Episode 10

full
Published on:

21st Sep 2023

What is breathwork and how to reduce stress

Breathwork is the conscious manipulation of how we breathe to affect an outcome in our body and mind.

The science and practice of breath work is becoming better understood and in this episode I explain fundamentals of breathing mechanics and what you can do to reduce stress and change the way your feel by breathing in a particular way.

Simply put, if you experience stress on a regular basis, you need to know how and why your breathing is directly correlated to managed your body and emotional state.

Get in touch with Sal

If this episode has caught your attention and you wish to learn more, then please contact me. I offer a free 20 min call where we can discuss a challenge your facing and how I may be able to help you.

Transcript
Sal Jefferies:

Welcome to Mindset, mood and Movement, a systemic approach to human

2

:

behavior, performance, and wellbeing.

3

:

How psychological, emotional, and

physical health are all connected.

4

:

In this episode, I'll be sharing

my knowledge and experience to help

5

:

you overcome a challenge that you

might be facing in life health.

6

:

All work.

7

:

What is breathwork and why does

it help with stress and anxiety?

8

:

Simply put, the conscious

manipulation of breathing.

9

:

Can help affect a change in our

body, in our mind and in our state.

10

:

So it's a very fundamental skill.

11

:

It's a very human skill.

12

:

It's a physiological skill and

it's one that is, of course,

13

:

starting to become more and more,

uh, aware in, in today's world.

14

:

And it's fascinating.

15

:

So you may have some knowledge

on this and you may know nothing.

16

:

So I'm going to take

this from the basics out.

17

:

To give you a little bit of

background, my introduction to

18

:

conscious breathing started many

years ago when I did yoga practice.

19

:

And for those of us who've done

a yoga class, you'll be guided

20

:

by the teacher about always

paying attention to the breath.

21

:

There's a certain cadence to the breath.

22

:

And I, I just thought, well,

that's what we do here.

23

:

It was in that practice that I started

to learn that I was changing how I

24

:

felt and that I could use this type

of yoga breathing as it were at

25

:

the time to help me feel different.

26

:

to help me relax, to

help me clear my mind.

27

:

And I've done yoga for many, many years.

28

:

And in the more recent years, I've got

interested in the scientific side of it.

29

:

I trained with Patrick McKeown

at the Oxygen Advantage, and he's

30

:

a real proponent in the field.

31

:

And there's many other people.

32

:

Wim Hof, of course, is a

famous person that people know.

33

:

There's Brian McKenzie in America.

34

:

There's people doing some good

stuff around this and adding

35

:

lots of layers of science, sport.

36

:

And how the whole mind body system works.

37

:

But today I wanted to give you a little

intro and to talk about one particular

38

:

nuance, which is about dealing with

stress and maybe anxiety as well.

39

:

It's a big one.

40

:

It, you know, it seems to be

ubiquitous in our culture.

41

:

There are so many pressures.

42

:

There are so many things we have to do.

43

:

And to feel stressed or anxious.

44

:

And we can perhaps interchange those

terms is, it's not a nice thing.

45

:

And actually it's deeply

unhealthy and often Unnecessary.

46

:

How we use the breath can be one of the

key things to learn that you can do to

47

:

control or let's say mediate your state.

48

:

So let's, let's give you

a little bit of context.

49

:

Breath work is often thought of as

downregulation, so to relax, and that's

50

:

true, we can downregulate, which is

what we're going to talk about today,

51

:

but you can go the other way, you can

go upregulation, so if you're feeling

52

:

sleepy and heavy, you can change the

breath pattern to lift your energy,

53

:

the steady state breathing, to keep

you in a flow state, absolute focus,

54

:

which I love that, particularly steady

state breathing, , in the waking day.

55

:

And then I would say there is

breath pattern, an understanding

56

:

that it connects you to your body.

57

:

It connects to movement, , and

it connects to exercise.

58

:

So if you're doing something like heavy

weight training, , running, long distance

59

:

zone two, all the different forms of

exercise, the breath is always happening

60

:

and it can be a big part of that.

61

:

So it's a big field.

62

:

Let's zone in on stress.

63

:

Let's zone in anxiety.

64

:

And let's talk about

what we can do with this.

65

:

So the first thing is, is to

understand the distinction

66

:

between nasal and mouth breathing.

67

:

Now, um, if you're listening now,

I wonder how are you breathing?

68

:

Are you mouth breathing?

69

:

Are you nose breathing?

