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For thousands of years, yogic adepts have claimed that breath is the essential link between body and mind, energizing a "subtle body" which connects the physical and mental aspects of our being. In this landmark book, Swami Rama and two noted American physicians explore the science of breath as the missing key to both physical health and the attainment of higher states of For thousands of years, yogic adepts have claimed that breath is the essential link between body and mind, energizing a "subtle body" which connects the physical and mental aspects of our being. In this landmark book, Swami Rama and two noted American physicians explore the science of breath as the missing key to both physical health and the attainment of higher states of consciousness. Basic yogic breathing techniques are explained so that we can immediately begin working with this powerful ancient science.


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For thousands of years, yogic adepts have claimed that breath is the essential link between body and mind, energizing a "subtle body" which connects the physical and mental aspects of our being. In this landmark book, Swami Rama and two noted American physicians explore the science of breath as the missing key to both physical health and the attainment of higher states of For thousands of years, yogic adepts have claimed that breath is the essential link between body and mind, energizing a "subtle body" which connects the physical and mental aspects of our being. In this landmark book, Swami Rama and two noted American physicians explore the science of breath as the missing key to both physical health and the attainment of higher states of consciousness. Basic yogic breathing techniques are explained so that we can immediately begin working with this powerful ancient science.

30 review for Science of Breath

  1. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    A book I return to often. On the surface, discusses the mechanics - and "science" (as per the title) - of breath. But, in reality, offers so much more: it engages you in a discourse on the very nature of our existence. Highly, highly, highly recommended. A book I return to often. On the surface, discusses the mechanics - and "science" (as per the title) - of breath. But, in reality, offers so much more: it engages you in a discourse on the very nature of our existence. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amit Srivastava

    “Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both." Almost a decade and a half ago, I had read a book, The Tao of Physics, that had a lasting effect on me. The book was written by a particle Physicist, Fritjof Capra, who happened to have some spiritual experiences. The book was all about drawing parallels between particle physics and eastern philosophies (Tao, Zen, Vedas etc. ). Although the book was written in 1970s, and Science (esp. particle physics) has “Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both." Almost a decade and a half ago, I had read a book, The Tao of Physics, that had a lasting effect on me. The book was written by a particle Physicist, Fritjof Capra, who happened to have some spiritual experiences. The book was all about drawing parallels between particle physics and eastern philosophies (Tao, Zen, Vedas etc. ). Although the book was written in 1970s, and Science (esp. particle physics) has made tremendous advancements, the approach that the author took to draw the parallels, stands against time. In fact, the recent developments in Science further assert the core message of the book. Fast forward to-date, and I hold a similar book, Science of Breath, written by two doctors and co-authored by Swami Rama, a renowned Yogi of the 20th century. The book was authored in 1940, and again stands against time! This book is all about understanding our respiratory system, with a focus on breath and what it means to our existence, and beyond. The first two sections are pure Medical Sciences. And the last section, written by the Yogi, is about pranayama and meditation. I am sure that this book would appeal to the skeptics, at least to some extent. While some things need to be experienced, there is enough in the book, to make a really compelling read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This book takes several approaches to exploring the breathing process. It looks at breath from a scientific point of view as well as yogic perceptions and manipulations of the breath. This is a dry read, but informative for those interested.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristie Hayes

    This is a great book about breath awareness. It's a small book, and could probably be read in one sitting, but I like to read one or two chapters at a time. This book discusses the importance of proper breathing for our physical and emotional health. The books explains respiratory physiology and also the idea of breath in yoga. I really liked the discussion on the right and left nostrils, and the section that advises how you should lay down before going to bed greatly interested me, as I had bee This is a great book about breath awareness. It's a small book, and could probably be read in one sitting, but I like to read one or two chapters at a time. This book discusses the importance of proper breathing for our physical and emotional health. The books explains respiratory physiology and also the idea of breath in yoga. I really liked the discussion on the right and left nostrils, and the section that advises how you should lay down before going to bed greatly interested me, as I had been doing that for sometime without knowing I was trying to maximize my quality of sleep. They talk about taking care of your nasal passages with a neti, which I already do. Some of the breathing exercises they discuss were some I knew, but there are new ones in there. Some of them apparently are more advanced and require a teacher to show you how to do it. Overall, this was a great little book and highly recommend it to people who meditate and do yoga to understand the importance of breath awareness.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Atlantis

