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ENCORE: Science of breathwork and DIY Nervous system regulation for anxiety, sleep, athletes, better focus/clarity with physiotherapist Campbell Will

Picture of podcast cover art with Christa Biegler and Campbell Will: Episode 333 ENCORE: Science of breathwork and DIY Nervous system regulation for anxiety, sleep, athletes, better focus/clarity with physiotherapist Campbell Will

This is our last week for encore episodes. This week's encore features return guest Campbell Will who is a physiotherapist and breathwork specialist.  In this episode, we dive into the science of breath-work and how you can use it for self regulation and stress mitigation.


  • The bio-mechanics of breath-work & how you breathe effects everything
  • Appropriate breath work for different context cases
  • Up regulated breathing versus down regulated breathing and how it effect the nervous systems
  • Super-ventilation: for performance: how can you get oxygen out of the blood and into the cells of the body and the brain
  •  Carbon dioxide and oxygen balance to impact your ability to manage energy
  • Research around people with anxiety and panic attacks have poor interception and don’t notice when holding their breath


  • Self regulation and stress mitigation through breath
  • DIY Nervous system regulation for anxiety, sleep, athletes,  & better focus/clarity
  • The easiest way to started today with breath work
  • What a beginner breath work session looks like

Catch Campbell's other episode 181: Breathwork for Sleep, Stress, with Campbell Will, PT


Campbell Will is the founder of  Breath Body Therapy, a breathwork practitioner and physiotherapist who believes it's time that we take back control of our mind and body. He is a physical therapist and breathwork specialist from Australia, who works around the world, introducing people to the power of the breath. He’s worked in a variety of clinical settings, from the ICU to the sporting field, from young to old and everyone in between. His passion is teaching the principles of breathwork, and how it can be used in all situations to better regulate the body, the mind, and emotions.


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[00:00:00] Christa Biegler: This is our last encore or republished episode of this series before we return to regularly scheduled new content now that we are through the holiday season. 

[00:00:11] Christa Biegler: In this episode with Campbell Will, he was one of my original Breathwork mentors. I met him because It's a small world. I knew his wife and then I met Campbell and he is a very talented physiotherapist, a. k. a. a physical therapist in the U. S. that focuses on breath and has a very lovely accent. I hope you enjoy this episode about the science of breath work 

[00:00:32] Christa Biegler: I want to take a quick minute to tell you 

[00:00:34] Christa Biegler: That I'm currently taking intro calls for clients to start in the new year. I work with people that feel like they're doing everything right in health, but still have food sensitivities, subpar energy and mental focus. Gut issues and eczema. I help them with a sustainable way to eliminate symptoms and feel their best using testing synergistic nutrient repletion and supporting several major systems in the body for balance.

[00:00:55] Christa Biegler: You can go over to Krista bigler. com forward slash FSS. Both links will be in the show notes and now back to the show.

[00:01:03] Christa Biegler, RD: For years, I've been recommending microbalance products to my clients to help them clear mold from their homes and bodies. The creator of microbalance is a practicing ear, nose, and throat doctor that's tested their unique formulas to kill mold, but not other microbes, because he's found that over 90 percent of those with chronic sinus issues can have fungal or mold issues in the sinuses.

[00:01:23] Christa Biegler, RD: I've even found small amounts of mold can cause everything from skin rashes to food sensitivities, throat clearing, and so many other symptoms. So if you'd like to try anything from microbalance, you can get 15 percent off by using the code less stressed or by downloading our free checklist of 10 easy ways to reduce mold in your home at kristabigler. com forward slash mold. And I'll also include the code there. I love micro balances, sinus sprays, and their laundry additives to just remove smells and molds from fabrics. They really do help make things easier, whether it's trying to test your home for mold or just reduce the exposure in your everyday appliances.

[00:01:58] Christa Biegler, RD: So you can grab that checklist at KristaBigler. com forward slash mold, or use the code less stressed at microbalance. com for 15 percent off your order.

[00:02:07] Christa Biegler: Today, we have returned guests, Campbell will, and we are graced by his lovely Australian accent today. So he is a trained physiotherapist, which is, I believe, the same as a physical therapist in the United States. You can correct me later certified in a variety of styles of breathwork. His clinical experience across a diverse range of settings from the ICU to professional sporting teams has provided him with a broad skill set and the assessment and treatment of various services.

[00:02:30] Christa Biegler: Clinical presentations, his passion over the last 5 years has been centered on the role of optimal breathing and achieving health and wellness. And instead of focusing on 1 aspect of breathing, he targets the interplay between biomechanics and biochemistry and neuroscience. So his goal is to teach people how to get back into the driver's seat of their own biology through having a toolbox for self regulation and stress mitigation.

[00:02:52] Christa Biegler: So welcome back campbell. 

[00:02:53] Campbell Will: Thank you, Krista. I've been looking forward to this. I'm really excited to chat 

[00:02:56] Campbell Will: once more. 

[00:02:57] Christa Biegler: And I know that these messages and what we're going to talk about is so needed. And when we talk about self regulation and stress mitigation, we were just talking off air about what is sexy and what makes sense to people.

[00:03:11] Christa Biegler: And we were actually both lamenting just a touch, not totally, but about how sometimes the point of my podcast gets missed. It's called the less stress life. And it was an accidental title that came from inflammation, which is a much more scientific. Concrete concept. And for you, it's very similar, right?

[00:03:28] Christa Biegler: You came very science based background and you were just talking about what people's perception of breathwork is versus what it really is. So let's talk about that for a second to open it up. 

[00:03:39] Campbell Will: Yeah, I think it's a great place to start. It's such an interesting, I guess, framework, right? When I say the word breathwork, people, if they've been introduced to some of the concepts, they're going to have an association.

[00:03:50] Campbell Will: Whether that association is correct or not is really not up to me. It's oh, I've seen breathwork in popular media. Seen it in this setting and that's what I think it is. And so I think for most people, breathwork seems like this kind of out there, spiritual woo practice of breathing in a certain way.

[00:04:08] Campbell Will: And it's going to make you feel a certain way. And I would argue that's one element of breathwork, right? That is a certain part of breathwork, but really what I'm trying to teach people is you're breathing all the time. And how you're breathing is affecting how you're thinking and feeling and acting. Breathwork's everything, right?

