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Breath Easy…and Easily

Bill Curry

Bill has been my friend since 1960. He believed in me before I did. His acceptance, support and love pushed me forward in the best possible way.

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December 20, 2020

I am not impressed with celebrity. I know too much about too many. I’ve been to too many fancy places. I’ve seen too much artifice, narcissism, and lately pure evil…all from famous people…and yeah, I’ve been some of those things from time to time, and I cannot tell you how embarrassing that is to confess. All of this by way of saying I’m not impressed with celebrity, and I do not exaggerate reputations.

Some years ago, I spent time talking with a coach, one of the two or three most successful college football coaches of all time. A humble man who always did things the right way, and there I was sitting with him! I was curious about his state of mind in his 70’s and how his health has held up. “I just cannot sleep,” he said. He is not a very talkative person and had little more to say on the subject. I wanted to quiz him but was reluctant to intrude.
His sleep deprivation haunted me since I was experiencing the same issue, and the only suggestion I knew of was the PM drugstore products, so I said nothing.

Meanwhile, I had been experimenting with a systematic approach to disciplined breathing under the tutelage of Brad Yates, a college teammate who has been training and mentoring athletes and leaders for decades. His study of breathing, especially nasal breathing and its surprising effect on performance when practiced using a specific rhythm is intriguing.

Simultaneous with all of this was the reality that I had a severe case of atrial fibrillation and could barely walk a few blocks without becoming immobilized by of shortness of breath. Nonetheless, I persevered, seeking to enhance oxygen intake despite the difficulties. Using Brad’s techniques I made some progress, but not enough to increase my confidence in returning to adequate breathing under duress.

Three dramatic events occurred:

  1. I received a pacemaker. This had a profound, positive effect on circulation and on shortness of breath.
  2. I read a book by Anthony De Mello in which he interviewed a Buddhist monk. When De Mello asked the monk about prayer, the surprising response was “Breathe…just breathe. Breathing is prayer.” “Breathing is prayer?” De Mello asked, astonished. “Yes, breathing itself is prayer. Sit calmly, breathe, and prayer will naturally result.”
  3. I tried it. Since I have a short attention span, nothing much happened, but it has begun to help, and even to increase my capacity to concentrate.

Finally, since I often pray during my sleepless times during the night, I began to employ the rhythmic breathing, first as a literal prayer, then as a device to concentrate on specific prayer subjects, and finally, by accident (or Divine Intervention) on sleep. I found that no matter how agitated I was, and regardless of how painful a shoulder or knee was that night, I could nod off to sleep after just a few minutes of concentrated, steady, deep, nasal, rhythmic breathing!

Best of all, even though the thought had been introduced from another person, the result felt natural, as if nature had intervened and changed my anxiety and oxygen intake patterns!

Who knew? I certainly didn’t, and Brad hasn’t mentioned any such experiences of a similar nature.


Maybe we are onto something remarkable that could help a large number of people. I'm just about ready to call the coach I mentioned earlier.

Bill Curry

Bill Curry #50

My friend since 1960. Teammate at Georgia Tech. We have built a collaborative relationship that nurtures our performance as athletes, coaches, husbands and parents.

Bill from College Park, Georgia. A natural athlete that worked hard and went on to play 10 years in the NFL. To be the head coach at Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama and the University of Kentucky. A celebrated broadcaster with ESPN, an author, “The Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle.” A popular speaker and a very successful family man.

Me? I’m from Amityville, New York. A self-made athlete. I went to The Greenbriar Military School to earn a scholarship to play in the SEC. I got to play because I outworked the people in front of me. I played next to Bill as a freshman and for two years on the varsity.

When I graduated from Georgia Tech, I went to Hawaii to surf and live the Island Lifestyle. Whereas Bill became a professional athlete and a world class coach and leader. I became an Ocean Athlete and as a teacher and a coach, I resolved the issues that allowed me to become the person I needed when I was 19 years old. ​

In 1981, I took a one­-year sabbatical from my teaching job at Punahou and moved my family from the North Shore of Oahu to Atlanta, Georgia. Bill was the Head Coach at Georgia Tech coming off a not so successful year. I volunteered to work with Bill and his staff as a performance coach (a position that was unknown and unnamed at the time).

After my year on the mainland was up, we moved back to Hawaii. From that time to now Bill and I have collaborated on issues, conflicts and negative situations related to our health, careers, families and the aging process as we approach the milestone of being 80 ears old.

The systematic approach to disciplined breathing that I introduced to Bill came as a sharing process that I intuitively used to overcome a similar issue with sleep. The success for Bill is consistent with the effect that nasal breathing can have on your ability to relax and settle down. The trust that exists between us literally originates from butting heads and sharing the love and fun that comes from “Playing Through the Whistle” together for 60 years.

That's HiLevel!