The Lost Art Of Breathing

22nd July 2022

Hello, my name is Alexia Clonda.

I am a Breathing, Mindset and Spiritual Coach & Mentor, The Healing Teacher and High-Performance Squash Coach.

I have been a champion squash player, a junior world no 1 and world no 5, and I have represented my country, Australia.

My very first coach, at 13, said to me, if you live, breathe and eat squash I will make you a world champion. From that day I dreamed of being a world champion and world no 1. What I didn’t know at the time though, my body and health had other ideas.

I developed asthma when I was just 10 months old. Throughout my professional squash career, I had chronic life-threatening Asthma and was dependent on a machine and a ton of medications to keep me alive, let alone play squash and compete. I struggled every single day with my health, it hurt to train, but I did, because I had a dream to be the best I could be, and nothing was going to stop me.

Since the age of 16, I was told by my doctors to give up squash, “you are not healthy, you are really really sick, and you could die. The asthma could kill you”.

In 1996 at my absolute worst, the asthma was uncontrollable, even increased doses of medications were not working, for the first time ever, I actually thought I was going to die.

Luckily for me, I came across a Breathing Technique from Russia, it had just arrived in Australia after the iron curtain had fallen. I was very sceptical at first, it can’t be this simple, and it turned out to be my life saver from the life-threatening asthma, a complete life changer.

A decade after this, in 2007 at 46 years of age, I played in the Australian Closed, I beat 3 of the top 20 players in Australia, all half my age, and reached the quarterfinals.

I did this because the asthma was well under control utilizing the breathing techniques and I was training and playing at another level. 

After a lifetime of health issues, my medical records read like an encyclopedia, I wish to share my knowledge and experience to help you, with your squash and health in understanding how to work with your body, mind, and spirit, in achieving and reaching your goals and having a good quality of life.

I bring you “The Lost Art of Good Breathing, Breathing for Health & Sports Performance, and Life– the Science”.

 

You will learn and understand:

  • The difference between bad breathing and good breathing
  • Why good breathing is key
  • Breathing – the effects and impact it has on your health, your body, and sports performance

The COVID pandemic has highlighted more than ever that breathing and mindset are keys in having better health and improving the quality of your life, and so much more. The number of articles in the media over the past 3 years on these 2 subjects have increased over 400%, with the Science of how they work and why. 

Ask yourself, is your breathing and mindset hindering or helping you?

 

The Lost Art of Good Breathing for Health, Sport Performance and Life –

The Science

 

Breath is Life

Our breath is the central key to life and energy.

Breathing is the only system in the body that is both completely automatic and also under our control. 

Breathing, we just do it, right? Without even thinking about it, so much so that we take it for granted that we are doing it properly because we don’t learn it and we are not taught it.

Most people think and assume their breathing must be ok because they are alive.  That’s a myth

After years of research Science now tells us, correct breathing is vital for the normal functioning of the body and Science also now knows that there is such a thing as dysfunctional breathing.

Breathing is the link between body and mind, between spirit and matter, between the conscious and the subconscious mind. Breath is a force and a tool. It connects us with ourselves and to our very existence.

Every psychological state, every emotional state, every physiological state has a corresponding or associated breathing pattern. The way we breathe when we are peaceful, and calm is different than the way we breathe when we are angry and upset.

When your state changes, your breathing pattern changes. It’s a two-way street: when you change your breathing pattern, you change your state! We can use the breath to hack and connect into our nervous system, our brain, our immune system. We can use our breath to choose our state, our state of being at any particular point in time, in any 24 hours of our day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, at any point in time in our life. Breathing is a key, along with mindset.

When we control our breathing, we control our awareness, our focus and our energy, our life force. Breathing is just like a behavior. Breath control is self-control. Breath awareness is self-awareness. When the breath flows fully and freely our natural creative and healing energies flow fully and freely.

Breathing is the core feedback loop for the Nervous System meaning your main control system for your nervous system is… breathing.

 

Breathing – We just do it

Breathingwe breathe in, is the first thing we do after we are born – the breath of life and we keep on doing it until we take that last breath out when we die. 

An average adult, living to the age of 70 will breathe roughly 20,000 times daily, that’s over 7 million times per year and around 511 million in that lifetime. That’s a lot of breathing. 

The quality of those breaths is a key to your health, your body, your mind, your fitness and sports performance. Breathing is 24 hours a day, 365 days per year! Breathing is an ongoing habitual cycle, a continuum in and for our life.

Right now, how are you breathing? Is it easy or hard? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Are you taking deep or shallow breaths? Are your chest and shoulders moving?

In what part of your body are you breathing into? 