[00:04:26] Campbell Will: That sigh of frustration that someone takes is breathwork, right? That's an attempt of someone's body to regulate, right? I'm trying to release tension or I'm trying to balance my blood gases, right? And when I hold my breath when I'm stressed, right? Again, there's a reflection that a body or a person is attempting to use breathing to Push back against a certain state or feeling.

[00:04:49] Campbell Will: And so rather than breathwork being this kind of separate, independent practice, it's like, how can we introduce these concepts of self regulation or self management through breath every minute of the day, because the more that I can allow that to infiltrate my day, then the more I'm going to have a tool that puts me back into that state of harmony of homeostasis of balance.

[00:05:13] Christa Biegler: So on this same note, in your bio, you talked about biomechanics. So tell me about this interplay between what is biomechanics in terms of breath work and biochemistry? I mean, you're talking about it a little bit, but let's continue to make this more tangible. 

[00:05:30] Campbell Will: Yeah. So biomechanics, if I explain it to someone that's not in the kind of health field, it's just.

[00:05:35] Campbell Will: The movement of the way that my body is working, right? Bio, biology, mechanics, movement. So when we're looking at breathing, biomechanics is what part of my body am I using, right? And that can be as simple as my nose or my mouth. And then that can look at really the location. Am I breathing into my chest and my shoulders, or am I breathing down low into the lower part of my thorax, my abdomen, right?

[00:05:56] Campbell Will: And what I think is super interesting is. Breathwork or breathing is not just about breathing, it's the way in, right? If someone's breathing up into their chest or their shoulders, that's not just about the distribution of air in their lungs. It's also going to dictate what part of my nervous system is active, right?

[00:06:14] Campbell Will: We have much more of a sympathetic response that stress state when I'm breathing high up into my chest versus a more parasympathetic response when I'm activating the diaphragm and I'm breathing down into the lower lobes of the lungs. And even in terms of kind of the distribution of blood flow, right?

[00:06:31] Campbell Will: The lungs are shaped like these triangles. So there's this point or this apex at the top, which has a lot less distribution of alveoli, the little balloons that actually participate in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide with our blood and a lot less capillaries, the tiny little blood vessels that are actually.

[00:06:47] Campbell Will: Receiving the oxygen and discharging the carbon dioxide, whereas the bottom of the lungs, just thanks to gravity, have a much higher density of capillaries and alveoli. So if someone thinks what's the difference of breathing into my chest, the breathing into my belly, it's not just about the movement of the body, right?

[00:07:05] Campbell Will: It's, do I have a better distribution of blood flow and of gas exchange? Am I stimulating the calming part of my nervous system with each breath, right? And then when we think of that at scale, most people are breathing. 22 to 25, 000 times a day, right? If I'm taking these vertical chest breaths 25, 000 times a day, it's no wonder I might feel a little bit anxious or a little bit agitated or stressed because that's the message that my body's receiving based on the part of my body that's 

[00:07:34] Campbell Will: working.

[00:07:35] Christa Biegler: Or even tension in the shoulders, right? Or clenching your teeth or having headaches as a result of that. Those are all like obvious biomechanical responses in my brain to how potentially you're breathing through your chest. That makes a lot of sense to me. 

[00:07:52] Campbell Will: Yes. And right when we break it down that simply if you're using the muscles around your neck to lift up your rib cage, and that's not really what they're designed for, Then, of course, we're going to develop these tension patterns.

[00:08:04] Campbell Will: And there's beautiful research from the physiotherapy and physical therapy, same thing world of kind of chronic neck pain patients that have plateaued with manuals therapy, right? They're not benefiting anymore. They're not improving. When they actually just apply principles of respiration, let's look at their carbon dioxide tolerance sets to change their breathing patterns, their neck pain gets better.

[00:08:25] Campbell Will: And it's something that I see all the time when a patient comes in and has neck pain. Sure, I can do manual therapy on the neck, right? And they're going to feel better for a day or 2. But if that pain is a result of 20, 000 repetitions of incorrect breathing every day they're going to come back in two days time at the same problem.

[00:08:41] Campbell Will: We haven't approached this from trying to solve the problem. We're just treating the symptom, which is I have a sore neck, the sore necks arising from inappropriate breathing mechanism that's happening. Thousands of reps every day. And so when I look at someone's neck pain now, the first thing I do is let's actually have a look at your breathing because someone may be with me as a client or a patient for 30 or 40 minutes in a day, what they're doing for the remaining 23 hours and 20 minutes is much more important.

[00:09:08] Campbell Will: And so that's where I think breathing can be this really overlooked. Mechanism of why do you have neck pain? Why do you carry tension in your shoulders? Why is your jaw always clenched? Maybe it's a reflection of your nervous system, or your physiology is a little bit out of balance. 

[00:09:22] Christa Biegler: So this same discussion touches basically everything.

[00:09:26] Christa Biegler: We're talking about it in terms of neck pain. But if, I love to talk about this topic, so I'll leave it brief. But, I remember the time I had lower back pain, but it was a switching of. Like literally normal tennis shoes would cause a little bit of a lift or an incline. And so any type of chiropractic or physical therapy couldn't correct it.

[00:09:46] Christa Biegler: If all day I was walking around on over seven millimeters in the heel, that was creating a little wedge in the back in a very similar way. We're talking about chronic neck pain again, but I've. Interviewed people who do public floor health and the anecdote is a lot of breath work often, to strengthen those muscles because the breath is huge for muscle strengthening overall.

[00:10:09] Christa Biegler: So this is creating a really tangible consideration, for pain and this physical aspect that is so important because we think about breath work. I always talk about. That we can address pretty much every symptom through this triad, right? From the nutritional tribe, which can mean a lot of different things from the structural tribe, which might mean, adjustments that might mean physical therapy.

[00:10:30] Christa Biegler: So some kind of structural thing might be a changing of the shoes, right? Or emotional piece. And I think often this brings us back to, we think about breathwork as being emotional, but really it is affecting all of these things affect each other. It's affecting the structural. Impact, and then if I look at it from my perspective from the nutritional impact, nervous system dysregulation creates immune system dysfunction in the gut that creates a downward stream effect of what's going on in the gut.

