Affecting change takes time. I am guilty a hundred times over of wanting something right away and getting aggravated when I realize there's actually a lengthy process involved. I eventually come around to understand that everything in life which has meaning or benefit takes time, and I am always appreciative in hindsight of the things I learned along the way. When it comes to breathing I have found that patience and honest reflection have been my biggest asset. Some days when I breathe I am not able to get as “deep” as I want to, or my mind is not as focused as I would hope. I used to get frustrated because I was waiting for this “ah-ha! moment” that I would be able to point my finger at, or some sort of bench mark feeling that I would reach each time. But to no surprise of my own, it was only after I stopped chasing a feeling or expectation that I began to understand the lasting benefits of my breath practice.
Can I really change my own physiology?
The short answer is yes, but it takes time. In my last blog I discussed that everything we do as a species is about adaptation. We are alive on this planet today because we have been successful in adapting to our environment, and prioritizing the necessary character traits that ensure our survival. Training inside or outside of the gym is no different. We train so that we continue to push the limits of our own human potential, but this is not an instantaneous process. I think we would all agree with this, but to further the discussion let’s look at how we can identify whether or not what we are doing is most beneficial. By now you all know that I have been a huge proponent of promoting change via breath work. In the past I have discussed how you can change your own physiology such as:
1.) Using mobilization tools such as a Courageous Ball from Yoga Tune Up to gut smash and clear up some of the restrictions in your abdomen. This will have an immediate impact on tidal volume as well as beginning to assist in correcting postural errors as well.
2.) Using cadence breathing and apnea drills to help improve your CO2 retention, down regulate your CNS, or improve your recovery rate when training.
3.) Using superventilation breathing techniques such as the Wim Hof method or breath of fire to increase your O2 levels and up regulate your CNS (more to come on Wim in later weeks).
All three techniques have their own unique benefit as well as compliment, but when searching for a starting point I suggest using cadence breath work first.
Why CO2 first?
As discussed in previous blog posts, I am of the opinion that we must begin with breathing protocols that will allow for CO2 adaptation to take place first in order to see the true lasting effects. Most people I have encountered are interested in implementing breath work to help minimize stress or inefficiency in their lives. Breathing can absolutely be the answer for this, however it takes time for your physiology to adapt and change. It is also important to note that when introducing something new like breathing protocols we need to have a slow and easy approach. Cadence work is perfect for beginners, and benefits can be seen without having to go to extremely uncomfortable places to get there.
In my last post I introduced a cadence protocol with a 18.104.22.168 tempo, with the intention of bringing some awareness to your own specific breathing patterns. I would say for most of us we found out very quickly how inefficient we are when retaining CO2 or exhaling under a controlled time frame. Paying close attention to the quality of your breathing will also help identify where you need to improve upon, and how to handle the internal stress that comes with CO2. In the coming weeks I will discuss apnea breathing more in depth as a way to work on CO2 retention and adaptation, but for now we will stick with cadence breathing.
For those of you who have been following last weeks cadence drills, how have they been going? Have any of you felt claustrophobic at times? Have you had an awesome session one day, and then a completely different session the next day (maybe you were a bit stressed? Hint, hint). Whatever the case may be (and it is entirely unique to you) cadence work will set the stage for what is to come. This week your homework is to extend the time in which you have been using the cadence tempo by 3-4 seconds on each interval. Be as consistent as possible with your breathing because true change comes with consistent effort. If you want to see a noticeable and lasting change, make this part of your routine!