Placing yourself somewhere outside your comfort zone is a hurdle many of us face. Whether it be for necessary reasons such as having to relocate for a new job or slightly unnecessary (but equally important) reasons such as throwing yourself off a high bridge attached to a bungee rope, summoning up the courage and mental strength is often easier said than done.
Other than just psyching yourself up and seeing others complete a task to great success, one way you can help to alter your way of thinking lies with the way you breathe. The practice of breathwork is hardly new, and we’ve seen high-profile names such as Joe Rogan and Laird Hamilton singing its praises (it’s also earned Dutch athlete Wim Hof earn himself the nickname ‘The Iceman’).
However, it could be argued that these people have the time to focus on such practices, what if you’re someone who is completely new to the topic but are curious about its benefits? DMARGE spoke to Dean Gladstone, one of Bondi Beach’s most famous lifeguards, qualified personal trainer and Wim Hof coach – he was also the man enlisted to help SAS: Australia star Shannan Ponton to overcome some major hurdles during the reality show – to dig a little deeper into breathwork and to find out how beginners can get started.
Dean starts by pointing out that we could have all been practising breathwork to some degree, perhaps without even knowing it.
“I count swimming as breathwork”, he begins, “and I have been swimming since I was 5, but I started yoga at 22 and about 12 years ago as a health coach, I was focusing on how breathing mechanics have an influence on the nervous system.”
To this, Dean is referring the role the diaphragm has one our entire body. A 2018 article by Bordoni et al. says, “The functions of the diaphragm do not stop locally in its anatomy, but affect the whole body system.”
“It can be called systemic breath.”
The report goes into great detail (which may not make complete sense to those without biology majors) but it goes on to say that “reduction of oxygen caused by the diaphragmatic dysfunction affect the patient’s cognitive function”, ergo, healthy breathing can help improve the way our brain works.
Back to Dean. He goes on to say that “there is always room for improvement” when it comes to breathwork and that nobody can ever truly master it and for anyone looking to try their hand at it, it can always be difficult to put a time scale on how long until you can be considered competent.
“I work holistically with people, so it’s hard to say exactly how long things will take but I do see great improvements in 4-10 weeks with most people.”
So what are the first steps we can take into improving our breathwork? It can be as simple as spending a few moments just focusing on how you’re breathing in your day to day life.
“We breathe all day so improving this is functional breathing”, Dean relates, “it’s something I’m very passionate about within breathwork training, when we consciously breathe slowly, deeply and lightly, this influences how we breathe for the rest of the day.”
“Subtle exercises can be done hourly in some cases to improve breathing for dysfunctional breathers.”
“One of the great things about breathwork is that it can be done anytime, anywhere. You can do it when you are injured to improve recovery and if you do the right breathwork it can help maintain fitness.”
Indeed, recovery breathing can have multiple benefits on the body, whether you’re recovering from an injury or just want to reduce the amount of time it takes to recover after an intense workout.
Bill Hartman, owner of IFAST Physical Therapy says,
“When it comes to optimising movement and recovery, the two most crucial pieces of the performance ‘puzzle’, nothing is more important than breathing mechanics.”
“Respiration is the most underutilized and overlooked aspect of movement and recovery because it is the foundation that allows all other subsystems to thrive.”
He cites Dr Karel Lewit as saying, “If breathing is not normalised, no other movement pattern can be.”
We’ve already written about how Joe Rogan works to improve his breathing and how it allows him to rid himself of his “inner b**ch”, thus improving his mental strength.
“Then when it starts to suck I take the AirPods out and I start breathing. 6 seconds in deep and 6 seconds out. I get my rhythm and I try to think of nothing but my breath.”
If you want to engage in the practice of breathwork, Dean has created an online course which also helps to break down the various aspects of breathwork training, some of which may be more applicable to you than others.
“In the course, we do yoga breathing, functional breathing, high CO2 work and intermittent hypoxic training and more.”
“It all depends on what people want and need, for example, I work with athletes and I also work people that are suffering from stress disorders and the breathwork for each is extremely different.”