James Nestor | The Power of Water and Breath


The kid growing up in Orange County California James. Nestor had a love affair with the notion he'd find himself in the water surfing pretty much every day. Or every chance he could and it was his happy place where the world would vanish away. He would settle into that hyper present of flow or bliss which is pretty fascinating because decades later now living as a writer in San Francisco that deep passion for the water and the state that brought him to has never left him in fact it led eventually to an obsession with the rarefied sport and culture of free diving where people train themselves to dive so fast and deep into the ocean holding their breath that the pressure literally transforms their physiology and brains into something entirely different as the light fades from the water. This led to his book deep where he didn't just about free divers but also became one and that then spiralled into a powerful fascination with how free divers are somehow mysteriously accepted into the mystical underwater sanctuary of the world's largest mammals and that eventually led to a more recent fascination with breathing. And how the way? We breathe which has been largely ignored by modern medicine. Barring treatment for pulmonary illness how it's actually one of the most powerful gateways to health longevity peace of mind even transcendent states and he shares all of his discoveries now years of research in his latest book breath the new science of a lost art we dive into all of this including some things that are really going to invite you to completely reexamined how you read and why and how it might unlock some powerful things in your own life so excited to share this conversation with you. I'm Jonathan fields and this is good life good. 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Good life and join the over. Eight hundred thousand people taking charge of their mental health with the help of inexperienced professional and as a special offer for good life project listeners. You'll get ten percent off your first month at better help dot com slash good life. It sounds like a common theme in your life really has been a fierce obsession with Canada. Two things how things work and also the water. Just a lifelong attraction to the water. I think that's true to to a large extent you now growing up in the OC in Orange County. A lot of people think or at least they have this perception that southern California's this dreamland of convertibles and beaches and all that but you know the the area in Orange County in which I grew up in Tustin extremely conservative place. I mean it's it's really equivalent to to Texas in many ways so it was interesting to be surrounded by this perception of free loving. You Know Beach Vibe Care Free No worries and then also be within this place which was so obsessed with worrying about everything you know extremely conservative on on every level interesting dichotomy to navigate. Especially when you're when you're young a teenager. Yeah where did you fall in that spectrum because I think also when people think about who's the kid who's in the water all the time who's the surfer they think about the hypocrite. The the free loving kid but my guess is if you sat on a wave you know an and you had two hundred people out there on any given day you're GonNa get a cross section of the entire Expand of WHO's in that area. Oh I think just everybody went to the beach. I mean that was really the only thing to do the summers down. There suffocatingly hot now. Hundred ten sometimes so every single day I will get a pocketful of change and take the bus the beach with my friends. We'd stay out there all day. We come back in the evening. Wake up and do it again so you did have an incredible cross section of people. I mean every walk of life. Everyone was out there all the time and being that I didn't grow up on the beach. Grew up fifteen miles from it. That meant I was an outsider. Not Not a local at thirty second street so that was always interesting to navigate. But you know I found once you're in the water everybody becomes a lot more equal. It depends how respectful you are. How good you are surfing or swimming in. All of that really fades away. There's any any mark of status the car you you're driving or or your watch or whatever you don't have that on the water so it's a great equalizer in a lot of ways. Yeah I mean. I have a lot of friends who are lifelong surfer. Some who grew up around there some who grew up. Actually a more a little bit Southlake Sandiego Swami's growing up and And to the one you know. They depending no matter how they started out. They've all kind of said the same thing it is it is the great equalizer and also you know there's also they're very there's a culture around it were there. There's a very specific set of rules that you live by and that you respect and if you disrespect the rules or the people within that system you pay the price met. That's completely true with the crowd out there from a human standpoint and it's true from a natural standpoint you know you have to respect the rules of the ocean and if you think you're too good or if you think you're going to circumvent them in some way you're going to get thrown down in some very serious ways. That's what I also liked about it. So much is there. Were a different set of rules that to me made a lot more sense than the rules on land. The rules on the ocean were applied to everybody again beyond status or anything else and they just seemed a lot more fair. You know these. These are the rules of the of the wild in many respects and you have to abide. It's interestingly it's sort of like the ultimate merit based ecosystem right and there's no cronyism on the waves. It's true I mean this cronyism be between the people the surfers out there. But there's that only lasts so long because then your friends are. GonNa go in and then you're out there alone and that to me is always the most wonderful part of being in the C is for one reason or the other when people get bored. The waves aren't good or it's too late or it's too early. No one else is out there. And you're alone in this wilderness. And and that's what attracts me to San Francisco so much people don't think of San Francisco's a great surfing beach because it isn't so don't come here anybody but it's it's it's still very very wild and you can still find a peak all your around who no one around and really have that connection. Yeah it teaches you how to be with yourself and it also teaches you a lot of people think about surfing like well you just out there riding waves all day long New York. They're waiting for waves all day long. And you you pick up a couple awesome you pick up one or two killer runs like dance good day and it's it's such a different mindset than the average mindset about how he pursue life almost wonder if it's instills in US sort of a different approach to the pursuit of what you want from a younger age. Think it I think it. Does you know there was one. I don't know who it was some famous surfer. That who said no one who surfs all the time that he knew of had psychologists or psychiatrists so maybe either because these. These people were to deranged or because they already had their stop together. Go out there and and surf everyday. I don't know the reason but I think