In a follow up to my last video discussing the potency of Capnometry biofeedback technology for assessing and retraining client’s breathing, I discuss what this technology measures and what you will see on the screen as you are being measured.
Firstly, Capnometry is measuring the volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air that you are exhaling. In hospitals it is used to monitor a patient’s breathing, especially if they are unconscious or have undergone an anaesthetic or are in a coma. The graph starts to curve upwards at the beginning of exhalation (with a slight delay) as CO2 increases, and it curves downwards as exhalation ceases (again, with a slight delay).
The technology provides 2 measurements which give us great information on breathing efficiency for assessment and training:
1. Breathing rate per minute – ideally 8-10 bpm in adults at rest.
2. End-tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2) – ideally 40mmHg. This is a measurement of the volume of CO2 in the lungs at the end of exhalation. This ETCO2 is essential for respiratory efficiency as it acts as a reservoir of CO2 that permeates back into the blood stream to maintain ideal levels of arterial CO2, which plays a major role in allowing the passage of oxygen from the air we inhale in the lungs, to the cells of the body for energy production. This process is based on the principles of the Bohr Effect and discussed in my last video/post. However, in short, without sufficient arterial CO2 levels. this process is impaired and we produce insufficient amounts of energy, which can lead to fatigue and many other symptoms of illness, including asthma, breathing difficulties, anxiety, sinusitis, snoring & sleep apnoea, headaches & migraines, memory problems, cognitive disturbance etc.
The beauty of this technique is that not only is it fantastic as an assessment of breathing efficiency (non-diagnostic), for breathing retraining it provides in the moment feedback about the efficacy of techniques and rhythms we implement to improve a client’s breathing to ideal, or optimal levels.
As such, we are able to find the best techniques and rhythms specific to each client, and therefore provide them with a specific, individualised breathing retraining program to remove symptoms of illness, improve quality of life and sleep, give them greater energy levels and relaxation, and improve performance.
Breathing as a function, and modality of health is as important and nutrition and exercise. In fact, it is more central than both of these, so it certainly should not be ignored, neglected, or taken for granted (as most of us do).
If you’d like your breathing assessed and to work out an ideal retraining program for your breathing, contact me via me website, www.timaltman.com.au, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
I’m really looking forward to hosting Anti- Snooze Lunch Webinar: March 30, 12 pm
It will explore a variety of ways to beat the 3.30 slump. Understanding and managing fatigue. Preventing Burnout :
The MLT WELLBEING Team invite you to a FREE anti snooze Zoom lunch with Tim Altman, Kay Clancy and Jen Bishop.
We use a multifactorial approach to preventing and treating fatigue, burn-out and overwhelm in the work place and creating a balance between work and family life.
Our approach is based on the understanding and research that has stemmed from the field of evolutionary medicine, which draws from genetics, epigenetics and anthropology.
In short, we discuss the mismatch theory of human evolution with research suggesting that the assimilation of change in our environment takes tens of thousands of years for our body to assimilate.
As such, we’ve created a huge mismatch between the body we have inherited from our hunter gatherer ancestors some 40,000 years ago or more, and the high paced, intense world we have created via rapid technological advancement over a comparatively much, much shorter period of time.
To quote world leading evolutionary medicine expert from Harvard University, Dr Daniel Lieberman:
“Interactions between the bodies we inherited, the environment we create, and the decisions we sometimes make have set in motion an insidious feedback loop. We get sick from chronic diseases by doing what we evolved to do but under conditions for which our bodies are poorly adapted, and we then pass on those same conditions to our children, who also then get sick. If we wish to halt this vicious circle then we need to figure out how to respectfully and sensibly nudge, push and sometimes oblige ourselves to eat foods that promote health and to be more physically active. That too, is what we evolved to do.” Daniel Lieberman, ‘The Story of the Human Body. Evolution, Health & Disease.’
In this webinar we explore a number of aspects of how we live or interface with the world that dramatically influence our well-being, energy levels, immune system, and our mental health. In each of these aspects, we compare how we typically perform these functions in the modern world with how the body we inherited would ideally perform these functions – in an environment in which we thrived.
