I started this blog as a fun way to increase my fitness. It worked! I started working out more and became addicted to it! However, I went from zero to one hundred in a short amount of time. Sadly, I self-inflicted an overuse injury on myself. I became afflicted with extensor tendonitis last week. I woke up one day, got out of bed and winced in pain. It felt as though the ball of my foot was being stabbed.
So, I googled! I was pretty sure it wasn’t plantar fasciitis based on the location. I was also pretty sure that I had injured the tendons. It hurt whenever I moved them, but it also hurt when I took a step and placed weight on it.
Google is a fantastic tool for hypochondriacs. You can find all kinds of scary information about what could be wrong with you online. I was pretty sure that I just needed to RICE it. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, but I googled anyway to see what could have gone wrong and what I could do to prevent it in the future.
Sure enough, tendonitis was listed as a running injury and it described the position of the foot that my pain was located. The treatment was to rest it. That was really the last thing that I wanted to do now that I had gotten into a work out groove, but I did.
I actually alternated between heat and ice, elevated it and stayed off of it. Heat and ice both increase the blood flow to the injury to promote healing. In many cases, they can be used interchangeably. Since I was more comfortable with the heating pad in my bed and the ice pack on my couch, that is what I did!
Thankfully, I am healing up nicely. It has been a week and I’ve felt so incapacitated, but I’m getting back on the map!
One of the things that has been most beneficial in improving my health has been the Buteyko breathing method. I was seriously excited about this method and even wrote a book about how I addressed the causes of seizures naturally.
There are studies on a variety of medical conditions that demonstrate that poor health is correlated to a reduced parasympathetic tone. People who have epilepsy appear to have lower parasympathetic tone, with a larger decrease in those who have intractable seizures rather than well-controlled epilepsy. A slower, proper breathing technique has been shown to increase parasympathetic tone in healthy individuals. Proper breathing exercises have been shown to improve many areas of health including asthma, hypertension, anxiety, and even posttraumatic stress disorder. It can be a logical assumption then that slow breathing exercises in people with epilepsy lead to an increase in parasympathetic tone and therefore a reduction in seizure intensity and frequency.
One of the reasons that a slower breathing technique is effective at addressing the causes of seizures naturally is that the technique affects cortical activity and hence seizure threshold. Additionally, slow breathing exercises reduce anxiety, which often creates hyperventilation, a factor that is known to lower seizure threshold.
You can click on the image to purchase my book from Amazon. Shameless self-promotion here!
Buteyko Breathing Technique
When I learned the Buteyko breathing technique, I discovered a way to measure my progress and determine if I was achieving optimal health that would enable me to eliminate my epilepsy. It wasn’t just a matter of mindfully breathe slower and through my nose. I could hold my breath and determine approximately how much oxygenation my body had. That correlated to how likely I would have a seizure. I could work towards having a larger control pause and therefore, better seizure control. Instead of feeling like epilepsy was controlling me, I was controlling epilepsy. It was amazing.
I will warn you though, proper breathing technique exercises can get really boring and you need to be consistent with them to make progress. It is just like working out. They will start out as challenging, get easier, get boring. If you are anything like me, you will make some progress and then get bored with it and focus on something else. The good news is that they are simple enough that you can do them while you watch television or take a walk.
First and foremost, start being mindful of how you are breathing. Shut your mouth when you aren’t talking or eating. Imagine your jaw being glued together. It is that important to breath through your nose. This will naturally eliminate congestion. It will not build up while there is constant air flow through the nasal passages. Additionally, your nasal passages will be generating nitric oxide while you are using your nose which gives you the benefit of killing off harmful bacteria.
Slow it Down
Second step is to slow down your breathing. The proper breathing technique is a slow, diaphragmatic breath. You can easily accomplish this with a breathing device. There are a few of them on the market. I started using the BreathSlim device to lengthen my breaths and extract as much oxygen from my breath. The BreathSlim device does require that you use your mouth, but it is not to be used for the whole day. In fact, fifteen minute sessions multiple times per day will get you in the habit of breathing slower. Unfortunately, the BreathSlim device is no longer on the market. However, the Frolov device is very similar and you can get great results from it as well.
