A Review of “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”

By: Mary Rachford, PT

“Breath” could be a word to define 2020. Many people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are dealing with shortness of breath. Sadly, some have passed away taking their last few breaths alone. Wearing masks for extended periods of time can make it difficult to breathe for some, myself included.  It is hard to forget the words of George Floyd’s, “I can’t breathe” prior to his untimely death. Who is not “holding their breath” waiting for the political climate to change?

I have just finished reading the new book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor and have a new appreciation for this undervalued but most vital physiological process. As a physical therapist and yoga student, I have always been aware of the many health benefits of breathing techniques, but over the past few years I have come to realize there are so many different kinds and now love learning about what is truly supported by science.

Mr. Nestor delves deep into the history of breath work. He spent 10 years studying it and offering up his own body for scientific experimentation to find out more information. To say he is obsessed with this subject is an understatement, however, I do believe it is a healthy obsession.

Mouth Taping

Yes, you did read that correctly, Mouth Taping.  I had never heard of this technique that has been around for decades.  After reading about the benefits, I could not wait to try it. I have a deviated septum, which approximately 70% of us do, and that makes it harder for me to breathe out of one nostril. I had become a mouth breather at night which is not good for my health. As high as 80% of us sleep with our mouths open!! All we need is a proper reminder at night to keep the mouth closed. Do not be afraid to try it as no one has ever died in their sleep from mouth taping, however it’s not for everyone especially if you have clogged up sinus cavities.

Kinesiotape can be found around the house of many physical therapists so that was my tape of choice. I used a small piece (¼” x 1”) to lightly close my mouth before going to sleep. After getting past the laughs of my husband, Gary, when he walked in the room and asked me a question that I could not answer, I drifted off to sleep. As predicted by the author, I would not get through my first night with it on. It’s not that it was uncomfortable, because it wasn’t, I just don’t quite know why I took it off after two hours. Undeterred, I taped again the next night and made it through with no problems. I woke up early, had no need for water during the night and felt well rested.

Now four weeks in to my experiment I can honestly say I am hooked. I did try it last night without the tape for part of the early morning, as Mr. Nestor said the point of mouth taping is to train yourself to sleep with your mouth shut. I woke up with my nose clogged, tired and with a very dry mouth after just a few hours. Gary also said he could hear me breathing through my mouth.  They say it takes 30 days to create a habit, but it varies from person to person depending on many factors. I am not worried and have no trouble continuing this practice to help me breathe better.

Here are some of the benefits of Mouth Taping:

  • An increase in Nitric Oxide production. After age 45, this short-lived chemical which is hard to make declines. It is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, helps us relax, makes us happy and it may also improve your blood pressure.
  • It can reduce our risk of getting cavities. The pH of our mouth drops when we mouth breath, increasing our risk of developing cavities. It may also improve the smell of our breath. I shared this with my dentist yesterday at my check-up and he agreed. He had heard of mouth taping and was going to try the taping that night to see if it would help his own breathing issues.
  • Waking up less tired and thinking more clearly. This is my own personal experience with mouth taping. It may be due to 15-20% more oxygen getting to my cells throughout my body.
  • Less need for water in the middle of the night. I went from 2-3 drinks a night to zero. A side benefit of this might be reduced trips to the bathroom at night.
  • It may reduce your snoring. I may just have to tape Gary’s mouth shut in his sleep.


Another way to increase the release of nitric oxide if you cannot tolerate the mouth taping is humming. Mr. Nestor states that this powerhouse molecule widens capillaries, increases oxygenation, and relaxes the muscles. Who wouldn’t want more of this? His easy tips:

“Breath normally through the nose and hum, any song or sound”

“Practice for at least five minutes a day, more if possible”

I have just started this practice, so I do not have much data to report other than my kids are giving me weird looks, but the dog seems to enjoy it.

History of Breathing

I loved reading about the history of nasal breathing. I was especially intrigued by his story about American artist and researcher George Catlin who, in 1830, left the comforts of his Philadelphia home as an unhealthy man to spend the next six years traveling and living with various Indian tribes throughout the Great Plains. One thing he marveled at was, that although there were no dentists or doctors, most of the tribal people had straight teeth and rarely seemed to get sick or have other deformities. The tribes attributed this to breathing. Catlin called it the “great secret of life.”