70

:

Do you even know?

71

:

And this is a big one

that I got caught up in.

72

:

In the yoga practice, it's

a lot about nasal breathing.

73

:

And of course, if you do a lot of

classes, you get disciplined in it.

74

:

But why it matters is, is fairly a

recent understanding in a scientific

75

:

context that when we breathe through

our nose, we release, , nitric oxide,

76

:

it's called, and it's a little gas which

permeates, it comes out the sinus area,

77

:

it goes into the breath, it goes into

the lungs, and It, it goes down into

78

:

the lungs and helps open everything up.

79

:

It's called a vasodilator,

which opens the veins.

80

:

It's a bronchial dilator.

81

:

So it opens up the, the

bronchioli and the lungs.

82

:

And essentially it's, it's also got,

83

:

,

and essentially it's also got a, an antibacterial and

84

:

antimicrobial function to it.

85

:

So nitric oxide has been often

cited as the miracle gas that's only

86

:

been found in more recent times.

87

:

If we nasal breathe, this gas

is distributed in the sinus area

88

:

and it goes down into the lungs.

89

:

We get all of the benefits, whether

you are looking to down regulate or

90

:

looking to be a more performing athlete.

91

:

Mouth breathing does not distribute this

because it's distributing the sinus.

92

:

So the first thing is, is to

know that the nasal breath is

93

:

fundamental for, this is one reason.

94

:

Secondly, nasal breath

is easier to control.

95

:

We can mouth breathe.

96

:

Deep and quick.

97

:

And the problem with that is we

can go into a big gulp of air

98

:

and there's a tendency to mouth

breathe and upper chest breathe.

99

:

Why this matters is because if your upper

chest breathing from via Biomechanical

100

:

point of view, you are only using

the upper parts of the lungs, which

101

:

are less, , able to, , do osmosis

and exchange the oxygen into the

102

:

bloodstream, which is the lower part.

103

:

But if you're chest breathing,

that's predominantly a sympathetic

104

:

nervous system response, i.

105

:

e.

106

:

it's a stress response.

107

:

If you gulp in a load of air

through your mouth and breathe into

108

:

your chest now, it pumps you up.

109

:

Now there's a place for that.

110

:

But if you are already stressed, if you're

already feeling quite anxious about the

111

:

things that's going on for you, we do

not want to be mouth and chest breathing.

112

:

It's, it's like adding petrol to a

fire whilst trying to put it out.

113

:

It's just going to make it worse.

114

:

And yeah, if you nasal breathe,

it's normally easier because of the

115

:

connections to get into the lower belly,

what we call a diaphragmatic breath.

116

:

So.

117

:

Biomechanics of this.

118

:

If you are nose breathing, there's

better control, there's nitric

119

:

oxide, and we are more, it's easier

to access the diaphragm to breathe.

120

:

And if you're mouth breathing,

there's more chance, you don't

121

:

get the nitric oxide, you're

likely to get chest breathing, and

122

:

the pace of the breath is fast.

123

:

Okay, so let's talk about, let's talk

about the frequency and resonance.

124

:

A lot of breaths are taken in a day.

125

:

It's something like 20, 000

breaths a day a person will take.

126

:

So it's huge.

127

:

And we can't go very

long without the breath.

128

:

You know, we can live

without food for weeks.

129

:

We can live without water for days.

130

:

Most people can't live without air for

probably more than about 15, 20 seconds.

131

:

It's, it's so fundamental.

132

:

We are breathing all the time,

but this nature of breath is also

133

:

influencing the nervous system, as I've

already spoken about the sympathetic.

134

:

I'm parasympathetic.

135

:

So that's the activated response.

136

:

And then the more down regulated response,

how we breathe affects this massively.

137

:

So let's add in another layer.

138

:

And I'm going to, I'm going to, I'm

going to summarize this as well.

139

:

Cause I recognize there's a lot

of information coming across here.

140

:

The diaphragm is this big donut

shape muscle sort of, uh, roughly

141

:

abdominal area, belly area.

142

:

So when you take a belly

breath, You might try it now.

143

:

So breathing.

144

:

Ah, I can feel my abdominal area

sort of push out a little bit.

145

:

, the reason for that is the diaphragm

presses the abdominal contents down.

146

:

And of course that, that makes

the belly stick out a little.

147

:

Now we don't want to get caught up in like

I've got a big belly and, and you know,

148

:

all the worry of what people think about.