Exercise to Keep the Good Breathing Patterns
The third step was the most difficult for me. It was to exercise with nasal breathing. I would start to run and get out of breath quickly. Then I would feel panic because my nasal cavity didn’t take in as much air as my mouth and I would think that I needed to open my mouth. Focus on keeping that mouth shut. Slow down the exercise to start. Take frequent breaks if you need to catch your breath while you exercise. Once you have mastered exercising and breathing through the nose, you will discover that you are sleeping better and not getting nearly as many colds as you used to get.
There are a plethora of different exercises that Buteyko teaches. These are the easiest ones to start with. As you get more accustomed to breathing through your nose, you can move on to the more advanced exercises. There are coaches that you can hire if you have a particular disease that you want help addressing.
I’ve done Buteyko breathing for quite some time. I learned about it as a way to eliminate my juvenile myoclonic epilepsy seizures. And guess what? It worked. Well, for the most part. I would start to slack off and stop measuring my control pause. My hormones would fluctuate every few months with my menstrual cycle and I would have one. However, they were so infrequent that it didn’t really seem worth my time to go back to the doctor and be put on double the therapeutic dose of Keppra to control a couple a year.
I rededicated myself to Buteyko breathing this spring break. I read over the benefits of breathing. I read about how much exercise that I need to achieve optimal levels of health. (To be honest, I hadn’t gotten close to the control pause that I needed to achieve optimal health, which was probably why my hair never grew back and I still had occasional seizures.) I decided it was time to commit to 3-4 hours of exercise per day. Miraculously, I was able to do it! The first day, I was sore, but the second day, I wasn’t. I feel strongly that wearing the Elevation Training Mask helped oxygenate my muscles and allowed for a faster recovery. I’m actually not very sore at all! While I had used the elevation training mask in the past, I don’t think I used it for entire hours at a time before. I think doing this did the trick. I also started doing small breath holds while I exercised using the mask.
I’m feeling so much stronger. My endurance is building. I’m hoping that all the wonderful benefits that I read so much about will manifest themselves soon!
My training program is very simple. I start a quick jog on my treadmill desk workstation. As my legs get tired or start feeling sore, I hop off the treadmill desk to get some rebounding in and circulated the lymphatic system. I turn to youtube for a quick arm workout and then do a half hour cool down while I watch something informative or entertaining on youtube. It takes my mind off my muscles working and keeps me going for the full 2 hours in the morning. In the afternoon, I take the dog on a walk and then in the evening, I try again for another 30-60 minutes on the treadmill. I’m actually finding that I enjoy it and look forward to it instead of dreading it. Exercising at home really can energize you instead of deplete your energy.
Some people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. One of the best things that you can do to improve your sleep is get exercise. However, if you are simply exercising with poor breathing habits, such as breathing in and out of your mouth, you could be making your health worse instead of better. One of the main reasons for this is that the nose produces nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is essential in the regulation of sleep- wake states. Additionally, your nose is the organ that has the ability to prepare the air you breathe properly. Mouth breathing leads to over-breathing, chronic hyperventilation, lowered carbon dioxide levels, build up of toxins, narrowing of the airways and a reduction in blood circulation.
“Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes.” Swift, Campbell, McKown 1988 Oronasal obstruction, Lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation.
Breathing through your nose has many benefits. Likewise, breathing through your mouth has many drawbacks. Mouth breathing and resultant over-breathing elevates your blood pressure and heart rate and worsens asthma , allergies, rhinitis, sleep apnea, and deprives your heart, brain and other organs of optimal oxygenation.
