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The Better Behavior Show with Dr. Nicole Beurkens

Oct 20, 2021

My guest this week is Campbell Will, 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.

In this episode, Campbell and I discuss the benefits of breathwork, why it’s important to our health, how it can help children, and specific breathing techniques you can try right now. Most of us take breathing for granted since it just sort of happens on its own. What most people don’t realize is the way you breathe determines your physiological state. There are some easy-to-try breathing exercises in this episode that I encourage parents to practice with their children! The sooner children learn to use their breath to regulate their response to stress, the better off they will be in life. Learn more about Campbell here.

Understanding how to use your breath is your best tool

  • It's free
  • It's nearly instantaneous
  • You don't need any equipment
  • You don't need any special know-how


Why breathwork is an important tool for our health

  • Breath is really the remote control of what's going on in our autonomic nervous system
  • Breathing is both automatic and under conscious control
    • Mostly, breathing is unconscious throughout the day
    • When you think about the breath and try breathing in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth, you have brought the breath under conscious control
  • By taking your breathing under control you can grab ahold of that autonomic process and direct the nervous system in the direction that you want to go


Breaking down breathing

  • Sympathetic nervous system = fight or flight
    • As soon as we breathe with our mouth, we are more in the sympathetic
    • As soon as we breathe high into our chest or shoulders, it's going to be more of a sympathetic trigger
    • For example - a panic attack is very inhale-dominant, it's in and out of the mouth, it's high in the chest, and it's fast
  • Parasympathetic = rest, repair, recover, digest
    • Breathing through the nose, down into the lower part of the chest and diaphragm or belly breathing helps put you in a parasympathetic state
    • Breathing slowly and emphasizing the exhale also helps put you in a parasympathetic state
  • These two systems kind of work in opposition. We are never both at the same time


Difference between stress physiology and psychology

  • Managing your psychological stress symptoms without addressing the physiological symptoms will not yield much of a result
  • You have to pay attention to and wrangle in your physiological state in order to fully calm yourself to a parasympathetic state


Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

  • We have to have the presence of carbon dioxide that allows the oxygen to move from the red blood cell into the cell of the body, where it then goes to the mitochondria and produces energy
  • While nose breathing is preferred, some people may experience discomfort with having a little more carbon dioxide present in the body, that’s the feeling of not enough air or feeling like there’s not enough oxygen 
    • Oxygen level is actually going up and you are making more oxygen available. It's just that your chemo senses are a little bit sensitive


How to help kids breath better 

  • Try this exercise - “Take a sip of water, and then see if you can walk around the house or do some laps around the yard” this can help them get into the habit of “Hey, I can breathe” 
  • If there’s an immediate need to swallow the water, that shows that there's a little bit of a sensitivity there 
  • Pop the tip of the tongue behind the top teeth, this will encourage them to seal the lips
  • A tip for retraining a child to breathe through their nose instead of their mouth at night - place a very thin strip of micropore tape vertically across the lips. NOT taping the mouth closed but just the very front of the lips
  • Try BOX breathing -  breathe in for a count of three, hold the breath for a count of three, breathe out for a count of three, and hold the breath for a count of three
  • Practice breathing softly
  • Practice an extended exhale by having them blow a mobile to make the hanging parts move or blowing a balloon or feather across a table
  • Try a double inhale with a prolonged exhale
    • Breathing comfortably full in through the nose, pause for a moment, and then sneak another breath in, and then a long easy exhale


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