Hijack Your Breathing, Control Your Emotions And Increase Your Performance With Darren Stojanovic

The podcast that helps you improve your swimming, love the water and live a better life.


Our guest in today’s episode is Darren Stojanovic from Dynamic Stability. He is a physiotherapist but he is also doing a lot of work in breathwork. In this episode, Darren and I will be talking about different breathing techniques which can help you control your emotion and help you improve your performance.

3:01 Learning About Breathing
04:48 Putting Breathing Techniques Together And Teaching It
06:27 How Breathwork Can Alter The Body’s System
09:00 How It Can Help People
14:14 You Improve Your Breathing, You Improve Your Technique
17:20 Different Effects On People
23:25 Circular Breathing/ The Go-To Breath
25:02 Boxed Breathing/Sniper Breath
28:41 Triangle Breathing
34:44 Energy Breathing
42:18 One Of The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do To Your Body

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Brenton: So Darren, first of all, welcome to the podcast, and we’ve been wanting to sort of talk about this stuff for a little while. We finally got you on. So thanks for joining me.

Darren: No problem, thanks for having me on.

Brenton: We’ve known each other for a couple of years just kind of through triathlon and being in the Melbourne scene. But I’ve sort of been interested in breath work for a little while but never really learnt too much about it. And you contacted me a couple of months ago and said, “I’ve started to run these breath work courses,” out of your practice, would I like to come along? And so, I came along to a couple of those classes and found them… my eyes were really opened to the power of breath work and some of the benefits of it. And I’m only sort of scratching the surface really. But I’m looking forward to learning a lot more. And that’s what we’re going to talk about on today’s podcast. So I think, first of all, how did you come about… how’d you learn about this stuff and find out about it?

Darren: Yeah, well, thanks Brenton. My main background as a physio, been working as a physio for probably about 20 years now. And I my involvement probably in triathlon probably over the past sort of five to 10 years has a sort of led me to the point where I’m sort of looking for new things to enhance performance, and not just one a physical sort of level, but a little bit on that sort of mind, body sort of mental approach. And a couple years ago, I came across a… guys that live up in Gold Coast and they came down. They work under the company Breathe Me. And they came down to Melbourne and sort of ran a little bit of a class for my staff and few other people. And that very first session that I did with them, I just was completely blown away on the intensity of the breath work and how incredible you felt after you’d done a session and the changes that it had on your body physically as well as mentally.

Darren: And so, then after that, then I sort of had a bit of a chance to sort of reflect on it and chatted more to these guys. And I organized sort of regular, monthly sessions at my clinic, at Dynamic Stability. And I invited all my clients and various people to come along to these sessions once a week. And for a whole year, we ran monthly sessions getting sort of 30 to 50 people in this one day, in for classes, and just had a pretty incredible result with all of my client base and decided then to pursue it a bit further beyond that.

Brenton: And you’ve dove really deep into all the different kinds of breath work. And I guess through all of that and learning all these different types of techniques, it seems like you’ve kind of put them together and come up with your own way of teaching it and taking your clients through it. Is that a fair summary of what you’re doing now in these breath work classes?

Darren: Yeah, definitely, breath work is not a new thing. It’s been around in yoga for years. And it’s been around in all sorts of things, even as far as people learning during pregnancy to breathe properly. But what I found is the breath work is not really delivered, these days, in a way that’s easy for everyone to be part of or everyone to take home from the breath work exactly what suits that person best. And you have your athletes, then you have your people that are suffering from anxiety and depression, and then you have your sort of people that are in chronic pain, and then you have a whole lot of other people that are doing it just for well-being.

Darren: So my idea is to sort of learn a lot of the different breath techniques, package them together in a way that people can come to a class and they can experience more than just one style and really learn what breath pattern resonates well for them, still practice all of them, but they get a bit of an idea of getting one area they can really focus on, and then really developing an appreciation for all the different styles of breathing that you can do and how it can benefit your body.

Brenton: And let’s talk about how breath work can alter the body’s systems and how can someone start to implement this in their day-to-day life. So what does it look like for you? How often are you doing it? And how long does it have to go for to get a benefit?

Darren: Yeah, sure. Well, I suppose, look at the body. There’s all our organs, our brain function, all that stuff, and one sort of really interesting thing is, our lungs are actually one of the crucial organs in the body that can run itself on automatic pilot without us thinking, but we can also take complete, voluntary control over that system. We can make some changes to heart rate, but really, our organs and heart and things beat away and carry on a little bit in the background without us able to gain control over it. And mentally, we can do some positive affirmations and make changes to our thoughts and things, but our breathing is something that is a lot more tangible for how we can take control over that system. And so, by doing that, we can actually make quite radical changes to our whole organ network because they’re all very interconnected energetically.