149

:

Understand that that belly

breath is a healthy breath.

150

:

That's the diaphragm, the big

breathing muscle working well.

151

:

So if we can tie this together,

nasal breath, diaphragm breath.

152

:

Now we're starting to have

got the mechanics in place.

153

:

Let's understand the, uh,

the frequency and cadence.

154

:

So I, I did a little play a

minute ago with, , the fast mouth

155

:

breath and how that was all going.

156

:

Let's try one together.

157

:

So I'm going to invite you to

breathe in through your nose to

158

:

your lower belly, and then breathe

out from the belly to the nose.

159

:

Let's do that one more time.

160

:

Breathing through the nose to the belly.

161

:

And breathe out from

the belly to the nose.

162

:

Now, even in those couple of

breaths, I already feel calmer.

163

:

And what's happening here is this

frequency, , that, that the length of the

164

:

breath is also dictating what's happening

in our nervous system and our body.

165

:

And then all the related

signals that go to the brain.

166

:

If the breath is slower, essentially what

we've got going on is information running

167

:

up from the diaphragm area and it runs up

through what is called the vagus nerve.

168

:

And these fibers have most of

their fibers going to the brain.

169

:

So the information comes from the

diaphragm that says whether your internal

170

:

system feels safe, whether your internal

system feels anxious or worried, and

171

:

the pace of the breath is a big...

172

:

Influencer on this.

173

:

There's a lot of, , work

done now on the vagus nerve.

174

:

It's, it's a big subject.

175

:

I'll talk about it on another episode, but

just know this, bad information is running

176

:

up this major pathway to the brain and

the brain is taking that, that information

177

:

as like, okay, how, how are we doing?

178

:

Are we safe?

179

:

Is the body?

180

:

environment, feeling safe or not,

which then influences areas like the

181

:

limbic brain, the emotional brain.

182

:

It can fire the amygdala,

which you may have heard of.

183

:

It's the fight flight area.

184

:

And before we know it, if we

are not conscious of the breath,

185

:

this experience in the body is

telling our brain how we are.

186

:

And yet if we consciously breathe, the

experience is also telling the brain

187

:

how we are, but we're choosing that.

188

:

So this becomes one of the Most powerful

tools to deal with stress and anxiety

189

:

because you can't out think it sometimes.

190

:

you can try and rationalize, right?

191

:

We all do that.

192

:

We try and rationalize.

193

:

Oh, you know, don't worry about the

problem or don't worry what he said

194

:

to me or don't worry about that.

195

:

And yet we're worried.

196

:

We're worried about, Oh

God, breath and physiology.

197

:

Directly affects brain and psychology.

198

:

So it is the first place to go

to if you are feeling stressed

199

:

and want to change that.

200

:

If you're feeling anxious

and want to change that.

201

:

So let's get a little, little, uh, a

little more nuanced about this now.

202

:

So I've covered the nose and mouth.

203

:

I've spoken about the chest and diaphragm.

204

:

I've spoken about the nervous

system in very basic terms.

205

:

When we bring it together, we can

then understand that breath work.

206

:

And this particular version of it,

the downregulation, is a sweet spot.

207

:

We can change the nervous system's

conversation up to the brain.

208

:

That changes the biochemistry,

all the hormones.

209

:

Adrenaline, cortisone, acetylcholine,

all these things that affect every

210

:

organ, and everything about how we feel.

211

:

So how we breathe...

212

:

is how we are and I love breath

work because it's something I work

213

:

with in psychology and coaching.

214

:

It's something I work with in the

movement side and performance.

215

:

How we breathe is something we can

get hold of and we may not know, but

216

:

the breath is under both conscious

control, which is what we're doing now.

217

:

We're consciously playing with

it and trying it right and

218

:

it's under autonomic control.

219

:

So whilst we're asleep, the body

and the brain, they have this

220

:

conversation, your body will

breathe without you having to think.

221

:

So it becomes the gateway, if you

will, into the nervous system, into

222

:

the body and into those deep, what

most people can't change those deep

223

:

experiences of stress or relaxation.

224

:

So to summarize, if you want to learn

about breathwork, you're going to learn

225

:

a lot about how to control your state,

which in many ways state is everything.

226

:

How you feel predicates

almost everything you do.

227

:

To summarize, I'm going to invite

you to play with this going forward.

228

:

Go to nasal breathing

rather than mouth breathing.

229

:

Some people talk about, is it

okay to breathe in through the

230

:

nose, out through the mouth?

