Notes From Your Bookseller
When we take a breath, we probably don’t think about the process behind the seemingly simple action. But what if we’ve been breathing wrong the whole time? James Nestor tackles this question in Breath, discussing how important is to breathe properly. By the end of Breath, you will see the process of breathing in a new light.
A New York Times Bestseller
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 twenty-five thousand 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 Săo 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.
In this fascinating “scientific adventure,” journalist Nestor (Deep) follows the clues that connect breath to health. After several bouts with pneumonia and resultant breathing problems, Nestor enters a Stanford University experiment that involves spending 10 days breathing with his nostrils plugged, and another 10 with his mouth taped shut. The results are eye-opening: mouth breathing increases his snoring and sleep apnea, and causes raised blood pressure and other issues. His investigation also leads him to a breathing class in Haight-Ashbury, a yoga studio in Săo Paulo, and to a conversation with a dental researcher, who points out that the skulls of ancient humans have wider airways and perfect teeth. (Subsequently, Nestor learns that the industrialization of the food supply led to softer foods, less vigorous chewing, and thus crooked teeth and narrow airways.) Frequency of breath is crucial; while science reveals that the ideal rate is 5.5 breaths per minute, many people breathe too fast. Nestor argues that proper breathing, though not a panacea, is an important component of preventative health maintenance. While the process of breathing may seem like a no-brainer, Nestor’s fascinating treatise convincingly asserts that it’s easy to get wrong, and vital to get right. Agent: Danielle Svetcov, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (May)
– Publishers Weekly
A New York Times Bestseller
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
“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
– From the Publisher
Although we all breathe, there is an art and science to breathing correctly, claims Nestor (Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves). Nestor investigates the work of pulmonauts, a term he uses to describe people (scientists and the general public alike) who discovered and refined techniques that contribute to our understanding of breathing and how best to do it. Through experiments that Nestor participated in, as well as copious research, and interviews with experts, the author describes the extraordinarily detrimental effect mouth breathing has on health and conversely the benefits of nose-breathing. Nestor explains that by harnessing the power of the exhale it is possible to improve athletic performance and even outcomes for people with conditions such as emphysema. Slowing the breath, breathing less, and breathing more are other areas of research explored. An appendix covers myriad breathing techniques and ancient breathing practices such as pranayama. VERDICT Full of fascinating information and compelling arguments, this eye-opening (or more aptly a mouth-closing and nostril-opening) work is highly recommended for those with health conditions related to sleep apnea, asthma, and snoring.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s Sch., Brooklyn
– Library Journal
A science journalist takes a measured look at the way we breathe and finds it out of whack.
“No matter what we eat, how much we exercise, how resilient our genes are, how skinny or young or wise we are–none of it will matter unless we are breathing correctly.” So writes Nestor, who, having suffered breathing problems, followed a doctor’s suggestion to take a breathing class. What he found set him on a long chain of discovery into the realms of the most modern science and the most ancient wisdom, leading to this readable treatise on improving the way we breathe. A great many of us could stand to improve. By Nestor’s measure, about half of us are “habitual mouthbreathers,” which leads to all sorts of structural, physical, and medical consequences. Things should be happening in the nose instead, even if “for the past century, the prevailing belief in Western medicine was that the nose was more or less an ancillary organ.” The nose is key, for using it properly can clear up breathing obstructions and militate against the “dysevolution” caused over countless millennia by the lowering of the larynx to permit speech. Instead, notes the author, nose breathing widens the airways and makes breathing easier, with success building on success to clear up breathing problems such as the ones he’d been laboring under. In the way of an ancient master of prana–or chi, pneuma, atma, and many another spiritually resonant term–Nestor offers the lessons he learned from pulmonologists and “pulmonauts” alike. These include what he calls “the perfect breath”: breathing in deeply through the nose for 5.5 seconds and out for 5.5 seconds, which yields 5.5 breaths a minute. It’s free, he counsels happily, “and you can do it wherever you are, whenever you need.”
A welcome, invigorating user’s manual for the respiratory system.
– Kirkus Reviews