By James Nestor
Recommended on: 26th October 2020
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor. We’ve long had the feeling that breathing and breathing techniques are supremely important. Yet it’s been tough to find a solid scientifically-based book that gives a trustworthy overview of the subject—until James Nestor came along. Nestor’s extraordinary willingness to not only make himself try out the various techniques and therapies he’s describing, but also to do in-depth scientific and historical research, and on top of that, to write with the grace and beauty of a Pulitzer Prize winner, are virtually unparalleled in popular literature. Who knew that a book on breath could be hard to put down—and so important?
You’ll learn why it’s important to keep your mouth closed whenever possible (it turns out you must use—or lose—the ability to breath through your nose). You’ll also discover why the human face has, in the past 300 years ago, created breeding grounds for the sinus infections that frequently plague us—and how it is possible to widen our mouths and fix the crooked teeth and sinus problems caused by soft foods and well-meaning orthodontists. (Nestor makes the prescient point that old skulls meant to display the inadequacy of “non-civilized” peoples instead illustrate that civilization wreaks havoc on sinuses and teeth.)
Discussions of the history of a subject are often disconnected from modern day findings, and thus more than a little boring. But in Nestor’s able hands, we’re able to see how the ancients’ abilities to, for example, stay warm even during the iciest of conditions informs our modern understanding of the impact of breath on the autonomic nervous system; and how, in the 1830s, artist George Catlin gained an uncanny understanding of Native American breathing techniques—knowledge that was sadly lost save for Catlin’s efforts to document it. We even get a surprisingly relevant visit to the catacombs of Paris.
The end of the book contains a helpful recapitulation of the most important techniques in the book (and more), along with links to relevant websites. This is the best book we’ve read all year—and one of our top ten ever. Don’t miss it. (Also, this book is perfect for listening on Audible).
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