Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: Breath

December 2020

"Breath: The New Science of A Lost Art" by James Nestor 

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library.

It's easy to take for granted something you do 25,000 times a day without thinking. But James Nestor offers a fascinating study of the essential art of breathing, and explains how much it affects our anxiety levels, blood pressure and heart rate. It reminds me of the similar revelations around the science of sleep, another activity we take for granted but clearly has more impact on our mental and physical health than we realize. 

The book explains why humans have lost their ability to breathe correctly, and the impact that has on our health in multiple ways. Nestor tracks down what often appears to be unbelievable story of mind and body control through various breathing techniques, and found many of them are now validated recent scientific study, and are rooted in ancient breathing practices such as pranayama, sudarshan krya, and tummo

Key Takeaways:
  1. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Mouth breathing creates all kinds of problems, and Nestor explains how these problems manifest themselves and explains lesser-known functions of the nasal passages and how beneficial nasal breathing can be. 
  2. You can control your breathing and control many of your autonomous body functions. Ancient practices of controlled breathing can not only help you relax but also impact athletic performance, sleep, heart rate and body temperature. 
  3. Our lungs can be strengthened like any other muscle. Many people believe lung capacity is fixed at birth, but Nestor illustrates different training methods that can expand lung "strength" and lead to many health and performance benefits. 

Check out Breath and you're sure to look at your breathing in a whole new way, and may find some practical tips to improve your health and performance right away. 

James Nestor is a journalist who has written for Outside magazine, Men's Journal, Scientific American, Dwell magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Atlantic, the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, and others.