[00:10:57] Christa Biegler: So addressing what's going on in the nervous system, and there are nutrients depleted by what happens, the increase of cortisol, et cetera. I can't help but be in this conversation just along with you. And that's really my next question for you is we didn't talk about how you left physiotherapy or physical therapy, which is a very tangible structural, modality, right?

[00:11:17] Christa Biegler: You worked in the ICU. What was the issue for you? You've been talking literally just now about. You were not addressing the root cause if I do manual work on someone for 40 minutes they're just coming back. And so if you're as crazy as I am, and that's about people's results, you'll get really frustrated, really fast working in that setting.

[00:11:36] Christa Biegler: And so let's talk about, like, why you left physical or physiotherapy in Australia to do this, which is so misunderstood. 

[00:11:45] Campbell Will: Yeah, 

[00:11:46] Campbell Will: I mean, you hit the one word that really stuck out to me there was frustration, right? And that's what it was. And I need to be mindful here. Of course, there's certain clinical settings where we need to be more mindful, right?

[00:11:55] Campbell Will: When I'm working in an ICU, I'm not going to get someone doing the Wim Hof method. It's just not appropriate, right? The clinical picture of that person will not tolerate a practice of super ventilation, which I might be teaching an athlete, right? So I'm not saying that we should be applying breathwork principles to every clinical picture there is.

[00:12:13] Campbell Will: But my role in the ICU and the clinical setting of the hospital was not optimal, right? It was to get someone just functioning. And that frustrated me because what I started to experience in my own practice outside of the clinical picture was like, Wow. This is a tool that really allows me to achieve my optimal performance, right?

[00:12:35] Campbell Will: Whether that's physical health, whether that's mental health, whether that's emotional flexibility and regulation, I saw this as a tool of this is really moving the needle for me. And I felt quite constrained by the clinical setting of you're not allowed to do that here because it doesn't yet have.

[00:12:50] Campbell Will: the evidence base or the clinical research that's done, which we know takes 10, 15 years to filter into clinical practice. So I instead of waiting for it to catch up, I was like, all right I'm just going to step outside the system a little bit and be able to apply some of these principles.

[00:13:06] Campbell Will: And I still practice as a physiotherapist, but it's what I've learned from breathwork has really changed the way I treat my patients. I ask every one of my patients, how's your sleep? And most of them tell me it's terrible, right? I ask them about their emotional state and most of them tell me they struggle with mood and regulation of how they feel.

[00:13:23] Campbell Will: And as a physio we're really working on the musculoskeletal system. That doesn't give me a lot of tool to work with someone's sleep disruption or emotional disruption, right? So what I found breathwork to do was bridge that gap. So if someone comes into me with pain what else is going on in their life?

[00:13:41] Campbell Will: Because it's never so simple as, Oh yeah, I just have a sore back. It's right. My back pain is affecting my ability to work, which now my stress levels are up. Now my sleep's out. And like all of these other things start to stem from this one problem. And I found just treating the back pain was like putting a bandaid on and be like, good luck with the rest of your problems, right?

[00:13:59] Campbell Will: Whereas being able to teach someone, Hey, Here's a tool that you can use at home when you wake up at night before you go to bed when you feel stressed at work, right? That doesn't require me to be there as a clinician to help you, right? It's teaching you to help yourself by understanding this really powerful tool that we've all got available to us that none of us have been taught how to use.

[00:14:20] Campbell Will: And that's something I think is really interesting. I often ask people who taught you how to breathe and they laugh, right? And it's a silly question, but it goes to show, right? Someone taught us how to read and to communicate and to use a computer and to drive a car. No one taught us how to regulate ourselves.

[00:14:35] Campbell Will: And breath is really one of the fastest kind of instruments that I've found that allows us to regulate how we feel. 

[00:14:42] Christa Biegler: You touched on something about pain and pain is really unrealized stress. And we often, like you talked about how It's not just back pain. It's not affecting my focus, my concentration, my work, et cetera.

[00:14:53] Christa Biegler: So I was going to ask you about common outcomes from breathwork. And I'm going to save that question. We'll tuck that. And it might come out because you've mentioned athletes. We talked about, I think we talked about either on or off air, the corporate world and working. And so I'm going to talk about what's appropriate for different contexts, because I think so often, maybe we think about breathwork as that it's all the same.

[00:15:13] Christa Biegler: And it's not all the same and the approaches would be different depending on what the context is. So I'd actually like to just dig into that a little bit about what's an appropriate context for a different situation. Now, let me start with the most challenging 1. we talked about at some point that if someone has a lot of stress and anxiety, they may actually struggle with holding their breath at some point.

[00:15:33] Christa Biegler: Will you talk to us about someone who actually does have realized stress and anxiety, which is a huge part of the population. And. Worse now in the last two years, what accommodations or changes would you make in breathwork to that 

[00:15:47] Christa Biegler: person? 

[00:15:48] Campbell Will: Yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up because I think it is where breastwork gets misconstrued and people try it and they go, that's not for me.

[00:15:55] Campbell Will: That actually made my anxiety worse, right? There's nothing wrong with the breathwork, and there's almost nothing wrong with what they did. It was just the wrong tool for the wrong situation, right? Let's think of stress and anxiety as a state of the nervous system, right? As someone in that kind of heightened sympathetic arousal.

[00:16:14] Campbell Will: Most people, when they hear of breathwork, are going to think of something like the Wim Hof method. Or conscious connected breathing, right? These quite popular, dynamic, active forms of breathwork, that's what's popular. So they might think, oh, I've heard breathworks good for my anxiety type in breathwork.

[00:16:29] Campbell Will: And there's this up regulating practice. That's just throwing fuel on the fire, right? We've taken someone that's already in a heightened state and we've turned up the volume, right? They're going to feel more anxious. They're going to feel more tense. And then they're going to go, I'm never doing breathwork again.

[00:16:44] Campbell Will: What that was as an inappropriate tool. What that person often needs is a down regulating practice, right? And breath can be used as the accelerator or as the brake. But unfortunately, what's out there is popular is mostly the accelerator, right? Let's use breathwork to ramp things up.

[00:17:01] Campbell Will: So a lot of the clientele that I work with is specifically for stress and anxiety. And I'm never introducing the Wim Hof method at the start. I will contradict myself a little bit because it can be A very effective tool in helping someone better navigate their sympathetic nervous system, but that comes after we've established how do I go up?