that there is a certain truth to that and certainly the people that I know who are religiously connected to the ocean. They seem not to have So much feeling of a burden. On the stresses of life on land and. I certainly feel a release every single time. I'm out there. Which is why I go pretty crazy. After a few weeks I am not able to get in the water so you know I I think that there is. There's those two elements were were terrestrial people where we evolved on the land and yet when we go back to the ocean we go back to our very earliest roots of before we were people and as Corny as that may sound. I really think that there's a strong connection that you feel that your body feels and resonates with you when you're out in the yeah now completely agree. I actually am. I grew up just outside of New York City. The end of my block was a beach I will I was bay. Not Ocean we were. We were out there waterskiing and fishing instead of surfing but it was that to this day. It's the place where I go to touchstone in is the place where I go just. I don't have to be in the water. I can just be sitting on dock or walking along the beach. But there's there's a down regulation of my nervous system and my state of being. That happens just being in the context of water. That is so hard for me to find anywhere else. And that's that's all measurable it's not just psychosomatic. It's this is stuff that has been measured time and time again of how the body reacts to either being in the water or by the water which is why seventy what is it. Seventy eighty percent of the population lives within thirty minutes of a coast. You know I think that that's we do that for a reason because we have that that connection that now completely agree on the other end of that. I have a friend who is Big Wave Surfer She grew up sort of Irish surfing royalty with her her her dad and uncle or grandfather you know she's. East Ski Britain spent on the as a couple of years. Back would surf on this. Pinger or pink. Helmet is five feet tall surfing these waves. That are ten times the size of her. And it's amazing to hear her. Describe the experience of you the way she has as you can't be afraid you have to have the absolute respect for the power of what you're embracing but you have to move to a place beyond fear or else it's over and it it's really interesting training ground to take it to that space as well. I think it's extremely advanced to get your mind to to be thinking that way and that's something that resonates with almost all activities on the water whether you're sailing across the open sea or whether you're diving you know you can't free dive with with fear in your heart. You're you're going to go down ten feet and turn around so it almost gets to the point where you have to become delusional in in your own self worth in your confidence in order to do some of this stuff and that's to me. What separates the people who who last in in these sports and in who don't is there context of where they fit in and knowing their level of just the tipping point of their level where they can make it where they might not make it be able to understand and respect. That is really the key the key. Yeah and at the same time you were talking about an environment. Where every time you step into that next threshold the stakes go up. You know and Pretty Soon. The stakes are life and death. Seven is the ultimate training ground. Basically for sure and and to me. That's in many ways is what makes it so much more real there's there's so much padding around or at least we've created in our in our society. Now you know even playgrounds or completely padded they have sand or they have that weird colorful padding stuff that there's there's much less risk in doing. Thanks on land but I view that a lot of that goes out the window when you when you enter into the ocean because we just don't have those yet there's you know some flotation devices. Some of those surfers vast. But those are only for big way people. If you're the regular Joe when you're just going out to the sea to you in a board and even if your body surfing it's just you you and a pair of fins in you need to figure it out at least in in San Francisco a lot of other beaches. There's no lifeguards either. So you have to understand that and be cognizant of it the the entire time you're out there especially if the waves are big and in know your limits the whole time and know that balance and to me. That's what really centers things is. Then you get in your car and you've got airbags seatbelts and then you drive home and you get a flat tire you've got AAA. There's none of that out out in the in the ocean. There's there's no one to call except you know your your inner strength and and your own relationship with with yourself and your abilities. Yeah that's such an interesting frame because if you think about probably the most intrinsically rewarding moments of life are also the moments where we are most present in what we're doing and then you you think about what you just described. You know when when you step in the water you have to be there. There's it's not about like it because if you're not GONNA get tossed around. He may end up in a bad place. But as soon as you step out of that environment into the car with the protection to life with the protection we can basically pay to buy enough protection to not have to be present in almost every other part of our lives and you wonder on one hand. What are we actually buying ourselves into and out of? That's I completely agree with that. Like even having a phone conversation checking email checking twitter and checking instagram. We constantly padded if the phone conversations boring we have all these other means to entertain ourselves but but in the ocean again that that really goes out the window. And it's that it's that safety net you know coming loose from you that I find so so liberating and I think that's another reason why when you're surfing or when you're swimming you're or bodysurfing freedom of whatever you were in that exact moment you're not thinking when you're on a wave maybe when you're waiting for ways for half an hour you're thinking about work and all that. I've come up with my best ideas in those situations but when you're actually on a wave when you're within this activity you are locked in to that microseconds of a moment the entire way and I think that that absolute focus and present at least in in my life a lot of other people I know. is really lacking you know. We're not going out and hunting for food now. We have to be locked into that moment. When is the right time to or at least a lot of people aren't hunting their food But I think that this is something that that allowed. Humans to evolve is to have pure and utter focus on a moment and so much society now is built on not having that focus now so agree with that for Longtime Mountain. Biking was was my jam in my life and there was a time where actually I rode from grandson. Colorado to Moab Utah on the Coca Pelletrau. Which is this at least the way that I did. It was was really. There's only one direction that you go in the entire time. You're on the edge of falling off into the abyss and it was grueling and psychologically taxing physically taxing and more of the most incredible experiences in my life simply because the nature of the activity demanded