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March 28, 2023

Unlock better physical and emotional resilience with breath | Jill Miller

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When we breathe properly, we set our body up to have better physical and emotional resilience. On episode 583 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we meet Jill Miller and discuss her book, Body by Breath.


Let's Say Hello

[00:02:39.730] – Allan

Hello, Ras.

[00:02:40.920] – Rachel

Hey, Allan, how are you today?

[00:02:42.820] – Allan

Doing all right. Just very busy.

[00:02:46.080] – Rachel

Yeah, well, busy is good.

[00:02:47.980] – Allan

Busy is good. Busy is good. We're still sort of in busy season for Lula's. Tammy took the weekend off and went to Jazz Fest and we got some very demanding guests over the course of the weekend. Lots of moving parts, and then I'm actually doing some live training. I was wanting to do it. That's why I was going to launch the retreat, which is now happening. And I was like, okay, I still want to train people in person some. So I went ahead and solicited out to get some new clients. So I'm bringing in new clients to train in person in my studio. And I also now relaunched my program because I realized my normal program, my Be fit for Task program was great for people that wanted to work on fitness, but it wasn't as great for people that wanted to lose weight. The program was twelve weeks and then I condensed it to six weeks. So it's working very, very well for people that want to get more fit. So my Be Fit for Task program works really good for that but it's not so good for the folks that want to lose weight.

[00:03:45.100] – Allan

So I decided to go ahead and launch a new twelve week program that focuses on weight loss.

[00:03:50.470] – Rachel


[00:03:51.070] – Allan

And so it has to be twelve weeks because it's just the way the math works in our human body. You can change some things but when you look at really a month and a half you're just really getting into the meat of it and you haven't really had any struggles or any issues happen yet. So it's hard to say how would we manage when this happens. You can write all of the SOPs for yourself that you want to have, but when stuff really happens then you find out. So twelve weeks tends to work a lot better for that. So I just relaunched that program, I'm calling it the Shed program and I just got that going and so I'm starting to onboard clients for all that. We're capping it at twelve like I do with most of my things. I'm not going to have more than that many clients because that's how many I can handle. But it's going pretty good. We're having the kickoff calls and people are getting excited. We're starting some plans and getting going.

[00:04:44.890] – Rachel

That's exciting. I love to hear that. I love to hear people making changes. That's great.

[00:04:49.340] – Allan

They are. All right. How are things up there?

[00:04:51.630] – Rachel

Good. I think it might be spring. At least this last batch of snow has melted so that's wonderful.

[00:04:59.130] – Rachel

But yeah, weather's turn

[00:05:00.600] – Allan

we used to call it. There was a fake spring. You just think it's there. You start pulling out your bathing suits and all your stuff and getting ready and then there's another little cold snap and then same thing for the end of the year. You start going into fall, you're like, oh it's cooling off, it's great. And then you have an Indian summer. It's just another two weeks of really hot weather in September.

[00:05:18.490] – Rachel

Yeah, it's like the weather just can't get it together. They don't know what season to be in quite yet. But as we get to the end of March, beginning of April, then I can kind of feel like I can believe spring is actually coming. Then I kind of feel a little more confident in the weather changes. Yes. In March you can't be fooled. Don't be fooled.

[00:05:39.090] – Allan

Don't be fooled. It can snow as late as April.

[00:05:42.020] – Rachel

Yeah, but it's nice.

[00:05:43.490] – Allan

Well good. All right, well are you ready to have a conversation with Jill?

[00:05:47.400] – Rachel

Sure. Great.


[00:06:59.500] – Allan

Jill, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

[00:07:01.980] – Jill

Well, thank you for having me. I fit into that demographic, so I'm excited to be here.

[00:07:05.860] – Allan

Well, good. Yeah, there's a lot of us these days. More and more people in the fitness space are in this area. I know when I first started trying to fix myself years ago that there was nobody here. Everybody was 20 25 30, and then, well, then you're just supposed to just cast off and we never saw you again. So it's good that more and more of us are actually understanding that taking care of ourselves is a lifelong thing. And there's more and more of us that are in our forty s and fifty s that are out there trying to get these messages out there. Now, one of the ways you're doing it now, this is not your first book, but your new book is called Body by Breath: the Science and Practice of Physical and Emotional Resilience. If I'd had this book five years ago, it would have been so valuable to me. It still is. But five years ago, I just really felt like I was losing the battle for resilience. And I really felt like, okay, stress was beating me up so bad that even when I could get my fitness together, or maybe my health together, I was never whole, if you will.