Darren: We have sort of a nerve called the vagus nerve, which sort of runs from the head, through the body, goes through the lungs, goes through every organ in the body, goes to our digestion, and it is like the connecting unit that sort of connects all these organs together. And one talks to the other, and when one changes function, it alters the function in the other area. So I suppose with that knowledge, if we can actually, in a way, hijack our breathing system, we can actually make changes to our whole network in our whole body just by altering how we breathe.

Darren: And if we’re trying to make dramatic changes to that, we can actually breathe with some pretty intense breathing patterns to actually bring about changes in our blood alkalinity, changes in our mental function, calming our nervous system, waking our nervous system up, or make changes to our kidney function, liver function, even to the point where we will change inflammatory markers in our body to alter inflammation. And we can work on these techniques on a daily basis to make a big change.

Brenton: And what I like about… I was doing one of your classes, was you explained the science behind it. Because you say, “Changing the way you breathe can alter all of these things.” And it’s like, “Yeah, okay, yeah, maybe.” But there’s a lot of science to it, and there’s been a lot of study into it. And that’s what I really liked about the class because I think, for me at least, with that knowledge and that… with that knowledge of the sort of science behind it, it helps me buy into the belief and the importance of it.

Brenton: But then, obviously, when you do the breathing, it really… you feel it, you experience it, and you get a really… you really notice the difference. And some of the feelings that I had going through those breathing exercises, it really can be a natural high. And you can have some really bizarre and out there kind of feelings and experiences in the body just by doing these breathing exercises. And in terms of how it can help people, what are some of the results that you’ve seen people have as a result of the breathing?

Darren: Well, yeah, sure, so the… some of the important things that can help you with this, on a basic, physiological level, it can actually really improve the efficiency of someone’s breathing. And I don’t think, if you analyze most people’s breathing techniques, we’d be actually breathing very efficiently, so especially with respect to swimmers that are so involved in how the oxygen exchange and their use of their diaphragm. So it can have massive benefits on teaching people how they’re overbreathing, how they’re overutilizing certain parts of their lungs and underutilizing certain parts and really improve their efficiency of breathing.

Darren: For me, definitely what I’ve noticed is just the better breath technique can actually help you with your… connecting to your core. We all sort of know we need our core to power some of our stroke. And I think getting a little bit better efficiency in your breath pattern can really help you with that connection and allow you to get better power delivering your stroke by giving you a better connection to your core muscles, which are really generating a lot of this breath pattern.

Darren: I’ve also found… so just with neck and back soreness, if you’re breathing a little bit out of sync, your swim stroke starts to impact on neck pain and back pain. And then, relaxing in the water a bit better and really calming your breath and getting good breathing rhythm can have enormous improvements to do with sort of back pain and neck pain, and I think just general diaphragm conditioning as well. We’re obviously, as athletes, we do breathe and do get better performances with our breath rhythm. But I think really learning to isolate the diaphragm and get great conditioning and endurance in the diaphragm muscle can have really dramatic improvements in your stroke and your timing.

Darren: And then, we sort of… as physios, we work a lot with people sort of thoracic spine and back mobility and joint mobility and ribs. And I think so many swimming drills that really require a certain amount of thoracic mobility and back mobility to do correctly. And if you think about our breath mechanism, you really… it’s completely related to how we store tension in our ribs and whether we use our intercostal muscles correctly, whether we actually have mobility through the upper back, where we can gain rotation and movement through the whole spinal area. So this repeated work on the breath patterns can have really dramatic effects on back mobility, upper neck tension.

Darren: And I think then beyond that, mentally, when people have actually finished training, your body is wired up from exercise. And one thing I’ve noticed is when I get out of the pool, especially if I do an evening session, I’m not going to sleep in a hurry. I’m awake for hours and hours, and my system is revved up. And one major thing that breath work can do is actually really start to calm your nervous system. It helps you switch on what we call our parasympathetic nervous system. It’s an automatic system in the body, but it governs all of our rest and regeneration and our recovery properties.

