James Nestor is an acclaimed author, journalist, and speaker who has brought a fresh perspective to our understanding of breath. He ventured into the sea of human physiology with his book ‘Deep’, and later explored the lost art and science of breathing in his book ‘Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art’.
He is also no stranger to the Float Conference stage, having made his third appearance last year in 2022, when he talked about pooling his own work on breath with the practice of floating. The Float Conference – an annual gathering of floating enthusiasts, researchers, and floatation tank owners – has been a perfect venue for many of Nestor’s unique explorations.
During his first presentation at the Conference, he delved into how work on the human-water connection led him to draw parallels between the mammalian dive reflex, magnetoreception, and floating. His second talk focused on his transition from the depths of the sea to the subtleties of breath. He probed into the many changes in our facial structures and breathing over time, along with their intricate relation to floating.
His most recent appearance in particular provided an intriguing exploration into how many of the positive effects of floating might stem from the way the float environment impacts our breathing rate and depth. As it turns out, there are numerous synchronicities between the benefits of floating and the benefits from slow, conscious breathing – from relaxation of the nervous system, to boosting immune function, to lowering blood pressure, to reducing anxiety disorders, to helping with pain management and physical recovery.
Nestor also highlights the role of posture in breathing, drawing lessons from diverse areas, (such as ICU practices for COVID patients, and the restful pose of the Buddha in ancient art). Nestor proposed that the absence of any resistance while floating on our backs can induce deeper, slower, more comfortable breaths.
He moved onto discussing the broad-reaching impacts of slow breathing on heart rate, blood pressure, and brain function, suggesting that conscious breathing can amplify the floatation experience. Nestor also provided simple practice that anyone can do in the float tank to explore this for themselves: coherent breathing. This simple technique of breathing rhythmically, in for a count of five to six, out for a count of five to six, primes the body, nervous system, and mind for a state of deep relaxation.
Nestor’s work pivots around the beautiful fusion of breath and water, where slow breathing becomes an embellishment to the floating experience. His journey from oceanic depths to the tranquility of a float tank helps us understand how simple, natural processes can induce profound wellness benefits.
If you haven’t already, definitely check out the talks above, or any of James Nestor’s several books on the market (which are all a delight to read). And, if you feel especially inspired, perhaps we’ll see you at this year’s Float Conference – August 18-20 in Louisville, Kentucky (and simultaneously online!). Regardless, we’ll definitely be sharing more great science and information with you from the various presentations in the months to come.