BREATHE. | Joe DiStefano | TEDxLugano

BREATHE. | Joe DiStefano | TEDxLugano

Articles Blog


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven I would love everybody here
to simply stop your breath for the next few seconds. Don’t take a big gulp in,
just exhale what you have, and let’s hold it. Ready? Go. Keep going. Keep going. Alright, let’s let it out. How did that feel? Did you feel like
you could have done it much longer? Well the truth is,
if we had to hold our breath for another two-and-a-half
to three minutes, most of us, unfortunately, would be dead. (Laughter) On average, the human body
can go about three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air. Now, what surprises me,
and what might surprise you too, is that when we go
to try to improve our health, as most of us are doing
perpetually on some level, we typically go first to the thing
that we can go the longest without: food. Maybe soon after, we start pushing aside
some of the sugary drinks and beer, and start carrying around
a big, blue water bottle, that we drink six times a day. (Laughter) But we never think to start with something we can’t even go
even one minute without comfortably, something that we do 23,000 times a day. Breathing. Now, changing your diet is a good thing. Hydrating is a good idea too. I’m not knocking those things. In fact, I’ve spent the last 15 years coaching clients and athletes
how to improve them. But what thousands
of people have taught me is that if you’re breathing sub-optimally,
dysfunctionally, or flat-out wrong, it’s almost impossible
for your body to reap all the benefits from even the best diet,
the best hydration or exercise program. And I have some bad news: we’re almost all guilty. I’d go as far as to say
that dysfunctional breathing is the respiratory equivalent
of eating fast food, not once or twice, 23,000 times a day. Fixing this problem starts
by taking a new look at the heart. Each beat of your heart
is the result of the interplay of the two branches
of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic, what we call
the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic,
which we call the rest-and-digest. So the new way of looking at health
by looking at heart rate, doesn’t look so much
at the number of beats per minute, as the space between them, which is called heart rate variability. In a healthy person
with a robust nervous system, let’s say their heart
beats 60 times a minute – you might assume
it’s beating once a second, which it is, but that’s only the average. You see, in reality, it would be
something like this: 0.96 seconds, 1.02 seconds, 0.99 seconds, 1.04 seconds, and so on. This is because each beat of your heart
is a result of this arm wrestling match between these two branches
of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic is very vigilant. It always wants
to accelerate your heart rate; it’s always looking for emergencies. It’s looking to keep you safe. The parasympathetic is just the opposite, it wants to calm you down
and slow your pulse. Because it wants to use
all the energy it can to optimize your immune system, to detoxify, to digest your food, and of course, maintain
a very strong interest in sex. Without getting into too many details, it’s because of this interplay
and this heart rate variability that we can begin to see
where our heartbeats are coming from. Are they more stressful beats? Or are they more relaxed beats? In an ideal world, most of our heartbeats would be relaxed, and that would mean the variability
between them would fluctuate a lot. Because both these
nervous systems are always on. The sympathetic
always wants to accelerate, the parasympathetic
wants to calm you down. In an ideal state, if we’re relaxed, our sympathetic is always
waiting in the background. It’s still vigilant,
but it’s not dominating. The unfortunate truth is that today, for most of us
chasing wealth, health, happiness, trying to get the kids to school,
sitting in traffic, most of our heartbeats are being dictated by some level of that sympathetic
nervous system. And it’s causing us some problems. Here’s why: imagine you’re in the woods. You’re running through a trail,
and you turn a corner, and all of the sudden
there’s a lion staring right back at you. In less than a second, that sympathetic
nervous system is going to go soaring. You’re going to gulp a huge amount
of oxygen into your body. Your blood pressure and heart rate
are going to be jacked, they’re going to be through the roof. You will recruit muscles
in your shoulders and chest to start getting air in even faster. Your lunch is not being digested anymore,
your digestion is going to stop. And that blood’s going to go
right into the legs to help you run away. Fear is going to dominate your emotions, and you’re going to make impulsive,
thoughtless decisions. “Should I grab that tree branch
and try to swing out of the way, or what?” All this happens because your body knows in five minutes, you’re either
going to be safe or dead. And if you’re safe, well,
we’ll get back to your immune system, we’ll get back to lunch. Right now, I’ve got to escape
from this lion. So what happens when we’re
in sympathetic overdrive, when the sympathetic nervous system
is decreasing our heart rate variability and governing our heart rate is that we get stuck
running from the lion. Imagine you’ve been running
from the lion for three minutes, big deal. But what about three hours? Or three days? Three weeks? Three months? Three years? Thirty years? Eventually, sure, your immune system
is going to go out of whack. You might get some back pain. At some point,
you’re going to start to doubt whether you can continue
running from this thing. You’re going to start to feel defeated. In the first three minutes, if there was a mile of cactus –
I don’t know where we are, but if there was a mile of cactus,
you would sprint right through it, and because of the adrenaline,
you wouldn’t feel a thing. But after three months
of running from the lion, or three hours? You’re going to feel those cactus
before you even jump in the patch. (Laughter) You’re going to doubt
whether it’s a good idea. “Maybe I should just wait
for him to come catch me because I don’t want
to get involved with that again.” If you think about what happens when we’re running from the lion, it may not surprise you
that recent research suggests that large percentages, not everybody, large percentages of people with some of our most
chronic health problems, also tend to have
low heart rate variability, which means
they’re in sympathetic overdrive. In fact, low heart rate variability has been associated
with all cause and cardiac mortality. Things like acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, restless leg syndrome, low back pain, anxiety, depression. This is because when we’re in that sympathetic overdrive, our body is in that state,
that state of panic. The lion is just a metaphor. That lion is the culmination
of your angry boss, your finances, trying to get the kids to school
without spilling my coffee again, right? All these things add up. And we end up breathing very shallow,