Darren: So we can do a certain breath technique where we help to switch off our fight or flight and we switch on our parasympathetic nervous system. And what that does is actually helps our body dial down the stress response that happens through exercise and bring on the recovery phase that is required for sleeping and therefore enabling us to calm down our nervous system after intense exercise and help our body slip into that recovery mode and therefore, have much better sleep patterns and get into deeper restorative sleep.

Brenton: When we were in Thailand for our whole-week camps in October, I took the groups through this… I think most mornings I did some of the exercises that I learnt at your classes and just got them to lie down for 10 to 15 minutes going through a couple of these exercises. And I think one of the most obvious differences that I saw doing that was in the technique sessions. So on the first day, we do filming and analysis. The second day, in the morning, we take them through some drills and exercises to improve their stroke. And before that, I got them go through these breathing exercises.

Brenton: And what often happens when people are going through drills is they really want to make these changes, so they tend to be very tense, and they try and force it. And they’re not really relaxed because they’re concentrating so hard on the changes. But what this breathing did was it just got them in this state of mind where they’re very calm, their breathing was relaxed. And it’s from that place where it’s so much easier to make changes to your stroke.

Brenton: And that’s probably the best results I’ve seen in terms of improving technique, within that session, that we’ve ever had. And I put a lot of that down to the breathing that we did at the start because it got them in the right frame of mind. And it got them breathing relaxed. It got, I guess, the body and the mental state in a place where they could really make the changes. So it was noticeably different. And that was just one of the differences. But boy, it really helped. And it’s something that I’m going to continue to do [crosstalk 00:13:27].

Darren: I think, on that note, one major thing with breath work is learning, in your body, peak state. So peak state is very much characterized by that optimum arousal. Now, none of us will swim well by being really relaxed, and none of us will swim well by being over stimulated. And each person’s optimal arousal is slightly different. The occasional athlete will really need to be revved up a bit, and some will need to be really calmed down to get the most out of them.

Darren: So one thing that does happen with breath work is that when you’re going through the exercises on your own, you are learning in your own body, the different feelings of what it feels to be really relaxed, what it feels to be sort of revved up a little bit. And you can learn in your own body where it is that your body sits when it gets to peak state. And I think all this experience, like the occasional swim where you feel like you’re unfatiguable, that there’s no effort, it’s just all happening, it’s all flowing, that’s a characteristic of peak state.

Darren: And they talk about athletes learn over time to bring themself to that peak state. But it’s not often a technique that people are taught to do. We just accidentally end up there. And we think, “Wow, that was a great session.” And then, for months, you’re trying to find that peak state again. You had no idea how you got there. Yeah, so it’s… that’s a good point to bring up. Because it’s sort of… it is a skill, and it is an awareness as well. And people connecting to that mental state is an important thing.

Brenton: Yeah, and it’s… there’s some really… going through some of the breathing exercises, which we’ll talk about in a moment… we’ll give some examples of those types of breathing, there’s some really strange experiences. You sort of preface some of the classes with, “As we go through some of these exercises, you might feel some pretty extreme emotions, some happy, some sad, you might feel like your body’s tingling. You might…” for me, my faith in some of the breathing exercises where we’re really lifting the breathing rate up, my face was all contorted, and this really weird… I’m glad I didn’t have a camera on me because it would have looked really bizarre. But I couldn’t control what my face was doing. Then at other times, with some of the exercises, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. It was just really bizarre. So can you talk a little bit about why that is and what some of these things are that can happen as you’re going through them.

Darren: Well, first thing sort of just to note is when we look a bit deeper on the different breathing techniques, we sort of realize that our whole nervous system is sort of divided in two. And we have a whole autonomic system. One is our sympathetic nervous system, which is governing all of our fight or flight. When we’re exercising, when we’re pushing a little bit, our blood pressure sort of increases, the heart rate increases, we get hormones injected into our blood stream to promote exercise and fight or flight. And then we have the opposite, which is the other half of our autonomic nervous system, which is our parasympathetic system. And that system sort of governs that rest and regeneration I was talking about before, which helps to lower your heart rate. And it also helps to sort of bring on our muscle repair, decrease inflammation, get you to sleep, put you in all of that sort of really meditative state.

Darren: So there’s going to be forever a balance between these two systems that we’re working with. And then, when we do some of the breathing exercises, we’re going to be breathing in a particular way to stimulate the sympathetic response or breathe in a way to stimulate the regenerative response. So as a general rule, during our inhale, we’re actually stimulating the sympathetic response, our sort of fight or flight, and then during the exhale phase, we’re actually promoting our rest and regeneration a little bit.

