My 1-2-3 Moment: Alex Guillien

Alex Guillien has 5 years in the university realm with 4 as Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Dakota State University (SD, NAIA). Alex began as an intern at Winona State University while finishing his undergraduate studies in exercise science. He went on to intern under Jed Smith and Nick Davis at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). Following UNI he became the first strength and conditioning coach in Dakota State University's history. He also holds a master's degree of science in education technology from Dakota State University as well with the following certifications: RPR Level 2, Be Activated Level 2, CSCS, RSCC, USAW L-1, Pn 1, CPR/AED/First Aid. 

Currently he is the Twin Cities/Midwest Breath Belt Director of Education. He is also working as a personal trainer and chiropractic rehab technician.

Anyone wanting to test out and get their hands on a Breath Belt contact Alex at a.a.guillien@gmail.com or 507-450-3795 (text/call). Find him on Instagram at @coachguillien.

RPR is not “just” a body thing. There is no separation of body and mind. Before I go into my 123 Moment, I’ll sidetrack to let you know where I’m coming from.

We all have a wound we are working on healing. Gabor Maté says it comes from childhood. Carl Jung says until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate. I hold this to be true.

The body keeps the score. It’s not just a saying and a great book. From childhood and throughout our lives, when we face traumatic events our nervous system mobilizes into a sympathetic state. The “fight, flight, or freeze” response kicks in while danger is present and ideally then shifts back into a “normal” pre-event state once the danger passes. However, these moments can leave a trace on us - an emotional scar, if you will. If we were not able to properly discharge the tension after the event has passed, these scars will manifest in both our emotional and social patterns, as well as our movement patterns. It’s worth noting here that a traumatic event is entirely subjective and that one person’s experience will be completely their own.

Working with people, I have been a witness to emotional discharges. You’ve heard it at the clinics and if you work with enough people, you will experience it too. One of the fastest ways to help change someone is through their breath.

“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control.” 

Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection

In the purest sense, people want to experience peace, love, and joy. However, in my experience and estimation, we are derailed from pursuing them by our childhood wounds, no matter their objective size. I’d be willing to bet the majority of powerlifters, bodybuilders, and other strength athletes have these wounds and subconsciously choose their sports to build armor against those wounds.

Yoga means tool of transformation according to Sadhguru. RPR is one tool for total transformation. 

Think for a moment and see if this has been you at one time:

Pain

Stretch/mobilize

Test movement

Frustration

Lacrosse ball “smash”

Foam roll

Test movement

Feels slightly better

Irritation

“Can’t spend an hour doing this, I need to train”

Train

Repeat

The uncertainty, the lack of useful information, the loss of control you feel while in this cycle actually perpetuates the cycle. 

If you have to be mentally alert at all times during movement you will exhaust your energy. We are not designed to think about posture while walking. We are not designed to think about all the “coaching cues” we give our athletes. This is wasted energy. When you free this energy up through the breath and re-wiring of patterns via RPR and The Breath Belt, you become unstoppable

Attitude improves

Confidence improves

Limitations are released

Where the pain cycle before was a downward spiral, this virtuous cycle serves to build you up!

Here is how the mind and the body can work together, both in a downward and an upward cycle:

  1. Diaphragm, psoas, and QL are compensating. The body is compensating.

  2. “Mind” is fatigued from trying to find a solution to move through pains of compensation. Performance suffers.

  3. Temporary relief gives false hope. But this is all you’ve got so you stay true to it. Emotional attachments to band-aid solutions are established.

  4. RPR is introduced. The nervous system is optimized. The body relearns how to move free of compensation. Performance improves. The freedom in the body creates freedom in the mind. The mind and the body work in harmony.

A theory I have is that when the psoas is not functioning properly, our body knows we are not able to achieve our highest potential. Our body becomes bogged down. This “bogging down” can lead to a host of diseases, chronic pain, and avoidable mental health issues. Again, this is a theory and probably cannot be tested but I believe it to be true.

Of course the physical benefits are astounding. But I love RPR and The Breath Belt because they allow me freedom from the compensation patterns which hinder my creativity. When I remove these compensations, I become closer to my best self. When I am closer to my best self, I can help others infinitely more. With RPR, I can help others help themselves.

This spiral effect continues into my personal life. I can become a better partner. I can become a better friend. I can become a better writer. I can learn better. I can be present. 

Everyone’s “1-2-3 Moment” is going to be different and entirely their own. But the possibilities are endless for someone who has operated in an unconsciously enslaved pattern. We’ve all been there. We are all there in one way or another right now. But we are all doing the best we can. And that’s where I was at. I was a Head Strength and Conditioning Coach who was doing my best. 

I attended a conference at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where Cal was presenting on a variety of topics. In the past I had been intimidated by male figures of authority. It didn’t matter if they were jovial and great people, I acted like I wasn’t worthy to walk up and introduce myself. This happened with Dan John, one of my favorite people in the industry - and one of the most outgoing and friendly people I have ever met. But that day, I walked up to Cal and requested he work with me at that clinic. He was going to do a demo and I made sure it was with me. He agreed and smiled with a this look of “I know something you don’t know.” I didn’t realize it at the time but he had touched my ribs on one side when he shook my hand - he did know something I didn’t, and I was about to learn!

Once I was on the table doing the breathing, I felt great about my decision to approach. As we worked through the Zone One Wake Up Drills, he was talking to the crowd of 30 or so people. After ten minutes of Cal talking, I got up. Everyone was in awe of how much taller I was walking.

At that point, I had stepped away from Olympic Weightlifting after four years due to groin, low, back, and quad pain (that I later learned were side-effects of compensation patterns). My training at this point was pretty much limited to kettlebell swings. But after Cal and I worked together, I felt like I could have done at least 90% of my previous best snatch. And truthfully I felt like I could have PR’d it, which would have been above 130kg/286lbs.

Immediately, I knew I had to learn the whole system. When I moved to the Twin Cities four months later, I did just that. And I also purchased the Level 1 clinic for two friends because I knew they needed it and couldn’t afford to go. Remember what I said before about how being closer to my best self lets me be a better friend?

I began to practice with everyone I could in 2017. I have learned so much more since then and absolutely love helping people help themselves. I have been a witness to countless stories because this is what fascinates me; people moving through and beyond their pain and into freedom.