Book Review: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
James Nestor takes deep dive into life's most fundamental process
With 2020 officially in the past, it feels as though the world is sighing with relief and, maybe, actually breathing a bit better since the publication of James Nestor's Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.
Nestor's investigation into the most critical and inconspicuous act of life attempts to leave a mark on readers in the way that many self-help books do — by providing ideas, statements, and claims (supported by more than a decade of personal and professional research) — so they are left perceiving their daily actions differently after closing the back cover.
Unlike most personal development or health-based reads, however, Nestor strays from the cliche of blaming readers for their faults. Instead, he assists them in acknowledging the issues, provides background for things beyond their control (such as the rise in processed food — go figure!), and offers remedies to help each and every book lover breathe better, without judgment.
The 304-page health guide/report/pro-slow-breathing manifesto is as compact and powerful as the human body.
Beginning with a personal anecdote, Nestor quickly diverges into a history of breath around the world, the causes of bad breathing, and how to fix them with the gusto of someone who has spent the last 10 years breathing consciously.
By offering actual solutions, Breath succeeds where many (or more honestly, most) health regimens fail — with actionable advice to quickly transform a reader's perception of physical, mental, and spiritual health.
The book manages to harness the human desire for mystery and knowledge while satisfying our annual craving to regain control of our health and our lives.
Readers learn of the individuals who cured emphysema, monks who have the power to melt a ring of snow around their motionless bodies, deep sea divers who plunge to unimaginable depths with zero safety equipment, and everyday people who have dramatically improved their health — all with the power of breathing.
Who would have known an involuntary process could be so fascinating?
Bonus: For those that prefer to listen to books rather than read, Audible has an audiobook version of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, which includes ten minutes of guided breathing exercises at the conclusion of the book.
— Hannah McDonald
Riverhead Books // 304 pages // Health and Fitness, Self-Help