    This is an extremely quick read, but is really fascinating. It has definitely changed my life. Written by both Western doctors and by Swami Rama, a yoga master, Science of Breath details the fundamental importance of breath to the mind and to the body, as well to the connection between them. The breath and the mind are intimately and immediately connected. Just as certain types of breathing are characteristic of certain mental states (for example, quick, shallow chest-breathing as an immediate r This is an extremely quick read, but is really fascinating. It has definitely changed my life. Written by both Western doctors and by Swami Rama, a yoga master, Science of Breath details the fundamental importance of breath to the mind and to the body, as well to the connection between them. The breath and the mind are intimately and immediately connected. Just as certain types of breathing are characteristic of certain mental states (for example, quick, shallow chest-breathing as an immediate result of fear, anxiety, and intimidation), so can ways of breathing perpetuate or create mental states (such as shallow, chest-breathing--which is so common for so many of us--perpetuating anxiety and fragmentation or dissipation of the mind). As such, this book sets forth breathing techniques and exercises that can attempted without any supervision or training. After finishing this book, I have started setting aside time to focus on my breathing in a silent, still fashion--meditatively, if you will. I have focused on the importance of slow, deep, and even diaphragmatic breaths without pausing between breaths. Doing this a few times a day has already been a small revelation. The calm, clarity, and focus of mind (and the resultant physical manifestations) is apparent almost immediately. Furthermore, just the simple awareness of my breath has been such a revelation. I have tried to become aware of my breath more often, and I find myself doing so throughout my day: in conversation, while working, while reading, while playing music, when I feel nervous or awkward (not that I ever do...), when I feel calm and in control. In becoming aware of what is happening with my breathing, I have started to exert some small but of control over my breathing, and in doing so, over my mind and my emotional state. It's quite remarkable, and I'm just getting started. The correlation between breathing and the mind is so closely linked that it's incredible. [Quite obvious to just say it, but to realize it something else.] And for the yoga masters, these breathing exercises lead to breathing awareness, which leads to control over the mind, which controls the body, and beyond that lay the control over the unconscious mind, then the mind that lay beyond that, and ultimately one finds onesself "freed from all bondage and transcends the limitations of time, space and causation." Though I did skip over the lengthier descriptions of the poses, postures, and breathing techniques that seem to require a teacher to approach, as well as some of the more tedious and specific anatomical descriptions, I found this book extremely insightful, even profound.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Interesting read. It was a bit more anatomy-focused than I expected, but a great emphasis on this amazing body function we all have and take for granted.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mery

    I looked into this book as it has good reviews, however there are other books with the same title written by other authors. Swami Rama did write only the second part of the book, it was written by westerners for westerners... it seems to be somewhat misleading. the writing style of the first part written by 'medicals' is uninteresting and often uses medical terms that are not properly explained nor understood by common people. As Einstein says 'if you cannot explain it simply you do not understa I looked into this book as it has good reviews, however there are other books with the same title written by other authors. Swami Rama did write only the second part of the book, it was written by westerners for westerners... it seems to be somewhat misleading. the writing style of the first part written by 'medicals' is uninteresting and often uses medical terms that are not properly explained nor understood by common people. As Einstein says 'if you cannot explain it simply you do not understand it' what Swami Rama says in the book is already written in other books Read 7 books on breathing until now, and still have dozens to read... The other reason I gave this book this rating and would give even less, as I noticed that the author had several sexual harassment cases. Nah! This is a BIG NO NO! Catholic priests and Indian or other yogis molesting people is DISGUSTING. These perverts should have NO credit at all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mary Meade