People are breathing in either 2 ways, through their nose or their mouth. Normal and correct breathing, in and out, is through the nose into your belly, this is called functional breathing. The nose is made for breathing and smelling. Mouth breathing into your chest, is called dysfunctional breathing. The mouth is made for eating and speaking.

As a kid, I can remember whenever someone told me to take a deep breath, I would immediately suck in as much air as I could through my mouth into my chest, and that’s not easy for an Asthmatic. 

This is a common thing to do, because when we’re thinking about breathing, we tend to imagine our chest is filling up with air, because our lungs live in the chest, inside the ribcage, so breathing into the chest makes sense, right, but this is a myth and incorrect.

Air is coming in alright, but, into the top part of our lungs, not into the bottom where it needs to go for proper oxygenation to occur so that the oxygen can be utilised by the body correctly and efficiently for what our body needs for correct functioning of the body. To breathe in the air properly, it has to be done through the nose and breathing into our belly, this way the diaphragm is used, this being the major breathing muscle. By not using the breathing muscle it atrophies, just like any other muscle in the body, as the saying goes, don’t use it lose it!

 

Hidden Over-Breathing

Over-Breathing is breathing in excess of what the body needs. This over-breathing is called hyperventilation. It can be seen, as when someone is having a panic attack, or unseen, when a person is constantly breathing through their mouth all the time and over long periods of time, this is what is called hidden hyperventilation, we don’t even know we are doing it.

Many scientific studies on hyperventilation and hyperventilation syndrome have reported the dangers of mouth deep breathing. This type of breathing decreases the levels of CARBON DIOXIDE in the blood, causing an imbalance. Carbon Dioxide is needed in the body to be and stay alive.

These studies have shown that many illnesses and diseases can arise from over-breathing over periods of time.

90% of modern people unconsciously suffer from breathing problems.

Such as chest breathing, mouth breathing and over-breathing, this breathing brings a lot of air in, but, that air is not being utilized by the body and limits the oxygen going into the cells and tissues, reducing blood oxygen levels in the body and opening the door to health issues. 

Most of these, 90% of people believe that they have good breathing or even normal breathing. People think mouth breathing is normal and ok because they have been doing it that way for a long time. 

“More breathing in through the mouth means less oxygen in the body’s cells.” Imagine those hundreds of trillion cells in your body not getting enough oxygen that is not good at all.

Mouth breathing is the hidden villain. Why? 

Because it’s causing OVER-BREATHING. Taking too much air in.  This is Dysfunctional Breathing.

– Hyperventilation in its hidden form.

You’ve heard people say this to you: “Take a deep breath in.” This is actually NOT helping you at all, it’s just reinforcing a bad pattern, a bad habit. In fact, that’s causing the problem! The scientific data is showing this, the body cannot efficiently utilize the volume of air coming in and proper oxygenation cannot occur. Hence less oxygen to the cells, tissues, organs and the brain.

This leads us to the diaphragm.

 

The Body’s Main Breathing Muscle is the Diaphragm, sitting just above the belly. 

It’s this muscle that draws the air into your lungs. When you are breathing with your diaphragm the air is drawn into and reaches into the lower half of the lungs where oxygenation actually occurs, not in the chest, where most people think it happens.  

When you breathe through the nose, it’s easier to bring the air right down into the diaphragm, remembering that the nose is the body’s natural instrument, to bring air into the body not the mouth.

The Diaphragm is a muscle and like any muscle in the body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. The way to keep that muscle active is to breathe into it. Simple. Breathing into the belly using your nose. Likewise, with the nose, don’t use it, lose it, it gets blocked up, more and more and then you can’t breathe through your nose.

Please note and remember the nose is part of the respiratory system, the mouth is part of the digestive system.

Breathing is an unusual and unique body function, because it’s both automatic, an involuntary and voluntary function. 

Other automatic and involuntary functions are heartbeat and digestion, these functions occur without conscious mind influence, being involuntary they are managed in the vast processing system of the subconscious mind.

But breathing can be managed voluntarily, in the conscious mind, meaning that we can grab the controls and consciously change how we breathe. 

We can make our breathing shallow or deep, fast or slow, or we can choose to stop breathing altogether (until we pass out and the subconscious takes over again, to keep us alive by any means).

Since we’re breathing all the time, the oddness of this dual-control system doesn’t usually dawn on us—but it’s this control flexibility that makes breathing especially worthy of our attention. 

Because we can control it, we can change it. We can change how we breathe, and to an extent change how breathing affects our bodies.

Conscious control of the breath is a practice that is thousands of years old. Most mindfulness and meditation forms will have you focus on your breath as a way of keeping you centred and calm. 