[00:08:08.570] – Allan

And what I really liked about your book was that it sort of took that whole concept of you're one being and how you take care of your body, it's all connected, and your breath is everything. It's where life and everything happens. And so as you got into this and I'll just say I've read a lot of anatomy books, as you might imagine, as a personal trainer and everything else, and I've read a lot of books about the systems of the body. This is a master class. If you're interested in learning more about your body, this is the book for you.

[00:08:41.830] – Jill

Oh, I'm going to take you on the road with me, Allan, can you do my intros everywhere? That's really awesome. Thank you so much for connecting with it in that way. And just last night I was checking this is coming out after the book is out, but we're in our final four days of prior to publication right now as we record this, and last night it was number one in medical anatomy and anatomy on Amazon. I certainly never, ever in my wildest dream, by the way, my dad's a doctor, so he is like, finally my doctor. But she could have been. Would have been. And not to scare people, the Anonymous is done in, I think, a very accessible way. Those were illustrations that my goodness, I think there's probably five to seven drafts on many of them to just keep finding what's essential, what's going to be able to connect off the page and into people's bodies, because that's really the translation that I want. I want people to have a sense of embodiment through the visual tour of the book. So I'm really glad that that landed with you.

[00:09:45.560] – Allan

It did, because as I was getting into it, I would ask myself the question, I'm like, do we need to go this deep into the anatomy? And then once you started talking about the why this works, we needed that. We needed that basis. And part of what I like about it is there's beauty in the complexity. And what I mean by that is so many people want an easy button. Just tell me how to breathe. And it's like, well, your body actually already knows how to do most of it.

[00:10:14.530] – Jill

We've gotten, in our own way, of being able to have efficient breathing in so many ways. And just to your point about, well, I just want it to be easy, my mother doesn't have easy breathing. My mother is asthmatic. She's been a lifelong asthmatic, chronic asthma. It wasn't until her mid 60s that she even knew how to locate her diaphragm, and it was because I was on a show. My friend Kelly Starrett, the founder of the Ready State, formerly Mobility Wad, he had me come onto a broadcast that he did through a platform called Creative Live. He had me come in and do a seminar for him on fascia and an hour long seminar on breath. This was really revolutionary more than ten years ago. These were topics that really were, I guess, not that hot yet. Although fascia was definitely trending, I showed the participants how to palpate their diaphragm, which is really simple. In fact, you can do it right now as you're listening. You just take your little paws, your little hands and you swing them around the bottom of your rib cage where you can get in you can't get into your ribcage easily all around it, but at the Costa margin, where you have that kind of teardrop shape on the right and left sides of your abdomen.

[00:11:25.120] – Jill

You can get your fingers underneath there. And if you kind of slump over, your fingers can piano play up against all the muscles you're touching, which is obviously your skin, some of the fatty layer of your abdomen, your rectus abdominals, your obliques, your transverse abdominals. But behind all that is your respiratory diaphragm. And then you take a breath in. If you breathe into your hands, you breathe in towards your gut, you'll actually feel the diaphragm contract and try to push your fingers out. So I taught them that process. And I get off stage and there is an enthusiastic message from my mother and she's ecstatic and weeping and so intense, and she says, oh my God, I just felt my diaphragm for the first time in my life. So this is an asthmatic who has lived with lifelong problems and pain and so many other impacts from her breathing posture and from the strain of breathing. But no doctor had ever told her about the primary muscle of respiration. This is also echoed in the very front of the book where I have an incredible yoga professional, a fitness professional, lewis Jackson, he wrote The Ford.

[00:12:30.760] – Jill

He was a lifelong asthmatic and he walked into one of my seminars in his mid 40s, and he had the exact same revelation why didn't anybody teach the asthmatic kid about the diaphragm? He had been dependent on inhalers. It had created a ton of shame for him around at parties, around friends. He was like hiding it all the time. Didn't want to be seen as that sickly, asthmatic kid. But nobody had even in his all his yoga training, nobody had actually described or help him map out the muscles of respiration and what that meant to his whole body. So anyway, so I really do think that just enough anatomy and there's a little bit more than enough, as you mentioned. But it really helps you to map yourself, connect to your core. The lining of your life are your breathing muscles. And why should we over focus on our quads and our biceps? My opinion, the diaphragm is the most important muscle of the body. I mean, I'm saying that above the heart. All right? So that's where I'm coming from here.

[00:13:33.840] – Allan

Well, they're definitely first cousins. They're close.

[00:13:38.630] – Jill

Yes. Well, the diaphragm happens to be a mattress for the heart. The heart sits directly on top of it, and the diaphragm is like humidam Humi dumb. Look how I'm massaging you, Mr. Hart.

