There isn’t a single activity that is as natural to us as breathing. We’re wired to breathe. But are we also wired to breathe the right way? And if not – is there anything we can do to fix that? Those are the questions James Nestor attempts to answer in his book ‘Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art’.

If you think you know everything there is to know about breath – you’re probably wrong. The book sheds light on both forgotten practices and new research and you’ll almost certainly find yourself surprised. Did you know breath influences way more than just your lungs? How about your sleep? Your self-healing capacity and – obviously – your ability to perform? The shape of your face?

One of the best parts about this book is that it’s eclectic: rather than focusing on just one method for breathing, such as Wim Hof, Nestor compares many different ones. He also tries them out for himself, sharing his personal experiences and observations. And while n=1 doesn’t exactly make for a scientific report, his personal account does turn the book into a light read. One thing you’ll notice is that not only yogi, scientists and doctors are obsessed by the way we inhale and exhale; breath is investigated by all kinds of people, in Nestor’s account punctuated by the outfits they wear, something that isn’t really relevant to the rest of his story and could easily be omitted (but now that we mentioned it, you’ll notice it too, sorry not sorry). Your personal dressing preferences aside, as long as you are human, breath is relevant to you, too.

Do keep in mind is that – much as the book reviewed last month, ‘NurtureShock‘ – ‘Breath’ presents an overview of research and an account of personal experiments. There’s a reason the subtitle is ‘The New Science of a Lost Art’, not ‘Transform Your Life With Every Single Breath’. While Nestor does include most of the breathing practices in the last part of his book, you unfortunately don’t quite get a manual to breathe your new knowledge into life. Still, with the wealth of information online and in other books, ‘Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art’ is an excellent starting point to improve your air habits.

Rating: 4/5

Pro’s:

+ Relevant
+ Surprising
+ Light read

Cons:

– Focus on research, not on practice
– What’s up with all the outfit descriptions!?

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