 

Try this simple exercise to become aware of how you are breathing right now

Have you noticed how you have been breathing whilst you have been reading this article?

Just sit back in a chair and become aware of your breathing, just as you would normally breath, in and out, in and out for about 30 secs.

What did you notice? Are you breathing through your mouth, is your chest moving, are your shoulders moving? Is your breathing through your nose, is your chest moving, is your belly moving?

When you know how you are doing something, you have control over it, but the first thing you need to do is become aware of it. Just like technique.

 

We all have a Breathing Rate

Both the Breathing and Ventilation Rates are important measurements to understand how well or not well your body is functioning.

The Breathing rate is defined as the number of breaths taken in one minute.

Recent studies suggest that an accurate recording of breathing rate is very important in predicting medical and health issues; studies also suggest that measurements of breathing rate are not done as often, as they should be, so it’s been coined the “ignored vital sign.”

At Rest, normal breathing is rhythmic and flowing, neither seen, heard or laboured, your breathing rate is around 6-8 breaths per minute, this being the optimal breathing rate, for normal body functioning. 

If you are breathing more or less than this, your breathing is an issue and needs correction, but there could also be known and unknown health issues.

A low or high breathing rate is a message from your body that something is wrong. Studies in the 2000s have been able to link a number of illnesses and health issues directly to breathing rates.

The ventilation rate, is the volume of air, measured in litres per minute, you are breathing in. 

At rest breathing in around 6 litres per minute, is considered optimal for good health, and normal functioning of the body. 

If you have dysfunctional breathing both your breathing and ventilation measurements will be out of the normal range.

What I would like you to think about is, Breathing is cyclery, it’s a pattern and it’s over 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, no matter what you are doing. We breathe 24 hours a day for life.

Please note: When we are active, our breathing rate goes up proportionately to, for whatever we are doing at that time, to meet the body’s needs over that period of time, that’s normal. But, if your beathing & ventilation rates at rest are not within their normal range, then, more than likely you are over-breathing and taking in way too much air when you are at rest and when active. When active, the activity will also have a breathing and ventilation rate range

 

Your Breathing Rate – Exercise 2

Let’s do another simple exercise, a measurement of your breathing rate. 

Sitting down, just get comfortable and relax. I would like to you just breathe, the way you normally breathe.  

I am going to time you for a minute and you are going to count the number of breaths you take, in this minute. 

1 breath is counted as breathing in and out, an inhalation and exhalation, that is 1 breath

On the count of 3, I will say start, you count the breaths you are taking in that minute. 

On the minute I will say stop, note the number of breaths you have taken

Let’s get started, 3, 2, 1

Start……………………………………………………..Stop 

How many breaths did you take? Does the number surprise you?  Are you in the normal range?

Write this number down somewhere, for later.

 

Theory Mouth vs Nose Breathing

Mouth breathing is the catalyst for the diaphragm to stop working and become lazy in the process of Breathing. Mouth breathing is Dysfunctional breathing or (over-breathing) and has a detrimental impact on your health, especially over a period of time.

Mouth breathing

  1. Promotes chest /shoulder /neck movement
  2. Uses more energy, leading to tiredness, and coping mechanisms wearing down
  3. Your nose becomes blocked, making it even harder to nose breathe, which, in turn, the nose becomes even more blocked
  4. Can cause overbite and incorrect jaw formation in children 
  5. Changes the facial structure
  6. Promotes feelings of stress and shortness of breath
  7. Lowers immunity – weakening the immune system
  8. Increases blood pressure
  9. Activates the fight or flight response – releasing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline
  10. Weakens the core
  11. Effects our emotions
  12. Promotes hidden – hyperventilation, more over-breathing
  13. Offsets the breathing centre, which, is like a thermostat in the Brain, located in the Medulla
  14. Increases free radicals in the body
  15. Decreases sleep quality

For Athletes, this mouth breathing pattern and habit means you are no longer training your muscles to work efficiently.

 

Nose Breathing:

Our nasal cavity is the only structure designed for breathing, it’s the body’s natural and normal way to breath, to bring air into our lungs. It’s the bodies’ filtration system for the air we breathe. It cleans, warms, sterilizes and filters the air. Mouth breathing does not.

Breathing through the Nose and diaphragm breathing is called functional breathing.

