Back in 2017 I remember people sitting together and doing pre-workout breathwork before some trainig session (Calisthenics). At that time I didn’t know what it was nor what it was good for. One year later I was introduced to Pranayama as part of my Yoga teacher training. Right after I’ve read Conscious Breathing but I didn’t really catch fire on the topic.
In 2020 I finally came across Wim Hof and realized this was exactly the type of heavy breathing people were exercising 3 years ago. Since then I’ve adopted cold exposure and Breathe exercises as part of my daily routine. I was amazed how much stress my body was able to endure and how easy it is to adapt to cold.
In the same year - right after the beginning of the pandemic - I saw some goodreads top rated books list. I can’t really remember which category exactly but I found it interesting enough to see a book about breathing in the top lists, right after Corona was identified as a respiratory disease. Then it took another 2 years to read the book and discover even more breathing techniques.
As I breathe a little faster, go a little deeper, the names of all the techniques I’ve explored over the past 10 years all come back in a rush: Pranayama. Buteyko. Coherent Breathing. Hypoventilation. Breathing Coordination. Holotropic Breathwork. Adhama. Madhyama. Uttama. Kevala. Embryonic Breath. Harmonizing Breath. The Breath by the Master Great Nothing. Tummo. Sudarshan Kriya. – Source
I’ve spent quite some time feeding my personal Zettelkasten with all the interesting facts and quotes presented in the book. Here are my key takeaways:
Shut your mouth!
… and start breathing through your nose! This was repeated over and over again while some statistics reveal the real problem:
Ninety percent of children have acquired some degree of deformity in their mouths and noses. 45% of adults snore occasionally and 1/4 of the population snores constantly. 25% of American adults over 30 choke on themselves because of sleep apnea; and an estimated 80% of moderate or severe cases are undiagnosed. Meanwhile, the majority of the population suffers from some form of breathing difficulty or resistance. – Source
We’ve become not only overeaters but also overbreathers
We need to breath less and this is indeed a strange advice. We’ve been told to breath more air/oxygen whenever we feel stressed, anxious or have “air hunger”. But we tend to focus to much on oxygen rather on its counterpart which is carbon dioxide. To much oxygen leads to free radicals damaging your cells. How much carbon dioxide you have in your blood seems to have an impact how much oxygen can be carried to the cells (The Bohr Effect). Therefore breath hold increases levels of CO2 which tell the body how to breathe (by stimulating the Central Chemoreceptors)
Breathing affects the whole body
The nose and the Diaphragm as the main respiratory protagonists play a vital role in our life. The nose is called a silent warrior because it:
- clears, heats and moistures air for easier absorption
- helps with erectily disfunction
- lowers blood pressure
- eases digestion
- regulates heart rate
- stores memories
The Diaphragm is called the “2nd heart” because it affects rate and strength of heart rate.
Different breath type, different effect
Every breath consists of following phases
- (speed at which inhalation/exhalation is done)
Depending on how deep or how fast you inhale/exhale you’ll activate different parts of your lungs which are connected to the Autonomic Nervous System
- nerves connected to the Parasympathetic Nervous System are in the lower regions of the lungs
- also called the feed and breed system
- long inhales/exhales activate it
- stimulates relaxation and restoration
- example of breathe exercise: Buteyko
- nerves connected to the Sympathetic Nervous System are spread out at the top of the lungs
- when we take short, hasty breaths, the molecules of air activate the sympathetic nerves
- sympathetic stress takes just seconds to activate, turning it off and becoming again calm can take a hour or more
- example of breathe exercise: Tummo
Given the amount of time I’ve spent doing some heavy post-reading on several topics I think this book covers a quite wide range of breath related topics. I was also suprised that long before Wim Hof there was Alexandra David-Néel who used Tummo during her adventures. And while she is already dead, Maurice Daubard still practices ice baths at the age of 90.
The research on this field of course didn’t stop. Here’s a list of inspiration for your breathwork journey:
- Anders Olsson
- Konstanting Pavlovich Buteyko
- Dr. Breath (Stough) did some research in the 1930s
- Emil Zapotek invented hypoventilation
- Dr. James Eyerman used Holotropic Breathwork for 30 years and had more than 11000 patients
- Dr. Justin Feinstein
- increase of Carbon Dioxide levels has effect on health improvements
- experimented with low doses of carbon dioxide given to his patients
- Albert Szent-Györgyi
- did some research on breathing at molecular levels
- “the more oxygen life can consume, the more electron excitability it gains, the more animated it becomes”
- health is all about absorbing and transfering electrons in a controlled way
- Luiz Sergio Alvarez DeRose wrote books about the concepts of Prana
- Swami Rama brought Pranayama to Western cultures