Biohack Your Breath With Nose “Boners,” Carbon Dioxide Inhalation, Tibetan Longevity Stretches & Much More: How To Unlock The New Science Of A Lost Art.

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Biohacking, Brain, Fitness, Lifestyle, Podcast, Recovery

I first interviewed today's guest, immersive journalist James Nestor, about freediving in the episode “The Extreme Sport You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, And How You Can Use Its Renegade Techniques To Become Superhuman.” It was such an exciting and intriguing show that afterward, I wound up traveling all the way to Ft. Lauderdale to take a freediving course, which absolutely changed my life (you can learn more about that in my episode with Ted Harty, “The Ultimate Guide To Freediving, Legal Blood Doping, Wim Hof Breathing, Increasing Your Breathhold Time, Underwater Ear Equalizing, Spearfishing & Much More!“.

Today James is back to talk about something we all do 25,000 times a day, yet most of us do it incorrectly or haven't even begun to tap into its lost art. That's right. I'm talking about breathing.

In his new book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, James travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.

Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jumpstart athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.

Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, James turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again after hearing this podcast.

During this discussion, you'll discover:

-The breathwork protocol James begins his day with…7:41

  • Static tables
    • Long exhales and inhales
    • Great for parasympathetic response
    • Increases circulation
    • Increasing tolerance for CO2

-Why James views breath as the “missing pillar” of health…9:55

  • Gives a better measurement of fitness and health
  • Doctors view breath as binary
  • Breath is a nuanced function of the body
  • “How we breathe is just as important as what we eat, how much we exercise, genetics, etc.”
  • James' discoveries are not new; they're simply forgotten over and over
  • COVID-19 will hopefully cause people to rethink the importance of breath

-What James views as the “dis-evolution” of breathing…14:15

  • “Dis-evolution” was coined by Harvard biologist Daniel Lieberman
  • Humans are the worst breathers in the animal kingdom
  • Old skulls at the Morton Collection at the University of Pennsylvania compared to modern skulls:
    • 90% of us have small mouths
    • Sinuses are smaller
    • Chronic sinusitis, snoring, sleep apnea
  • Industrialization of the food chain is a factor
  • Evolution is not “survival of the fittest”; it's about change, and humans have changed for the worse
  • The lifestyle changes in the last 400 years have been too rapid for the human body to properly adapt

-The truly awful effects of mouth breathing…18:38

  • We breathe in unfiltered, dry, irritating air through the mouth
  • Ran a little experiment with Dr. Jayakar Nayak of Stanford Univ.
  • Anders Olsson, author of the book Conscious Breathing
  • James Nestor and Anders Olsson completed an experiment where they breathed only through their mouth for 20 days:
    • Snoring increased 1300% the first night
    • Blood pressure shot up
    • Stage 2 hypertension
  • Follow up study on breathing only through the nose:
    • Snoring disappeared completely
    • Zero sleep apnea events
    • Blood pressure normalized
    • HRV increased

-The unusual connection between the clitoris and the nose…24:11

  • Nose and clitoris are made of erectile tissue
  • The nose gets “erections” all throughout the day
  • Nostrils open and close throughout the day
    • Helps heat or cool the body
    • Activates various hormones
    • Similar to an HVAC system for the body
  • Alterations to the nose were performed to repress sexual urges

-How the left and right nostrils activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems…27:44

  • Right nostril is linked more to the left brain; vice versa with the left nostril
  • Woman with serious schizophrenia became relatively normalized with alterations in nostril breathing

-Healthy breathing practices of Native American and indigenous South American populations…30:50

  • George Catlin left “civilized society” in the 1830s to live with over 50 Native American tribes
  • They all used nose breathing as a form of therapy
  • “Great secret of life” is to breathe through the nose
  • Key to facial symmetry
  • Went to S. America to study indigenous cultures and found similar results