Nose Breathing

  1. Increases lung function
  2. Promotes diaphragm breathing
  3. Is the body’s filtration system of the air coming into our body?
  4. Builds immunity and strengthens the immune system
  5. Helps to balance the acid and alkaline levels in the body.
  6. Stimulates The Nerve endings at the base of the Lungs that are sending messages to the brain to activate the relaxation response, Triggers the release of the hormones, endorphins & dopamine, which elevate mood and reduce pain
  7. Helps you to release stress and relax your nervous system, your body and mind
  8. Helps bring the body back into balance for normal functioning
  9. Resets or keeps your breathing centre, your breathing thermostat, in balance
  10. Helps build and keep a strong core
  11. Helps to Decease blood pressure
  12. Lowers the white cell blood count, meaning less stress on the immune system
  13. Decreases levels of the stress hormones 
  14. Promotes and increases better sleep quality

For Athletes, nose breathing helps decrease the impact of lactic acid in muscular activity, by promoting maximum delivery of oxygen, to the working parts of the body.

It also cuts down on dehydration and recovery time and increases oxygen intake by a min of 20%.

Please note: when we speak, is the time we open our mouth, to let the breath out as we speak, we are actually breathing out when we are speaking, on the out-breath, when we need to take another breath in, it’s shut the mouth, take that next breath in through the nose. Breathing in through the nose, speaking on the out-breath. This is called circular breathing; singers do this and practice it.

Correct Breathing is vital for the body to be in balance and harmony in the flow of life, the flow state.

One 2017 study published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, found diaphragmatic breathing can “improve cognitive performance, and reduce negative consequences of stress, in healthy adults. Whilst a 2018 review of the literature, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, went even further, proclaiming that “breath-control can change your life.” According to the study’s authors, researchers from the University of Pisa in Italy, slow breathing techniques trigger changes in our cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous systems, which lead to “increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion.”

Needless to say, that breathing, bad or good, will have a profound effect on all systems of the body, the mind and spirit.

An 18th Century discovery:

In George Catlin’s book in 1870, ‘Shut your mouth and save your life’, he outlines his travels in native America.  

He watched with interest, how the Native American mothers, paid a lot of attention to their babies breathing.

He noticed how they would gently press the baby’s lips together, to ensure their child was nasal breathing after feeding.  

He noticed in the babies of European settlers, they slept with their mouths open, as they gasped for air in poorly ventilated rooms. 

He saw that the sickness rates were far lower in Native America than that of the European settlers, concluding that there is a definitive link between health, nose and mouth breathing.

KEY and with all due respect, SHUT YOUR MOUTH TO BREATHE BETTER.

Today’s medical and scientific research confirms and verifies this, again and again.

 

The Gases Involved in Breathing and their Roles 

Typically, the air we breathe consists of about 21 percent oxygen and 78 percent nitrogen, with other trace gases, making up the other one percent (including neon, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.) Nitrogen is also an essential element to all life. Everyone focuses on oxygen and forget about the other elements vital for in life and for our good health

The 3 main gases involved in Breathing are: Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, and Nitric Oxide

Oxygen the most vital element for breathing and life, interestingly, the human body is about two thirds oxygen

Carbon Dioxidegets a bad name, it’s not just a waste product. It is needed to release the oxygen from the cells, the hemoglobin, to the tissues, this is called the Bohr Effect. 

When there are low levels of Carbon Dioxide, the oxygen cannot be released in the quantity needed, for normal functioning of the body, at rest or active.  

It’s the carbon dioxide that stimulates you to breathe. 

Carbon is a smooth muscle relaxer, smooth muscle is found in the stomach, intestines, blood vessels and lungs as well as in other parts of the body, it is also body’s the natural bronchodilator.

We need Carbon Dioxide to live.

It also helps in and with:

  1. Vasodilation (expansion of arteries and arterioles). 
  2. Cell Oxygen Levels
  3. Oxygen Transportation in the body 
  4. Free Radical balance
  5. Nerve Stabilization
  6. Muscle relaxation

Nitric OxideNitric oxide occurs naturally in the body and gets into the bloodstream through two methods: via nutrient-rich foods and by nose breathing. 

It is a powerful vasodilator and smooth muscle dilator which means it opens your blood vessels, increasing blood flow and helps reduce reduces inflammatory and can help reduce muscle soreness.

There are 100,000 miles of blood circulation going on throughout your body. Nitric oxide is the king of blood circulation functions.

Nitric Oxide is produced in the sinuses, so when NO reaches the lungs it increases the Oxygen/Carbon Oxygen exchange. Nitric Oxide also helps sterilize the air coming into the lungs.

And is a natural anti-bacterial.

 

Measuring Your Breathing – Exercise 2

Let’s do another simple exercise, this one is to measure how much you are breathing in and how many people you are actually breathing for, whilst at rest! 

Sitting down, just get comfortable and relax. I would like to you just breathe, the way you normally breathe. 

On the count of 3, 2, 1, You are going to breathe in and out, all the way out, don’t force it, then you just hold your breath and count the seconds you can hold your breath for, comfortably and easily, until you want to take another breath in. 