Overbreathing and hyperventilation during exercise can lead to reduced performance, and can also cause vasoconstriction, which increases your risk for arrhythmias and heart problems, even if you have none of the usual cardiac risk factors.
One scary fact about the nose is that it is the home to more than 50 bacterial species. Some of the species are beneficial, but most of them are not. But the good ones can kill some of the bad ones. However, if we bypass the nose for breathing, the bad ones tend to dominate. Staphylococcus Aureus infections cause disease due to direct infection or due to the production of toxins by bacteria. Aureas, one of the hospital acquired staph infections that include the blood and the heart is present in thirty percent of the population, including hospital employees.
Nasal Breathing Increases Energy Levels
Nasal breathing increases our energy levels. When we breathe, we use our lungs. The lungs extract oxygen from the air we breathe on the exhale portion of the breath. Since the nostrils are smaller than the mouth, when air is exhaled through the nasal passages, it creates a sort of back pressure. This slows the air escape enabling the lungs to have more time to extract oxygen. Only when the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange is correct will the blood maintain the proper body pH. When carbon dioxide diminishes rapidly, as it does during mouth breathing, the absorption of oxygen decreases.
In the nasal passages there are afferent stimuli from the nerves that regulate breathing. The air that gets inhaled passes through the nasal mucosa and carries the stimuli to the reflex nerves which control the breath. Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa and makes breathing irregular. While you sleep, it predisposes one to loud snoring, irregular breathing, sleep apnea and heart conditions.
Mouth Breathing Creates Mucus
Mouth breathing triggers a response from the brain where it stimulates the goblet cells to produce mucous, slow the breathing and cause constriction of blood vessels. This response is eliminated when breathing through the nose because nasal breathing limits air intake and forces you to slow down your breathing. Proper nasal breathing reduces hypertension and eliminates stress in the average person.
Nasal breathing leads to better filtration of toxins. The nose contains cilia, which trap bacteria and prevents them from entering the body. The nostrils also filter and warm up the air going to the lungs. This is a step that is not done when breathing through the mouth. The sinuses also produce nitric oxide, which is harmful to the bacteria and prevents infections.
Nose breathing imposes approximately fifty percent more resistance to the air stream in normal individuals than does mouth breathing, resulting in ten to twenty percent more O2 uptake. (Cottle, 1972: Rohrer, 1915). There must be adequate nasal resistance to maintain adequate elasticity of the lungs. (Cottle 1980).
Buteyko Breathing Exercises
So, how does one achieve nasal breathing twenty four hours a day and seven days per week? One must practice breathing exercises during their awake hours in order to eliminate their irregular sleep breathing. This is a simple task that does take some time and dedication, but pays off huge health benefits in the long run.
When you start learning Buteyko breathing exercises, the first thing that you’ll learn is how to measure your control pause. This gives you an idea of how much oxygen is in your body. The longer the control pause, the better health you will likely have.
Below is a video demonstrating how to measure your control pause.
I personally use the Buteyko breathing exercises. The simple Buteyko steps exercise is one that can be done while walking. You simply exhale through your nose and plug your nose. Keep your mouth closed and count how many steps you can take before you feel an air shortage. You ideally want to make it up to 80 steps. Each time you attempt this it will get easier and easier.
Another great tool to improve your breathing are breathing devices. As I was learning to slow my breathing down, I used the BreathSlim device. It is a simple device that is used to slow down the breathing. While it is done using your mouth to create resistance, it traps the carbon dioxide and you breath that back into your body. It is only meant to be used for about fifteen minutes at a time. Afterwards, you will notice that your breathing is slower and if you are mindful, you should be breathing through your nose. The BreathSlim device is no longer on the market, but one that is very similar is the Frolov breathing device.
Another great breathing device that I like to use is the Elevation Training Mask. The great thing about the elevation training mask is that it creates a resistance for your lungs and you can do the Buteyko Steps exercise while you are wearing it. The elevation training mask is the tool that I used to train myself to breathe through my nose while I exercise. It is very effective and will improve your endurance and overall workouts.
