Illustration credit: A.E. Kieren

Nirinjan Yee, CEO and founder, BreathResearch

Yee was 35 in 1990 when an acute case of Lyme disease left her in excruciating pain, unable to walk, much less pursue the sports she loved. And then a German woman in her 80s showed Yee a path to wellness, one that required little other than monitoring the subtle changes in her breathing. It took Yee hours each day over a couple of years, but eventually she could walk—and hike, cycle and dance—without pain.

Since then Yee has made a career out of breathing. She started by recording breathing patterns in patients with chronic disease as well as in athletes hoping to improve their performance. From those initial experiments came BreathResearch, a company founded to develop an easy and affordable way to measure and track breathing patterns that correlate with a subject’s health and physical performance.

Along the way Yee picked up support from pulmonologists and exercise physiologists. Today the BreathResearch team is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic to create apps that will help people manage chronic heart and lung disease as well as prevent heart and lung decline in an aging population. “That’s where the real urgency is,” she says.

In December Yee finally received prototypes of a new multisensor headset that measures breathing and heart rate. It won’t be available for public consumption anytime soon, but the curious-minded can download the MyBreath app for a quick analysis. Simply breathe into the microphone embedded in your iPhone earbuds for three minutes and you’ll get data on breathing rate, depth, tension, flow and variability.