When you stop holding your breath, don’t open your mouth, there is no rush or panic to take another breath in, keeping your mouth shut, take that breath in through the nose is easy, if you do gasp for air, you have held your breath for too long

Ready? Just become aware of your breathing, 3, 2, 1, breathe in and out and hold your breath, count the seconds you are holding your breath. 

How many seconds could you hold your breath for easily? How do you feel?

 

When I started to learn the breathing technique, I did this exercise and could only hold my breath for 5-6 seconds. What I learnt was that a normal healthy person is able to hold their breath comfortability for around 45-60 sec, enabling higher CARBON DIOXIDE levels or tolerance.

The number of seconds you hold your breath indicates how much you are breathing in. Are you breathing too much, how many people are you actually breathing for? Are you breathing well or over-breathing?

So, if you could hold your breath for 10 secs, you are breathing for around 6 people and have very low CARBON DIOXIDE tolerance, 15 secs for 4 people, 20 Seconds for 3 people and so on.

This exercise really brought it home for me, that lightbulb moment, That I had to learn how to breathe properly, I had to retrain my breathing, I had to unlearn the breathing pattern that I was doing and learn another pattern, another way of breathing, that would help me rather than hinder me.

After a year of breathing retraining, which includes a series of exercises, I was able to hold my breath for around 40-55 secs at rest. 

 

Breathing and the Autonomic Nervous System – Functions of the Nervous System

The nervous system regulates the internal environment of the body. It is essential for maintaining homeostasis.

Homeostasis refers to the relatively stable and balanced conditions inside the body that are necessary to support life. Homeostasis regulates:

  1. body temperature
  2. blood pressure
  3. heart rate
  4. breathing
  5. metabolism
  6. blood glucose levels
  7. blood acidity levels
  8. water and electrolytes levels
  9. digestion

The Nervous System receives information from the environment and other parts of the body and regulates the activity of the organs, accordingly.

The autonomic nervous system has 3 branches, the 2 major ones being: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for an emergency or intense physical activity and is often referred to as the “the stress response”; fight – flight – freeze – faint modes.

The fight or flight response of the Nervous System evolved to protect the body from dangers around it in prehistoric days when dinosaurs and Sabre tooth tigers roamed the earth.

However, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the Dinosaurs and Sabre tooth tigers have been replaced by the many stressful aspects of daily life, which is triggering this response.

Modern-day stressors include work, school, finances, relationships, health, Constant Worry and fear about anything, information overload, technology overload, pain, ill-health, pressure.

These constant stresses cause the Nervous System to trigger the fight or flight response, which over periods of time, keep the body in a state of heightened alert which will eventually harm the body contributing to its breakdown, emotionally, mentally and physically.

Shallow mouth, upper chest and shoulder breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous -system into the flightfight mode – the stress response.

While the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for” the relaxation response” the “rest, relax, creative and digest” modes, has the exact opposite effect and relaxes the body, it inhibits or slows many high energy functions inducing relaxation.

In many cases, both of these systems have “opposite” actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it.

Normal nose diaphragmatic breathing helps stimulate and activate the parasympathetic nervous system helping in the reduction of stress, anxiety, and pain, as well as reducing heart rate and blood pressure thus allowing the body to return to a relaxed state – “the relaxation response”.

The breath is the core feedback loop for the Nervous System. Your main control system for your nervous system is… breathing.

 

The Vagus Nerve

The most important and longest nerve of the nervous system. It starts in the body in the brain and runs through your eyes, ears, vocal cords and down to all our major organs, the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and stomach

It regulates the gut, and affects the cardiovascular, immune, endocrine and respiratory systems, and is the brain’s method of controlling the Nervous System.  It affects numerous functions of the body, including:

  • Mood
  • Energy levels
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure 
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Breathing 
  • Digestion
  • Sweating
  • Healing & Regeneration
  • Nutrient Absorption
  • And even speaking

The vagus nerve also carries sensory information from the internal organs back to the brain.

A High vagus nerve tone is essential for overall health, both physical and mental. 

Correct Breathing stimulates the vagus nerve

A High Vagus Tone helps to:

  • Reduce pain
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce fatigue and increases energy
  • Reduce heart rates
  • Control blood pressure
  • Control blood glucose levels
  • Increase relaxation
  • Ease anxiety, depression and stress
  • Boost the immune system

Whereas a Low Vagus Tone causes the sympathetic nervous system, our stress response, to be overactive and is associated with:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety & depression
  • Chronic fatigue,
  • Increased pain and inflammation,
  • Digestive/gastrointestinal problems, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diarrhea and constipation,
  • Impaired mood
  • Disease

This means it’s a major and exceptionally important nerve in the human body. The grand-daddy of all nerves, so to speak. So, when this nerve is dysfunctional, you can imagine it can have a number of negative side effects in and on the body.

