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.
James Nestor’s new book about how breathing properly can transform your physical and mental health, feels eerily well-timed ... These lessons might ease internal tensions in these stressful times but they’re really aimed at changing our daily lives when those resume in some way we’d recognize ... Breath is not a self-help book, though it will appeal to readers looking to improve themselves ... Nestor’s first-person experiences provide an intimate story, while his emphasis on hard scientific data backs up his feelings ... Nestor does an excellent job of explaining both the basics — don’t breathe through your mouth, which feels pandemic-relevant — and the more complicated aspects of breathing properly. The book is brisk and detailed, a well-written read that is always entertaining, as he melds the personal, the historical, and the scientific.
In some ways, James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art points out the obvious: This productivity obsession is killing us. Yet, not all hope is lost. Nestor’s work reveals the importance of our breath and promises us a changed life if only we’ll take a moment to stop, slow down and breathe ... it offers more than a simple guide to meditation. He details the history of breathing, from ancient cultures to modern innovations that have changed our facial structures and thus our breathing patterns ... Breath details how these rediscovered breath practices are providing the promise of a better, longer, healthier life.
A book about breathing woes has an uncomfortable resonance right now—as if we need more stories about people gasping and wheezing. But Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art strives to be bigger than the current pandemic. Rather than focus on respiratory illnesses, James Nestor investigates the chronic, everyday breathing problems that, he argues, have devastated the health of modern humans. And while grounded in science, the book is also something of a spiritual quest, although ultimately a debatable one ... To be sure, Mr. Nestor slaps down the more outlandish claims, such as curing cancer. But then a few pages later we’re inevitably off to purge a schizophrenic woman’s hallucinations by teaching her to breathe through her right, “ ‘logical’ nostril.' ... And while there’s no reason to doubt Mr. Nestor when he says that breathing exercises improved his life, the real question is why they improved his life so much. One big lacuna in the book is the placebo effect ... Other evidence looks dicey as well ... Breathing properly would no doubt boost the health of many people—as would sitting up straight and exercising regularly and getting better sleep. We do lots of crummy things to our bodies nowadays. There’s a good foundation here, but Mr. Nestor’s, well, breathless account would have benefited from more skepticism.