No recipe this week, or last week either…I can’t commit to cooking these days. Instead, I thought I’d share the vitamins I take everyday, as I’ve been asked this question before a few times in the past. Every morning, I use MyKind Organic’s B-12 spray and I take one chewable vitamin D3. That’s it. I’m convinced every other vitamin I need comes from the veggies and nuts that I eat. Maybe some day I’ll be convinced otherwise. 

So, here’s the real vitamin: slow, thoughtful, belly breathing. 

I mentioned a few weeks back that I finally was able to study with Donna Farhi this year. This training was several years in the making, as I can normally only commit to one expensive training a year. So in June 2020, I was supposed to study with Donna in Albuquerque for a week. And then Corona came, and said training went virtual. 

So I missed the chance to be with her in person. She’s a beautiful, gentle soul, and I can only imagine how great it would have been to share breath with her. However, in hindsight, the virtual training was equally fab. 

Discovering Breathwork

Donna’s 1996 The Breathing Book is most definitely the yoga book I have picked up the most. There’s no doubt in my mind that slow, restful breathing places me in a better mood, with less tension throughout my entire body. I have practiced so many of her lessons in this book that, the second I get on my mat, many of them immediately kick in. It was this book that made me want to study with her so strongly, and this book that has greatly affected my yoga teaching. 

This quote from Donna’s book below still hits home. To this day, when I’m not paying attention to my breath, I’m a chest breather. Type-A, edge of my seat, work, work, work, American dream, push, push, push, chest breather. It’s my natural state to be on edge. As she states: 

“When you chest breathe you use your secondary or accessory respiratory muscles instead of the primary muscles. Because you are relying almost entirely on these weak upper body muscles it’s likely that you’ll develop chronic tension in your upper back, shoulders and neck. …Because the abdominal muscles are chronically tightened, all the organs in the lower body suffer from a lack of circulation. …In general, a man breathes this way as a result of a habituated stress reaction. A woman, on the other hand, may have been breathing this way since she was a young girl in an attempt to meet the ideal body image impressed upon by her peers and the culture at large. …Chest breathers often experience a chronic, free-floating state of anxiety. After all, this is the way we breathe during a stress reaction. Type-A personalities are often associated with this kind of breathing – the kind of person who sits on the edge of his seat and exudes “anticipation”. These people never seem to have enough time to do all the tasks they have set themselves. …There is a direct correlation between chest breathing and heart disease and hypertension.”

Maybe that’s why this book has been so essential throughout my life. As much as I’ve pushed away from it, the corporate, intense, huge deadlines, massive presentations, rushing, performing better, etc., world is my world. It always has been. There’s no escaping it. 

So a few months ago, my husband told me about a book that Joe Rogan had been talking about it. It’s called Breath by James Nestor, and I bought it that day. It’s like a modern day, tons of research, more glamorous version of Donna’s, without the instruction or too much talk on the cellular level. 

It’s excellent, too. He goes through our past civilizations to explain why our mouths are so different than our ancestors, why our breathing is most likely so different than our ancestors, and how we got here. He discusses in detail how we can get back to a state of calm as well. 

One takeaway I loved from his book:

“More recently, science has begun measuring what the ancient Tibetans understood intuitively. In the 1980s, researchers with the Framingham Study, a 70-year longitudinal research program focused on heart disease, attempted to find out if lung size really did correlate to longevity. They gathered two decades of data from 5,200 subjects, crunched the numbers, and discovered that the greatest indicator of life span wasn’t genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected. It was lung capacity. …Our ability to breathe full breaths was, according to the researchers, ‘literally a measure of living capacity’.”

For me personally, the only consistent time I breathe slow, full belly breaths is when I’m practicing yoga, or when I’m paying attention. I work at my job 9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Those hours are spent sitting behind a computer, or on the phone with clients. I guarantee you I’m chest breathing during those hours, there’s no doubt in my mind. I bet most Americans who work in a full-time office setting are doing the same. 

That’s a lot of heart issues. That’s a lot of lung issues. That’s a lot of stress. 

One thing I promised myself is that I would begin setting a little timer throughout the day, and that timer would alert me to my breath. 

I haven’t started that yet, as I don’t want to be tied down to one more technological alert in my life. I know, it’s silly. I’m working for a better solution. If you have one, please share. 

I’ll end this with: both books are excellent, and they both came into my life at the right time. Donna’s has a ton of practices, whether you’re a yoga teacher or not, you’ll get some great breathing practices out of it. I hope you check them out. Let me know if you do. 

Here’s to the best vitamin of them all: our breath. 

Love, Jen