Bad breathers, mouth breathers will more than likely have a dysfunctional vagus nerve. 

 

Breathing and Emotions

Breathing impacts and influences both physiological and psychological factors.

Breathing patterns are also linked to our emotions. We know from research that our emotions change the way we feel and think.  We also know our breathing pattern can influence the emotions we experience. 

One of the reasons why breathing can change how we feel is that emotions and breathing are closely connected. Breathing has direct influences on the brain and limbic system (the emotional, behavioral and memory centre of the brain)

We can therefore change our emotions by the way we think and the way we breathe. 

Most clinical psychologists use some kind of breathing practice with patients. However, because breathing happens automatically, many of us don’t give our breath as much attention as it deserves, nor have we learned to harness its full potential to calm our minds and body.

A revealing research study by Pierre Phillipot showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct breathing patterns. 

In this study, participants came in and were instructed to generate emotions like sadness, fearanger and happiness to the best of their ability. 

While they were experiencing the emotions, the research team requested participants to closely observe and report on their own breathing patterns. 

The research team found that each emotion was associated with a distinct pattern of breathing. For example, when the participants felt anxious or afraid, they breathed more quickly and shallowly and when they felt happy, they breathed slowly and fully. 

Even more interesting was the follow-up study. The researchers, working with a different group of participants, instructed them to breathe in the patterns they had observed corresponding to the emotions felt by the other group. 

The researchers literally told the participants how to breathe and then asked them how they felt. 

Low and behold, the participants started to feel the emotions that corresponded to the breathing patterns!

This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath, by the way we breathe Scientific research now shows us clearly, that, by Changing how we breathe, will affect and impact us in some way, either a positively or negatively. Knowing this is a game changer, not only for our physical, emotional and mental health, but also how we train and compete.

 

Breathing into Relaxation

I would like to take you through a breathing meditation, allowing you to become aware and focus on your breathing and to experience what good breathing feels like, this will also help you to relax, and it will take around 3 and half minutes

Please sit down and get comfortable.

Put your right hand on your belly and just become aware and focus on your breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out. Gently close your eyes, breathing in and out through your nose, gently, slowing and easily.

Breathing in and out though your nose, gently, easily and slowly, breathing in through your nose into your hand, breathing out through your nose, breathing in through your nose into your hand, breathing out through your nose. Just being aware and focus on the air coming in and going out through your nose.

Breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out, breathing in and out.

Now just bring your awareness back into the room you are in, back into all of your body and when you are ready open your eyes.

Did your breathing become flowing and rhythmic? How do you feel?  What did you get from that exercise, what did you learn from this exercise?

This quick and simple breathing exercise can be done anywhere, I invite you to practice this to experience and feel-good breathing and whenever you feel a bit stressed or worried.

Stress can be managed and dissipated through and with breathing. 

 

Breathing and Sports Performance 

🔑 Breathing Correctly/Properly Is a Key to How Your Perform

What if, small changes in how you breathe could support and help your performance? Learning to breathe properly May in fact, make the difference between doing well or badly, winning or losing.

Most of us just think and believe that when we work out, train or play that breathing through the mouth is normal and it gets more oxygen into our lungs. Someone may have told you to this, you may have been taught to do it this way or maybe you’ve just seen others do it and followed this. The thought and belief that mouth breathing is necessary and ideal whilst being physically active, even when pushing ourselves to the max, is a myth.

Whilst the majority of people believe that mouth breathing is necessary in order to be able to do sport or any kind of physical activity, it is not based in science. I believe that people think this way, because it’s been done this way for such a long time, without the understanding of how the body works, of what good breathing is, and what the bodies needs are, to function efficiently for optimal health and performance.

Many of today’s sports coaches / trainers and athletes have a minor, if any, focus on or understanding of breathing, such as breathing rhythm, shallow vs. low breathing, nasal vs. mouth breathing, big vs. small breathing volume etc. It is surprising, considering that correct breathing lays the foundation for efficient oxygenation of the blood going into the muscles so that strength, endurance, focus, clear thinking and concentration can be maintained.

Frequently, I hear from sports coaches, athletes and others, that you don’t have to think about your breathing, it’s an automatic process taking care of itself. Yes, it is an automatic process, but now, science tells us that breathing is the one automatic process we can control, we can adjust and change it, so as to, allow and enable the body, to function efficiently and to its optimum.

