Most of us are aware that we are not breathing to our full capacity. On average we use about 25% of our respiratory systems, sometimes even less. The importance of breath becomes even more evident when we consider that most of our energy comes from what we breathe in, and almost all of detoxification occurs via our breath too.
Oxygen levels on earth are decreasing significantly. In prehistoric times the oxygen content of pristine nature was well above the 21% of total volume that it is today. Over the major cities, oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere is at 12-17%. At these levels it is difficult to get sufficient oxygen to maintain health: it takes a proper intake of oxygen to keep body cells and organs, and the entire immune system, functioning at full efficiency. At the levels we have reached today cancers and other degenerative diseases are likely to develop, and at 6 to 7% life can no longer be sustained 1. Ervin Laszlo, Macroshift, 2001. It becomes increasingly important that we make the most of our available capacity.
Bodily health, cellular health and fully oxygenated/energised cells are deeply intertwined. Oxygen and energy travel together in the vehicle of the breath; hence breath is – quite literally – life.
For a lot of us relaxation is becoming a luxury. We lead busy lives, constantly receiving visual, mental and emotional stimulation. Our days are filled to the brim, and when we do finally drop into bed our minds continue to whirl regardless of how much we’d like them to stop.
If this sounds familiar and you’d like to be able to ‘switch off’ and relax at will, you are going to love working with your breath.
The fact that western culture is so oriented to the mind means that the vast majority of us ‘live in our heads’. Energy is routed to the top half of our bodies, our brains becoming super-stimulated, the lower parts of the body quite the opposite. This imbalance is commonplace and leads to oxygen deprivation in the bottom half of our bodies, as well as an increasing disassociation with our physicality. The less we connect with our bodies the less they seem an integral part of who we are, leading to all sorts of self-defeating behaviours from poor diet and lack of exercise through to addiction.
The good news is that this state of affairs is correctable and it begins, not surprisingly, with the breath. Learning to breathe deeply into the abdomen using your diaphragm is the first step to a more relaxed and healthy way of being. It continues to amaze Alan and his clients that something as ostensibly simple as this can have such profound and life-altering effects.
Many clients who had previously been experiencing sleep issues have reported that their sleep patterns have greatly improved since practicing breathwork. Not only has it helped them drop off to sleep more easily but it’s allowed them to sleep undisturbed for longer periods of time. And in the event of waking up during the night (something that’s actually perfectly natural and normal) it no longer means a book and waiting for the dawn. Most are able to simply practice the technique for a few minutes before dropping off to sleep once again.
When we breathe in oxygen our fat molecules combine with the oxygen atoms to produce carbon dioxide, which is then eliminated via the breath. If our breathing is limited our bodies will store – rather than eject – the acidic toxins of fat, which leads to fat retention and unhealthy cells. Cellular health is the basis of overall health.
As if all this wasn’t enough, research has identified a relationship between fat and cancer. Fat’s acidic properties lower the body’s cellular PH level and oxygen levels, leading to cell degeneration and malfunction.
Approaching weight issues by managing food intake alone doesn’t work. The diet industry exemplifies this approach and has an incredible 98% recidivism rate. Yet it continues to be a multi-billion pound industry. Undoubtedly the most successful ‘failed’ industry ever.
The increasing incidence of obesity throughout the Western world provides evidence that we are in need of a fresh perspective on how we perceive, as well as how we treat, our bodies. Anorexia and Bulimia provide disturbing examples of just how far removed we can become from our bodies’ natural rhythms.
It’s essential to look at the physical-mental-emotional aspects as a whole; the three are inextricably linked. Working with the breath does exactly this. You will experience your body in an entirely different way. As a consequence your relationship to, and your feelings about, your body will begin to change. You will discover more about your behaviours: those that serve you and those that do not. You will clear emotional energy which keeps you stuck in patterns that no longer benefit you, and crucially will cease trying to ‘overcome’ them using willpower alone. We need to go deeper and find the core issues underpinning our actions, not simply grit our teeth and further suppress bodily urges.
As with most destructive behaviours we can often find an underlying positive intention (for example some of us overeat to feel more ‘grounded’ in the body) with a less than ideal strategy for achieving it. The solution is to keep the positive intention and find a healthier way to reach the same goal.
The human body is designed to rid itself of 70% of its toxins through breathing. If you aren’t breathing properly, you aren’t detoxifying properly. That leads to stress being placed on other organs such as the kidneys and liver, which have to overwork in order to compensate. This can set the stage for a number of illnesses.
The link between insufficient oxygen and disease has been firmly established for a surprising number of years. Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1931 and again in 1944 for discovering the cause of cancer. He said, “Cancer has only one prime cause. The prime cause of cancer is the replacement of normal oxygen respiration of body cells by an anaerobic (oxygen-less) cell respiration.” Once the level of oxygen available to a cell drops below 60% of normal, the cell is forced to switch to an inferior method of energy production – fermentation. The cell can never be returned to the proper oxidation system, and loses its governor on replication. It begins to reproduce copies of itself wildly, a condition we call cancer.
