Every breath you take
Every move you make
I’ll be watching you
Many seemed interested in the topic of breathing so I decided to share some of what I know.
I will begin with a simple test that anyone can do to get an idea of how well they are breathing and their general level of health. The BOLT or Body Oxygen Level Test, also known as a CP or controlled pause, is something I do every morning to gauge how I am doing in regards to my breathing practice. I have always been a bad breather. I mouth breathe, especially at night. When I began measuring my morning BOLT is was consistently around 20 seconds. Not real good. I thought I was in decent shape.
The ideal score for a healthy person is 40 seconds. The lower the score equals greater breathing volume which may lead to breathlessness during exercise and a variety of other health issues. Why are BOLT scores lower today than when our grandparents were knee high to a grasshopper? The simple answer is that modern humans experience more stress on a daily basis. We are constantly are on the go and our daily routines are not conducive to proper breathing. We sit too much hunched over desks while playing on cell phones and eating foods and chugging drinks that are often convenient and expedient, but generally toxic to our system. Additionally, our indoor climates are controlled so that we never experience extremes of temperature. We never are uncomfortable. Lastly, our busy lifestyles and being constantly on the go ironically limit our perceived time availability to exercise and move in a healthy manner.
HOW TO MEASURE YOUR BOLT
Rest for a bit before testing or do upon waking once you are up and about for 5-10 minutes
Best not to do this after a meal-empty belly=better
When you are ready to measure inhale normally through your nose and then exhale out through your nose
After the exhale immediately pinch your nose shut with your fingers
Time how long it takes for you to feel the first desire or urge to breathe.
This desire is usually felt in the diaphragm or by an urge to swallow
***This is not a test to see or measure how long you can hold your breath. It is a measure to see how long it takes your body to react to a lack of air-this is a big difference.
When you feel the desire to take a breath remove your fingers from your nose and stop or look at the timer.
Now breathe in through your nose in a calm manner-you should not feel like you have to gasp for air.
Carbon dioxide is the main stimulus for breathing. The length of your breath hold is directly related and influenced by how much CO2 you can tolerate. When you hold your breath (CP) carbon dioxide accumulates in the lungs and blood.
A lower BOLT score, 20 s. or less, can indicate that you are sensitive to CO2 and this in turn will lead to a greater breathing volume. You are over breathing. When you over breathe then the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen is disrupted. Carbon dioxide is needed so that oxygen is transported to your body’s cells and tissues. How we breathe determines our body’s level of CO2. If we are stressed and in turn over breathe, then we expel too much CO2 and then our body cannot efficiently use oxygen. If we breathe correctly then CO2 will be balanced inside of us leading to the proper delivery of oxygen to our muscles and organs.
An individual with a BOLT score of 20 or less will generally deal with issues such as a clogged nose, coughing and wheezing, and disrupted sleep along with lots of snoring. Exercising may result in being easily fatigued and breathlessness. It will not matter if you exercise intensely, take the top of the line supplements and do yoga with a Nepalese guru, if your morning BOLT remains low you will not improve health wise. Earlier I shared that my initial BOLT scores were around 20 seconds. I am pleased that through practice and breathing drills my scores are generally in the neighborhood of 30-35 seconds. That is the key…practice and discipline. We must retrain our brain to breathe properly. Normally we do not have to think about breathing, but due to the demands and stresses of life we now do.
Buteyko thought that a CP of 60 seconds and above was ideal health. When the CP is high then oxygenation of the cells is also high. The chance of getting diseases is significantly lessened.
An interesting thing is that in studies it shows that breathing is heaviest for most people from 4 AM-7AM. CP is lowest during these early morning hours. Sick people are more likely to die at this time. Why? Breathing is heaviest and body oxygen is lowest. Personally I am never sleeping during this time and may be fooling the grim reaper… for now.
ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY
Start with the morning BOLT Test. Then work on some breathing. Belly breathing is the key. Diaphragmatic breathing aids in lymphatic drainage-the diaphragm is a lymphatic pump. Initially, strive for a consistent BOLT score of 30 s. 24/7. When this occurs then belly/diaphragmatic breathing will become automatic. Before I do any breathing drills I reset my diaphragm using techniques I garnered from RPR. A quick drill gets me belly breathing and this is vital.
A breathing drill I currently use consists of sitting on a bench press with my back up against my Earthquake bar that is racked. I sit with an upright torso as if I was a scarecrow with a broomstick up my back. I place my hands on my knees and relax all muscles. I may play music at a low volume and I like the lights to be dimmed. The temperature is a bit cooler because I am in my weight room downstairs in the basement. I begin by taking light breaths inhaling through my nose. I primarily exhale through my nose as well, but the exhalation can be through the mouth. I practice reduced breathing. That is, I take small inhalations using my diaphragm and nose only and pausing to breathe between breaths so that a light air hunger exists. I do this for rounds of 3-4 minutes. Why? Exposing oneself to reduced oxygen intake for a short period of time will improve your body’s oxygen carrying capacity.
Another drill I practice is to do light breathing followed by what I call unclogs. I breathe lightly for 3-4 minutes and then when I feel comfortable I pinch my nose and tilt my head back and forth averaging a full tilt every 3 seconds. The head tilt is like a super exaggerated head movement as if nodding yes. The first round I perform 10 head tilts and I usually take 30 seconds. When the head tilts are completed I take one breath using my nose and hold my breath for 20-30 seconds. I then breathe lightly for 1-2 minutes followed by a second round of 15 tilts. I finish with 20-25 head tilts with the breathe hold during the tilts being approximately 1 minute.
Light breaths using diaphragm and nose only-3-4 minutes
Round one I pinch nose and do 10 head tilts
After head tilts I take one nasal breath and hold for 20-30 seconds
I then breathe light for 1-2 minutes
I then pinch nose and do 15 head tilts-45 seconds
I then take one deep breath and hold for 20-30 seconds
I breathe light for 1-2 minutes
I pinch nose and try for 20-25 head tilts-60 seconds or more.
I finish with a breath hold for 20-30 seconds.
Breathing in the morning will energize you for the day and it will plant in your mind to focus on correct breathing even when the day’s stresses are coming at you like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew.