. My hair was covered in sweat, sweat all over my face, my t shirt and that the room was cool.

So when I asked my doctor what had happened, she had zero explanation for it. So it seemed like there was this real blind spot in our medical understanding of what breathing could do. So I filed that away. Didn't really do anything with it for years and years until I met these free divers who were able to hold their breath for 8, 9, 10 minutes at a time and dive down to depths far below what scientists thought.

So these free divers told me that breathing was really the key. Focus your mind and to tune your body up to do different things without understanding and appreciating breathing. We really can't appreciate health or longevity. And, uh, that was interesting enough that I spent several years looking at the science behind it.

[00:05:11] Hunter Clarke-Fields: So, eight or nine minutes at a time. That's amazing. I can't even, I can't even imagine. Um, so your breathing class, did it help you with your breathing?

[00:05:25] James Nestor: It didn't really, cause I, I just took a class for a couple of weeks, um, and I was still having some issues. It helped me. Enlighten my mind, um, you know, for all the, uh, apparent benefits, um, and all of the potential of breathing.

I think that's what it did. I said, wow, if we can sit, sit still for 10 minutes, breathe in this pattern and suddenly force ourselves to sweat, you know, what else could we focus breathing on? How else can that affect? Our health, how can it impact longevity, endurance, what diseases could it help heal? And so those were much larger questions, not my personal experience, but, but the larger questions on how breathing applied to everyone else, you know, and how we could do it, do it better.

[00:06:15] Hunter Clarke-Fields: This is fascinating. Cause like, so your first chapter is called The worst breathers in the animal kingdom. And you say we lost the ability to breathe correctly. So this might be like big news to most people who are just kind of breathing away and feel like they're doing just fine about that. So can you tell me a little bit more about it?

[00:06:35] James Nestor: Well, it was big news to me. Um, I had no idea the book was going to be going in this direction. When, when you pitch a nonfiction book, you. Kind of scope out the areas that you think you're going to be going into and the researchers you're going to be talking to, but about six months into this process of constant research, I found out that our faces and our mouths have been formed in such a way that so many of us have chronic respiratory problems because of this.

And it was fascinating. I visited, I think, very close to where you are. Um, University of Penn Archeology and Anthropology Museum, their largest collection of pre industrial skulls. I was there with a researcher, Dr. Marianna Evans, and she showed me all these old skulls, um, skulls 500 years and older, back to a couple thousand years old.

And all of them had perfectly straight teeth. And these people obviously had no dentists or orthodontists, but they had perfectly straight teeth. And she said, if you take a skull, a modern skull. It's going to, there's a very good chance it's going to have very crooked teeth. And she explained this is because our mouths have shrunk over the last 500 years.

They've gotten so small that our teeth no longer fit, so they grow in crooked. And the real problem beyond aesthetics is that a smaller mouth also means a smaller airway, which means it's harder to breathe, which is one of the reasons why so many of us snore, have sleep apnea, respiratory problems. Cause our faces have actually morphed and changed over the past few centuries.

And I just thought, my God, this is so interesting. Uh, and it was something I certainly never learned in school.

[00:08:16] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Um, I mean, that's fascinating. You know, it's interesting because I've heard that about um, the, the, the, I've heard that about ancient humans having like perfectly straight teeth and even primitive peoples having perfectly straight teeth and the way I came across that information was in the form of a book called Nourishing Traditions, talking about that, uh, talking about maybe the cause of that as diet, but your, your research kind of maybe points to the cause of this as, uh, uh, is breathing and, but, and, but how would our breathing change, you know, at that time.

I'm, I'm a little confused about that.

[00:08:55] James Nestor: Sure. So that, that book and that, that group you're referring to, um, is, is built around the work of Weston Price, who was the head of research of the, what would become the American Dental Association. And he spent 10 years looking at what happened to, to indigenous people who had switched to an industrial diet.

So they had been eating their traditional foods and the foods were so varied. Uh, you know, some of them were mostly vegetarian, other. Ate almost all meat. Others ate dairy. Others didn't. But, um, he would take these groups, sometimes in the same family, um, and show what would happen to their dentation. Um, within a single generation, their teeth became extremely crowded.

Mouths were shrinking. So what the one thing I think that the Western Price Group gets a little wrong, they attributed all of this to the lack of vitamins and minerals, which is certainly true with industrialized foods compared to traditional diets. Way fewer minerals. Vitamins and Minerals, but the real cause I discovered was the lack chewing.

So if we don't chew, we're not going to build the right bone structure. We're not going to widen our mouths. We're not going to build up those muscles and chewing really starts. in infancy. So it's, it's not something that just occurs in adult.

[00:10:17] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Oh my gosh. So I'm like making connections here. So with my second daughter, I, when I started her on food, I did a tech, uh, a process called baby led weaning, which is a terrible name for what it is because it's really, you give them soft whole foods that they kind of just chew on and nom, nom, nom on, on their own.

And then it, it, it was great. Cause you know, it just kind of goes. through her mouth, you know, at her own pace and you don't have to shove a spoonful of mushy stuff into a child's mouth. Um, and so I kind of, what you're saying here is that the, the chewing, lack of chewing, but we still chew food. All right.

I have tons of questions. So the, the chewing may have helped daughter number two, potentially just a little side note, personal, personal thought but so is it the idea that we're not We're not chewing, like we're just cooking our food too much, we're cutting it up too small. We're, what, what's going on here?

[00:11:16] James Nestor: So when I talk about chewing, it's, it's, when I say it starts in infancy, it starts with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding takes a tremendous amount of coordination and it pulls the face outward. Um, and it, and it really uses all of those muscles in the head. So what they've found, and there's been several studies on this, is they've taken kids who have been breastfed versus those who have been bottle fed and seen how their breathing progresses throughout various stages of their life.

And the ones who have been bottle fed have a far greater chance of suffering from sleep apnea and snoring. and other respiratory issues because their, their faces have not developed properly to, to their full potential. Um, and if you think about indigenous groups up until just a couple hundred years ago, they were breastfed.

Kids were breastfed from two to four years, even, even later than that. So all of that chewing and that stretching, that constant stretching of the face allowed them to have these wider mouths. So Dr. Kevin Boyd, Um, has done a tremendous amount of research on this and it's utterly fascinating and now other, uh, universities and institutions are looking into this as well.

So, I know in the modern day, it's, it's impossible for, for a new mom to be constantly breastfeeding their, their kid. Um, and so there's other things that, that you can do is you can introduce, just as you did, uh, introduce chewing. At an early stage and try to, to really work that masticatory stress so that those bones and those, those muscles develop.

Develop more.

[00:12:51] Hunter Clarke-Fields: So is the, is, is early childhood and infancy where our faces, is it because of changes in that, that that's where our faces started to shrink? Did you get to learn about that piece?

[00:13:02] James Nestor: It, it, it can start with that, but there's also links, uh, Dr. Kevin Boyd has, has also found links between if the mother is not breathing correctly, if she has sleep apnea, for instance, and is cutting off the, the oxygen to, to her, her fetus and in her body.

Without that oxygen, that that can stunt growth as well. So he's actually seen this in scans. Um, he's seen this retro, this, this backwards growth of their faces, even, even, uh, in the womb. Um, so, so we're actually evolving this way, kids. Uh, but the good news about the human body. You know, if we've caused this damage to our body, the body has an amazing way to heal and we can reverse so much of that damage and improve our breathing.

[00:13:53] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

What are some of the things then maybe that, I mean, I guess just keeping in, in line with what we've talked about with this idea of like chewing and, and the, the food, what are some things that are optimal to reverse some of this, maybe with kids or adults?

[00:14:16] James Nestor: I think if you look at how we've evolved, um, so all of our ancestors and probably back 2, 000 years on back to a million years ago, they were chewing about four hours a day.

They're just grinding away four hours a day. And I, I realized some of us chew now, but, but in comparison, you know, 90 percent of the foods we eat, even stuff that's considered healthy, oatmeals, smoothies. Avocados, that stuff's all soft, you know? So, so we're just not getting the chewing stress. That we've evolved to have, we, that we then use to evolve these very broad jaws, these powerful faces, these large sinuses.

So, and we know that from the skeletal record, there's no controversy. So I think to get around that, it really depends, you know, there's people at different levels of, of, of their potential. Some, some people can come out and have very powerful jaw and they're, they're great, they're in the minority, but most of us.

Just like me, you know, I was breastfed for, for six months and put on formula and ate a bunch of crappy 70s and 80s processed food. So, I'm suffering from this more than, more than anyone. Had braces, all that stuff. So, I, I think that those traditional foods and, and that's where Weston Price really, really steps in.

He said, you know, the benefits of eating these whole traditional foods. It extends beyond just the vitamins and minerals, which are essential, of course, but it's that you, they really require a lot of chewing stress and with that chewing stress, you can vastly affect your, your breathing health.

[00:15:55] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.

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That's K I W I C O dot com slash hunter. You won't regret it. Okay. All right. So I'm thinking like the entire carrot that I would chew on and eat on my way down to the barn. To watch my mom do a writing lesson when I was a kid was probably a good thing. And, uh, and, and of course then the, the mushy applesauce, you know, not so good as the apple, obviously, that kind of thing.

[00:18:46] James Nestor: And what, what's exciting is we have technology, right? Um, so. What they're doing now, especially with kids who have sleep apnea and snore, infants, which is a very serious problem that's been linked to neurological damage, stunted growth, a whole laundry list of issues, is they're actually going in, and this sounds harsh, but it's really not, they're expanding their top palette.

And they're making their palate larger so that when their teeth grow in, their teeth will naturally grow in straight. And the real benefit of this is that it also expands the airway so they can breathe easier. And it was interesting to me to find in the late 1800s, this was how orthodontics, the very first orthodontics started off not by straightening teeth, but by allowing kids with a cleft palate to expand their mouth so they could breathe properly, so they could chew properly.

And for 20, 30, 40 years, they used this expansion therapy as the way to do it. To fix straightened teeth, wider mouth, more, larger playing field for teeth to grow in straight. Better Breathing, and I found it fascinating to see so many orthodontists now returning to this. So this is what they're doing, and this is really the future of, of that profession.

[00:20:07] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Yeah, yeah. I mean, when I was, I had, or, braces twice because I lost my retainers, they pulled so many teeth of mine. I have like an odd number of teeth. Because I have, they pulled so many teeth. And now with my daughters, they, yeah, they, they called it a turtle and it was like a little palate expander and she had her palate expanded.

I never realized that it might be helping her breathing too. And that's amazing.

[00:20:35] James Nestor: For, so for those deficiencies, um, and, and that's so inspiring to hear this because, you know, I talked to other dentists just like, oh, we don't do that. Uh, you know, and a lot of this came around from the production line.

approach to dentistry. You know, it's a lot easier to go in and yank. I've had wisdom teeth removed, extractions, head, I mean, you, you name it. I've had it all. So, um, it's, it's a lot easier to take out teeth to do the same procedure for every single person. This expansion takes more time. You know, it's a lot harder to do, but the benefits are so pronounced.

And they've found that with kids who had ADHD. Um, just by expanding their, their mouths and letting them breathe more easily at sleep, the symptoms of the, of the vast majority of them went away because ADHD is strongly correlated to the health of sleep, especially sleep apnea. If you're choking on your sleep a hundred times a night, that's not good for your brain, especially at an early age.

So it's inspiring to see. That, you know, we have the tools now and we have the knowledge to fix these, these problems that we've acquired over the last several hundred years and re correct our breathing to the way it was before all of this industrialization messed us up.

[00:21:53] Hunter Clarke-Fields: And I think we've talked about sleep apnea a couple times and just for someone who's not familiar with sleep apnea, it's when we stop breathing in our sleep, right?

[00:22:01] James Nestor: That's exactly right. So the difference between sleep apnea and snoring is snoring is the soft tissues on the back of the throat. When those are too loose, you sound like that. Um, sleep apnea is usually when the, not usually, all the time when the tongue falls back into the throat and you,

that's how it sounds. It sounds like a, if anyone's done scuba diving, sounds just like that. So what happens when that tongue gets stopped and airflow stops is your oxygen levels go down. Without the healthy amount of oxygen. Nothing is going to work right in your body. And there is some tremendous research happening at Stanford and Harvard right now, looking into the effects of healthy infant sleeping is to start with this.

You have to get a kid breathing healthy first. Um, everything else comes, comes after that, but they have to breathe.

[00:22:56] Hunter Clarke-Fields: When you made that sound, I had like a PTSD response because my second daughter had sleep apnea, they diagnosed hers as coming from tonsils and they, they took her tonsils out. And we finally did it when she was a little older, but it was.

Really frightening because to take a small child in for surgery is a really big deal. And, um, but it's, it's helped her enormously. So what did you discover about your own breathing? How did you, uh, you, you were having some breathing problems. So what did you discover about your own breathing through this process and what did you fix or change?

[00:23:32] James Nestor: And just, just one comment about tonsils, tonsils and adenoids. Absolutely. What happens to those become inflamed and they, they, they block the throat. So they sound like, like, okay, I won't, I was trying to demonstrate what it is. You, you will never hear that sound from you. So, so anything that's blocking the throat, right?

If it's the tongue, the adenoids, it's the tonsils that needs to be dealt with. But the important thing here is that some people who had tonsillectomies. Or their adenoids removed later in life can get sleep apnea again because it's linked to that mouth that is too, too small. So if you're already expanding your way ahead of the curve and listen, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a breathing therapist, I'm a journalist, uh, but luckily I've talked to enough scientists and I can refer, give you a ton of references.

Of the real people in this world who are doing the real work. Um, but that's who I've learned this stuff from. And, and what I'm saying is not controversial either. This has been so clearly documented. Um, back to me. Um, and, and no more sleep apnea. Uh, noises, I swear. Um, so yeah, I mean, I had, you know, they, I read this one study that was fascinating.

That said for every tooth you have removed, your chances of sleep apnea are going to go up that much. I think it starts off one or two teeth. It's only like 2%, but once you start getting into the four to 60, it starts going way up, which is one of the reasons why people with, with dentures, when they take the dentures out, they have much higher chance of having sleep apnea.

I've had all that stuff. I ate soft foods. I had braces, all that stuff. And, and even though I was eating well, I'm conscious of what I'm eating, even though I was exercising all the time. Um, I was still getting sick all the time and I was, I was still having respiratory issues. So once I learned about this from, from scientists and researchers, I then wanted to obviously adopt these better breathing habits and see what would happen in my, in my own body.

And just speaking about expansion, we'd been told that after the age of about 30, we can't grow new bone, right? Because we're only losing bone. And, and that's, that's true for most, most of the body. But there's one bone that we can continue developing and modeling. It so happens to be our face. So this goes against so much of what textbooks have told us.

And, uh, several researchers are working on this right now. But so that means by, by more chewing. Uh, we can develop more stem cells, which can build new bone. And I wanted to test this claim. So I use this device. It sounds very similar to the turtle that your daughters are using. Um, and I put it on my upper palate because my mouth is definitely too small.

And, uh, just to see if I could build new bone and, and widen my airways. And I wore this thing every night for a year, which was not fun. My wife was not happy about it.

[00:26:39] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Did you have to do the little, like, uh, put the little tool in and like turn it slightly to expand it?

[00:26:44] James Nestor: That's exactly right. Yes, yes, I did.