[00:13:48.240] – Allan

Above me right now. One of the reasons why I got really excited about the breathing and the body and this whole conversation was because I've always thought of breathing as related to stress. That's when I noticed my breathing. That's when I felt like I had to start paying attention to my breathing, was in those moments of acute stress and then realizing I'm not breathing the way I'm supposed to when I'm in periods of chronic stress. That was me working in the corporate world and realizing I've sat here all day long and I'm actually not breathing most of the day. By not breathing, I mean actually not taking in deep breaths, getting oxygenated, just literally almost in a coma, sitting there and this shallow, almost like panting little dog breath, if you will. And I see it. We've got pets, and whenever they're distressed, they immediately go into that low breathe. And I'm like, that was me 25 years of my life. My days were that kind of breathing. How does breathing and stress resilience pull that together for us so we can understand not just that it's affected, but how we can use it to affect our stress?

[00:15:00.660] – Jill

Sure. Breathing is one of the greatest switches that you can use in your body to be able to pull yourself literally from state to state. You can breathe in such a way that you are up regulated, you're hyper, you're hyped, you're pumped. You can also breathe in ways that calm you down, that pull you out of high stress states. Because breathing is one of these amazing functions in the autonomic nervous system that isn't just autonomic, it's not just automatic. You can actually regulate it. And that's what makes breathing as a health tool so profound. Because healing doesn't take place in a sympathetic, upregulated high pipe state. Healing actually takes place in the rest, digest and recovery. And if we're dampening our ability to enter into parasympathetically, relaxed, rest recover states, then allostatic load the sum total of our stresses, just the pie chart of that is out of proportion. And eventually those lead to stress related diseases. And Ailments, the global indices of disease are all pointing towards that. All cause mortality is increasing due to anxiety related and depression related issues. And so it's important for us as a species to pay attention to what are the levers that this levers is one of the things I think Kelly talks about.

[00:16:24.110] – Jill

What are the levers that we can play around with to see if we can foster a habitat in our body that is okay with that other side of the stress spectrum? That other side of the stress spectrum is our rest, digest, recover, recuperate. So the book while the book is called Body by Breath, the word body is also in there. It's not just breath as the only tool. There are many ways that the book outlines how to use your body and also use some tools to augment a parasympathetic or a relaxation response. And breath is one of the major tools that is used. But the whole body stress is a body wide experience. It's not just in your head. And you know that because you get these really tight shoulder muscles. Your jaw clenches, your sleep starts to be disturbed. We have this body wide expression of stress. So typically one of the easiest and simplest ways to adjust your breath rhythm is to try to put more gas and more duration into your exhales. So long exhale breaths. And this is just a very simple thing. You just think about blowing out more candles on the birthday cake than you already have.

[00:17:37.200] – Jill

So maybe you inhale a certain quantity of air. It doesn't matter how much it is, but you just want to make sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale just to start to grow your capacity. That comfort of getting out of a stress breath, which is more that panting breath or a very shallow breath.

[00:17:55.430] – Allan

Yeah, you used the term in the book and it kind of clicked in my head as I figured something this would but what it was, was you said turning your off switch on. Okay. I would go through my whole day on switches on and you would think, okay then. Now what I'm trying to do is I'm driving home from work and also still in a stressful situation, but I'm trying to then turn off. I never thought of it as other than like if my boss called me up to his office, I would start doing box breathing in the elevator just so I wouldn't do a fight or flight in front of him because I couldn't I had to go face him. But it was just interesting that you put this concept in there because it was just something it was a tool. When I was working in corporate, I just didn't have can you talk a little bit about turning your off switch on?

[00:19:02.620] – Jill

Yeah, in the book I call it turn on your off switch. Thank you so much for asking me about that little lingo statement because it really does summarize the whole book. The book is about recovery, and the off switch in this case is the parasympathetic nervous system. So when we're in a highly stressed state, our sympathetics are basically running rampant and we're responding to that mostly unconsciously. How to take control of that excessive on is to actually try to stimulate a specific nerve called the vagus nerve, which is really the governor of the parasympathetic nervous system. So the ways that we go into the mellow are, one, by turning the on off, but turning the off on. And I know that's very confusing, but it's a little bit of neuroanatomy. So we want to do things that stimulate our vagus nerve because once the vagus nerve starts to come online and we can do this in many different ways and I outline this throughout the book, what happens is the arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system, it down regulates the sympathetic nervous system. So there is a switcheroo happening in terms of what effects start to happen from the brain to the body and also from the body to the brain.

