Darth Vader is a mouth-breather (and what that has to do with your coding studies)

Mmm. Smell that salty sea air!

“Breathe…just breathe…”

Luke Skywalker has agreed to coach Rey in the ways of the force. She’s seated on a craggy scarp overlooking the vast oceans of Ahch-to. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath in. Through her nose. (More on that in a second.)

Like many of you all, I treated myself to a viewing of ‘The Last Jedi’ over the holiday break. I am also father to a 7-year old who is completely obsessed with all things Star Wars. So, we built droid kits and AT-AT walker models this Christmas. We also watched ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ And as we watched, I noticed something.

The force, being the force, is invisible (duh). So how do you know when a Jedi is using it? They close their eyes and take a deep breath.

This caught my notice because I have been thinking about ways to study the Launch School curriculum more effectively. Ever since the Learning How to Learn course introduced me to the idea that exercise can help with the formation of new neurons, I have been considering other ways to support my studying.

It seems that the idea of hacking your own neurobiology (along with Star Wars itself) is fundamentally appealing to many in the tech world. Google has a whole training institute dedicated to the concept that breathing-focussed mindfulness meditation can boost job performance. And what’s another word for breathing-focussed mindfulness meditation? Jedi training.

There is a not-small cohort of folks out there who take Jedi training really seriously (like, religiously serious). And these folks have very detailed instructions on how to conduct breathing exercises to ‘regain focus or to help concentrate their thoughts and actions.’ Instructions that are entirely consistent with the most recent medical research on the benefits of controlled breathing. Which brings me back to my blog title.

There’s one more pertinent piece of research from Northwestern University on the link between mindful breathing and, specifically, the formation and retention of memory. The TL;DR: you gotta breathe through your nose to reap the benefits. As “Jedi Meditation: The Calming Breath” states:

Ensure you can breathe through your nose and that your airways are not restricted in any way.

Can you think of anyone in the Star Wars universe who breathes quite stridently through his mouth?

Ok: not his fault, he has lava burns over 95 percent of his body, which may include his nasal passages

So what is the takeaway for us Launch Schoolers? A little focussed breathing can go a long way to calm and reset our nervous systems, and possibly even enhance our ability to remember. This could certainly be useful in preparation for or during an assessment, or on a 5 minute Pomodoro break. Along with my trail running, I’m going to give controlled breathing sessions a try as a study technique. And you can bet that I will be breathing through my nose.

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