Breath and Movement
Aug 02, 2021
And now, a guest article from Raymond van Leeuwen, an OS Professional and Buteyko Breath Therapist.
I think we all know that breathing is important to life. It is the first thing you do when you are born and it’s the last thing you do when leaving this Earth. But how important is it really?
What if I told you that a lot of diseases you could think of are related to low oxygenation of the body? Most kinds of ailments are inflammatory in their nature. And low oxygenation of the body leads to inflammation.
You probably know that our cells need oxygen to function. But what if not all of that oxygen from the air we breathe in reaches our cells?
The breath and its impact on physical and mental health is a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, a lot of people have suboptimal breathing. Let’s dive into the breath and how Original Strength can optimize your health.
The 3 components of the breath
When considering the breath there are three components to consider:
- Biomechanics: how you breathe
- Respiratory rate: how often you breathe in a given time
- Biochemistry: how the breath influences the chemistry in your body
Let’s take a look at all three and how they impact your health and how OS can play a role.
This is where we talk about how we actually breathe. And this is where OS really shines because for proper breathing good posture is important.
It all starts with the tongue.
Proper tongue placement is at the roof of the mouth. Not only does this close the feedback loop for proper posture, it also makes it easier to breathe through the nose. This brings us to the second point.
Your nose is made for breathing.
Each and every breath, in and out, should be through the nose. Your nose has a vital role in cleaning, humidifying, and warming the air you breathe in. Your nose also produces NO, which is somewhat of a miracle gas with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and it also helps with opening up the airways. Your mouth does not do this.
Breathing through the nose also makes it easier to use the diaphragm for a nice deep breath. And please don’t mistake a deep breath for a big breath. Deep means deep into the lungs, where the lungs are best able to take up oxygen into the bloodstream.
If you don’t have proper posture, it’s difficult for the diaphragm to move and do its work. If you are slouched over all the time there isn’t enough space for the air to move around. It also becomes difficult for the air to reach the lower parts of the lungs. The result is a biomechanical breathing pattern that is not efficient in bringing oxygen into the body.
How does OS tie into this?
First of all, OS starts with tongue placement. No matter what you do, your tongue should be in the roof of your mouth.
Second, OS emphasizes that breathing is through the nose, no matter the reset and how tough a reset might get. If you are unable to keep breathing through your nose it is time to take a rest, until you can continue breathing through your nose again.
Third, diaphragmatic breathing, itself, is a reset. Some might call it belly breathing. OS emphasizes engaging that primary breathing muscle (the diaphragm) so that we can take air deep into the lungs. Visually, this causes the belly to move up and down when you breathe.
Fourth, any OS reset will help you with posture. And when your posture improves, your diaphragm will have more opportunities to do its work properly.
This refers to how often you breathe. A normal breathing rate is between 8 to 12 breaths per minute These days it’s not uncommon for people to have higher respiratory rates.
However, if you breathe more often than the norm, the body perceives this as a stressor and it might be difficult to feel relaxed. Obviously, breathing is largely an automated process but we can take control and slow down our breathing with some conscious diaphragmatic breathing.
For example, lay down on your stomach and try this with crocodile breathing. In crocodile breathing, you should feel your belly pushing against the floor - this means you are effectively using your diaphragm. Slow down the inhale and make sure to make the exhale even longer. Slowing down the breathing rate and making the exhale longer than the inhale is a good way to stimulate your rest-and-digest system.
Respiratory rate is an important factor when it comes to oxygenation but how often you breathe per minute is only a part of the equation. How much you actually breathe (as in liters per minute) is the other part that matters and it might be the biggest factor in your health. We will cover that in the next section.
Humans are actually conscious chemical factories. Eat something and all kinds of chemical processes start in your body to produce energy. Everything we do has a chemical reaction inside our bodies. And everything that happens in our bodies is governed by chemical reactions.
