Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor


I loved this book so much I have 2 copies! The first was on audible, and later I picked up a hard copy at Someday Books, downtown St.Catharines.

The New York Times best seller, James Nestor, has made a big impact on the science of breath. More teachers of various fields are talking about breathing in a more educated and informed way. Gone is the false belief that it is best to breathe deep and big all the time. In small doses, for therapeutic reasons, but not always.

“There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take in air, let it out, repeat 25,000 times a day.” That is a big number, and to make breathing really count when you are at rest, a light, quiet, efficient breath is ideal.

Mr. Nestor goes on his own experimental journey, one of them involving plugging up his nose and strictly mouth breathing for 10 days.

The effects are shocking, and a reminder to us all that HOW we breathe has far reaching effects on:
our heart, digestion, brain function, mood, athletic performance, jaw structure, dental health, circulation, pain sensitivity, sexual performance, and sleep… to name a few!

The experiment that Mr. Nestor bravely submitted himself to was conducted by Dr. J. Nayak, Stanford Department of Otolarynology Head and Neck Surgery Center.

It turns out the nose has more essential functions then we talk about in anatomy and physiology class, which is a shame and a great disservice to our basic wellbeing.

What are the important functions? Apart from the obvious (smell and taste), the nose warms and moistens air, traps invading organisms, and pollutants and is the front line in protecting our lungs. It also provides the right resistance in air flow to move the ribs and lungs and diaphragm in a more powerful way, aiding in better oxygen supply.

But the nose has another super power! It traps Nitric Oxide, a colourless gas that we get from our air. That’s the stuff that is utilized in Viagra to help dilate blood vessels and improve circulation to your nether regions.

Nose breathing is 6 times more effective than mouth breathing at utilizing the various benefits of Nitric Oxide: dilation of lung bronchi, relaxation of smooth muscle including blood vessels, as well as antimicorbial effects, anti inflammatory effects.

Nestor goes on to experiment with other “Pulmonauts” who have studied the physiology and chemistry of breathing, who have straightened spines, overcome illness, hacked into their nervous system, studied the de-evolution of the jaw and nasal cavity, and heightened athletic performance.

It is a fair and all encompassing study of breath, that will help you discover yourself and what makes sense to your body.

The appendix has an extensive collection of breathing techniques, and the end notes are chock a block with references (for those sciencey types).

“No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or strong you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly.”