-How to stop mouth breathing, increase circulation, and get better sleep…37:06

  • Sleep with sleep tape every night
  • Incline bed therapy increases circulation
  • Side or stomach sleeping is far preferable to back sleeping (if you're healthy)
  • BGF podcast with Peter Martone (an advocate for back sleeping)
    • Neck Nest, invented by Peter Martone (use code GREENFIELD2019 to get a custom pillowcase and Dr. Sleep Right's 30 Day Sleep Quest)
  • Mouth taping:
  • OptiO2 to prevent breathing through the mouth while exercising (website is not yet open, check back)
  • Relaxator device
  • Individual anatomy is a big factor in the ability to practice nose breathing while sleeping

-What other cultures and religions can teach us regarding the ideal pace of breathing…47:08

  • Italian researchers observed consistent patterns in subjects engaged in prayer from various religions
  • Spontaneous dialogue caused the breathing patterns to vary widely
  • Focus on breathing in ~5-6 seconds; exhale slightly longer than the inhale
  • Rapid breathing tactics (Wim Hof) are profoundly therapeutic
  • Rapid breathing brought on by anxiety or panic is involuntary
  • Voluntary rapid breathing enables you to gain control over your breath
  • Holotropic breathwork
  • Breathing off CO2 results in alkalizing the blood
  • Key point: Controlled rapid breathing (exercise or rapid breathing techniques) results in overall health and control over the body and mind
  • A man's life is not measured by his years, it's measured by his breaths

-Tibetan “rites” that help expand the lungs and diaphragm…56:47

-How hypoventilation can improve breath…1:00:02

-The Tummo method of breathing…1:06:30

-How to biohack your breathwork…1:09:55

-And much more!

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

– Podcasts mentioned in this episode:

– Previous podcasts about breathing:

– Books:

– Gear and Equipment:

– Other resources:

Episode sponsors:

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Comrad Socks: Seriously comfortable compression socks designed to support your every move. Receive 20% off your Comrad purchase when you use discount code BEN20.

Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for James or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question


27 thoughts on “Biohack Your Breath With Nose “Boners,” Carbon Dioxide Inhalation, Tibetan Longevity Stretches & Much More: How To Unlock The New Science Of A Lost Art.

  1. Fatih Keçelioğlu says:

    How about folks who are into oxygen related therapies? Any recommendations or precautions in terms of combining oxygen therapy, with these kind of approaches?

  2. Martin says:

    Hi guys,

    James mentions using the static tables breathing exercises each morning whilst walking his dog.

    Sorry for the silly question, but which one was James referring to?

    The CO2 tolerance table or the O2 tolerance table?

    Cheers,
    Martin

  3. Stephen Desjardins says:

    Howdy Ben, re your iPhone 7: If you’re willing to ship it to Canada using REGULAR USPS (and not private couriers, as Customs charges are abusive) I’d buy it using PayPal. PS: I’m following you on BenGreenfieldFitness and Mind Valley Longevity BluePrint. If it’s more convenient you can message me at 418-929-2575. Cheers! 

  4. Antoine says:

    Would it be possible to get the protocol Ben talks about when he talks about his trainings with Joe DiStefano ?

  5. Grace Kane says:

    Hey! Thought you mind find this interesting: the shift from nose to mouth breathing has been a big problem in the classical singing world as well. Seventeenth century opera singers sang well into their middle age, but today it’s not uncommon for singers to burn out and lose their voices after only a few years of performing. The shift is largely from a very relaxed mode of singing, with nasal, diaphragmatic breaths to “gulping” air in and straining the face muscles to create louder sounds. I recently started training using writings from singers from the 1920s and they all advocate breathing only through the nose.

    Good article on it here: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/stars-like-adele-keep-losing-their-voices-because-theyre-singing-wrong-voice

  6. Mo says:

    Ben, your link to the 5 Tibetan rites is incorrect. I’ve been doing them daily for a few years and actually feel my day is incomplete if I don’t do them. Thanks for the great content.

