It’s scientifically proven: 90% of us can’t breathe properly! Luckily, working on your breath can be learned and is vital for health, energy, immunity, and cognitive function. Timely investigation.
It started as little music. An email sent by this leading woman to propose a breathing evening organized at her home with a yoga teacher. The reaction of the guests, their enthusiastic willingness to react, accelerated the tempo again: “brilliant idea”, some launched; “Finally a moment to breathe!” the others added. A few days later, it is another high-level interlocutor who, over lunch, advises this book that has changed his life and energy levels, especially at work: Breathe, the bestseller by American journalist James Nestor, published last year in the United States and arriving in France. This stunning study, conducted by the author of Deep (his first book, in which he scientifically explored the world of freediving), unveils the untold powers of breathing, with great support from neuroscientific studies and meetings with high-level researchers (especially from Harvard). on our health, our immune system, our sleep and also on the functioning of our cognitive functions. “I’ve changed everything in my habits,” his reader continues, impressed. And I offered it to all my employees.
In video, telework: 8 tips to create breathing moments
Everywhere from yoga centers to medical rooms, heart coherence classes are opening to packed homes. The free RespiRelax+ application, developed by Les Thermes d’Allevard, a thermal spa in the Alps specializing in the treatment of respiratory diseases, and recognized by the entire medical profession, has become one of the most downloaded in France (2 million downloads) . . Its followers come not just to recover from their stressed lives, but — and this is what’s new — to boost their immunity, “reduce overall levels of inflammation in the body,” and “regain the full potential of their cognitive functions.” Which Does breathing matter? This question guided this investigation.
Day and night freediving
China Lanzmann is a Female Leadership Coach based in Paris. The year 2021? She crossed them in a long fog. “I was getting more and more tired,” recalls the founder of the company Woman Impact. And I always found a good reason to explain this tiredness – the Covid vaccine, my in-laws arriving home for Christmas… But every day, after two or three hours of work, I was floored. I couldn’t work anymore, couldn’t think anymore, and I even got around to seriously convincing myself that I’d become stupid. She puts together her schedule. Takes an hour nap every day…gets bogged down.
25% of adults over 30 officially suffer from sleep apnea, 80% of cases go undiagnosed
A visit to her family doctor changes everything: she suspects late-onset sleep apnea and advises her to be tested by a cardiologist. “You’re paired with a finger oximeter to a machine that measures your breathing for a whole night,” China explains. The diagnosis is clear: severe sleep apnea. “The machine showed me choking thirty-five times an hour. Through the survival instinct, the brain then sends a micro-discharge to your body, causing a micro-awakening. And so it goes until the morning that leaves you exhausted.” Since this diagnosis, Chine Lanzmann has been sleeping with a machine that prevents her airway from becoming blocked. “I’m alive again!” she exclaims. I can easily work all day with much more energy than before. I couldn’t live without it.”
Today, scientists estimate that while 25% of adults over the age of 30 officially suffer from sleep apnea, 80% of cases go undiagnosed. Therefore, this year the government launched a national health campaign on the subject. So much for night breathing. But this, James Nestor teaches us, is entirely dependent on how we breathe during the day. In this case, through our ability to breathe well through our noses – not only does stress block breathing, but it also pushes us to suck in air through our mouths. Our ability to regulate the rhythm of our breathing also plays a role – we’ll see why later: a discipline that has become a daily lifestyle for many Americans… and more and more French women.
Isabelle Dubern, founder of TheInvisibleCollection, discovered them while reading Hillary Clinton’s campaign memoirs, written after she lost the 2017 presidential election. Practice the famous heart coherence exercise called 3-6-5: train three times a day to perform six breaths per minute, for five minutes, she emphasizes. I said to myself: if a woman this busy can do it, so can I! Today I practice these breaths before a board meeting or a complicated meeting. The exercise has also greatly eased the strain of late night Zoom meetings, in my case six or seven a day, as our offices are between London, Paris and New York.
