Thursday, November 19, 2020

Breath - Book Review

Dear Nose,

I am so sorry.  I didn't realize how much I was taking you for granted.  I should have appreciated you more.  Now that I finally know how much I need you—how much you mean to me—I hope it is not too late to make a new start.  Will you forgive me?  I promise to make it up to you.

Love, Me

Yeah.  So okay.  That was long overdue.  It wasn't until I read Breath, by James Nestor, that I discovered the error of my ways.  It's like missing a truth that is staring you right in the face.  How is it that we miss the things that are right in front of us every day?

I must say Breath is, by far, one of the most stunning books I have ever read.  As a lifelong athlete, and former coach, I thought I knew quite a bit about proper breathing.  Wrong!  

This book was a journey of discovery... a revelation.  After the first few pages, I lost count of the epiphanies I was having—or that were having me.  The author had me at this:

the greatest indicator of life span wasn't genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected.  It was lung capacity.

And, it turns out, we can increase our lung capacity by 30-40 percent just by knowing how to breathe right.  If that is the case, why wouldn't we want to learn how to do so?  Who doesn't want to live longer and with greater wellness?

This book blends the author's personal quest to find solutions to his own health crises while seeking out other "pulmonauts" who are finding new, and old, ways of helping their patients address any number of serious medical conditions: immune disorders, high blood pressure, weight challenges, anxiety, asthma, sleep apnea, dental issues, and so much more.

We learn that 90 percent of us do not breathe correctly.  Also, those who are least healthy among us are overbreathing.  Overbreathing?  Did we ever imagine too much breathing could be bad?  Or that too little carbon dioxide was harming us?  How much is too much or too little?  What is the right amount?  How do we achieve that balance?  What is the proper breathing rhythm?  How can we attain that?

And then there is mouthbreathing vs. nosebreathing.  The negatives of mouthbreathing, as illustrated by the author's own clinical experimentation, should be more than enough to make every single one of us avoid it like the plague.  Who knew just how bad the effects could be?   

But wait, there's more: left nostril vs. right nostril breathing.  Ever thought about that?  No?  Neither had I.  Breathe through the left, lower body temperature and blood pressure—reduce anxiety.  Breathe through the right, speed up circulation, heat up your body, and increase your heart rate.  

Which brings us to this: What is the deal about the erectile tissue in the nose?  Um, I'll let you read about that for yourself.  That was probably my first big shock while reading Breath.

There is so much more that will astound you when you read Breath.  This book is filled with wonder.  It left me with a completely new sense of awe for my body and how everything is so intricately, and beautifully, connected to my breathing.  I gained renewed hope in discovering just how resilient and malleable our organs, and vital systems, can be when we know how to take simple health-reversing actions.

Throughout my life, whenever asked what part of my body I disliked the most, I always said it was my nose.  I'll never feel that way again after learning the truth about the magnificence of my nose.  It is so much more than the first line of defense against the invaders that would cause me harm.  I have gained such a tremendous respect and appreciation for what my nose does for me every second of every day.

In a single breath, more molecules of air will pass through your nose than all the grains of sand on all the world's beaches—trillions and trillions of them.  As they make their way toward you, they'll twist and spool like the stars in a Van Gogh sky...

There is something to be gained by everyone who delves into the mystery we call breathing.  Every 3.3 seconds we have the opportunity for transformation.  Breathe it in... and be the brilliance of that Van Gogh sky.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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15 comments:

  1. Wow Diana, I must agree with you and this author, breathing is something we take for granted every minute of every day. Since I started my swimming routine, I have become much more aware of my breathing. I will be reading this book for sure and can't wait for all the epiphanies that will happen! Thanks for pointing me in this direction!

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    1. Epiphanies _are_ good! Here's to pushing the boundaries of our health and expanding the capacity of our lungs (and our zest for living). I hope to be swimming again soon.

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  3. As a long time meditator, I am familiar with how breathing affects so much of the body's functions so this book sounds like one I would be very interested in. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I believe you will find it compelling, Heather. Let me know what you think after you read Breath. I always appreciate your insights.

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  4. Another fascinating book review, Diana. And obviously one very worth reading for Health reasons, as well as seeking knowledge about one's own body.

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    1. Thank you, Elf. I suspect most of us are thinking much more about our breathing these days (due to COVID-19). The more we know, the better prepared we will be when we need our bodies to perform at their very best. Plus, the awe and wonder is an amazing bonus.

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  5. WOW, I want to read this. I was an athlete too, but wasn't familiar with breathing techniques til later in life. Am really curious if I'm doing this right now? And based on what you've reviewed here, I know I'm probably not. Thanks for the intro to this one.

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    1. With your focus on health, I anticipate you are doing many things right. Still, there will be new techniques for you to consider. I believe there is much in this book that will be of benefit.

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  6. This sounds like a must-read book for sure! I do take my nose, and how it functions, for granted. Finding out the best ways to breath could well be lifesaving. I had no idea the different effects of left & right nostril breathing. Thank you for this review and recommendation.

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    1. I am much more intentional about my breathing since reading Breath. For example, I pay close attention to ensure I am nosebreathing (even when winded during exercise). I'm going to try some of that alternate nostril breathing. I don't see myself doing any extreme breathing exercises, but I do like the one that involves humming. I can imagine you doing that one.

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  7. Very interesting. I always love your reviews and this book certainly sounds compelling.

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    1. Thank you, Mary Beth. That means a great deal coming from you.

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  8. Diana, I just added this to my Audible wish list! I've become increasingly aware of how just focusing on our breath, paying attention to it as it enters and exits our bodies, even without trying to change anything, can have a significant and almost immediate positive affect on us, helping us connect with our bodies in a more holistic way. That's a huge focus of my current mind/body awareness meditation practice, and I'm definitely interested in taking the beneficial effects of slow, deep, rhythmic breathing to the next level with the valuable insights this book clearly offers. Thank you so much for another beautifully written review of yet another book you have introduced me to that I feel drawn to read. (John and I are currently in the middle of listening to Hiking Naked, and it's wonderful - as I knew it would be, based on your review of it!).

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    1. It is amazing how a book can impact mindfulness. I am much more present in my breathing now. I hope this book does expand your practice and take you to the next place you wish to go.

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