Breath Summary

A New York TimesBestseller

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2020

Named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR
“A fascinating scientific, cultural, spiritual and evolutionary history of the way humans breathe—and how we’ve all been doing it wrong for a long, long time.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magicand Eat Pray Love

No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly.

There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat twenty-five thousand times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences.

Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.

Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.

Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breathturns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.

Book Reviews


Life Changing5 star

I have focused on exercise and diet for thirty years, and these things are certainly critically important, but I never realized that how we breathe is also so fundamental and so crucial to our health. This is a brilliant and engaging read that has literally changed how I breathe.55

Anne Janzer

An inspiring book (pun intended)5 star

Wow. I picked this book up because my voice teacher recommended it. And of course it’s the kind of journalistic exploration of scientific information that I really enjoy. But I didn’t expect the impact it would have on me. I’ve made changes since reading this. I am adding deep, slow breathing to my day, and being careful to “shut my mouth” when I’m working and not paying attention. It’s a fascinating read.55


Fascinating. Well written. Instructive.5 star

Will refer to it often and have been recommending to all.55

Ryan & Jackie

Incredible insights5 star

James takes us on his own journey to improve his own health and in doing so, he’s helping all of us improve our own.55


Breath of Fresh Air4 star

BREATH is a nonfiction book which explores the vital but largely ignored act of breathing. The author has a profound experience at a breathing class in San Francisco and spends the next several years researching all aspect of breath, from physiology, to psychology, to anthropology, to mysticism. I enjoyed this book and it gave me some different perspectives on breathing that I never considered. The science in this book is easy to understand. The author argues the importance of breathing through our noses, chewing harder foods more often, not breathing too much, and other concepts. He works with doctors, scientists, and other curious “pulmonauts,” as he calls them. From the breath work of Qi Gong to the catacombs of Paris, this book is a trip around the world and through time. I found it interesting that humans are the only animal species that can die of choking on food. I don’t know if I’ll pursue most of these techniques but I am noticing how I breathe more often.45


Must read as precursor to Ayurvedia5 star

This book is amazing and I’m reading this as additional book and helps me in my Ayurvedia Pranayama and other deeper subjects betters The Ayurvedic Instituite, Albuquerque NM. This books gives me basic fundamentals about breathing, why we have so many elements in Respiratory Systems, relationships with Cardiovascular systems etc. Most importantly not only removing myths but giving me few ordinary things I could do to build my own immunity in this COVID-19 environment and improve my health. This must be use as material for middle school in my humble opinion like Biology of Beliefs by Bruce Lipton. Thanks 🙏 in Gratitude.55


A Must Read5 star

Should be taught in school.55


Amazing!!5 star

I loved this book and being able to tap into so much wisdom within a few hundred pages. Every cell in my body says thank you!55


Fascinating and Practical4 star

Rich and informative, this book dives into a topic so commonplace that we would never imagine the need for a deep investigation. It turns out that breathing is not as simple as we might expect in our distraction filled lives, and that it deserves every bit of attention to detail that Nestor gives. The book begins with a self discovery the audience can relate with to a full fledged investigation that includes anthropological, historic, and modern day studies.45


Good - worth the time3 star

A good story teller I think he needs an editor tho...a couple biological/chem errors.35

Other Books by James Nestor



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