Darren: So you can imagine we breathe in a particular style where we’re emphasizing the inhale breath, we will be raising that vibrational energy in the body up and up and up and up to a level that it will become quite strong. If we’re breathing in a way that we’re investing in the exhale breath, what we’ll be doing is actually really helping calm the system down and actually change brainwave patterns and put you into much more of a calmer sort of situation where you may feel like you are going so calm that you’re not falling asleep but you’re sort of almost feel yourself drifting off in a certain place.

Darren: And so, in some of the classes that you’ve done is… what we’ve done is we mix up those breath rhythms and give people a chance to feel all the dynamics of the body. So what we can start off with is quite a calming sort of breath, which is like a circular breath. So if you imagine drawing on a blackboard, a circle, like a clock face, you can imagine that when you breathe in and move around the clock face, you can think about your breathing from sort of 6 O’clock at the base and breathing around past 9 O’clock all the way up to 12:00. And in your mind’s eye, you can imagine taking five seconds to breathe your breath from the bottom all the way to the top. And then, without pausing, then breathe out, and then visualize yourself moving down through 1 O’clock down through 3 O’clock. And then, when you arrive all the way back at the base, you imagine you’ve arrived back at 6 O’clock.

Darren: And if you can take five seconds to do the inhale breath and take five seconds to do the exhale breath, what you’re doing is putting almost equal importance on both the breath patterns and therefore creating a calming effect on the nervous system and allowing your body to switch into a really good state, not over aroused, not under aroused, but in a way sort of getting a perfect harmony within the body. And there’s been sort of talk about that breath pattern being called what we sometimes call a heart resonance breath. And what it does is to really help energetically, the brain and the lungs and the heart, start to move into the same energetic rhythm.

Darren: And I think we all probably sort of found moments in our life where we sort of feel a little bit out of sorts. Commonly, that’s a bit related to these organs in the body not being on the… pardon me… on the same energetic level and not connecting and talking well to each other. Because there’s no way our heart beats without connecting to our lungs. And there’s no way our lungs breathe without some input from the brain. And all these organs actually have constant little highways to go between them. And they all have messages that are going back and forth, giving feedback on what’s happening in the lungs, giving feedback what’s happening in the heart, even giving feedback on what thoughts and emotions are being felt. And so, when we breathe in that first breath circular pattern, the Five In Five Out, we’re actually creating the best harmonizing breath to put all those organs together so they sync and they talk to each other well. And they all harmonize on a similar vibrational frequency level. So it grants a bit of that optimum state.

Brenton: And so, would you recommend that kind of breathing for someone who’s… let’s say they’re driving in their car on the way to the pool, would that be a good type of breathing to do on the way to train?

Darren: Yeah, it is a good breathing. Like I sort of say to people, it can be a bit of your go-to breath. It’ll soothe everyone. Definitely, if you’ve had a busy day at work and your mind’s racing, that breath pattern will help you stay attentive so driving is safe. But it also allows you gain a little bit of control over the rhythm, and you’ll calm down the nervous system after a bad day or after a day of a few arguments or whatever it might be. And you’ll arrive at the pool then much more able to listen to instructions and much more able to process the cues and the things that are being told to you.

Darren: Because commonly, in different brain states, you might suggest someone to keep their elbow in a particular position or have their hands placed in a certain angle. They’ll hear the words, but because of the brain state, it’ll mean nothing to their body. So they’ll dive back in, and they’re like… they’ll have no connection really to your instructions, whereas if they’re in a mental state that is processing well, whatever words come in, will mean something very quickly to them, and they’ll be able to activate that neuromuscular process quickly because they’re in that optimum sort of arousal state.

Brenton: That’s good.

Darren: And move beyond that where we actually sort of change their breath pattern, which is sort of what you’re talking about and doing a few other styles.

Brenton: And we’ve got a couple of other ones sort of written down here that we went through in the class. So I want to talk a little bit about those other styles. So we got box breathing, triangle breathing, and then talk about the energy breathing. So what’s the difference there and how can… what’s the purpose behind these other styles/

Darren: Yeah, sure, so the box breath, I sort of liken that to our breath you would imagine a sniper would be using. A sniper needs to be kept extremely calm but also needs to be highly on alert. So if you imagine the mix of that, is almost like our peak state feeling. We don’t want to get too calm, we don’t want to get to relaxed, but we also want to be paying attention and be absolutely at the ready. So the box breath starts to bring in a little bit of that where what we do is we visualize moving around a box shape. And when you breathe in, you can think of yourself rising up to the top of the box, and then when you get to the top of the box, you just gently, without too much tension, hold your breath in for the same number of seconds that you breathed in for.

