Book review by Juliet Blackburn
Although Breath was published in paperback in 2020, I am calling it one of the most relevant books of 2022. It is about our health. To some extent, it harks back to the 1970s when people in sandals travelled to India and Nepal to learn about Eastern meditation and religions. Now more scientific evidence has accumulated which proves that these techniques actually work. People were amazed then what these Eastern monks and yogis could achieve in controlling their bodily conditions, but now we know in more detail how and why it works. Most important, we all need to put it into practice.
In the book, there are chapters on different breathing techniques. The author tells us of his own experiments and experiences. He also goes through the history of when and where these techniques have been used and for what purposes. In many cases, these have been used to cure illnesses that the medical professions could not. History is littered with how these techniques were forgotten over the years as many of them date back many centuries. Indeed, he goes right back to Neanderthals and explains how different facial structures affect our ability to breathe correctly. He also admits that we have lost the ability to chew properly (which affects our facial muscles) because our food is so soft these days.
Breath filtered by nose
At first, he tackles the evils of mouth breathing. It is much better to breathe in using the nose which filters the air. Those of us who do Pilates know that we should breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth. Basically, mouth breathing leads to snoring and sleep apnea. It also gives you more infections such as colds, flu and sinus problems. For some reason, it also gives you crooked teeth, but I didn’t really get that bit, except that we now have smaller mouths and our face has become a different shape since we were monkeys. It seems that anthropologists have discovered that primitive tribes all have perfect teeth. This is likely to be due to the food they eat which requires more chewing.
Breathing techniques give you control of your life
I was most interested in the connection between various breathing techniques and meditation (which I have not yet mastered). He has a section of the book called Breathing+ which deals with a Buddhist technique called Tummo. The famous exponent of this was Wim Hof – a Dutchman – who ran half marathons in the Arctic in bare feet and wearing a cotton shirt. He could also sit in an ice bath for over 1.5 hours without getting frostbite. He was able to fend off an e.coli bug that had been injected into him by researchers.
Another similar technique called “Holotropic Breathwork” where breath is good for mental problems and helping people to get out of drug addiction. Much of the secrets lie in the vital substance of ‘prana’. This energy is the life force which distinguishes living things from inanimate objects. Presumably, some of the breathing techniques give you much more control of your life force and thus enable you to heal yourself.