Breath by James Nestor

Breath by James Nestor

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We breath too much and too fast.

3 Points:

  • We're not breathing too little and we don't need more oxygen. We need bigger breaths and more carbon dioxide.
  • Advice: Exhale and hold > "Take deep breaths!"
  • You can train your breathing. (Non-Obvious to me.)

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Favourite Quotes:

In many ways, modern humans have become the homo equivalent of these highly imbred dogs. [Pugs, Mastiffs, and other short nose dogs]
Mouthbreathing begets more mouthbreathing.
The greatest indicor of life span wasn't genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected. It was lung capacity.
Even what's considered healthy food today...It's all soft.
With just a few minutes, or even seconds, of over-breathing, brain blood flow can decrease by 40 percent...

Would I re-read this?

Absolutely. After finishing it in October, I have continued to page through it. The conversations it has led to are absolutely stunning.

This book is instantly relatable to every person I've spoken with. When Nestor talks about everyone having breathing issues, it didn't become real to me until I realized every single person I spoke to had the same comments: "I have allergies", "My mouth is dry when I wake up", and other shocking reveals.

The most incredible part came about a week after I finished the book. I was having a really stressful day, and struggling to control my adrenaline response. So I took a break and tried breathing out and holding it. I did this a few times, and apart from the obvious discomfort of wanting air, I still felt poorly.

Suddenly, after another 5 minutes, I felt a wave of calm. The breathing (actually the lack of breathing) had worked. It just took a few minutes to take effect.

That singular experience converted me into a casual breath holder. Now I'm someone who tries alternate nostril breathing when waiting for a meeting to start, or when I'm in line at the grocery store.

Another thing I realized - I never gave my breathing a second thought, and ended up at a simmering 6/10. Never fully activated, but never totally off. (A terrible state.) I feel that after controlling my breathing, I can tone down to a 2/10, and bring myself up to a 8/10.

The last crazy feedback loop he mentioned, if I may paraphrase: People over-breathe because they are anxious, and are anxious because they over-breathe.

What did I implement?

  • I promised myself not to add more things to my routine, which is rather counter to the book. I have added in some breath holds on my morning walks, no timer needed. I fully exhale, then count my steps. (I do this in a grassy/soft park) So far, I've made it to 20 steps before inhaling. I repeat this 3-8 times a day.
  • I've started to hum. (While driving)

In Summary..."Breathing [is] like rowing a boat: taking a zillion short and stilted strokes will get you where you're going, but they pale in comparison to the efficiency and speed to fewer, longer strokes."