Science of breathwork and DIY Nervous system regulation for anxiety, sleep, athletes, better focus/clarity with physiotherapist Campbell Will
This week on The Less Stressed Life Podcast, I am joined by a returning guest Campbell Will 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
• Superventilation: 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
GUEST SHARED HELPFUL TIPS ON:
• 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
Campbell is a trained physiotherapist and certified in a variety of styles of breathwork. His clinical experience across a diverse range of settings from ICU to professional sporting teams has provided him with a broad skillset in the assessment and treatment of a variety of clinical presentations. His passion over the last 5 years has been centered on the role of optimal breathing in achieving health and wellness. Instead of focusing on one aspect of breathing, Campbell targets the interplay between biomechanics, biochemistry and neuroscience. His goal is to teach people how to get back into the drivers seat of their own biology through tools of self-regulation and stress mitigation.
WHERE TO FIND :
Instagram : @breathbodytherapy
Website : www.breathbodytherapy.com
WHERE TO FIND CHRISTA:
On IG: instagram.com/anti.inflammatory.nutritionist/
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Breath work or breathing is not just about breathing. It's kind of 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 gonna dictate. Well, what part of my nervous system is active
Stress is the inflammation that robs us of life, energy and happiness. Our typical solutions for gut health and hormone balance have let a lot of us down we're overmedicated and underserved at the Less Stressed Life. We are a community of health savvy women exploring solutions outside of our traditional Western medicine, toolbox and training to raise the bar and change our stories each week. Our hope is that you leave our sessions inspired to learn, grow, and share these stories to raise the bar in your life and home
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They help them get set up with a lab, draw, navigate testing questions, and they provide the requisition forms. It's literally a stream. Go sign it for free to help streamline your practice and simplify ordering labs for your [email protected], that's RupA health.com and let them know I sent you when you sign up, you can also check out the show notes for this episode for a short video walkthrough of how I use Rupa health in my own practice 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, uh, 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 skillset and the assessment and treatment of various clinical presentations. His passion over the last five years has been centered on the role of optimal breathing and achieving health and wellness. And instead of a focusing on one 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. So welcome back,
Campbell. Thank you, Christa. . I've been looking forward to this. I'm really excited to chat once
More, and I know that these messages and what we're gonna talk about is so, so, 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. And we were actually both lamenting just to 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? 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.
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 gonna have an association, whether that Association's correct or not is really not kind of up to me. It's like, oh, I've seen breathwork in popular media or I've 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 woo. Practice of breathing in a certain way, and it's gonna 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 your breathing is affecting how you are thinking and feeling and acting.
So Breathworks everything right? 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. And so rather than breathwork being this kind of separate independent practice, it's like, how can we introduce this concept of self-regulation or self-management through breath from every minute of the day? Because the more that I can kind of allow that to infiltrate my day, then the more I'm going to have in a tool that puts me back into that state of harmony of homeostasis of, of balance.
So on this same note in your bio, you talked about biomechanics. So tell me about this interplay between, like, what is biomechanics in terms of breath, work and biochemistry. I mean, you're talking about it a little bit, but like let's continue to make this more tangible.
Yeah. So biomechanics, if I explain it to someone that's not in the kind of health field, it's just the movement or the way that my body's working, right. Bio mechanics movement. So when we are looking at breathing, biomechanics is like, well, 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. And what I think super interesting is breath work or breathing is not just about breathing. <laugh>, it's kind of 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 gonna dictate. Well, what part of my nervous system is active, right?
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, 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 alvioli 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 receiving the oxygen and discharging the carbon di side. Whereas the bottom of the lungs, just thanks to gravity, have a much higher density of capillaries and alvioli. So if someone thinks, well, 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? 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 working,
Or even in 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.
Yes. And right when we break it down, that simply, right. If you are using the muscles around your neck to lift up your ribcage, and that's not really what they're designed for, then of course, we're gonna develop these tension patterns. And there's beautiful research from the physiotherapy and physical therapy, same thing, world of kind of chronic neck pain patients that have sort of 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, change their breathing patterns, their neck pain gets better. Right. 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 gonna feel better for a day or two. But if that pain is a result of 20,000 repetitions of incorrect breathing every day, well, they're gonna come back in two days time at the same problem, 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. Right? And so that's where I think breathing can be this really overlooked mechanism of, well, 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.
