Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A New York Times Best Seller
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2020
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.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love)
No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly.
There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: Take air in, let it out, repeat 25,000 times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences. Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.
Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is. Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.
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|Listening Length||7 hours and 18 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||May 26, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #180 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1 in Audiobooks on Hygiene & Healthy Living
#2 in Anatomy & Physiology (Audible Books & Originals)
#4 in Anatomy (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2020
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Illustrative of Nestor’s style and substance he writes: “I found a library’s worth of material. The problem was, the sources were hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years old… Seven books of the Chinese Tao dating back to around 400 BCE focused entirely on breathing...”
Nestor writes: “the way we breathe has gotten markedly worse since the dawn of the Industrial Age… almost everyone you know—is breathing incorrectly… many modern maladies—asthma, anxiety,… could either be reduced or reversed simply by changing the way we inhale and exhale…. changing how we breathe will help us live longer… This book is a scientific adventure into the lost art and science of breathing.”
Nestor writes: “even though none of the ancient people ever flossed, or brushed, or saw a dentist, they all had straight teeth… Their mouths were far too large, and their airways too wide for anything to block them. They breathed easy. Nearly all ancient humans shared this forward structure… This remained true from the time when Homo sapiens first appeared, some 300,000 years ago, to just a few hundred years ago… For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors would use their wildly developed heads to breathe just fine. Armed with a nose, a voice, and a supersized brain, humans took over the world.”
Nestor writes: “Mouthbreathing, it turns out, changes the physical body and transforms airways, all for the worse… Inhaling from the nose has the opposite effect… “Whatever happens to the nose affects what’s happening in the mouth, the airways, the lungs”… said Patrick McKeown… [a] leading experts on nasal breathing. “These aren’t separate things that operate autonomously—it’s one united airway,” he told me… “More wholesome to sleep… with the mouth shut,” wrote… Lemnius, [in] the 1500s who was… one of the first researchers to study snoring. Even back then, [he] knew how injurious obstructive breathing during sleep could be.”
Nestor writes: “contrary to what most of us might think, no amount of snoring is normal, and no amount of sleep apnea comes without risks of serious health effects.”
Nestor writes: “A Chinese Taoist text from the eighth century AD noted that the nose was the “heavenly door,” and that breath must be taken in through it. “Never do otherwise,” the text warned, “for breath would be in danger and illness would set in.”… George Catlin… [about] 1830,.. would spend the next six years traveling thousands of miles throughout the Great Plains… to document the lives of 50 Native American tribes… Having never seen a dentist or doctor, the tribal people had teeth that were perfectly straight—“ as regular as the keys of a piano”… Nobody seemed to get sick, and deformities and other chronic health problems appeared rare... The tribes attributed their vigorous health to… the “great secret of life.” The secret was breathing… The Native Americans explained… breath inhaled through the nose kept the body strong, made the face beautiful, and prevented disease… [then] Catlin… set off… to live with [other] indigenous cultures … Every tribe… shared the same breathing habits… He wrote… The Breath of Life, published in 1862. The book was devoted solely to documenting the wonders of nasal breathing and the hazards of mouthbreathing.”
Nestor writes: “Dr. Mark Burhenne… found that mouthbreathing was both a cause of and a contributor to snoring and sleep apnea. He recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night… “The health benefits of nose breathing are undeniable,”… Keeping the nose constantly in use, however, trains the tissues inside the nasal cavity and throat to flex and stay open…”
Nestor writes: “Just a few minutes of daily bending and breathing can expand lung capacity. With that extra capacity we can expand our lives… The stretches, called the Five Tibetan Rites… Bradford… studied… and learned restorative practices from the monks. He’d reversed aging through nothing more than stretching and breathing. Kelder described these techniques in a slim booklet titled The Eye of Revelation, published in 1939… the lung-expanding stretches he described are rooted… in actual exercises that date back to 500 BCE… In the 1980s, researchers… gathered two decades of data from 5,200 subjects… 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… In 2000, University of Buffalo researchers ran a similar study... The results were the same.”
