- in guest/interview , health by allan
How breath-work can improve your life with Stuart Sandeman
Stuart Sandeman became aware of the awesome power of breath-work as he was grieving over the loss of his girlfriend to cancer. He sought out experts and dove deep in breathing and all of the benefits we can get from a good practice. He shares this in his book, Breathe In, Breathe Out.
Let's Say Hello
[00:03:12.410] – Allan
Hello, Ras. How are you?
[00:03:14.240] – Rachel
Good, Allan. How are you today?
[00:03:16.030] – Allan
I'm doing well.
[00:03:17.340] – Rachel
[00:03:18.160] – Allan
So you got some stuff to tell us.
[00:03:20.840] – Rachel
I do. I'm so happy and grateful to report that my husband is doing well. After his surgery, they removed his kidney, adrenal gland and a bunch of lymph nodes, and we got the all clear report. All the margins were clear, the lymph nodes were clear. So technically, my husband is 100% cancer free right now. We're grateful for all the support and prayers from our friends in the community and moving forward, we know he'll have immunotherapy still with our oncologist, but I expect to hear even more good news from him when we get to see him in about another week or so. It's all good.
[00:04:02.180] – Allan
And for Mike, ice fishing is right around the corner.
[00:04:06.020] – Rachel
It is. He needs to sit still and let this giant incision heal. It's a pretty big one and he needs to sit still, let it heal, and he'll be all set to go.
[00:04:17.040] – Allan
Legs are freezing over as we speak.
[00:04:19.110] – Rachel
That's right. So true. He'll be chomping at the bit to get out there.
[00:04:24.600] – Allan
Well, good. Well, I had an interesting weekend.
[00:04:29.030] – Allan
Saturday we had a 5K here in Bocas. It's the first one, the first one I've seen in four years. And I don't know, but there's apparently a running organization in Panama. So they put this on and there are prizes. So people came in from all over Panama to compete for this. This was not necessarily intended to be an amateur run, but I was
[00:04:52.490] – Rachel
[00:04:54.010] – Allan
Yeah. I was the penultimate finisher, which was fine. I finished it and had a good time. It was enjoyable. But what was cool was they scheduled it for 03:00 in the afternoon. It's like the hottest part of the day, but as fate would have it shining down on everybody, it's like it was maybe 79 degrees. So the temperature was probably about five to seven degrees cooler than it normally would have been. Actually a little bit chilly.
[00:05:22.560] – Rachel
Oh, my gosh.
[00:05:24.870] – Allan
I'm kind of like, wow, I got to move around a little bit here to stay warm because, yes, I've definitely acclimated to the warmer weather. But it was a nice little run out and back to a spot. A really cool little run. I used the Jeff Galloway run walk run.
[00:05:41.660] – Rachel
[00:05:42.270] – Allan
Which surprised a lot of people because almost no one else really walked. They're all going to do their little run and then slow down as they go and get started. So Me was like, okay, I'll go for a little bit. It's like, okay, I'm hitting that threshold and I'll do a little bit of walk. I didn't do the timing of it and all that. I just okay, just go ahead and go for a moment here. Get to a point when I feel like it's necessary myself down and speed myself up.
[00:06:06.820] – Rachel
[00:06:07.490] – Allan
I hit my marks. I didn't really tell myself, but I kind of know. Okay, I want to run about half of it and I want to walk about half of it. And that's really kind of how I ran my race. I felt good about it and it was a lot of fun. And they had prizes for people. So, like I said, there's a lot of people were excited, and they had a kids fun run. It was a one k, two age divisions. And the kids got money, too, which was neat. These kids were just ecstatic to do this little race, win some money out of it. So they probably got runners for life on this island now because, little kid, you went $25 running in 1k. Hey, good money. That's good money there.
[00:06:48.770] – Rachel
[00:06:50.450] – Allan
And then, yeah, the top price for the men's and for the women's, five places, like 125 all the way down to wow.
[00:06:57.590] – Rachel
[00:06:58.120] – Allan
$15 to sign up. So, I mean, like, literally, yeah, these guys are getting a haul for their money, and then there's a relay, and so a lot of the guys from Panama, a lot of folks from Panama City came in and took most of their award money back home, but it was still fun. And then they had a fundraiser for the spay and neuter group called Papagato here. And something that I sort of got roped into last year and went along with was being Santa. So I was the Santa. I led the parade of the pets, walking their pets down to the location. And then we did get your picture taken with Santa. So all the dogs and the people and did a little fundraiser there.
[00:07:39.440] – Rachel
[00:07:39.880] – Allan
So overall, yeah, we raised about $1,200. They were doing other stuff, they were selling stuff. So proceeds from a lot of different things went into this. I was a part of it. I think the report I got was that we pulled about $200 for Santa sitting.
[00:07:55.920] – Rachel
Awesome. Way to go. That's so cool.
[00:07:59.340] – Allan
Yeah. Got kind of raunchy at the end, but it was all good fun and good. Making some money for a good cause is the Spaniards on these islands. So, yeah, very interesting. Active weekend for me.