that you ha- you cannot be anywhere but there and I feel like the more whether you get through the water where they go through nature. Whatever is the the thing that you choose? I mean I think we would all be better off had bringing more of that into our lives. You you referenced earlier free diving which I want to explore a little bit You grooten group in the OC End Up in the world of advertising. Copywriting start freelance writing on the side. You get into the of magazines because that's start to realize writing is your jam at and eventually find yourself writing full-time different magazines. Doing long form pieces short-form pieces and at some point you get a Gig to cover this thing called free diving I guess it was for outside. Magazine was the first time that's right. Tell me how that unfolds and then what what is the experience that comes out of that yes so a couple years before that happened. I had always following. You know the good rules laid out in the. Oh see I had followed this. Very linear path. You know you could high school go to college get a job get a house. Get Your Car. Get your dog all of that and you know. I was still writing on the side just because it was something I was really passionate about by day was writing copying ads and catalogs and all that stuff but at night is when I would do freelance magazine writing. I never thought I could make a living doing it. I mean it was sketchy back then. And it's even more sketchy now but finally. I just came to this moment where I had been working at this one place extremely easy job and good pay assistant and stuff but I remember it my four year review. My boss sat me down and he told me exactly what he told me. It is thirty year review and exactly same thing with the second year. And that's when I I quit at that moment and it wasn't really premeditated and so I kinda flounder. Who wasn't sure what I was going to do but I knew I didn't want to do that. So I really felt this fork in the road from that. Oc Life to this other very wild life where Nothing was planned. Everything had to be improvised. So after a couple of years writing magazine pieces things were starting to pick up a little bit not enough to make me comfortable at all. A friend mentioned. Hey have you ever heard of free diving in a note that this is really hard for people people to believe? But I hadn't even though I had spent my whole life by the ocean Surfing and swimming I didn't spend too much time below the surface but I had never heard of free diamond. Had never actually seen it so I said Oh. This sounds like an interesting subject. Right right up my alley. I wrote my editor at outside said it so happens to be in a couple of weeks. There's this international free diving competition in Greece. I thought there was no way. This guy's GonNa send me out Greece about a subject. I knew nothing about but I guess the the pitch was good enough for intriguing enough that a week later he said okay. You're on so Without knowing much about this the sport at all without knowing any of the players I went to Greece. And that's when a completely different fork in the road started in my life and another door opened a when I saw the first free diver take a single breath of air and upturn his body. No fins know anything and completely disappear into a crystal clear ocean and he was gone for five minutes. Came back up and he just dove three hundred feet and I had never seen anything like that and I didn't think it was possible at all and yet the next person showed up to the same thing even lower next person even lower than that so that first day out there was I. This is such a cliche phrase but it was it was life defining and life changing for me because I realized that there was a completely different side of nature and the ocean which I thought I knew and I you know I was standing right in the middle of it. And the beating. Heart of of this activity knew nothing about. In so many ways it looked like interstellar travel. You know if you were to flip the globe upside down. These people were floating off into this blue space. No gravity know anything else in coming back and you know touching down to the to the sailboat. That was out there so it absolutely fascinated me and I called my editor that night. I was like Oh my God. This thing is just absolutely nuts. He was very excited about it. And that's really where things started in that direction and we're talking about people basically just in the water. There's no tanks. There's no anything it's just them. It's just strength training. Their bodies training the breast and then literally just starting to to dive straight down. Which is counterintuitive on so many levels for so many people can like well. A but the body floats. So how do you go that far down and I guess what you learn over time is at the first? What thirty feet or or you the body does what? But then the quality of the body composition starts to change and the pressure. That's put on it so that you become a lead way too deeply and you start to go down. That's that's exactly right and that's another thing that completely blew. My mind is a lot of these. People were wearing wetsuits because three hundred feet down. It's really cold doesn't matter if you're in a tropical climate to usually really cold down there so with a wet suit you're extremely buoyant. Any surfer knows this. You put on your wetsuit. And it's it's really hard to dive down even a few feet and so to watch these people you know in the first like fifteen feet twenty feet. They're kicking their swimming. They're putting themselves down. And then all of a sudden they just stop and instead of getting pulled up to the surface they start drifting effortlessly down deeper and deeper into the water until they're completely gone and I knew nothing about this and I learned later that it's that shift of buoyancy that occurs. What what I ended up calling the doorway to the deep other free divers of use that term as well in which the body stops getting pulled to the surface and starts getting pulled to the bottom. And you will just keep falling at that same rate as low as you WanNa go so it just adds this absolutely surreal aspect to to watching the especially in clearwater where you can watch these people just fade away into nothing and then come back and reemerge and be completely fine a couple things happen as you descend. Also one you lose light you know so at the top you can see them so them fading away into nothingness. Is You in part there? There's distance between your but also the light Ba- essentially leaves the borders so they're effectively in the pitch black. Which is I mean. It's got to be incredibly disorienting. Also I've done a little bit of scuba diving and my passion. We went night diving wants. This is years back on the Barrier Reef Ron Boat. You jump off. And we'll have these little torches and you know we're in pairs as long as they had the torch on. I can Orient Myself. But for those who don't know about scuba diving. You wear weight vest and that helps you become neutrally buoyant. So you're not floating up or down and I remember losing my torch and the light went out and it was pitch black. We were three hours off. The mainland was a dark night and I started to freak out because I didn't know whether to swim. Left right up or down to get back up to the surface. And