Breath by James Nestor

I recently finished listening to the audio version of the NY Times bestselling book called “Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art,” by James Nestor. It is one of the most interesting, informative books I have read (listened to) in a long time. As one reviewer said, “If you breathe, you need this book.”

I have always loved the sister practice to yoga called Pranayama. It is the study and practice of harnessing the breath to create more vitality in the body. I enjoy the effects that thoughtful breathing has for my well-being. This book includes the wisdom and practice of pranayama and then adds in modern science.

James Nestor does a 10-year deep dive into all aspects of how we breathe and how this breathing has changed and evolved or, more accurately, devolved over the centuries. He bravely uses his body as a guinea pig to learn more about his sleep apnea and other breathing related problems, which also affects so many of us. Hypertension, depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, snoring, stress and auto-immune diseases are all problems that could be helped by breathing better.

“The ability to breathe so efficiently in a wide variety of ways-consciously and unconsciously; fast, slow, and not at all-allowed our mammal ancestors to catch prey, escape predators, and adapt to different environments. It was all going so well until about 1.5 million years ago, when the pathways through which we took in and exhaled air began to shift and fissure. It was a shift that, much later in history, would affect the breathing of every person on Earth, ” says Nestor.

Nestor includes practical breathing advice for everyone, no yoga practice required. How we breathe day in and day out truly does matter. Simple changes can be made to great effect. If I could, I would make this book required reading for everyone.

No Hurrying

Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com
"When everything hurries everywhere, nothing goes anywhere." 
~Dejan Stojanovic

Each day we get closer to how life used to be before the pandemic hit. In the last year or so, we have all had the chance to slow down. Going a little slower in general has many benefits. I have talked before about how speed and needless rushing around can become internalized in the body. ( blog entitled “Speed”) I know I feel a little hesitant to go full-speed back to life as it was. 

This feeling has reminded me of some wisdom I received years ago when training to be a Relax and Renew certified teacher with Judith Lasater. I have mentioned her many times in my blogs, as I consider her to be a beloved teacher and mentor. Judith says that many people become stressed because of their attitude about time. Each of us is given the same amount of time each and every day. The variable is how we fill it.  

Sometimes we confuse keeping ourselves busy with giving our life meaning. When we artificially create urgency in our lives, we inhibit our ability to be compassionate. Impatient, angry people add to their own suffering. For every thought that crosses the mind, there is a physiological change. This becomes a compounding effect when repeated on a daily basis. To counter this, we should learn to move quickly when it’s necessary, but without the weight of anxiety and blame piled on top. 

Rather than telling yourself “there is not enough time to get there by 6:00," instead say “apparently I didn’t leave enough time to arrive by 6:00.” Tell yourself you will not create suffering for you or anyone else because you are moving so quickly. Time is big, so allow it to be spacious in your life. As Judith says, “ Don’t try to make the present moment peaceful, make peace with the present moment.”

Many thanks to Jennifer Botka who takes beautiful notes during yoga workshops. And to Judith Lasater for her wisdom.