[00:08:13.710] – Rachel
That sounds great. It sounds like a lot of fun.
[00:08:16.080] – Allan
All right. And a lot of breathing. So are you ready to talk about breathing with Stewart?
[00:08:20.530] – Rachel
Sure. That sounds great.
[00:08:22.070] – Allan
All right, here we go.
[00:09:29.830] – Allan
Stuart, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
[00:09:33.670] – Stuart
Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
[00:09:37.130] – Allan
Now the book is Breathe In, Breathe Out: Restore Your Health, Reset Your Mind and Find Happiness Through Breathwork. And you touched me on a lot of different ways in that one little title and subtitle. And I think as I was going through it and kind of reading the book and getting into it and particularly your story, which I want you to get to in a minute, but it was just repeated realization of how important breath is to every single process in our entire body. That without a breath, we have nothing to look forward to. But with a breath, we have everything to look forward to.
[00:10:22.150] – Stuart
I love that. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, not only does breathing bring life into our body, but it triggers our state of being. It affects how we feel, how we think, how our system works. And it's such an amazing tool that we all have. And once we know how to use it, we can empower ourselves to make positive change in all facets of our well being, from physical health to mental health, emotional health, and even spiritual health as well. So it's really a fantastic tool and so glad we get to chat about it today.
[00:10:58.900] – Allan
[00:10:59.570] – Allan
Now, you brought up in the book that we were born, of course, there's maybe the slap on the bottom that we hear about so often, and then we take our first breath. And from that point forward, as babies, we're doing a pretty good job of breathing. And then we sort of, along the way, forget how to breathe right and other things get in our lives and kind of affect our breathing and change our breathing. And many of us become very bad at breathing. And you're not someone who just remembered it as a baby. You had to re-learn a lot of these things too. Can you tell us a little bit about what triggered you to get into breath work as a tool, as a way of life?
[00:11:43.810] – Stuart
Yeah, I think, just to reiterate, babies are the breathing gurus. That's what I always say. If you spot a baby breathe, everything's kind of working as it should. Unless there's been a complication, of course, but we're all perfect breathers and it's then the life experiences, the stress, the emotions, where our breathing starts to constrict and we form these bad habits of breathing. And it can be physical, it could be things like posture or clothing choice can even affect our breathing. And I wasn't ever aware and I had gone through my life running around pretty busy, too busy to breathe for sure whether my background was in sport and then I was in judo. I was on a judo mat at four years old and had dreams of being an Olympic champion. But through injury, I was a Scottish champion for many years, but through injury, I couldn't pursue that any longer and end up working in finance and a very fast paced dynamic world finances and very stressful moments. Nobody ever taught me to breathe then either. My breathing was probably completely out of whack. I left my finance job after signing some record deals and start touring the world as a DJ.
[00:13:03.040] – Stuart
So quite a jump from gunna sports to corporate to very creative. And again, nobody taught me to breathe or I didn't know the tool that I could have to manage myself, whether that was practical things like jet lag or nerves before gigs. And what got me into breathing was actually through grief. I probably wouldn't have listened like I said before, if somebody had said, look at your breath. I wasn't on my radar at all, but my girlfriend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and when she passed away, all that happened was I took my mom from Mother's Day to a breathing class. My mom is into breathing, my mom is a yoga instructor. So I popped up online last minute and I thought, mom will love that. And when I was still in my grieving process, I was in a pretty bad headspace at that time. And yes, I went along to this breathing class not really knowing what to expect. I was kind of just there for my mom. And I had a very powerful experience, a very cathartic experience. A lot of emotion stirred and my breath felt like I released my breath for the first time ever.
[00:14:13.380] – Stuart
And it wasn't until I did it that I realized I've been carrying this tension around for not just through grief, it was amplified a hundredfold through grief, but it was more than that. So that's how I initially kind of entered the space of breathwork. It has become more of a commonly used term of phrase, but at that time it wasn't very widespread. And I thought, right, okay, what has happened? Because my experience not only was very physical, it was extremely emotional, but also I felt that my girlfriend was there holding my hand, which didn't make any sense to me in my mind. So I thought, right, okay, what was that? What just happened? I really want to know as much as I could. So dived back in to do another session as soon as I could to figure out what if that was a one off, if I was going completely mad, if it was something else. And lo and behold, I had another powerful experience. Seem different, but similar, but different. And the more the practice, the more I uncovered, the more I realized about myself, my breath, the more my energy shifted, my voice in my head became kinder.
[00:15:32.210] – Stuart
I was flying up the leaderboard at CrossFit Gym. And the difference was a lot of physical differences, but a lot of mental emotional differences. And it felt like there was like this change, this upgrade was happening. And a big part was that we were working through grief and helping myself move through that and empowering myself to move through that through something so simple as breathing. So that was when I first realized that there was this very powerful tool that we all have called breathing. And that was one form of breathing, one type of breathing that is used to uncover release emotion, let go of tension. And from that point I thought, what else is out there for breathing? What are the different ways we can breathe? And what does that mean to our physical body, our energy levels, our stress levels? How are people breathing? How our athletes breathing? Are they breathing optimally for their sport? So I went off to kind of discover as much as I possibly could and learn as much as I could about breathing because it helped me so much. And I thought if it could help me, well, it could help a lot of other people.
[00:16:44.500] – Stuart
And initially after that first breathing session, I had a list of people, my dad needs to come and do this, my friend, someone needs to do it, someone else needs to do it. And I had this list of people, okay, they all need to do it, but I'm not sure they would connect with the way it was currently at that time being delivered. And so I thought, well, let's find out as much as I could and try and bridge the gap between the kind of scientific approach but also this amazing magic that can happen in these sessions. And that's what I think is very interesting, figuring out what is happening as best as we can, but then also being open to explore what we're not quite sure is happening in these sessions.
[00:17:24.510] – Allan
Yeah, I'm probably a lot more like the people you're talking about where I'm going to need to see a little bit of science before I decide I'm going to give this a go. Not that Woo doesn't have a place.
[00:17:37.810] – Allan
But we've got to have a little bit of science behind it.
[00:17:41.750] – Stuart
And that is me all over. And I think I'd live my life science, logic, mind. I did maths at university and went off and worked in finance and that what my brain couldn't comprehend. What happened in that session? Was my girlfriend there holding my hand? Or was that my imagination? And trying to figure that question out, a big question to ask because I'm not sure anyone's got the answer for it yet. But we can start to look at, well, what is happening in the body when we breathe in certain ways. How is it possible to reach a state where we have an experience that isn't easy to quantify through science. It's a lot of breathwork practices. We can quantify very much, especially the sports side of things as well, when we're looking at the body and performance, because we can measure performance and vo2 max and these interesting parameters. But with the more emotional side, it's a little bit trickier to quantify, but it's still a very valid space to explore.
[00:18:47.290] – Allan
Yes, and to me, I guess, and this was in the book, the big tie in here is this part of our body or brain, really, that's called the autonomic nervous system. And that's at least how I kind of visualize as I went through your book. And I was thinking about this, and I think most people would think of this as, oh, this is either the fight or flight mode, or I'm relaxed and chilling and enjoying my life right now, sitting by a beautiful lake watching frogs or whatever. Can you talk about the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, and how those play into breathing?
[00:19:27.910] – Stuart
Yeah, absolutely, because it's such a key factor. So the autonomous nervous system is split in two halves. We got our kind of on switch, our sympathetic drive, and it's our stress response. You said the fight of flight response. Fight or flight response is often deemed as a very negative response because everyone's so stressed. We're trying to get rid of that the whole time. But in essence, every in breath is going to switch us on. Heart rate will go up, blood pressure will go up, our sympathetic drive kicks in. So how we're breathing really affects that on switch. And when we're switched on, our blood flow moves to our muscles and gets us ready to act. We are motivated and ready for action. So that happens every time we breathe in. If we breathe faster, it's going to happen even more. Sometimes we click into that state, the fight or flight response, when we walk outside and wander off the pavement onto the road and didn't see a car was coming, we see the car, we take a big gasp of air and jump back off to the pavement. So that sympathetic mode is there to keep us safe and protect us from any type of danger.
[00:20:37.470] – Stuart
It's what we've had for thousands of years. I like to think of it as the best friend that is always looking out for you, saying, watch out for this, look out for that, let's get going, which I guess is a nicer than the fight or flight response, this negative thing. It's actually a very positive thing. Then we have the other side, the rest digest. The parasympathetic mode, I would think sympathetic S for stress, parasympathetic P for peace. And the parasympathetic mode is really about conserving energy, slowing things down, moving our blood flow to our digestion, our reproductive organs, where we can start to repair and digest our food and get some good rest. And this is like the best friend that is calm down, relax, digest your food, get some sleep. So we have this interplay in every breath cycle. We breathe in, sympathetic goes up, breathe out parasympathetic happens when we slow our breath down and breathe out. So how we breathe really triggers each one of these divisions. Are we more switched on or are we more switched off? When I say switched off, it's more about calming this relaxation response. So it's quite binary in its direction.
[00:21:54.510] – Stuart
How we're breathing, where we're breathing, where our breath is flowing. Am I breathing in a certain way that's going to drive my sympathetic mode, which is creating this stress response, or am I breathing in a way that's going to calm my body and mind? So that's pretty much how breathing interplays with that, because that interplays with our stress, our energy, our focus, our relaxation, our sleep, our digestion, when we understand how we're breathing and how we're breathing in different situations or scenarios where we can start to take control of some of those responses because we can control our breath. Now, that for me is such a powerful thing because no longer is it I'm just at the mercy of being reactive to the world around me. Yes, the world is still happening around you, but you can start to take control of how you feel. You can start to take control of how your body is responding so that you can respond instead of react. You can calm yourself in those stressful moments. You can invigorate yourself in those lulls where you're feeling exhausted and you don't want to have the fifth cup of coffee.
[00:23:03.650] – Stuart
But you can create a bit of ooh stress, positive stress to motivate you, or you can start to balance out on and off. And when I say balance out, when we have this kind of equal in breath and out breath ratio, then we start to have coherence between our heart rhythms and from our heart to our brain, so we can access more flow states where we're feeling on and off in equal measure. We're feeling energized, focused, relaxed, and able to go through tasks or go through the day feeling at ease with everything that's going on.
[00:23:35.010] – Allan
Prior to reading this book, I really kind of thought there were really sort of four different ways to breathe and really they were just opposites of each other. So maybe not even four, but just how we happened to be breathing at the time. There were nose breathers and mouth breathers. My German shepherd's a mouth breather, but that's how she cools herself off, so what am I going to say? And then there was whether you breathe deep or whether you'd breathe shallow. And so to me, that was the only dynamics I really thought about with regards to breath. But in the book, you took this out and kind of broke it into seven breathing archetypes. And I think those are really important because once you kind of know, I guess the basis, like, where you are today, it kind of gives you a starting point of knowing, okay, I'm not breathing deep enough, or I'm not breathing this way, or I have a tendency to breathe that way, and you can start working on it. If you don't know what the problem is, you can't really fix it, so to speak. So could you talk about the seven archetypes?
[00:24:34.710] – Stuart
Yeah, the breathing archetypes is the common breeding patterns that people fall into, the breeding types. And we all have an archetype. Sometimes we're a combination of two archetypes or three archetypes or sometimes we fall into a pattern of archetype in a certain situation. So the archetypes that I share is the first one is the chest breather. Are we breathing dominantly in our chest? Which means that we're not using our primary breathing muscle. We're using our chest muscles or intercostal muscles. And the pure mechanics of a chest breather means it's shorter, it's shallower, we're breathing in more air, in and out a bit quicker. So the chest breather is ringing the alarm bell to our brain to say we're under stress. The fight or flight response is kicked in. Now if that becomes the archetype, that means that that stressful day has probably become a stressful week. It's probably become a stressful year. And we've been stuck in that breathing pattern. And not only is it the mechanics that play into some of these patterns, these archetypes, it's also the chemistry of the body. Because when we breathe it's really about the body finding homeostasis between the chemistry, the PH levels.
[00:25:46.030] – Stuart
And if we are having a stressful day, then the brain is perceiving, that the interesting about a mind is it triggers the same breath response whether there's a threat in the environment. So the tiger in the room or the tiger in our mind triggers the same breathing response. Doesn't matter if it's a thought, a perceived thought or an actual experience happening, the breathing happens the same. So for the chest breather something can happen in their experience. And if they're stressed a lot of the day then carbon dioxide drops because they're breathing too fast. The body doesn't like the change in PH. So what it does is it holds on to acidity and rebalances the PH level at the cost of keeping the breath fast. So it's like we find a new normal of breathing. So often the chest breather has this kind of fast too fast for creating stress in the body. It becomes normal because our body tries to balance this out with homeostasis and with its PH and we get stuck in this archetype. So that's the first one is the chest breather. It's quite common. It's probably one of the more common ones I see.
[00:26:52.850] – Stuart
And it takes a little bit of practice just to get the diaphragm engaged and opening up downward such as our primary breathing muscles so that we can start breathing with it and feeling that lower torso flow before the chest. So that's, yeah, we got the chest breather. The next one is the reverse breather. Reverse breather. If you imagine breathing in and if you're listening or you can try it as well, as you breathe in, you may see your belly rise first or your chest rise first. So the chest breather is breathing up in the chest first. The reverse breather is quite similar, but it's more of a seesaw action. So when they breathe in, the belly goes back and the chest goes out. And when they breathe out, it kind of collapses back the other way. So like it says on the description, reverse breathing is kind of like having our breathing going back to front. And when we have our breathing back to front, it's like our basic form of movement. So it confuses the body. It's a bit like having your charges on back to front. It's uncomfortable for the body, but again, the body gets used to it and we think this is normal, we're just feeling this way all the time.
[00:28:04.410] – Stuart
We're not sure why we're lack of energy or we can't sleep properly or different effects that will happen when we have the reverse breathing archetype. The collapse breather is one of the other ones we got. Collapsed breather is basically often posturally caused. A lot of these are actually from posture as well. If you've got tight jeans, high waisted jeans, tight belts on, a bra that doesn't fit. We can create a lot of these archetypes just by the restrictions that we put on ourselves. Sat at our desk all day driving too much in the car. So the collapsed breather is often postural. Shoulders are hunched around and when we're hunching our shoulder, we're actually just collapsing their breath. The mechanics again, is not allowing this natural flow and each of these archetypes will trigger because our brain triggers our body to breathe and our breath pattern sends us to go back to our brain. And our brain is about thinking and our breath and our body is about feeling, then it changes the way we're thinking and feeling. When we fall into some of these archetypes, where do we get to? We've got the chest, we got the reverse, we've got the collapse frozen breather.
[00:29:11.180] – Stuart
Frozen breather is if you imagine going out onto a cold day and we didn't have a jacket on and we kind of start to close it up. It's like the whole body constricts. Some people have an archetype where their body is constricted. They're kind of in this frozen state. They're not actually breathing much at all, so they're not getting this natural flow of air in and out. So they're not kind of allowing this natural resource for energy to happen. They just got this very frozen style of breathing which will affect their body and mind. Again, differently. Breath grabber is our next one. Now, the breath grabber all have met them before, is often when somebody is grasping for air, you can usually find it in conversation. The breath grabber is trying to grab that air. So it might be they will be buttoning in and trying to get the point across and speaking quite fast and in between breaths, gasping for breath in through their mouth. So you might find that kind of hyperactive person often breath grabbing. And for all these archetypes, when we start looking at somebody breathe, their breathing pattern, if you mirror their breathing pattern, say, well, what's happening with their breathing?
[00:30:27.730] – Stuart
Well, if we say those in words, that's probably how they're thinking and feeling. So if we got the breath grabber, it's a pace that they're living very busy, a lot going on. So the breath grabbers like that. We also have the breath controller. Now, the breath controller is at first sight, the breathing looks pretty good. The breath controller tends to be about this out breath being very controlled and in some ways it's an all right architect because the breath controller harder to spot. But their breath is so controlled because they're trying to control everything around them and the nature of the world that we live in. Yes, it's great to have control sometimes, but we can't control everything. It's like trying to control the Scottish weather or any weather, but we just can't. But the breath controller wants to have that control the whole time. So often find with the breath controller, with the breath being controlled, all these other things they find when they don't have control, it causes them to feel pretty uncomfortable. So that might be things like flying. If somebody has got a fear of flying, it might be because they don't have that control anymore and the breath could be a part of that controller pattern.
[00:31:38.130] – Stuart
And then the other archetype I put in there was actually the perfect breather. I know you said most people have dysfunctional breathing patterns, but I thought I'd say the perfect breather is kind of a trick question or a trick archetype. Because the perfect breather really depends on what we're doing. Because if we're running for a bus, our breathing is going to be very different from sat still or being in our beds and relaxing or watching TV or you mentioned sitting, watching the frogs. But when I talk about perfect breathing, I usually look across five different areas. It's really important to make sure that we have our natural resting breath. Meaning when there's no threat in our environment and we are sat going about our business, feeling relaxed, thinking relaxed, that our breathing is operating as optimally as it can. In and out through our nose, using our diaphragm. Slow, gentle, flowing, steady. And then from there we can start looking at these other areas. So breathing at rest, we've got breathing and sleeping is a big one. Breathing and whatever we're doing throughout the day. So that might be at work or studies or whatever happens throughout your day
[00:32:56.310] – Stuart
Mainly our breathing tends to change from when we're at rest and then we're out and about in our day. The next one is linked to that is breathing and speaking. A lot of people switch to mouth breathing when they speak. That breath grab our style, but a lot of people end up doing it. So what I mean by that is go speak and breathe into the mouth. Now, the mouth breath is that trigger for stress, like stepping off the road into the oncoming traffic. So we find that if we were doing a job, maybe a sales role, or we talk a lot on the phone or throughout the day, just talking a lot, a lot, nine people out of ten will start becoming the breath grabber in those moments. So making sure that we're breathing and speaking effectively, using our nose to breathe in sensitive, is quite hard to change. And then the final one, which is a bit more of the advanced side, is how we breathing when we are doing physical exercise, when we are kind of increasing that respiratory rate for whatever given sport or exercise we're doing, whether that's walking or whether that's something more intense.
[00:33:59.050] – Stuart
They're the kind of five areas. But it all happens or begins with breathing at rest.
[00:34:04.350] – Allan
You talked a little bit about back and forth about breathing through your nose and breathing through your mouth. Why is it important to focus more on breathing through your nose? And is that always the case?
[00:34:16.370] – Stuart
Yeah, absolutely. Our nose is designed for breathing. Designed for breathing. It gets the perfect moisture and temperature of air to our lungs. I call it breathe in and breathe out. I say it's the bouncer for the lungs. Saying that the lungs are like a nightclub and the nose stops people coming in that shouldn't be in. So the nose yet. The nose is the first line of defense. It filters the air, gets the perfect moisture and temperature to our lungs so we have optimal absorption. The nose also flushes the air with nitric oxide, which is a gas that works as a vascular dilator and a bronco dilator. So basically opens up our blood vessels, which helps improve our circulation. So the nose really gets everything prepared. Now, the size of our nostrils are also a lot smaller than our mouth. So when we're breathing through our nose, the rate at which we breathe is much slower. So when we're breathing through our nose, we start to fall into this slow, gentle pattern of breathing, which is more optimal throughout our day. We feel calmer breathing through our nose. We divert to the mouth breath at times of need, like I said, the gasp of air when we need that sort of instant flick of switch into the stress response.
[00:35:32.880] – Stuart
But the nose is really what we want to be using. So that we feel calm, relaxed, and everything is kind of falling into place. There's some interesting research around facial development and all sorts with nasal breathing. When we're breathing through our mouth a lot, it can even affect the way our jaw forms and how the palate of the mouth and how much space we have in our mouth. So it's more than just breathing that is affected by our nose. So it's really quite important that we learn to breathe through our nose just to get the whole system working effectively.
[00:36:10.890] – Allan
I was having a conversation with a dentist, his name was Dr. Kami Hoss, and he was saying a lot of the reasons why we have a lot of the health issues we have is that we're breathing into it through our mouth, and that's messing with the microbiome of the mouth. And as a result, it's creating health issues all the way through the system. So he also encourages to breathe through your nose. A lot of times when people are doing like a meditation, so they'll say breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Is that not necessarily the right way to do this? Or are there times when that type of response is the right way to go about the out breath, particularly?
[00:36:52.610] – Stuart
Yeah, so the nose, I guess we talked about the nose on the in breath. On the out breath, the nose captures moisture and heat leaving the body. So in a lot of meditations or a lot of breath practices, we may wish to breathe in the nose and out the nose, or you may wish to breathe in the nose and out the mouth. You find that breathing in the nose and out the mouth has this lovely relaxation response that happens. It still happens to the nose, but it's as if we still have this activation happening when we're nose nose or mouth mouth. When we breathe in the nose and out the mouth, it kind of impacts the relaxation response and makes us feel nice and calm.
[00:37:32.370] – Allan
All right, so let's get into some of these exercises because I think for many of us, the low hanging fruit is going to be how we can calm ourselves down in a stressful situation. Like the boss calls your desk and you got to go see them and your heart's just racing because you don't know what's going to happen. You've got to calm yourself down before you go into that meeting or another situation being it's the middle of the afternoon and you're just not feeling any energy and you really don't want to go grab a cup of coffee because you know that's going to mess with your sleep. So some breath work that would maybe lift us up in the afternoon so we have the energy to complete our day. Can you talk a little bit about the relaxation breathing and the energized breathing?
[00:38:17.230] – Stuart
Yeah, my pleasure, because it's something that I use so often and stressful moments call from the boss. When you feel that it's like the heat is going to your heart races, the thoughts or the anticipation about what that might be, the fear that's kicked in because of that phone call, or even seeing their name pop up on the screen, triggers the stress response. The tiger is now in the room, so a sympathetic drive is on. Heart rate is up, blood pressure is up. Our breathing will change. We might freeze our breathing altogether. Hold on. Or we might breathe a lot faster. So the stress response kicked in. The volume of our sympathetic is up. So we simply need to flick the off switch and increase the parasympathetic drive. Now, the parasympathetic happens on that outbreak so in those moments, because also what happens in those moments is the fear response closes down our prefrontal cortex in our brain, which is our reason. And we go into this sympathetic, the limbic part of our brain where we're often not able to get that we're ready to fight. Yeah, we have to fight with the answer that we need in those moments.
[00:39:32.240] – Stuart
So it's really, really important and very valid. And what I usually say is it starts with the phrase, if in doubt, breathe it out. Because in those moments, we might not remember which technique to do. So remember the phrase, if in doubt, breathe it out. Having a nice long, drawn out breath. So doubling our out breath to our in breath will allow us to increase the parasympathetic response. So that nice long, drawn out breath increases the parasympathetic response and we start to relax. So the technique that I go for in those moments is simply in through our nose for a count of four, feeling our belly rise. We want to be using our diaphragm to breathe as much as possible, hold our breath for a count of four and then breathe out through our mouth for a count of eight. And on that out breath, really being mindful of letting the body relax. So we might find in those moments, our shoulders are up by our ears and we go out breath. Oh, wow, relax. In for four, through the nose, hold for four, then breathe out through the mouth for eight. Increases this parasympathetic response.
[00:40:38.660] – Stuart
One cycle. If you're listening, give it a go. Now, you'll notice a difference in one cycle. The likelihood is in those moments, the brain will jump back in with another thought. And the thought might be, oh my God, the meeting with my boss. So it triggers the body again. So we had this mention before, this tug of war that kind of happened in those moments, the thought and the mind triggering the breathing to speed up. So the sympathetic saying, no, we're under alert. And then our conscious mind saying, no, it's okay, I'm in control. In for four, hold for four, out for eight. And that's creating this parasympathetic response. So it takes a bit of practice to get used to it, and it takes more than a couple of rounds just to get used to it. But if we only have one round, that's better than nothing. The amount of times I've done this in a cab or I've got radio show, sometimes from nowhere, I think I've got it all together and it's just about going air. And then it's like the anxiety kicks in and it's straight into in for four holf for four out for eight and it just dissipates.
[00:41:44.140] – Stuart
It starts to not completely disappear, but it starts to slow down. You start to feel a bit more relaxed, less overwhelmed, and you can start to just move through those moments a lot easier.
[00:41:57.100] – Allan
Yeah. So our zoom call went down while we were, I was about to ask this particular question and I'm sitting here breathing, like, remember what you read, remember what you read. It'll come back.
