After learning extensively about the science of breathing, and techniques for optimising breathing, implementing biofeedback technology called Capnometry, which us used in hospitals to monitor patients breathing, into my clinical work with breathing has seen my understanding of breathing function, and the best techniques for retraining breathing function to optimal levels skyrocket.
In clinic this technology is highly effective for assessing the efficiency of a client’s breathing based on breathing rate per minute (ideally 8-10 bpm), and end tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2), or the amount of CO2 in the lungs at the end of exhalation (ideally at least 40mmHg).
The body regulates breathing based on arterial levels of CO2 predominantly, rather than arterial oxygen (O2). This is because the challenge with breathing is not getting enough oxygen in. We have heaps. In fact, at rest, we utilise less than one quarter of the O2 we inhale (the rest is exhaled), and we have heaps of oxygen stores in our blood stream (known as oxygen saturation levels, which are typically 97-99%).
The challenge is actually getting the oxygen we have in our blood stream, or that we inhale, into our cells for energy production (the main purpose of breathing). If we fail to do this, the consequences are fatal. CO2 plays a major role in this process. Rather than being a waste gas that we completely exhale, we store CO2 (as there’s only 0.03% in atmospheric air, so we can’t rely on this) as it is the limiting factor in determining breathing efficiency,
Based on the principles of the Bohr Effect, CO2 facilitates the passage of oxygen from our lungs to our cells for energy production. If CO2 levels are too low, we simply don’t get enough oxygen to our cells, so energy production is impaired, and survival is threatened. Conversely, if CO2 levels are too high, it upsets respiratory balance, and our body will increase breathing rate and volume to reduce levels. In order to maintain sufficient CO2 levels, our body stores CO2 in our lungs at the end of exhalation, known as end-tidal CO2, which then permeates back into the blood stream to maintain respiratory balance.
We definitely should not fully exhale all of the air in our lungs in order to maintain respiratory balance (at rest) – the exhale is simply a recoil of the diaphragm and lungs.
Unfortunately, without realising it, the vast majority of us breathe nowhere near ideal efficiency- we breathe twice as often as we should and with far too much volume.
This adversely affects our arterial CO2 levels, and therefore the balance in our respiratory system, and ultimately energy production. The consequence of this long term is that our body starts to produce symptoms of illness as a result of the body’s attempt to compensate for this inefficiency and restore balance. These symptoms include difficulties in breathing & asthma, anxiety, sinusitis, snoring & sleep apnoea, fatigue, digestive complaints, headaches & migraines, ADHD and many more.
Therefore this biofeedback technology is fantastic for assessing respiratory efficiency, and also in implementing techniques and rhythms to retrain breathing back to ideal, or functional levels. In so doing, with regular practice, clients experience greater energy levels, relaxation, and reduced symptoms of illness.
In addition, as clients can see significant differences on a screen of their baseline breathing efficiency and when they introduce optimal breathing techniques, so compliance of clients to their at home breath training improves significantly also.
Finally, as a result of measuring and observing the breathing of thousands of clients over the years, my understanding of breathing function and ideal techniques has grown exponentially.
If you’d like to have your breathing efficiency assessed , or learn how to breathe optimally, please contact me for a one on one clinic appointment, or inline consultation.
Whether you’ve been meditating for a while or are just getting into it, if there’s one piece of advice I can give to you it’s this…
Incorporate Breathing Rhythms into your practice.
Doing breathwork at the beginning of your meditation practice will help settle your nervous system into relaxation mode much more quickly, and it can allow you to enter a meditative state much more easily, not to mention you can take your meditation practice to a deeper level.
You are more likely to have a quiet mind, or experience mindfulness, when you are in a relaxed, parasympathetic state.
And, of all of the automatic functions in our body regulated by our autonomic nervous system, which also regulates our stress response (therefore determines whether you are relaxed or aroused/stressed), the one we can consciously control, with training is our breathing.
By practising diaphragmatic breathing rhythms you can regulate and relax your autonomic nervous system – your whole body in fact.
