Breath by James Nestor

This past week I finished reading, “Breath” by James Nestor and I’ve been dying to tell you my thoughts about it. Ok, maybe “dying” is a little dramatic, but I’m excited to be back here on the blog, so let me be me!

breath by james nestor

Do you breathe? Intentionally?

I started meditating years ago at the advice of just about everyone around me. I had resisted it for years. I mean, really? I would go into my “counselor” and complain about my lack of sleep, my anxiety, all the pressure I felt with family, my marriage, and my babies, and she’d say, “Have you tried meditating?”

Yeah, taking twenty minutes out of my day, when I already feel like life is tidal wave about to crash down on me, to simply breathe will really help my situation (insert eyeroll and see me walking out with my prescription for anti-depressants in hand).

Fast forward about ten years later, and I’m off the medication, my children are preteen, and we’ve moved to the rural desert, but I’m still having trouble with anxiety and depression, not to mention frustration and anger. Somehow, I found “Calm” and decided to give it a try (because it was my idea, not theirs).

Each morning, I’d put a load of laundry in and instead of coming back in the house to start my day immediately, I’d sit in a chair by the washer and listen to that day’s meditation. The seven-day trial ended, and I was hooked. I jumped into the 30-day training and loved it even more.

I’ve been at it every day for years now and when I stop because I’m too busy or overwhelmed or plain lazy, I start to feel it after about a week. My sleep suffers and I’m far more reactionary than I want to be.

So, I’m at Target for some cleaning supplies, but as usual I have to browse the books just in case, and I find this bright yellow book entitled “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.” Well, that looks interesting. I thumb through the pages and find, “No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or strong you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly,” on the inside flap. Oh, really? Maybe THAT’S why I’m still chubby and tired! I was in a mood, so I bought it. And then it sat on my TBR shelf for a long while.

I picked it up last week because it occurred to me that over the last month, I had completely stopped meditating and really slowed down my yoga practice as well, and I was certainly starting to feel it. I was fascinated to watch my Fitbit show me my heart rate and sleep patterns degrading rapidly along with my attitude about life in general. I needed a reminder about why I should be practicing daily.

I scoffed at the introduction and the first chapter. Oh, right, breathing can change your world, you can melt snow and hold your breath ten minutes…sure…but then I got into it. I love the way he weaves his personal story, his own experiments and experience into the science and the studies he found. I found myself getting a tad envious of his talent. I want to be able to go that deep into something, too! I want to interview people and write in-depth articles and maybe books!

Not only did I learn some fascinating facts about the science of breathing, but I may also have been inspired to do some better work in the future. Maybe I can buckle down and focus? Maybe I can come out of my shell and start asking questions, getting answers, and creatively helping others to learn more about what I’m passionate about? We shall see, but for now I’m happy to keep skimming across the surface of the world and sharing the bits that I find fascinating.

I did find myself breathing differently as I read the book, always through my nose, and decided to try going for my walks each day and not breathing through my mouth, which was hard to do but I did it. I found a breath training app called Prana Breath on Google Play and I’ve been using it for a week. I have it set up to remind me to practice three times a day. It was crazy watching my resting heart rate go down each day over the course of a week.

“Breath” by James Nestor is a great book. The science will amaze you and you’ll find yourself page turning like crazy to know more. Yeah, I loved it and I shared a few articles with the snorers in my life. It seems a lot of our problems DO come from a lack of proper breathing and it’s not that hard to change a bit and create some new habits that do a world of good.

I’ve written about breathing and meditation before, many times, most recently in a Podcast Round-up back in September.

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