So this same discussion touches, basically everything we're talking about it in terms of neck pain. But if, you know, I love to talk about this topic, so I'll leave it brief. But you know, 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 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, you know, interviewed people who do public floor health. And the anecdote is a lot of breath work often, you know, to strengthen those muscles because the breath is huge for muscle strengthening overall. So this is creating a really tangible consideration, you know, 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 triad, which can mean a lot of different things from the structural triad, which might mean, you know, adjustments. It might mean physical therapy. 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. So addressing what's going on in the nervous system, and there are nutrients depleted by what happens, the increase of cortisol, et cetera.
So 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, you know, modality, right. You worked in the ICU. What was the issue for you? You've been talking literally just now about you. We're not addressing the root cause if I do manual work on someone for 40 minutes, like they're just coming back. And so if you're as crazy as I am and nuts about people's results, you'll get really frustrated, really fast working in that setting. And so let's talk about like why you left physical or physiotherapy in Australia to do this, which is so misunderstood.
<laugh> yeah. 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'm need to be mindful here of, of course there's certain clinical settings where we need to be more mindful, right? When I'm working in an ICU, I'm not gonna get someone doing the whim H method. <laugh>, 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. But my role in the ICU, in 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?
Whether that's physical health, whether that's mental health, whether that's emotional flexibility and regulation. I saw this as a tool of like, this is really moving the needle for me. And I felt quite constrained by the clinical setting of like, you're not allowed to do that here because it doesn't yet have the evidence base or the clinical research that it's done, which we know takes 10, 15 years to filter into clinical practice. So I sort of, instead of waiting for it to catch up, I was like, all right, well, I'm just gonna kind of step outside the system a little bit and be able to apply some of these principles. And I still practice as a physiotherapist, but it's what I've learned from breath. Workers really changed the way I treat my patients. Right. I ask every one of my patients, how's your sleep. And most of them tell me it's terrible.
Right? I ask 'em about their emotional state. And most of them tell me they struggle with mood and regulation of kind of how they feel. And as a physio, right. We are 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, right, what else is going on in their life? 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 kind of like putting a bandaid on and be like, good luck with the rest of your problems.
Right? 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. 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, to read and to communicate and to use a computer and to drive a car. No one taught us how to regulate ourselves. And breath is really one of the fastest kind of instruments that I've found that allows us to regulate how we feel.
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 now affecting my focus, my concentration, my work, et cetera. So I was going to ask you about common outcomes from breathwork and I'm gonna save that question. We'll kind of tuck that. And it might come out because you mentioned athletes. We talked about, I think we talked about either on or fair, the corporate world and working. And so I wanna talk about what's appropriate for different context, because I think so often maybe we think about breathwork as like that it's all the same 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 one we talked about at some point that if someone has a lot of stress and anxiety, they may actually struggle with like holding their breath at some point, will you talk to us about someone who actually does have realized stress and anxiety, which is a huge part of the population worse now in the last two years, what accommodations or changes would you make in breathwork to that person?
Yeah. I'm so glad you brought that up because I think it is where breast work gets misconstrued and people try it and they go, that's not for me that actually made my anxiety worse. Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. And it's, 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. Is someone in that kind of heightened sympathetic arousal? Well, most people when they hear of breathwork are going to think of something like the whim H 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 from our anxiety type in breathwork and there's this upregulating practice. Well, that's just throwing fuel on the fire.
<laugh> 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 gonna go, I'm never doing breathwork again. Right. What that was is an inappropriate tool, right? What that person often needs is a downregulating practice. Right. And breath can be used in as, as the accelerator or as the break. But unfortunately what's kind of out there as popular is mostly the accelerator, right? Let's use breathwork to ramp things up. So a lot of the clientele that I work with a specific force, stress and anxiety, and I'm never introducing the weh health method at the start. I, I will kind of contradict myself a little bit because it can be a very, very effective tool in helping someone better navigate their sympathetic nervous system. But that comes after we've established, well, how do I go up? How do I go down? Where's the, 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 kind of are anxious or stressed is we want to use breath to calm the nervous system down. And that's a very different practice to something like the whim off method.