    Simple and effective. While the authors don't give insight to my most vexing questions, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?" and, by simple extention, "who created god? ", they do provide a clear discussion on the mundane act of breathing. Who would have thought the correct way of breathing could lead one to better health. Or enlightenment. This is a book I will treat more like a manual - specific chapters to be read over and over until so engrained it's practices become as natural as breat Simple and effective. While the authors don't give insight to my most vexing questions, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?" and, by simple extention, "who created god? ", they do provide a clear discussion on the mundane act of breathing. Who would have thought the correct way of breathing could lead one to better health. Or enlightenment. This is a book I will treat more like a manual - specific chapters to be read over and over until so engrained it's practices become as natural as breathing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pavlov's Gods

    Not as rigorous in its presentation of material as I'd like a book that claims to unite Western and Eastern understanding of breath; makes claims unsubstantiated to attempt to bridge the gap between the two. Still enjoyed it, but that might be because I don't know much about the subject area so everything was new, I would not be surprised if I like it less once I read other works pertaining to the same subject. Not as rigorous in its presentation of material as I'd like a book that claims to unite Western and Eastern understanding of breath; makes claims unsubstantiated to attempt to bridge the gap between the two. Still enjoyed it, but that might be because I don't know much about the subject area so everything was new, I would not be surprised if I like it less once I read other works pertaining to the same subject.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pauly Morphous

    A good overview on the importance of breathing, how it connects to our various physiological systems and it's importance in the context of yoga. A lot of the book is supported by a solid amount of science as opposed to the rafts of mysticism one might expect though it does touch on some uncharted territory. It's a quick read and you should come away with some tangible advice if you are not already a breathing expert. A good overview on the importance of breathing, how it connects to our various physiological systems and it's importance in the context of yoga. A lot of the book is supported by a solid amount of science as opposed to the rafts of mysticism one might expect though it does touch on some uncharted territory. It's a quick read and you should come away with some tangible advice if you are not already a breathing expert.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zois

    A short, but interesting look at breath from a scientific and a yogic perspective. A cooperation between scientists and an accomplished yogi. A look into something that we take for granted, but which can easily be shown to be of truly great importance to our physical and mental well-being. Breath, the llink between our voluntary and involuntary systems, the supplier of nutrition to all systems of our body, and you can do so much with it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lavanya Madhusudan

    Definitely worth a read. Learned a lot about the physiology behind breathing and how it connects the body and mind. Also learned that Western medicine largely ignores the importance of breathing and the crucial role it plays in health. Learned about yogic breathing exercises, and how the breath is central in yogic philosophy and practice, and the correct way to practice several breathing exercises. Great book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena

    Apart from useful physiology the exercises are in effect restricted for advanced students Good but feel that the magic of breath yoga is held out and out of reach for the reader and hardly an attempt is made to make this accessible with encouragement and easy exercises that can be followed and checked against the instruction. There are better books out there. But useful descriptions of the anatomy of breathe and its circulation within the body.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sandy L Jones

    A concise look at a big topic We all breathe or we die. As a retired RN and a current Yoga teacher i love this book. Lots of concrete physiology paired with an explanation of the Eastern thought on the Subtle Body . If you want to know more about your body. This is a good book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Gu

    Highly recommend! In just under 150 pages, makes a strong case for centering breathing into our lives, gives a quick rundown on Eastern vs Western approaches to mind / body / science, reminds you of high school biology, teaches you a fun thing or too about your nasal system, and oh but of course, gives a survey of a few of the most common breathing techniques.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Not too dense. Exercises are not well depicted (graphically), but are fairly comprehensive

  17. 5 out of 5

    Luvena

    A good reference.. although I found all lot of content generic and repeated from other texts - didn't find anything unique. But it was a good foundation / essential reading book. A good reference.. although I found all lot of content generic and repeated from other texts - didn't find anything unique. But it was a good foundation / essential reading book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Srihari

