Anders Olsson was invited to the Embodiment Conference to give a guest lecture about the Conscious Breathing concept to improve your health and well-being.
- Why Am I So Obsessed with Breathing?
- Impaired Breathing
- The Seven Habits of Conscious Breathing
- Get More Energy
- Better Sleep
- Calm down a racing mind
- Better Sports Performance
- Questions and Answers
Woman: Anders, I’d love to introduce you to our audience now. Anders Olsson is one of the world’s leading experts on breathing and the founder of his Conscious Breathing method. He once ran a half marathon with duct tape over his mouth to show the power of nasal breathing. His method evolved from his own personal experiences and research on a range of modalities including relaxation techniques and yoga, qigong, the Buteyko Method, mental training, body awareness and also feedback from thousands of people.
He’s an author, a lecturer and a teacher. He has trained more than a thousand Conscious breathwork instructors. He says that our breathing is a direct reflection of our emotions, our thoughts and our physical body and that taking control of our breathing is a free and powerful way that we can practice in any situation throughout the day to improve our health. Today, Anders explains what makes good breathing and its influence on all aspects of our lives. Anders, I’m delighted that you’re here and over to you.
Anders: Thank you very much for that nice introduction. In my view, I firmly believe that in our breath lies the power to change our lives. I’ve been doing this now for 10 years helping people to improve their breathing.
Why Am I So Obsessed With Breathing?
The question I often get is why in the world are you so obsessed about breathing. Sometimes I consider myself a curious breathing nerd. This has to do with my previous inner stress where I tend to think of myself as born in turbo mode. I always had this racing mind. When I grew up it was all about competition, timing things. When I biked to school I had five stop times and it was all about setting new records obviously, I couldn’t set the record from start to finish but then I could always try to set a record from stop time two to four for example.
I timed eating breakfast. It took me 30 seconds to take in a bowl of cereal. I even timed going to the toilet. I was very, very much in my mind. One example of this was when I was 13, I figured I wanted to start doing push-ups and sit-ups. My record in one month was 25,000 push-ups, 50,000 sit-ups. It took me only 35 seconds to do 50 push-ups. Since I didn’t have any tools to unlock the turbo, this has followed me even until I discovered breathing.
I tend to think that most of my life I spent making myself stressed out and also making people around me stressed out. If you have ever been stressed out which I’m sure you have, you may have noticed that fear and worry are not far away. Those have also been my companions for the most part of my life. Also, I had a short fuse and very poor self-confidence. I also had physical stuff growing up like I had a lot of allergies. I used to, especially in the summer, scratch my skin so hard it started to bleed. I had a lot of restless sleep, sleepwalking, nightmares, sweating. I used to wake up with my feet on my pillow telling me that I was twisting and turning a lot, etc.
I’ve tried to find different ways to get out of this turbo mode. I mean I love my turbo. I don’t want to be without it but sometimes it could be really nice to be able to unlock it, to be able to slow down at will. By far the most important tool I’ve found is our breath. I’ve tried. I’ve improved my sleeping habits, working habits, eating habits, etc.
Maybe you’ve heard of Viktor Frankl. He survived three years in a concentration camp. He has written the book Man’s Search for Meaning. He was able to find meaning surviving under these horrible conditions. One thing he said that I really like is, “Between stimulus and response there is a space and in that space is our power to choose our response”. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. That is exactly what I have found in the conscious breath. It has helped me to open up the window opportunity to react differently to incoming stimuli.
Before when some stimuli come my way, someone pushed a button, I reacted with the behavior I had learned as a child. I reacted with fear, with worry, with stress with anger, etc. but I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that breathing has changed my life. I feel nowadays I’m no longer a slave to these learned behaviors. Someone pushed the button that 15 years ago lead to a fear reaction. Now well, it doesn’t really bother me. I’m in charge. I’m able to. The breath, the conscious breath, the low and slow and rhythmic breath have helped me to find the time necessary to react differently. If you react differently over and over you will start to create new patterns. That is what can happen.
