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Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art Hardcover – May 26, 2020
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A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2020
An Amazon Best Science Book of 2020
2020 ASJA Award-Winner in the General Nonfiction Category
A Goodreads Award Finalist for Best Science & Technology Book of the Year
Named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR
“A fascinating scientific, cultural, spiritual, and evolutionary history of the way humans breathe—and how we’ve all been doing it wrong for a long, long time. I already feel calmer and healthier just in the last few days, from making a few simple changes in my breathing, based on what I’ve read…Our breath is a beautiful, healing, mysterious gift, and so is this book.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love
"I highly recommend this book." —Wim Hof
“This book is awesome. Most people have no idea how to do breathing exercises and how beneficial they are. Over the last few weeks I’ve been using the methods I learned from his book and I can tell you there are absolutely some real benefits to be had I really enjoyed this book.” —Joe Rogan on Instagram
“Who would have thought something as simple as changing the way we breathe could be so revolutionary for our health? James Nestor is the perfect guide to the pulmonary world and has written a fascinating book, full of dazzling revelations.” —Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, international bestselling author of The Stress Solution
“It’s a rare popular-science book that keeps a reader up late, eyes glued to the pages. But Breath is just that fascinating. It will alarm you. It will gross you out. And it will inspire you. Who knew respiration could be so scintillating?” —Spirituality & Health
"In Breath, author and journalist James Nestor lays out in spellbinding and at once comedic and riveting fashion his ten year personal investigation of breathing. Who could imagine a “self help book” that reads like a page turning novel?! I couldn’t put it down."—Steven Gundry, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of The Plant Paradox series, The Longevity Paradox, and The Energy Paradox
“With his entertaining, eerily well-timed new book, James Nestor explains the science behind proper breathing and how we can transform our lungs and our lives. The book is brisk and detailed, a well-written read that is always entertaining, as he melds the personal, the historical, and the scientific.” —The Boston Globe
“A transformative book that changes how you think about your body and mind.” —Joshua Foer, New York Times–bestselling author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Memory
“Breath provides a new perspective of modern-day technology and how we’ve unknowingly abandoned the answers we’ve always had. James Nestor artfully brings back what modern society has walked away from, by combining ancestral techniques and new age technology in one elegant book.” —Scientific Inquirer
"A wonderful book that reminds and enlightens us about how breath and mind are intertwined."—
Dr. Rahul Jandial, bestselling author of Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon
“Breath is an utterly fascinating journey into the ways we are wired. No matter who you are, you’ll want to read this.” —Po Bronson, New York Times–bestselling author of What Should I Do with My Life? and coauthor of NutureShock
“An eye-opening, epic journey of human devolution that explains why so many of us are sick and tired. A must-read book that exposes what our health care system doesn’t see.” —Dr. Steven Y. Park, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, author of Sleep, Interrupted
“I don’t say this often, but when I do I mean it: This book changed my life. Breath is part scientific quest, part historical insight, part Hero’s Journey, full of groundbreaking ideas, and a rollicking good read. I had no idea that the simple and intuitive act of inhaling and exhaling has taken such an evolutionary hit. As a result, I figured out why I sleep so badly and why my breathing feels so often out of sync. With a few simple tweaks, I fixed my breathing and fixed myself. A transformational book!” —Caroline Paul, bestselling author of The Gutsy Girl
“Breath shows us just how extraordinary the act of breathing is and why so much depends on how we do it. An enthralling, surprising, and often funny adventure into our most overlooked and undervalued function.” —Bonnie Tsui, author of Why We Swim and American Chinatown
"A welcome, invigorating user’s manual for the respiratory system." —Kirkus Reviews
“If you want to read a book about the power of the breath, this is it!”—Patrick McKeown, bestselling author of The Oxygen Advantage
“Although we all breathe, there is an art and science to breathing correctly . . . Full of fascinating information an compelling arguments, this eye-opening (or more aptly a mouth-closing and nostril-opening) work is highly recommended.” —Library Journal
"This is the best book I've ever read! You won’t be able to put it down." —Dr. John Douillard DC CAP, elite trainer and author of Body, Mind, and Sport
About the Author