Breathing is a particularly great way to ease you into meditating if you are not familiar with it.
And a brilliant way to learn how to meditate if you have felt that meditation is not for you.
The more you practise the easier it gets.
Do you incorporate breathing into your meditation practice? Let me know!
My Personal Experience Using Breathing Dynamics to Achieve a Top Ten Finish at The Molokai World Sursfski Championships
In 2010 I studied the science of breathing, qualified as a respiratory therapist and started working clinically with asthma & breathing difficulties, snoring & sleep apnoea, fatigue, anxiety, sinusitis etc., plus working with athletes I coach on performance breathing. I was seeing great results both clinically and with athletes.
In 2012 I decided to take on the Molokai Surfski Challenge – my first venture at this event.
At 53km from Molokai Island to Oahu Island across the Kaiwi Channel (The Channel of Bones), the Molokai Surfski Challenge is the ocean paddling equivalent to the Kona Hawaii Ironman triathlon – the unofficial world endurance championship. Like Kona, Molokai is the bucket list event of all ocean paddlers, and probably the toughest race in the world, often with big seas and winds, and a lot of heat and humidity to contend with also.
I had 16 weeks to prepare, so it presented a fantastic opportunity to train my body to breathe optimally (using the diaphragm to drive breathing and mostly the nose on inhalation & exhalation) at higher levels of exertion. And at 45 years of age, I figured it was worth exploring a natural competitive edge as I didn’t have the strength or speed that I had when I was younger, or the time to train as much as I used to.
So this presented a fantastic opportunity to see explore how much more I could gain in performance by learning how to breathe optimally whilst competing in the sport I was once at elite level in.
In my youth I had been an Australian representative at the World Sprint Kayak Championships and a national medallist in surf lifesaving competition in Australia. Unfortunately my career at international level was cut short in my early 20s by illness – what we now know as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or post viral syndrome.
So I was a very capable paddler in sprint or middle distance with my best races being in the 1-3 minute range. I was more a sprinter or high lactic tolerance paddler, rather than a paddler with a high VO2 max. I wasn’t a great at time trials over a distance or a great marathon paddler (unless I could sit on a wash and sprint off at the end).
As such, I knew that doing an endurance race, particularly against the best marathon ocean paddlers in the world, would not be my forte.
But I grew up surfing and paddling in the ocean, and the Molokai race happens at a time of the year when the Hawaiian trade winds blow consistently in a particular direction, it is typically a downwind event where you surf the wind runs and ground swells, gathering great speeds.
As I love surfing and downwind paddling, I couldn’t wait to do a race on one of the best downwind courses in the world. And exploring how much extra I could gain in performance from the breath training excited me also.
The objective with breath training for sporting performance is to:
Breathe predominantly using the nose, only using the mouth in emergencies, or if the exertion level becomes extreme – indications from what I’d experienced, as well as with other athletes who have explored performance breathing during exercise suggest that it is possible to nose breathe up to about 90% of max heart rate, suggesting that this is ideal especially for endurance sports. For people doing sports that involve intervals of sprinting interspersed with rest periods at random; i.e. football, hockey, basketball, etc etc; will find it harder to nose breath all the time, however there are still significant benefits to be gained by breathing only using the nose when recovering between sprints.
Use the diaphragm to initiate inhalation – the chest is also used during exercise, but most huff and puff with their chest only. The diaphragm is the primary breathing muscle, and it is far more efficient to breathe using the diaphragm only at rest, and initially during low-level exercise, and then using the chest in addition to the diaphragm as exertion levels increase.
“Essentially, less is better with breathing for performance. That is, a slower breathing rate and lower breathing volume – be it at rest of during the exertion of sports performance. This is counterintuitive, as we want to huff and puff more the harder it gets, thinking that we’re sucking more oxygen in.But huffing and puffing reduces breathing efficiency, as it reduces the amount of oxygen that actually reaches your cells for energy production – which is the purpose of breathing in the first place. Whereas reducing the breathing rate and volume, will increase oxygen delivery to cells for energy production, and therefore efficiency in performance.It is very difficult initially without training to breathe less whilst exercising (or even at rest), but the benefits are worth the effort.”
