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Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  12,996 ratings  ·  1,499 reviews
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.

Hardcover, 214 pages
Published May 26th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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T.J. 214 pages with 12 additional pages of an appendix that has breathing exercises. There are also notes so the last printed page of the hardback edition …more214 pages with 12 additional pages of an appendix that has breathing exercises. There are also notes so the last printed page of the hardback edition is page 280.(less)

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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  12,996 ratings  ·  1,499 reviews

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May 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In terms of single subject science books, Breath is a bit light on the science and heavy on the anecdotal evidence. Though there doesn’t appear to be anything outrageous or obviously harmful here, there also doesn’t appear to be deeply researched double-blind scientific studies following statistically significant populations either. The observation of one yogi who can seemingly control body temperature doesn’t make much of an observation about humanity at large, and it might just be an aberratio ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
It seems many of us today, breathe wrong? A planet of open mouthed breathers that has caused a myriad of health issues. So, the author sets out to find how and when this changed. Melding, the historical, the scientific and current practices he takes us way back to a time when things were very different. When our mouths, noses and sinuses, our teeth were very different.

One never knows when picking up a book, that this book could be extremely beneficial to ones own health problems. That is what ha
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to-live, health
I've had respiratory problems since I was a child and thus found this book quite fascinating. The author presents various theories on the best ways to improve our breathing and backs up the methods with science. I tried some of the suggested exercises and felt better immediately. I highly recommend this not only to people with breathing problems but anyone at all who is interested in improving their health. ...more
Rishabh Srivastava
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was far too new-agey for my tastes, and seemed to cherry pick studies instead of quoting meta-studies. The larger message of the book (nasal-breathing is preferable to mouth-breathing, and slowing down breathing can lead to a host of health benefits) seem to be well substantiated. But portraying breathing techniques as a panacea to everything seemed a little hackneyed.

Quick read, and has some useful snippets. But wouldn't recommend it if you've done some form of breath-work in the past.
Steph Mann
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Though I believe there is really good information to help people to better health, the author sometimes supports his ideas with information he got from I-don't-know-where. Example: in 30+ years as a Tibetan Buddhist studying with authentic teachers (not reading new-age or yoga studio versions of Tibetan Buddhism) I've never heard or been taught about repeating om mani padme hum one syllable/second. Where in the world did he get the that idea? I'd love to know.

The fact that he supports his argume
K.J. Charles
Hmm. An interesting look at breathing (how very much of human culture has treated it as important, how we in the modern West don't, and what difference scientists have shown it can make). Some really interesting stuff in here when it's actually evidence based, especially on why it's important to breathe through the nose and into the abdomen, both of which I've heard a lot but never thought much about. And 'email apnea' is clearly a thing (when your attention is skittering around the internet and ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Popular science approach to the physiological effects of breathing, and how we breathe, on the body and mind from the cellular level up. Unsurprisingly, a good bit of attention is focused on yoga techniques, but it also illustrates other techniques utilized by premier athletes and opera singers. Essentially, how to get the most out of life. This doesn't replace modern medicine, it demonstrates what a valuable tool conscious breathing is on the human engine.

Not academic speak, but substantive en
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has some very important ideas, but goes about them in a roundabout manner - digressing frequently into unnecessary personal anecdotes. The style reminds me of people selling miracle cures who promise a lot, but take a long time to tell what they are selling. The useful ideas of the book can be summed up in a few pages, the rest is unnecessary verbiage. Some of the ideas are dangerous. He talks of inhaling air rich in carbon dioxide as a treatment for many ailments. My fear is the some ...more
John Tankersley
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4 parts good info and 1 part crackpot, this book seems to have a good amount of excellent information that’s well-researched mixed in with some new age nonsense. But on the whole, I’m glad I read this. I am using some of these exercises and am making some (hopefully) lifelong breathing changes based on the principles in this book. I’m glad that this book is pushing forward some good self-maintenance and I look forward to the research that grows out of the author’s compilation of a variety of sou ...more
Aug 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2020
Over-promising, potentially dangerous, pseudo-science book that uses limited to no data to substantiate its claims. We don’t need another rebuke of science in the world these days...Nestor’s sentences like “doctors use scary words to describe breathing like hypercapnia, hypoxia...” undermine actual researchers and physicians. This book uses the classic trope of the medical establishment dismissing obvious, home-remedy style solutions. Friend, if even 10% of the claims in this book were true, phy ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fav-learning
Well this book was very enlightening, I had no idea correct breathing has such an importance on your overall health and can prevent diseases and conditions.

