“No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or strong you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly” – James Nestor, Breath
As we continue to explore the theme of transformation at Evolution this 2021 calendar year, I can think of no simpler and more accessible place to begin than with the breath. If you pick up the recently published book Breath by James Nestor, the above quotation is what you’ll see printed on the inside cover. Nestor, an author, journalist and self-proclaimed pulmonaut takes us through a history of breathing as it relates to humankind. In the process he aims to explore how and why humans became among “the worst breathers in the animal kingdom”, and explains some of the effects this has had on our species over millions of years.
The majority of the book is dedicated to various experiments he conducts related to altering (his own) breath through both researched and inventive techniques and recording specific outcome measures in order to better understand the data he collects. Some techniques and experiments are quite simple and easily applicable. I particularly enjoyed the early chapters that took a closer look at nose versus mouth breathing and personally experimented with these at night with some satisfying results. Others required substantial research, support and preparation and sound downright torturous to this reader, nevertheless they were interesting to learn about and consider.
As the reader makes their way through this text it’s difficult to resist breathing and one can’t help but conduct their own informal experiments in the comfort of a familiar reading chair. Needless to say, for the past year as we’ve all been enmeshed in COVID-19 and its variants and have taken up the practice of mask wearing (sometimes for more hours of the day than not), the opportunity to practicing breathing with awareness in any form is ripe and may even offer the reader new insights into their own habits and practices.
If you have a chance to pick up or borrow a copy of the book and would like to join in a discussion, sign up for our Livestream: Evolution Bookclub with Janet Carscadden happening Saturday, March 27th, 7:30-8:30 pm.