Saturday, December 5, 2020

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art -Book Review

There is nothing more essential to our health and wellbeing than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat 25,000 times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences. Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren't found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo, Brazil. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe. Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs, halt snoring, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease, and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is. Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again. Review This book is a collection of anecdotes and pseudo science about breathing. These range from insubstantial; a man in the 1930's met another man who'd benefited from visiting Tibetan monks who breath through their noses. To plausible; anxiety can be controlled with breathing, strengthening the chest muscles and diaphram can help with breathing (eg. physiotherapy is good for people with emphysema). To mystical; breathing can infuse the body with a magical 'energy' called Prana. Any conclusions seem to be contradictory: breath in little sips, take big breaths, reduce the amount of oxygen in our bodies, increase the amount etc. A lot is written concerning a study he and a friend took part in where they taped their noses shut for 10 days to force them to breath through their mouths. Apparently this will make you feel rotten, snore more and grow bacteria in your unused nasal cavity. Hardly surprising.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Summary of When Breath Becomes Air: By Paul Kalanithi

Summary of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - Includes Analysis Preview: When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about Paul Kalanithi's experiences as a doctor and as a terminally ill patient. The book discusses Kalanithi's lifelong fascination with questions of human biology, mortality, and meaning. It then examines how these questions are intensified by the author's own confrontation with lung cancer, sickness, and death. Kalanithi's father was a doctor from New York City; his mother was from India. The family moved to Kingman, Arizona, so that his father could pursue his medical career when Paul was young. His father worked long hours and was rarely home, which convinced young Paul that the last thing he wanted to do was to become a doctor himself. Paul's mother was concerned about the weak school system in Kingman, and so crafted a lengthy list of literary classics which she made Paul and his brothers read. As a result, Paul became enthralled with literature. He planned to become a writer. PLEASE NOTE: This is summary and analysis of the book and NOT the original book. Inside this Instaread Summary of When Breath Becomes Air: Summary of the book Important People Character Analysis Analysis of the Themes and Author's Style About the Author With Instaread, you can get the key takeaways, summary and analysis of a book in 15 minutes. We read every chapter, identify the key takeaways and analyze them for your convenience. Review When Breath Becomes Air is a profound book about a young doctor who viewed the practice of medicine in a holistic, human way in terms of how he dealt with his patients, especially those with terminal illnesses. When he himself was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he put his philosophy to work, facing his end with dignity and purpose, and writing about his experience; a book that was completed and published by his wife after his death. Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air is a book about a sad subject, but the author asks for no tears as he looks objectively at his own mortality. Summary of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi by Instaread gives a very compelling look at the original work, looking objectively at the author’s style in much the same way the author approached his work. What comes through in this analysis is that this is a book well worth reading. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

When Breath Becomes Air - Book review

‘At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet’, it is said. But one cannot say the same about Death. When Death arrives calling, not everyone stays brave or becomes a philosopher. Not all of us remain the proud humans that we are during our lifetimes, but go begging for another lease of life, no matter however brief that might be. Very few of us have the courage and composure to meet Death face-to-face, contemplate their life so far, take stock of their purpose and progress, and then, finally, do something that would fill them with the satisfaction of leaving behind something worthwhile, something that could set apart their sojourn on this planet from the billions of others. Paul Kalanithi’s was, fortunately or unfortunately, one such life that acquired a glowing purpose and meaning, sadly more during his final phase of life.


Paul Kalanithi was the second of three sons of an Indian couple settled in America. He had everything going for him. A comfortable life with family, marrying the love of his life, pursuing a career as special and as advanced as neurosurgery, reputation that could have landed him a plump career as soon as his training ended. But he also had something else too – lung cancer of an advanced stage. All his plans for the future suddenly vanished like mirage. With a life now cut short due to illness, Paul launched deeply into questions of existential nature, questions he had felt even while he was riding the crest of the tide.


This book is the answer to his questions about the meaning and purpose of human life. And, what an eloquent and poetic answer this has turned out to be! Published posthumously, this memoir recounts Paul’s early life in detail, telling us about what led to his decision to pursue a career in neuroscience, his early days as a resident surgeon and his ascent to glory. Then come the details of his illness, the various stages of cure that were tried and his frantic, determined quest to find the meaning for his life, whatever little was left of it. His wife Lucy’s epilogue is as fitting an end to the book as it could have been – beautiful, full of love and written more in a matter of fact manner than in a mawkish tone, just the same way in which Paul had written the whole book.


Life is a continuum and Death is a part of it, whether we like it or not. Death is in fact the only absolute certainty in the lives of everything, from the tiny sapling to the mightiest of stars. Just like the eyes ignore the nose that is in front of them, in order to give us an unhindered view of the world, our minds push that ineluctable reality behind so that we can plot our plans for decades until, of course, Death arrives calling, putting to waste our best-laid plans. The more we contemplate the meaning of our lives, the more we acknowledge what awaits us all in the end, and the more we chart the course of our lives accordingly, the easier it becomes for us to leave our mortal shells behind with dignity. Just the way Paul did.


Going through the book, I was often reminded of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Meaning Triangle’. According to him, a human being can add meaning to his/her life in one of these three ways – by creating something beautiful – a work of art, literature or something else similar, by being a beacon of love, filling the lives of others with love and joyful experiences or, finally, by showing a courageous attitude towards the travails that Life places on one’s path. According to me, Paul has done all the three and has really added a glowing meaning to his beautiful life, no matter however short it had been.


Done reading, I am leaving this book on my shelf, nestled between Viktor Frankl’s magnum opus ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of A Young Girl’, because I really feel that this book deserves its place up there!

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art -Book Review

There is nothing more essential to our health and wellbeing than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat 25,000 times a day. Yet, as a sp...