I believe that the reason for this is that our thoughts, our emotions and our physical body all surf on the breath. We can all agree that with no breath there is nothing. There are no thoughts, no emotions, no muscle movements. That’s how I view it. If we have good breathing we lay the foundation for good thoughts, balanced emotions, good actions and a body that doesn’t stop us from doing what we want.
Exercise: Eye Focus
Okay, let’s do an exercise so you don’t sit here and fall asleep. I want you to, if you’re sitting down, adopt an erect posture. I want you to follow my instructions clearly. Preferably do not make a mistake. You should focus on the camera and towards me during the whole exercise. Your head should be still during the whole exercise. It’s kind of a bit to perform. Are you ready?
Follow my instructions. Okay, let’s start. Look up, look down, look to the left, look to the right, look up. Head should be still. Look down, look up, look to the left, look to the right, look up, look down. Head should be still. Look up, look to the left. How are you breathing now? That was the purpose of the exercise. Anyone, maybe hold your breath or breathe fast, shallow? There is a tendency whenever we engage in something we concentrate or perform we kind of tense up and it will affect our breathing. Usually when I do this exercise live two-thirds of the audience would say that yes, their breathing got totally screwed up.
A few signs of impaired breathing are that you’re using your mouth, that you breathe shallowly, fast, irregular, unrhythmic, noisy. You take big breaths, your breathing is tense, it’s labored. The exhalation is short. You have a slumped posture. Maybe you experience some of these poor breathing, impaired breathing habits when we did this little exercise just to show that our mind, our thoughts, our emotions, our posture, our actions are all mirrored, reflected in our breath. When we are afraid, we will have a breathing pattern that is afraid. When we are stressed out, we will have a breathing pattern that is stressed out.
A definition of being sick in my view is that we react to incoming stimuli with too much sympathetic fight, flight, freeze and too little parasympathetic which is the rest, recovery, growth. The impaired breathing takes us in the direction towards sympathetic. When we are overbreathing meaning we breathe too fast which upsets the oxygen, carbon dioxide balance. We take in too much oxygen and exhale too much carbon dioxide. We may have chaotic breathing where we tend to breathe faster in one instance and then breathe slower in another instance. We pant when we breathe fast all the time. We may have periodic breathing which at night time we call it sleep apnea meaning we hold our breath. At daytime, I call it text message apnea, concentration apnea or computer apnea or almost whatever you like apnea. There is a lot of us that have a tendency to hold our breath during the day or we have shallow chest breathing, feel maybe that we are not breathing at all.
While a definition of being healthy it is the opposite. We react to incoming stimuli mainly with parasympathetic rest, recovery and growth and less sympathetic fight, flight, freeze. That is what the conscious breath can help us with to take us in the parasympathetic direction.
The Seven Habits of Conscious Breathing
Let’s look at the Seven Habits of Conscious breathing. The first one is the nose. Good breathing starts in the nose. The mouth is for eating, talking. The nose is for breathing. If we want to twist it a little bit we can say that it is just as natural to inhale through the mouth as it is to eat through the nose. Maybe it’s going a little bit too far but you understand my point.
If we look at the nose here we realize, unless evolution has completely lost it and created a huge space in the cranium for the nose that is completely unnecessary because the nose is only there to smell the flowers. The nose has this huge space that it occupies. I mean the part that we can see and touch and feel is the small part. The big part is inside our cranium. In this picture, it almost looked like we could fit half a brain into the nasal cavity. It lies a little bit but still, we have these important functions in our cranium like eyes and the nervous system. Obviously, if the nose wasn’t as important it could have much lesser space so there could be more room for the brain but this picture really tells us that the nose is very important.
