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Breathe Right, Boost Resilience

At The Resilience Lab, we like to think that (once your BASE is sorted), staying Resilient in the face of ever-changing stimuli is the product of two elements working together and continually feeding off each other:

  • Nervous System Regulation

  • Functional Breathing

Together, these two elements decide our response to any stimuli, activity or challenge. When they are disharmonious, your stress levels are high, you can’t think cognitively and your reaction is (often!) not the most appropriate for the situation!

When these two elements are harmoniously feeding into each other, however, controlling your response to any stressor is much, much easier.

So, what is Functional Breathing…?

Firstly, let’s tackle one massive preconception people often have: what we are discussing today is NOT breathwork. 

There are a multitude of different breathwork techniques out there that have situation-specific uses and if you’ve taken any of our programs, you will know we have specific breathing techniques for specific situations!

Rather, what we are discussing is the underlying biology, biochemistry, physiology and functionality of effective, normal breathing.

When it comes to defining Functional Breathing, it is often easier to come to a clear understanding by identifying what Dysfunctional Breathing looks like.

To do this, think of any movie you have watched recently in which the protagonist was in danger, running away from something, under stress or generally discombobulated in any way.

Can you remember the way they were breathing? It’s almost certain that they were taking in air through a wide open mouth, into their upper chest, using accessory chest muscles in great, jerky, heaving gulps.

Sound about right?

So, here we have a picture of what it looks like to breathe dysfunctionally. To be more specific, dysfunctional breathing can be typified as:

  • Breathing through the mouth

  • Upper chest movement

  • Hearing breathing during rest

  • Frequent sighing

  • Frequent yawning

  • Paradoxical breathing

  • Easily noticeable breathing movement during rest

With a picture of what dysfunctional breathing looks like, you can probably imagine what messages continuously breathing in this way give to your Nervous System.

In essence, this kind of breathing is saying: “ALERT! ALERT! REACT! RUN! HIDE!”. Well, maybe not that dramatically, however, this kind of breathing continuously innervates the Sympathetic Nervous System, leaving you in a constant state of heightened awareness, anxiousness, nervousness, stress…you get the picture!

Conversely, Functional Breathing has the exact opposite effect.

Functional Breathing, as we define it here at The Resilience Lab is really simple to remember:

  • Nose- breathing in/out through the nose at all times

  • Low- using the diaphragm properly

  • Slow- having the physiological conditioning and CO2 Tolerance to pace your breathing, regardless of the stimuli.  

By using these three simple techniques, our students can control their Nervous System through improved biochemistry and biomechanical feedback.

The benefits of Nasal Breathing are well documented and if you’re interested in reading more, feel free to access this article.

Low, diaphragmatic breathing (when done correctly), has a significant impact on Parasympathetic Nervous System innervation (calm, functional) and in training all those important, tiny muscles that control breathing (but are generally misused when breathing is dysfunctional).

Slow, paced breathing has the combined effect of changing biochemistry (hence your ability to tolerate high CO2 levels), as well as increasing physiological capacity and providing parasympathetic feedback to the higher Nervous System processing areas.

So, when we use the term “Functional Breathing” here at The Resilience Lab, we are talking about a 24/7/365 practice (yep, even when you’re sleeping!!), that is not only simple to adapt, but directly feeds back into Nervous System control and also the important BASE elements such as sleep and exercise.

In coming weeks, we will delve further into how Functional Breathing helps direct the Nervous System.

In the meantime, if you’d like to start practising a simple Functional Breathing Exercise, simply CLICK HERE.

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