It’s no different with our breath. Our (unconscious) breathing is controlled by the chemical balances within our body, but our breathing also influences the chemical balances in our body.
Contrary to popular belief, our breathing is hardly driven by a need for oxygen. The uptake of oxygen into your blood is such an efficient process, the oxygen content in your blood is always maxed out (unless you go into extreme conditions like high altitude training). You can breathe more, but there is no extra capacity to take up more oxygen.
The main driver of your respiration is actually the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood.
Carbon dioxide is often looked at as a waste gas of your body but it is not. It has several important functions. Perhaps the most important being the role of carbon dioxide in transferring oxygen from your red blood cells to the cells of your body, known as the Bohr effect.
If you had no carbon dioxide in your blood, no oxygen would actually make it to your body's cells. The more carbon dioxide you have in your blood the easier it is for oxygen to go from your red blood cells to the body cells where energy gets produced. This allows your body to be able to move and your brain to be able to think.
So why does our body want to get rid of carbon dioxide on the expiration? Actually, it only wants to get rid of an abundance of carbon dioxide. Too much of anything is never a good thing.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people they are too sensitive to carbon dioxide, which triggers them to breathe too much.
Breathing too much leads to a great loss of carbon dioxide and this leads to a problem of oxygenation of your body's cells. But, as stated earlier, carbon dioxide has more functions in the body. When carbon dioxide and body oxygenation get low, all sorts of health issues can happen.
Your sensitivity to carbon dioxide determines how much you actually breathe (measured in liters per minute). It could cause you to take lots of small breaths or fewer big breaths. Again, how often you breathe tells only a part of your actual story.
A normal breathing pattern should lead to an air intake of 6 l/m. Unfortunately, for most people, it’s a lot more.
The big disruptor of our carbon dioxide sensitivity is our modern lifestyle. Too much stress, poor eating habits and too little movement - they all cause havoc with your breathing, and disrupted breathing means disrupted health.
So how do we use this knowledge with OS or when performing OS?
Fortunately, it is perfectly possible to train your chemosensitivity to carbon dioxide. An important concept for this is the term air hunger.
Air hunger is the sensation where you feel you want to take bigger (or more) breaths.
We want a little bit of this air hunger. Just enough for the actual sensation, but not so much that you have to give in to the sensation. At first it might take a little bit of practice to experience the sensation and stay there for any length of time.
This air hunger is the only way to train your chemosensitivity to carbon dioxide. If you are not feeling it, you are not training your chemosensitivity!
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of air hunger you can explore it in a gentle way. As we did above with crocodile breathing where you were slowing down your breath, you can slow down your breath as much as needed to experience air hunger. It’s not necessary to take bigger breaths. Instead, see how much you can lengthen your out-breath. Within no time you will experience air hunger, no doubt. Try and stay with that feeling as long as possible. Work up to 5 minutes a couple of times per day.
Once you get familiar with this feeling you can bring it in to just about every reset you are performing. For doing so, I am especially a fan of crawls, marching and the ultimate reset of them all, walking.
In whatever reset you are performing, you can slow down your breathing. Personally, I find it preferable to take smaller breaths than my body wants to. I find this makes it easier to modulate the air hunger, but I suppose everyone has their preferences.
Wrapping it up
OS is about enhancing the roots of your nervous system. The stronger your roots, the stronger your performance. No matter what your performance actually is.
Breathing is about better oxygenation of your body's cells. The better oxygenated your cells are, the better your performance. No matter what your performance actually is.
Breathing is part of OS, Now you know why, all that remains is to apply.
Raymond is a breath therapist, yoga teacher, lifestyle coach, and OS Professional. He is on a mission to integrate body, mind, and spirit. He also helps others reaching for that same goal. He wants to set an example for others, living a strong life, being able to do whatever you want to do. Regardless of age. Wherever life takes him he plans to go out strong and take as many people with him (by which he means getting strong in body, mind, and spirit of course).