Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

As published in Asthma New Zealand's O2 Magazine

James Nestor in his office
James Nestor's Office Photo: James Nestor

After 18 years researching, training practitioners and helping people with breathing disorders, I realise there is still plenty to learn about breathing. We are only now exploring the frontiers of this "lost art" and how it impacts on human health and well-being. I am reading James Nestor's book Breath: The New Science of a lost ArtIt is one of the finest and most thoroughly researched books on breathing that I have read.

300,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens had bigger skulls. Cooked food meant our heads shrank; alongside a growing brain, our airways got narrower. Urbanisation then led us to breathe less deeply and less healthily. And so today more than 90% of us breathe incorrectly.

We might have been breathing all our life, but we need to learn how to breathe properly! In Breath, James Nestor meets cutting-edge scientists at Harvard and experiments on himself in labs at Stanford to see the impact of bad breathing. He revives the lost, and recently scientifically proven, wisdom of swim coaches, Indian mystics, stern-faced Russian cardiologists, Czechoslovakian Olympians and New Jersey choral conductors – the world's foremost 'pulmonauts' – to show how breathing in specific patterns can trigger our bodies to absorb more oxygen, and he explains the benefits for everyone that result: from staying healthy and warding off anxiety, to improving focus and losing weight.

Breath is a fascinating ride through evolution, medicine and physiology – and extreme sports. But mostly it explores you. Structured as a journey with chapters from the mouth and nose through to the lungs and nervous system, it is non-fiction at its breath-taking best.

This New York Times best seller has the potential to help transform medicine. Learning to breathe properly and always through your nose imparts health benefits to help us deal with the many environmental and social stresses of this modern age. It can assist to eliminate the overuse of medications, which in many instances are merely suppressing symptoms and often have “side” effects that can be worse than the disorder for which the medications are prescribed.

Some breathing tips to get started on the path to better health through better breathing 

  • Nasal breathing is king
  • Breathe through your nose when exercising
  • Breathe less – low and slow
  • Breathing less gets more oxygen to cells
  • Humming boosts nitric oxide and boosts immune functions

James Nestor was interviewed by Jessie Mulligan on Radio New Zealand on Tuesday, 15 September 2020:  


Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art book

James Nestor's book  Breath: The New Science of a lost Art   is available in New Zealand. 

Glenn White
Breathing Clinics New Zealand

This article also appears on page 26 in Asthma New Zealand's December 2020 edition of O2 Magazine.

Posted: Thu 17 Dec 2020