    Its very helpful and informative book. And foundation book for all yoga and pranayama practitioners. It gives basic idea how prana/energy flow happens in the lungs.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bett Correa-Bollhoefer

    A good basic primer on breathing. I learned some basic maintenance tips for keeping my nose unclogged. Very worth reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wenona Hulsey

    Very informative Great for the person interested in the functions of breath on the body and a basic outline on breathing exercises.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cobramor

    Too much science, too little pranayama

  22. 5 out of 5

    Savan Vyas

    Good books Covers a lot but could have been more detailed on level of practices and how much much To do when. It goes good job on introduction of it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Gourley

    This is an oldie, but a goody. The first edition came out in 1979, but as its intent is to provide an overview of the anatomy and physiology of breath for yoga practitioners, the fact that it doesn’t access the bleeding edge of respiratory science isn’t all that detrimental. This short book consists of four chapters. Two chapters are by the famous yogi Swami Rama, and the other two are written by medical doctors. The first chapter is an introduction to breath from the yogic perspective. It both This is an oldie, but a goody. The first edition came out in 1979, but as its intent is to provide an overview of the anatomy and physiology of breath for yoga practitioners, the fact that it doesn’t access the bleeding edge of respiratory science isn’t all that detrimental. This short book consists of four chapters. Two chapters are by the famous yogi Swami Rama, and the other two are written by medical doctors. The first chapter is an introduction to breath from the yogic perspective. It both explains why it’s so important to understand and work with breath and introduces the mythic physiology (prana, nadi, chakra, etc.) that has historically been used to explain pranayama (breath exercises.) The second chapter is written by Dr. Alan Hymes and it explains the mechanics of respiration. While Chapter 2 focuses on the anatomy of breathing, it begins with an explanation of cellular respiration to introduce the role of breath in powering muscles. There is a fine explanation of the operation of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles in breathing. Chapter 3 is written by Dr. Rudolph Ballentine, and it delves into the role of the nose and nasal cavities in respiration. Breathing through the nose is emphasized in both yoga and many other systems of breath training (e.g. the Buteyko and Wim Hof methods.) This is because the nasal cavities perform many useful functions such as moisturizing and warming air, capturing pollutants, and extract heating and moisture from exhaled breath. Besides exploring nasal anatomy and physiology, Dr. Ballentine describes jala neti shatkarma (nasal cleansing with salt water) and nadi shoudhana (alternate nostril breathing.) The final chapter, written by Swami Rama, mostly describes various techniques of pranayama (breathing exercises) and related practices bandhas and mudras (locks and seals in which bodily parts are contracted or constricted.) However, the chapter begins with a mix of physiology and mythic physiology. That is, it explains some topics not addressed earlier--such as the interaction between the nervous and the cardiovascular systems as well as chakra. My standing complaint about books that weave together science and pseudo-science is mitigated a bit herein. My problem with putting these ideas together is that it can be difficult for the reader to determine what concepts reflect reality and which offer models to help one visualize energy. However, except for the last chapter, this book does a good job of keeping these ideas separate. The chapters by the medical doctors present the science with minimal intrusion of unscientific concepts. Swami Rama does present science and mythology together, but not so much scrambled together in a confusing mish-mash. Chapters 2 through 4 use a number of graphics to help present the material. In the middle chapters these largely consist of line drawings to convey the relevant anatomical features or physical actions. The last chapter adds photographs to demonstrate relevant postures. There is a page of recommended readings, but it’s more of an advertisement for other books put out by the Himalayan Institute than the recommendation of books on the science of breath. I found this book to be educational. It packs a lot of useful information into a concise package and is readable to a layman. I’d recommend it for yoga practitioners and others who are engaged in breath work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    This slim book provides a practical introduction to the yogic concept of breath and how to utilize it to link body and mind. With chapters written by Swami Rama and by medical doctors, the book explores both Eastern and Western perspectives for a well-rounded view of the topic, helping the reader to understand first the mechanics of how and why we breathe before delving into the yogic breathing techniques. The Foreword, Introduction, and Chapter 1 give background on the breath and explore the rat This slim book provides a practical introduction to the yogic concept of breath and how to utilize it to link body and mind. With chapters written by Swami Rama and by medical doctors, the book explores both Eastern and Western perspectives for a well-rounded view of the topic, helping the reader to understand first the mechanics