The National Cancer Institute endorsed Dr. Warburg’s findings in 1952. This research was continued by Dr. Harry Goldbatt, who published his findings in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in 1953. They confirmed that lack of oxygen plays the major role in causing cells to become cancerous. Dr. Albert Wahl said, “Disease is due to a deficiency in the oxidation process of the body, leading to an accumulation of toxins. These toxins are ordinarily burned in normal oxidation.” Dr. Wendell Hendricks of the Hendricks Research Foundation wrote: ” Cancer is a condition within the body where the oxidation has become so depleted that the body cells have degenerated beyond control. The body is so overloaded with toxins that it sets up a tumour mass to harbour these poisons and remove them from general activity within the body.”
The evidence from these doctors’ research is conclusive. Oxygen plays the primary role in health and well-being. It is important to note that fear, worry and depression all interfere with free breathing and thus reduce oxygen intake.
Amazingly, it’s taken until 2009 for that information to reach mainstream media. The Sunday Express published a landmark article entitled ‘Oxygen Kills Cancer’ in August 2009.
Whatever the whys and wherefores of how this information has taken such a long time to reach mass media, the fact is that cancer is expected to affect 65% all people living in the Western world at this point in time. It’s therefore crucial that all of us gain the knowledge and knowhow to prevent, treat and recover from this often life-threatening disease.
The good news is that our breath is our most wonderful asset whether one is looking to prevent, treat or recover from cancer. Fully oxygenating your body is quite simply the most productive step you can take irrespective of your health status. However, if you are experiencing or recovering from cancer then learning to use your breath more effectively is absolutely essential.
Clearly, Alan isn’t the most objective source, having worked with these techniques every day for the past 15 years. He repeatedly sees the results of clients learning to access the power of their breath and continues to be awed by it. Don’t take his word for it – decide for yourself. There’s a lot of information online – again and again you will see oxygen at the centre of the equation.
It is more important than ever to ensure our immune system is as strong as it possibly can be.
“Oxygen plays a pivotal role in the proper functioning of the immune system. We can look at oxygen deficiency as the single greatest cause of all diseases.”
Stephen Levin/Dr Paris Kidd PhD (authors of ‘Antioxidant Adaptation’)
“Possibly one of the best therapies ever discovered for HIV, other infectious diseases, and most degenerative, or chronic illnesses (including cancer) is oxygen therapy. Oxygen naturally kills viruses and other pathogens, including HIV. If you could get enough oxygen into your cells, where the HIV virus resides, then that oxygen could help kill them off.”
Thomas Levy, MD Extraordinary Science Jul-Sep 1994
“Chronic oxygen deficiency in tissues is connected with coronary disease and heart attacks.”
Dr. Paavo Airola
Do you feel like you’ve got enough energy to accomplish all you want to do? And did you know that a massive 80% of our energy comes from our breath? When we consider the fact that most of us are using only 25% of our lung capacity on average, it’s no wonder we’re tired. Add to that the stresses and strains of everyday life and the situation is compounded.
Check in with your breath right now. Notice where you can feel it most. Where does it appear to be centred? For most of us the breath is focused mainly in our upper chests. We can very simply elevate our energy levels by moving attention down to our abdomens and consciously breathing into that area. Breathe slowly and gently seeing your abdomen rise and fall as you do so. This will not only allow more oxygen to enter the body, it will also help you to relax.
“The true cause of allergy to any substance is a lowered oxidation process within the body, causing the affected individual to be sensitive to foreign substances entering the body. Only when the oxidation mechanism is restored to its original highest state of efficiency can the sensitivity be eliminated.”
Dr. Wendell Hendricks, Hendricks Research Foundation
When our body’s fight, flight or freeze response is activated we suppress uncomfortable emotional and mental states. This may have been a lifesaver for our fur-clad ancestors, but nowadays many of us live a life powered by adrenalin, overloading ourselves with unprocessed mental/emotional material. Fight or flight is no longer helpful or necessary. In fact, for most of us it becomes a liability.
Using the mind to solve a mental or emotional issue can be a lengthy and often futile process. You can’t change or ‘defuse’ your past by re-thinking it. In fact, the reverse is often true. The more attention we give a particular event in our past the more meaningful it seems to be and the more ‘hold’ it has over us.
Instead we need to go deeper and find the energy holding the issues in place. We need to create a shift whereby the energy can be freed and reprocessed. As clearing takes place, the mental, emotional and physical levels recalibrate accordingly.
Breathwork is a quick and effective means of clearing out one’s mental and emotional systems. We can use it to override the fight or flight response and process emotional and mental states as they happen, preventing the need to go anywhere near the ‘overload zone’ ever again.