The benefits of nose & diaphragm breathing, or performance breathing during exercise include:
Using greater lung surface area for gas exchange
More efficient oxygen delivery to cells for energy production
Learning how to breathe at lower breathing & heart rates at high levels of exercise
Delaying lactic acid onset
Reducing recovery times between efforts
Increasing relaxation during exercise
Allowing greater access to ‘zone’ or ‘alpha’ states during exercise
Improving relaxation and calmness at competitions
Improving postural stability.
My breath training involved a few aspects:
Day to day diaphragm & nose breathing rhythms aimed at slowing down the breathing rate and reducing the volume of the breath – this represents what I would call ‘base training’ which restores normal or optimal breathing function on a day to day basis, and prepares the body for performance breath training. 30 minutes per day.
Off the water diaphragm strengthening exercises (as most people’s diaphragm muscle is weak and atonic due to lack of use), combined with breath holds (to increase the brain’s tolerance to increased CO2 levels experienced during exertion). 20-30 minutes, 3-5 times per week.
Practice of nose & diaphragm breathing whilst doing my paddle training or cross training – it takes time for the body to adjust to the reduced volume and rate of breathing experience when predominantly nose/diaphragm breathing, so I was fortunate to be able to build my capacity to breathe optimally as my program built in intensity from aerobic base training, to higher intensity race pace training, and finally lactic tolerance and speed training. If you try to nose/diaphragm breathe at really high intensity initially, before your body has time to adapt, it can really hurt, and lead to one feeling badly out of breath, light headed or having a headache. You simply have t build your tolerance to increased CO2 over time.
As my training progressed and increased in intensity, I started to get more comfortable nose and diaphragm breathing at higher intensities, and I felt very relaxed at these intensities – far more than I usually would.
I knew the biggest difficulty in applying performance breathing on race day would be from the start, as we don’t start paddle race at a cruisy pace.
Paddlers take off quickly in order to find their own water (as sitting behind multiple skis results in getting caught in bumpy, ‘dirty’ water that is hard to paddle in), or find the wash of another slightly faster paddler to sit on.
As such it’s very challenging from a breathing perspective – many paddlers feel out of breath, and have to back off after the initial start until they feel comfortable in their breathing – and that has traditionally always included me.
Therefore I knew that getting used to nose & diaphragm breathing at high intensities was necessary, but would also have to be my main emphasis for the start of the race.
In addition, if necessary, I could use the mouth occasionally as long as my inhalation was initiated by the diaphragm first, and then the chest, rather than huffing and puffing with the chest only, which is effectively hyperventilating, and is extremely inefficient from a cardiovascular perspective.
Even if you use your mouth instead of the nose, learning how to diaphragm breathe properly will still be more efficient than huffing and puffing with the chest and shoulders only, as diaphragm breathing will slow breathing down.
But learning how to nose breathe for as long as you can, as well as diaphragm breathing, is by far the most efficient method.
Ultimately, the less you mouth breathe initially, or the more you nose breathe, the better you set yourself for efficient breathing as the pace settles 20-30 minutes into the race.
Therefore, on race day, after the start, my main focus and energy expenditure was on breathing efficiently rather than trying too hard. Fortunately in a 50+ km race, you can’t start too hard anyway if you want to get to the last half of the race, or the end in a reasonable state.
Via this primary focus on nose & diaphragm breathing initially, which was quite a challenge, I found that I was able to maintain a consistent pace, rather than having to back off for a while, and then after 20-30 minutes of being at my limit of comfort (with the occasional mouth breath) I started to get more comfortable with my breathing and it became a nice, relaxed but energetic rhythm.
As a result, I felt very good internally. I felt relaxed, with an upright posture, and could maintain a solid pace quite comfortably. It also kept me focused on the task at hand, rather than my mind wandering.