[00:42:08.490] – Stuart
Yeah. The instant reaction, isn't it? Something happens out with our control. Oh, my God. And what's that gasping, it's that contraction. Contraction our breathing. The contraction in our mid secs and run that solar plexus freezes up and we move it into that stress response. So, yeah, coming back, eight for four, hold for four, out for eight to really relax the body and mind. If we calm our breath, our mind will follow.
[00:42:36.690] – Allan
Okay, so now it's 02:00 in the afternoon. We're starting to have that midday lull and we could go in. There's a machine that's going to give me the sweets and all the sugar stuff and the cake stuff and all of that. I can do that cinnamon roll thing and a cup of coffee and I'll be good to go. But I won't sleep well tonight and I know that. So if I want to bring myself up to finish the day out strong, what's a breathing technique I can do to do that?
[00:43:04.650] – Stuart
Yeah, well, for this, we want to go the other side, don't we want to kind of evoke the sympathetic response. And I'm going to say something. Hopefully it doesn't scare people, but create stress. Now, when I say stress, stress isn't all bad. We have eustress, which is positive stress that motivates us. What happens when you have a coffee? Anyway, we have this kind of stress in the body, so to evoke this kind of energy flow, we need to breathe a little bit more. So what I tend to do is going to have a double in breath to an out breath. And we can even open up the sections, so something like belly, chest, exhale. So belly, so it's a bit quicker there. So belly, chest, exhale.
[00:43:47.610] – Allan
[00:43:48.890] – Stuart
So just creating a bit more open flow where we've got this natural, bigger breath in opening up those sections. And we can do that a couple of rounds. Try not to sniff hard through your nostrils, not real sniff hard through there because we'll get a little bit light head or dizzy, it's really driven from the body. So we're breathing in barely rises, diaphragms engaged in the chest and then we're breathing out. So we're just opening up the sections of our breath and adding more airflow into our body and kind of shaking things up again. The body will start to shift and move. The PH changes slightly and they can create this energized feeling.
[00:44:28.030] – Allan
And I would encourage you to do that standing up.
[00:44:30.950] – Stuart
Yeah. Or you can do standing up. Sitting down.
[00:44:33.540] – Allan
Well, I think if you're standing up, it's going to actually let you open up a little bit more sitting down. You might be a little bit more closed. If you're standing up, you're really going to be able to bring in that breath and kind of fill yourself, get more energetic.
[00:44:46.190] – Stuart
Sometimes you even get the arms moving as well for it. You can lift your arms up.
[00:44:49.860] – Allan
There you go. With some dumbbells or something.
[00:44:52.830] – Stuart
Maybe the dumbbells, exhausted.
[00:44:56.510] – Allan
All right, well, Stuart, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
[00:45:05.250] – Stuart
Yeah, three tactics. Mine are always pretty simple. I like to keep things simple. The first one we talked about, and it has to be my first one because it's what has just changed my life and the thousands of people I've worked with is breathe. Use your breath. And that comes with awareness. How am I breathing right now? How am I feeling right now if I want to change how I feel? Change the way you breathe. So breath is the first one. The next thing is getting moving again, super simple. But the difference we feel once you've moved our body, it will force our breath to move as well. So they go hand in hand, but breathing and moving. And then the final one is more about the mind. I like to follow my highest excitement. And when I started doing that, everything started to flow in a positive way. And when I say follow your highest excitement is really with integrity of course, as you get in trouble with following your highest excitement. But when you have a decision, sitting with it and feeling into it and say, well, which actually creates more excitement and what does that mean in my body?
[00:46:14.060] – Stuart
Where can I feel that in my body? So is this kind of feedback? And all of these have feedback, breathing, awareness, how am I feeling? What do I want to feel? Can I use my breath to evoke and help me step towards that movement? Or how do I just change the state of my body through movement? And then following your highest excitement, creating those moments we say, well, which will excite me more from a heart centered place as opposed to just thinking of excitement. So really making sure that integrity is woven into that. But once we do that, we start to find this flow in our life and it's going to be a really effective way to kind of move forward.
[00:46:53.490] – Allan
That was awesome. Stewart if someone wanted to learn more about you and learn more about your book, Breathe In, Breathe Out, where would you like for me to send them?
[00:47:03.110] – Stuart
The best place is the website Breathpod is my business, so www.breathpod.com and from breathpod.com that has all the other areas, you can find out more, whether it's the book, whether some of the courses I do, my social media, my breathpod, or most channels. So, yeah, the website will probably be the easiest place on Instagram as well. @breathpod
[00:47:28.750] – Allan
you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/570, and I'll be sure to have all the links there. Stuart, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
[00:47:39.090] – Stuart
Thanks so much for having me. Remember to breathe.
[00:47:43.330] – Allan
[00:47:53.810] – Allan
Welcome back, Ras.
