Breathing Retraining


This blog is an introduction to a series of blogs on the use of breathing retraining, via Breathing Dynamics and CapnoTrainer biofeedback technology, for several areas of performance and health.

These include – sporting ,artistic, professional and academic performace, and for prevention and treatment of asthma, snoring, sleep apnoea, anxiety and depression, eczema and other allergies, fatigue, high blood pressure/hypertension and for dental issues.
Should you feel the need for further detail or explanation as a result of reading this blog, the breathing section of this website goes into much more detail and subsequent blogs over the next couple of months will look at the specifics of breathing and breathing retraining for the above pathologies and/or aspects of performance.

The biochemical and physiological consequences of dysfunctional or “over-breathing” (so far I have only ever tested 1 person who breathes functionally, according to medical diagnostic standards, without prior biofeedback training) not only help to create dysfunction in living and performance, but to contribute to the pathology that is evident in the ailments above. In other words, they play a major role in the ‘root cause’ underlying the pathology. Conversely, retraining one’s breathing and improving breathing function, will help to restore balance in the biochemical and physiological processes in the body that contributed to this pathology or lack of performance in the first place.

My interest in breathing originated from 2 sources:

  1. My involvement in sport at an elite level for many years – both as a coach and an athlete.
  2. My interest and practice in firstly meditation, and subsequently Ashtanga yoga over many years.

What had really primed my interest and had me open to investigating breathing further was a couple of aspects from the above sources.

Firstly, I had been meditating for several years and had felt great benefit so, in 2001, I decided to do a research review on meditation – both what occurs and its’ benefits. A copy of this is found in the downloads section of this website (although my PC skills were not good then and I lost the references and footnotes after the first half – so please excuse this). This triggered my awareness of the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the balance between the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PSNS) aspects of the ANS. In short, the main physiological occurrence in regular meditators, during meditation, is the evidence of parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) dominance (known as the ‘relaxation response’) which is the exact opposite of the stress response. It is largely this state that leads to the wealth of physiological and psychological benefits derived from a regular meditation practice. And breathing is the central tenet or practice in all forms of meditation or relaxation.
In addition, breathing is the one function, principally controlled by the ANS (i.e. it works whether we are conscious of it or not), that we can exert a direct conscious influence over. And therefore, by regulating our breathing, we can regulate the balance between the SNS and PSNS aspects of our ANS. And that is potentially HUGE.

Secondly, I was reading a book written about Lance Armstrong (“Tour De-Force”) which detailed his training regime and interviewed one of the main doctors of physiology involved in his training program and testing. The program and testing that Armstrong was subjected to was both extremely organised and fine tuned. so that he was acutely aware of where he was at in terms of preparation of the Tour De France at any given time in his lead up. Again, in short, this Dr (Dr Ferrari – who is a world renowned expert in sports training) was asked by the author where he thought that the advances in sporting performance in the future would come from. Outside of illegal drugs, he said that, because understandings of both training and recovery were so advanced, he felt that a great ‘untapped’ area that could offer potentially huge benefits was to do with breathing. Very, very interesting!!

Three years ago, I met a breathing expert in Sydney (Roger Price – who was a Buteyko Breathing practitioner (which I had previously been aware of and practiced briefly) who combined CapnoTrainer biofeedback technology with the understanding he had gained on breathing via the Buteyko principles and methods. My breathing was assessed via the CapnoTrainer and it was made very evident that my breathing was definitely not functional or met diagnostic norms.
In fact, most people over breathe. I was made aware that whilst diagnostic norms suggest we should breathe at 8-10 breaths per minute (for optimal breathing efficiency) or 12-14,000 times per day, most of us breathe over 30,000 times per day!!!

I was hooked. Apart from my fragile ego being most upset, I could instantly see the benefits of this modality in a number of aspects of my work as a naturopath, and in my role as an athlete/coach and personal practice as a meditator and novice yoga practitioner.

What did surprise me was that, even though the scientific understandings and principles of this modality come straight from mainstream medical text books, this form of assessment and retraining was not available or used in mainstream practice!!!
I think the answer to this lies in the origins of medical model (see “Turning Back The Clock” in the downloads section of this site) and its’ heavy reliance on pharmaceutical medicines and the significant role in research and education played by the pharmaceutical industry.

Suffice it to say, the influence of breathing on the body’s functioning is systemic and not directly obvious. Yet it plays a significant role in the ‘root cause’ of so many pathologies or insufficiencies in living and performance.
And there is not a single pharmaceutical medicine that will restore functional breathing patterns and rhythms. It requires training and practice.

Having spent a great deal of time researching and in training for this modality since, I have now incorporated this understanding, training and practice into my clinical and personal practices over the last 18 months to 2 years. In this time I have witnessed some spectacular results that I would never have been able to have achieve using the methods I had previously learned alone.

Breathing Dynamics has given me another significant piece in the puzzle of achieving optimal living and health – both for myself and my clients.