[00:17:22] Campbell Will: How do I go down? Where's the safety switch, right? Where's my understanding of this tool rather than this just put me into the red zone. I crossed this threshold and now I feel even more anxious. So in that population of those that we've are anxious or stressed is we want to use breath to calm the nervous system down.

[00:17:42] Campbell Will: And that's a very different practice to something like the Wim Hof method. 

[00:17:45] Christa Biegler: So I just wrote my bullet points. If you're a super stressed and anxious person, we don't want an upregulated practice, AKA the coffee of breath work, right? And that actually, when you're upregulating, what are some of the things like, how could someone recognize that this is upregulation instead of downregulation?

[00:18:05] Christa Biegler: Just in case. I mean, that's not clear to me. 

[00:18:07] Campbell Will: Yeah. 

[00:18:08] Campbell Will: So if we think about normal breathing, and that's a funny word because normal gets misconstrued our natural breathing, let's call it that as our baseline. If I'm going to breathe faster, if I'm going to breathe deeper, Then that's usually going to upregulate my nervous system, right?

[00:18:23] Campbell Will: If I'm going to emphasize the inhale, right? Those are all things that are going to push me forwards, right? It's going to put the foot on the accelerator from my normal. If I'm going to slow my breath down, okay. If I'm going to focus or lengthen the exhales, then that's usually going to downregulate me, right?

[00:18:42] Campbell Will: So let's just give an example. Wim Hof method is a quite dynamic. 

[00:18:46] Campbell Will: Oh

[00:18:48] Campbell Will: We're breathing deep and fast and in a rhythm. It's very up regulating, right? We see immediately some pressure rises, right? In some circumstances, we actually start to secrete some adrenaline and cortisol. My breathing is pushing the nervous system into that response.

[00:19:03] Campbell Will: Whereas something like coherence, breathing or resonance frequency, which is. Most often for most people coming down to a breath rate of about six breaths per minute, a 10 second respiratory cycle, we're going to see heart rate drop. We're going to see blood pressure lower. We're going to see cortisol secretions reduce.

[00:19:21] Campbell Will: So they're both breathwork, right? They're both manipulating the breathing, but there's a very different outcome, right? And so if you're in a simpler sense, breathing faster, deeper and focusing on the inhale, likely it's going to make you feel more upregulated. And if it's slower, okay. And if I'm lengthening or emphasizing the exhale, then it's likely to help me feel a little bit softer and slower.

[00:19:46] Christa Biegler: So to reiterate and summarize, I want to mention that upregulation would be inappropriate for the super anxious and stressed, and that's going to increase adrenaline. It's going to look like speeding up the breathing, but my next question is really. What is appropriate for athletes and my kind of the tie here is who is this upregulated breathing appropriate for first and then maybe it is athletes and then we can get into athletes.

[00:20:12] Campbell Will: Yeah. And I think a really nice way to think about whether I'm up or down regulating is the same way that we might look to an external tool, right? I love this concept of teaching people. Your state, right? How you feel and your environment or the situation you're in. If they're synchronous, right?

[00:20:32] Campbell Will: If you feel alert and aroused and ready to go, and you've got a meeting to go to and a presentation to do then usually you are happy with that state, right? If you're laying in bed at midnight and you feel alert and agitated, right? Then you feel there's this. Disharmony, right? I, the state that I'm in is awake and alert, sympathetic, right?

[00:20:50] Campbell Will: But the environment I'm in requires me to be asleep. I'm laying in bed. So this tool of up and down regulation, we've all probably woke up one morning and felt like, I don't want to get out of bed today. I just feel flat and maybe a little bit down and, Oh, wait, I have to go and do this presentation.

[00:21:06] Campbell Will: I have to go and have this meeting. So that's when. Can I use my breath as a tool to upregulate, right? Lift my energy a little bit. Bring me up into that state that allows me to engage in the practice of the situation that I need to be in. So I really, cause sometimes what it sounds like is the sympathetic nervous system is bad and the parasympathetic nervous system is good, right?

[00:21:27] Campbell Will: And that just completely misses the context that the sympathetic nervous system's critical, right? It wakes you up in the morning. It allows you to exercise. It allows you to. Complete tasks and manage deadlines and do all these things. So it's more when do I need to be in that state? If there is something that's requiring me to be energized and attentive and focused, then that's when an upregulation practice can be really beneficial.

[00:21:50] Campbell Will: And so it's really about finding what state do I need to be in for the situation that I'm in? Do I need to bring myself up? Do I need to bring myself down? Or am I in the exact right 

[00:21:58] Campbell Will: place? 

[00:21:58] Christa Biegler: So the real context or the tangible feeling is that up regulation is appropriate when you need energy and down regulation is appropriate for it can be appropriate.

[00:22:08] Christa Biegler: Up regulation is not appropriate for everybody all the time, right? Especially if there's already a lot of stress and anxiety, but down regulation can be appropriate for pretty much everyone. But we think about that as a calming down state, right? So up regulation is like for awake alertness time down regulation is for sleeping time.

[00:22:23] Christa Biegler: Let's say we're just needing to even be more calm through our day. 

[00:22:27] Campbell Will: Exactly. So even that just taking the edge off, right? Maybe I'm a little bit too aroused and my mind's a bit too racy, right? Downregulation doesn't mean you're going to go comatose and go to sleep, right? It's just maybe I need to come down a little bit and it's really interesting when we tie the nervous system states into kind of mental states, right?

[00:22:45] Campbell Will: Parasympathetic is that creativity. It's that lateral thinking. It's me Instead of being that focal problem focused, trying to solve this problem, parasympathetic is more of that let's look at this problem from different angles. So I think there's so much nuance to state the state that I'm in.

[00:23:02] Campbell Will: And we think of it as more of a black and white kind of sympathetic is go. And parasympathetic is slow. But there's so much more that comes with either of those states. And it's really a spectrum, right? It's not one or the other. It's like I'm situated between these two poles. And do I need to move myself up a little bit or move myself down a little bit to match the circumstance that I'm in?

[00:23:23] Christa Biegler: I love it. So we have now talked about what's appropriate for stress and anxiety and then got off on the tangent on upregulation downregulation, which was so appropriate to do. I was thinking about what is tangible. This is the downregulation is handy. I have this feeling a lot. And there's this funny meme where it's like the shakes when you drink like a giant coffee and didn't eat anything.