Always breathe through your nose, never through your mouth, even when you're exercising, and especially when you're sleeping. Breathing through your mouth can cause dental problems, jaw and facial issues and even erectile dysfunction. This has been known and practiced for centuries.

Just as inhaling is important exhaling is equally as importan
Heidi The Reader
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
James Nestor takes a deep dive into the fascinating and surprisingly mysterious world of breathing. "How mysterious could it be, Heidi?" I hear you ask. It's something everyone does without thinking literally a few times every minute every day of their lives.

Well, there's a lot of mysteriousness, as Nestor discovered through his journey from terrible breathing to consciousness-shifting, bone-building, better breathing.

"I do as instructed, and listen as the rushing wind that was pouring through m
One GR reviewer calls this "4 parts good info and 1 part crackpot," which I think is fair. Maybe even a little too kind -- I'd call it 3 parts good info, 1 part chat & anecdotes, and 1 part crackpot. It drove me nuts that there were no footnotes, and the bibliography isn't in the book but on his website. On his website. Grrrrrrr.

But that doesn't change the fact that for me, this was exactly the right book at exactly the right time. A few days ago I noticed that my breathing pattern was short and
Kyle Poe
Jul 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The subject of breath, is in and of itself quite intriguing. After all, we could not exist without breathing but most people usually do not give much thought to the complexity of cellular respiration a daily basis. Although some of the content in this book appears to be well researched, much of it is based on the author's personal experiences or causal observations by researchers. Still, there is a lot of substance to this book. Based on paleontological evidence, it does seem the anatomical stru ...more
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yoga talk about breathing never really stuck with me. I honestly did not expect this to be very interesting, let alone provocative. But it's full of fascinating explanations, histories, and interviews. I'm going to have to relearn how to breathe! ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
4 stars - It was great. I loved it.

“When a wave comes, it washes over you and runs up the beach. Then, the wave turns around, and recedes over you, going back to the ocean….This is like the breath, which exhales, transitions, inhales, transitions, and then starts the process again.”

My work in cardiopulmonary rehab involves teaching patients that have a respiratory disease such as asthma or COPD. I figured that if I learned more about breathing, I could pass on the information to them. With expec
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read a whole book on a thing I have never thought about before and now I feel like I have to relearn automatic functions of my body! I wish there was a bit more evolutionary science to back up some of the claims here because the claims on how our mouths got too small and our noses don't work properly is a little bit far-fetched? Seems like he's making both an evolutionary claim (though seems more Lamarckian than Darwinian) that when we started eating soft foods, our jaws a a species got smalle ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had breathing issues for many years, allergies, etc. Could it be that I am not breathing correctly? After reading Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m not. The author takes us through his own experiences in trying to learn better breathing techniques. The anecdotal info is very interesting. There are some breathing methods and exercises that I will be trying. Some are ancient, some are new. I’m glad the author clarifies that while improved breathing ...more
George Sykes
Jul 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
I was expecting something that covered the science of breath, instead it mainly just regurgitated claims from new age experts.
Tony Winyard
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely fascinating book. The author did a huge amount of research and I'd guess many will be amazed at how many things are connected to the way we breathe, such as blood pressure, bone density, our facial structure, snoring, allergies, hypertension, psoriasis, asthma, crooked teeth...
The explanations of some those things made so much sense and I liked the suggestions provided on how to go about remedying some of those issues in a way that costs nothing but time and effort.
Am about
Elyssa Gooding
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audiobook and think it was a great way to digest the majority of the information. I practiced some fantastic breathing techniques while I listened and I’m a believer. The final part of the book was more intense and, frankly, I don’t think I’ll adopt those techniques, but others are here for good.