I will cover tips and strategies on how to manage all aspects that affect fatigue and energy levels including specifics on:
1. Breathing techniques to regulate your autonomic nervous system.
2. Daily nutrition strategies for peak mental/brain performance.
3. Sleep hygiene, managing airways and new dental approaches for fatigue prevention.
4. Movement, exercise and stabilising for energy.
5. Techniques and workplace tools for managing stress in the new pivot economy.
MLT colleague and super coach Kay Clancy, will discuss the PERMA model of well-being and how to apply this to your workplace and lifestyle.
Finally, MLT Wellbeing founder Jen Bishop will discuss the gut/brain connection latest research from the Florey Institute and the impacts on fatigue, sleep and function.
Come join us March 30 packed with deep info and insight on harnessing and your greatest resource – your energy. Bring loads of questions and lots of water !
In the linked (at the bottom of this article) episode of the Take A Breath Health and Lifestyle Show, which I co-host with Matt Radford, we interview world renowned yoga teacher and physiotherapist, Simon Borg-Olivier.
Simon’s accomplishments in his field include teaching yoga for over 30 years, founding Yoga Synergy in Sydney, authoring the book ‘Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’, and he now trains yoga teachers all over the world.
In this episode we discuss:
Simon’s introduction to free diving as a 6 year old, and pranayama breathing techniques not long afterwards.
How Simon’s training as both a scientist & physiotherapist, and yoga practitioner allowed him to merge the scientific paradigm with yoga.
The clash between the ‘core training’ approach to posture and stability held by the physiotherapy and fitness professions for many years with the understanding of the importance of free movement of the diaphragm for correct breathing.
Simon’s belief that the first thing that should be taught to students for their long term well-being is the restoration of natural breathing as most people’s breathing is so inefficient that, if they are given specific breathing techniques, they will tend to over-breathe and over-tense.
And that natural breathing is most effectively learned by combining it with moving the body, especially the trunk in certain ways that improves breathing in many ways.
What is over-breathing.
How Simon teaches breathing to students – including restoration of natural breathing, as well as other specific pranayama techniques.
Simon’s 5 features of natural breathing:
Inhalation is felt very low.
Exhalation is passive.
Breathing is minimal – no more than you need.
It can run on automatic.
Through the nose.
Simon’s views on the Wim Hof method, including the strengths and limitations.
An incredible experience Simon shared where he was recorded in a laboratory doing hyperventilation breathing techniques (similar to the Wim Hof techniques, but more complex) followed by a 6 minute breath hold, then a spontaneous 8 minute breath hold immediately afterwards.
Techniques for learning to increase breath hold time – including connecting with the 12 areas of the body that allow dual control between the conscious and sub-conscious – the ‘12 bridges’.
Why Simon believes that most modern yoga is no longer yoga – it involves over stretching, over-tensing, over-breathing, and over-thinking, and therefore blocks the natural movement of energy and information through the body. It is more like a work-out.
If you’d like to learn how to breathe correctly to improve your well-being, treat illness or improve performance, either sign up for my comprehensive ‘Breathing Dynamics’ online course on the home page of this website, https://timaltman.com.au/, or contact me at email@example.com or +61425 739 918.
Linked below is a great interview on the ‘Take A Breath Health and Lifestyle Show’ podcast that I co-host, with Dr Craig Hassed, world renowned researcher and lecturer on mindulness, meditation and psychoneuroimmunology, Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), also referred to as psychoendoneuroimmunology (PENI) or psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology (PNEI), is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.
Dr Hassed has written many books on mindfulness, meditation and mind-body medicine, including ‘The Freedom Trap – Reclaiming Liberty and Well-being’, and ‘Mindfulness For Life’ among many more.
