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Patrick McKeown – Breathing Practices That Will Improve Your Health And Performance (#68)

Breathing practices and mental concentration with Patrick McKeown on The Black Country Buddhas Podcast

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Patrick McKeown - Breathing Practices That Will Improve Your Health And Performance (#68) | The Black Country Buddhas Podcast | My Home Vitality

Introduction to guest:

Patrick McKeown is a world-renowned breathing practitioner and author of The Oxygen Advantage and most recently The Breathing Cure.

In this podcast we talk about simple, scientifically proven, breathing methods that anyone can use to improve their health, mental and physical performance.

Specific breathing exercises discussed in this podcast can be used to:

  • Clear a blocked nose.
  • Stress and relax your nervous system.
  • Improve lung function.
  • Prepare for competition.
  • Relieve asthma and rhinitis.
  • Protect against respiratory infection including COVID-19.
  • Reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Influence emotions.
  • Improve sexual function.
  • Treat sleep apnoea and insomnia.
  • Relieve headaches, migraines and PMS.
  • Develop healthy growth in children (face, teeth, airways, posture, speech and language).
  • Help to control epilepsy and diabetes.

Use this podcast as a resource to get your breathing right and improve your life.

More from Patrick:

Key quotes and takeaways from the show:

Breathing is a tool to alter states. “We have 100 different breathing sequences for altering different states, depending on the individual.” The key is to have a good understanding of what is happening within the body and then choosing a specific breathing technique to produce a desired result.

Some examples of what different breathing techniques can achieve:

  • Increase blood flow and oxygen delivery (to major organs and muscles, including the brain).
  • Help treat epilepsy.
  • Open up airways (to treat hay fever and stuffy noses).
  • Open up lungs (to treat asthma).
  • Improve sleep disorders (insomnia, snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea).
  • Improve functional movement.
  • Restore normal functioning of the autonomic nervous system (to treat anxiety and panic attacks).
  • Recover from stress.

“75% of people with anxiety have dysfunctional breathing.”

“Mindfulness is not going to address breathing pattern disorders.”

Useful techniques:

  • Intermittent 5 second breath-holds and 10 seconds of normal breathing is a good calming exercise.
  • Box breathing or tactical breathing (for increased blood flow to the brain and to stimulate the vagus nerve).
  • Slow walk – breathing in slowly for 3 paces, hold for 3 paces, breathe out for 3 paces, hold for 3 paces (for epilepsy).
  • Breath normally in and out, pinch nose and nod head up and down (for nose unblocking).
  • Hyperventilate for 20 breaths, exhale and hold until an involuntary movement of the diaphragm, then breathing recovery for 1 to 3 minutes (to upregulate your internal system).

You will feel the impact of breathing techniques pretty quickly. “If you activate the body’s relaxation response, you will have increased watery saliva in the mouth and you will start to feel drowsy [the temperature of your hands may also increase]. If you upregulate, you will feel alert. If you want to open up your airways, you should feel a difference within 5 minutes.”

“All it takes is 30 seconds to 1 minute of hyperventilation to reduce blood flow to the brain by half.”

The brain, body and breath are all parts of the same system. If the body/mind is stressed, we breathe harder and faster. If we breathe harder and faster, we stress the body/mind.

“It is the speed of the exhalation that will either stress or relax you. If you want to stress the body, breathe out fast. If you want to relax the body, breathe out slowly.” To bring down the heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve, you have to exhale slowly.

“90 seconds is all it takes to typically bring the body into recovery.”

Techniques for improving the biochemical effectiveness of breathing and transferring it into physical performance:

  1. “Having your mouth closed during sleep is vital!” – start here!
  2. Breathe Light To Breathe Right technique (BLTBR) – “Deer in the grass” or “cat and mouse”.
  3. BLTBR technique, with short breath holds (recover with BLTBR breathing).
  4. Physical movement (walk, light jog, cycle or run) with nasal breathing (tongue on the roof of the mouth and mouth closed).
  5. Same as 3, above, but blocking 1 nostril also (just short-term).
  6. Same as 3, above, but wearing a sports mask that pools CO2 and puts an extra load onto the breathing muscles.
  7. Normal inhale, exhale, followed by a 40-metre sprint holding your breath (after the exhale), then recover for every 30 seconds breathing any way you like. 2 sets per week max (although Woorons increased the load). Only do 5 reps per set and only do 1 set every second day. this technique is very intense!

“It’s important to do physical exercise with your mouth closed because even though you feel more air hunger, the air hunger is telling you that CO2 is increasing in the blood, and as CO2 increases, more oxygen gets delivered to working muscles.” Also, you’re getting the body used to higher levels of carbon dioxide during physical activity, which improves endurance and reduces breathlessness during physical exercise.