and we get very poor at exhalation, and our hormones are all out of whack. When we take a proper breath,
our diaphragm is going to descend, and it’s going to pull
oxygen into our lungs. When we’re in sympathetic dominance,
we’re using prime movers, big muscles to breathe. When we take a proper breath, that diaphragm is actually
going to push on our internal organs. I’ve read that the kidneys will actually
move 2-3 centimeters with a proper breath. And if you think about that –
the vitality of the internal body moving fluids around,
keeping them healthy – it all comes back to breathing. When we take a proper breath, we’re going to get 360 degree
expansion of our torso. It’s not just a belly breath,
it’s definitely not a chest breath, we’re going to get expansion everywhere. We’re going to get better
at detoxifying our own body and delivering more nutrition to our cells
that we’re giving it in our diet. I’m going to give you
a couple of exercises so you can take this home
and learn how to take control and get yourself
out of sympathetic dominance and into a state
of believing in yourself again. Research into people with low back pain, just four or five weeks of exercises
similar to the ones I’m going to show you, showed an increase
in heart rate variability, and alongside that, it showed an increase in self-efficacy. These low back-pain patients,
even with no improvement in pain, felt less limited by their pain. In a world of “I’m too sick.
I’m too fat. I’m too old,” that’s the key. If we see HRV as our resilience,
then chronic stress, sympathetic overdrive, busy schedules,
and always being on the go is literally robbing us of our vitality. It’s robbing us of our ability
to live an emotionally rich life, to chase our dreams,
to chase wealth, chase health. The fast track to getting yourself
out of sympathetic overdrive is to breathe with your nose. So, right now, I want everybody
to just take a big breath in your nose. (Inhales) Hold it for a second, and exhale three times longer
than it took you to inhale. Go ahead. The first exercise –
go ahead, exhale, sorry. So now, we’re going to upgrade this. That’s the fast track. The better decision:
every morning when you wake up, before a meeting, we’re going to block
one side of your nose, and I want you to take ten breaths,
then do the other side. As you get better,
you’ll inhale one side, exhale the other. This is an amazing quick fix
to calm you down before an important meeting. I’ve seen incredible results
in people with digestive problems using this before meals. Because traditionally, they run,
they’re stressed out and busy, and I’m going to shove this in my face. When you calm down before a meal,
you get that blood. You don’t want the blood, you can’t be running from a lion
when you’re going to eat, you want that blood
in your digestive system to give you some help. So that’s a great exercise. The next few I have used with everybody, from the general population,
a 73-year-old man with low back pain, all the way to professional athletes, and here they are. We all went through very similar
developmental milestones at three months, six months,
nine months, 12 months. That is when your body
learned how to use breath to create a positive internal environment. And we had no preoccupations
at this age, no stress. Your body remembers these positions. When you get into these positions – this is what you should do
when you go home – get into these positions and breathe. Don’t count reps – that’s stressful. Breathe – three, four, five minutes
in each of these positions. And remember, when I’m in this position, I should feel expansion 360 degrees. My entire torso should expand. Same this here, and same thing here. This type of exercise
has actually replaced the majority of our stretching
with professional athletes. Because most tightness –
“Oh, I’ve got this hamstring’s tight” – most tightness is tight because the brain is trying
to stabilize an unstable torso. When we learn to use air
to fill our torso effectively, our hamstrings magically let go. Our shoulder pain goes away because we’re using the right muscles. Do me a favor right now,
straighten your arms, put them next to you. Push into your chair just a little bit, not too hard because we don’t want
to get you guys all jacked up. Push into the chair just a little bit
and take a big breath in your nose, and exhale – three seconds for the exhale,
one second for the inhale. (Inhales) (Exhales) And you should feel a bit different because if you’re using any muscles
except your diaphragm, we’re pre-occupying, we’re getting those
doing something different instead. Does anyone feel like this
is a little bit harder to breathe in? Because you don’t have as many options
to get air in in this position, you can only use one or two things. So take a few breaths. The last exercise is a test. I want you guys to lie on your back. You can prop your feet up if you want to,
but it’s better if you don’t, and try to blow up
a balloon from this position. When we’re running from a lion, our body prioritizes inhalation
far more than exhalation. Exhalation is when
we’re getting rid of toxins. Inhalation is when I’m giving my body
the oxygen it needs to not die. So we get weak in our expiratory muscles. So when you go home – a lot of our athletes will do this
ten or 15 times before a workout to get the breath where it needs to be,
get the stability where it needs to be, and to activate the right system. It’s a great exercise. Together, these three exercises are going to give your body
exactly what it needs. You’re going to be more efficient
at delivering nutrition to your cells; you’re going to be more efficient
at expelling toxins; you’re going to increase
your heart rate variability. I remember a couple of years ago,
I was walking with my niece, and she’s three years old. It had just rained, and there was this puddle
that was like ten feet long. And without even thinking,
she just tried to leap it. She tried to do the impossible. And it blew my mind. She landed about a foot into it, and it was the best day of her life. She saw no negative outcome
from trying to jump that puddle. (Laughter) But we used to be like that too. Then we got stressed out; we got pre-occupied. “I’m not going to try to jump that.
I’m too fat. I’m too sick. I’m too old to try to jump that puddle.” “I can’t start a business
because of what happened last time.” “I’m not going to live my life this way
because of what they think, or what they think.” Well, what if, instead of eating
fast food 23,000 time a day, we took ourselves to the spa? What if 23,000 times a day
we invested in our vitality? What if 23,000 times a day
we took ourselves back to a state of calm where we could truly believe in ourselves, and be the three-year-old
trying to jump the impossible puddle? Everybody wants to say
you have to go on this diet, you have to start drinking this, you have to get sweaty and sore, you have to do this workout, when in fact, the best possible
decision you can make is to simply do something better that you’re already doing
23,000 times a day. Breathe. (Inhales) (Exhales) Thank you. (Applause)