His fantastic book, ‘New Frontiers In Medicine: The Body As a Shadow of the Soul’ was a huge inspiration to me many years ago during my studies into natural medicine and in my process to optimal health & living following my successful and complete recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Both myself, and Take A Breath co-host Matt Radford (https://www.takeabreath.com.au/) were super nervous prior, and a bit star struck during our interview as Dr Hassed has been such an inspiration to us. However, we was super friendly and relaxed, so we really enjoyed it, and his discussion on the podcast is brilliant. I highly recommend you take the time to listen.
The ‘Breathing Dynamics’ online course for correct breathing to improve your health & wellbeing, vitality and performance is now available on this website, https://timaltman.com.au/ , and the Lionheart Workshops website.
Breathing is something that we do automatically it is the foundation for life. Learning to understand the dynamics of breathing within the body and to breath correctly can stimulate a depth from within you and transform your entire well-being. Yogi’s know this!
Due to the mismatch that has been formed withing our evolutionary biology (between the environment our body evolved to thrive in, as hunter gatherers, and the fast-paced, high tech world we have created) with regards to the bodies evolution, natural and unnatural stress responses and the way we actually see or perceive ourselves as human beings today.
This mismatch of evolution has led to an unnatural response to life through feelings of anxiety triggered incorrectly by stress responses. Hence the ‘mismatch’, and resultant common experience of compromised health, anxiety, fatigue, burn out, lack of performance, joy and fulfillment.
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or unwell, a powerful solution could be as simple as the way you take in your air.
Whilst we have evolved in so many ways, and it may not be right for us to return to hunter gatherer days, we must also understand what our body is naturally built for and that the flight or fight response is not a permanent state of being.
Breathing correctly and understanding the dynamics of correct breathing once again can help to mitigate the unnecessary, self created concept of ‘threats’ to our survival, that is the flight or fight response.
The approach to health, well-being and performance is more hands on, and takes some practice, but yields super potent and long term results.
Breathing Dynamics can help with:
√ deepening your meditation practice
√ improved quality of sleep
√ better digestion and immune system function (and therefore increased resistance to illness – including viruses).
√ less anxiety or the release of anxiety
√ improved mental clarity
√ better work and sports performance
We really do often over look such a natural autonomic physiological response to life in many ways. And we have far more potential than we realise that can be accessed via correct or optimal breathing function.
‘Learning about Mickel Therapy and Respiratory Therapy has been so insightful and valuable to my health. After years of adrenal fatigue I finally have more energy back, thanks Tim!’ Olivia, Geelong
Above is a testimonial from a client who came to me with adrenal fatigue.
In her treatment we combined Breathing Dynamics diaphragmatic breathing exercises and focusing on taking her body out of ‘internal overdrive’ using the neuroscience understanding from Mickel Therapy.
After only 3 session is 6 weeks she had experienced a recovery from her fatigue and was feeling great again for the first time in years.
It’s not always this swift in recovery, but it;s wonderful to see when it occurs. Credit also to Olivia who complied with all of her ‘home work’ and applied the principles of keeping it simple, practicing and persisting.
My job is to teach the techniques and guide clients to recovery. Their job is to apply the principles in consistent practice. Olivia did that extremely well, so she thoroughly deserved her new found energy levels.
“Breath and mind arise from the same place and when one of them is controlled, the other one is controlled. Watching the breath is one form of pranayama (meditation/mindfulness). Merely watching the breath is easy and involves no risk”
My comprehensive online course for correct breathing is available on the home page of this website – https://timaltman.com.au/
In my last post I described Meditation as Medicine courtesy the huge amount of research pointing to the physiological and psychological benefits, and the breathing is the centre or anchor of all meditation, and mindfulness is the objective.
If it is so good for us, why has it not caught on more?
Perhaps, because we are so engaged in our heads, or our minds are so busy all of the time, sitting to meditate and quieten the mind is just not that easy.
Many people struggle to quieten or focus their thoughts, or experience ‘mindfulness’, for more than a few minutes at a time. Some struggle to do this at all.
For so many sitting down to meditate or even practice mindfulness whilst going about their day can feel like mental effort, or be frustrating, or futile – people often say that ‘meditation is not for me’.
