Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
Air is your “first hunger of health.” It is a primal need. Without it, none of us could live beyond a few minutes. As a longtime ocean athlete of various sports (surfing, both board and skin; freediving), I have great respect for my body’s need of breath. Lung capacity also represents the #1 longevity marker, so any study of it piques my interest.
James Nestor’s book is great, a very deep dive into the history and science of breath. Its subtitle is “the new science of a lost art,” and I think that is 100% accurate, as he touches on ancient culture and modern story, as well as the science of breath in relationship to our health. Fix the way we breathe and it can affect athletic performance, rejuvenate our internal organs, cure autoimmune diseases and scoliosis as well as snoring and asthma and prevent crooked teeth.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Nestor’s own participation in a 2-part 20-day study at Stanford University, along with another man. In Part I, they were prevented from breathing thorough their noses at all via silicon plugs and tape, thus forced to breathe through their mouths 100% for the first 10 days, while they ate and drank, exercised and slept. During the second 10 days, Phase II, the plugs are removed and they practice a number of breathing techniques.
Before, and then in between, the two men were tested for blood gasses, inflammatory markers, hormone levels, smell, rhinometry, pulmonary function and more. Comparing data to see what if anything changed in their brains and bodies as they shifted their style of breathing.
The results are stunning, to say the least. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that we should be breathing through our noses all the time! Great read.
The Oxygen Advantage
While McKeown also explains the importance of proper breathing as James Nestor does, his focus is more tactical than historical, which makes sense since he has taught courses in breath technique throughout the world, helping people cure their own asthma as he did, but also to reach new heights as athletes in sports such as mountain climbing and professional football.
McKeown has applied the work of Dr. Konstantin Buteyko to develop exercises and a coaching program taught now through his OxygenAdvantage.com program, with many trained coaches besides himself, whose work helped inform this book.
These are simple, effective practical techniques with the power to powerfully change one’s health in surprising ways, from blood pressure, overweight, disturbed sleeping, anxiety and stress levels, even physical injury and fatigue. He even includes charts which can be used to track progress as one does these exercises and increases the BOLT score (and health).
Since we breathe upwards of 18,000 times per day, it makes sense that improving the way we do this repetitive activity would bear significant benefit.
I have lost track of how many times I’ve recommended these two books to my clients and patients!
The author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, first introduced me to the concept of “reciprocity” in the plant world, explaining beautifully how each plant – all the fruit, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, trees and more – plays a unique role in feeding not just the animals of the world, but also the soil of the planet, which is truly the foundation of all health.
Without understanding this, there is no basis for true respect of our food, no true value of it, or acknowledgment of either the plants’ role in our lives or our role in theirs.
It is impossible to achieve a population of healthy humans without a healthy planet, and it is impossible to achieve a healthy planet without responsible land management practices. Wall Kimmerer explores the symbiosis of animal and plant, the danger of monocropping, the interrelationships of plants with one another. She also explores the communication of plants to humans and to other plants, which I found fascinating.
The book delivers what the subtitle describes: “indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants” in such an elegant, deeply meaningful way.
Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds
Kelly A. Turner, Ph.D. is a researcher and psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology. She has studied over a thousand cases of radical remission – “people who have defied a serious or even terminal cancer diagnosis with a complete reversal of the disease.” She has identified and described nine key factors survivors demonstrate in surviving cancer:
- radically changing your diet
- taking control of your health
- following your intuition
- using herbs and supplements
- releasing suppressed emotions
- increasing positive emotions
- embracing social support
- deepening your spiritual connection
- having strong reasons for living
This book occupies a very important place in the cancer treatment world: the study of survivors, and the study of “alternative healers.”
To me, this is personal.
When my own father was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, I found it to be a cold frustrating process. When the accepted Western techniques (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) only made him sicker, and he was sent home to get his affairs in order to prepare to die, it was with very little compassion or warmth.
It was only in a Mexico cancer clinic (Oasis of Hope) that a brilliant doctor explained that while my dad’s disease had been treated, his person had not. With that shift in paradigm and approach, and the innovative treatment he received at Oasis, my dad began to heal. He lived 10 more years.
I find it fascinating that of the nine key factors, seven are not strictly physical.
What we think and believe, who we surround ourselves with, the information we take in; all of this impacts our physical bodies and our state of health or illness.
These nine key factors are not just for someone with the diagnosis of cancer, but are integral to ongoing health for anyone.
How these 4 books impacted The Solutions Reset I created
I’m proud to say that The Solutions Reset program incorporates choice elements from all these four important books into a 10-week program of healing to rebalance hormones, optimize sleep, shed unwanted fat, and increase longevity. I designed it to address all aspects of health in order to coach my clients as they optimize their health quickly and dramatically, and teach them how to sustain their gains for the rest of their lives.
It’s a comprehensive multi-factorial program in which I teach ongoing topics, some of which include: breathing techniques, food choice, and mindfulness. I’ve incorporated many of Turner’s “Nine Key Factors” into the daily dozen activities that are part of the The Solutions Reset.
I hope you are as interested in learning about health as I am. If so, I highly recommend these four books to you.
Have you read any of them? How about other books that positively impacted the steps you take to stay healthy? Comment below and let me know.
Let me know how you like these books, and share with someone you know that could benefit from my list of four. If you need help getting your health back on track, please consider The Solutions Reset. When you reach out, we can see together if it’s a good match for you.
Always learning alongside you,