At around the 1.5 hour mark, or just under half way (the race took me 3 hours 40 minutes), I felt fantastic, so whilst maintaining my nose/diaphragm breathing rhythm, I was able to accelerate for the rest of the race, and from here I began to overtake a number of paddlers who couldn’t sustain the pace they set out at.
This was unusual or a surprise for me, as I had previously always been more of a sprinter who goes out fast at the start, and struggles to maintain speed, rather than an endurance paddler who builds as they go.
In fact, it was a revelation to do this, as I’d never done that before.
It also helped me regulate my hydration really well, as my mouth was closed so it wasn’t drying out regularly. This is super important for this race, as maintain hydration and electrolyte levels is one of the main challenges in this race, and one of the main reasons that many paddlers fail to finish well, or at all.
As a result of settling into this breathing rhythm and being able to accelerate for the 2nd half (or two thirds) of the race, I performed better than I expected, and finished in the top 10 overall for the race – at the age of 45.
I was very happy with the result, but I was even more elated at being able to master my breathing at a high level, and to surprise myself so much in doing so – not only how relaxed and in control I felt, but also the increased cardiovascular capacity I felt I had found. It’s very nice to be pleasantly surprised sometimes in life. I felt like I had found a serious competitive edge to support my paddling.
The same pattern and result occurred two years later, when I did the race again.
If you’d like to explore gaining a natural competitive edge in sport, or exercise, that is easy to learn, then contact me via this website to book and appointment, or enrol in my online course, ‘Breathing Dynamics for Sporting Performance’. It is super thorough and you get some one on one time with me as a part of the course cost.
Also, see the links for other articles and research on breathing for sporting performance:
Below is a testimonial from a client who made a great recovery from chronic fatigue (CFS). It’s so humbling to witness the freedom and accomplishment clients experience after recoverng from chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, anxiety & depression, IBS etc.
Especially given they are so frequently told by medical practitioners and ‘research’ that a cure is not possible, so most sufferers end up feeling so helpless. It is so confidence and soul destorying for them.
Having experienced this myself, I know how they feel, and that is why I have been so motivated to find the most potent modalities to achieve recoveries over the last 20+ years of practice.
Plus it gives me such joy and a warm heart to see the change in them. As mentioned, it’s extremely humbling to guide them on their journey to recovery.
“After years of struggling with chronic fatigue with no improvement, I had lost hope of ever getting better. But working with Tim led to a huge boost in my overall well being. Using Mickel therapy, breathing exercises, and a variety of lifestyle enhancements, I’ve had levels of improvement that I didn’t think would be possible. He told me from day one that he wanted to help me become more resilient, and that’s exactly what we accomplished together.
My primary care doctor once told me that recovery from CFS is a game of percentages — that anything you can do to increase your energy by a small percentage is considered a success. And I can say that working with Tim has dramatically flipped those percentages in my favor. At my worst point, I spent a solid 90% of every day feeling absolutely miserable. And now I’d say it’s comfortably the other way around. I’m able to work full time, maintain a healthy social life, and even mix in some exercise at this point! I can’t recommend highly enough.”
But, wait there’s more. He sent me an addition a little while later:
“I also want you to know that I played my first 20 minutes of soccer in over two years this weekend! ……….I can’t tell you how great it felt to be on a field playing again.”
I love it. What was even more cool, was that this client lives on the other side of the planet from me, so all of the work we did together towards his recovery was done via online consultations.
If you suffer from CFS, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, IBS or any other chronic illness, and are suck of feeling helpless, then contact me to have a chat about a potential recovery.
In the many years that I have been treating clients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS); otherwise known as post-viral fatigue/syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and more; I’ve reserached and trialled many remedies for treatment and prevention of these/this chronic ailment, including many herbal and supplemental remedies.
Undoubtedly the best or most successful herbal treatment I’ve found, and one that I still use to this date, is combining a couple of fantastic pure extract herbs from Siberia, which I came across via the Russian reserach biochemist & doctor who treated me in my recovery from CFS or post-viral fatigue/syndrome, and mentored me as a practitioner.