Mr. Nestor writes, “The Native Americans explained to Catlin that breath inhaled through the mouth sapped the body of strength, deformed the face and caused stress and disease.  On the other hand, breath inhaled through the nose kept the body strong, made the face beautiful, and prevented disease.”

Catlin went back to live with various Indian tribes at age 56, twenty years after he had first explored the West. He went on to live to be 76, which was double the average life expectancy for that time period.

Despite wanting to, I won’t go into all of the traveling that Mr. Nestor did over the years to research his book. One chapter that really stuck with me was his trip to Paris to view skulls in the underground caverns. Yes, there is an entire network of catacombs that hold the remains of more than six million people. Only a dedicated researcher would take an illegal tour through a creepy place like that to learn more about ancient nasal cavities and jaw development.

The Schroth Method

I was so excited when I got to the part of the book on Katharina Schroth. As a young German girl diagnosed with scoliosis she developed her own way to heal her misaligned spine. Inspired by a balloon, she developed a series of exercises using breathing techniques and stretches. The treatment approach has been practiced for decades in Germany and Spain and was the method I discovered 10 years ago researching for a friend whose daughter was newly diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Learning that there were no therapists trained in Illinois, I encouraged Bill Block, DPT, our newest hire at the time, to get trained in the method. Since then he has helped hundreds of scoliosis clients improve their posture, stop or limit curve progressions and diminish their functional limitations. To read more about this therapy, use this link to visit our website: https://www.napervillept.com/schroth-based-scoliosis-treatment/

More Information on Breath

I encourage you to watch the podcasts and video demonstrations on www.MrJamesNestor.com and read his book. He will give you many tips and methods to help improve your health, feel better and increase your life span. I reached out to this bestselling author and got an immediate reply,

“I was utterly floored when I came across this research, and it’s been thrilling to see other people benefit from healthy breathing practices as much as I have over the years.

Be/Breath well,


Thank you, James, for this incredible piece of work that will change many lives, for the better, for years to come.

Working from Home for Rookies

I asked my husband, Gary, who has worked with me for about 20 years, what he thought a good topic for my next blog would be and he mulled it over for a bit and then said, "How to survive working with your spouse." I was not sure if he was joking but decided that it may be a topic worth exploring, especially since we can be considered "somewhat experts" in this topic while many couples may be recently thrown into this situation.

Working from Home

I recently started working from home, along with millions of other Americans, due to the deadly virus that is currently traveling throughout the states. After 32 years of working in a physical therapy setting, this has been all new territory for me. One of my new roles is now director of social media which entails writing blogs. Truth be told, it has always been my role but due to the demand of working on patients for most of the day, I was lucky if I got out two blogs a year. These days I am shooting for two blogs a month.

My hope is to give you a few tips on not only surviving but thriving, while working with your spouse. I will also give you some healthy advice on how to improve your workstation set up and, finally, what exercises I do at home throughout the day to prevent injuries from forming.

Top 5 Spouse Tips:

  1. When your spouse is on a call, leave the room. I do this for my own sanity as I cannot focus on my work when another conversation is going on (which he must do throughout the day talking to patients and insurance companies). Luckily, I work on a laptop and use this as my cue to head into the family room or the kitchen. It is good to intermittently stand throughout the day, so I place the computer on a higher counter or shelf to work. Just let you spouse know the reason you are leaving, as Gary thought he did something wrong at first when I kept leaving him alone.
  2. Vary your lunch breaks as it is nice to have some quiet time alone on the patio or porch, weather permitting. Occasionally have lunch together or go out and have a picnic after picking up something at the drive through. We did this on Gary's birthday, and almost nothing makes him happier than a Portillo's beef and cheddar croissant with fries.
  3. Encourage each other to get up every 20-30 minutes. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me. Gary can sit for hours and not get up, so I do bug him often to move. He has an adjustable standing desk at the clinic but not as home. I started doing one minute videos that you can view on our Instagram and Facebook pages. Each one gives you two new stretches that you can do at your desk throughout the day, appropriately titled Work Space Work Outs. Check out this link for a sample: https://www.facebook.com/220231406132/videos/237439227539171/
  4. When the day is done, stop talking about work or limit it to 15 minutes. We put this rule in place years ago so the kids would not get sick of us talking about the clinic.
  5. Find something new that you can both enjoy together. We never binge watched anything before as life was always too busy, however, now that we have a lot of downtime in the evening (especially with the horrible Chicago weather we were experiencing through most of April) we highly recommend the quirky yet funny "Schitt's Creek" on Netflix. Only a few episodes are left in the final season and we will need a new series soon so please leave a comment below if you have a suggestion.