this is that but amplified exponentially. Yeah just imagine if you're holding your breath in that situation and the these are people. These are the pros. Do this anyone that goes down. Forty fifty feet and most water. You're going to be able to see just fine. But it's not only the quality of the light that shifts also. The color of the light fades out the deeper. You go right so so reds and oranges are gonNA fade out around. You know maybe fifty seventy feet until it becomes this completely monochromatic world. So you're you're in a world of of grays and and blacks that's it that's all that's down there. Because light the frequencies of light can penetrate that that deep something else that happens beyond that is the body transforms. You become a terrestrial animal and you turn into a marine animal. And this isn't just a again some psychological transformation this is something that occurs within each of our bodies everyone has these abilities called the master switch of life or the Mammalian dive reflexes and what happens is instinctively instinctually. I should say your your heart rate is going to lower. Your brain is going to enter a meditative state all the blood from your extremities your hands your arms your legs. We're going to start pushing into your core to keep your organs alive and Plasmas is going to enter into your lungs to perfect to prevent them from collapsing. And you. You really become this different diving. Animal the deeper you go the more pronounced. All of these are reflexes. Become so by the time you've reached three hundred and four hundred feet. You know you you bear. Maybe a passing resemblance to your form in the terrestrial world and anyone can can experience this. You can go to a bathroom right. Now on splash cold water on your face in your heart. Rate's GonNa Lower probably about twenty twenty five percent just by doing that. These are the same reflexes that dolphins have. Whales have other Marine Mammals. Have that humans have them to Were connected to the ocean in the same way of these. These other animals just so few of us Ever use them or feel them nowadays so it almost it the environment forces your body into this transformed in almost meditative state and at neo part of it is also as you go down one atmosphere. Which is what about thirty thirty three feet when you start to go more and more with each new atmosphere going down the pressure on your body increases more and more and more so you're literally has to transform or else it will employ it into itself so you know for for years and years. Scientists thought the deepest human could go down. Would be one hundred feet is otherwise you're gonNA COLLAPSE. Your lungs are going to collapse. You're you're going to die. But they didn't know about the Maillane dive reflexes. So Greek divers have been diving to depths below that for for thousands of years. You know there's archaeological evidence of free diving. The goes back ten thousand years so so this is something that is innately part of who we are where we came from. So it's it's nothing that that is artificial of forced if you let yourself become re immersed in the water you're going to wake up all of these dormant reflexes that everybody has. That was something that I found most fascinating about free diving. The competitive side was interesting to see the limits of the body. But a lot of people didn't make their dives and that was awful. They did come out with bloody faces and it's pretty pretty horrific but luckily I discovered at that event this completely other side of free diving. That was much more nurturing. Almost like a meditation or yoga practice underwater. And that's the side that really went deep into and pursued. It sounds like there's almost a spiritual side to it and in fact I mean from a state of mind when you start to get down that de we talked about the physiological changes but what about the psychological changes the sort of big almost spiritual experiences. It's a force meditation and this is what any free diver will tell you. There's no way you can go out there. Worried and stressed out and breathe fast and then try to push yourself down there. You have to completely let go which means you need to let go of. Your thoughts need to relax your body. You need to submit to this. Larger thing that you're entering into so that was another aspect that really appealed to me is that you had to really leave everything on on land including your thoughts about land. Near stresses think about worker fly to whatever you have to leave that behind and just soak into that that moment that you're in the water you're surrounded by oceanic animals and you just let yourself be be free and let your body do what it's naturally designed to do. Which has dived deep? The As I guess has become a your mode of at a certain point. You can't just observe and right you have to become a part it's very sort of Michael Palin esque and the experience journalism approach. No you did earlier with like doing a DP Saen bio Benzes biodiesel and how people were using discarded know like French fry oil to transfer cars in the end up driving a bio Ben's so when you're out here you're in Greece and then you start going deeper into the story and you're seeing and and and talking about learning all these things something something flips knew that says okay so I can't I can't just be an observer like I need to write about this from the inside out also. I just think some of that has to do with the the subject matter you know. I wrote a lot of pieces about architects or Hollywood stars or political figures. But none of what they were saying about their world really attracted me to want to know more about it. I know that seems really crass. And I'm not ripping on anyone's vocation but there there wasn't too much That was mysterious enough to to really to invite me to spend more time in in a lot of those worlds but luckily luckily enough you know it was able to pitch enough stories about ideas that I was naturally interested in like the Bio ben's piece. I had a fulltime job at that time and that was so boring. And so writing these magazine pieces. I would just pick things that I was interested in and it turned out that that yeah it was like this makes total sense. Why not run an old Mercedes off of us with vegetable oil and and so once I saw how to do that. I said Oh. I'm going to buy one of these cars and do that. I still have the car. It's a out front of my house right now. So free diving was the same thing. Even though I had never heard about free diving didn't have any experience in its. It was something that immediately mystified me in attracted me to it and you know. It's a little tricky win. Your science journalists have to be an objective observer into these worlds otherwise people think you slamming it in some way but there's only so much of this the stuff that really interests you that that you can hold back from no intention in deep free diving zero. I no intention of having myself as part of that book or as part of that story but on my third expedition seeing these free divers at this time I was out in reunion island off the coast of Madagascar like very distant weird location watching these divers go down and their job was to sneak up behind sharks and to tag their back fins with these little trackers Because sharks kept attacking people and eating