The research took the writer around the world and had him experimenting on himself. The sample sizes weren’t big, scientific study based, but the results were informative.

Stephanie Fournet
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the most fascinating book I’ve read all year. Most of us are breathing wrong, yes, breathing wrong, and it’s making us sick. We can improve our sleep, chronic health problems, athletic performance, mental health, and longevity by changing the way we #breathe. I recommend this book for anyone who breathes and anyone who’d like to breathe a few years longer.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, anatomy, physiology
An excellent book that presents an accessible overview of how breathing influences our health and well-being. It doesn't break new ground but is well-written and accessible to all. Highly recommended. ...more
I Guess, I'm wrong person who has picked this book...
It's for beginners..
or I could have liked it if it was fiction.........
Lara Amber
Sep 17, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately full of pseudoscience and overblown claims. For example he talks about Katharine Schroth in Chapter 4 describing her case of scoliosis as extreme and her being left to whither in bed. Minor research shows that her case was considered mild to moderate and she didn’t cure it with just breathing but also physical therapy. His descriptions of her clinic skip over anything that disturbs the magic of breathing storyline he’s pursuing.
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can honestly say this was a very fascinating read. This books follows a personal experiment the author and another professional carried out on mouth breathing vs nose breathing where they had to spend 10 days with their noses completely plugged up and they saw the massive health consequences that came with breathing only through the mouth (high blood pressure, sleep apnea, snoring, etc). Throughout the book, Nestor also includes scientific research on breathing that has been “lost” to modern s ...more
Drew Quinton
Sep 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
I am not normally one to write reviews for books, but I felt I must with this one. I cannot believe how contrary to the scientific process this book is, whilst having the word "science" in the title.

This book is the author's philosophy on breathing, developed by experimenting on himself. It uses anecdotes in place of evidence. It attributes correlation to causation. And it cherry-picks data that supports its position.

Two glowing examples (before I put the book down):

1. Nestor explains that Nativ
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 ⭐️ Fascinating. I had no idea of the health issues that seemingly go hand in hand with those who breath through their mouths versus their noses (also - you can remedy this!) The author has his own breathing issues so offers himself up as a sort of guinea pig for experiments throughout. Note - he also reads the audio and is a great narrator. Humour is infused throughout making it quite enjoyable. I want to spend more time on the breathing exercises offered at the end of the book, but my libra ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book of its kind. It’s not gimmicky or phony, nor is it insecure about its genre as accessible “pop” science. It felt more like good journalism. The writing and research is totally interesting, clear, enjoyable, and impactful. I am definitely on the “importance of breathing correctly” train and am happy that someone got into it on so many levels including things we don’t associate with breathing but are influential all the same - such as chewing and where we situate the tongue in the ...more
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“A last word on slow breathing. It goes by another name: prayer. When Buddhist monks chant their most popular mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, each spoken phrase lasts six seconds, with six seconds to inhale before the chant starts again. The traditional chant of Om, the “sacred sound of the universe” used in Jainism and other traditions, takes six seconds to sing, with a pause of about six seconds to inhale.” 6 likes
“right nostril is a gas pedal. When you’re inhaling primarily through this channel, circulation speeds up, your body gets hotter, and cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate all increase. This happens because breathing through the right side of the nose activates the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” mechanism that puts the body in a more elevated state of alertness and readiness. Breathing through the right nostril will also feed more blood to the opposite hemisphere of the brain, specifically to the prefrontal cortex, which has been associated with logical decisions, language, and computing. Inhaling through the left nostril has the opposite effect: it works as a kind of brake system to the right nostril’s accelerator. The left nostril is more deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest-and-relax side that lowers blood pressure, cools the body, and reduces anxiety. Left-nostril breathing shifts blood flow to the opposite side of the prefrontal cortex, to the area that influences creative thought and plays a role in the formation of mental abstractions and the production of negative emotions.” 5 likes
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