What it does is that it prepares the air for the lungs. The advantages of nasal breathing are that it warms and moistens the air and it filters out bacteria and viruses and other particles. Research suggests that we inhale up to 100 billion particles in a single day. More so if we live in a city where the air is polluted or if we spend a lot of time indoors where the air quality isn’t that good. Imagine taking in that air with all these particles which include viruses and bacteria. Imagine taking in that unfiltered through the mouth. Also, dry and cold air goes through the mouth in the airways and down into the lungs. It is like having to choose between eating a raw chicken unless we’re vegans or vegetarians and a prepared chicken. I think most of us would choose the prepared chicken. That’s what the lungs have to choose between. The air that comes via the mouth is in a more raw fashion while through the nose it is filtered. It is warm. It is humidified. Nasal breathing is super important. Good breathing starts in the nose but it doesn’t end there.
The second habit is that the breathing should be low. What I mean by that is that we should use our diaphragm which is attached to the six lowest ribs. You can feel it if you touch the bottom of your ribs. The diaphragm is our major breathing muscle. Together with the heart, those are the only two muscles that never rest. They’re constantly active. The heart to pump the blood and the diaphragm to move the air in and out of the lungs. When we inhale the diaphragm moves down and when we exhale the diaphragm goes up.
Here we can see how it works. You can clearly see when the diaphragm operates as it’s supposed to. It will massage the organs in the abdomen. Compared to if we have this shallow breathing, this movement will not occur there. The massage of the organs, the stomach, the liver, the intestines won’t happen and they will not function well. The diaphragmatic breath is very, very important.
Further, we can see that a large part of the airways they’re just like a tube, like a snorkel if you like. When we take the air in via the mouth or preferably by the nose there is a long way of just transporting the air. There is no action. The air shall reach the alveoli as you can see in the image to the right. They are like grapes. They look like grapes and that’s where the action is. You have the trachea and then it’s divided into two, one to each lung. Then it should divide another 22 times before the air reaches the alveoli. Each time there the airwaves are divided, they get smaller and smaller and it’s harder and harder for the air to pass.
The thing is that most of these alveoli are located at the bottom of the lungs. As is most of the blood because we do have blood in our lungs. The idea with the alveoli is that is where the gas exchange happens. That’s the oxygen and they are connected to the blood. The air we inhale contains a lot of oxygen. The oxygen in the alveoli is transported over to the blood. Most of the alveoli are located at the bottom of the lungs and also most of the blood is located there. We have 10 times as much blood at the bottom of the lungs compared to at the top of the lungs. It’s far more efficient to breathe in this low fashion.
Please note that I don’t use the word deep because most people when we say deep, associate it with a big breath. In my view that is not optimum which we will talk about in a second. In normal breathing, we have air circulating in all the parts of the lungs which is what we want but in shallow breathing, the air circulates more in the upper parts. We already talked about its inefficiency but not only that it will also create an environment in the lungs where stale air will be trapped. The particles we inhale will also be trapped. The bacteria and viruses and other particles will get trapped in the lungs causing inflammations. Over time if we continue with this shallow breathing this inflammation will become chronic and eventually we will get a diagnosis of COPD or lung emphysema which means the lung tissues have been permanently destroyed. That’s when those inflammations become chronic and over time they will get destroyed. Mouth breathing actually promotes shallow breathing. The more raw fashion taken in the air creates more narrow, inflamed airways leading to more shallow breathing. The nose is designed to drive the air all the way down to the bottom of the lungs.
We won’t go through the other habits but it should also be slow and small. We should have an erect posture so that we give room for the diaphragm to work. Our breath should be rhythmic compared to the breath hold that many of us engaged in. We should also have a quiet breathing. What I mean by that is for example when we sleep we may snore. That’s not a quiet breathing. Every sound we make means that we move air in and out of the lungs or at daytime we may [sound]. We sigh and we huff and puff and make all kinds of sounds. That means that we are breathing and those breaths are not particularly good.