So it's inspiring to know. So I had a. Huge, huge benefit from doing this. Not only did I open my airway and all of this was, was recorded and verified by the Mayo Clinic, um, CAT scans before and after, you know, meticulous with the data here, but I also built new bone in, in my face. Um, which was shocking to me because I'd always been told you, you couldn't do that.

So, so it just, it just goes to show it's. The, the body has these amazing ways of healing and correcting itself if, if we allow it to. And I think that's what, what breathing really does. I, I believe it is an absolute anchor even before, uh, focusing on eating well or exercising. You have to get your breathing in shape because even if you have those other aspects in shape, nothing is ever really going to work right.

[00:27:41] Hunter Clarke-Fields: That's an amazing story. I'm, now I'm thinking, I wonder if I'd I should do an expander. I had a bunch of teeth taken out. I was a mouth breather my whole childhood because no one, I was forced to drink milk and no one realized I was allergic to dairy. And so I was congested the whole time. And now I breathe through my nose, but, um, yeah, I'm just curious.

So interesting.

[00:28:03] James Nestor: Your story is so similar to mine and to so many other people who have, you know, grown up, um, you know, in the, in the 80s or 90s or 70s. Um, and it's, it's funny because you look at what we thought we knew about you. Uh, diet in the seventies and eighties and all that food has been proven to be a disaster, right?

So I really think that there is a new realization coming and new appreciation for breathing as well and knowing what a powerful tool this can be. to, to really improve health and even in some cases help, help heal some chronic problems.

[00:28:42] Hunter Clarke-Fields: So what's the right way to breathe? What did you discover about that?

[00:28:45] James Nestor: The right way to breathe, uh, depends on what you want to do. There, there's no way to breathe that for every situation, but For most of the time, like just as we're doing here, when you're sitting at your desk, when you're sitting watching TV, when you're sitting in your car, whatever, it's to breathe slower than you think you need to.

And I know that seems counterintuitive, but everyone thinks by breathing more, you're getting more oxygen into your body, but the opposite is happening. When you breathe like that, you're causing constriction, and you are lessening the circulation. in your body and you can test this by sitting and purposely breathing too much and maybe your fingers are going to get cold.

Maybe your toes are going to get cold. That is the constriction of your blood vessels. Um, so what you want to be doing is have the right combination of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Carbon dioxide gets this really bad rap, rightfully so for, for climate change, acidity of oceans, all that. Carbon, more carbon dioxide, bad news.

But in our bodies, we need that balance of, of CO2 offload oxygen most efficiently. I won't get into the technical aspects of this, but uh, I, I've mentioned to a lot of people, you can see this with a pulse oximeter as well, if anyone happens to have one, if you can breathe more slowly, your oxygen will either stay at the same, uh, level, or it might even go up, which seems counterintuitive, not getting enough air in, but by breathing through the nose slowly, you can increase your oxygenation by, by 20 percent in those breaths, so you need to breathe less.

Less air to get more of a benefit. You're also going to lower your heart rate. So if, if anyone's just listening right now, you can just, just try this little exercise here. And again, I'm not a breathing therapist, but this is something I learned from the real pros, um, psychiatrists in, in New York, uh, Patricia Gerbarg and, and Robert, uh, Brown, Richard Brown.

Uh, they've done a ton of work in this. So, um, You just take an inhale through your nose, a count of about five or six. Don't stress about that. One, two, three, four, five, and out softly. One, two, three, four, five, in, one, two, et cetera, et cetera. Just by breathing this way. You're going to be expanding, allowing your diaphragm to lower even more, which allows your lungs to expand, which actually pushes more blood into your thoracic cavity and helps the heart out.

So it greatly reduces the burden of the heart. And that's one of the reasons why your blood pressure, just by breathing this way for a couple of minutes, can go down 10 15 points. Um, because you're allowing your body to do what it naturally wants to do. You're not constantly forcing it to compensate to keep you alive and kicking.

You're, you're doing so much of that with the breath. And, um, circulation is going to increase more blood to the brain. Um, a lot of people think, well, how can that be? I feels like I'm breathing so slow. I'm not getting enough oxygen. Not the right way of thinking about it. And again, you can test this yourself.

Uh, the body wants to be working at peak efficiency. It doesn't want to be forced to do more and more and more.

[00:32:15] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Yeah. I mean, from my yoga training, you know, that, that sort of hyperventilating to me, it goes with that stress response, right? Your tense muscles, et cetera. And I was taught in a yoga training that Every, um, inhale, the nervous system responds like a, it's a mini, uh, stress response and every exhale is a mini rest and relax response.

So as we lengthen the exhales, we're just, just kind of hacking the system a little bit to reduce stress if we need to do that.

[00:32:45] James Nestor: That's, that's exactly right. And you can place your hand on your heart right now and inhale. You're going to feel your heart rate speed up and then exhale for longer. You're going to feel your heart rate slow down.

So that is a sympathetic response. It's associated with a sympathetic response. Inhaling, exhaling is the opposite response. So if you want to slow down. Before going to bed, you can inhale to a count of four, exhale to eight. And so you're going to be really triggering that parasympathetic, that rest and relax response.