[00:20:28.690] – Jill

So in the book I outline a five phase or five specific things to think about if you're trying to turn on your off switch. And I call this the five P's, and I think it's a very easy formula for people to get comfortable with. It's a five P's of the parasympathetic nervous system. It's a process. It brings you Ps. Lots of p's in there. But here are the five P's. The first P is perspective. Perspective has to deal with a mindset. It's very helpful if you're going to try to flip your stress switch that you bring in your adult brain. You bring in a host that allows your body based experience to occur, because once you start to decrease the speed that's happening in the sympathetic nervous system, you're going to start to have a lot of feelings. The adrenaline and the acceleration in our sympathetic nervous system blunts us to a lot of the subtler senses in our body. This brings me on a quick sidebar into our physiological sensing system is called interoception. And I highlight this in a big way within the book. But basically, these subtle senses are the physiology of your body speaking to you.

[00:21:50.690] – Jill

And so it's helpful to have a mindset that welcomes those feelings to occur, because sometimes those feelings are a physical feeling and other time those feelings are emotions. So we want to be a welcome host to our experience. So in a mindset in that perspective chunk, you would want to say things to yourself that are positive, like, all of me is welcome here or I embody my body. So you're going to welcome your experience.

[00:22:16.600] – Jill

The Second P is place. The place is not always ideal, right? You're in the elevator on the way to speak with your boss. You're in line at an airport, just hoping you can get off the standby list. So place is not always ideal. It can be cacophonous, it can be loud, it can be bright, it can be hostile. But in an ideal setting let me talk about the ideal setting for the parasympathetic nervous system, we're in a place that is warm, that is dark. Those are some of the things that the parasympathetic nervous system really likes. And if you can't be in those places, maybe if you're in a loud, clangy, bright place, you can pretend fantasize.

[00:22:55.790] – Jill

So maybe cast, if it's safe to do so, cast yourself in an imaginary space. It is very helpful. All right, so place.

[00:23:03.550] – Jill

The third P is position. Typically, for position, we want to get grounded. We want to get low to the ground. You could do this by reclining on a bed or a sofa or lying back in a chair. But to really maximize position, especially for the vagus nerve, we actually want to try to get our head lower than our heart, lower than our pelvis. And what this looks like, if you're in a reclined position is just elevating your pelvis up a few inches. I like to elevate my pelvis on my tool. It's called a gorgeous ball. But you can put your pelvis on a stack of books. Body by Breath is a very thick book. You can always put your pelvis on the Body by Breath book. Or a yoga block. We love those. Or a rolled up pillow or everybody's got something they can stick their tush on top of. And what that gentle slope does is it takes advantage of a neural feedback loop called the baroceptor reflex. And what the baroceptor reflex is, is there are nerve sensors in the sides of your neck and the carotid artery that are vaguely mediated.

[00:24:04.330] – Jill

And when your body starts to sense due to gravity that too much blood is flowing towards your brain, your brain can't afford that. Your body can't afford that. And so these stretch sensors in these arteries send a very quick feedback loop through the vagus nerve to the brain and suddenly there's a state shift. Your stroke rate will slow down so your heart will slow down and your breath pace will slow down and all the arteries within your body constrict. And this is to minimize blood flow to the brain so that you maintain your blood barrier, your blood brain barrier. But the consequence of that, the result of that is a mellowing. You get chill by doing this gentle slope.

[00:24:41.830] – Jill

The fourth P is what most people think the book is going to be entirely about is pace of breath. And I already mentioned to you the pace of breath. You typically want to have exhales that are longer than inhales. Although there are paradoxical breathing patterns that are reversed that can be very effective too, but for the most part exhales longer than inhales.

[00:25:01.720] – Jill

And then the fifth P has been my specialty for a very long time palpation. And then in this case, palpation, I teach self massage strategies that down regulate the sympathetics and up regulate the parasympathetic nervous system through gentle touch, through gentle motion and through depth of pressure, comfortable depth of pressure, especially into certain regions of the body where the vagus nerve is available. So we can affect the vagus nerve through manual or through mechanical means through pressure.

[00:25:33.350] – Allan

So as we work through this and we could do it as a stress resilience or we can just do it for an overall resilience perspective, sure, I like that. There's some tools out there I like whenever there's something that makes it to where someone can beyond just knowing that I feel less stressed, I'm sleeping better, those types of things. We can actually measure our performance, if you will, as far as if we're trying to do this. And one of the ways but interestingly enough, it was athletes where I've heard this from, they want to make sure that they are recovered enough to go into training because they train so hard. They use heart rate variability to measure basically their recovery. But it's a tool we could use if we're really stressed out. We're in a high stress job, and we want to make sure we're doing the right things and we're not overstressing ourselves. Because I've had some clients that are, like, wanting to train harder and harder, and I'm like, okay, you're already in a chronically stressful environment. Adding this extra stress of a harder workout to your workload, that's a load. That's a stress load.

