Goodreads Monday: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and share it with the world. It’s been hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, but I’m not sure if that blog is active anymore. Please enjoy this preview of what I want to read in the future!

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
by James Nestor
214 pages
Published in May, 2020, by Riverhead Books

From Goodreads: 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 Sao 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.

It seems simple enough, but who really thinks about how they’re breathing (aside from, say, athletes, musicians, and yoga instructors)? The claims in the blurb here seem a bit far-fetched, but if adjusting how I breathe can make me feel better, I’m willing to give this book a chance.

15 thoughts on “Goodreads Monday: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

  1. As my daughter was growing up, if she seemed to be having a bad moment, I would always get her to focus on her breath.Inhale. Exhale. And through this she was always able to self sooth and get to the next thing. I’m not new agey at all, yet if you can control you breath you can begin to control your emotions. It might not work always, but it’s a good place to start

  2. I totally understand how breathwork helps with controlling anxiety and aiding relaxation. It’s the “breathing properly can cure scoliosis” claim that has me going “hm..”. But if there’s evidence, I am willing to listen. Just need to find a copy of it.

  3. Oh no, I have severe scoliosis. I can control my breathe as much as I want but that’s never going to fix that lol. I don’t believe that one bit. Let me know if you find a copy and if they have any credible evidence!

  4. I’ve been reading a bit about breath lately. Seems there’ve been several books and articles on it, as there had been for sleep not that long ago. Things tend to go in groups and waves. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value there, and I suspect there is value in learning to better breath, though like you, I have my doubts about some of the grander claims. I’ve been trying to use deeper breathing and relaxation for my anxiety for years, but it’s something I feel I can always improve on.

  5. Hahaha– I have spent a lot of time thinking about breathing. But, I did get two degrees in music. My theory is that this book will be ~50-75 pages too long for the content, but I am totally intrigued. I look forward to hearing what you think about this when you finally read it.

  6. I know it’s not terribly long, but you’re probably right: it’s probably a little too long. And probably promising more about breathing’s benefits than breathing can actually deliver. I mean, can it REALLY straighten your spine? I’m skeptical…

  7. Oh, it can. I always get all sorts of compliments on my posture and it’s 110% because I learned how to breathe correctly playing wind instruments when I was young. In fact, when I slouch I find that I struggle to breathe — which is how normal people breathe all the time, apparently?

    Read it. Let me know if you learn anything worth your while. 😉

  8. I get complimented on my posture, too, since I used to be in band and marching band and we always had to have good posture to play anything (and my junior high choir director was always on us about our posture). I don’t understand how people can slouch all the time and find it comfortable. I slouch for a bit and my back starts aching shortly thereafter. And I also find that it’s harder to breathe.

    Weirdly, I own a pair of Victorian reproduction sunglasses, and I find that if I don’t stand up straight and hold my head high, then I can’t see through them properly.

  9. They could go along with Steampunk style. Mine are little black ovals in silver metal frames with straight ear pieces. They don’t cover very much of the face like modern sunglasses do, but they’ll work just fine for going out on a walkabout, as long as you keep your head up.

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