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I just wrote my bullet points. If you're a super stress and anxious person, we don't want an upregulated practice, AKA the coffee of breathwork. Right. Exactly. And that actually, when you're upregulating what are some of the things like, how could someone recognize that this is up regulation instead of down regulation? Just in case. I mean, that's not clear to me
<laugh> yeah. So if we think of our normal breathing and that's a funny word, because <laugh> normal gets misconstrued our natural breathing, let's call it that as our baseline. If I'm gonna breathe faster, if I'm going to breathe deeper, then that's usually going to upregulate my nervous system. Right. If I'm going to emphasize the inhale, right? Those are all things that are gonna push me forwards. Right? It's gonna 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? So let's just give an example. Whim H method is a quite dynamic. We're breathing deep and fast and in a rhythm it's very upregulating right. We see immediately suppress rises, right? In some circumstances we actually start to secrete some adrenaline and cortisol.
My breathing is pushing the nervous system into that response. 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 ten second respiratory cycle, we're going to see heart rate drop. We're gonna see blood pressure lower. We're gonna see cortisol, secretions reduce. So they're both breath work, right? They're both manipulating the breathing, but there's a very different outcome, right? And so if you are in a simpler sense, breathing faster, deeper, and focusing on the inhale likely it's going to make you feel more right. 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.
So to reiterate and summarize, I wanna mention that a regulation would be inappropriate for the super anxious and stressed, and that's gonna increase adrenaline. It's gonna look like speeding up the breathing. But my next question is really, you know, what is appropriate for athletes? And my kind of the, the tie here is who is this upregulated breathing appropriate four first, and then maybe it is athletes. And then we can get into
Athletes. 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 well, your state, right? How you feel and your environment or the situation you're in, right. If they're synchronous, right. If you feel alert and aroused and ready to go, and you've got a meeting to go to and a presentation to do well, then usually you are happy with that state, right? If you are 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. 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 wanna get outta bed today.
Right. I just feel flat and maybe a little bit down and oh, wait, I have to go and do this presentation. 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 or the situation that I need to be in. So I really cuz sometimes what it sounds like is the sympathetic nervous system is bad and the parasympathetic nervous system is good. Right? 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, and manage deadlines and do all these things. So it's more so well when do I need to be in that state? Right. If I is something that's requiring me to be energized and attentive and focused, then that's when an upregulation practice can be really beneficial. And so it's really about kind of finding, well, 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 space?
So the real context or the tangible feeling is that upregulation is appropriate when you need energy and down regulation is appropriate for, it can be appropriate so up. Regulation's 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 regulations like for a week, alertness time down regulation is for sleeping time. Let's say, you know? Yeah. Or, or just needing to even be more calm through our day.
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 racey right down regulation doesn't mean you're gonna go com toes and go to sleep. Right. It's just kind of like, maybe I need to come down a little bit. And it's really interesting when we kind of tie the nervous system states into kind of mental states, right? Parasympathetic is that creativity. It's that lateral thinking, it's me kind of, instead of being that focal problem, focused, trying to solve this problem, parasympathetic is more of that. Like, well, let's look at this problem from different angles. So I think there's, there's so much nuance to state the state that I'm in. And we think of it as more of, of a black and white kind of sympathetic is go, go, go. And parasympathetic is slow, slow, 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 kind of 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.