[00:26:41.410] – Allan

We call it allostatic load. It just adds up. And workouts can be good hormetic. They can be good for you, but they can also be a part of the problem. Can you tell us a little bit about heart rate variability and what that's measuring and how we could use it as a tool to understand our stress management?

[00:27:01.260] – Jill

Sure. Well, I don't wear tech. My husband does, so I get to collect data. But I don't know. I'm very old fashioned. I want as few rays near me as possible, and I tend to do my own heart rate analysis through interoception. So I'll do different heart rate tests by sensing my pulse and also checking my heart rate. So I just wanted to put that out there because I know a lot of people are checking their reads. Okay, what heart rate variability is the beat to beat changes within your heart. So your heart actually, when you're amplified, your heart has a very regular beat threshold. So let's say when you're running, maybe you're at 120 to 130 beats per minute, right? It's very rhythmical. It's very on. And that's because the excitation within the body subdues or prevents the vagus nerve from firing upon the heart. When you're in a relaxed state, when you're not in an amplified stress state, the vagus nerve should be firing upon the heart, and that creates a sympathetic parasympathetic toggle within the heart itself. But when we are in sympathetic states, it dampens the strength of the vagus nerve signaling to the heart.

[00:28:27.620] – Jill

And so we get the steady, steady, steady state heart rate. When people are so they're psyched, like, oh my God, it was 130 beats per minute, but you're in high stress state, which we need for output and for exercise. But after that stress state, you should be able to come down. And the faster you come down, of course, without crashing, but you should be able to come down and that your heart then goes back to its normal between 60 and 80 beats per minute. Much of this is dependent on so many different factors, but the reason we have these beats to beat changes is because of the effect of the vagus upon the heart. When you have very highly trained athletes that also do a lot of recovery work, their resting heart rate can be lower than 60, and they're extremely healthy. And that is a signal. It's a sign of good vagal tone, meaning that when their body doesn't need to be amped up, it's not sympathetic. They have their parasympathetic resilience in place, helping them. To recover, rest and regenerate.

[00:29:28.550] – Allan

And the value of that, when you start thinking about it from a historical perspective, is you're walking through the jungle or through the woods or through the field. You're just calm, everything's cool, and then something happens. You need to be able to respond quickly. But we're not supposed to stay there. We're supposed to then get back to that rest and recover. Because if we spend too much time and we're not recovering well enough, there's going to be a time we don't get away because we didn't recover well enough to perform well enough when it was time to do that. And unfortunately, most of us are spending so much time in a chronic stress state that, like you said in the book, I think turning on that off switch is kind of an important thing that we've forgotten how to do.

[00:30:16.390] – Jill

Yeah, I think that I would like to see people engage in recovery based practices that really do impact the body and its structure in very therapeutic ways so that it builds what I call their endurance. For parasympathetic tolerance, I do tend to find that people, many people, not all the people that come into my studio, but many of the people that come to work with me, have been so conditioned to upregulation that when they enter into parasympathetic states, their body feels unsettled, it feels threatening, it feels scary. And for these people, meditation, like stillness, meditation, has been abysmal and really is something that is uncomfortable, causes the wiggles, causes the fidgets. And what I try to do is help those high anxiety individuals to find recovery based practices that aren't triggering another sympathetic response. I think some of the there's a chapter in the book around the vagus nerve, and I also highlight the work of Dr. Stephen Porges, who has a theory called Polyvagal theory, which is, please read the book so you can understand polyvagal theory. It's a little difficult to explain in short, shrift on a podcast, but incidentally, he was the first person to quantify HRV.

[00:31:40.570] – Jill

The many things that Dr porsche talks about is the evolution of the vagus nerve and how our bodies, as humans, have appropriated it from reptilian all the way up to primate and mammal and primate to help us identify these body based feelings and, I guess, harness the impact that the vagus nerve can have on our overall health and well being.