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (May 26, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0735213615
- ISBN-13 : 978-0735213616
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.16 x 1.04 x 9.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Examples range from stating that plants exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide (it’s the opposite and how it’s believed oxygen came about in the earths atmosphere) to deoxygenated blood appears blue (again incorrect, deoxygenated blood is deep red, veins appear blue due to reflection of light through the skin). Even cultural references were incorrect which makes me question could this author even use google? I am only 25% through the book- did this guy just try and bang out this book for the cash? It’s a fun read, written by someone who thinks he knows what he’s talking about- so if you do decide to spend the time, perhaps read with a skeptical eye. And it’s dangerous because it’s marketed as this person actually knows what he’s talking about (he spent a year researching so you think he would have been trustworthy). It’s unfortunate that this book was so hastily thrown together...given that the author says numerous times that breathing in any form to the respected western medical community is the same when he’s arguing the opposite point. He’s argument would be a lot more valid had he taken the time to fact check, review, and get basic things most learn in high school correct.
I tried to investigate several claims such as this gem:
"In the 1980s, researchers with the Framingham Study, a 70-year longitudinal research program focused on heart disease, attempted to find out if lung size really did correlate to longevity. They gathered two decades of data from 5,200 subjects, crunched the numbers, and discovered that the greatest indicator of life span wasn’t genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected. It was lung capacity."
The sources cited for this claim do not AT ALL support what the author is suggesting. I could not find any mention that lung capacity has a greater impact on life span than exercise and diet. In fact even looking at the authors cited source, I couldn't even find the words "lung capacity" mentioned at all!
The author even goes further to claim that breathing through your nose will improve your exercise performance. Somehow Olympic athletes all over the world have yet to crack this one... Usain Bolt and Courtney Dewaulter must be doing it wrong.
I really wanted to like this book and learn something new, but there is soooo much unfounded bologna in here. It may be true that there are benefits to different breathing techniques, but the author has done an incredible job of hiding needles of truth in a hay pile of BS. You're better of skipping this one.
Plus, the book is really just a lot of fun to read. It's a worthy worthy follow up to Nestor's last book, DEEP, and this one just gets deeper and wierder and even more full of adventure. My favorite part is the chapter about how the human skull has changed over the last couple hundred years because of changes in how we breath. It could have been really boring -- but Nestor doesn't just write about it, he actually goes to Paris, crawls into a sewer, and breaks into the secret catacombs below the city to actually hold a hundreds of year old skull Hamlet-style. ("Alas poor Yorik..." &c. ) You actually see the skull and how they change! Unforgettable stuff. IMHO The book is a must read and must buy...
Top reviews from other countries
These range from insubstantial; a man in the 1930's met another man who'd benefited from visiting Tibetan monks who breath through their noses. To plausible; anxiety can be controlled with breathing, strengthening the chest muscles and diaphram can help with breathing (eg. physiotherapy is good for people with emphysema). To mystical; breathing can infuse the body with a magical 'energy' called Prana.
Any conclusions seem to be contradictory: breath in little sips, take big breaths, reduce the amount of oxygen in our bodies, increase the amount etc.
A lot is written concerning a study he and a friend took part in where they taped their noses shut for 10 days to force them to breath through their mouths. Apparently this will make you feel rotten, snore more and grow bacteria in your unused nasal cavity. Hardly surprising.
Triggers for me were a combination of enforced passive smoking for some decades, before it got banned in public places, and, finally prolonged exposure to a chemical in the workplace, which had a disastrous respiratory effect on all of us, so exposed
Unwilling initially to take medication I tried to explore various ways to improve lung capacity, some of which have been more or less successful, though I had to surrender eventually to medical management, and am generally well maintained
Covid has of course made us all intensely aware of lung health, and there has been an explosion in awareness of how we breathe, how this activity we might not even think about until we can’t, might impact, positively or negatively, health and wellbeing. Not to mention, how we might best recover long term if the virus takes hold and diminishes lung capacity long term.