I love it. So we have now talked about what's appropriate for stress and anxiety, and then got off on the tangent on up regulation, down regulation, which was so appropriate to do. I was thinking about what is tangible. This is the down regulation is handy. I have this feeling a lot and there is this funny meme where it's like the shakes when you drink like a giant coffee and didn't eat anything <laugh>. And so I always have to li I, you know, like one, you eat with your coffee. Two, 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 down regulation of my nervous system in order to function the best without being like all wound up <laugh> and, and shaky. So
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 explain 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? 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 upregulation and your down regulation. Currently, we are using an exogenous kind of an external tool. Right? I need a coffee to pick me up and I need a wine to wind me down. Well, 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 a pick me up and it's 2:00 PM. I don't wanna drink a coffee because that's gonna keep me awake until 2:00 AM. Can I use my breathing to bring myself up? And maybe I don't wanna 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. 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 quite a low barrier of entry, right? Once you understand where the accelerators 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.
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Now I love that. Okay. So let's get into what's appropriate for other types of situations. And we were gonna 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's an athlete and you're trying to improve performance.
Yeah. So that's kind of where I step from biomechanics more to biochemistry. And one thing I will say before you go any further than that is these are kind of like your triad, right? When you change nutrition, it's probably gonna affect emotions and 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 mm-hmm <affirmative>. 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 as just bringing air into the lungs, but the next step is getting the oxygen from the lungs to the mitochondria. And that's an interesting journey. That's very reliant on carbon dioxide, right?
Oxygen gets all the, 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 are thinking about performance and we 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 outta the cell and keeping your heart beating and digesting your food. That's the real energy that my body works on. 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, well, how have you been breathing for the last couple of decades? Right. We develop our own unique relationship, right? If I work with someone that's habitually breathing through their mouth and they have done so for 10 years, 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. So all of a sudden I've got a difference in, can I get the oxygen outta the blood, into the cells? Or is it stuck? There's this very interesting phenomenon called the bore effect. And unfortunately it is 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. Right? Most of us think of oxygen. All right. And if you've ever been to the physician or the GP, right. And we put on an oxygen saturation model and they tell you you've got 98% oxygen saturations that doesn't tell us how much of that's actually getting to the mitochondria.
Right. That's a different relationship. 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 stressed patients. 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, oh, get me outta here. Right. It is a, a very visceral feeling that they will tell me that feels like anxiety to me. And when I work with athletes and I say, how does it feel when you're 20 miles into that marathon? Right? It's the exact same feeling. It's a feeling of too much carbon dioxide, right. But that's a relationship, right? That's a, 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.
I am having some flashbacks to when we worked on my tolerance of CO2. And so this also is like not the sexy marketing language <laugh>, but it's, 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. And so that might like light someone back up a little bit. If the Bo effect is a little bit for them. <laugh> so,
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 cells. 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 like, all my chronic fatigue patients have terrible CO2 tolerance. We're talking six or seven seconds instead of the optimal, which is about 40 to 45 seconds. And their inability to produce energy, right? I'm questioning whether that's a biochemical inefficiency, you can't get oxygen into your mitochondria. So you are going through an anaerobic process, which means you are producing lactate pyruvate, which in produces 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.
I mean, when you talk about this, I think about, again, the triad, like 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, well, this all boils down to me to mitochondrial damage. And so in order to rebuild the cells, we need like insane nutrition, insane nutrients, um, specific kind of mitochondrial supporting nutrients, and then also the life giving oxygen or see, like, that's more like your specialty that I can't speak to is intelligently, but that's how I feel is like the cells are damaged. So the cells need to be rebuilt. Can they be rebuilt only with oxygen maybe. Right. Like for sure. And then my angle is, you know, 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. Right. I didn't really understand the concepts, which is why we're kind of unwrapping the concepts a little bit today. And so I, I just remember that my CO2 tolerance sucked and then it got much better. And you said, when you're holding onto that, like, it's basically like how long can you hold your breath sort of thing. And this like makes me think about books, training for, uh, 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. Right. And like that interplay overall. So, I mean, I feel like the work is never done.
<laugh>, 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, well, this must be all tried everything. It's like, I promise you haven't ever tried everything because yeah. In every rabbit hole you go in, there are always more options. It just depends on like 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 gonna feel the same as someone who is 20 miles under their marathon. And doesn't have very good, what do we call this? Like, I know there's like technical terms, but what do we wanna say? Like, they don't have very good.