As you practice Buteyko breathing exercises, you’ll discover that your sleep becomes much easier. You will discover that you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day. The exercises tend to energize you. You may not need that afternoon nap after doing a few Buteyko breathing exercises.
As much as I love my cheap treadmill desk workstation, there are times when I want steady hands while working on the computer. There are times when my legs are sore and screaming at me to take a break! During these times, I rely on chairs. However, for many years, I didn’t pay attention to what type of chair I was sitting in or how I was sitting in that chair. As time wore on, I discovered neck and shoulder pain. This came from slouching in a traditional chair, straining at a computer screen and inventing creative ways to study in the library.
Needless to say, I developed quite the slouchy posture during high school and college. It didn’t help that I was six feet tall and towered over my friends, so I felt that I had to slouch a bit to better hear conversations. As an adult, I realized my posture was bad. I worked with a chiropractor to help me correct some scoliosis that I developed. In addition to straightening out the sideways curve that I had, my chiropractor recommended a product for active sitting. It is inexpensive and I still use it. It is called the ergo sit. Instead of relying on the perfect ergonomic chair for support of my back, I was going to be removing the supports and strengthening my stabilizing muscles. Cool concept.
At first, active sitting was a chore. I was working muscles that had been neglected by chairs with lumbar support. My muscles were not use to sitting in chairs for good posture.
With the ergo sit, I could swivel my hips from right to left and front to back. My chiropractor gave me some simple exercises that I could do to engage my core. I twisted to the right and left and curved my spine from side to side. I did these exercises before I began work, during a break and as I was finished working. Active sitting really started to improve my posture and make being seated more tolerable. My shoulder and neck pain were going away!
As I learned more about the damaging effects of staying seated all day, I began to consider replacing some of my chairs with active sitting chairs for good posture. There a bunch of them on the market! As I talked with my brother, I found out he was doing active sitting as well. He had started using a balance ball instead of a chair! This gives you the freedom of a bit more motion while you sit. You can slide forward and backward without much trouble. Your core is challenged to keep you stable. If you start getting antsy, there are plenty of small exercises that you can do while you are seated.
One of the great things about using a stability ball as a chair is that you can also use it in your workouts and get double duty from it. Stability balls are often used in yoga and there are even stability ball workouts. For people who want to take their push ups to the next level, a stability ball will have you working your arms and targeting those core stabilizing muscles at the same time!
There is a downside to using a stability ball as your desk chair. It has a tendency to roll away. There are a few active sitting chairs for good posture that don’t roll around as much and still provide wonderful benefits!
Stability Ball Chairs
For working at a desk, the Gaiam Balance Ball chair is perhaps one of my favorites. This chair is a little less challenging than a simple balance ball, but it does challenge your core muscles. There is a back rest for those times when you want to lean back away from your computer and stretch. In my opinion, it is the perfect combination between stability ball sitting and the average desk chair.
If you aren’t keen on sitting on a ball, there are active sitting stools. Learniture has an active sitting stool that provides the same active sitting benefits in a stool that the balance ball chairs provide. This is a great alternative for someone who has minimal space. Some people may feel that stools are a bit more stable as well.
For people worried about whether or not their chair will suddenly burst, there is the Zenergy Ball chair. It is created with a mesh design that prevents it from being able to burst. Additionally, it has wheels that stabilize it and prevent it from rolling away on its own.
The ErgoErgo sit chair. This chair is ergonomically correct. The ErgoErgo is quite springy as well, so you must be focused to stay on it and not just bound right off of it. It is perfectly balanced, but you must constantly engage your muscles to stabilize yourself in an upright position. This has the benefit of strengthening your muscles as well as increasing blood flow to the vital areas of your body. Increasing blood flow means that your organs are more oxygenated and your brain is able to focus better. The Ergo Ergo is available in kids sizes too! Kids will have lots of fun with this design!