people off the coast and Just watching this activity and the relationship with these animals because something else really interesting happens when free diving is you're not an observer into the oceanic environment you're apart of it. An animal's immediately recognized that their prey doesn't swim down to them and look in the eyes and hang out. The prey is up at the surface. Not Looking at them so to see that dynamic. I thought wow this is. This is something I wanted to learn more about. I also thought it could allow me better access to be able to ride about these worlds and what it was like to go down. Fifty seventy five hundred feet on a single breath and focusing on that moment in time. Yeah I mean was to the extent that you had an expectation of what you thought it was going to be. How did the actual experienced and I guess? I'm most curious about the first time had it compare to your expectations are for some was awful and it continued to be awful for months and months and months. You know you have this dream vision of. I'm just GonNa practiced a little bit. Then I'm GONNA be swimming around with whales dolphins and sharks and everything's going to be cool and beautiful and I found this new hobby in life and then you start to practice doing this. And it was violent and suffocating totally miserable. I picked this school. I was in Florida on some other research so I picked the school in Tampa and instead of free diving in the ocean. They had you dive in the this former quarry this this mine that had just filled up with water and so within ten feet you can see the surface so they were trying to train us to go down fifty feet along this rope and so I had my breathing you know. Have my lungs? Pretty well acclimated to doing this. Really focused on that. I had not focused on the psychological part of what it would feel like to push yourself down. Twenty thirty feet turn around to look up to see the surface. Nc nothing so that was something that took a long time to get my head around. Also it didn't help that at this free diving competition. I saw a lot of reckless people doing reckless things and had a lot of bloody faces and passed out. You know passed out people in my mind. I guess you could say I was going to mention. There is a lot of these people in their past out. There is open if you ever look into. Someone's eyes when they passed out you're looking into the the true abyss and so that's something that still gives me the chills so. I had all these psychological hangups about it. Not physical but psychological. What turns out I mean. I'm curious when you go from something like that. Yeah I have a friend who has done a whole bunch of plant as medicine and and probably under journeys and the first third were described as the most horrendous experience of their life and then something happened. That made them say. I can't do this. It is so profound and transformative. There was something happened. I'm always curious when you start something like that. And it is kind of more on the horrific side in the brutal side and then it becomes something that becomes much more on the almost spiritual and opening inexpensive side. Is that gradual evolution for your. Was Your Moment. It was being around the right community number one to seeing these people do these dives responsibly over and over and over and to see them. Interact with animals that I care passionately for sharks dolphins or whales and just to see what that world would allow you access to if you got over that Hump over that hurdle and so. It was months of training again. I want to reiterate that the physical side was actually pretty easy. There's a pool near my house. I would ride my bike to and just swim underwater laps Willie condition my body had around fifteen feet just went back and forth so that part of it came came commonly and easily. The the mental part took a while. But I finally got there and I think at the time. I'm trying to think if there was one pinnacle moment was probably at when we were in Sri Lanka and Trying to dive with sperm whales. The the largest predators on on earth who also share this amazing sophisticated form of communication and seeing the other divers having these experiences and seeing the whales. React to these divers right. So the the whales perception of humans is on boats hunting them or polluting their their homes but to see whales have a different perception of humans and to WanNa incorporate that perception and be part of it was was really moving thing and so that's when a lot of those hang ups you know let I let go of them and was able to just allow myself to to become immersed in that environment and with everything that comes with it including being possibly eaten by a sixty foot long sperm oil with eight inch long teeth and I know that I'm not trying to to make it sound callous in any way. But there's a there's a complete knowing when you're there with his animal that can destroy you at any second by myriad means and decides not to and it decides turn around and Click at you and be curious about you want to interact with you. So that's when a lot of my fears both about free diving and about everything else. That encompasses really went away. That I can't even imagine that moment. I mean I've I've seen video these animals. You actually Did A tedtalk Would showed some stunning footage of this end. It's just breathtaking cameron. Imagine being in the water literally feet away from these. It's it's interesting because like as a journalist I've been lucky enough to go to some pretty weird places right about some interesting subjects and interesting people but Wales and free diving. This was years ago that I had this experience. I think about it all the time and I was literally just on the phone this morning with a friend were waiting for travel to open up again. Because we're going to go die with Wales without any cameras or notepads this time just just to do it and this is a reaction that every single person. I know that has that has gone diving with Wales. Had that face to face like they are completely changed after that. So it's something that that I will keep with me and free diving more excited about doing it now than I've ever been so it's nice to find something that was a very interesting subject from my perspective to write about but also could be incorporated into my life that would continue to nurture me after the book was out after the story. Stop and part of that exploration. Two part of the training that goes into free diving is it's physical but it's also it's it's breath oriented there there you learn to train to breathe certain ways to regulate the the balance of gases basically your body before you go down which which laid the groundwork for most recent book rest to a certain extent. I mean I know. Part of it was that and then part of it. Was this experience that you had through the art of living. That's exactly right You know when I mentioned that fork in the road in my life in Greece That forecast many many tongs STU. It arcus their teams. I guess that's the proper proper word for forget but I was talking to free divers who were not interested in competition and they were just interested in free diving. Of course naturally asked us. It will be freed. I had had you do this. How do you hold your breath? They said the only way to hold. Your breath is to learn