[00:32:09.130] – Allan

Yeah, well, the key of it to me is and it's one of the reasons why I think your book is so valuable, is it really does kind of explain we're not just this physical thing, we're not just this emotional thing. And it's really hard to talk about one without talking about the other if you really understand how it all works, because your emotions affect your physicality and your physicality affects your emotions. And all the trauma and all the history and everything that you've had, it's all a part of this jumble of what we become as a person. And if we want to be healthier, it's important for us to just understand how all that works and to find the right ways for us to turn off when we need to be off and turn on when we need to be on. And having these tools, I think, is extremely valuable. Now, in the book, you do share all of these exercises and that was really when the rubber hit the road. So the lessons that you get in the front half of the book are really important. Take your time, go through those. It's a reference manual for how your body works and all of this, then the exercises are excellent and very well photographed and set up so you understand exactly what's being done.

[00:33:25.890] – Allan

And now you know why you're doing it. Which for a lot of people looking at exercises, like, why does she have her hips way up on that and her feet way up on the wall? And that looks uncomfortable. You're not staying there forever. You're just staying there long enough to let a few things happen and settle within your body. But again, as we start looking at these exercises, you had one set and I was like, okay, this is important. I don't know that I'll be able to get my wife to do these exercises. But anyone that's struggling with sleep, I think, has found themselves and their brain is racing and they're suddenly in this almost a fight or flight mode. 02:00 in the morning. And how can they turn it off? Because because they might not be able to completely get up and do a whole workout at 02:00 in the morning. But you do have one. You call it Let sleep. I don't know if you know the full workout, but can you talk about a few things that people can do to help their body just go back into a rest state and go back to sleep easier?

[00:34:27.190] – Jill

Yes. So for that acute wake up, I feel for you. I mean, I feel for all the over 40 fitness people, especially females, that are waking up. Hormone changes are no joke. And as a woman in my perimenopausal years right now, I was absolutely astonished at how radical perimenopause changed sleep for me. So I will say, on a global level, one of the ways that I've dealt with the problematic early morning waking for myself is I've adjusted my bedtime. Because no matter what time I would go to bed, I'd wake up right around 04:00 a.m. And so I decided no more 10:00 p.m. Night time. I go to bed at 8:30. Now, with my kids, that's really helped.

[00:35:22.000] – Allan

Me that's my normal bedtime is 8:30 9:00.

[00:35:26.410] – Jill

If my body wants to wake up at four and my acute practices aren't helping me get back to sleep, then I just need to listen to this bigger sort of chronological change that's happening and work with it rather than against it. But that being said, I do have a few things that I do if I have other wakings during the night, and breathing is very helpful. Here's what I'll say first. Gosh, there's so much I want to say about sleep because I think one of the biggest things we miss, or our bodies miss, is that there is a natural melatonin wave that just comes up in your body right? In the morning we have our cortisol wave, and at night we have melatonin wave. And if you push past that melatonin wave because you really want to finish the episode, or you really want to finish reading the chapter, or you've got to send five more emails or you haven't finished with your food prep, you're going to have a rocky sleep. So it is very critical to attune yourself to interceptively. So this brings us back to interception physiological listening, to be able to pick up on that wave and know that that wave has something to say to you, which is lights out.

[00:36:46.920] – Jill

And so if we miss the wave, it's going to jank up our sleep. So that's one, don't miss the wave. If you miss the wave and you are having fitful sleep, there are a couple of different breath practices that have been proven to be an anxiety reliever and a parasympathetic inducer. And this just came out recently in oh, gosh, I can't remember. OD, I think it was in cell. And it was a study done by Melissa Balaban, David Spiegel and Dr. Andrew Hooverman up at Stanford, and they compared a few different breathing strategies against mindfulness meditation. And I'm bringing this into the sleep realm. The breathing practice is called cyclic sighing. And in cyclic sighing, what you would do just stay in bed. You don't need to move position, you don't need to do anything fancy. What you do is you take a big inhale, pause the inhale for a moment, and then take a second inhale on top of that so you're completely full, and then exhale slowly out through your nose or mouth in body by breath. I call this a chocolate chip breath or chocolate chip cookie breath. And this was a breath I designed in an acute way for my six year old, who started to get panic attacks within months of the pandemic happening and was frightening to watch her go through the inability to breathe and was really struggling.

[00:38:20.120] – Jill

And she doesn't have asthma, there's no other. It was all stress and emotion related due to the changes in the pandemic. And so what I had her do is take a gigantic sniff of warm chocolate chip cookies, try to just fill her body with that chocolate chip cookie scent, pause for a moment and then take an extra kind of cheat sniff, get more scent in, and then exhale slowly and let it go. And so the cyclic sighing breath, you don't have to imagine chocolate chip cookies because that might be too arousing for you in bed. But know that it's a two part inhale followed by a long extended exhalation. And this triggers a reflex in the brain stem of a certain area of the brain stem called the parafacial nucleus. That was discovered by Dr. Jack Feldman, who is a respiratory neuroscientist. But this also is a stoker of our parasympathetic nervous system. So you wake up, your mind is spinning, you start to fidget, start doing these cyclic thighs. Don't count them, just keep doing them and you might find yourself drifting off to sleep. So that's one that's very helpful. There's another breath strategy.