I asked a local couple, Rick and Michele, what advice they would give other couples that started working from home together since early March. Their response, "We each work from different floors in our home so we do not get in each other's way. I bring him his daily vitamin every morning and check in on his day, and he gets the mail and checks in with me. Sometimes we eat lunch together, but we try to keep our 'work-day' similar to what it was prior to us both working from home. Working this way, we both keep our sanity!"

  • Working from Home
  • Working from Home

After viewing their photos, I did provide Michele with some tips to improve her arm posture and her screen height. Rick also needed better positioning with his pillow and laptop height but the hat is perfectly situated.

On the flipside, there have been reports out of China that the divorce rates have significantly increased since the lockdown was put in place and some areas reported an increase of 3x the usual amount of domestic violence. Please use some of the advice above and do not become a part of a United States statistical survey like China's!


Workstation Setup

My partner, Dina, is an Occupational Therapist and one of the best in the business, so I would highly recommend this quick video she did with Mitch, one of our awesome physical therapists.


They go through some helpful tips to reduce possible aches and pains that may come along with a homemade workstation. 

  1. Hips and knees should be at approximately 90 degrees with feet flat on the floor. If they do not touch the floor place a small binder or box underneath to elevate the feet.
  2. A small towel or lumbar roll can be used throughout the day to help improve your lower back curve and posture.
  3. Elbows should also be about 90 degrees, may be slightly greater but should not be less as this can cause strain on the muscles. Wrists should be neutral and float while you type. Keep the elbows close to the body as you type with the shoulders relaxed, not hunched up.
  4. Your monitor should be about an arm's length (20-40 inches) away with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level when you are sitting up straight. See this link for more details on screen adjustments,


There is a nice check list at this link that will go through every aspect of your workstation if you want to take a deep dive into proper ergonomics.


Injury Prevention Exercises While Working from Home

According to an article by the American Physical Therapy Association, among all occupations, office workers are at the highest risk for neck pain, with approximately half experiencing neck pain each year. The good news is neck and shoulder strengthening exercises can help to reduce this pain. See this link for details on their findings:


For a list of specific neck and shoulder strengthening exercises that may be best for preventing neck pain, contact me at mrachford@fyzical.com and I will email them directly to you.

Please try to incorporate some of my suggestions into your daily routine, at the very least get up and move around every 20-30 minutes and hug each other occasionally. We are lucky we have someone to touch as so many are sheltering in place alone and are missing that important connection to other humans. In the words of Randi G. Fine, "No other form of communication is as universally understood as touch. The compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug can take away our fears, soothe our anxieties, and fill the emptiness of being lonely."

Love Your Life (LYL),


Discount Codes!

Mary in surgical mask

We hope this correspondence finds you healthy at home. We are continuing to see some patients in the clinic while taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe. We are also conducting sessions via telehealth communications.

We have asked several of our preferred partners to set up codes to make ordering supplies from home easier for those who are at higher risk and need to stay home. Below is a list of websites and codes that you can use to secure discounts from our preferred vendors.

  • www.Incrediwear.com - Shop at our Incrediwear store for 10% off all products.
  • www.MiraclesofHealth.com - use code Naper10 for 20% off CBD Tinctures, Balms, Colloidal Silver, PuraCleanse and other supplements.
  • www.MuscleMX.com - use code Naper10 for 10% off all CBD products.
  • www.CrossoverSymmetry.com - use code Naper20 for 20% off Hip Halo and other strengthening devices for home programs.
  • www.OS1st.com - use code FYZICAL for free shipping on orders over $19.99 (plantar fascia sleeves and socks are extremely helpful for foot pain).
  • www.NapervillePT.com - click on nutraMetrix icon for our supplement page link, use code 15offMA for 15% off.
  • www.NabosoTechnology.com -use code FYZ10 for 10% off all products.
  • www.Juvent.com - use code Fyz60563 and receive $100 off a new Juvent platform system.

Please continue to stay in touch via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and subscribe to our You Tube Channel at this link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWWvVQ9O5sh80JlDQeFv1ag?sub_confirmation=1.