how to breathe to learn how to breathe properly. Said the real cool thing about this is you. Don't only have to use this in the water. You can use this in everything in life and they told me crazy stories about people who were heating their bodies up and snow melting circles around their bodies at night breed just breathing for eight hours. People put diseases in remission people who are losing weight just by shifting their breathing so I remember that conversation and I put it in the back file of big file cabinet bunch of weird ideas and I kept going back to it because I kept seeing articles and kept talking to people who kept adding other little tidbits to that story. I thought You know of written a book about holding your breath. It'd be interesting to see what breathing could do both scientifically and the history of this medical history of and all that for for the rest of us for for landlubbers spark that idea. And what was non non-fiction? You submit a proposal then you get an amount of money to go out and ride the right the book so I wrote this proposal pretty quickly. I thought I have figured out. You know wrote it in about a month said nailed all the proper characters and all. That wasn't tell about six months. Eight months in to actually writing the book that I realized every direction I thought I should go into was completely wrong so I had to ditch the entire proposal and start over again and breathing ended up being barn on the weirdest and most fascinating subject. I've I've ever gone into and I'm still in the midst of it right now. Even after finishing the book it is. It's really incredible. I have a background in the world of Yoga and but my one really the entry for to Yoga was actually breathing. It was on and I was. I got really curious. How when you look it and it's not just yoga if you actually go back and you look get every single spiritual or healing tradition in every single culture over generations thousands of thousands of years the all reference breathing as sort of like the fundamental modality to regulate or mediate everything. Know like your psychology your physiology your wellbeing and yet when you bring that up as something valid to explore especially in Sorta like Western culture people kinda tip their heads side residents like what. And that's exactly what I was doing when I first heard these stories right I but it was interesting enough and it was valid enough just barely to make me. WanNa pursue further research into it and once I started really getting my feet wet and talking to real scientists at top university Stanford Harvard. All these people had been saying this stuff for for decades and no one was really listening so I started a real deep dive in into history. And just echoing. What what you just said. Breathing was an essential part of health throughout for the past few thousand years in medicine. If he did it poorly you were going to get sick if he did it properly. You're gonNA live long and have a healthy life. So even the first yoga that dates back five thousand years was a technology of sitting and breathing had nothing to do with movements are poses. It was sitting and breathing and you look at the Chinese Dow. They have seven books dedicated entirely to breeding. What happens when you do it? Improperly what happens when you do it properly so I think that western science is now just really starting to get caught up with us especially with all this Kobe stuff but the what I found so so frustrating but also so fascinating is that this research has been there the whole time and no one's really looked at it from a scientific perspective on how well it looks and taken all these disparate fields together and put them in into into one place in. I think that some of that is because breathing's a tricky thing in medicine it's There was one researcher. Said it's in this no man's land between physiology and biology so nobody's really paying attention to a pulmonologist. Pay attention to diseases of the lungs. They're not looking into the benefits of healthy breathing. Even though the benefits of healthy breathing from what I've found or more important or as important as what you eat or how much you exercise. It all comes down to breathing. That's the first thing you have to start with. I mean I think there is such a fascinating parallel between that world and psychology and that for generations psychology was focused on bringing sick people back to baseline and then the positive psychology movement comes along and says okay so baseline is actually not enough. You know like what if we could bring people from baseline from instead of not sick to for you're actually flourishing in the world. You know and I feel breathing has released similar Carl. Ary with but that's what yoga was to. It was not intended to be used for sick people. It was intended to be used for healthy people to bring them up on the next level in all of eastern medicine. If you look at it it's all based on prevention. You go to your doctor when you feel good so you can keep feeling good and all of Western medicine is based on therapy. You go when you're feeling sick. You know which is why in my opinion. I don't think a lot of eastern medicines are too effective. In IN FIXING BIG BLOWN-UP CHRONIC DISEASES. That have been going on for years and years and years. In someone's body you break your leg. You don't really want acupuncture you want to go to the ER and have that dealt with properly. And I think it's it's those blind spots on both sides of of medicine that really need to be bridged to use this eastern medicine as a way to not get sick in US Western medicine for when you're really sick and and but but again the whole point is to not lose the balance to begin with sue constantly. Staying in Homeo- stasis one of the things that you discover early on is where most people just are relatively agnostic as to what pathway air takes into your lungs out of your lungs. You discover that whether you're breathing through your mouth or whether you breathing your nose actually has found different. And you don't WanNa just research this again. We go experiential here as this whole thing. Became you end up hooking up with another guy and doing this experiment at Stanford Where you spend half the time breathing through three knows only in half the time breathing through your mouth only share more about this. Because it's Kinda crazy. Yeah I realize I'm sound like a broken record here. But but the caveat again is when I started this project this book I told my publish. I'm not going to be a part of this. I was a part of the last book. Been a part of too many articles. I really want to be on the outside. I WANNA be the objective observer. That's where I need to be. But then we realized once again that so many of these these grey areas and blind spots needed to be filled and I was willing to put myself into those areas in detests. What was happening in my body in in labs through to breathing. In this isn't like some at least the Stamford experiment. Wasn't their Human Guinea pig. Oh let's see what happens. You know some people said. Oh it's like super size me. It's it in some respects. It is but in super size me you know. He's eating at the same restaurant three times a day. A fifty percent of the population. That's one estimate. says that we are chronic mouth breather so so half of