Darren: So we can start at roughly four seconds if you’d like. Someone take a four second breath in, then they’d hold their breath in for four seconds. And then, they just nicely breathe out so their breath out took four seconds. And then, once they’ve finished their breath out, what they’re going to practice is just staying calm and relaxed and rested at the end of their breath out and just pause. So we’re not sort of clamping our breath and holding on for dear life. No, what we’re actually [inaudible 00:24:27] doing is imagining like you are continuing to mentally breathe out during that pause. And you just keep seeing yourself go round the box, four seconds inhale, four seconds holding the breath in, four seconds to steadily breathe out, and then four seconds to just pause and rest the bottom of the breath out.

Darren: And then, people can develop that. You can develop that to five seconds on each section up to six. Certain breath classes, we try to build that to eight or 10. We’re actually trying to breathe so slow that imagine 10 seconds to breathe in, 10 seconds to hold, 10 seconds to breathe out, and 10 seconds to pause, is actually taking about 40 seconds. So that means a person might only be doing a couple breaths a minute, which is an incredibly slow rate of which over time you can build up to.

Darren: And imagine for a swimmer what that means. That means they’ll have the ability… it’s almost like the dexterity of an opera singer you’re giving to the diaphragm. And that swimmer then has the ability to know they can control the rhythm of their breath and control the timing and they can actually get an even structure in their breath rhythm. So there’s no emphasis on the breathing in being more important or the exhale being more important that actually help to develop… and like we talked about the box shape, imagine if it’s gone from say four on each section, and now it’s six, and now, it’s eight, and then maybe it’s 10. Can you see how that breath square, the box is actually expanding? So in the person’s mind’s eye, they’re seeing their lung volume getting bigger and bigger and bigger and it just feels like you then have this unlimited ability to use your lungs, which clearly is an advantage in swimming.

Brenton: Yeah, I like the analogy or the name for it… a sniper breath. For me, that’s a good way to remember, “All right, when would you use this type of breathing?” And one of the immediate… almost immediate sort of benefits and the things that I noticed was when I trained for the… the couple of weeks around those sessions that I did, the breathing… the breathing felt… it felt easier. But I didn’t have to think about it. The breathing just naturally improved. And so, I was able to sort of have this higher output for no extra effort. I was just able to sit at this faster pace without feeling that to be taxing on the aerobic system. And it happens pretty quickly because it’s something that most people aren’t training. And like with most exercises you do, if you do a little bit of it, you notice quite a big benefit fairly immediately.

Darren: Yeah, definitely, I’ve got people that come in… may even walk in the room stressed and we’ll leave an hour for the class, but within five minutes, you see their system just drop away and calm right down. So you can get enormous improvements with this stuff if you just put your mind to it and spend 60 seconds doing a particular breath style. And really what I’m trying to do with these classes is encourage people in their normal, everyday life, just arrive five minutes early to something you need to do, or just take two minutes out at lunch time, as you finish work in the day, take another two minutes out, and make all these breath sequences just part of your normal, everyday life. And start to see the dramatic changes you can have to your whole day.

Brenton: And the triangle breathing?

Darren: Yeah, so then, now that we understand a bit of the purpose of the box breathing and we talked before about the inhale breath having a little bit of a focus on our fight or flight, so our sympathetic response… which also we need. We don’t want to turn up to a meeting looking like our eyes are popping out of our head and we’re half asleep. We don’t want to be too relaxed. So it’s important we know how to upscale our energy when we need it.

Darren: So the idea of the triangle breath is you imagine now change your box breath to a triable shape, and what you can imagine, if you can breathe in to the top of your inhale and actually only hold the inhale breath, so therefore it becomes a triangle shape. Because then, once you’ve finished holding your breath in, you just steadily breathe out, breathing out to the bottom. But then, when you get to the bottom of your exhale, you just breathe in again without a pause. So you might repeat five to 10 triangle breaths where you hold the inhale breath, and that way, expanding the inhale side.