And it's fascinating to be hooked into something. I did a bunch of last couple of years to be hooked up with a ton of different sensors, looking at your heart rate, looking at your nervous system balance. and to breathe in these different ways and just see what a drastic change occurs in your body. And it got me thinking, it's like, okay, I can hack my body through breathing within just a couple minutes.

What if you did this for a couple of hours a day? What if you did it for a couple of months? What if you did it for a couple of years? And I went out and researched with the people who had done that, who have done Who've completely transformed their health just by breathing differently.

[00:34:01] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Oh, cool. Who did, who did you meet?

Tell us the story of one of these people.

[00:34:05] James Nestor: There's, there's so many of them. Um, and they, they got pretty, uh, emotional, these interviews because no, these people had never been told, like, like the, the common belief is that it's only important that we're breathing. So, so the, the human body is going to do the rest.

It's going to compensate. That's true. But, but why do you want to overwork your body 24 hours a day? You know, it's, it's how we take those breaths and that new science I found so interesting. So one story was this. Lady, she was, uh, 70. She had suffered from extreme asthma since she was 10 years old. Could hardly walk a couple blocks before getting short of breath.

Was just told, hey, this is genetic. You have asthma. Stay inside. Avoid dust. All of that stuff. So, in her 70s, she learned how to breathe more efficiently, slowly. through the nose, controlling her breaths. And now she has no more symptoms of asthma before. And this, this has been recorded thousands of times.

People can look up, um, the New York Times article, um, by David. It's about David Wiebe, W I E. B. E. I believe is his name, um, written in the New York Times, a legit source and, and check out his story. That, that story came out about 10 years ago of someone who did the exact same thing. And, and I met people with, who had chronic autoimmune problems, um, extremely high blood pressure, got diagnosed with type one diabetes in, in his thirties, um, uh, severe depression, anxiety, who changed the way he breathed and so much so.

that he was able to get rid of all his blood pressure, uh, medication because his blood pressure was almost getting too low. It had gone from, from stage two hypertension to extremely low. And, and this is stuff that's been documented. It's not just someone's story on, on YouTube or whatever. It's stuff that is being explored.

And that's what I, I knew these stories would be unbelievable to people, which is why there's 500 scientific references in the book. If you don't believe me, talk to the researchers, look at the studies

[00:36:16] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Oh yeah, there's, there are a lot of references in the

[00:36:19] James Nestor: book. Hopefully it doesn't read like that. I put them all in the back of the book so that, it's like, I know a lot of people aren't going to read that, but I knew there was going to be a lot of skeptics, rightfully so, who said what you're saying is impossible.

We can't develop our lungs. We can't develop bone. Look at the data, people. And look, look where this data is coming from as well.

[00:36:42] Hunter Clarke-Fields: It's amazing, I think, what the human body is capable of. I mean, I've always, I mean, having, having learned about the ways that we can control, in a lot of ways, the nervous system through yoga, yogic breathing a long time ago, I, I, for me, it helped me understand, oh, how people can start to control, you know, other ultimately other parts of their body and start slowing down their heart rate and various things.

So, so it is pretty amazing. I love that you've, you've documented it all, but you, you talked about health and And I want to ask you about, like, why not the mouth, but we're going to hold off on that. And, uh, you know, my husband heard you, uh, doing an interview on NPR. He got so excited because he suffers from gastroesophageal reflux and has had, had times where he's been, uh, They, it feels like he's having a heart attack and he's had to go to the emergency room because what do you do if you feel his feelings?

You, you know, you go to the emergency room, they tell you what to do. That's what they tell you to do. But his, his heart is perfectly healthy. He's gone through every workout possible for his heart. And so he's trying to like, kind of be this, uh, sleuth and understand what's going on with him. And then he heard your interview and he thought that this, you might have sort of a, uh, an eye and some insight into that.

Problem as well.

[00:38:03] James Nestor: My, my publisher was very strict in telling me, do not prescribe anything. You're a journalist and, and I really want to keep that oath, right? I am a reporter into this world. Having said that, with that caveat, I will repeat. What I had been told by, by the real pros, the real scientists, the real researchers in this world.

So what I think he might benefit from is, um, if you, it's something called incline bed therapy. Um, so if you lift the back of your bed, they have fancy mattresses that do this. They have little foam risers. You don't need any of that. All you need is some books. You want to lift it. So the back is about six inches higher than the front.

Um, uh, by the front, I mean the, um, where your feet are. Yeah. Yeah. So you, so your head wants to be about six or seven inches higher and that in and of itself. Can reorient the body so that the airways can open more easily. You know, I know that, that some of this is, uh, GERD is tied to, to foods. So that's another thing as well.

Um, but it's also can, can be tied to, um, uh, sleeping position. What, what they've found is that if you sleep on your left side, that's a much more natural position for your stomach. The lion, and there's two studies in the back of the book, and also the bibliography is available for free for everyone on my site, two studies where, where they showed that significantly less, uh, GERD by lying on your left side, and that also helps open your airways, you know, if you look at any statue of the Buddha sleeping, there's a good chance he's on his side, because that's how we used to sleep on our sides.

And that, that goes back thousands of years. So left side sleeping, that incline bed therapy. And I'm going to mention one other thing that sounds completely, um, uh, crazy, but it's, it's that, uh, using a teeny piece of tape at, at night to keep the mouth shut. And this is something I learned at Stanford from, from the doctor of speech language pathology, told me this and several other doctors It seemed crazy because I was like, I don't want to be like a Hostage, you know, with a huge piece of tape on the mouth.