[00:39:31.030] – Jill

Here's the other thing. If you have a partner in bed, there's a little stress there because you start to realize that you can hear your breath go through your nose. So maybe don't let them sleep with you so you can do your breath practice and not wake them up. The other breath strategy I like to do is in the book also, it's called Psychic Alternate Nostril Breathing. This is the one that works for me. It's called an Anolum Vilom. And Anolum Vilom, you imagine the breath alternating from nostril to opposite brain hemisphere and then moving to the other side of the brain and then out the opposite nostril. So you're basically creating a little loop de loop of imagined air pattern or imagined airflow. And I don't know why it works for me, but it does. Ultimately, there are about 23 different breath strategies in the book. You might find one that works for you. So even though I'm saying, oh, well, science said cyclic size are the thing that's going to help coax you down, it may not be true for you because you might have a paradoxical reaction to any of these breath strategies.

[00:40:37.920] – Jill

That's one of the things that makes this so interesting. The other thing I would say is prior to sleep is to get in during the day some recovery based practices because there is a build up over time of your ability to click into that parasympathetic mode. So I think it's a good idea to start to build your tolerance for relaxation earlier in the day. And then you might find that there's a carryover at night. There's other individuals that I work with that find doing the fascia facial work. So in body by breath, there's some head, neck and face rollouts to help massage and stimulate different vagally mediated muscles of the face, neck and head. And so doing really gentle work on the jaw, the temples, even deep into the sides of the neck near the carotid, these can be things that, again, down regulate, sympathetics up regulate parasympathetics and help you nod off. And if you're a jaw clencher, it's very helpful to do the jaw massage close to bedtime to just change the resting tone of those muscles.

[00:41:49.650] – Allan

Yeah, I bring up sleep a lot because I do believe it's critical. It's just one of those big things. And I know that a lot of us over 40, particularly women, struggle with sleep. I'm the guy who's falling asleep each time I've taken yoga, and they use the non sleep. What is it called? Yeah, I'm out.

[00:42:14.250] – Jill

So that's interesting, too. That's a whole other chapter. So there's four tools. The tools are breath, breathe, roll, move, non sleep deep breast, also known as yoga nidra. And there is that category, or there is that segment of the population that when they go into non sleep deep breaths, they actually bypass the focus and they just pass out. And so that would be like an excessive vagal dominance, the non sleep deep breath. From where I'm coming from, if you need to sleep, you should sleep. I mean, that really is an indicator to me of absolute exhaustion. But ultimately, with non sleep deep breaths, we wouldn't be able to train ourselves to maintain attention, to maintain focus on our physiology in this interesting liminal state. And I detailed that in the chapters.

[00:43:00.230] – Allan

Yeah, it was one of those things where if it was a calm yoga session, because I did have one that was like combat yoga, and that one I didn't I was bruised up. I was beat up by the time that one was over. But, yeah, it was kind of interesting. But most of them because it's just this relaxing the breathing, this and I'm laying flat on my back. I'm like, out.

[00:43:24.530] – Jill


[00:43:27.730] – Allan

So, Jill, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

[00:43:40.230] – Jill

Number one, I'd say become aware of your breathing and which zone of respiration you tend to live in. So those zones of respiration I detail in the book, we have three zones the gut, the rib cage, and the stuff above the rib cage. And depending on becoming aware of where you're breathing is really step one towards adjusting yourself into, I think, a healthier, happier place. Number two would be help your body move and find something that commands your curiosity and focus within the movement. And so that could be body parts that you're interested in, or it could be a phenomenon outside of yourself, like a goal of being able to play with your grandchildren for the rest of your life. And then number three for being healthy, happy, and well is use self massage to regulate your emotions and help yourself physically.

[00:44:42.410] – Allan

And your book, Body by Breath details most of that, particularly the massage and the movements and everything else. So, Jill, if someone wanted to learn more about you or learn more about your book, Body by Breath, where would you like for me to send them?