More than anything the idea with Conscious Breathing is your breathing pattern outside of the yoga mat, outside of meditation. It is about the thousand breaths you take each hour. How can you take more and more of them in line with these seven good habits? When we have a stressed breath, we tend to be more in survival mode. We are separated. Ourselves, feel separated. We feel separated from each other. We end up in more conflicts, fear, worry, diseases. We may have poor sleep, low energy. When we can move and take more and more of those thousand breaths in a more harmonious way we will experience better sleep, more energy, better health, courage, happiness. We are able to cooperate more, less conflicts. We’re able to learn more. We’re basically in growth mode.
Exercise: Follow Your Breath
Let’s do another exercise. Follow your breath. This time I’m not trying to psych you up as I did with the first exercise. This time it’s just about following your breath. Please sit comfortably. You may adopt an erect posture without tensing up. Try to remain relaxed. You put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Please close your eyes to close up some of the stimuli that reach the brain via the eyes. Just follow your breath. Just pay attention to if you’re breathing fast or slow, if your breathing is unrhythmic or rhythmic, if you are breathing through your mouth or through your nose, if you feel a bit stressed out when following your breath or if it makes you calm and relaxed, if you are breathing higher up in your chest or lower down into your midriff. Notice if your breathing is quiet or if it’s a little bit noisy.
If you want to, please share your experience in the chat box. Did you get more stressed out or did you feel calmer? When I do the live presentations normally I would say three quarters they feel more relaxed. Then I tell them well, this is how easy it could be. We’re a bit stressed out. We’re afraid. We’re worried and we turn to our breath and we are able to calm down. Some people don’t notice much and then there are always a couple of people that feel a little bit more stressed. I believe that my comment to that is either you are a bit of a performer and now we just talked about what makes up good breathing. You try to get it all in your head and try to get that all happen at once. It’s just overwhelming and you get stressed out and you get tensed and so the exercise may tense you up. Or it could indicate in general that you haven’t paid any attention to your breath at all before and you may need to do some breathing retraining to improve it.
Why Conscious Breathing?
Get More Energy
Four important reasons. First to get more energy. We all know that if we stop breathing we die. Nothing new there but why do we die if we stop breathing. We all know that as well. It’s not a trick question. It’s a lack of oxygen. We are so extremely dependent upon oxygen that if we stop breathing after just a few minutes we are not able to survive.
Then this question is a bit harder. Why is oxygen so vital? Why are we so dependent upon oxygen? It is to produce energy. Just like this city has an enormous need for energy so does our body. We mainly use two types of fuel. We use glucose to convert it to energy and we can do that without oxygen. We get 2 ATP from a glucose molecule. ATP is our energy currency. It could be likened to money in our wallets. A lot of ATP is like a lot of money which means we can buy the clothes we want. We can live in an apartment or a house but without oxygen, we don’t get a lot of ATP. With oxygen, we get up to 16 times as much ATP.
Without oxygen converting glucose to energy is very, very inefficient although it is fast. Whenever we are a bit stressed out we tend to turn to glucose and produce energy without oxygen which is called fermentation. With oxygen, it happens in the mitochondria and is called combustion. We use glucose to produce energy. The other energy source that we mainly use is fat. Guess what? Fat cannot be burned without oxygen. If we have poor breathing we deprive our body slightly of oxygen. Fat contains a lot of energy, up to 170 ATP from one fat molecule. We really want to tap into our fat reserve. We have about 50 times as much fat stored in our body compared to sugar or glucose because fat is much more efficient to store energy. If you want to store energy, if you have one kilo of fat and you want to store the same amount of energy as glucose you need six kilos of glucose. That’s why we store the main energy as fat. We want to access that to produce energy but when we have impaired breathing we slightly close the door to our fat reserves.
All in all, this means that we get a lack of energy just like if we were able to pull the plug of this city it would be chaos. The street lights wouldn’t work. The shower wouldn’t work. Your toilet wouldn’t work, your freezer, your oven, your TV, nothing would work. There will be an energy crisis in this city and it would be in our bodies as well. Luckily we don’t die if we have impaired breathing but slowly, slowly depriving our body of this life-sustaining oxygen means that we increase the chaotic state in our body. Over time it will create an energy crisis. When we say that we die when we stop breathing because of lack of oxygen, it is actually because of lack of energy.