Most people overlook the aspect of breathing correctly. Breathing is taken for granted until you can’t breathe. There are a lot of diseases that people are diagnosed with that are breathing disorders. There are a number of reasons why people can’t breath correctly, but often it comes down to incorrect breathing at rest led to the diseases. I should know. I was diagnosed with asthma and allergies. As a child, I had almost constant congestion and routinely breathed through my mouth.
After learning about Buteyko breathing and some simple strategies to keep the airways open, I have eliminated colds and congestion from my life. It is the most wonderful thing! A sickness that creates congestion is often the start of poor breathing techniques. We feel the pressure in our nose and open our mouth to get air. This is our first mistake because it leads to poor health and chronic overbreathing.
Buteyko breathing focuses on improving the concentration of CO2 in our blood. This helps our body to utilize oxygen better. Every cell in the body needs oxygen. When cells don’t get the oxygen they need, they don’t function as well. Disease starts to form. It can manifest itself as inflammation or neurological dysfunction, such as epilepsy, as it did in myself.
Buteyko breathing exercises are free, but they aren’t always easy to learn and implement. Many people hire a Buteyko certified coach to teach them the exercises. There are plenty of resources to learn the skill from and master the technique. Online videos are a good way to learn breathing exercises. Books can help you understand the concept of why you need to breath correctly and how your health will be impacted if you don’t.
One of the books that I recommend and have is, “Close Your Mouth,” by Patrick McKeown. It is simple, direct and to the point. I enjoy Patrick’s writing and his youtube presentations. He has an Irish accent, but I enjoy his explanation of how he helps his clients breathe correctly. Patrick McKeown also has a program and book out now called the Oxygen Advantage.
There are a lots of other Buteyko books to learn the techniques from and learning from a practitioner can be costly. One of the more budget friendly options is to get a book and DVD. While you won’t get personal feedback as to how you are doing, you will be able to learn in a visual manner.
The Buteyko method has helped me to control seizures, eliminated my asthma and drastically reduced my allergies. Buteyko breathing exercises help me to fall asleep quickly and get very good restorative sleep. I have eliminated my yearly winter time cold as well. I raised my control pause to between 30-40, so I still have a bit more practicing to do before I achieve optimal health and my autoimmune hair loss comes back, but I am optimistic.
The premise of Butyeko breathing exercises is that as our cultures have evolved, we have started breathing incorrectly. Our modern lifestyle promotes poor posture, overeating processed foods and carbohydrates and oversleeping. These things can be corrected with lifestyle changes such as Buteyko breathing. Increasing our body’s ability to utilize oxygen helps us to use nutrients better.
Clear, nasal, diaphragmatic breathing can have the greatest impact on your overall health. All of your organs rely on your ability to breath correctly. Any disease that you currently suffer from will likely improve as your breathing improves.
Buteyko breathing can easily be done at home or at work. It requires absolutely no equipment. You will simply decrease the volume of your breath. Some of the exercises are small breath holds or taking steps while you hold your breath. They are simple to learn and easy to do. The biggest challenge is remembering to do them consistently.
I may be a little late on the elevation training mask trend. It seems as though the videos on the elevation training mask are kind of old and about half of them are about people telling you they are great and the other half tell you that they don’t work.
First and foremost, I must let you know that the name of the elevation training mask is misleading. The mask does not really simulate elevation conditions. It does not change the composition of oxygen in the air. It does not mimic training at higher elevation. If you are looking for the benefits of training at higher elevations, this mask is not going to give you what you are seeking.
When the person exercises at high altitude, he or she has increased ventilation, which causes reduced CO2 levels in the lungs, arterial blood and other body cells.
Why did I purchase the elevation training mask?
I was learning the Buteyko breathing exercises. It was highly recommended and promoted on the normalbreathing.com website. I loved the touted benefits of breathing easier and less that were discussed on the website. So, I made the purchase.