Darren: And then, imagine then the triangle breath that is flipped the other way. You’d actually then be holding the exhale breath. So you breathe in steadily. Without a pause, we breathe out. And then, when we get to the bottom of the exhale breath, we will then just stop and rest. And we’d really invest in the exhale pause and try to send… it’s almost… think about, okay… we already talked about that vagus nerve sending messages around the body. You can imagine the way you breathe, you are sending signals and messages to every cell in the body, even as far as the blood vessels in your feet. You are sending messages down to every structure. So if you’re going to breathe in a particular triangle breath, when you’re doing the breath out, pause, what you can visualize is that breath out pause is sending that little emotional message through the nervous system, and it’s being seen and heard by every cell in the body: the brain cells, the heart cells, our digestive cells, right down to all the blood vessels that are in our body adjusting towards what we’re doing. And you can think about the quality of the message that you send.

Darren: So if we take a triangle breath, breathe in, breathe out, and I’m sort of holding my breath under stress, then I’m not sending the best message, am I? What we want to be doing is actually really investing in that breath out pause, and even visualizing ourself on holidays. And imagine that moment when you get on holidays and you see the banana lounge, and you lay down on that banana lounge and go, “You know what? I’ve got a whole week ahead of me here where no one’s going to pester me,” When you breathe out and lie on that banana lounge, you breathe out in a particular way, and you really emotionally invest in the idea that you don’t have to get off that banana lounge for a whole week if you really don’t want to.

Darren: So we’re trying to bring into the breath pattern is make people… don’t just physically breathe in and out, in and out, and count your numbers. Actually try to then emotionally invest in what you’re trying to achieve. And during that one, we trying to invest in the exhale pause. And a great breath technique for those people that want to calm themself down, maybe prepare yourself for sleep. It’s probably the example breath of what we talked about before about after training of calming the system down. So you might be a bit wired up, so if we’re go into our triangle breath where we breathe out, pause, we’re actually continually signaling the parasympathetic system.

Darren: And like I said, then if we emotionally invest in the quality of how we breathe out, pause, and we can even visualize some calm things, and then bring the mind into it as well, what we’re going to do is to create an enormous effect on the parasympathetic system to switch off all of our fight or flight and switch on all our regeneration. And within a very short space of time, you’re going to be feeling extremely different, calmed down, ready for sleep, or even just calm down after you got yourself worked up about something.

Brenton: This is good. So we’ve spoken about the circular breathing, which you mentioned is the heart resonance breath or almost like your go-to breath during the day. But the box breathing, which is the sniper breath, where it sort of prepares you… almost a peak state. The triangle breathing, which can help you, almost like the after training breath when you want to sort of quieten everything down. And now, the last one I’ve got here is the energy breath. So do you want to talk a bit about the energy breathing?

Darren: Yeah, so we’ll talk about that one today. This breath sort of probably falls under, in my mind, some of the advanced categories and definitely an incredible breath. And if you’re going to some more advanced breath classes that you may see advertised around the place, they’ll probably utilize a little bit of this breath rhythm where what we’re trying to do is to generally raise the bodily energy. And if you think about… if we put something in the microwave to heat it up, what we’re actually doing is putting food in the microwave, the microwaves are creating a change in the vibration of the molecules in the frozen food. And by passing the microwaves through, what they’re doing is they’re vibrating… via inputting energy, they’re vibrating all the cells of the food till the cells are vibrating at a faster pace. And that’s what’s creating the heat.

Darren: So what we’re actually doing in our own body is we’re breathing in a way to raise vibrational energy in the cells, in the whole bodily structure. If you think back to how you feel when you’ve got the flu or when you’re recovering from the flu and your body feels heavy and dead, and everything I’d stiff and sore, that’s a bit like poor vibrational energy. That’s what we feel like when we’re just flat and nothing is active.

Darren: So imagine doing a breath class where you practice some of these different techniques. And then, when it’s time, what you do is move into an energy breath where you start to play with that working inhale breath, but relaxing the exhale breath. And when you continue to create this circular energy breath, what you actually do is you continually raise the vibrational energy of the body to the point where you are waking up dormant areas in the body and you are increasing this sort of energy flow throughout the whole system. And I quite often think about the science of Chinese medicine, how we know how all the meridians go from the body. They go down the arms, they go in the feet. It’s been a known fact for years that they work off that theory.

Darren: And then, we talk a little bit about our chakra levels like our heart chakra, our crown chakra, our base chakra being more like energy vortex levels within the body. And there’s sort of seven main ones of those and a lot of smaller ones. So I quite often think about, when I’m doing some of these energy breaths, that I’m gradually just building the energy that is available in the system. And what our body does is actually utilize that energy in the areas that it needs it, pushing it to the fingers, pushing it to the toes, pushing it through the periphery to open up areas that are being blocked. And we can have some amazingly profound experiences during these energy breaths where our whole body starts to wake up.