We will be posting more videos in the future. We miss seeing you and look forward to the end of this shelter in place order. Please reach out if you are in pain, we have many ways we can help you from a distance.

Love Your Life,

Mary, Dina, Bill and Team FYZICAL – Naperville

Love Your Life

Top 10 Lockdown Health Tips

As I look back on the past four weeks, it really seems like it has been a much longer time period. I must admit that I was not sleeping very well the first week due to the constant worry that the business we had built up over the past 25 years could potentially close due to the COVID 19 virus. I resorted to drinking one to two glasses of red wine a night, it's good for you right? Well, in moderation, yes, some studies show that, but I was definitely going a bit overboard. "It's 5:00 somewhere became our afternoon saying when it was time to watch our Governor's report on the state of Illinois."

I realized after week two of the shelter in place order, I would have to make some changes. I had been eating very healthy meals and snacks, but with all three of our kids at home, two of whom like to bake, it was hard to resist delicious treats especially after a few glasses of wine. Being a physical therapist, I know that having a healthy immune system is one of the keys to avoiding any virus so I would have to up my game if I wanted to function at my best. I have made some positive changes and have become a much healthier version of myself than when I started the year. I have never been one to make new year's resolutions, however, I try throughout the year to make small changes that, in the long run, impact my life. Here are some things that helped me. Pick a few out for yourself to make the rest of this lockdown a healthier one.

  1. Stay the same weight or don't gain the COVID 19: I started following the TLS Lifestyle (Transitions Lifestyle System) about four years ago and I am grateful they have a week detox kit that helps me when challenging times come along. I became a weight loss coach about that same time and thought the best way to know how to mentor someone would be to go through the process.  It's not a diet but a lifestyle system. Those with a BMI of 28 or more appear to have nearly 6x the odds of suffering a severe case of COVID19 course. The average BMI in the US exceeds 29. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3548785) I learned many new recipes along my TLS journey, some that even my kids have enjoyed. Who knew cauliflower can be used in place of tortillas? I even made up a recipe last month called Quarantine Quinoa, you can view my demo here: https://www.facebook.com/220231406132/videos/216795479409405/
  2. Eat Right For Your Type: I met an incredible nurse named Linda Sereika (https://www.facebook.com/220231406132/videos/186212646066466/) who examined my blood a few years back and suggested "Eat Right For Your Type". That's a blood type diet based on a book by Dr. Peter D'Adamo. I am an A+ blood type so I do better with a plant-based diet which I was doing for the most part. I did have to omit some nightshade veggies, go gluten-free (which wasn't too hard, as I have two kids with Celiac Disease) and give up red meat. Not that I have been committed to it 100% of the time, but I must say I have more energy and sleep better when I do stick to the guidelines. Thank God red wine is beneficial to my blood type!!
  3. Take Supplements:  First of all, I want to be very clear that there is no research that shows taking any supplement will prevent or cure COVID19. Linda had suggested a few supplements based on the findings from my blood analysis and recently I completed a Gene SNP analysis through our supplement company nutraMetrix. I had been having success taking Vitamin D and B-Complex and one of our products has both of those added into a multivitamin called Isotonix Essentials Anti-Aging which makes it easy to take first thing in the morning. Adding Digestive Enzymes with probiotics and ACTS into the mix has also been helpful during these trying times.

    Digestive Enzymes are catalytic proteins that help the body break down food to utilize the complete spectrum of nutrients in the food we eat. They help replenish the essential enzymes and "good" bacteria in our gut. Other benefits include supporting the immune system, supporting the body in maintaining proper digestive functions and promoting healthy bowel movements. Who wouldn't want that? https://www.nutrametrix.com/product/nutrametrix-isotonix-digestive-enzymes-with-probiotics/?id=5664715&idType=product

    ACTS stands for Adrenal, Cortisol, Thyroid and Stress Support and truly helped me get some solid sleep when the stress levels were up due to working 10-12 hour days. Linda suggested to me that my adrenal gland may be overworked which could possibly suppress my thyroid function. Cortisol levels have a direct relationship with the thyroid; the right amount of cortisol will allow the thyroid to function normally. The problem is constant stress can lead to excess cortisol production which stimulates glucose production. The extra sugar is typically converted into fat and can lead to binge eating. Thankfully, the ingredients of Holy Basil and Ashwagandha help to promote healthy adrenal gland function and minimize weight gain that is associated with increased stress. https://www.nutrametrix.com/search/?keyword=ACTS

  4. Start the day with warm lemon water: The TLS program started me on this habit, and I enhanced it by adding green tea. See the link below for the list of reasons.


