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Mama Nose Best

Thirty-One Days Deep: October 2020

Thoughtful Breathing

Pre-experiment thoughts:

It always impresses and shocks me when I see newborn animals. Some species are alive for a couple of minutes before their parents take off, some must launch themselves off of a cliff to keep up with their parents, some basically come walking out of the womb, some must fight, outsmart or outrun swarming predators within the first few minutes and days of being alive. Human babies, on the other hand, are one distracted parent moment away from dying. Newborns, toddlers, teens and most young adults are ill-adept at managing life on their own, but fear not - we do have a few natural instincts that we handle ok. Blinking! We can do that almost immediately. Swallowing! Some have trouble, but most babies manage that. Breathing! Or so I thought...

I first heard of the benefits of nose breathing from a friend who was reading Breath by James Nestor. I didn’t read the book, but I have since done a bit of research on my own and I am left with some pretty upsetting realizations. Considering how bad we are at surviving, it shouldn’t really surprise me that we are messing up the most basic survival function...breathing.

It does, however, surprise me that this is the first I’m hearing about it. I like to think our bodies are doing things that serve some sort of evolutionary benefit, why even have a mouth to breath out of if it is so bad for us? Why make breathing from the nose more difficult if it is more beneficial in every way?

Here is my quick take: I am not only a professional athlete, but also a professional compensator. I attended Pilates classes consistently a couple of years ago and I was told that I don’t activate my glutes.

I play soccer at the highest level and I don’t use the biggest muscle in my body?

I suspect that I have found ways to perform while using the least amount of effort. Would my back hurt less if I used my glutes? Obviously yes. But when I was excelling quickly at soccer and actively trying to conserve energy, my body made that decision in the moment without any consideration for the longevity of my career.

I will also apply that quick and unscientific logic to why I have been breathing through my mouth for years. It was easier in the moment for the fast oxygen and quick recovery needed in day to day life. It is more comfortable in the moment to take a large gulp of oxygen, than to struggle to suck insufficient amounts of air through your nose.

But I am zooming out of the moment and becoming more interested in the rest of my life, fixing the issues that have likely come with decades of mouth breathing and reminding myself that often in this world the easy option is rarely the one we should pick.

Enter thoughtful breathing. Every October morning, I will be logging on to a Live 30-minute breathing exercise series led by Ed Harrold, a breathing expert and educator. Let’s see what happens.

Click here to sign up and join me each morning for free:

- Emily Menges


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