Nestor writes: “Moderate exercise like walking or cycling has been shown to boost lung size by up to 15 percent… the most important aspect of breathing wasn’t just to take in air through the nose… The key to breathing, lung expansion, and the long life that came… with it was… full exhalation… Singing, talking, yawning, sighing—any vocalization we make occurs during the exhalation…”
Nestor writes: “Stough began training his singers to exhale properly, to build up their respiratory muscles and enlarge their lungs… The diaphragm lifts during exhalations, which shrinks the lungs, then it drops back down to expand them during inhalations… A typical adult engages as little as 10 percent of the range of the diaphragm when breathing, which overburdens the heart, elevates blood pressure, and causes a rash of circulatory problems. Extending those breaths to 50 to 70 percent of the diaphragm’s capacity will ease cardiovascular stress and allow the body to work more efficiently… Stough hadn’t found a way to reverse emphysema… he’d [found] a way to access the rest of the lungs, the areas that were still functioning… The benefits of breathing… extended… to everyone… Our bodies can survive on short and clipped breaths for decades, and many of us do. That doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Over time, shallow breathing will limit the range of our diaphragms and lung capacity”
Nestor writes: “Stough… found that [athletes] suffered from the same “respiratory weakness” as everyone else:… Sprinters were the worst off… He warned them to never hold their breath when positioned at the starting line at the beginning of a race, but to breathe deeply and calmly and always exhale at the sound of the starter pistol. This way, the first breath they’d take in would be rich and full and provide them with energy to run faster and longer… The rest of the 1968 U.S. men’s team… [won] a total of 12 Olympic medals, most gold, and set five world records. It was one of the greatest performances in an Olympics.”
Nestor writes: “In 1904, Bohr published… “Concerning a Biologically Important Relationship—The Influence of the Carbon Dioxide Content of Blood on Its Oxygen Binding”… Henderson… like Bohr… was convinced that carbon dioxide was as essential to the body as any vitamin… In other words, the pure oxygen a quarterback might huff between… plays, or that a jet-lagged traveler might shell out 50 dollars for at an airport “oxygen bar,” are of no benefit… “Carbon dioxide is the chief hormone of the entire body; it is the only one that is produced… by every tissue and that probably acts on every organ,” Henderson later wrote. “Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than is oxygen.”… It turns out that when breathing at a normal rate, our lungs will absorb only about a quarter… of the available oxygen in the air. The majority of that oxygen is exhaled back out. By taking longer breaths, we allow our lungs to soak up more in fewer breaths… The deep, slow breaths taken… each… six seconds. [by various] cultures… and religions all had somehow developed the same prayer techniques, requiring the same breathing patterns. And they all likely benefited from the same calming effect… It turned out that the most efficient breathing rhythm occurred when both the length of respirations and total breaths per minute were locked in to a spooky symmetry: 5.5-second inhales followed… by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute. This was the same pattern of the rosary… The results were profound, even when practiced for just five to ten minutes a day… Gerbarg and Brown would write books and publish several scientific articles about the restorative power of the slow breathing, which would become known as “resonant breathing” or Coherent Breathing. The technique required no real effort, time, or thoughtfulness…. Did it matter if we breathed at a rate of six or five seconds, or were a half second off? It did not, as long as the breaths were in the range of 5.5…. In other words, the meditations, Ave Marias, and dozens of other prayers that had been developed over the past several thousand years weren’t all baseless... Prayer heals, especially when it’s practiced at 5.5 breaths a minute.”
Nestor writes: “The key to optimum breathing, and all the health, endurance, and longevity benefits that come with it, is to practice fewer inhales and exhales in a smaller volume. To breathe, but to breathe less… The benefits of jogging were obvious: I always felt great . . . afterward… Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko… spent his youth examining the world around him… Buteyko wasn’t exercising, and yet he was breathing as if he’d just finished a workout… What if overbreathing wasn’t the result of hypertension and headaches but the cause?... In the asthma ward, he found a man stooped over, fighting suffocation, gasping for air. Buteyko approached and showed him the technique he’d been using on himself. After a few minutes, the patient calmed down. He inhaled a careful and clear breath through his nose and then calmly exhaled. Suddenly, his face flushed with color. The asthma attack was over.”