  5. Participate in daily Yoga: I truly enjoyed the Yoga classes we offered at FYZICAL - Naperville 3 days a week and once it stopped, I realized how tight I had become, especially when sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. I encouraged our fantastic instructor Sharon to try to stream it through Facebook and although a little apprehensive at first she did agree and her classes have helped hundreds of people reduce their stress levels and take an hour off from the 24/7 coverage of the pandemic. Please sample a class. https://www.facebook.com/220231406132/videos/243488526855023/
  6. Bring back the joy of Ping Pong: Last year we brought our old ping pong table in from the garage for a large family gathering to use as a dining table, we decided to leave it in our "great room" and I am so glad we did. Nightly games have become quite competitive at the Rachford home. I remember reading in one of Dr. Daniel Amen's books about brain health how good ping pong is for the brain and after this month I can truly agree. I miss playing volleyball and pickleball so much but Ping Pong and Wii's "Just Dance" have kept my brain from deteriorating. Sting pong, now that's an entirely different story. If you don't know what that game is, ask a youngster.
  7. Determine your BodyQ score at FYZICAL: BodyQ is an integrated testing program addressing movement, function, general health, vision, hearing, balance, and recovery. Its primary function is to save you injury and damage down the road. The test will also help you in other ways, whether you want to increase your energy levels, recover from injury or illness, run your first 5K, lose 10 pounds, or just feel stronger. BodyQ testing can jump-start you on the way to achieving your goals. It helped me get on a healthier path at the beginning of this year and I am glad I know my score. Call the nearest FYZICAL to find your BodyQ once we can all return to normal or by going to www.myBodyQ.com. We will be offering a 50% discount on this one hour test in the summer.
  8. Mary and Wyatt

    Get a dog: We adopted a rescue dog five years ago. Wyatt was about a year old when we got him. Among the many responsibilities that come with dog ownership, walking the dog is a very good form of exercise – for the dog and for me too! It is nice to go for a long quick-paced walk with him. I enjoy nature during our time away from the shelter in place order. Of course, the unconditional love he offers always brightens my day. He is truly enjoying all the extra bodies around the house, too.

  9. Get more sleep than usual: I have always enjoyed getting eight hours of sleep a night. I think it goes back to my Irish mother making my five siblings and me take naps until we were in 3rd grade. I think she just enjoyed the peace and quiet when we were all sleeping so she would also make us go to bed early. What I have truly enjoyed during this time has been nine to ten hours a night, I know that sounds crazy,  but I am not a big TV fan so there really isn't much to do after ping pong and reading for a bit at night. I haven't been setting an alarm, just waking up when my body tells me to, and it feels good. I wasn't sleeping so soundly as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, so I have resorted to a little supplemental help using Prime Dreamz (melatonin, magnesium, chamomile and passionflower blend) and Turn Down (designed for relaxation, featuring a custom blend of vitamins, amino acids and minerals in one packet that helps to quiet my body, mind and supports quality sleep). See our website www.NapervillePT.com and click on the nutraMetrix icon to get to our supplement page, use code 15offMA for 15% off off your order.
  10. Practice self-care:  Take this extra time and do something you enjoy, don't put pressure on yourself to get a lot of projects done. I was doing that until I read this great article my sister shared with me. I will no longer feel bad that my basement still looks like a disaster has hit it or that I have not taken up playing the piano again. I will enjoy long sleeps, quiet Yoga classes and sitting on the front porch with my husband and three children who won't be around the house much longer and be happy for this time we all have together. https://www.upworthy.com/coronavirus-productivity-motivation-myths-dangers?fbclid=IwAR11kMT1gaUTeOdV7cgLllX6L6_CUQa9ReW3i5rvPHUMz2dizufimoV_xHc

In closing, I hope that you can all remain healthy at home and find joy in the small things that many of us, including me, have taken for granted over the years. In the words of Naval Ravikant, "Doctors won't make you healthy. Nutritionists won't make you slim. Teachers won't make you smart. Gurus won't make you calm. Mentors won't make you rich. Trainers won't make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility. Save yourself."

Love Your Life (LYL)
Mary Rachford, PT