US breathing from the mouth so so the experiment was set up to see what was happening to a large percentage of the population every day. What was happening to their minds bodies and I looked for some research on this. If anyone had done this and they're just there wasn't a lot so I had been in conversations with the chief of Rhino Research at Stanford and about by our third interview starting to get pretty chummy with the is nameless Giac guard nyack great dude and I I patched idea. I've said well you know we can sit here over lunch and talk about the stuff hypothetically or or we can test it. What do you think? And he said yes so me and one other one other guy. Anders Olsen who is a world renowned breeding coach and therapist? So I thought Oh this is going to be interesting. Well if we took one of the best breeders in the world and made him like fifty percent of the population what would happen to his body so over ten days they plugged our noses with us. Silicon with tape over that so that we were forced to breathe only to our mouths were forced to breathe the way we would likely be breathing in the future. The way large swath of the population is already breathing. So within a single night My snoring increased by thirteen hundred percent We felt awful. We fell constantly thirsty. We felt fatigued. There were psychological markers but what I found what was more interesting was what was actually the data. What was happening to our bodies so we took pulmonary function tests before blood were cats. I mean anything you can imagine seventy different markers and by the end of those ten days. I was snoring and hadn't been snoring before the other subject snoring through half the night we had sleep apnea. We felt absolutely awful. Our bodies were cooling. We were losing a to which is essential molecule in the body It was it was horrendous. It was as awful as probably sounds but The good part about this as we were then able to switch our modes after ten days so they move those those plugs out and we put tape over our lips and we just breathed from our noses and the first night all the snoring disappeared sleep apnea disappeared. Every heart rate variability went through the roof. We're able to exercise much more efficiently We had more more power longer endurance. Easier recovery. I mean I could go on and on. I won't give you the whole the whole layout but it just echoed. What what the Chinese had been saying for thousands of years in one one quote that I thought was great was on this is from the Dow Says the breath inhaled through the mouth is called NICI or adverse breath which is extremely harmful? Be careful not to have breath inhaled from the mouth. That was twelve hundred years ago so everything that that we found added credence to that. It seems so obvious but you look at any other animal fifty four hundred different mammals. They're not brought mouth breathing unless they're throwing off heat their thermal regulating their breathing through their noses. All the time and humans should be doing this as well. It changes your your mental state and Your physiology it also really interesting numbers around performance you know in terms of just the difference between breathing through your nose versus your mouth. Yeah and and trainers had been looking at this in researching this for years about twenty years ago. Dr John Do Yard had bicyclists get on a stationary bike and then train by just breathing through the mouth and just breathing through their nose in. He found that someone who had been breathing. Forty Seven Times. A minute through the mouth was breeding fourteen times through the nose but the same amount of oxygen and was able to push so much harder with less effort so the competitive advantage is huge. You know double. Digit percentage advantage to doing this. And it's something that is just mostly loss on us because a large percentage of the population. I would beg to say half of it or more has problems breathing through their nose. We've we've lost this ability on some of its due to evolution in some of its due to the environment but I think one of the most important health hacks that everyone should do. All the time is breathe through your nose. Science certainly backs that up and it sounds like it's all there's a use it or lose it affect to that too so it's you may have trouble starting to get back into it because especially if you're one of that fifty percents that you know brees predominantly through your mouth because it kind of gets plugged up when you don't use it. It's you know. It's like almost like a muscle atrophying. It's at the tissue inflaming. It makes it harder do but then as you slowly reintroduce it it begins to open up and you may find yourself able to do it. In a way that you thought was wouldn't be possible with exactly right at a doctor. Another doctor at Stanford had looked at the noses of patients who had learned jammies who had a hole drilled in their throat so they could breathe out that that channel and she found that their noses within two months to two years had completely plugged up one hundred percent because they weren't used and she fixed her herself her own chronic mouth breathing by training herself to breathe through her nose all the time. And the more you do it the more you're going to be able to do it because you are changing your physiology. You're changing your your anatomy year strengthening the soft tissues on the back of the mouth and widening your airways by just breathing through your nose because of the pressure you know in in a lot of people are are hesitant to do this because they say oh. I. Don't get enough oxygen breathing through my nose while you're going to get about twenty percent more oxygen breathing through knows than through your mouth. So which is what makes it especially effective for exercising yet. Something I think it just pattern to experience breath feeling a certain way and it takes a little while sort of for brains to be like. Oh this is as it's going to be okay as a little uncomfortable and beginning much me. Okay but your body wants to. It really wants you to break through that. That's the thing this is it. Shouldn't it might feel a little force at the beginning but it will be rewarding you ten times over if you start breathing through the nose for one of the other things that you explored was the effect of different breathing patterns and you mentioned earlier even before you got into this you were having all these conversations with the three diving crew about these mythical and mystical stories about people throwing heat off their body in the cold and healing everything. And how could that even be possible? And it's funny you you you reference Herbert Benson. Who wrote a book? It's gotTa be thirty five forty years ago now about the relaxation response. I reference these monks. Who Part of their their right of passage was to sit outside. You know in Subzero temperatures covered in wet shawls and they would do a type of breathing and meditation where there were not just not die but they would literally dry shawls you would see them steaming off them and I remember reading that years ago and being has needed and researching and discovering this thing called to mow which now a lot of us know as sort of you know that somebody who's really popularized that Wim Hof has served taken that and and build