I dispute that. It’s just that they haven’t learn how to do it properly or consistently yet. It doesn’t have to be only a mental thing, or a mental effort.
The base of all meditation, mindfulness, yoga, martial arts etc. is the breath.
By relaxing and focusing on the breath, you firstly settle the nervous system.
By focusing on the breath, the mind focuses.
By settling the breath, the mind settles and quietens.
One experiences mindfulness.
We know from research on mindfulness and meditation, that when your nervous system becomes parasympathetic dominant, you experience the ‘relaxation response’ and you are more likely to experience mindfulness at a greater depth.
We also know that the nervous system that regulates whether we are relaxed or stressed, also regulates all of our automatic functions, and, of all of these automatic functions, the breath is the one you can consciously control or modify with ease – with training.
Therefore, by learning to use the breath correctly, using the nose, diaphragm and in certain rhythms, one can settle the nervous system, relax and increase the likelihood that you will experience mindfulness, or meditation, and as a result, you get the most potent medicine available to us – and all of the physiological and psychological benefits that go along with it.
What makes this even better is that meditation, or mindfulness is not a mental effort, or solely a mental process. It’s also a physical process. And this part is easy to learn.
If you find meditation difficult to do, or difficult to maintain for periods of time, then make it a physical thing more than a mental effort. Learn how to breathe ideally to create the physical state that will make you more likely to be mindful more often, and to either begin your meditation practice, or take your current practice to a much deeper level.
At Mindful Life Training, www.mindfullife.com.au, we offer both online and in person courses on both functional breathing for meditation/mindfulness, and mindfulness courses t businesses and organisations.
After 20 years as a clinician working with health, wellbeing and performance both one on one or with groups, if, for some hypothetical reason, I were restricted to only having one modality/intervention to improve any of these outcomes, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be meditation.
I heard it described by a very wise person once that ‘Meditation is Medicine’, and if you look at the overwhelming amount of research evidence that points to the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation, mindfulness, and breath work, there can be no doubt about it.
This evidence also applies to consistent practice of breathing rhythms and mindfulness, which are forms of meditation. Actually, breathing is the base or anchor for all meditation and mindfulness practice (as well as yoga, martial arts, tai chi etc), and mindfulness is the desired result, or ideal state of meditation practice.
At Mindful Life Training we offer online and in person breathing courses to organisations for stress management/relaxation/anxiety and for performance/flow states, as well as a range of mindfulness courses.
Also, my online breathing retraining course is available via the homepage of this website – www.timaltman.com.au
Watch this short video to see how correcting your breath will transform your quality of life and performance in ways that may surprise you. You will find the online course on the homepage of this website…
After having specialised for many years in treating people with chronic illnesses such as CFS, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive complaints, as well as working at the other end of the well-being spectrum with corporates and athletes to improve performance, here are my top three well-being tips for surviving/thriving during CoVid and lessons we can learn so we thrive, going beyond.
These draw from research in nutritional medicine, neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, epigenetics, evolutionary medicine, physiology and biochemistry.
1. Practice diaphragmatic breathing rhythms 3 times daily for 10 minutes ea.
Most people breathe nowhere near their full potential – twice as often as we should (according to diagnostic norms) using our chest and shoulders instead of our diaphragm, and with our mouth in addition to, or instead of our nose. This impairs energy production by the cells, upsets our nervous system putting us in constant low to mid-level fight or flight mode, and can significantly reduce our performance and contribute to many health conditions, including:
asthma and breathing difficulties
sleep issues – including snoring and sleep apnoea
fatigue and chronic pain
anxiety and depression
headaches and migraines
allergies and sinusitis
IBS and other digestive complaints
Breathing is also the central, or base practice in meditation, most martial arts, yoga, tai-chi etc. The volume of research on breath practice, and particularly meditation is now huge.
Enough to say that breath-work and meditation are medicine – both physically and mentally.
If you already have a meditation practice, incorporate the breathing rhythms into your practice, especially at the start, as it will settle your nervous system into relaxation mode more quickly, and take the practice to a deeper level.
If you don’t, start with the regular breathing rhythms.