[00:23:43] Christa Biegler: And so I always have to look, like one, you eat with your coffee too. I am the kind of person who doesn't really need more than one shot of espresso per day or at a time. And if I do, I would need the antidote of downregulation on my nervous system in order to function the best without being like.

[00:24:00] Christa Biegler: All wound up and shaky. 

[00:24:02] Campbell Will: I can use the coffee as an example because people again, when I'm trying to educate someone about the nervous system, I think storytelling and analogies is really helpful. So I explained that exactly right. You're feeling a little bit flat in the morning. What do you do when you need to feel a bit more perky?

[00:24:16] Campbell Will: People always say, Oh, I have a coffee. Great. You get home at the end of the day and you've had a bit of a stressful day. What do you do to wind down? They say, I have a glass of wine. I'm like, great, right? There's your up regulation and your down regulation. Currently, we're using an exogenous kind of an external tool, right?

[00:24:32] Campbell Will: I need a coffee to pick me up and I need a wine to wind me down. We can not necessarily replace, right? I'm not saying get rid of the coffee and get rid of the wine. I enjoy a coffee in the morning and I enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, but to also have an ability of I need to pick me up and it's 2 p.

[00:24:47] Campbell Will: m. I don't want to drink a coffee because that's going to keep me awake until 2 a. m. Can I use my breathing to bring myself up? And maybe I don't want to have a glass of wine today, but I had a stressful day and I'm feeling a little bit wound up. What can I use to just calm my nervous system down a little bit?

[00:25:03] Campbell Will: That's where I think breath is so appropriate because There's no side effects, right? It doesn't require any equipment. It's nearly instantaneous. And there's a quite a low barrier of entry, right? Once you understand where the accelerator is and where the break is, now you're starting to work with your nervous system rather than I feel out of sync and I need that glass of wine to help me calm down at the end of the day.

[00:25:26] Christa Biegler: No, I love that. Okay. So let's get into what's appropriate for other types of situations. And we were going to talk about athletes next. And you mentioned the word super ventilation. So tell us what you do differently for someone who's anxious and stressed versus someone who is an athlete and you're trying to improve performance.

[00:25:42] Campbell Will: Yeah. 

[00:25:42] Campbell Will: So that's where I stepped from biomechanics, motor biochemistry. And one thing I will say before you go any further than that is. These are like your triad, right? When you change nutrition, it's probably going to affect emotions. When you change emotions, it might affect. Same with when I change biomechanics, that has an immediate effect on biochemistry and an immediate effect on the nervous system.

[00:26:01] Campbell Will: But in terms of if we step away from just looking at biomechanics with specifically with athletes, it's really around optimizing biochemistry, right? Without going too far into the weeds of respiratory physiology and cellular metabolism, right? Our ability to get oxygen, right? We all think of breathing is just bringing air into the lungs, but the next step is getting the oxygen from the lungs to the mitochondria.

[00:26:24] Campbell Will: And that's an interesting journey. That's very reliant on carbon dioxide, right? Oxygen gets all the fanfare and the popularity, but really on a biochemical level, it's CO2 carbon dioxide that plays this critical role in actually delivering oxygen into the mitochondria. And so when we're thinking about.

[00:26:43] Campbell Will: Performance and we'll be thinking about that on the sporting field or really just my body performing at its best. That's really dependent on ATP, right? Cellular energy. That's the thing that's pumping in and out of the cell and keeping your heart beating and digesting your food. That's the real energy that my body works on.

[00:27:01] Campbell Will: And very interestingly, my ability to move oxygen from the blood to the tissue is really dependent on my relationship with carbon dioxide, right? And this is where it becomes very interesting in terms of how have you been breathing for the last couple of decades, right? We develop our own unique relationship, right?

[00:27:21] Campbell Will: If I work with someone that's habitually breathing through their mouth and they have done so for 10 years, but then they've got a low tolerance to carbon dioxide because when I breathe through my mouth, I simply offload more of that gas when I breathe through my nose, I retain some of that carbon dioxide.

[00:27:39] Campbell Will: So all of a sudden, I've got a difference in can I get the oxygen out of the blood into the cells or is it stuck? There's this very interesting phenomenon called the bore effect. And unfortunately, it's a little bit boring if you don't like respiratory physiology, but it essentially says. We have to have carbon dioxide to move the oxygen out of the blood and into the cells of the body and the brain.

[00:28:01] Campbell Will: Most of us think of oxygen. All right. And if you've ever been to the physician or the GP, and we put on an oxygen saturation monitor and they tell you, you've got 98 percent oxygen saturations. That doesn't tell us how much of that's actually getting to the mitochondria. That's a different relationship.

[00:28:17] Campbell Will: So when we're looking at performance, it's really how do I optimize biochemistry and most of that comes down to reestablishing tolerance of carbon dioxide. It's very interesting because I see this. Really interesting parallel between the kind of athlete high performance and my anxious and stress patients.

[00:28:36] Campbell Will: It's really about changing the relationship with carbon dioxide, anxious and stressed to hold their breath or to breathe really shallow. The carbon dioxide builds up in their blood immediately. They're going to feel like, get me out of here. It is a very visceral feeling that they will tell me that feels like anxiety to me.

[00:28:56] Campbell Will: And when I work with athletes and I say, how does it feel when you're 20 miles into that marathon? It's the exact same feeling. It's a feeling of too much carbon dioxide. But that's a relationship, right? That's a kind of unique. Tolerance that we all have and so being able to improve someone's ability to tolerate carbon dioxide means we improve their ability to actually generate energy.

[00:29:20] Christa Biegler: I am having some flashbacks to when we worked on my tolerance of CO2. And so this also is not the sexy marketing language, but it's basically just about how you tolerate carbon dioxide and getting oxygen into the cells. So the powerhouses of the cells can actually function because mitochondria are, I always like to call them the fountain of youth.

[00:29:42] Christa Biegler: And so that might light someone back up a little bit. If the bore effect is a little bit. 

[00:29:47] Campbell Will: And I would actually love to ask your experience with this because I've just had a few patients in a row, right? With chronic fatigue, post viral fatigue Lyme, right? Where it's essentially that their body is now processing energy anaerobically, they cannot get the oxygen into the cell.

