A hand holds a copy of "Breath" By James Nestor in front of a flowering crabapple tree

For this month’s installment of recommended reading, I suggest checking out James Nestor’s book, “Breath” by James Nestor. After he experienced a powerful episode during a breathing class, Nestor wanted to learn more about how breathing could positively impact his stress level, sleep, and respiratory health. He used his investigative sportswriting background to dig into the importance of breath from several angles, some expected and some very unconventional.

This book is a great accompaniment to the Ten Series, since the goal as we begin our process together is to first increase the body’s vital capacity; by allowing more breath to flow through the body more easily, we support the rest of the Structural Integration process. Obviously a book about the “lost art” of breathing caught my eye!

“Breath” truly has something for everyone as Nestor explores the concept and mechanics of breathing from numerous perspectives—biological, anthropological, religious, and psychological to name a handful—and undergoes several scientific experiments to see firsthand the importance of breathing through the nose rather than the mouth. **Spoiler Alert** He might stimulate hope for people over 30 because he managed to grow new bone material in his cheeks and eye sockets as a result of emulating our ancestors and spending more time chewing each day. Beyond  breathing, the book covers related concepts like the development of the face and mouth structure, placement of the tongue, chewing, exercise, and several breathing techniques.

Another section that really interested me was the exploration of the Tibetan Buddhist practice known as Tummo, a breathing method used to induce intense energy surges. In the early 2000s Wim Hof, a Dutch health and fitness enthusiast, learned of this thousand-year-old practice. He simplified it and made it more accessible for average Joes, and he continues to inspire a huge following to this day. By utilizing Tummo-based breathing exercises and ice baths, he has accomplished amazing feats such as running a marathon through the desert without drinking any water. 

Through the book you’ll travel the world with Nestor as he shines a light on the work of researchers, athletes, entrepreneurs, and yogis. The book includes step-by-step instructions for several breathing exercises and what application each is best for, such as increasing focus, relaxation, or energy. 

It’s so interesting to consider that an act we’ve done our entire life is something we don’t usually learn to do effectively. Many of us rarely even think about breathing. But “Breathe” by James Nestor makes a great argument that there’s incredible potential to improve our lives by being more purposeful about this simple, daily, ever-present action.

Consider purchasing the book from Magers & Quinn to support an independently-owned bookshop in Minneapolis (no affiliation, no sponsorship, just appreciating a Minnesota business).