[00:44:58.510] – Jill

We have a really helpful website, bodybybreath.com, that is everything about the book. My company is tuneupfitness.com, so people can also head to the website and check out the offerings there. We have filmed all hundred exercises within the book and those will be going up on the website eventually. I know we're in post production on that. I have lots of programs that also detail fascia and rolling. I have partner programs with my dear friend Kelly Starrett, also Tom Myers, who is one of the godfathers of functional fascia understanding, and then my friend Katie Bowman. We have a program called Walking Well. So there's lots of offerings and classes on the website and then there's lots of free stuff on YouTube, so cost is a barrier. I have so many free videos on YouTube that explain in very digestible chunks of the work. And you can find me on Instagram @thejillmiller. That's where I'm most active. But there's also teachers all over the planet. We have about 500 tune up fitness teachers that teach yoga, tune up, role model and body by breath methods. So you can find them by heading to the website of tuneupfitness.com and putting in your zip code.

[00:46:11.270] – Jill

And you can actually work one on one or in groups with our teachers.

[00:46:16.770] – Allan

Great. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/583, and I'll be sure to have the links there. Jill, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

[00:46:28.430] – Jill

I'm so happy to connect with you. Thank you so much for welcoming me and for your deep interest in my book. I really appreciate it.

Post Show/Recap

[00:46:45.490] – Allan

Welcome back, Ras.

[00:46:47.080] – Rachel

Hey, Allan. Every time I think I've heard everything about breathing, you have an interview with somebody that introduces yet another thing I haven't thought about. And it was just really interesting because in this discussion there was a moment where you were talking about having a longer exhale than the inhale. That was one thing that I just never thought too much about. But I was on a run over the weekend, running uphill, my heart's pounding because it was a challenging run. I was on on this trail and I'm like, okay, I'm going to try this. And I started to take some longer exhales and sharper inhales and I don't know, it was a hard run anyway, but I feel like at least it gave me something to focus on. And I did feel better. I felt a lot better once I was done with the hill. But it was an interesting practice that I actually used from your interview. So that was super cool.

[00:47:41.670] – Allan

Yeah. Key takeaway, kids, practice what you're going to do in the race. Don't just do it in the race.

[00:47:48.090] – Rachel

That's right. That is right.

[00:47:51.590] – Allan

All right. So it worked out pretty well with you breathing.

[00:47:55.750] – Rachel

It really does. And especially for runners, we have all these different conditions and whether you're running calm and in an easy pace or you're charging up hills or even windmilling down the hills, which is really fun, there's different moments where breathing in different patterns can have a real huge benefit while you're running or walking or doing whatever. So, yeah, it's always fun to listen to these different techniques and to put them into action to actually try them.

[00:48:24.390] – Allan

Well, what I really liked about this was that Jill's book was really just practical. Breath is a part of movement. Breath is a part of relaxation. Breath is a part of huge sleep. It's a part of everything. So the better you breathe, the better you're going to do in all of those things. And when you get that all kind of balanced out and you're breathing right the way your body was designed to breathe, using your diaphragm and using it correctly, then your body has what it needs as part of that whole, okay, I've got plenty of oxygen, I've got rid of enough of the carbon dioxide. My body doesn't have to feel like it's about to die. I can just relax a little bit more. And again, that's one of the keys. One of the keys for people who are really good at running is that they get adequate oxygen in and carbon dioxide, they get a right balance and they keep that right balance at what is basically a very low level of exertion for them. But they're moving really quick. So there's this disability. But then the other side of it is, well, they are going to put up with a whole lot of pain for that duration of that run.

[00:49:40.970] – Allan

But the breathing is the big piece because most of these runners, their resting heart rate is in the 40s when they're really pushing themselves, they might get their heart rate up to 150, whereas an average person, I get 150 just jogging down the street. But it's one of those things where breath is really a part of movement. It's part of all of it. There are some good exercises in here for you to go through and understand how to breathe better. And that's going to make everything else better.

[00:50:21.430] – Rachel

Oh, absolutely. And you just mentioned relaxation. And in every aspect of life when you've had a really tough day at work or you're frustrated with the kids or something is stressing you out. Really taking that time to practice some relaxation technique type of breathing. It sends your body into such a relaxed state so that your mind can actually think better and then you can problem solve a little better and not be so anxious about what's going on but actually have the wherewithal to deal with it properly. And I think few people just take you hear it all the time, just take a second, calm down. But if you actually did it, don't ever tell your wife to calm down. I'm just saying. But when you actually do take a second, take a deep breath, then it actually does put you in such a relaxed state that you can deal with troubles so much better. And I think that's missed on a lot of people.

[00:51:17.160] – Allan

Yeah, I agree.

[00:51:18.970] – Rachel

Great interview.

[00:51:20.230] – Allan

Thank you. Well, you'll talk next week, then?

[00:51:22.480] – Rachel

You betcha. Thanks.

Music by Dave Gerhart


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