This is a

[00:40:27] Hunter Clarke-Fields: fun part to read in your book about the people taping up their mouths.

[00:40:32] James Nestor: It's, it's true. If you think about it, you know, the, the method I don't think is as, as important. The, the goal is to keep your jaw shut at night. You do not want to, I will not do the sleep apnea sound. I swear. Um, I, I will, you do not want to have your mouth open all night.

Okay. And this is something that I used to sleep with that I thought was perfectly normal for decades. I'd have this huge glass of water by my bed throughout the night. My mouth would be dry. I'd drink it. You don't want to do that. You're, you're, um, releasing 40 percent more moisture doing that. And, and you're also not allowing the, the nose to filter everything out, increase your oxygenation and put you calmly to sleep.

So those, those three things, lift the bed up, sleep on the left side and, uh, and try mouth taping. So you're just breathing through your

[00:41:26] Hunter Clarke-Fields: nose. All right. All right. I'll, I'll look forward to facing his back at an invite.

[00:41:31] James Nestor: Sorry about, sorry about that. Um, you know what, uh, they used to do, uh, 80 years ago for, for people who had similar problems as.

They would tape a little ping pong ball or sock to the back so you could only sleep on the side. And this, this may take, you know, a few nights, maybe even a few weeks. Um, but, but I think he'll see, I don't know, but, but I think he'll see some. Some benefit from that. And there's definitely a lot of science to support.

[00:42:00] Hunter Clarke-Fields: I bet he's, I'll bet he'll be willing to try. I remember when I was told to sleep on my left side during pregnancy at the end to like help the baby and I got so tired of it. I just want to sleep on my back again. But I, yeah, it is doable to, to make these changes. I love, I love this. So, okay. So you mentioned a little bit, I guess the nose is filtering air, but, but why, the, why not the mouth?

What, what's the big deal about mouth breathing? Why shouldn't we be doing it?

Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.

[00:42:41] James Nestor: So, you know, I could talk about the benefits of the nose or the problems of the mouth. I guess I'll talk to both, both, both of them at the same time. When we breathe through the mouth. We are breathing in air that is unpressurized, that is unhumidified, that is unfiltered, that is unconditioned. So all of that air is irritating the lungs so much more than through the nose.

By just breathing through the nose, the nose, like if you have your fist right now, um, put it right in front of your face. Imagine putting your fist. Inside of your skull. I know that's weird, but that is about the volume that your nose and all the sinuses take up in your face. So it is this enormous, extremely intricate organ that is implicated in so many different functions to keep us healthy.

Um, we're the only, one of the only animals beyond some, some bulldogs or pugs that breathe through our mouths all the time, and it's extremely bad for us. So I mentioned this before, just by breathing through, through your nose at night, especially you are creating a pressure in your airways. You're creating a vacuum, negative, then positive pressure.

That will push those soft tissues at the back of the throat back further. Uh, when we breathe through our mouths, those tissues will come forward and make us more apt to snore. So just with my friends as an experiment, I haven't written about this or anything. Five of my friends who were chronic snorers were just like, yeah, okay, well, we're going to try this thing.

I said, okay, just record it for me. Cause I'm just curious. Four or five of them said they no longer snore from this and their partners have written me these love letters saying, thank you. I can sleep again with my, with my partner not being woken up. I mean, I mean, it's, it's drastically. Was it the

[00:44:33] Hunter Clarke-Fields: tape that you had them?

[00:44:34] James Nestor: It was, it was the tape and, and this sounds even crazier. My father in law is a pulmonologist and pulmonologist for 40 years. Uh, pretty conservative in his medical views. He is now using this mouth tape and he called me and said, Oh my God, you're going to be in a lot of trouble. That's because there's a huge industry built around sleep and snoring and sleep apnea.

So I'm looking outside my window now, you know, for the big black Lincoln that's going to be showing up and hauling me off somewhere. But this guy's a pulmonologist who knows more about breathing than, you know, Most people on the planet. And he said that he was not snoring, um, when, when he did this and he was, he was amazed, but the physics of it, the geometry of the science, it's, it's completely legit, you know, you can't deny that to some people get a little freaked out that.

I'm not putting tape on my mouth at night. It's not about covering the whole face. It's the teeniest little face, just to remind you to keep your jaw shut. That's all you need.

[00:45:37] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Well, you need the James Nestor approved specific mouth tape, because I want to know, like, what kind of tape do you use? Do you use blue tape?

Do you use duct tape?

[00:45:51] James Nestor: No, I, uh, and this is another thing. I'm not going to commercialize breathing, you know, not, not my thing. The great thing with everything I just mentioned to you, uh, for GERD, 100 percent free. Not 100%, maybe it's gonna cost you a couple cents, you know. Um, but, but this is free stuff that's available to, to anyone.

Um, the tape that I used after a lot of tr trial and error, um, is this Micropore surgical tape that's, uh, hypoallergenic, so, so it's very loose, um, and I take a little piece about the size of a postage stamp. And I put my thumbs on it to take some adhesive off. I just place it at the center of my lips.

