Change Your State, Change Your Life
What if you could choose to change the way you automatically did something? What if you could slow down your thinking and actually create some space between your thought-action feedback loop?
One of the most powerful aspects of breath work is its unique ability to quiet the mind and create space in your day to day activities. Conscious, functional breath work is one way to practice mindfulness and it has been my favorite way to help my clients find a state of rest when they are feeling stressed.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is a way to focus on the present moment without judgement. Through mindful meditation you can follow your breath, and get into a calmer state by simply noticing how you feel in the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) at UMass, has described mindfulness as: "paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, curiously and non-judgmentally".
What I want you to tap into is that we have an amazing way to change our physiology (state) by adjusting the way that we choose to take in oxygen. When practiced enough, these state changes begin to bleed into our individual traits, and when that a**hole suddenly cuts us off in traffic, we don’t care as much. How do I know this happens? I have experienced it myself. It is so freeing and powerful to be able to let go of what someone else has done and shift to being present in the moment to what is actually important in our lives.
In addition to the mindfulness benefits of breath work, I want to highlight a part of breath work that I am currently tapping into; the performance enhancing side. Patrick McKeown has an incredible book and training program titled “The Oxygen Advantage”, this book expounds on the concept of over breathing, CO2 tolerance, and the huge importance of utilizing the nose for most of our intake of oxygen. Learning more about CO2 tolerance from PJ Nestler of XPT and Patrick McKeown has been amazing and extremely enlightening for me. I am learning that through restricting your oxygen intake by breathing through your nose, you are giving your body the chance to actually absorb the oxygen and perform in the way that it is supposed to perform.
With a medical history of asthma as a kid/young adult and a double deviated septum, it would be easy for me to simply check out and say that nasal breathing is just not right for me. Asthma is a frustrating and sometimes terrifying breathing disorder that makes you feel like you don’t have enough oxygen (because your airways are restricted), and nasal breathing actually slows down your intake of oxygen…. sooo the concept of breathing less and getting less oxygen felt a little crazy to me. And as I mentioned before, this was compounded by the fact that I have a deviated septum (which just means that the airways in my nose are blocked by tissue #yum).
Through increasing my CO2 tolerance, focusing primarily on nose breathing, and learning more about how to “breath right” I have seen some cool results in my performance in workouts. I used to dread cardio (and still do to some degree) but because of my CO2 tolerance training I am increasing my mental toughness/awareness as well as increasing my ability to utilize oxygen.
How to start:
If you are interested in beginning your own breath/mindfulness practice here are some tricks and tips:
Start small and create achievable goals for yourself. It is not easy to shift your brain into a state of calm if you are used to a constant state of anxiety. So have patience and understand that this is all a part of the process. Even setting aside 5 minutes per day could be powerful for you.
Get help! Use an app or online program to get introduced to the topic.
If you want more information about CO2 tolerance I would look to the resources made available through XPTlife, Power Speed Endurance, and through Patrick McKeown.
I also enjoyed this video that goes over Patrick’s book “The Oxygen Advantage”.