The same principles apply in use of these herbs for long CoVid as they do for any other post-viral fatigue I’ve treated, including post glandular fever (Epstein-Barr virus), post Ross River fever, chronic sinusitis, post flu etc etc.
Extensive Russian reserach on the first of these herbs has shown that is a fantastic anitmicrabial/antiviral herb as well as having immunostimulant, and potent liver rejuvenative and protective properties In a virus, the liver is put under huge load in order to detoxify and eliminate the viral load, so it is fantastic for helping to clear the viral load in the body, and to help rejuvenate the liver and immune system for the long term.
The other is a adatogenic herb which helps the body adapt to stress (the virus putting the body under huge stress) by supporting the adrenal glands, as well as stimulating the immune system, and building energy levels, endurance and stamina.
Here’s some brief information on each herb:
Conifer Green Needle Complex (CGNC) is extracted from green conifer needles, which was the first product of the Bioeffective family to be developed in the Russian science of forest biochemistry by Professors Solodsky and Agranat in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Initially (and still presently) in Russia it was used both topically for burns, wounds and frostbite, and to accelerate skin regeneration following surgery; and internally as a source of nutrition, vitamins and for the prevention and treatment of colds, flu’s and other infections. It saved many lives during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in World War II when the German army surrounded and lay siege to the entire town. It was used as a nutritional enhancement or supplement in the bread (made from sawdust and a cellulose extract) and water that provided the staple diet that the starving population of Leningrad was forced to live on.
After the war successful trials led to Bioeffective A being embraced in Russia as a wide spectrum natural anti-microbial and anti-fungal preparation. Some 70 or more years and 3.5 million PhD hours of research later, CGNC has now been made available in the rest of the world.
This research has shown that CGNC has the following properties:
wide spectrum anti-microbial
liver protective and regenerative
haematogenic (blood building)
Internally, CGNC is indicated for:
prevention and treatment of many disorders including infectious diseases such as colds, influenza and other acute respiratory viral infections
drug and alcohol rehabilitation of liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis etc.
preventing or inhibiting the progression of atherosclerosis
reducing the risk of oncological disorders
treating toxic damage to bone marrow
as an adjuvant in treatment of chronic diseases of the lungs and GI tract (such as atopic gastritis, stomach ulcers, H.pylori infection, IBS etc.)
The second herb is an extract from the needles of Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) trees.
Fascinated with the incredible adaptive ability of Siberian fir and pine trees to endure the extremes of conditions in Siberia (temperatures ranging from -55 to +40 degrees celcius, and extended periods of 24 hour daily darkness), yet still thrive, remain disease free and maintain their green colour all year round Siberian scientists developed an extract of the biologically active extracts from the ‘live elements’ of these trees. The needles of these trees, the ‘live elements,’ have the ability to remain green and transform the energy of the sun into air and chlorophyll even in light deficient conditions.
These extracts are utilized readily because analogous compounds already exist in the human body. For example, chlorophyll has a structure similar to that of haemoglobin in the human blood (which transports oxygen to the tissues).
As a result, the Russian scientists were looking to mimic the incredible adaptive and enduring properties of Siberian pine and fir trees in the human body.
Their research on extracts from the needles of Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) trees have unearthed several astounding properties:
Potent antioxidant activity (ORAC values for batches tested to date are around 350,000 umol/L as Vit E equivalents)
Adaptogencic – trials indicating that they enhance functioning of the immune system
Ability to increase physical endurance and stamina (reduce fatigue)
Immune system stimulant – prevention of colds and flus
Helpful with fatigue and anaemia.
I use other techniques in addition to these herbs, however they definitely form an integral part of my treatment strategy, and have seen lots of fantastic recoveries using this approach.
These herbs are practitioner herbs, which I carry stock of. If you are suffering from long-Covid or porst-viral fatigue/syndrome, and are struggling to get over it, then contact me for a potential solution that is not well known, but highly effective.
The dosages we use are different to those for general use, as we are targetting outcomes for a specific chronic condition.