of how and why we breathe before delving into the yogic breathing techniques. The Foreword, Introduction, and Chapter 1 give background on the breath and explore the rationale behind focusing on breathing. Prana, or life energy, is defined and discussed, and the authors describe the benefits of developing a deeper awareness of our breath. In Chapter 2, Dr. Alan Hymes explains the physical mechanics of breathing: what respiration is and why we do it, how the lungs oxygenate the blood, which muscles are involved in inhalation and exhalation, and how those muscles work. Hymes also explicates the differences between diaphragmatic breathing, thoracic/chest breathing, and clavicular/shallow breathing. The chapter reveals how breathing, a seemingly simple process, is actually a complex and vitally important function for the body. Chapter 3 by Dr. Rudolph Ballantine details the anatomy of the nose, nasal cavity, and sinuses, and how these areas shape the air currents we breathe and the odors we smell. Ballantine gives strategies for keeping the nose healthy and functioning properly, including nasal wash (neti pot) and alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhanam). Chapter 4, written by Swami Rama, expands upon how to regulate the breath and use it to control energy in the body. Rama likens the mind to a kite on a string: when the string is held skillfully, you can guide the kite where you want it to go, but until you learn to control the string, the kite will flap around directionlessly. Like a kite’s string, pranayama is a tool we can learn to use to control the mind. Rama states that there’s a reciprocal relationship between breath and mind. We’ve all observed that a certain mood (for example, anger, fear, or passion) can result in a change on one’s breathing pattern; the converse is also true, that consciously changing one’s breathing can affect one’s state of mind. Rama explains, “By consciously making the breath deep, even, and regular, we will experience a noticeable release of tension and an increased sense of relaxation and tranquility” (84). Rama goes on to offer a series of breathing techniques that one can use to achieve this result. Overall, this is a useful book for anyone interested in pranayama and meditation. The photos and diagrams throughout the book are quite useful for understanding the medical anatomic concepts and the physical yoga positions described. The medically focused chapters on respiration and nasal function are particularly helpful for readers more used to Western science than Eastern philosophy, making the book a good stepping stone towards further reading, but the book is highly worthwhile in its own right as a comprehensive discussion of the function of breath.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I originally read this book when I was doing my yoga teacher training as it was required reading. I read it, was wowed at the time, highlighted, and made lots of notes in the margins. But at that moment I was reading and studying a lot of material and part of the job was simply to get through it all. On this re-read, I chose to move slowly so as to ponder and better digest the fascinating material. Science of Breath is filled with amazing information and is truly inspirational! Here are some intr I originally read this book when I was doing my yoga teacher training as it was required reading. I read it, was wowed at the time, highlighted, and made lots of notes in the margins. But at that moment I was reading and studying a lot of material and part of the job was simply to get through it all. On this re-read, I chose to move slowly so as to ponder and better digest the fascinating material. Science of Breath is filled with amazing information and is truly inspirational! Here are some intriguing facts: Breathing is the only physiological process that can be either voluntary OR involuntary. We breathe an average of 18 – 20,000 breaths each day. I never knew that normal breathing alternates between the left and right nostrils: If nothing is done to interfere with the rhythmic functioning of the body, this will tend to alternate in a predictable fashion. The breath will be flowing predominantly through one nostril for about an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, after which it becomes predominant in the other side, for flow increases in one side until it reaches a peak, and then it begins to decrease. Soon thereafter, most of the air begins to flow through the opposite nostril. (p. 62) This “infradian” rhythm has bearing on our sleeping habits: …yogi manuals recommend that one lie on the left side after meals, opening the right nostril and stimulating the digestive process. Traditionally, too, it is said that when individuals go to bed, they should lie on the left side for five or ten minutes, activating the right nostril to create increased body heat. As soon as they are warm and comfortable, they should turn to the right, allowing the left nostril to open. Doing so relaxes, calms, and prepares them for sleep. (p. 67) I’ve taken this to heart and attest to the fact that it works for me! Science of Breath addresses the physiology of respiration, mind/body interaction, prana, and pranayama. Esoteric information is set forth with clarity. This book is a gem. From the Foreword: The Sanskrit word for life energy is prana. The surviving literature of the ancient peoples of Egypt and Chaldea show that they worked carefully with prana; Chinese and Japanese doctors and martial artists still work with it today. This book is an introduction to the immense subject of how yogis regulate prana through the science of breath, written in terms a Westerner can understand. . . .