I was looking achieve optimal health by using the elevation training mask. At the time, I was not a runner and I wasn’t really much of an athlete. I simply wanted to achieve optimal breathing to obtain optimal health.
Working out with a training mask was more challenging to me that doing hours of breath holding exercises. It was also a lot more fun!
Does the elevation training mask live up to the hype?
I have been able to reduce my breathing and achieve almost optimal levels of health using the breathing mask. I have not gotten the common cold in years. My energy levels skyrocket when I am consistently using the mask. I have increased my control pause, or the amount of time between breaths, by using the elevation training mask.
The elevation training mask helped me train for a half marathon. I used it consistently while training. I discovered that it became easier and easier to breath with it the more I used it. I found working out without the mask was incredibly easy. When I did run my race, I felt that my endurance was much improved due to training with the mask.
What does the elevation training mask do?
The elevation training mask creates a resistance to breathing. This resistance helps you to strengthen your diaphragm. By using the training mask while you exercise and strengthening your diaphragm, you develop better breathing habits. The mask forces you to breath slower and in doing so, your body starts to use oxygen more efficiently.
When a person breathes with resistance, he or she gets less oxygen for the lungs.When a person uses the Altitude Training Mask, he or she also experiences reduced oxygen flow. However, in addition to lower O2, the mask increases body-CO2 content. Breathing is mainly regulated by arterial CO2 (with the exception of people who are severely ill due to chronic diseases).
One of the important effects of consistent training with the Elevation Training Mask (often referred to as the running mask) is respiratory center adapting to higher CO2 and easier and slower at rest breathing. Slower and easier breathing at rest leads to improved-oxygen transport as a result of CO2-vasodilation and the Bohr effect (more effective release of O2 in cells).
The impact that correct physical exercise will have on your body-oxygen content will be evident the next day in a simple body-oxygen test. You can do this test by timing how long you can comfortably hold your breath between breaths. The more seconds that you can hold your breath, the more oxygen is getting to your cells. Many people believe that breathing more air improves the brain and body oxygen content, however, this leads to hyperventilation and creates disease in the body.
How does the Elevation Training Mask work?
The elevation training mask increases the dead volume when you breathe.
This greater amount of dead volume makes the Elevation Training Mask 2.0 similar to other breathing devices such as the Frolov device, Samozdrav, and Amazing DIY breathing device. However, these breathing devices are used at rest. Breathing exercises can be done while walking, with often better results than at rest. The Elevation Training Mask creates an ideal method to combine most effective breathing exercises with physical activity for increased health and a higher-body O2 and VO2max. For this reason, the elevation training mask is much more effective than simply training at elevation.
High altitude training is often referred to as hypoxic training. This is because high altitude training provides adaptation to hypoxia, which an increase in hemoglobin levels. This is due to the fact that at high altitude reduces O2 content in the inspired air.
The Elevation Training Mask reduces O2 in the inspired air, but it also increases CO2 content in the lungs. An increase in CO2 in the lungs is not seen in high altitude training. For this reason, using the elevation training mask creates an example of hypercapnic hypoxic training. Hypercapnic hypoxic training has additional benefits due to the adaptation to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Is the elevation training mask worth the cost?
When you go to Amazon, you may be shocked by the cost of the Elevation Training mask. They are currently asking for about $70 for the Elevation Training mask. Although, they have it discounted to $49.99. Serious athletes who want to gain an advantage with their health will happily pay for that tool. Many others will balk at the price.
You don’t need the elevation training mask to improve your breathing technique. You can use breathing exercises while you exercise without making the purchase. However, I have discovered that often when you invest in a tool, you become more committed to your goal. The training mask is only one tool that helped me stick with Buteyko breathing exercises and improve my health by increasing my body-oxygen levels. I have been able to wean myself from all my medications, increased my energy levels and eliminated colds and coughs from my life with consistent use of the Elevation Training Mask and Buteyko Breathing exercises.