a a more modern artifice around a disturbed technique which has been around for. You know it's probably thousands of years share a little bit about about that and how it can actually Change what your body's capable of doing. Yeah and this was another one of those subjects one of those areas where we've had the science. The stuff has been backed up for such a long time but no one's really been listening so one of the researchers that I got really fascinated with was Carl staue who was a choral teacher in New Jersey and found that by training his students how to exhale mourn. Xl properly they were able to really gain residents and more volume with their voices and he ended up getting called up by the met opera to to train their singers and then the VA hospitals asked him to come in and train emphysema six. Who had this surrender disease emphysema? Who weren't being cared for at all? They were plugged into an oxygen tank and and basically left to die. This had gone on for fifty years but just through breathing by teaching these people how to breathe properly. He rehabilitated. People more than any researcher thought was was possible and their x rays mounds and mounds of x rays to prove this but still the second style left the hospital system after ten years of working within it. All of that research went away and his book is now like three hundred dollars on Amazon. And it's really hard to find because nobody read it at the time was released in nineteen seventy so these these patterns kept repeating and especially with with to Moan so. This is a meditation a technology. That's been around for a thousand years about one hundred years ago. Alexandra David Neil. A French opera singer traveled to the Himalayas and learned it in wrote about it. I think our book came out in Nineteen Twenty seven so it got a little bump of interest then and then the next big bump happened with with Benson who had heard these stories. Probably Read David neals book and actually went out to test it and prove that these monks were able to breathe in ways to stimulate an incredible amount of heat within their bodies and more importantly to sustain that heat for hours at a time they were able to sit in snow for hours and not get hypothermia or frostbite which our understanding of medical science. How how is that possible? So then when Wim Hof Kmart he's the. The torch was passed to Wim Hof. Who discovered this? You know round year two thousand and now is built quite an empire around breathing and and to Mo- in having this ability. What's been so great about seeing what whims been doing. Is He's having the stuff. Scientifically tested with controlled controlled. Studies of these of various. People have been testing this over and over and finding that this incredible transformation takes place in the body by just breathing to the point where many people with autoimmune diseases. Psoriasis ECZEMA even type. One diabetes can either blunt or outright according to them. Sure these problems by shifting how they're breathing which you know of course sounds like complete pseudoscience but then you look at the data and then you look at the CRP profiles of these people and you find what they're doing is absolutely legit and all of this stuff is real so I see that this is really the moment for for to mow. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing it. Now we're we now have ways of measuring that to prove how powerful it really is. Yeah and what I love about all of this. I mean there's so many other things that you explore in the book but what I love about. The the bigger conversation around breathing is that it's accessible to anyone. It's free you can do it for life and it puts it gives you a sense of agency you know it makes you were so used to going to somebody else to fix us but when you start to explore breathing as a modality for everything from your physiological changes to psychological changes to simply calming down. I mean Just the most fundamental reaction you know the the connection between your inhales exhales in triggering you're sympathetic vs para sympathetic nervous system and whether that puts you into fight flight or freeze versus really chill common meditative. You know it's is such a powerful tool when you start learning. Well it's not just about getting air into my lungs. It's not just about transferring. You know oxygen into my red blood cells because my so my body function it is about that but this process which we all just assumed was part of the autonomic nervous system it just it just happens. We actually have the ability to intervene to make an intentional to change the way we do it and in doing so create really profound changes in nearly every part of our being. It's exactly right. It's an autonomic function that only of Onomic. It's it's conscious and when we take control of it we can actually control how organs are functioning and their relationship with one another and or hormone levels and our circulation and on and on and on by simply controlling our breathing. It is an absolute anchor to to our health and to our well-being furred you know from this point until until we age. So they found in in nineteen eighty. They found that single. Most important marker of longevity wasn't genetics wasn't diet was an exercise it was lung capacity so the more lung capacity the healthier. Your lungs are the longer you're gonNA live. According to the data so this is something the ancients have known for thousands and thousands of years know one of the reasons that there are so many yoga poses. Now you stretching breathing into your right side stretching breathing into your left side. Guess what happens when you do that. You are increasing your lung capacity and your buttressing your respiratory health every time you do these poses and you breathe in these ways. So it you know I think that some of the apprehension in breathing where people kind of Pooh Pooh it is the medicine itself which is air. Not a lot of people think that we can change the sculpture of our jaws or faces or are ribs just air or that we can flood our bodies with different hormones or turn on circulation or turn it off but for the people who have studied this. Who HAVE X-RAYS and data people who have experienced this that that air thirty pounds of it that enters and exits are lungs? Every day is as important as food. Were eating how much we're moving around. And that's something I I really absolutely believe in especially after these years and years in this field desk so powerful something that I was so excited to to dive into your exploration of it because it gave me a whole bunch of new places to sort of to go narrow and deep which is I think it'll be a focus of mine for a for a while now says feels like a good place for us to come full circle as well so hanging out here in this cross country container of the good life project. If I offer up the phrase to live a good life comes up to be present I think again I realized how cliche that is an end to follow your own path. There's another cliche for you. Might as well use used to at the same time but something I've learned in my life is is to. You'd know naturally to follow your instinct where you need to go and how you need to do it and to trust in that. I think is a vital to to be happy in in the day to day. 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