How would you specifically describe the advantages? “It has helped me to start these meetings super calm and very positive,” she continues, to avoid the feeling of suffocation that she, her and all the screens that lock us in can give. My whole lifestyle has benefited: I have clearer ideas and feel so much less tired. It has also helped me rebalance my hormones, which is never insignificant during the premenopausal period…”
Optimal brain function
So better breathing would help balance the body, think better? That’s what the studies say. If the role of breathing in immunity and health has been scientifically proven, the evidence for its effects on brain function is very new. For example, the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center (CRNL) has discovered that the rhythm of breathing acts as a kind of brain metronome, a synchronization tool that facilitates communication between the different areas of the brain, especially when we are calm and awake. In other words, quiet breathing, achieved for example by increasing the interval between inspiration and expiration, sets the stage for optimal cognitive function.
Provided – here we are – to breathe well through the nose: it is probably thanks to the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity (sensitive to pressure fluctuations) that the breathing rhythm is transmitted to the brain. Another scientific study (Pearl et al., 2019) showed that the brain synchronization phenomenon disappeared when participants breathed through their mouths.
Maybe you have to breathe out what you are holding on to yourself, take a break
Valérie Accary, Les metamorFoses association
And it’s not over yet. “The new era of intuitive neurotechnology continues to expand our field of knowledge,” adds Delphine Remy-Boutang, founder of Digital Women’s Day and The Bureau (digital strategy consultancy). I discovered an incredible company, ONTBO (OK Not To Be OK), founded by Athénaïs Oslati, a young 26 year old entrepreneur. Its technology, thanks to artificial intelligence, analyzes the emotions of its user and sends him “the” music that accompanies, amplifies or balances his momentary state, thus bringing him to better heart coherence. When human intelligence is combined with artificial intelligence, we can improve cognitive performance, fight depression and stress in more personalized ways.
Breathing is individual
The last word counts. Blandine Stintzy, a former polytechnic and screenwriter, also practices the Feldenkrais Method. At her center in the 6th arrondissement in Paris, she organizes breathing workshops* for super-stressed or back-pain executives, as she has done before. “One breath is very personal,” she says. The pace and amount of air each person requires will vary based on their location, location, or altitude. Our brains, of course, have the ability to regulate that first movement, breathing, to get the right amount of it to the muscles or parts of our body that need it, but we have forgotten or unlearned how to do it. Many people stop breathing when trying to control their breath. Or, conversely, they are in an over-oxygen supply.
The Feldenkrais Method asks people how they function to help them find the natural path of breath in the body. From a breath perspective, what happens when you release your pelvis slightly instead of straightening to stand up straight? Or when you move your chin forward to release the air under the roof of your jaw? Well, often we yawn. Without stopping, like releasing a river that has been dammed for too long. “Exploring an area, an unfamiliar movement, helps to connect the analytical brain with the intuitive brain, that of emotions,” explains Blandine Stintzy. It releases enthusiasm, a different relationship to the unknown and ultimately creativity. I tested it with many central and polytechnic students, believe me it works!”
Valérie Accary, former president of the communications agency BBDO France and now at the head of the Les MétamorFoses association, hallucinated the effect on her guests during the three breath-taking evenings that she organized at home. “When we breathe, we always speak better, and it’s like it frees listening, too,” she says. On those three evenings, everyone talked so seldom about their lives, the changes that were happening inside them, their desires to do something else, somewhere else. Maybe you have to breathe out what you’re holding back, take a break, find a second wind, let things inspire you again.
Frightening news, a stressful world of work… “Today, everyone is holding their breath as if to protect themselves from danger,” analyzes Valérie Accary. But in doing so we lose it, along with the freedom, the lust. I would even say the vision. However, what defines a leader’s strength is their inspired vision, their ability to lead the teams behind them. Catching your breath means getting moving again. “I would add that working on the breath gives perspective and helps fight the constant sense of urgency, this urgency to get done, to get done, eludes Delphine Remy-Boutang. If we watch his breathing, we see that nothing really stops. We are in a movement, a permanent construction. It’s important to find that sense of progress over a long period of time. In a world where everything is accelerating, it can even help you stay sane.