Defining “slight air hunger” in relation to the BLTBR method – “Air hunger should be the point where you’re almost at the verge of disrupting your diaphragm, but not passing it, so that you can still maintain regular breathing. If the air hunger gets a little too high and CO2 increases too much in the blood, the brain will send increased impulses to breathe, and you will have involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. Your breathing becomes jerky and air hunger becomes too much. At that point, take a rest and start again.”

Diving response – Long breath-hold on an exhale after normal breathing. Hands go cold and legs go jelly because blood is rushed to the brain and heart to keep you alive.

Breath-hold training may be a suitable replacement for high intensity training, especially if an athlete is injured or muscles need rest.

Breathing measurements:

  • Maximum Breathlessness Test (MBT) – To measure the upper limits of breathlessness – Normal inhale and exhale, followed by a breath hold (whilst pinching nose) – how many steps can you take whilst holding, maximum? Athlete level – At least 60, preferably 80 to 100 paces.
  • Body Oxygen Levels Test (BOLT score) – To measure how good your normal (functional) breathing patterns are – Normal inhale and exhale, followed by a breath hold (whilst pinching nose) – How long can you hold your breath for before the first definite desire to breathe (you’re not holding for as long as you can! Measure until you feel the slightest urge to breathe) – Athlete level – At least 25 seconds.

“It’s you’re breathing during rest that’s going to influence your breathing during exercise.”

“Trauma can change your breathing patterns and increase your sensitivity to CO2.”

Altitude training creates a permanent (or semi-permanent) reduction in blood oxygen saturation, it does not impact CO2 levels. Breath-holds whilst sprinting create an intermittent reduction in blood oxygen saturation AND an increase in blood CO2 levels. Breath-holds whilst sprinting force the body to make adaptations. “Those adaptations are likely to result in improved buffering capacity inside the muscle compartment. If you can improve buffering capacity inside the muscle compartment, acidity can be neutralised so you can delay lactic acid and fatigue.” Other impacts of breath-holds:

  • Your spleen contracts, releasing more blood cells.
  • Your kidneys go hypoxic, synthesising EPO.
  • EPO sends a signal to the bone marrow, which matures more red blood cells.
  • You strengthen the breathing muscles.
  • You potentially train the brain to tolerate hypoxia and hypercapnia.
  • etc.

Quieten the mind to relate to life.

“Spirituality is the degree to which we have a quietness and stillness of the mind.”

“If someone gave me the choice between a degree or the ability to bring stillness to the mind, I would choose the ability to bring stillness to the mind any day of the week. People who achieve great things in life have the ability to focus on doing what they’re doing.”

“How can you be creative and come up with novel concepts when there is no room for fresh ideas to emerge?”

“The mind is the filter to which we experience all of life’s experiences and if our mind is not working in our favour, we’re going to have a pretty tough life.”

The days and weeks leading up to a big event are more important than the event itself, this is where the work is done!

Question of the day:

“Have any of your students reported a spiritual side to themselves after doing your breathing practices?”

Links to podcast sites:

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The full podcast:

Related episode:

If you enjoyed this podcast you will also enjoy the one we recorded with Patrick’s colleague, David Toney, about breathwork, martial arts and coaching.

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Show notes:

  • 00:00 – Overall show introduction.
  • 00:38 – Finding your purpose, happiness and success in life
  • 02:39 – Introduction to today’s show.
  • 04:05 – Today’s podcast structure.
  • 04:42 – How breathing influences health and how we can use it to optimise health.
  • 09:30 – Simple breathing exercises people can use to improve their health.
  • 14:28 – Thinking of self-improvement methods and breathing techniques as tools for different circumstances.
  • 15:08 – If breathing techniques are so good, why have they been overlooked?
  • 17:14 – The science behind breathing techniques that help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • 23:10 – Are there breathing techniques that treat pain, shock or serious injury?
  • 27:19 – Improve your everyday breathing with this technique.
  • 29:20 – Transferring good breathing habits into physical exercise to increase performance.
  • 32:39 – Gaz’s mystery claw and the diving response.
  • 34:41 – Breathing techniques for elite sporting performance.
  • 39:37 – Measuring your breathing endurance.
  • 40:50 – Professional athletes who could improve their performance through better breathing.
  • 43:36 – Patrick’s breath training protocol Vs. high altitude training.
  • 48:00 – Connecting to life through the breath.
  • 57:32 – How to breathe (and prepare) in the build up to, and during, a big event.
  • 01:02:54 – Becoming an Oxygen Advantage Instructor.
  • 01:03:40 – More from Patrick and his future challenges.
  • 01:04:34 – Where to find more, next week’s guest and
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