[00:47:55.210] – Rachel
Hey, Allan. Well, just give me a second I need to take a deep breath. Whenever we talk about breathing, or whenever I listen to a podcast about it or read about it, I always feel compelled to take some deep breaths. It's very calming. It is very relaxing.
[00:48:10.550] – Allan
Yeah. Well, you got to try reading a whole book.
[00:48:13.550] – Rachel
[00:48:14.830] – Allan
Because what I've found is when I think about my breath, I try to control my breath. I mean, it's like I can't just let myself say, just breathe. It never happens that way. If you say breath, I'm thinking about breath and I'm going to try to breathe better because it just is what it is. It's how my brain is wired. If you draw attention to something, I'm going to control it.
[00:48:41.160] – Rachel
Same. Yeah, same here.
[00:48:43.160] – Allan
Which means that when I'm running, I'm trying to control my breath because that's managing my heart rate and not overextending. So when I run, I try to manage my breath. When I'm talking podcasting, I have to control my breath. It's the only way you get the voice you're supposed to get without getting all squeaky whiny because you can breathe. But what was cool was how much he's learned and he's willing, he's sharing in his book about how the breath controls us as much as we control the breath. And so you can use breath as a way of relaxing and controlling yourself. You can use breath as a way of getting yourself energized and moving. And in his case, when he really became aware of the power of breath, was letting go of trauma and letting go of past pain, finding himself in a place where it basically opened him up to heal.
[00:49:42.150] – Rachel
Right. Well, as you know, this has been kind of a stressful year for my husband and I with his cancer diagnosis. And every time that we've gone to a cat scan or an infusion or something, I do feel the tension. I feel it in my shoulders, I get it in my neck and I can't concentrate, I can't think. I can't do anything for some time. And so if I can just sit and practice something similar to that box breathing technique, a couple of deep breaths in, a couple of deep breaths out, it really does a world of difference to help me calm down, breathe deeper, breathe fuller, and relax into it a little bit so that I can think straight and deal with the situation at hand. It is definitely a great tool.
[00:50:28.350] – Allan
Yeah. And there have been moments where anxiety just washes over me as like, holy crap, go into complete panic. I'm incapable of doing normal stuff because I'm just so tense. And then just having a tool to be able to let that go is really important.
[00:50:49.810] – Rachel
Yeah. And I've always heard of breathing techniques for the purpose of relaxing, for getting that parasympathetic system going, but I never really thought about using it to get amped instead of reaching for the cup of coffee in the afternoon, I never thought to do a different breathing technique to encourage energy instead of relaxation.
[00:51:10.460] – Allan
And so there's the two systems. There's sympathetic, which is the relaxation. Parasympathetic is the bounce off.
[00:51:22.650] – Allan
You find yourself breathing heavy, you're stressed out and you're breathing heavy. You're literally firing up your parasymphatetic. Fight or flight mode. It's like, literally you ready to fight. Now, there are times when that's appropriate. You got to run after something, do something. You need that energy obviously appropriate, but we use it when it's not necessarily appropriate. And as a result, we can't keep ourselves in the frame of mind to do the right things because it turns the brain off.
[00:51:53.490] – Allan
It's like, no, we've got two things to do here.
[00:51:55.290] – Allan
We're going to fight or flight. I'll tell you, punch your boss. You're in trouble
[00:51:58.850] – Rachel
it's a bad day.
[00:52:01.910] – Allan
And so unless you just really need to punch your boss and you didn't need that job or the next one.
[00:52:07.450] – Rachel
That would be bad.
[00:52:08.320] – Allan
You're ready to retire, Pop. Yeah, it's done. But just make sure you sign the paper. So you are getting your pension. But anyway, there are going to be times when you need to calm down. And probably in our current environment, there's more times that you need to calm down than you need to amp up. But, yes, in the afternoons, you find yourself lulling rather than hitting the caffeine, knowing that that's probably going to disturb your sleep a little bit
[00:52:35.970] – Allan
Just take in some deep breaths. Give your body the oxygen. Oxygen is the energy for fire. We know that you can't have a fire without oxygen. Your body is no different. If you bring in extra oxygen, you're going to stoke the fire. It's kind of the same chemistry that's going on when you have a camp fire and you have the little billow thing and you amp up the fire. It has to have the oxygen.
[00:53:03.170] – Rachel
I love that. And then at night, when it's time to wind things down and try and lay down and fall asleep. Taking those deeper breaths and having a little bit more relaxation could help you fall asleep faster.
[00:53:16.520] – Allan
Yeah, the slow breathes out. Just let it out. Just slow and easy. That's the settle down that's you telling your body, okay, there's nothing to worry about.
[00:53:27.360] – Allan
[00:53:28.780] – Rachel
sleep off, go back to sleep. It's important. We need our sleep.
[00:53:33.490] – Allan
We do. Absolutely.
[00:53:35.090] – Rachel
[00:53:37.030] – Allan
Well, Ras, I'll see you next week.
[00:53:39.530] – Rachel
Great. Take care, Allan.
[00:53:40.890] – Allan
[00:53:41.610] – Rachel
Thank you. Bye bye.
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