Nestor writes: “Emil Zátopek was experimenting with his own breath-restriction techniques… Four years later he broke the Czech national records for the 2,000, 3,000, and 5,000 meters… Zátopek developed his own training methods to give himself an edge. He’d run as fast as he could holding his breath, take a few huffs and puffs and then do it all again. It was an extreme version of Buteyko’s methods, but Zátopek didn’t call it Voluntary Elimination of Deep Breathing. Nobody did. It would become known as hypoventilation training. Hypo, which comes from the Greek for “under” (as in hypodermic needle), is the opposite of hyper, meaning “over.” The concept of hypoventilation training was to breathe less… Zátopek would claim 18 world records, four Olympic golds and a silver over his career…”
Nestor writes: “in the 1970s… Counsilman trained his team to hold their breath for as many as nine strokes… Counsilman used it to train the U.S. Men’s Swimming team for the Montreal Olympics. They won 13 gold medals, 14 silver, and 7 bronze, and they set world records in 11 events. It was the greatest performance by a U.S. Olympic swim team in history… Hypoventilation training fell back into obscurity after several studies… argued that it had little to no impact on performance and endurance. Whatever these athletes were gaining, the researchers reported, must have been based on a strong placebo effect.”
Nestor writes: “Over his career, Buteyko… had published more than 50 scientific papers and the Soviet Ministry of Health had recognized his techniques as effective… Voluntary Elimination of Deep Breathing was especially effective in treating respiratory diseases. It seemed to work like a miracle for asthma… At rest or during exercise, asthmatics as a whole tend to breathe more—sometimes much more—than those without asthma… The worldwide annual market for asthma therapies is $ 20 billion, and drugs often work so well that they can feel like a virtual cure… The most convincing scientific validation of breathing less for asthma came by way of Dr. Alicia Meuret…120 randomly selected asthma sufferers… then… tracked the carbon dioxide in their exhaled breath… A month later, 80 percent of the asthmatics had raised their resting carbon dioxide level and experienced significantly fewer asthma attacks, better lung function, and a widening of their airways. They all breathed better. The symptoms of their asthma were either gone or markedly decreased… By the end of his career, and the end of his life in 2003 at the age of 80, Buteyko… claimed that his techniques could not only heal illnesses but promote intuition and other forms of extrasensory perception… For these reasons and others, Buteyko and his methods have been largely dismissed by today’s medical community as pseudoscience… Nonetheless… when asthmatic adults followed Buteyko’s methods and decreased their air intake by a third, symptoms of breathlessness reduced by 70 percent and the need for reliever medication decreased by around 90 percent.”
Nestor writes: “Twelve thousand years ago, humans in Southwest Asia and the Fertile Crescent in the Eastern Mediterranean stopped gathering wild roots and vegetables and hunting game, as they had for hundreds of thousands of years. They started growing their… food. These were the first farming cultures, and in these primitive communities, humans suffered from the first widespread instances of crooked teeth and deformed mouths. Then, about 300 years ago, these maladies went viral. Suddenly, all at once, much of the world’s population began to suffer. Their mouths shrank, faces grew flatter, and sinuses plugged… But the changes triggered by the rapid industrialization of farmed foods were severely damaging. Within just a few generations of eating this stuff, modern humans became the worst breathers in Homo history, the worst breathers in the animal kingdom.”
Nestor writes: “Researchers have suspected that industrialized food was shrinking our mouths and destroying our breathing for as long as we’ve been eating this way… The same story played out no matter where he went. Societies that replaced their traditional diet with modern, processed foods suffered up to ten times more cavities, severely crooked teeth, obstructed airways, and overall poorer health. The… modern diets were the same… The traditional diets were all different.”