I would just think about it as their ability to actually manage their energy. And, and it really does come down to when you don't have enough CO2, there you are anaerobic. When you have enough CO2, there you are aerobic. And if you're running a really, really long time, you wanna spend as much time in that aerobic capacity because that's not producing the lactic acid and all of the byproducts and the, the simplest way. And they've done really good analytics on respiration that when you breathe in and outta your mouth, you are moving into that anaerobic process. Right. Which just means way less efficient. Right? If we remember back to kind of most people that did in high school biology, the different, like the mitochondrial is the powerhouse of the cell. Mm-hmm <affirmative> when we have oxygen there, we produced 32 units of ATP of energy. When we don't have oxygen, I think we produced two, right? 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 ways. Can you run with your mouth closed? Right? Well, you are maintaining your aerobic threshold. You're not crossing that threshold where now your body has to kind of go into a more of emergency energy production, which means we're not burning as clean as a fuel. There's a little bit more exhaust and waste product that the body's gotta clean up.
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 that's the challenge. Can you just walk around and like close your mouth for the day? And like, see if you can breathe through your nose all day.
Yeah. And it's so interesting what people actually start to learn. Right. And they think, of course I can mm-hmm <affirmative> but then they realized, oh, the moment I feel a little bit overwhelmed my mouth open. Mm-hmm <affirmative> 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 kind of put that in the background, right? You, 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. So we've kind of 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, if anyone wants to kind of get started, I would just ask them, trying to become conscious of 1% of your breaths every day.
Right. 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. Right. For most people, they're like, I wasn't even aware of one of my breaths today. Right. So starting to build that awareness of, well, can I breathe through my nose all day? 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, right? There's so many different causes or triggers of someone to change their respiration. But the hardest part is do they actually notice that did they put two and two 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.
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? Like, why are <laugh>? Why are you driving with your mouth open? <laugh> which I, would've not noticed if someone had, like, I just remember he wasn't nice about it. So <laugh>, it struck me differently than if he was like, oh, just close your mouth for you either. 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. So talking through appropriate breathing for different people, I wanna set this up from a perspective of, you know, 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, and a huge, huge, huge part of what we do is breathwork actually right, 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, 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. So if I could do something else, that would be better. Right? Like, 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 is like, that's the toxic belief <laugh> in the first 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 breathwork what would you say?
Yeah, I would say you're starting too big. Everyone that comes to me, that's like, oh, I tried this. I can just never, when I, I actually get into the weeds with them, I'm like, alright, well, what did you try? They're like, well, I sat down and I tried to do this 30 minute breath work session. <laugh> I'm like, that's like someone that says, I wanna start running and I'm gonna do a 10 K the first time I run. Right. Of course you don't. And then you go, this hurts and I didn't like it and I'm not gonna do it again. So what I really get most of my clients to do is let's start with five minutes. Right. But let's be very diligent with that five minutes. Like, 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. Because what we are really putting our energy into is habit formation. Once someone sits down and does five 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. Once you start taking those breaths, you are 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 we're starting with too much. Right. Or I'm starting with a practice is inappropriate for me. Right. I'm doing super ventilation or I'm jumping straight into a more complex practice. Well, 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? Right? 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. Breath awareness seems like this super simple practice. Like, oh, how hard could that be? Just like 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, it's kind of like, I'm extracting data from my breath. And the more times I do that, then throughout my day, now I'm gonna notice I'm holding my breath when I feel stressed. Oh, my breathing just got really fast. Oh, I, my breathing just got really shallow. Right. Because we are actually teaching our attention, which is just like a muscle of how to notice my breathing.
Right. And so these little fluctuations that occur all throughout the day are gonna 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 outta balance. Right. And there's really interesting research. And I'll come back to kind of just starting the practice, but really interesting research specifically around people with anxiety and panic attacks that they have very poor interception. Right. Which means they don't notice when their breathing gets fast or slow. 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? That's going to start to overflow into your day of like, oh, now, 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 kind of a good investment of time of five minutes.
