Max In-Breath Holds
This recording guides you through a calming and relaxing 2-minute meditation, guided 5-minute breath up and maximum in-breath hold.
Before you start spend a couple of minutes unwinding and getting yourself relaxed. If there’s something on your mind, deal with it beforehand, so you can truly clear your mind and relax.
During the 5-minute breathe-up use your breath to relax and prepare for the breath hold.
- Breathe in the nose and into your belly, for 4 secs (the nerve endings in the lower lobes of your lungs stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and relax mode).
- Breathe out the mouth for 4 secs, relaxing and letting go with each out-breath (breathing out your mouth releases more carbon dioxide which will help delay the urge to breath).
- Focus on breathing in a rhythm without creating tension, relaxing the breath and clearing the mind.
- When you take your last breath in, you don’t need to pack your lungs, just take a decent breath in so that you can hold your in-breath comfortably without tension to enable you to go into a deep state of meditation.
The Breath Hold
A few things you can do to hold your breath longer…
- Focus on relaxing every muscle in your body. Every tiny bit of energy you use burns more oxygen.
- Calm your mind, I like to slowly count in my head, it helps me switch off and relax.
- When you start to get the urge to breath, you can reduce the sensations by making false inhale and exhale movements, tricking the nervous system into thinking you’re breathing.
- The best way to overcome the second urge to breathe is to make certain movements in your body without allowing air to enter or leave the body...
- For example; roll your shoulders backwards and forwards,
- Swallow to keep the air in the lungs.
The 3 Main Benefits of Breath Holds
1. Circulate stem cells
Stem cells are special human cells that are able to develop into many different cell types. Ranging from muscle cells to brain cells! However, stem cells survive and renew themselves in low oxygen (hypoxic) environments in the body.
For context; The womb is a low oxygen environment and stem cells circulate freely in a growing foetus. After birth the stem cells quickly disappear from blood circulation due to the increase in blood oxygen. The stem cells then hide in low oxygen areas of the body such as bone marrow.
Why bone marrow? Because there they are surrounded by different cells which consume more oxygen, thus maintaining hypoxic conditions for the stem cells to survive and renew themselves.
Therefore moving stem cells from bone marrow to tissue or other areas of the body such as the brain, where they are needed, can be challenging. Due to the levels of oxygen in the bloodstream, the oxygen can damage the stem cells.
But, by creating brief intermittent hypoxia through holding your breath and reducing the level of saturated oxygen in your blood stream for a short period of time, stem cell circulation can be triggered and they're able to go where they're needed.
2. Breath holds are a form of IHT (Intermittent Hypoxic Training) where carbon dioxide builds up in the blood.
Although it seems counter intuitive, carbon dioxide is extremely important for a lot of reasons.
The main one being that increasing CO₂ levels in our blood enables more oxygen to be released from our red blood cells in our bloodstream into the tissue cells in our muscles where it’s needed and where energy (ATP) can be created. This is known as The Bohr Effect.
This is exactly why over breathing and shallow breathing (where you breath out all of your CO₂) can cause physical health problems. Because there isn’t enough CO₂ in your blood meaning that oxygen remains stuck to your red blood cells and enough oxygen isn’t being released out into your tissue cells (cell respiration) and mitochondria where energy is created!
This is also one of many reasons why nasal breathing is important for peak performance. Because you are restricted by the amount of air you can breathe in and out of your nose, you are able to build up an adequate level of CO₂ in your bloodstream. Simply because you can't hyperventilate like you do when you mouth breathe. So even though you breathe in less oxygen, you get more oxygen into your muscles and produce a greater amount of energy too. If you are used to hyperventilation from mouth breathing during exercise then it will take some time for your body to build up some carbon dioxide tolerance when nasal breathing.
Therefore through increasing your tolerance to CO₂ through breath holds you are able to make more efficient use of the oxygen you breathe in.
3. Improve Physical Endurance
Holding your breath also increases your red blood cells. The more red blood cells we have, the more oxygen they can carry in our bloodstream.
The easier your red blood cells can offload the oxygen, the faster you can get it where it needs to go, which is into the working muscles.
Your muscles take in the oxygen and use it to produce ATP (energy). If they can’t get enough oxygen then they start to produce energy anaerobically and produce lactic acid. Lactic acid build up creates muscle fatigue.
A lot of Olympic athletes have broken world records with the help of holding their breath when training and competing.
How Do You Know If You’re Getting Any Benefits?
Using a pulse oximeter, you can measure how much oxygen is in your blood through your SpO₂ (oxygen saturation) levels.
Throughout most of the day your SpO₂ levels sit between 97-100%. Once your SpO₂ level reaches 85% or below you begin to receive the positive benefits of a build up in CO₂.
It is quite hard to genuinely reach a state of intermittent hypoxia by doing a maximum in-breath hold alone. Which is why it is recommended that you use a pulse oximeter. With a bit of practice and increasing your tolerance to the urge to breath you'll get there in no time.
How do Maximum In-Breath Holds Compare to Breath Holds in a Guided Breathwork Session?
Maximum In-Breath Holds take focus and perseverance to push through the urge to breathe and rely on physical performance.
Whereas breath holds during a Guided Breathwork Session are done on an out-breath without any air in your lungs. Meaning that your SpO₂ level drops much faster.
The out-breath holds in a guided breathwork session also build up with each round. Leading up to a long and effortless breath hold in the final round. There you are able to reach a state of bliss called Kevala Kumbhaka.
Kevala Kumbhaka is an incredibly powerful state of breathlessness that you experience in the final round. In this blissful state your SpO₂ level drops effortlessly and you can experience bursts of insight, ideas, a-ha moments, inspiration, and divine downloads.