A second thing in the importance of Conscious Breathing is to get better sleep. In this study, they plugged the nose of the participants. They were healthy participants and all participants began to snore when their nose was blocked the first night. One even developed sleep apnea since he was holding his breath. The other participants all said that they had slept really poorly.
I participated in a study at Stanford University in the US a couple of years ago. We did a mouth versus Conscious Breathing study. For 10 days, you see the picture to the right, I looked awful and I felt awful. We blocked our noses for 10 days and 10 nights. It was really quite an awful experience. I noticed how my stress level increased. It was like I was turning back to my previous life when I was more stressed out. I started to have sugar cravings. I know all about sugar cravings just as I think that I have a black belt in stress. I know all about stress. I also tended to have a lot of sugar cravings that came at the beginning of the study when we blocked the nose. I had no sugar cravings whatsoever. The last four days I had between seven and eight on a scale from one to 10 sugar cravings. The last four days I ate ice cream and chocolate bars. The last two days I also topped it up with pizza and beer.
I don’t drink a lot of alcohol at all. I don’t eat a lot of pizzas and similar but it felt like don’t take my pizza or my beer. They’re mine. I’m quite sure if I would have continued I would have gone for pizza and beer every day. That was how I felt. I also felt stupid several times. Really surprised at how stupid I was. This was all due to mouth breathing.
The idea, the thing we wanted to test with the study was can poor breathing take our health downwards and can Conscious Breathing bring it back up again. That was exactly what happened but the thing that affected me most was the sleep. We filmed ourselves. You could see that we slept more restless. I was up four, five, six times every night going to the toilet or just waking up because I felt so restless. At some point, I didn’t even want to go to bed because I knew it’s going to be a horrible experience.
We also measured our snoring sound. You see here the snore score first night 62 and then 45, 43 etc. On average my snore score was 50. I snored on average three hours per night. You can see the following four nights look very similar. The last two nights 62 and 55. The higher the bars and the more yellow the more snoring. The more yellow is loud so quite a lot of loud snoring here. Then you can see the last one Thursday, September 13. Then we removed the horrible things from our nose so that we can start using our nose again. What do you think happened the next night? Do you think I snored less or more? You can see here Friday, September 14th, the next night virtually no snoring at all. I think my snore score was two. I went from three hours to less than 10 minutes just like that in an instant. Look, it is the same here. You see on Thursday, September 20th I had one and Friday, 21st I had one. Then suddenly I had 11 and then one again in the snore score.
Why did I get 11 suddenly? I mean percentage-wise that’s a huge increase. I got that because I wanted to try what happened now if I eat chocolate, drink a beer and have a pizza and eat ice cream. It immediately affected my sleep. I tried this a number of times. If I eat too late, if I eat too much, if I eat sugar, if I drink alcohol, if I exercise too hard, if I stress too much at work it will affect my sleep. Obviously, if I have poor sleep it will affect the next day. We may end up in a vicious cycle. Whenever we say we have poor sleep we should also consider our breathing because they’re really tied together. If we have poor breathing during the daytime we will most likely have poor breathing during the night time and then it will affect our sleep negatively.
One woman contacted me, Katarina. She said, I was very skeptical. I’ve tried everything for the last 30 years. I’ve had poor sleep. I’ve been waking up five, six times every single night. It’s detrimental to my health and my energy. I just dragged myself through the day. When she contacted me she said I’ve slept more full nights in the past four weeks than I’ve done in total in the last 30 years. That’s quite amazing.
What did she do then? She taped her mouth. That is something I’ve been doing myself for the last 10 years now. I can highly recommend it. You can tape it like the woman in the picture alongside or you can tape from your nose to your chin and just have a smaller piece of tape. That ensures that you do nasal breathing while sleeping and it can actually change your life.