The most common denominator from the last 100 years or so of nutritional research is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the better your quality of life, and immune system, and the more you prevent the chronic illnesses that account for 90% of medical expenses and deaths in the western world.
Aim for a minimum of 6 full handfuls (your handful) of vegetables and 3 handfuls of seasonal fruit to your climate daily.
That = 9 handfuls of fruit and vegetables daily. If you struggle to achieve it, reduce your intake of processed foods, grains, dairy etc. as they provide nowhere the bang for buck nutritionally that fruit and vegetables do, but fill you up so there’s less room for the quality stuff.
If you eat meat (read meat, fish, poultry etc), have no more than a palm size portion in each meal, and buy organic wherever possible as the quality of the meat and the fats is much, much better.
3. Get more variety and reward in your day.
Research in genetics, anthropology and evolutionary medicine tells us that it takes 40,000 to 100,000 years for change in our environment to be assimilated by our bodies at DNA level, meaning that our body evolved to thrive as we lived 40,000 years ago at least, as hunter-gatherers. The way we spend our days has changed dramatically since then, but we can learn plenty about what our bodies are built for, or what environments cause them to thrive or fail.
The average hunter-gatherer population spent 15-25 hours per week hunting and gathering. So they got far more variety, balance and down time in their day than we did. We are simply not built to work as much as we do, and it takes its toll on our physical and mental health in more ways than we may realise.
Whilst, for a number of reasons it may not be easy or realistic to reduce your working hours so much straight away, or at all, we can learn so much from what our body is built for and apply the following principles into each day. Some tips include:
Combine work with reward; i.e. 45 minutes on, 15 minutes reward, or 2 hours on, half and hour reward, 3 hours on, 1 hour reward etc.
In your reward time, gut up from your desk and do something different – that you enjoy.
On that note, spend more time each day on activities you enjoy for no reason – your brain and nervous system will love you for it. If the list of things you enjoy has grown small over the years of grinding at work, think back to what you used to enjoy or what you’d like to do more of, and start applying them.
Get more variety in the tasks you do each working day. For example, if you spend long hours at your computer, then schedule in work calls regularly, and get up from your desk if you can and move around or go somewhere else whilst taking the call.
Sit less. Find ways of working in different postures – a standing desk, ergonomic chairs etc. I often lie on the floor and work on my computer when working from home.
Spend more time outside every day.
Take time after work to transition from work to home/social life. The breathing techniques above are great for this.
These adjustments require a significant shift in attitude, but most people who take the leap and start to implement these changes find they get far more done in each day, in less time than they did previously. Plus they don’t experience the burn-out and lack of joy that so many of us do.
I work one on one in clinic and with corporate or sporting groups as a natural medicine practitioner, breath coach, wellbeing coach, and also coaching paddlers ranging from beginners to international level. See https://timaltman.com.au/ and https://www.worldpaddle.com/
Tuesday July 2nd, 6pm-9pm @ Stable Base Personal Training and Pilates – 1350B Toorak Rd Camberwell.
A 1/2 day (3 hour) Diaphragmatic breathing course
Led by respiratory therapist and Molokai surfski champion, Tim Altman that will lead you through breath-holds and diaphragmatic breathing techniques and rhythms, including the Wim Hof Method that will maximise your athletic performance and stress management skills by:
Increasing breath hold time
Developing advanced aerobic capacity
Learning how to breathe at lower breathing rates and lower 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 within minutes
Improving postural stability
These techniques are also fantastic for preventing and treatments ailments such as asthma and breathing difficulties; anxiety; snoring and sleep apnoea; IBS, reflux and other digestive complaints; fatigue; chronic pain; headaches and migraines.
They are simple to learn, and don’t take long before you will notice a difference.
The Mouth is For Eating, Drinking, Talking, Singing, Kissing, but Only For Breathing in Emergencies – Not All of the Time!!