Clients are not obliged to discuss their pasts with this kind of work. With breathwork we simply draw a clear line separating the past from the present, our aim being to disengage and clear the fallout from our personal histories to such an extent that we are no longer troubled by them. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how easily this process takes place and the results are nothing short of astounding.
Whether we are dealing with stress, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, addictions, panic attacks, grief or anger management issues, the root cause of these phenomena points to a stepping over the threshold of one’s individual capacity to deal with the store of repressed and suppressed material. The answer lies in allowing said material to leave the body safely and easily and learning how to avoid a repetition of events.
Stress and anxiety are endemic in the Western world. Our lives seem faster than ever before and our daily to-do lists grow ever longer with a great many of us living a significant part of our days above our stress thresholds.
“My particular wake up call was chest pains, at which point I thought I was having heart problems. I later learned that it was my body’s way of telling me it needed more oxygen. At the time my coping strategies for stress and anxiety were cigarettes and alcohol. I knew they weren’t solving the core issues but they were a quick and easy short term fix in the absence of a more healthy solution.”
Experiencing anxiety is no longer seen as anything particularly unusual, although taboos still exist around ‘not being able to cope’, especially when one resorts to medication. Panic attacks are an all too frequent experience as we attempt to control the seemingly uncontrollable.
We employ a variety of strategies to help us deal with our realities, many of which serve to disassociate us from our feelings rather than help us process and work through the troubling emotions.
Not only is the breath an effective and healthy way to protect ourselves from the ravages of stress and anxiety, it also provides an immediate remedy for dealing with symptoms as they occur. Many clients who were experiencing panic attacks have learned how to ‘pull the plug’ on the process by learning a little more about their physiology and specifically how it can be consciously affected by using their breath in a specific way. Learning to allow all our emotions (especially those we’ve previously not allowed) as they happen is one of the most helpful steps we can take to avoid overloading ourselves with stress.
Whether it’s cigarettes, chocolate or playing computer games we all have our ‘fixes’. Mostly we’re able to manage them but sometimes we find ourselves stepping over a line and are unable to step back. We are no longer in control of our behaviour.
It’s important to recognise that underlying each and every addiction is a positive intention. It may be incredibly well hidden but you can be sure that it’s there.
Most of us know, or at least think we know, what the positive aspects of our addiction are: ‘smoking is how I reward myself’, ‘alcohol helps me to relax’. The question becomes how to reach the same positive goal via less destructive means.
In working with addictions two questions must be answered: do you genuinely want to change this behaviour? And: do you think you can?
If your first answer is ‘No’, then there’s some work to do to convince yourself why it’s in your best interests to modify the behaviour, and how you can reach the same positive goal that the addiction’s trying to satisfy.
If the first answer is ‘Yes’, then you’re probably ready to clear away whatever is holding your addiction in place.
There is no magic bullet where addictions are concerned. Ultimately of course we’re all responsible for ‘picking up the ball and running with it’. The responsibility lies with us. Breathwork is only a tool, albeit an incredibly powerful one.
It’s a physiological fact that as humans we are built to suppress or repress emotions which are unpleasant or deemed unattractive by our peers, family or societal norms. Anger is a perfect example of a characteristic which is normally discouraged and often deemed unattractive or unacceptable under any circumstances. A show of anger is often seen as indicative of weakness of character.
Being encouraged to ‘count to ten’, or forbidden to display something as natural and powerful as anger can lead to explosive episodes when we least expect or need them. We overreact to everyday events as our bodies look for ‘safety valve’ opportunities to eject the store of unwanted emotional energy. Being a slave to one’s emotions is clearly a less than productive state of affairs.
The fact that anger can be positive and has a part to play in communicating to others what is and is not acceptable, is becoming more acknowledged. A lot of us however are still following guidelines that were established in our childhoods and almost certainly have no relevance to our adult lives.
Time for a re-think! By working with your breath you’ll be able to access emotional material, such as repressed/suppressed anger, and release it quickly and easily. As your body and being recalibrates accordingly there will often be subsequent cognitive changes which allow you to reframe your beliefs and behaviours, enabling you to find a functional place for anger in your life.
Some of our clients who regularly practice yoga have enthusiastically told us how breathwork has taken their practice to a whole new level. How wonderful!
Conscious Connected Breathing differs from yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) in a number of ways. Primarily its aim is to bring about 100% usage of the respiratory system, thereby bringing much greater levels of oxygen and energy into the body than would otherwise be experienced. Yogis who practice Breathwork are often amazed at how powerful their experiences are. Subsequently it has been referred to as a “Pranayama for the 21st century” (Yoga Magazine, October 2006).
Technically, Conscious Connected Breathing is not a pranayama (the meaning of which is ‘breath control’) in that it can more accurately be described as a form of breath release. However, it could certainly be termed a form of Yoga in that it does facilitate union between the mind, body and spirit. Most yogi(ni)s who practice with Alan are amazed and delighted with the results and realise that Breathwork is far from being simply ‘another breath technique.’