[00:30:04] Campbell Will: So they move through this anaerobic process, which means lactic acid, pyruvate, these metabolic waste products are building up. And I wonder if really, and what I'm doing with patients is all my chronic fatigue patients have terrible CO2 tolerance. We're talking 6 or 7 seconds instead of the optimal, which is about 40 to 45 seconds and their inability to produce energy, right?

[00:30:28] Campbell Will: I'm questioning whether that's a biochemical inefficiency. You can't get oxygen into your mitochondria. So you're going through an anaerobic process, which means you're producing lactate pyruvate. Which in juices, more inflammation, that's more acidic, like it's very difficult for your body to work because you just don't have the engines going.

[00:30:45] Christa Biegler: I mean, when you talk about this, I think about again, the triad look at what you are bringing to the structure of the cells really literally with like oxygen CO2 balance. Whereas I think about these people who have chronic fatigue or have this damage, this all boils down to me to mitochondrial damage.

[00:31:01] Christa Biegler: And so in order to rebuild the cells, we need like insane nutrition, insane nutrients specific. Kind of mitochondrial supporting nutrients. And then also the life giving oxygen or see what that's more like your specialty that I can't speak to as intelligently, but that's how I feel. It's like the cells are damaged, so the cells need to be rebuilt.

[00:31:20] Christa Biegler: Can they be rebuilt only with oxygen? Maybe. Like for sure. And then my angle is, I rebuild them with like insane nutrition for mitochondria, but that wasn't your question. Your question was like my overall experience with that. What I recall from it was I didn't really know what my goal was initially.

[00:31:37] Christa Biegler: I didn't really understand the concepts, which is why we're unwrapping the concepts a little bit today. And so I just remember that my CO2 tolerance sucked and then it got much better. And you said, When you're holding onto that it's basically how long can you hold your breath sort of thing.

[00:31:53] Christa Biegler: And this makes me think about books, training for diving and all these things about breath holding. So like we can apply this to multiple places in life. And so I didn't really even realize that this would be much of an issue, but this goes back to optimization and unrealized stress. And that interplay overall.

[00:32:12] Christa Biegler: So I mean, I feel like the work is never done. That's my real, that's my real feeling here, but I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean it in an excited way because my mantra is you always have options. And I think people are like this must be all I've tried everything. It's I promise you haven't ever tried everything because in every rabbit hole you go in, there are always more options.

[00:32:30] Christa Biegler: It just depends on what you want to do or where you want to spend your energy. Anyway, lots of thoughts come up here in a positive, good way. So athletes improving the overall performance, because if they don't have a very good CO2 tolerance, someone who's got maybe chronic fatigue is going to feel the same as someone who is 20 miles into their marathon and doesn't have very good.

[00:32:52] Christa Biegler: What do we call this? I know there's like technical terms, but what do we want to say? They don't have very good. 

[00:32:58] Campbell Will: I would just think about it as their ability to actually manage their energy. And it really does come down to when you don't have enough CO2 there, you're anaerobic. When you have enough CO2 there, you're aerobic.

[00:33:08] Campbell Will: And if you're running a really long time, you want to spend as much time in that aerobic capacity, because that's not producing the lactic acid and all of the byproducts. And the simplest way, and they've done really good analytics on respiration, that when you breathe in and out of your mouth, You are moving into that anaerobic process, right?

[00:33:26] Campbell Will: Which just means way less efficient, right? If we remember back to most people that did high school biology, the different, like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. When we have oxygen there, we produce 32 units of ATP of energy. When we don't have oxygen, I think we produce two, right?

[00:33:43] Campbell Will: It's 16 times less efficient if you're not getting oxygen to the mitochondria, and that's really your ability to. Nasal breathers is the simplest way is can you run with your mouth closed, right? You're maintaining your aerobic threshold. You're not crossing that threshold when now your body has to go into a more of emergency energy production, which means we're not burning as clean as a fuel.

[00:34:06] Campbell Will: There's a little bit more exhaust and waste product that the body's 

[00:34:08] Campbell Will: got to clean up. 

[00:34:09] Christa Biegler: I know one of our questions today is what is the easiest thing I can do to get started today. Now that I feel like, Oh my gosh, maybe I suck at breathing. I never learned how to breathe. And you just alluded to one. And we talked about this last podcast too, that's the challenge.

[00:34:23] Christa Biegler: Can you just walk around and close your mouth for the day and see if you can breathe through your nose all day. 

[00:34:28] Campbell Will: Yeah. And it's so interesting what people actually start to learn. And they think, of course I can, but then they realize, Oh, the moment I feel a little bit overwhelmed, my mouth's open.

[00:34:37] Campbell Will: The moment I'm concentrating on writing that moment, I'm in an argument, my mouth open, right? We think that we're breathing optimally all the time, but there's this very interesting thing that happens in our body where we put that in the background, right? You don't want your brain and your attention to be so focused on the 22, 000 times you breathe every day, because you'll get nothing done.

[00:34:57] Campbell Will: So we've learned to put that into the background a little bit, and it takes conscious effort to bring awareness and attention to how you're breathing. I often, if anyone wants to get started, I would just ask them, trying to become conscious of 1 percent of your breaths every day. That might seem like an easy time. That's 200 breaths for most people. But then you think, was I aware of 200 of my breaths today? Probably not. For most people, they're like, I wasn't even aware of one of my breaths today. So starting to build that awareness of can I breathe through my nose all day?

[00:35:29] Campbell Will: And if I can't, when are the times that I'm not? Is it when I'm engaging in something that's stressful? Is it when I feel a little bit emotionally disrupted? Is it X, Y, or Z? There's so many different causes or triggers of someone to change their respiration, but the hardest part is, do they actually notice that?

[00:35:46] Campbell Will: Did they put 2 and 2 together to say my mouth opened when I was being critical or something, or someone was giving me some feedback that I didn't like. It's a very interesting door to open. 

[00:35:56] Christa Biegler: And it's very interesting when other people point out things that you don't realize about yourself. I remember very early in my relationship with my husband, he'd be like, why is your mouth open?

[00:36:03] Christa Biegler: Like, why are you driving with your mouth open? Which I would have not noticed if someone had I just remember he wasn't nice about it. So it struck me differently than if he was like I just closed your mouth for you there anyway, but I also just think about sinus congestion. So many kids breathing through their mouth instead of their nose, which is an entirely different tangent related to our triad overall, for sure.