Based on how the anatomy and physiology of our respiratory system is set up, and the biochemical principles that describe how oxygen in the air we inhale in our lungs, most efficiently arrives at the individual cells in our body (via the bloodstream) for energy production (described in intimate detail by ‘The Bohr Effect’, for which Danish biochemist Christian Bohr won a Nobel Prize in 1903), it is beyond question that the nose is specifically designed for breathing. Not the mouth.
Yet, most of us do not realise or understand how important this is. We take our breathing for granted thinking it is fine, yet the vast majority of us over-breathe using our mouth as well as our nose, breathing twice as often as we should (based on medical diagnostic norms) and with far too much volume.
The mouth is for eating, drinking, talking, drinking, kissing, but is only useful for breathing in emergencies. But not breathing.
Your breathing is as, or more important than nutrition for your health and performance, so there are consequences to mouth breathing:
Too much volume of air leads to too little energy – mouth breathing allows up to six times the volume of air to enter our lungs and respiratory system, which seriously upsets the delicate biochemical balance that governs how efficiently we get oxygen to our cells for energy production (mentioned above). If you breathe with your mouth open or with parted lips, you will produce energy far less efficiently and therefore get tired more quickly.
It kicks you into fight or flight mode – when you breathe with your mouth it puts you straight into emergency mode. For example, when someone gives you a fright, you take a big gasp which involves a big mouth breath using the chest and shoulders. This puts you straight into ‘fight or flight’ mode, but is only useful in short bursts. As such, mouth breathing a lot will wear you out. A lot.
You by-pass an incredible air-conditioning process – for respiration to work efficiently, the air reaching the lungs needs to be filtered, disinfected, humidified and heated or cooled. Breathing through the nose does exactly this. The nasal hairs filter the air, the mucus in the nose and sinuses disinfect, humidify and heat or cool the inhaled air. If we by-pass this incredible air conditioning system by mouth breathing we make the lungs work harder, expose ourselves to higher risk of respiratory tract infection, minimise oxygen uptake in our lungs, and reduce energy production.
Much less nitric oxide – nose breathing leads to 50% higher production of nitric oxide than mouth breathing. Nitric oxide acts as a neurotransmitter, immunoregulator and vasodilator, particularly in the gut and lungs. Some of its’ actions include: regulating blood pressure, boosting the immune system, fighting bacteria and viruses, fighting cancer, increasing blood flow to cells, in muscular control and balance, and protecting against cardiovascular disease, impotence, diabetic retinopathy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Over breathing – nose breathing contributes to over-breathing, or breathing too often as well as with too much volume. The body’s reaction to counter this is either apnoea episodes or constriction and spasm of the smooth muscle surrounding our breathing tubes (this reaction is typical of symptoms seen in asthma and breathing difficulties). Unfortunately this can create a flow on affect and affect other systems in our body serviced by tubes contributing directly to, or predisposing us to a number of ailments: fatigue, asthma and breathing difficulties, snoring and apnoea, headaches and migraines, anxiety, IBS, reflux and other digestive complaints, chronic pain and many more.
Put simply, mouth breathing is far less efficient, and it will make you more tired – and sick. Don’t do it unless it’s an emergency.
Contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0425 739 918 to have your breathing efficiency assessed or to learn how to breath more efficiently to eliminate illness, enhance performance or increase relaxation and wellness.
ABC National Radio Interview on Breath Coaching with Joel Spry
A recent radio interview on ABC National radio with Joel Spry, a former client, now good friend of mine with whom, we used a combination of MIckel Therapy and Breath work to overcome IBS, anxiety and CFS. Interview linked at the bottom.
We discussed breath coaching and many things breathing related – that most of us don’t breathe correctly; we over-breathe. The consequences over over-breathing, including:
Lack of energy
Constriction of our breathing tubes as we see in asthma and breathing difficulties
Constriction in other tubes in our body, as seen in IBS, reflux and constipation, which are so often worse when we’re stressed and we breathe more rapidly.
We also discussed the affect of slouching whilst we’re sitting on our breathing; why we over-breathe in the first place; and what we can do now to correct this.
Finally, we finished with a simple diaphragmatic, nose breathing exercise.