28 thoughts on “BREATHE. | Joe DiStefano | TEDxLugano”

  1. +Duane..Thank you for your comment. I am feeling better already..But I have to think about breathing Alot. I know now when I get light-headed that I am forgetting to breathe. That is such a weird thing..that a person coud make a habit of..or just stop breathing! I do it at night too. But purposeful thinking about it a lot..is helping and maybe someday..breathing will become my habit!!

  2. Sorry but beer is healthy. That is not the thing I would stop using to get heathy, just not overuse it.

  3. that was fantastic, thank you. Going to try this from now on….will get back to you in a month with an update.

  4. Why can't he just say two words "yoga", " pranayama" in the whole talk. So many people can benefit out of it. So strange 🤔

  5. Wish he would have explained the science or reasoning behind and spent more time on breathing through one nostril technique.

  6. PL give credits to India.. these breathing techniques are already in practice, prescribed 2500 years before by first yogi Pathanjali…

  7. I am have been a few times without water for 4 -5 days . Once it was an emergency ,the others was during therapeutic fasting .I dont do anymore fasting without water ,but I know that many people are able to ..survive much longer than three days without any water or other liquid.

  8. We can go 10 or 11 days at least without water – I have done it 7 myself (Dry Fast) I know others that have gone longer. Dysfuncal breathing is a fact too…

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