  26. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Pranayama 101 Interesting take on introducing the interested Yoga student to pranayama. I liked the lengthy introduction covering some anatomical topics not normally discussed even in a four hour intro to pranayama class. If you've taken an intro class and then read a couple of books discussing pranayama already there still may be a couple of different exercises like "Sandbag Breathing" that you may not have come across before and is actually helpful. I don't think there're any critically importan Pranayama 101 Interesting take on introducing the interested Yoga student to pranayama. I liked the lengthy introduction covering some anatomical topics not normally discussed even in a four hour intro to pranayama class. If you've taken an intro class and then read a couple of books discussing pranayama already there still may be a couple of different exercises like "Sandbag Breathing" that you may not have come across before and is actually helpful. I don't think there're any critically important lessons in technique unique to this book but every reader is different and something might just click. In short, a good introductory book on the "Science" of Breath.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Gullion

    I basically read this book in one sitting. I did this, first, because it's not very long. But, also, it's fascinating. If only science in school could have this immediate connection and application to life. Breath is such a powerful tool and influence, not only in life but also on the yoga mat. For that reason, I highly recommend this book for anyone with breathing issues of any sort (allergies, sleep apnea, sinus issues) as well as for yoga teachers and practicioners. I basically read this book in one sitting. I did this, first, because it's not very long. But, also, it's fascinating. If only science in school could have this immediate connection and application to life. Breath is such a powerful tool and influence, not only in life but also on the yoga mat. For that reason, I highly recommend this book for anyone with breathing issues of any sort (allergies, sleep apnea, sinus issues) as well as for yoga teachers and practicioners.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    Good book to read to better understand 'behind the scenes' of breathing and all the great things that deep breathing and breath control can do for your body and mind. Lots of things I already knew from anatomy courses and yoga workshops, but also a bit of new and interesting topics and techniques that I look forward to reading more about in the future Good book to read to better understand 'behind the scenes' of breathing and all the great things that deep breathing and breath control can do for your body and mind. Lots of things I already knew from anatomy courses and yoga workshops, but also a bit of new and interesting topics and techniques that I look forward to reading more about in the future

  29. 4 out of 5

    Praveen

    A must read for any one who doesn't have an idea about the relation of breath to body and mind. The book is an excellent compilation of essays both from the filed of medical sciences and the esoteric path. The book is an excellent juxtaposition of both views that complement and supplement each other. An excellent read! A must read for any one who doesn't have an idea about the relation of breath to body and mind. The book is an excellent compilation of essays both from the filed of medical sciences and the esoteric path. The book is an excellent juxtaposition of both views that complement and supplement each other. An excellent read!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    *Highly recommended.* Ignore the cheesy looking nose on the cover. Gives you real ways to improve mental and physical health through breathing and enough background knowledge / science to convince you it's actually going to work. *Highly recommended.* Ignore the cheesy looking nose on the cover. Gives you real ways to improve mental and physical health through breathing and enough background knowledge / science to convince you it's actually going to work.

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