[00:36:23] Christa Biegler: So talking through appropriate breathing for different people, I want to set this up from a perspective of. I'm in this mastermind right now, which is basically entrepreneurs working on improving business processes. So successful people, right? I get to enjoy the company of other successful business owners and women.

[00:36:43] Christa Biegler: And a huge part of what we do is breathwork. Actually, because we're looking at our like inner voice, like inner guide, not just being told what to do by someone else, like what feels good, et cetera. So I view breathwork as such a positive. And actually, as I was reflecting, as you were talking earlier, I haven't really been to a high vibe business event or like a high quality business event that didn't have some kind of breathwork actually involved just to speak to some people really see the benefit here, but there are people who would say, I just can't do this.

[00:37:13] Christa Biegler: So if I could do something else, that would be. Better, right? It would be great if I had this easy button and I struggle with this with clients sometimes because this mentality that you're really busy and you don't have time to do something. And so is there another option? Can I just take a pill for it?

[00:37:26] Christa Biegler: Is that's the toxic belief in the 1st place. Like that. I can't correct for someone. What would you say to people who essentially have that barrier? I can't really do breath work. What would you say? 

[00:37:36] Campbell Will: Yeah, I would say you're starting too big. Everyone that comes to me that's Oh, I tried this. I can just never when I actually get into the weeds with them.

[00:37:43] Campbell Will: I'm like what did you try? They're like I sat down and I tried to do this 30 minute breathwork session. That's like someone that says, I want to start running and I'm going to do a 10k the first time I run. Of course you don't. And then you go, this hurts and I didn't like it. I'm not going to do it again.

[00:37:56] Campbell Will: So what I really get most of my clients to do is let's start with five minutes. But let's be very diligent. With that 5 minutes let's make a target that the next 10 days, you do not skip that session. Try to make it the same time, try to make it the same space. Let's make a little bit of a ritual out of it, right?

[00:38:13] Campbell Will: Because what we're really putting our energy into is habit formation. Once someone sits down and does 5 minutes, it's very easy to do 10 minutes, right? Because we've actually gone through the process of right, close my emails and set the time aside and sit on my mat and get ready, right? That's the hard work.

[00:38:31] Campbell Will: Once you start taking those breaths, you're there, right? You're already there. And to extend from five to 10 minutes is just seamless. But where I think most people think breath works too hard is with starting with too much, right? Or I'm starting with a practice. This is inappropriate for me, right? I'm doing super ventilation or I'm jumping straight into a more complex practice.

[00:38:51] Campbell Will: The vast majority of people I work with, we start with breath awareness. Can you sit down for five minutes and just sit with your breath? How long can you actually sit with your breath before your mind's going through your to do list? Or that you're analyzing something or remembering something, right?

[00:39:05] Campbell Will: Breath awareness seems like this super simple practice. Oh, how hard could that be? Just noticing my breath. Sit down for five minutes and tell me how you go, right? It's so interesting, but it's this wealth of information that we start to Develop, right? It's like I'm extracting data from my breath, and the more times I do that, then throughout my day, now I'm going to notice I'm holding my breath when I feel stressed.

[00:39:30] Campbell Will: Oh, my breathing just got really fast. Oh, my breathing just got really shallow, right? Because we're actually teaching our attention, which is just like a muscle of how to notice my breathing, right? So these little fluctuations that occur all throughout the day are going to become more obvious. And now it's like I've got this little kind of odometer, this tool that says to me, Hey, you're out of balance, right?

[00:39:53] Campbell Will: And there's really interesting research, and I'll come back to just starting to practice, but really interesting research specifically around people with anxiety and panic attacks that they have very poor interoception, right? Which means they don't notice when they're breathing gets fast or slow.

[00:40:08] Campbell Will: They don't notice when they're holding their breath. So people that have out of the blue panic attacks, we've actually established now that. their chemistry started changing, right? They started changing their breathing 60 minutes before they had a panic attack. They just didn't notice, right? So this practice of sitting down for five minutes and just trying to be aware of your breathing is not just a five minute practice, right?

[00:40:31] Campbell Will: That's going to start to overflow into your day of Oh, now I'm actually picking up on how my breathing's changing relating to my emotional state, my energy, my cognitive state. So it becomes a really a good investment of time of five 

[00:40:45] Campbell Will: minutes. 

[00:40:47] Christa Biegler: I love that. I love hearing that we're starting to big because we see this with every single thing, right?

[00:40:51] Christa Biegler: It's I'm going to go really big. And then when we have trouble doing it, we're like I failed again, and and you're talking about breath awareness sitting for 5 minutes. I feel that awareness is the solution. It's like the rocket fuel that will propel you forward in every situation.

[00:41:08] Christa Biegler: If you don't have awareness, then it's going to be really hard to improve anything because you don't really know where you're starting, where you're going to process along the way. I mean, that's like the biggest thing. I mean, I have said this in many ways, but I think the thing I pick up on why I need to have an introductory call with a perspective client is I need to hear if they have any self awareness at all, because they're.

[00:41:29] Christa Biegler: Realization or how they interpret their own story very clearly tells me what their own awareness is in their body and their child's body and whoever's body, right? And that's exactly what you're saying. And I chuckled internally when you said, can you sit for five minutes? Because I've witnessed the struggle with this for myself and for other people.

[00:41:47] Christa Biegler: We are very uncomfortable with our thoughts typically. 

[00:41:50] Christa Biegler: So anyway, 

[00:41:51] Campbell Will: and it also just comes back to that point you made where people want to. Like, where's the pill that's going to just do this for me, right? Which we don't want to be uncomfortable for five minutes. It sucks. And if you can't do five minutes, start with two minutes, right?

[00:42:04] Campbell Will: And don't think that this five minutes is set with an objective of, I need to do this well, right? If you sit for five minutes and you catch your mind wandering 50 times, all right at least we've recognized that I have a wandering mind, right? It wasn't that you didn't do the practice right. The practice was sit down for 5 minutes and try and stay there as many times as you can just try and notice your breathing.

[00:42:24] Campbell Will: That's all you're trying to do. And we get better at it. The analogy I always like to teach people is if you've ever tried to learn a language right in the initial stages, if you're listening to a conversation between 2 people speaking Spanish, for example, right? You might pick up one word here and there, but you've got no idea what they're talking about, right?