Calm Down a Racing Mind
A third reason why Conscious Breathing is important is to calm down a racing mind. In normal breathing, they measure the brain for a subject. The more colorful, the more activity. It measures the glucose metabolism. The higher the metabolism, the more activity. In normal breathing, there is normal brain activity. Then after only one minute of hyperventilation, there is very low brain activity. The reason for that will be evident in a moment because the problem with impaired breathing is that we have a tendency to over breathe. We take in too much oxygen and too little carbon dioxide.
We may think that well, that does not really matter because we know that oxygen is so important and carbon dioxide it’s just a waste gas anyway isn’t it? That is actually not true. In my view, there is nothing that is 100% good and nothing that is 100% bad. It’s all about balance. We all know that water is good for us since we are made up of about 60% to 70% water. If I don’t drink any water in a week that’s a big stress to my body but at the same time if I drink 10 liters of water in a day that’s stress. That’s too much. It’s the same with our breathing. In every instance whatever activity we do, our breathing should reflect that activity.
We have one breathing pattern when we sit on the sofa and we have another one, a much faster one if we’re out walking or jogging. One of the main functions of breathing is to keep the balance between oxygen that we take in from the outside and carbon dioxide that is produced in our body. When we over breathe we tend to take in too much oxygen and we exhale too much carbon dioxide. That is why I don’t use the word deep breathing because when we take these big breaths there is a risk that we upset this balance because every amount of air we inhale, we will also exhale. We exhale about 100 times as much carbon dioxide as we inhale.
One of the main properties of carbon dioxide is that it helps to relax and widen the blood vessels. When we over breathe we get a lack of carbon dioxide and we constrict the blood vessels. That explains the picture we saw earlier of the brain. When we over breathe the blood vessels constrict and there is less blood going to the brain so thereby the activity goes down. This knowledge is actually used in brain surgery. If you do brain surgery you want as much space as possible for your instruments. Usually, the person going through the surgery is sedated and on a ventilator. They put the ventilator on hyperventilation so that more carbon dioxide is exhaled. Less blood goes through the brain and the brain then starts to shrink. There is more room to do the surgery. Of course, that is very good in brain surgery. Not so good in our daily life if we have a problem we want to solve.
We also know that racing minds and fear and worry are closely connected. If you have a panic attack and come to the hospital you will get a bag to breathe in and out through. As I said before, 100 times more carbon dioxide is exhaled compared to when we inhale. When you exhale in a bag you will then re-breathe some of that exhaled air. You’re in a panic attack. One of the reasons for that is you are hyperventilating, constricting the blood vessels to the brain. The stressed-out brain has low blood, low oxygen, low nutrients. When you then breathe into the bag you increase carbon dioxide so the blood vessels open up and the stressed, panicked brain will start to receive more blood, more oxygen and more nutrients. Thereby it can start to relax.
If you talk to a flight attendant they know that whenever we get a person that is afraid of flying breathing in a bag always works. We can get that person to calm down. If we think about the major difference between these two states, a person that is in relaxation or a person that is in stress panic. What is the major difference? At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that much whether the person to the left has not slept while the other person has slept very well or one has good eating habits and the other one is eating junk food or if one is just going through a divorce and the other is deeply in love. The major difference between those two states is carbon dioxide.
When we are relaxed we tend to breathe slower meaning that we retain more carbon dioxide in our body. We don’t exhale as much carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is our natural tranquilizer when we are more stressed out, when we are more in a state of panic then we have a tendency to breathe faster. We then lower the carbon dioxide pressure. We can basically move in the direction towards relaxation just by taking control of our breathing and retaining more carbon dioxide.
When we engage in those seven breathing habits we close our mouth, breathe through the nose, we breathe low and slow and small and rhythmically we will move towards parasympathetic, towards relaxation, towards recovery, towards health while when we engage in the opposite shallow, fast, unrhythmic breathing we will lower the carbon dioxide pressure in our body and move more in the direction of stress. Basically just by changing our breathing we can move between those states.