Darren: My interesting sort of approach there is I’ve had quite a few clients that have been sent to me with chronic pain. And the sort of… the definition of chronic pain is really that there are areas of pain in your body that have no reason to be sore. You don’t have pathology or injuries associated with these sort of areas. And there are nerves that are just lighting up for no real, major reason. And they are causing a stimulus back to your brain. And your brain is picking up this stimulus as pain, as an injury or something like that. But there is no actual injured site.

Darren: So what actually happens, interestingly, in this energy breath, is, imagine these people go into this energy breath and all of a sudden, their chronic pain sites are lit up. They can feel the neck pain, they can feel the back pain. They can feel all the pains that they live with day to day that really have no reason to be sore. And what’s happening in that instance is the bodily energy is building up where these overactive nerve cells that are firing off these pain signals actually light up in their system.

Darren: Now, you can either choose to fidget round or stop breathing because you’ve got pain. But then, mentally, when you realize that your body does not have anything actually wrong with it and all you’ve got to do is lay still and keep breathing, eventually, what you do is you deprogram these sensitized nerve endings and nerve structures to the fact that, “Okay, there’s actually nothing wrong. Maybe it’s time to calm down.” And over repeated sessions, what happens is the person doesn’t get these pathway patterns lit up. And what happens, they then dampen down their chronic pain. And they can then live their normal life without these pain signals being generated.

Brenton: I really like the analogy of the microwave. And that’s literally kind of how it feels, like the cells in your body are vibrating. It really feels that way. And then, interesting with the people with chronic pain. Do you find that some people, they get to that point where they’re feeling that pain doing the breathing exercises… do you some of them… obviously the… they probably want to back off. They’d want to just stop breathing because it’s causing them pain.

Darren: Yeah.

Brenton: But do you sort of… do you talk to them beforehand and let them know, “This is probably what you’ll experience. So if you’re comfortable, you should continue breathing through it because this is the result you’ll get”?

Darren: Yeah, look, definitely. And look, what [inaudible 00:38:48] talking about here is energy breath, this is probably one of the most powerful things that you can do to your body. We can pop a few vitamins and have a massage or have a stretch or go for a run. People might think this breathing is quite a subtle thing, of which it is, but this actual technique, when people get involved in it, is definitely… I liken it to those Karcher brushes when you’ve got some oil on your driveway. And you go out there, and you get one of those high pressure water turbo things. And when you turn it on, the water pressure coming out of that thing is immense. And when you blast the concrete, you get off years of dirt off that thing.

Darren: So this energy breath is really in, in my mind, a bit like taking to your body with one of those Karcher brushes. And I’ve talked about it on a physical level so far, but really the main approach here is on a mental level of what we’re doing is actually sort of helping our body block… clear out certain blockages in the brain. And like you said, people do approach a lot of these techniques… when things get a little bit tough, the idea is, “Look, I better give up, better back off here.” And I suppose that’s where some of the ice immersion work comes in after this sort of work or in addition to this work, whereas some of the Wim Hof technique where people will actually then keep going with this energy breath, and then they move to dunking themself in the ice. And then, if you’ve ever heard your brain tell you to get out, you will definitely hear it then.

Darren: All our automatic, subliminal programs that are in our brain that tell us all sorts of stuff… on a small, subtle level for the swimmers, it might be the bit… all the, ‘Can’t do’s,’ like “I can’t do that time,” or “I can’t stay in the pool for long enough,” or “I can’t execute that stroke pattern,” all of those things are really automatic programs that are embedded in our brain. And some of those programs actually help us live. We probably experienced the sort of times where sometimes we’ve been driving home and we’re busy thinking about something, and then suddenly we realized, “Oh, wow, I’m turning in the driveway.” We’ve actually managed to get home with very little conscious thought of what we’re doing. And what that actually is, is all those incredible, automatic processes that are in our body that can run our live and run for us a program like getting home, making a coffee, or doing something in our work life that we can do pretty easily.