See www.takeabreath.com.au or www.timaltman.com.au for more details.
Breathing has been described by one of the World’s top sports doctors as the last unchartered frontier of exploration for sporting performance, and has certainly started to attract more attention of late, with increasing amounts of research stating to support the evidence for breath training. In fact, the Trek cycling team has just employed a breath coach to work with their professional cyclists.
One of the reasons we started to pay attention to breathing as a modality for improving performance was from the fact that we know that the average person breathes way below diagnostic norms for breathing – the average person breathes twice as often as we should; using the mouth instead of or in addition to only the nose; using chest and shoulders instead of the diaphragm; and we breathe fa too much volume of air. In other words, we over breathe.
By correcting this dysfunction in clinic and the lab has seen a consistent flow of research and clinical evidence as to the efficacy of breath work in treating ailments such as asthma and breathing difficulties, snoring and apnoea, anxiety and depression, fatigue, headaches and migraines, IBS, reflux and other digestive issues, chronic pain etc.
Similarly, correcting this dysfunction, and enhancing the function beyond norms can offer significant improvements in sporting performance for a number of reasons. By learning breathing in and out through the nose only, using the diaphragm to drive breathing you will slow down the rate and volume of breathing at any level of exercise, and will offer the following benefits or advantages:
1. Greater surface area of the lung used for gas exchange – therefore increase oxygen uptake.
2. Increased oxygen delivery to cells, and therefore, energy production – based on the principles of the Bohr effect (as reduced rate and volume of breathing increases blood CO2 and therefore delivery of O2 to cells – see previous videos of mine at my ‘Tim Altman’ Youtube channel or blogs on www.timaltman.com.au. Or my book, ‘Breathing Dynamics’). We have found that you can learn to breathe with nose only during exercise up to about anaerobic threshold (or roughly 90% of max heart rate). But it takes time for the brain to accept higher levels of CO2 – so be patient.
3. As a result of increased O2 delivery to cells, lactic acid onset is delayed.
4. Potential buffering of lactic acid by increased CO2 – as it can be converted to bicarbonate as well as carbonic acid.
5. Increased brain tolerance to CO2 allowing for longer breath holds (for surfers etc), reduced breathing rate & volume, leading to greater breathing efficiency.
6. Increased core stability via the role the diaphragm plays in core stability.
7. Reduced heart rate during exertion resulting in further efficiency benefits – because, of all of the automatic functions in our body (controlled by the autonomic nervous system – ANS), breathing via the diaphragm is the one function we can consciously control with ease. As such, diaphragm breathing at a reduced rate, will influence the ANS and lead to reduced heart rate (via increased parasympathetic enervation).
8. Quicker recovery between intervals – due to increased breathing efficiency, and increased parasympathetic enervation.
9. Greater access to zone states or alpha brain wave activity whilst exercising – because of increased parasympathetic activity.
I’ve used these methods when paddling and finished top 10 twice in the Molokai World Surfski Championships, despite being in my late 40’s. I nose and diaphragm breathed throughout and my experience was that, once I settled into a comfortable reduced breathing pattern, I felt fantastic, and relaxed, so was able to accelerate in the last half to two thirds of the race – something that was not typical for me previously.
If you would like to learn how to breathe more efficiently during exercise to hold your breath for longer, improve performance and recovery, increase relaxation and enjoyment of sport, and improve overall health and well-being, contact me at email@example.com or phone 0425 739 918 to discuss or make an appointment. I work one on one, with groups or online.
BREATHING DYNAMICS FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE
Do you want to know how you can influence your quality of life by understanding the role of breathing in rest, activity, attention and composure?
Breathing is central to all life.
It is the one thing that we have conscious control of that we do more than anything else – up to 30,000 times per day on average.
BUT, did you know that:
The quality of your breathing affects the quality of your life?
And that most of us OVER BREATHE – both in rate and depth.
Normal breathing is 4-5 litres of air per minute at 8-10 breaths per minute (as opposed to 14-20 breaths that most of us take!!).