Better Sports Performance
The fourth reason for Conscious Breathing is better sports performance. This woman Ulrica, exercised six to eight times per week. She loves exercising. She was a bit shocked when she noticed that with nose breathing she could cut 10 minutes on her 10 km run in six weeks. It took her only six weeks to go from 55 minutes to 45 minutes on her jog. She also noticed better sleep and more energy during the day.
As mentioned in the introduction, I ran a half marathon with taped mouth a few years ago just to show that it is possible and to have people start thinking about their breathing because most people who exercise have no clue about their breathing. Of course people during the race thought I was kind of stupid but yes, when I got a chance to talk to them they got really interested. Nowadays it’s starting to become more and more popular.
If you think about it, a horse running twice as fast as Usain Bolt has a weight of up to 500 kilos is able to oxygenate all these muscles while breathing only through the nose. This guy participated in a study. He used to have the Swedish record in triathlon eight hours 15 minutes so he was super fit. In the study, we taped the nose in one instance and in the other instance we taped the mouth. With mouth breathing his pulse was 155. With nose breathing it was only 139. That is a 10% difference and it’s a huge thing for such a fit athlete. Also after biking while only breathing through my nose I felt incredibly relaxed and harmonious. Telling us again that the increase of carbon dioxide is what helps us to get into that harmonious state.
To summarize four important reasons for Conscious Breathing are to get more energy, better sleep, calm down a racing mind and improve your fitness level. I have written a book called Conscious Breathing. I have made a breathing retrainer, the Relaxator that gives a resistance on the out-breath to help you achieve this low and slow and rhythmical breath. I have a product called Sleep Tape to tape your mouth at night and I have trained more than a thousand breathing instructors. Thank you for listening. Opening up for a question or two. You can find more info at consciousbreathing.com or at Facebook. The group is called Conscious Breathing.
Questions and Answers
Question: That’s wonderful Anders. We have gotten a lot of questions. I’m going to pick some. A few people have been asking about breathing techniques they’ve come across that involve breathing through the mouth. They’d love you to speak to that. What is that about?
Anders: There are hundreds of different breathing techniques to achieve different states. A lot of them are actually about forceful breathing and when we do that we tend to get an adrenaline rush. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are a number of testimonials from people saying that they do different pranayama breathing or Wim Hof Breathing or Kundalini yoga where they engage in over breathing and they feel that it has a great effect on the body.
My only thing is when you evaluate whether it works well for you or not is to see what it does for you long term. The short-term effect we can all agree to that who had tried it that it could alter our state, put us in a different state but I think more importantly than short-term is the long-term effect. That’s my advice when you engage in these different exercises. Take a step back and see does it help you long-term.
Question: This is an interesting question. It’s about wearing face masks. Gabriella’s asking I tend to panic when having to wear face masks which are now compulsory. Do you have any advice for me?
Anders: In my country Sweden, it’s not mandatory with face masks. I haven’t had that much experience but I have tried for educational purposes a number of times. I noticed when I put the face mask on it gets a little harder to breathe and that’s because you trap some of the carbon dioxide when you exhale just like the bag breathing. A lot of people tend to open their mouths when they use the bag. That really means then that the mask itself will take you in a sympathetic direction meaning that it probably does more harm than good.
If you want it to be beneficial you should really try to maintain a closed mouth and for some people that could be hard. If you are able to do it, it could actually act as a really good breathing retrainer but it depends on where your starting point is, how good or how impaired your breathing is when you start wearing the mask. My advice is to try to keep your mouth closed under the mask. If you need to, maybe you can find some breaks here and there and take a few breaths without the mask.
Question: We’ve got a couple of questions about exhalation. People seem to be getting that you breathe in through the nose. Does it matter about breathing out? Does that have to be through the nose as well?