Decades ago, before it was more widely known, I had attempted to self-admiinister Buteyko, from a book. And not got on very well with it.
James Nestor, a self-styled ‘aeronaut’ as he calls those who have deeply studied breathwork, and sought to educate and help others to breathe well, explores, clearly, so clearly, a whole range of extraordinary breathing techniques. I should probably rephrase that – they are not necessarily THAT extraordinary, they are representative of more natural, healthful ways of breathing – which almost all of us ‘grew out of’ – posture, diet , environment changes our breathing.
Nestor goes well into the science of all this, and his book is absolutely fascinating. But what makes it outstanding for me is that he is a WRITER. Most of the other books I’ve read, share the passion, share the authors’ own journey and exploration of the field, but those writers don’t have the skill to convey the dryer stuff of the science so engagingly and absorbingly, or the light touch immediacy of writing which is like someone talking to you.
For those who might be looking towards trying the various techniques, Nestor gives clear guidance within the book, - and yes, I found Buteyko so much easier to work, from this. He also promotes and explores several ‘aeronauts’ – Patrick McKeown (very much the approachable Buteyko international voice now) Anders Olsson, Wim Hof and others – and gives details and links to the wealth of video material out there. Indeed Nestor’s own website is full of wonderful, free resources.
I also really like his pragmatic and generous approach. One of the biggest changes I’ve made – with excellent results – since reading this book, is to simply control how I breathe when sleeping. Nose breathing, not mouth breathing, is what we need to be doing, and though I have consciously tried to work with this, over many years, I certainly wasn’t doing this at night. Various complex devices are out on the market for this one – Nestor does talk them through, but also says he himself just uses simple micropore tape, to keep his mouth shut. It certainly looks a bit weird and startling but, I must say, since my first night with a small vertical strip from just above top lip to just below bottom lip, I not only had no trouble or discomfort with this, but no longer have a stuffy or runny nose on waking, and am more likely to sleep through the night, not needing to wake for a pee – and he explains the science behind this, a connection between a neurotransmitter, the autonomic nervous system, and depth of sleep. The nose is a wonderful thing, and the biochemistry of nose breathing and mouth breathing are different. Button that lip!
I confess that I am kicking myself for not taking the intricacies of breathing seriously until the last few years and I wonder if I would have been as dismissive if I had read a 'grounded' a book as this, rather than texts that relied on 'New Age-y' type language that provoked my prejudices and closed my mind to the undoubted benefits of 'breathwork'.
In a concluding chapter, Mr Nestor forcefully states the benefits of Western medicine - and rightly so; the book is NOT opposed to the scientific method. What he does argue for, however, is that the Western model has ignored an elusive obvious: self-regulation of the breath as a means of stress reduction with a host of attendant benefits.
In presenting his case, Mr Nestor takes the reader on a journey from the dawn of aerobic metabolism, through biological anthropology, into psychology, psychiatry, and dentistry, tying it all together with his own history of breath exploration as a means to control his own health issues.
It is a dazzling read regardless of some passages that describe horrible animal experiments. There are appendices that describe some breathing techniques, along with bibliography and expanded notes. Mr Nestor's website, with its dedicated 'Breath' page, is worth a look for new updates.
Anecdotally, I 'cured' long-standing exercise-induced asthma through one of the methods outlined in the book (Buteyko) and I continue to dive into it to control a life-long anxiety disorder. From what I gather, my experience is commonplace, although the benefits have been quite startling on a personal level. Whether or not I experiment with the Wim Hof method discussed in the book is another matter; it may be the next step for me.
All in all, this is a persuasive, well-researched, passionate, and inspiring book and I heartily recommend it.