Learning How To Breathe | Connecticut Public Radio

Learning How To Breathe

Jun 17, 2020

Scientists say humans don't know how to breathe very well. We don't breathe deep enough, we breathe too much, and we breathe through our mouths instead of our noses. Our bad breathing can lead to conditions that we don't typically associate with the way we breathe, such as asthma.  

We can't take all the blame. The tradeoff of humans evolving to have bigger brains hundreds of thousands of years ago, is that our brains squeezed our noses, sinuses, tongues, and jaws into smaller spaces. That's why humans are the only species of 5,400 mammals to have misaligned jaws, overbites, underbites, and crooked teeth. 

We inhale and exhale about 25,000 breaths per day but we don't think about how we're breathing or how it makes us feel until Covid-19 and police brutality made it hard to breathe.

We're finally paying attention.

The science, art, and politics of breathing.


  • James Nestor is a journalist and author. His most recent book is New York Times bestseller, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. He has written for Scientific American, The Atlantic and The New York Times, among others, and appeared on ABC’s Nightline and NPR. 
  • Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor for Slate. She is also host of “Amicus,” Slate’s award winning biweekly podcast about the law and the Supreme Court.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. 

Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.