231

:

Yes, there are other pieces around

this, but to keep it simple,

232

:

breathe in through your nose.

233

:

Next, breathe in through your

nose to your lower belly.

234

:

So hook those two together.

235

:

Thirdly, start to notice

the pace of the breath.

236

:

And if you slow your breath

down, particularly the out

237

:

breath, those signals go up.

238

:

So you can imagine that if you breathe out

slowly, there's an information wave going

239

:

up into the brain that says, I'm okay.

240

:

I'm safe.

241

:

I'm good.

242

:

I'm in control.

243

:

That is a powerful thing to do

because most of us, we need that.

244

:

And if we don't know how to breathe

well, we won't be able to access it.

245

:

So, nasal breathing, abdominal or

belly breathing, slow the pace,

246

:

particularly the out breath.

247

:

The simplest model I can

share with you is that.

248

:

If you use that alone, you will

change your stress response massively.

249

:

But the trick is this.

250

:

You have to remember.

251

:

You have to remember to use it,

you have to choose to apply it,

252

:

and this is why we practice.

253

:

Practice makes permanent.

254

:

So, if you don't pay attention

to it, you'll never know.

255

:

If you pay attention to it, you

will know and you'll be able to

256

:

deploy it on a regular basis.

257

:

Um, that is a short summary on, of

course, there's a lot of technical

258

:

science around breathing and breathing

mechanics and, and all this stuff.

259

:

, and I'm gonna spend, , more in,

, following episodes around sport

260

:

performance, all these other elements.

261

:

But I get it asked so many times.

262

:

I'm stressed, I'm anxious, I

want to do something about it.

263

:

And I always say, let me teach you this

simple breath pattern and why it works.

264

:

It is fundamental.

265

:

And as with many things in life, the

fundamentals are the most important

266

:

pieces to get into play before we

work on the particulars of nuance.

267

:

So I hope you take a breath in

with me now through your nose

268

:

to the belly, a slow breath out,

269

:

a breath with the nose into the

lower belly and a slow breath out.

270

:

And I hope you can take that breath

pattern with you and down regulate when

271

:

you need to reduce the stress, reduce

anxiety, and know that you can get

272

:

some semblance of control over this.

273

:

when you need to by using the breath.

274

:

Thank you so much for listening.

275

:

If you enjoyed the episode,

please subscribe and if a friend

276

:

would benefit from hearing this,

do send it on to them as well.

277

:

If you would like to get in touch

yourself, then you can go to my website,

278

:

which is sal jeffries.com, spelled S

A L J E F E R I E s sal jeffries.com.

279

:

Hit the get in touch link and there

you can send me a direct message.

280

:

If you'd like to go one step further

and learn whether coaching could help

281

:

you overcome a challenge or a block

in your life, then do reach out and

282

:

I offer a call where we can discuss

how this may be able to help you.

283

:

Until the next time, take care.

Show artwork for Mindset, Mood & Movement

About the Podcast

Mindset, Mood & Movement
Human performance podcast for life and business
Feeling stuck, stressed and exhausted is bad for you, your health and your business. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Sal Jefferies is a coach who helps founders overcome anxiety, build confidence and become healthy. This podcast will help you feel calm, confident and strong in life and business.

Sal has a unique coaching philosophy which integrates psychology, emotional regulation and embodied action. This podcast aims to share knowledge, skill and strategies from these 3 interwoven areas - mindset, mood & movement.

Each fortnight, Sal will be in conversation with a guest from a specialist field of human performance and behaviour. The week in between will be Sal's own shorter episode where he's goes deep into various topics - all created to give you the tools to become calm, confident & strong.


About your host

Profile picture for Sal Jefferies

Sal Jefferies

I believe in helping people become free - free of anxiety; to be authentic; to not worry of what others think of you. Free to create, to love and free to be calm, confident and strong.

I understand what it’s like to find life difficult, to deal with challenges and to feel lost; that’s why I over the last 15 years I have immersed myself in yoga, psychology and human behaviour. I have been on a journey of deep change and growth and I know at the core of most life choices is the desire for freedom and peace. I work with people who think deeply and feel deeply and looking to change, evolve and grow.

I don’t take myself too seriously and I bring a light and positive energy to my work. When I’m not coaching, I love reading and learning about anything to do with the human experience. I am also super active and movement is a big part of my life - running, swimming, strength training, doing yoga or enjoying being out with my dogs.