Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

This book review of “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” explores how breathing properly is integral to helping patients engage fully with their overall health.

Breathing properlyReview by Steve Carstensen, DDS

“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.”

So begins Breath, by medical journalist James Nestor. Most people are unaware of how breathing is woven throughout our everyday lives. Anyone who breathes benefits from reading this entertaining exploration of the power of the breath and the impact poor breathing can have on the whole body. Breath will bring this seemingly automatic respiratory function to life – no one can finish this engaging story and breathe the same way as before.

While researching breath-hold diving for another book, Nestor became curious about his own respiration, noting repeated challenges of pneumonia and chronic nasal stuffiness and wondering if there was a better way to health.

Reaching out to experts across medicine, dentistry, and mindfulness practice, the curious author put himself in the subject’s role through a breathing experiment at Stanford University; an experiment he labels ‘heinous.’

Seeking an understanding of his body’s response to the 10-day nasal breathing restriction led to discovery of expert opinions about anthropology, physiology and unexpected impacts of breathing patterns on the structure and function of the body.

Extensive notes and exhaustive research underpin the real-world presentations of Nestor’s experience, providing any healthcare provider scientific support for conversations with those in their care. Breath was not written for the clinician, however, but for anyone seeking improved health or simply desiring to understand what happens to them when they intentionally change their breathing pattern. This is an informative, entertaining, practical read.

From the first story about unexpected results of a breathing workshop, Nestor leads the reader through discovery of ancient lessons about the breath to today’s experts guiding people to startling improvements. Go with him into the catacombs of Paris, an English castle, and an hour north of his home in Marin County to explore what is possible today.

Readers of Dental Sleep Practice are notably focused on how people breathe through the night, often supporting dysfunctional airways. Many of those treated are in need because of chronic mouth breathing, poor skeletal development, and bad habits that arose during childhood. All of these topics are found in the pages of Breath, connected with experts providing insight from years of research or support from centuries of practice. Providers who want to help their patients engage with their health more fully and to expand therapy beyond the first level will be rewarded when they use knowledge found in Breath or recommend it to those patients interested in a deeper understanding.

Beyond the book, James Nestor’s website and blog have opened the world of breathing to thousands of people searching for improved health. Nestor enlists the help of experts in the field to answer questions and posts them for all to see; videos provided by these experts expound on the book’s information and will serve to improve community health in unmeasurable ways.

Everyone interested in breathing should go to their local bookstore and purchase Breath right away. Visit the author’s website,, to sign up for updates, interesting postings, and videos. Our patients’ lives will be better when we apply what we learn. Breathe.

Breathing properly is the focus of this CE on the physiology of respiration. Read it, and subscribers can take the quiz here:

Steve Breathing properly, DDS, FAGD, FACD, FICD, D.ABDSM, has treated sleep apnea and snoring in Bellevue, WA since 1988. He is the Consultant to the ADA for sleep related breathing disorders, has trained at UCLA’s Mini-Residency in Sleep, and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. He lectures internationally, directs sleep education at Airway Technologies and the Pankey Institute, and is a guest lecturer at Spear Education, University of the Pacific, and Louisiana State Dental Schools, in addition to advising several other sleep-related manufacturers. For the AADSM, he was a Board Member, Secretary-Treasurer and President-Elect. From 2014–2019, he was Editor of Dental Sleep Practice magazine.

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