July 16, 2016
Perfect Breathing by Al Lee & Don Campbell is an indispensible resource for individuals seeking to learn the intricacies of what the ‘perfect breath’ entails.
For me, the notion of ‘perfect breathing’ was rather intriguing at first blush for a variety of reasons. The deeper one delves within the pages of this book, the easier it was to see the various ways individuals can end up carrying out imperfect breathing.
As the authors note:
“During times of stress – and that can be anything from lack of sleep, screaming kids, or a bad day at work to physical confrontations, overwork, or being chased by lions – we become shallow chest breathers. Chest breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, a response we’ll speak of often. It makes the body react as if it’s in a state of emergency and produces a buildup of stress-related chemicals such as adrenaline and lactic acid. Researchers have found that prolonged shallow, rapid breathing – while necessary to protect us from immediate danger – can make us feel chronically anxious, fatigued, or disoriented. Shallow breathing also contributes to stress-related and stress-affected disorders such as PMS, menstrual cramps, headaches, migraines, insomnia, high blood pressure, asthma, back pain, and allergies.”
That passage resonated with me quite profoundly, because before knowing that, because of stress and a particular disease shallow breathing plagued me quite often. Something else that bothered me often as well was holding my breath unknowingly in times of stress.
Fortuitously, the book also provides a kaleidoscope of breathing exercises that can help an individual breathe optimally.
Another small gem of information that’s shared by the authors regards one of the exercises suggested. The authors suggest [what we’ll call the 2-1-2-1 breathing technique] inhaling for two seconds, holding breath for one second, exhaling for 2 seconds, and holding for one second, and repeating as needed. This technique has been used by me for years now, while alternating with another one.
This was used in tandem with a modified 4-4-4-4 system, based on the suggestion of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in his book On Combat. Both breathing techniques help me greatly, except the later one helps me slow down not only my breath, but also helps slow down my mind a lot more which aids me personally in a variety of circumstances. The instances will dictate what feels right at the time for me.
In any case, as the authors note about the 2-1-2-1 breathing technique:
“This exercise, as simple and innocuous as it seems, is the most important exercise to master. Once you have developed the habit of slow, deep breathing and your body remembers that this is the natural way to breathe, it will slowly become a part of everything that you do. It will become your “secret weapon” when you need an extra burst of energy; it will become your rock when you are feeling emotional shattered; and it will become a peaceful, quiet refuge at times when you need sanctuary.”
As someone who’s used this technique and others more and more over time several times daily, the benefits have been quite great for myself as well as those friends of mine who also chose to use it.
The authors also showcase easily a few dozen references to studies conducted in respect to breathing, stress, and various other physiological issues.
In its totality, this book is a masterpiece in the art of breathing, and it should be highly considered by everyone, particularly those experiencing stress regularly, or disease. Either way, the book has enough information for any individual to take advantage of this book. And the best part about it is that its advice is free, and easy to follow.
 Al Lee & Don Campbell, Perfect Breathing, pg. 12-13.
 Ibid., pg. 53.