Dysfunctional and/or incorrect and/or bad breathing habits limit your sports performance and health.

We all know that by doing weight training, we will become stronger and by walking, jogging or running we will increase our fitness. There is no difference between doing those activities where we train to improve, then by focusing to improve the way we move the air in and out of our lungs in order to breathe more efficiently, thereby helping and allowing our body to work more efficiently.

Another argument I hear is that, if nasal breathing is so superior it would have been discovered many years ago and everyone at elite level would have done it or be doing it. 

Again, I believe this is due to the lack of understanding of the functions of the nose and what it is made for, to bring air into the body. Mouth breathing has now become known as dysfunctional breathing, hidden over-breathing.

With more and more research being done on breathing, it appears that we humans have taken for granted that something as simple as nasal breathing is far more important than we once thought.

Old ways of thinking are being debunked and new discoveries are being made all the time. Just because everybody is doing or thinking in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best or correct way of doing it. With such a way of reasoning our planet would still have been considered to be flat, it impossible to fly, the 4-minute mile barrier would never have been broken and high-altitude training to improve our bloods oxygen carrying capacity would never have taken off.

Think of it, a horse weighing 500 kilo, or 80 stones has no problems whatsoever to oxygenate its powerful muscles while running twice as fast as Usain Bolt, and only breathing through its nose. Indeed, we are not a horse, but still, it is a fact and indeed an interesting fact.

When 2016 & 2020 Olympic Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour record for the marathon he was breathing through his nose after he crossed the finish line?

Now if you’re like everyone else you would expect him to be drawing in air from every possible hole given to him, but he wasn’t. Having just put in a last bit of effort to fly over the finish line, he was breathing through his nose.

So, how has this person just run a sub-2-hour marathon and not be breathing through his mouth?

Functional breathing that’s how…breathing through the nose.

He was unlocking one of our lost biological norms to enhance every ounce of his performance. Humans are designed and supposed to breathe through the nose.

Whether it’s crossing the line at a marathon or playing squash. Fatigue can weigh you down not only physically but mentally. So, gaining that edge, breathing and mindset, could be the difference between a 2h 01min or 1h 59min marathon, winning or losing a squash match.

 

More about Carbon Dioxide

CARBON DIOXIDE levels in the body dictate how much oxygen (OXYGEN) we release to the cells. Our hemoglobin within the red blood cells ‘holds onto’ the OXYGEN molecule until there are sufficient levels of CARBON DIOXIDE to release it.

Exercising produces more CARBON DIOXIDE, but if we breathe through our mouths, bringing in MORE OXYGEN, then we don’t allow that CARBON DIOXIDE level to rise to release more OXYGEN to the cells. That’s actually reducing the amount of OXYGEN we can deliver to the working cells that need it, and our performance decreases. 

So, Nose Breathing will help efficient gas exchanges occur, helping our performance not hindering it.

 

More about Nitric Oxide 

Nitric Oxide is key in improving blood flow, Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator that allows the blood vessel to dilate and improve delivery of the blood to the cells. Imperative when physically active, Nitric Oxide also helps with ATP ((adenosine triphosphate) production, ATP being the energy stored in the cell.

 

Brain fog and poor concentration are caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

Did you know that your brain is only 2% of your total body mass but consumes 25% of your body’s oxygen requirements?

A lack of adequate blood flow to your brain will dramatically limit the oxygen, nutrients and the removal of waste, which in turn reduces brain performance which can lead to poor performance.

An additional benefit of enhanced Nitric Oxide productivity is neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons form in the brain, important in learning and memory. These physiological conditions can either positively influence an athlete’s performance or impair the outcome.

When you learn to control your breath, when you are breathing efficiently, less is more, you will be able to:

  • Get through your workouts better
  • Recover better in the short term (in between points) and long term
  • Lower your heart rate and reduce stress, Athletes know that after exercise we want to get our heart rate down ASAP for better recovery and fitness levels, this is also true of the breathing rate.
  • Decrease the impact of lactic acid in muscular activity by promoting maximum delivery of oxygen to the working parts of the body
  • Increase oxygen intake by a min of 20%.
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Increase focus
  • Reduce dehydration
  • Improve core stability

In a study of 331 people ranging from recreational exercisers to elite athletes, showed that 65% of the participants considered their breathing to be the limiting factor to their performance.

15% of the participants said weak muscles or poor fitness limited their performance and 35% said tired muscles, lactic acid build up, limited their performance. All of these affected directly by breathing.

All elite athletes know the importance of heart rate recovery and overall recovery. Breathing recovery is also very important. So, if you’re over-breathing at rest and after you have finished activity, chances are you are over-breathing when active and you are not going to recover effectively, efficiently nor quickly.