And breathing should always happen through the nose driven by the diaphragm. Most of us alternate between mouth and nose breathing using predominantly the chest and shoulders, causing us to breathe too much volume of air, with poor postural strategy using far too much effort in breathing.
This over breathing, or dysfunctional breathing, when repeated up to 30,000 times per day can result in significant compromises in optimal functioning.
Do you know what it means to breathe optimally?
The limiting factor in OPTIMAL RESPIRATION, and therefore OPTIMAL ENERGY FOR OUR CELLS, is not a lack of oxygen that we inhale? We breathe in 21% oxygen and exhale 16%, so we only use less than one quarter of the oxygen that we breathe.
It is a lack of oxygen released into cells due to low levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by OVER BREATHING OR DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING!!!!
Yet most of us OVER BREATHE or MOUTH BREATHE.
In 1903 Danish physiologist Christian Bohr won a Nobel Prize for his discovery that the lower the partial pressure (and therefore concentration) of CO2 in the arterial blood, the tighter the bond between circulating haemoglobin (Hb) and it’s bound oxygen (O2). The tighter the bond between Hb and O2, the less the amounts of oxygen released into tissues for energy production.
What causes low arterial concentration of CO2?
OVERBREATHING/DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING CAN RESULT IN:
Snoring, sleep apnoea, waking un-refreshed
Asthma, breathing difficulties
Anxiety, panic attacks
Hypertension, high blood pressure
Eczema, dry skin, skin irritations
Fatigue/lack of endurance or stamina
Allergies, sinusitis, excessive mucous production
When you reduce oxygen release to cells, those cells lose functionality or under perform.
OPTIMAL BREATHING CAN RESULT IN:
A full night of quiet sleep. Waking refreshed.
Controlled, easy breathing (even when exercising).
When you optimize oxygen release, you optimize cellular performance. Cells flourish!!
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEASURING AND MAINTAINING OPTIMAL CO2 LEVELS.
Over breathing causes hypocapnia (low partial pressure of CO2 in arterial blood) which results in both vaso- and broncho- constriction. And if the required ‘reservoir level’ of CO2in the lungs after expiration (namely ETCO2) is too low there will be constant interference in smooth muscle tube function and fluctuations in oxygen concentration at cellular level – causing sub-optimal cell regeneration with the accompanying chronic tiredness, sleep disordered breathing, poor concentration and lack of energy and stamina.
This is a sophisticated bio-feedback monitoring instrument that optically analyses the exhaled breath, establishes the ETCO2 and displays it in various graphic formats along with measurements of breathing rate and heart rate variability. It connects via USB and works on most PCs and laptops.
ETCO2 consistently below the horizontal line which represents 35mm Hg pressure – minimum level for functional breathing.
ETCO2 above the horizontal line showing 40 – 45mm Hg pressure which is the correct level for optimal functioning.
We are the only clinic in Victoria to use this new CapnoTrainerTMbioefeedbacktechnology to assess your breathing levels and retrain you to breathe optimally.
For athletes and business people, the benefits of breathing retraining can be both surprising and life changing. Both performance and efficiency of movement will improve dramatically.
We focus on training you to:
Nose breathe at all levels of exertion.
Use your diaphragm (rather than the chest and clavicles) as the main driver of breathing.
Reduce the rate and volume of your breath at all levels of exertion.
Manage stress levels by regulating your autonomic nervous system – specifically by reducing sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) dominance and increasing parasympathetic (relaxation) function.
This will result in the following benefits:
Use of a greater surface area of your lungs for gas exchange.
Increase oxygen release to tissue and cells of your body.
For athletes – delay onset of lactic acid.
Reduced heart rates even under pressure or at higher levels of exertion.
Greater relaxation at all levels of stress or exertion via increased parasympathetic nervous system activation.
Greater access to ‘Zone’ or ‘alpha’ states during performance, exercise or racing.
Increased deep system stabilization (postural) via diaphragmatic control.
Relaxation of nerves prior to stressful events or races.
We teach Breathing Dynamics to the public both one on one in clinic or in courses for groups.