Anders: In my view, yes. In my view, it has a very important function because when we inhale the nose gets a little colder, a little drier and the particles that we inhale they’re trapped there. When we exhale the air comes from the lungs where we have body temperature. It is warm and it’s 100% humidified. The air coming from the lungs when we exhale through the nose they will re-warm and re-moisten the nose and the particles that got trapped on the inhale will be following the air out with the exhale. In my view yes, it’s important to use both the inhale and exhale through the nose but again there are many different exercises that teach us different things.
Question: I think I’ve got time for one more. I’ll group them together. It’s about certain conditions. Somebody’s asked about asthma and somebody else has asked about headaches and neuralgia. What breathing suggestions do you have for those?
Anders: There are a number of testimonials on the website and there are also articles about asthma. For example with asthma we have a tendency to over breathe, to breathe shallowly. If you were able to measure your breath prior to an asthma attack you will probably notice that it’s fast and shallow. Basically, it’s trying to do the opposite. The key is to close your mouth and prolong your exhalation slightly, just slightly. When you prolong it slightly you will then start to slow down your breathing. You will create a more rhythmic breathing and the following inhale will reach lower down into your lungs. With the prolonged exhalation, you will activate the diaphragm.
Question: I’m going to squeeze in just one more question. If you can answer this really quickly. It’s something interesting from Elena. She says it’s about yawning. She’s saying could you comment on the nature of yawning because there we are grasping air with our mouth. I’m pretty curious what you think about that.
Anders: I mean yawning, in general, is a sign of over breathing because when we yawn we take a big breath. A big breath in means a big breath out. We exhale carbon dioxide with our out-breath. I mean a yawn here and there is obviously not a big deal but if we have a tendency to do it many times it could be a sign of over breathing. Yawn as well as sighing a lot is also a sign of over breathing. We also could yawn because we have tensions in our jaw. It’s a way to release tensions. It could also be a sign for example that we’re eating too soft food and not chewing enough. We have built up tensions in our jaw which is built for a lot of activity.
Woman: Okay, thank you so much and thank you for all the questions. There has obviously been a lot of interest and there’s a lot of appreciation in the chat.
Anders: Thank you.
Woman: What did I particularly enjoy? I think it was the computer and text message apnea. I really noticed myself holding my breath when I’m doing that. I also notice that it goes with a certain posture of stiffening in order to get things done quickly. I think that’s going to help me stay more alert. Thank you very much for a stimulating talk. I’m going to come back to you in a few minutes for your closing top tip on how to be more embodied.
I hope you all enjoyed the talk. There’s so much there. Just to say it is free for 48 hours from today to listen again if you want to go through the material that Anders has shared today. In terms of continuing the learning which is what this conference is all about we have the Facebook group that you can join and you also have coffee break time breakout rooms. It’s all on the website. You can meet up with people and share your ideas and carry on your learning that way.
The other thing we have is the conference library that you can buy this recording and all of the others. It’s a really, really great, structured way to learn if that’s what you like at your own pace, in your own time. You can find everything that you want. There are audio recordings for learning on the move. There are learning lists and recommendations for personal and professional development. I’m finding that all these presentations have been really invaluable. If you’re interested in that after the conference is double the price. Have a look at the website if that’s something you may be interested in. It can also be a good way to say your appreciation for the people who put the conference on. It’s also a great way to support people who couldn’t otherwise take part because the conference is put on for free.
If you’re a trauma professional, we really want to support this work. If you feel you can’t afford the cost of the library email us for a discount. The other thing you may be interested in is donating. We have some charities that the Embodiment Conference supports. You may want to donate to the charities and you may also want to donate to the Embodiment Conference to help us put on events like this. We have one minute. We’re on time Anders. What would be your one takeaway for our audience today on how to be more embodied?
Anders: Clearly for me is to close your mouth and engage in a slightly longer exhalation so that you will create this low and slow and rhythmic breath which helps you to take the elevator down from your mind and into your body and synchronize your mind brain with your heart brain with your gut brain.