Breathing efficiently means “You’re doing less work of breathing to get the same oxygenation,” says George Dallam, the lead author of a study into breathing and its effects on athletes and sports performance, and a professor in the School of Health Sciences and Human Movement at Colorado State University and former National Teams coach for the USA Triathlon team.

Less is more, this is breathing properly for the body’s needs. The body wants to work efficiently, it’s built to work efficiently. It’s us that either helps it or hinders it, the body’s functioning. By understanding how’s it works and then taking the appropriate actions will determine your outcomes and whether or not you perform or reach your full potential.

 

Breathing is A Key to unlock your fullest potential and live your best life

Breathing is like any technique, your grip, swing and footwork, if you have bad technique, it hinders you and works against you, if you have good technique, it helps and works for you to improve and grow. 

To go from one to the other, what do we do? We first need to become aware of it, then we learn to change one to the other, controlling what and how we do it and practicing it until it’s changed. Out, with the old habit, in, with the new habit.  It’s very much like installing new software on your computer.

What is happening in your brain is neurons are firing up to create a pattern which in turn will create and make a habit, the more you practice this, this process will rewire your brain where it becomes the way you just do it.

What we are actually doing in this process of changing habits is retraining and rewiring and the brain. We are unlearning to learn, to learn again.

Good Breathing Can help you get into a Flow State, which is a state of mind that occurs when a person is totally immersed in an activity. It can occur during a wide variety of tasks such as when a person is learning, being creative, or participating in a sport. When in a flow state, people pay no attention to distractions and time seems to pass without any notice.

 

The No 1 thing you can do straight away to take control of your breathing is:

Be aware of IT. Close your mouth and breathe in and out through your Nose into your Belly. 

Here are some other steps to implement in your daily routine

  1. When you are at rest, watching TV, reading, or at the computer just notice your breathing, breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your mouth shout, breathing into your belly.
  2. Then, when you are walking and going about your day, just be aware Breathing in and out through your nose, if you are struggling, slow down so you can control your breathing through your nose

I hope you have enjoyed this series. I know it’s a lot of information to process, but I also know that breathing well can have a positive impact on your health and sports performance. 

I have worked with asthmatic and non-asthmatic athletes, from recreational to Olympian athletes and everything in between, and, helping children and adults from all walks of life, helping them improve the quality of their lives and performance.

I conduct breathing coaching and presentations for athletes and people with and without respiratory issues, as well as stress management, subconscious belief work, mindset coaching and spiritual healing.

For more information or inquiries about my programs please contact me at mindbreathingedge@gmail.com, putting in the subject line, SquashSkills.

I welcome feedback.     

Thank you for your time and interest, I wish you well, good health and good breathing, train and play well.

“The more you listen to your breath and the more you believe in the power of thoughts and feelings, the greater changes you can create in your life.”

If you truly want better health and better sports performance, take charge and action, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.


PS

High Altitude Training

The benefits of High-Altitude Training for athletes are well documented and has now become known as legal Blood doping… thanks to its ability to boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells

Immediately at 3,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level is where your body releases EPO 

(Erythropoietin), a powerful hormone that boosts the production of red blood cells.

Studies with elite athletes have shown raised levels of hemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen – this translates into a 3% boost in performance on competition day due to this increase.

Ok, not all of us have access to mountains to go altitude training so the next best thing is to:

 

Simulate High Altitude Training

This can be done by improving your C02 tolerance, (balance of levels), this is done by knowing how to breathe correctly and training in specific ways with your breathing. Nitic oxide production boosts your EPO, the body’s red blood cell building hormone Erythropoietin production, enabling the body to increase hemoglobin in the cells, therefore, increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood to deliver more oxygen to exercising muscles. The extra oxygen significantly increases the muscles’ energy production and can therefore help to improve athletic performance output ability.

From a straightforward athletes’ performance bio-energetic perspective, oxygen is required for the body to make energy, aerobically, to produce muscle contractions, in addition to anaerobic produced energy.

Within muscle cells, there are energy-producing structures called mitochondria. Oxygen is used inside the mitochondria to drive the biochemical reactions that breakdown carbohydrates, fats and certain amino acids to produce energy in the form of ATP this enables the body to convert the energy stored in foods to a form it can use in the body in the form of ATP.

These high-energy ATP molecules are then used by the muscles as an energy source to power muscle contractions. So, more oxygen in the body/muscles yields more ATP generation, increasing muscle contractions, which results in improving athletic performance.

 

Alexia Clonda,

Breathing, Mindset and Spiritual Coach & Mentor, The Healing Teacher and High-Performance Squash Coach

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