You're going to go on YouTube and see these people with like duct tape and painters, no, no, no, no, no. You don't want to do that. So just a teeny piece of tape center of the lips. If everyone thinks this is crazy, um, you can talk to the Stanford researchers who are looking into this, or Dr. Mark Verheni, who's been doing this for, for decades, and, and training his patients to do it as well.

[00:46:57] Hunter Clarke-Fields: This is fascinating. I wonder if, I'm, I'm going to have to listen to my daughter now. Listen to how she sleeps and see if she, I, I caught her snort. We used to, she, I mean, she used to snort a lot, a lot, which is how we kind of caught her sleep apnea problem. And, um, I don't know if it's happening sometimes.

I, she'll, she would probably, I don't know how she would take to the tape though, cause she might have a rebellion against it.

[00:47:23] James Nestor: I'm, I, again, I'm not prescribing anything, but, uh, I will be posting because I've gotten hundreds of questions from, from readers. And there's no way I can answer them. And I don't want to answer them because I'm not qualified to answer them.

So what I'm doing on my website, this is totally free. No one's selling anyone, anything. I'm collecting these questions and then I'm inviting an expert in the field. We have someone coming from Harvard who's going to talk about infant sleeping and sleep apnea and snoring. And I just had Dr. Mark Berhenion talking about sleep taping and how he's used it, um, for, for very young kids.

Again, it's not blocking the air, blocking it. This tape comes off in a second. You, you push it off with your tongue. You never rip it off. It comes off that easy. It's just, just to train you. So when people say this is dangerous and, you know, it's endangering children, no, what's, what's very dangerous and deleterious to, to a child's health is not breathing correctly, is to snore and have sleep apnea, especially in the early stages of development.

And again, this has been Harvard, uh, Christian Guillaumont wrote this whole book, he he'd been studying it for 40 years. Uh, uh, Infant Sleeping, Childhood Sleeping, and Breeding, and, and his, his work is incredible. So I'm coughing up essentially what, what he has said, you know, this is not my own research.

[00:48:46] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Well, you present it in a really palatable way, in a way that people can hear it. So I, I really appreciate it. Um, I'm glad that, dear listener, you and I are both hearing this information right now because I think it is really important. So just, you know, just to kind of jump back a little bit to the yogic breathing you talk, I learned about alternate nostril breathing, uh, as a, uh, Yoga Teacher.

I learned that it balances energy channels, which I kind of feel a little like, I don't know about the woo stuff that they, you know, I'm not sure the balancing of energy channels has been verified for me. So maybe you could tell me what exactly it does do.

[00:49:25] James Nestor: Those are not terms I use in my talk. And those are kind of red flag terms.

You know, if people get a benefit from it and that, that's why I don't want to take away from, if someone's getting a benefit from this right on, that's great. It's free. To open one nostril and close the other one, and it's not going to hurt you. But what I found was, was very interesting was the actual science behind this, the stuff that had been studied at University of California, San Diego, you know, that had been studied over, over decades.

And what they've found is there's an absolute correlation between the nostrils and different levels of nervous system function. So the right nostril is associated with a sympathetic response. So your heart rate's going to speed up. You're going to get hotter. Your blood pressure is going to slightly increase, so you're going to become more awake.

The left nostril has the opposite functions, more connected to the right side of the brain, which is the creative side, and it's going to rest and cool you down, slow your heart rate down, lower your blood pressure. So I included, I think, 7 or 8 studies showing the same outcomes with various subjects in the bibliography, but if you go to PubMed, which is the clearinghouse at the National Institutes of Health, it's all of the studies.

Um, you can type in alternate nostril breathing and I think like 200 studies show up. So, so this is what, what they've been saying. So there is absolute science behind this stuff. It's, you know, people said, Oh, it's just a placebo effect, but, but it's, it's not when you have this much science, this much data.

[00:51:01] Hunter Clarke-Fields: I think I could reinterpret balancing the energy channels to mean it's balancing sort of the nervous system, really. It's balancing that sympathetic versus parasympathetic system.

[00:51:13] James Nestor: That's, that's exactly right. And once I started wading into this even deeper, I mean, my, my work life is pretty strange. I start getting into these subjects, but, but what I discovered, um, from Jay Eckhart Nyack down at Stanford is that our noses are lined with this erectile tissue.

that flexes and opens and closes just like the erectile tissue you know where. So, so our noses throughout the day, one nostrils gonna naturally be opening while the other closes. Then the other is going to open and close. So, if you think about it, what some researchers believe is that our bodies are doing this throughout the day, to keep us balanced, to use those different channels, to, to regulate our nervous system.

Now, I wish there had been more studies, more science done in this, but If we know those different channels do affect us in this way, I think it's fascinating that we automatically do this. Our nose is opening and closing throughout the day, every day.

[00:52:14] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Wow. I mean, the whole, the whole thing is really fascinating.

It, so, you know, you, you have, You dove deep. Is it dived or dove? I get so confused. It's dived. You've done the research with the free divers, so you should know. You dive deep into breathing. Um, so what, just as we finish up, what are, what are a few changes that you've made in your life that you feel like have made some of the biggest differences?