Nestor writes: “indigenous tribes who suffered through winters when the temperature, according to Price’s notes, could reach 70 degrees below zero and whose only food was wild animals. Some cultures ate nothing but meat, while others were mostly vegetarian. Some relied primarily on homemade cheese; others consumed no dairy at all. Their teeth were almost always perfect; their mouths were exceptionally wide, nasal apertures broad. They suffered few, if any, cavities and little dental disease. Respiratory diseases such as asthma or even tuberculosis, Price reported, were practically nonexistent… Price became convinced that the cause of our shrinking mouths and obstructed airways was deficiencies not of just D or C but all essential vitamins. Vitamins and minerals, he discovered, work in symbiosis; one needs the others to be effective… Hooton called it one of the “epochal pieces of research.” But others hated it, and vehemently disagreed with Price’s conclusions… It wasn’t Price’s facts and figures, or even his dietary advice that made them bristle. Most of what he’d discovered about the modern diet had already been verified by nutritionists years earlier. But some complained that Price overreached, that his observations were too anecdotal and his sample sizes too small.”
Nestor writes: “The problem had less to do with what we were eating than how we ate it. Chewing. It was the constant stress of chewing that was lacking from our diets—Ninety-five percent of the modern, processed diet was soft… It’s all soft. Our ancient ancestors chewed for hours a day, every day. And because they chewed so much, their… mouths, teeth, throats, and faces grew to be wide and strong and pronounced. Food in industrialized societies… hardly required any chewing at all.”
Nestor writes: “Breathing slow, less, and exhaling deeply, I realized, none of it would really matter unless we were able to get those breaths through our noses… and into the lungs. But our caved-in faces… had become obstacles to that clear path… Surgery is highly effective… but… it needs to be done carefully and conservatively… The vast majority of nasal surgeries are successful… [BUT] not all of them.”
Nestor writes: “Having access to more air, more quickly, could only be an… advantage, they said. But we know now that the opposite is more often true… Sleep apnea and snoring, asthma.… are all linked to obstruction in the mouth… Thicker necks cramp airways… body mass index is only one of many factors… CPAPs are a lifesaver for those suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea, and the devices have helped millions of people finally get a good night’s rest.”
Nestor writes: “When we’re breathing too slowly and carbon dioxide levels rise, the central chemoreceptors monitor these changes and send alarm signals to the brain, telling our lungs to breathe faster and more deeply. When we’re breathing too quickly, these chemoreceptors direct the body to breathe more slowly to increase carbon dioxide levels. This is how our bodies determine how fast and often we breathe, not by the amount of oxygen, but by the level of carbon dioxide.”
Nestor writes: “Sleep apnea, a form of chronic unconscious breathholding, is terribly damaging, as most of us know by now, causing or contributing to hypertension… Meuret crunched the data and found that panic, like asthma, is usually preceded by an increase… in breathing volume and rate and a decrease in carbon dioxide. To stop the attack before it struck, subjects breathed slower and less, increasing their carbon dioxide… “‘Take a deep breath’ is not a helpful instruction,” Meuret wrote. Hold your breath is much better.”
Nestor writes: “The concept of prana was first documented around the same time in India and China, some 3,000 years ago, and became the bedrock of medicine. The Chinese called it ch’i... The more prana something has, the more alive it is. Should this flow of energy ever become blocked, the body would shut down and sickness would follow. If we lose so much prana that we can’t support basic body functions, we die… Western science never observed prana, or even confirmed that it exists.”
After careful and extensive pushing the theme of the importance of proper breathing the Nestor provides useful caveats in the Epilogue stating: “A decade of traveling, research, and self-experimentation. In that time I’ve learned that the benefits of breathing are vast, at times unfathomable. But they’re also limited… What I explained to each of these people, and what I’d like to make clear now, is that breathing, like any therapy or medication, can’t do everything.”
Our interdisciplinary team is part of a growing movement in our profession which embraces the principles in James Nestor's book and applies them daily with positive measurable and documentable improvement and elimination of as many as 20 symptoms of chronic inflammatory disease processes including hypertension, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, upper airway resistance/snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, atopic dermatitis, tmj pain, neck pain, poor posture and, yes, ADHD, which is almost always related to mouth breathing and poor quantity and quality of sleep.
Oddly, this movement is not being led by physicians but by a growing group of enlightened dentists who, once they've seen the truth, can no longer ignore what's been right there before our noses for so long, used to be part of dental and medical treatment, somehow faded after WWII, and finally is back in full flower, with science to support what's wrong and how to fix it.
