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Stressed? Call in the Breath

“It’s much more common, especially in the modern world, to never experience full-blown, life-threatening stress, but to never fully relax either. We’ll spend our days half-asleep and nights half-awake, lolling in a gray zone of half-anxiety.” -  Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Around 9 out of every 10 people fall physically ill due to stress and as much as 90 percent of illness and disease is stress-related according to medical research(1). Isn’t that depressing!

How often do we find that we can easily slip into this mundanely fearful state on a daily basis?...Chasing after our ever-changing environment, putting out fires here and there, struggling to maintain some sort of sanity in the chaos, and too anxious to even enjoy life.

However, due to the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic, is it really that surprising that the vast majority of us suffer from some form of stress? Widespread fear can easily distract us from the self-care that our inner selves, and outer bodies, will greatly thank us for. 

When we’re internally balanced, we’re happy. We’re in a peaceful state, enjoying our lives, and prepared for whatever may come our way. The majority of us likely prefer to live life half full rather than half empty. 

Live and Breathe

Without question, the one thing we need to live is breath. 

In fact, you could say: The way we breathe is the way we live.

Breathing modulates stress. A simple breathing exercise can put you into an entirely new, mental state - from limited mental capacity to impeccable mental clarity, or from cluttered thinking to clear focus - or from “Office Clark Kent” to Superman! So, breathing better is for you - the “you” that you enjoy being, who can meet turmoil with unwavering confidence, who can lead others decisively, and who cultivates inner peace in the face of external fears. The “you” that likes to live life unphased - cool, calm, and collected.

Let’s dive into a couple of easy strategies to gain this state of balance.

(1) Nostril usage shifts the nervous system

The right nostril is connected to our “fight or flight” system, otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system. When breathing through the right nostril, we increase our blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, and body heat while our circulation quickens and sends blood to the prefrontal cortex. When faced with a challenge to make reasonable, rational, logical decisions, we can then rely on our right nostril.

Our left nostril allows us to regulate our parasympathetic nervous system, which governs our rest and relaxation. Breathing primarily with our left nostril lowers our anxiety levels, blood pressure, and body temperature as well as prepares us for beneficial sleep. Whenever you feel stressed and would like a calming technique, just breathe through your left nostril for a few rounds. Even a minute of this makes an expansive, impactful difference in mood. 

“Few of us ever consider how the nostrils of every living person pulse to their own rhythm, opening and closing like a flower in response to our moods, mental states, and perhaps even the sun and the moon.” - Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

(2) The “feather breath”: light and slow

James Nestor, author of the bestselling novel Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, informs us that “Breathing just 20 percent, or even 10 percent more than the body’s needs could overwork our systems. Eventually, they’d weaken and falter. Was breathing too much making people sick, and keeping them that way?” Not only is overbreathing a leading cause of headaches and hypertension, but overbreathing also aggravates the symptoms of asthma even further than a person’s normal capacity. 

According to neurophysiologist Dr. Justin Feinstein and other pulmonauts (people who use breath as a tool to transform and explore optimal health), slow and steady breathing has been proven to be more effective than drugs designed to treat multiple fear-induced conditions such as panic and anxiety. 

How do we find that light and slow “sweet spot”? Imagine a feather underneath your nose. Then breathe evenly while imagining that the feather remains intact while you inhale and exhale for five to six seconds each, a full breath around ten to twelve seconds. Bring your focus to the tip of your nose as you elongate and soften your breaths. Once your breath feels natural and not forced, you’ve hit your sweet spot.

“Breathing slow, less, and through the nose balances the levels of respiratory gases in the body and sends the maximum amount of oxygen to the maximum amount of tissues so that our cells have the maximum amount of electron reactivity.” - Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Next time you’re feeling stressed, drop into your breath. Bring in the balanced flow.

The nose knows!

Ready to improve your breath? Download the PEAK FLO app!

PEAK FLO provides science-based personalized breath training programs fueled by the social science of human connection. 

Breath: “90% of humans are breathing poorly, leading to a laundry list of chronic illness and disease.” James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science Of A Lost Art. 

Community: 2023 surveys show 63% are suffering from significant depression, panic and anxiety, and 70% of adults feel lonely.

Join the flow!


(1) Stress management for the health of it. NASD. (n.d.).

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