Darren: But on the flip side, we can have a whole heap of automatic programs in our brain that actually are very detrimental to how we perform. And you might sort of have an old coach or an old sort of other person you’ve coached… trained against that has mentioned a few really sort of important comments that probably didn’t stick with you that well and maybe left a little bit of a negative effect in your brain that you now unconsciously believe is true. And exercise… so breathing exercise like this, part of what it’s trying to do it to uproot some of those laid down programs. And like you said, when you’re in the breathing method, what’s happening is it’s changing a little bit of body chemistry that’s altering some of your brain processing, and it’s allowing some of the sort of locked in emotions that we hold against ourself to be released out of the system.

Darren: So commonly, during this energy breath, if we sustain it for long enough, we can actually get to a point where we can feel our body releasing some of these emotions. And sometimes, like you said, it is absolutely laughter. And I’ve been in one class myself where one girl started laughing, and then another girl started laughing, and then I’m laughing. And the whole twelve of us are in absolutely hysterics. And we are all still breathing, trying to get through it. And then, that wafts off. And then, before you know it, someone in the corner’s crying. Someone’s [inaudible 00:43:04]. And then, the mood changes. That group energy is incredible when you’re doing breath work. But you can achieve all of that sort of stuff in your own space, doing your own breath work as well. And basically, your own emotional energy then gets a chance to come out.

Darren: And we sort of hear a lot of people talk about they feel a bit blocked or they feel like something in the background is holding them back. Some guys or girls… shouldn’t limit it to just guys… people in general feel like they’ve got some pent up aggression or bottled up emotions. And some of those things have come from real life traumas that are actually completely real. And their body hasn’t been able to get rid of those traumas at the time. And they’re sitting as little things in their body that actually don’t benefit them, that actually sort of work against them. So a lot of those little things you can feel definitely in some of these breath work sessions.

Brenton: And we’re going to… we’re going to record another podcast, a more advanced breath work podcast. But we wanted to kind of do this one first so you could give the introduction to breath work. And I think… a lot of this stuff is still… for people who are new to it, will seem quite advanced, and it’s all new. But we’re going to do a follow-up podcast for this. And for those that are listening, let them know where your classes are, how they can get involved with those because I highly recommend them. And I’ve done a couple so far, and I’m going to be doing quite a few more because it is such a… really beneficial. But I think… I really think there’s a lot there as well, just for improved performance but also mentally as well. It really sort of covers all the bases with it. So do you want to let people know where they can find you a little bit more about those courses?

Darren: Yeah, sure, so I run the sessions out of our physiotherapy clinic, which is called Dynamic Stability. We’ve had Dynamic Stability now for about 19 years in the Richmond area and about… another clinic for about 10 years down in Ripponlea, just of Glen Eira road. And so, we sort of devote… we devote a day or even some weekends to these breath work classes out of the physio clinic. I have an Instagram page, which is DynamicBreathWork. And what I try to do on that page is just to be continually giving people little snippets, positive affirmations, different breath work sort of ideas and techniques, and then just let… keep people updated basically on all of the different sort of classes that we run.

Darren: I sort of divide the training up into a bit of level one, level two, level three. So everyone sort of attends a level one class just once. And that gives them a bit of this information, a bit of the basics about what breath work’s about and how it can affect you and give you a few take home messages. And then, the level two work is about then practically practicing all these techniques and learning some sequences that you can do at home to different playlists. And I normally sort of run that as a four-week course covering… it’s a little bit of different emphasis on all the different techniques. And then, the level three class is a little bit more about the energy breath where people have been through a range of the techniques. And then, what they do is they embark on a full class of the energy breath where they’re really doing that as an energy clearing technique and just to take their skill level to another level.

Darren: So if you sort of look up… there’s links on our website, DynamicStability.com.au. If you scroll down, you’ll see some of the Dynamic Breathwork page. Or you can just go straight to our Instagram page, which is DynamicBreathWork, and have a little look at all the different sort of stuff I’ve got on there for you.

Brenton: Excellent, well, thanks again for being on the podcast Darren. And once this podcast goes out, we’ll… we can use some of the questions that we get from that and answer them in the second podcast. So thanks again mate. And I’ll put all those links in the show notes and looking forward to that next podcast.

Darren: All right. Thanks Brenton.


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Amazing swimming and fitness podcast

Love, love, love listening to Brenton and his guests. Always learning something new to add to my swim sets with drills or training sets. Also very motivational guests with great tips to add to your fitness routine. I love the stories of the longer distant swims and what’s involved. I’m always smiling after listening to these podcasts!! Thank you so much !!!!



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Brenton and Mitch were great to work with at the clinic, Good to get video analysis to work on straight away, practice some new drills and go home knowing what you need to work on.

Alex McFadyen