  7. Frank says:

    Tired of mouth breathing… Thank you for this episode! Got some helpful thoughts.

  8. Marry says:

    The link to the transcript is broken. Thanks for correcting, Marry.

  9. Teddy says:

    I’d be interested to get more details on side/stomach vs back sleeping. Is back sleeping actually harmful or is it more so that side/stomach is better for preventing mouth breathing? I had a bit of trouble breaking that one down during the podcast. Thanks!

  10. Matt Wilson says:

    Raised my bed and started sleeping with the neck nest a few months ago. Spent $10 on Amazon for risers. I think the idea was in Martone’s 30 day course that comes with the pillo. So far so good.

  11. Jamie Yezarski says:

    Is there anyplace you share the “workouts” you send your 2 boys each day? Thanks!

  12. Stephen says:

    What should I do if I have chronic sinusitis and can’t breathe through my nose? Should I use ozone or a nebulizer do help heal my sinuses? Or will breathe work do the trick

  13. alicia says:

    There is no transcript of the episode….?????

  14. Jose says:

    Hi Mr. Greenfield,

    Are there any disadvantages of getting a septoplasty when someone can only breathe through one nostril? Would the pros outweigh the cons?

    Thank you!

  15. chris Aspinall says:

    Is it wrong to practise Wim Hof every day like I do?

    1. Marcus says:

      Wim Hof’s mission is to get people breathing. You could consider him an ‘awakener’; getting the word out and making people increase their air intake and experience some of the benefits of taking in extra oxygen. This gets people to pay attention to the power of the lungs.
      In the long run, refining breathing techniques for specific effects is the next stage of becoming more aware of the effects of deep conscious breathing.
      In any practice, speciality or science, you have to start somewhere, and Mister Hof gets people breathing. If you feel the effects, and see the benefits, then moving into advanced techniques is the thing to do!

  16. guv says:

    link to the NYT side sleep article please – cannot find it

  17. Draven says:

    Hey Ben! My coaches trained me to breath through my nose ond out my mouth during workouts. As a long distance runner I have been doing this my entire life. But you are saying the breathe out of your nose as well? So basically try to never exhale on inhale through the mouth wether excercising or not right? This is so fascinating and I love your podcasts! Loved your book as well!

    1. Marcus says:

      One of the main reasons it is beneficial to exhale out the nose is that the ‘Olfactory Bulb’, a seriously complex sensor positioned under the brain, analyses outgoing air and contributes important information to the endocrine system, the immune system and the overall body brain and system, so that it may produce the chemicals and components necessary for maintaining a strong and healthy body.
      Now that was a fully loaded run-on sentence, but the long and short of it is that, our body incoming and outgoing air in order to adjust and fine tune our overall body chemistry and balance.
      Breathe Deep My Friends,
      Marcus

      1. Marcus says:

        Our nasal passages have sensors that analyse incoming and outgoing air in order to adjust and fine tune our overall body chemistry and balance.
        Breathe Deep My Friends,
        Marcus

  18. I love this guy James Nestor and this immersive research – wow!!! Learned so much.

  19. Matt Mondorff says:

    What’s a good daily breath work routine to do? 6 seconds in and out for 20 minutes? Wim Hoff everyday?

  20. Grace Hansen says:

    Loved the information in this podcast. This might be a stupid question; should your exhale be through the nose or mouth?

    1. Marcus says:

      One of the main reasons it is beneficial to exhale out the nose is that the ‘Olfactory Bulb’, a seriously complex sensor positioned under the brain, analyses outgoing air and contributes important information to the endocrine system, the immune system and the overall body brain and system, so that it may produce the chemicals and components necessary for maintaining a strong and healthy body.
      Now that was a fully loaded run-on sentence, but the long and short of it is that, our body analyses incoming and outgoing air in order to adjust and fine tune our overall body chemistry and balance.
      Breathe Deep My Friends,
      Marcus

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