Breathe To Heal: Break Free From Asthma


While this book delivers a positive message about improving overall health through mindful breathing techniques, the...

A collective of medical and holistic professionals advocates a drug-free treatment for asthma sufferers.  

The collaborative effort of journalist and holistic practitioner Yakovleva (Breathing Exercise Buteyko Logbook, 2015, etc.) and Russian physicians and debut authors Buteyko and Novozhilov seeks to substantiate and promote Buteyko’s “Breathing Normalization Method.” The authors believe this technique can vastly diminish and possibly eradicate asthmatic symptoms. These claims directly counter current medicinal treatments that incorporate steroid inhalation therapies in the form of both long-term control and “rescue inhalers,” which provide immediate relief for severe allergic bronchial inflammation. While these treatments are beneficial from a pharmacological perspective, the book presents alternative, drug-free methods of coping with asthma using breathing self-regulation techniques. The authors deliver the bad news first: asthma has historically been labeled an “incurable disease” only because modern medicine has not uncovered a process for eliminating allergic inflammation, just drugs to control and reduce its symptoms. The narrative focuses on physiologist Buteyko’s mind-body approach and claims that a deficiency in carbon dioxide in the lungs is caused by “excessive breathing.” By controlling what the authors believe is the problem of “chronic hyperventilation” during an asthmatic episode (and throughout daily life), these levels become normalized, and lung bronchospasms retreat and even subside permanently. This may be difficult for readers to comprehend since Western medical practices historically counsel patients to take a deep breath when stressed. The book’s primary objective is to demonstrate the benefits of slowed breathing, though Buteyko’s four-page list of “diseases reversible by breathing reduction” begs for debate and medical substantiation. Subsequent chapters detail how readers can achieve the maximum benefits from this process by using “Breathing Snake” visualization, improving posture, practicing the “Control Pause,” and other easily applicable breathing exercises. A supporting cast of physicians and patients at Yakovleva’s Breathing Center facility claims to have victoriously “tamed asthma” and provides enthusiastic endorsements. Using interviews, graphs, documents, and illustrations, the book reinforces its seemingly sound evidentiary support and provides clinical advice through a sensible methodology. But the volume’s suggestions should definitely be addressed with a physician first. Though pages of testimonials and a helpful, expanded question-and-answer section bolster the work’s claims and clear up many misconceptions about asthma, further research and personal trials remain in readers’ (and their physicians’) hands.  

While this book delivers a positive message about improving overall health through mindful breathing techniques, the specific medical claims require individual investigation.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5371-2660-9

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2016



Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010


An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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