Thanks to our movement, The American Dental Association has now mandated that every dentist should screen every new patient of any age, especially young children, for disordered breathing. This is the future of Health Care, and the future is now..
For the first time in our history, a child born today will not live as long as its parents. We are breeding ourselves to extinction due to the post-industrial cultural changes beginning about 500 years ago with regards to proper diet, starting with lack of breast feeding. These changes, due to Epigenetic alteration of the expression of DNA, have now, as Nestor accurately states, have now become inheritable traits. All based on science.
The flattening of our faces with incompetent jaws and airways, is the most rapid change in the evolutionary history of Homo Sapiens.
The book and his website contain 500 references to science supporting what he says and what we're now doing on a daily basis to improve the health and quality of life of ourselves, our families, our friends, and our patients.
His book is a great public service in spreading awareness of the TRUTH.
We've been hoping for years that someone exactly like James Nestor would come along without a conflict of interest and with the speaking and writing skills and the knowledge and charisma to take this message virally to the public, which will in turn demand that their health care providers forget their education and open their minds to this truth. Every dentist and physician should read this book. Anyone who snores or has a child or spouse who snores should read this book. Mothers, grandmothers, and wives should read this book as they are the Noticers and Motivators for family members who need help and don't know where to get it.
Nestor asked basic questions to try to understand and correct his own breathing problems and went on a search for the answers, following the exact trail (and more) of evidence and anthropology and knowledge that has brought our movement to where we are today. He ended up in the office of Dr. Ted Belfor, who provided him with a Homeoblock appliance which he wore nightly with his mouth taped for a year while working on naso-diaphragmatic breathing. He now breathes better, has more endurance, feels better, and has a more symmetrical face as shown in CT scans made before and after his self-treatment.
I know exactly how this helped him, because I treated myself at age 68 with the same regime with Homeoblocks designed for me by Dr. Belfor. Our education taught us that growing bone in the human face was impossible after age 30. Colleagues told me I was just wasting my time. This is the same contempt before investigation seen in some of the negative reviews of his book on Amazon. This happens with all revolutionary ideas... First rejected, then violently opposed, then finally accepted as the truth after years, according to Schopenhauer and Jules Verne, the futurist of his generation.
We made CT scans and facial photographs and casts of my teeth and jaws and sleep breathing recordings before and after my 18 month self-treatment, so that any positive changes could be measured and documented. I was a typical chronic mouth breather with poor head and shoulder posture. I had Central Sleep Apnea, caused by over-exhalation of CO2, as he discusses. I would just quit breathing during sleep until my CO2 levels got high enough to enable proper Oxygen transport to my body and brain.
I had chronic respiratory illness and exzema as a child and was obese, topping out at 290 pounds at age 18. 5 hospitalizations and 3 surgeries for Crohn's Disease. Stroke in my 40s .Advanced heart failure with permanent atrial fibrillation despite implanted pacemaker-defibrillator. Chronic Atopic Dermatitis with some lesions on my ankles for more than 30 years. Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue. What did I have to lose by trying this unusual approach?
After 18 months with Homeoblocks, saline nasal spray before bed, mouth taped during sleep, and consciously working on posture, chewing, swallowing, and breathing through my nose with my mouth closed and my tongue in the roof of my mouth...
I went from 245 pounds to 198 pounds without dieting. Still there after 6 years. Blood pressure normalized. No Chron's symptoms anymore. All my skin lesions have completely healed. Better attitude and energy. More symmetrical face with measurable growth in all three dimensions in my airway and face. I'd call this something of miracle, and having lived it, we now use these same principles every day and have scores of documented case studies that show how successful it can be to help folks learn to breathe 24/7/365 from their noses and diaphragms while also improving their chewing and swallowing functions and behaviors.
Nestor is a gift to us. This book and his appearances are the key to spreading the truth nationally and internationally so that the public can grasp this information and lead to a tidal wave of sea change in
our current broken system of "sick care" as it becomes true Health Care by focusing on the importance of nasal breathing from the cradle to the grave. Six Stars!
Top reviews from other countries
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!
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.
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.