Breathing for a better life

How to leverage your breathing for improved health and well-being

Breathing for a better life

Breathing is a fundamental aspect of life that most people take for granted. However, how we breathe can significantly impact our quality of life, influencing our mood, sleep quality, alertness, and calmness. In this article, we will explore various breathing techniques and their benefits, drawing from the expertise of Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neurobiology and ophthalmology professor at Stanford University.

The Science of Breathing

Breathing serves to bring oxygen into the body and remove carbon dioxide. Maintaining the correct balance between these two gases is crucial for optimal bodily function. When we breathe, air enters through the nose and mouth, travels down the larynx, and enters the lungs, where oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream and carbon dioxide is expelled.

Different breathing patterns can affect our physical and mental well-being. For instance, sleep apnea, characterized by shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep, can lead to a range of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cognitive decline.

Breathing Techniques and Their Benefits

  1. Physiological Sigh: This technique involves two inhales through the nose (one big, one smaller), followed by a long exhale through the mouth until the lungs are empty. Practicing this for five minutes per day over a month can result in relaxation, reduced stress, lower resting heart rate, and improved mood. Even a single physiological sigh can quickly induce calmness in real-time.
  2. Box Breathing: This technique involves inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holding your breath again, all for equal durations. Box breathing can help improve mechanical control over breathing and reduce resting respiratory rate. The duration of each step depends on your carbon dioxide tolerance, which can be assessed using the Carbon Dioxide Tolerance Test.
  3. Nasal Breathing: Breathing through your nose, rather than your mouth, can offer several benefits, including increased efficiency and improved facial aesthetics. Nasal breathing can also enhance cognitive function and memory retrieval.
  4. Tummo or Wim Hof Style Breathing: This technique involves rapid, deliberate hyperventilation, which can increase alertness and adrenaline levels. However, it should be practiced with caution, especially for those prone to anxiety or panic attacks.

Improving Your Breathing

To make the most of these breathing techniques, it's essential to first assess your carbon dioxide tolerance using the Carbon Dioxide Tolerance Test. Depending on your tolerance level, you can tailor your box breathing practice to improve your breathing efficiency.

In addition, practicing diaphragmatic breathing – where the diaphragm is engaged efficiently – can further enhance your breathing. To test if you're using your diaphragm properly, inhale through your nose and observe if your belly moves outward slightly before moving inward upon exhale.


Breathing is more than just a passive, automatic function of our bodies. By understanding the science of breathing and practicing various techniques, we can leverage our breath to improve our overall health and well-being. Whether it's enhancing our mood, reducing stress, or increasing alertness, the power of breath is an invaluable tool we can all benefit from. So, take a deep breath and start your journey to better breathing today.