[00:42:41] Campbell Will: But as you begin to learn, maybe you'll pick up a sentence and then eventually you can start to grasp the theme of what they're talking about. And then eventually you can actually communicate. And breath awareness is the exact same thing. People that sit down for five minutes initially, it'd be like, what am I being aware of?

[00:42:56] Campbell Will: I'm not getting anything from this. You don't speak the language yet. The longer that you do this practice, it's Oh, now I'm starting to understand what my breath is telling me, right? As to the state that I'm in, right? Whether I'm feeling stressed or anxious or whether I'm feeling calm and content.

[00:43:12] Campbell Will: And so it's not always just sitting down for 5 minutes for the sake of sitting down for 5 minutes, you'll start to develop more of an understanding of how your breath is reflective of how you feel. And that's really where people start to see these huge benefits of now I'm able to. Regulate my breathing, right?

[00:43:29] Campbell Will: Awareness is so important because if you're not aware, then what tool are you going to apply, right? Because you don't know do I need to slow down? Do I need to speed up? If you haven't cultivated awareness, then it's a guessing game. 

[00:43:40] Christa Biegler: I love it. I think of step one as awareness, noticing, observing, and step two, you said this, it was just real sneaky.

[00:43:50] Christa Biegler: But it was not being judgmental. It was being neutral about what you notice about yourself. You're like, Oh I realized my mind wanders, but you didn't say I realized that my mind wanders. So I guess I can't do this. There's a bit of a reframing there and objective neutralness. And I think we do need to bring, this is like the.

[00:44:05] Christa Biegler: Equivalent, but a nicer way to say, giving yourself grace if you beat yourself up all the time, that's not a helpful thought. It's an unproductive thought. And so neutrally observing it allows you to not create this negative emotion around it and allows you to make a change if you want next. So you talked about not going too big starting 5 minutes.

[00:44:24] Christa Biegler: If that's too big, go to 2 minutes and I'd like to take. A minute, if you're willing or 2 minutes or whatever to people are like, how do you get started? Thanks for telling me all about this. And let me go see if I can sit down and pull my thoughts. So why don't you, if you will, if you can walk us through what a minute looks like, whether it's silence, whether it's something else, I'll let you decide because you're the 

[00:44:44] Christa Biegler: pro.

[00:44:45] Campbell Will: Yeah, for sure. So if you are listening, and obviously if you're driving a car or something, wait till you get home to do this, but if you're in a nice, safe, comfortable spot, we can close down the eyes. If we feel comfortable to do you can keep them open if you prefer to. But when we close down the eyes, we draw the attention inwards.

[00:44:59] Campbell Will: And I want you just to ask yourself a really simple question. How do you know you're breathing? And as you ask that, your mind's going to go how do I know? Is it the sensation of air that's moving through your nostrils? Is it the movement of your body? Maybe you feel your chest expanding and contracting, rising and falling.

[00:45:17] Campbell Will: Maybe there's a sound to your breath. So just noticing that you're breathing. And the next thing I want you to do is just to make sure that you're inhale and you're exhale. Exhale at the same. You can count if you like, or you can just try to even out the two parts of your breath. And once they're the same inhale, it's the same as the exhale.

[00:45:38] Campbell Will: Let's just stretch it out ever so slightly, maybe 10 percent longer on each end. Just like we're slowly stretching the inhale and also slowly stretching the exhale. And let's just stay here for 5 breaths. So my breath now is a little bit slower, a little bit deeper, even, steady, and I'm aware of it. And then just as though we're taking our foot off the brake now, allow your natural breathing to find its own way back, right?

[00:46:07] Campbell Will: Don't try to resume your normal breathing, just let it come back. All right, remove the control that you just had. And let the breathing reestablish its natural pattern. And if there is any change in your physical, your mental, your emotional state, notice it. And once you feel ready, you can slowly blink open the eyes.

[00:46:26] Campbell Will: You can just reestablish where you are. And you might notice the light seems a little bit brighter or the colors or the sounds or my awareness has changed. My perception has 

[00:46:36] Campbell Will: changed. 

[00:46:37] Christa Biegler: That was really nice. Thanks. I didn't know if there was more that you need to say, but it was beautiful. It was like, Oh, can we put this on a recording?

[00:46:44] Christa Biegler: Good. It is being recorded. All right. Campbell, where can people find you online? 

[00:46:48] Campbell Will: So I'm most active on Instagram, but my handles are the same everywhere. Breath, body therapy. So website, breath, body therapy, Instagram. And yeah, I'd encourage people just to start, start with that little awareness practice and ask questions.

[00:47:01] Campbell Will: I'm super friendly. People often have what about this situation? I really like to just dissolve some of the difficulty around it. So if you're like this doesn't seem like it'll work for me. It usually will, but maybe it needs a little bit of tweaking and refining. 

[00:47:14] Christa Biegler: Yeah. I love that.

[00:47:14] Christa Biegler: Thanks so much. So I was on your website and we didn't talk about things to do for sleep. So maybe in a future episode, but there is a little opt in there on since I don't know what the status, but it's really like shocking of people that struggle with sleep. It's like the majority of the population. So I see that you have a little.

[00:47:32] Christa Biegler: A guide on sleep and breath work. So people could check that 

[00:47:35] Christa Biegler: out. And we'll, 

[00:47:36] Campbell Will: yeah, I put that up because you're right. Everyone struggles with sleep. It's something that I was just like, oh, this isn't like a here and there thing. It's you're the, like the minority if you don't struggle with sleep.

[00:47:46] Campbell Will: So I thought it's a nice way. And I think breath works something that's really easy just to. Ease yourself into that state. That's more conducive of a nice restful 

[00:47:53] Campbell Will: sleep. 

[00:47:54] Christa Biegler: Yeah. Thank you so much for coming back today. And I look forward to our next chat. 

[00:47:58] Campbell Will: Thanks, Krista.

[00:47:58] Christa Biegler: Sharing and reviewing this podcast is the best way to help us succeed with our mission to help integrate the best of East and West and empower you to raise the bar on your health story. Just go to review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life. That's review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life.

[00:48:20] Christa Biegler: And you'll be taken directly to a page where you can insert your review and hit post.

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