James Nestor’s new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, can change your life. It certainly is changing mine.
We have forgotten how to breathe.
James is an extraordinary journalist and author who plunged headlong into the subject of breathing and discovered that we modern human beings largely have lost our ability to breathe. What is worse, the very foods we have been eating for generations have changed the shape of our skulls and made us more prone to snore and suffer from sleep apnea and a host of other ailments.
The Wisdom of the “Pulmonauts”
But there is hope, and it can be found in the knowledge of ancients, in the wisdom of pre-industrial societies from North America to Asia and beyond, and in the work of dedicated scientists, physicians and amateur researchers whose astounding discoveries over the course of several generations have been largely unheralded by the wider culture. He calls these people “pulmonauts,” and you will be filled with admiration for them when you meet them in the pages of his book and learn what they have discovered.
Join Us on Instagram Live
Breath has hit bookstores and online sellers with a big bang. It’s on every best-seller list in the U.S., and I expect it to inspire some major changes in the way we think and act in the worlds of fitness, athletics and (yes!) medicine. So I couldn’t be more thrilled to delve into this subject with him and to give my friends, colleagues and followers the chance to hear him and ask him some questions. You can join us for this conversation on June 24 at 5:00 p.m. EDT. My Instagram handle is H3bydanhellman.
Getting Answers to Long-Term Health Problems
James traveled the world, did exhaustive research and consulted intimately with scores of experts over several years to learn this subject. He accumulated wisdom from yoga practitioners, anthropologists, dentists, Native Americans, Buddhist monks, and Greek free divers who can stay underwater for as long as 10 minutes without breathing. But he was not a detached observer; he also fully immersed himself in this subject. He began his journey in an attempt to find answers to some of the respiratory and other health problems that had been troubling him for years and were getting worse. In the process, he subjected himself to some ordeals that would severely test anyone’s commitment, endurance and sheer mental toughness. He spent ten days forced to breathe only through his mouth and another ten days forced to breathe only through his nose. Try that sometime.
Those of you who know me know that I have studied the subject of respiration for a long time and that I incorporate proper breathing into my daily life and the rehab and conditioning programs for my patients and clients. I learned a lot about breathing from my mentor Paul Chek, who made it the second of his Foundational Principles of Good Health, just below Thoughts and above Hydration. I wrote a blog post about it on August 22 of last year in which I pointed out some of the concerns that James raised in his book.
Breathing: Do it purposefully.
So why do I say that Breath is changing my life? Put simply, Breath is a truly deep dive. It revealed new truths, gave me practical ways to improve, and is challenging me to do more, to understand more, and to think more about my breathing and make my breathing a more conscious activity. (The other day, I went on a four-mile run in which I tried to breathe only through my nose, and it was not easy.) It opened up a whole new world of understanding for me—about why the nose is critical to good health, about how breathing is related to crooked teeth and other seemingly unrelated problems, and about how the way we breathe is absolutely fundamental to functions throughout the body. It has given me a new understanding of the importance of carbon dioxide in the body, and how maintaining a healthy level of carbon dioxide can give us more endurance, better sleep and better all-around health. So yes, I knew a lot. But now I know a lot more, and it is changing my life.
I hope you will join James Nestor and me on June 24 for our conversation about breathing. But more importantly, go out and buy this book, read it, and take its lessons to heart.