Saturday Morning Rounds January 2nd, 2021 - Why you're probably breathing wrong, and how fixing it will help you in negotiations

Posted by BossB, MD on January 2, 2021
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds

A weekly round-up of career & negotiation content for women physicians

What got our attention

Happy new year!!!

Your inbox and social media feeds are probably chock-full of "a look back at 2020" and "a look forward to 2021" articles. The former are not nearly as useful as most people think, and we've already covered the latter pretty thoroughly, so instead we're gonna get back to "normal" around here and share something that blew our minds this past week.

The last, and possibly most influential, book we read in 2020 was Breath: The New Science of A Lost Art by James Nestor.

A number of other books that we read in 2020:

It was clearly a great reading year!

No book, however, has changed the way we live moment-to-moment as much as Breath. Because it literally changed the way we breathe and our awareness of that process, and we suspect that it will do so for you as well.

The publisher - as one might expect - did a better job of describing the book than we could:

"There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat twenty-five thousand times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences.

Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.

Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.

Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again."

We'll leave it up to you to decide the medical implications of what you'll read in the book and whether pulmonology labs are really deserving of the shade thrown at them above - we just know that this changed our personal approaches to breathing and gave us a lot of new tools to synthesize into our lives and our curriculum. More on that last bit below :) 

Who we're following

If you're interested in learning more about breathing and the topics covered in the book, the author's Twitter page (@MrJamesNestor) is worth a follow. He doesn't post that often which is great in our opinion because we've already got plenty of follows who do. When he does post, however, it's usually both relevant and interesting. Here's an example (that some of you might wanna share w/your SOs) of such content - the results from his n=1 study on himself, comparing mouth-breathing vs nose-breathing during sleep:

Screen Shot 2021-01-02 at 11.01.53 AM

BBMD tip of the week

If we've said it once we've said it a million times - your STATE (physical, mental, emotional, etc) going into a business conversation, and especially a negotiation, is the single most important thing you could possibly impact. If you take care of that, the rest tends to take care of itself.

What we hadn't fully understood until reading this book, however, is just how powerful a tool breath could be in affecting desired state changes - especially in the multitudes who struggle to do so because of anxiety and/or a pattern of sympathetic nervous system dominance during the kinds of scenarios that we teach about.

There are many big claims made about the power of breath in this week's book, but its ability to impact one's nervous system and with a little practice to influence or even control one's nervous system is incredibly promising for all kinds of applications.

We're not yet sure which breathing exercises are best for which situations, this simple one called "Box Breathing" is used be special forces soldiers before and during missions to achieve that "sweet spot" state of activated yet calm and in control. The steps are simple:

  • Inhale to a count of 4 (preferably through your nose)
  • Hold 4
  • Exhale 4 
  • Hold 4
  • Repeat

The simplicity of this is a key to its effectiveness - you only have to count to 4 over and over. It's quite meditative. Longer exhalations, however, will bring about a stronger parasympathetic nervous system response. So if you want to take it a step further, do a 6-count exhale and a 2-count hold on empty lungs.

Quote we're contemplating

 "'Yes, they are elves,' Legolas said, 'and they say that you breathe so loud they could shoot you in the dark.'

Sam hastily covered his mouth.”

- J.R.R. Tolkien

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PPS - As always, please let us know your requests and suggestions by replying to this email (we read 'em all) or getting at us via Twitter. Which section above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Just send a tweet to @BossB_MD and put #SaturdayMorningRounds in there so we can find it.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!