[00:52:43] James Nestor: So in the book, I sort of laid it out where I started with a lot of the negative stuff, but the reason I wrote this book wasn't just to dwell on that. I needed to address the problem. It's like, we're messed up. We're messed up because of evolution. We're messed up because of our culture, because of our food, because of our, but the vast majority of the book is like, okay, we're messed up.

How, how can we fix this? So those chapters are lined up, um, with, with the hints on, on how to help breathe better. So it starts with the nose, have to breathe through the nose. No option, people. You got to do it. Um, read more slowly. I

[00:53:17] Hunter Clarke-Fields: question, actually, on the nose thing. What about like a sigh breath?

Because I've heard that a sigh breath is like really helpful for reducing that like a, uh, kind of breath, that kind of thing.

[00:53:27] James Nestor: It's, it, we're talking about chronic breathing, habitual breathing. So just

[00:53:31] Hunter Clarke-Fields: check it.

[00:53:31] James Nestor: We're breathing for, for sure. And I get this question a lot. So as I'm talking to you, I'm definitely taking in some breath through my mouth.

There's, there's no doubt. And, you know, throughout the day, sometimes when I'm laughing, I'm taking some breaths. It is completely normal and completely fine. I'm talking about the other 24, 000 breaths you're taking in that day. How are you taking those breaths, especially at night? If you think of, if a third of your life you were breathing very improperly and causing damage to your body, The rest of your waking hours, your body is just going to try to be catching up and healing itself.

Instead of using that energy to heal that damage, why not use it to go on and do some other things? So, so I think that it really starts with nasal breathing, starts by breathing slower, starts by breathing less. Then for almost the vast majority of people, breathing less will give you more oxygen. And it, and it starts with, um, with exhaling more deeply.

Don't ever push any of these things. You know, as, as Americans, we want to, okay, I've got the rules. I'm going to go out and really exhale. No, no, you want to very softly acclimate your body to these different. You know, you can't help after three years of writing a book to adopt some of these habits. So I became a bit of a neurotic, but, but I think after a while of setting timers to breathe more slowly, of constantly monitoring my breathing while I'm surfing or exercising, I Those things, those techniques become a habit, and that's exactly what you want to happen.

You don't want to have to be sending these reminders all the time, but. Building habits can take, you know, a month or two, so it's going to take some time to do it, but once you get it down, I mean, the science is very clear of the profound benefits you're going to have.

[00:55:21] Hunter Clarke-Fields: James, I really appreciate you coming on the Mindful Mama podcast.

I appreciate your dedicating. So much of your life to, um, following all these crazy trails to learn about breathing and, and, and chewing and to, and to bring it all to us in such a, in a way that's really easily, easily readable and palatable. And, um, Uh, you know, I think this is really important information that we need to know.

You know, we tend to overlook some really healing things that don't make, um, that, you know, that aren't commodifiable. And this is, this is a really important piece of that puzzle. So I, I really appreciate the work you've done, and I'm so glad you could come on the podcast. Where can people find out about you, too, so we need to do that,

[00:56:08] James Nestor: too.

Thank you. This is, I don't get to talk about a lot of the subjects we talk, especially the infant breed. This is the first time I've talked about it, which is such an important thing. Um, uh, but you can learn more about the book and the research at Mr. James nestor.com/breath, or you can just go to Mr.

James Nester. By the way, I wasn't trying to be cutesy with that, Mr. Some other jerk took james nester.com , so I had to make it different. Um, and also, uh, I'm doing these expert q and As if you have specific questions about infant breeding or asthma. Uh, I'm doing these q and as. It's a hard Q and a. It's not a podcast.

I ask these people questions. They're experts in the field. And again, no one's getting paid. We're not selling you anything. I'm just trying to answer these questions for, for people who, who need advice. Um, and, and I think it's a great way of just spreading awareness for something that's completely free that we can really harness and, and gain a lot of benefit.

[00:57:09] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Oh, well, thank you again. Uh, James's book is Breathe, the new science of a lost art. Got a fabulous yellow cover that I really like. Thank you so much. It's been great to talk to you.

[00:57:22] James Nestor: Thanks for having me.

[00:57:28] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Thank you so much for listening. Isn't that fascinating? I The whole, um, that whole conversation is having me breathing more deeply, for sure, and um, and paying attention to breath. And it's incredible impact. It's, it's amazing. So, I hope you found this interesting. If you did, please, of course, share it, subscribe, like, all those things that make a big difference in supporting the podcast.

And uh, I wish you a beautiful week and summer. I hope that you're enjoying summer, or summer in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, maybe in the Southern Hemisphere you're enjoying winter. Fall? I don't know. Anyway, whatever the weather is, wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying it. Hope you have some moments of quiet and peace and some moments of real joy and just being present with your kids, letting go of all the to dos and the agendas and the labels for a few moments to just be really present.

Accepting yourself as you are, accepting your kids as you, as they are. Um, to just be in that moment restfully and beautifully. And I'll practice that myself too. I will see you again soon, next week. Take care. Namaste.

[00:58:54] Ad: I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not. If you're not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working, I would say definitely do it.

It's so, so worth it. It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

[00:59:57] Hunter Clarke-Fields: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You'll be joining hundreds. Discover the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindfulparentingcourse. com Add your name to the wait list so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.

I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.


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