Mm. I love that. I love hearing that we're starting too big because we see this with every single thing, right. It's like, I'm gonna go really big. And then when we have trouble doing it, we're like, well, I failed again. You know? And so, and you are talking about breath awareness sitting for five minutes. I feel that awareness is the solution. It's like the rocket fuel that will propel you forward in every situation. If you don't have awareness, then it's gonna be really hard to improve anything because you don't really know where you're starting, where you're going, the 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 their realization or how they interpret their own story very clearly tells me what their own awareness is in their body, in their child's body and whoever's body. Right. And that's exactly what you're saying. And I, 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, we are very uncomfortable. <laugh> with our thoughts typically. So anyway,
And it also just kind of comes back to that point you made where people wanna like, where's the pill. That's gonna just do this for me. Right. Which we don't wanna be uncomfortable for five minutes. It sucks. And like, if you can't do five minutes, start with two minutes. Right. 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 wondering 50 times, all right. Well, at least we've recognized that I have a wondering mind, right? It wasn't that you didn't do the practice. Right? The practice was sit down for five minutes and try and stay there as many times as you can just try and notice your breathing. 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 two 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? 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, I'll be like, what am I being aware of? Right. I'm not getting anything from this. Well, you don't speak the language yet. Right? The longer that you do this practice, it's like, oh, now I'm starting to understand what my breath's 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.
And so it's not always just sitting down for five minutes for the sake of sitting down for five 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? Awareness is so important because if you're not aware, then what tool are you gonna apply? Right. Because you don't know. Well, do I need to slow down? Do I need to speed up? If you haven't cultivated awareness, then it's a guessing game.
Mm-hmm <affirmative> I love it. I think of step one, as awareness, noticing, observing, and step two, you said this, it was just real sneaky, but it was not being judgemental. It was being neutral about what you notice about yourself. You were like, oh, well, I realized that my mind wanders, but you didn't say, well, I realize in my mind wanders. So I guess I can't do this. Right. You know, there's a bit of a reframing there and an objective neutralness and I think we do need to bring, this is like the equivalent, but a nicer way to say giving yourself grace. Like 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 it allows you to make a change if you want next. So you talked about not going to big, starving five minutes, if that's too big of two minutes and I'd like to take a minute, if you're willing or two minutes or whatever, to if people are like, how do you get started? Thanks for telling me all about this. <laugh> let me go see if I can sit down and call 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 kind of decide cuz you're the pro.
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 so, you can keep 'em open if you prefer to. But when we close down the eyes, we kind of draw the attention inwards. And I want you just to ask yourself a really simple question, how do you know your breathing? Right? And as you ask that, your mind's gonna go, Hmm. How do I know? Right. 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. 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 inhale and your exhale are 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. Let's just stretch it out ever so slightly, maybe 10% 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 five 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 are kind of taking our foot off the break now allow your natural breathing to find its own way back, right? Don't try to resume your normal breathing. Just let it come back. 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. You can just reestablish where you are and you might notice, Hmm. The light seems a little bit brighter or the colors or the sounds, or my awareness has changed. My perception has changed.
That was really nice. Thanks. I didn't know if there was more that you'd used to say, but it was beautiful. It was like, oh, could we put this on a recording? Good. It is being recorded. All right, Campbell, where can people find you online?
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 right. Start with that little awareness practice and ask questions. I'm super friendly. People often have like, well, what about this situation? Right. And I really like to just kind of dissolve some of the, the difficulty around it. So if you're like, well, this doesn't seem like it'll work for me. It usually will. But maybe it needs a little bit of tweaking and refining.
Yeah. I love that. 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 sta is, 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, a guide on sleep and breathwork so people could check that out and
We'll. Yeah. And I, I put that out because you're right. Everyone struggles with sleep. Like it's something that I was just like, oh, this isn't like a, a here and there thing. It's like, you are the, like the minority, if you don't struggle with sleep. So I thought it's a nice way. And I think breath, work's something that's really easy just to ease yourself into that state. That's more conducive of a nice restful sleep.
Yeah. Thank you so much for coming back today. And I look forward to our next chat.
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