Breathwork – learning to breathe better
Back on a chilly day in February, we attended a workshop at the Airofit HQ, run by our good friend and breathwork coach Tom Stijven. A laid-back Belgian, Tom had experienced a ‘road to Damascus’ moment on discovering the Wim Hof method, which significantly improved the symptoms of his illness – fibromyalgia.
After a session of breathing techniques with Tom, my brave colleagues took the plunge in a small pool filled with ice-water. Of course, someone had to help document the whole event, so I kept my clothes on.
It was interesting, and something of a relief, to discover that one can get the benefits of cold exposure without the need for ice baths. It seems that a short cold shower is enough to stimulate the immune system. So, we can save the ice for our cocktails.
Another useful takeaway from that workshop was the emphasis on nose breathing and its benefits for health, sleep and stress-reduction. Tom even had some samples of the specially designed mouth tape that is recommended for retraining ourselves to nose-breathe during sleep.
From personal experience, I found the tape did seem to reduce snoring, something my partner was very grateful for.
There are a number of different tapes, as well as special bands and other products for reducing snoring and sleep apnea and improving sleep. Perhaps something we’ll look at in more detail in another post.
Ancient breathing wisdom, modern solutions
Breathwork has ancient roots, but there are also more modern developments in the world of breath training to consider, like the Buteyko breathing method. This is something we touched on in a previous blog post.
And no discussion on breathwork is complete with a look at the Wim Hof phenomenon, an approach to boosting health and immunity via cold exposure and breathing techniques. It certainly had a huge impact on Tom Stijven’s life.
It reminds us that whether you’re an elite-level athlete looking for optimal performance, or someone with respiratory or other health issues, breathwork has much to offer. And the beauty of it is, the basic techniques can be learned quite easily, without the need to attend a workshop.
Of course, many people find the personal guidance and group dynamic very helpful, and it’s interesting to see how one’s colleagues have differing breathing rates, and capacities for breath-holding (and cold exposure!), something we discovered at our workshop with Tom Stijven.
How does the Airofit breath-training system fit into the picture?
Most of us tend to take our breathing for granted and have never thought to train our breathing muscles, let alone take a lung-function test. The great advantage of the Airofit trainer and app is it gives you an overview of your lung volume and the effectiveness of your breathing muscles.
And with the variable resistance settings and different app programs, one can train the breathing muscles and see a significant improvement in just a few weeks of short, daily sessions.
Many of us have fallen into bad habits when it comes to breathing. Shallow breathing, from the chest only, is common and often contributes to anxiety and other problems. And mouth breathing – an insult in some cultures – can contribute to a range of health issues, as well as poor sleep quality.
For people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, like COPD, MS or long Covid, there is lots of evidence that this type of training has measurable benefits for users’ quality of life. And with strong interest from many doctors and the physiotherapy community, we expect to see more people trying out this approach for themselves.
Breathwork offers simple but effective techniques to improve the quality of your life. With its impact on stress, sleep and overall health, this is something we should all know.
It’s not a magic cure-all, but with consistent daily use, it can bring considerable benefits for everyone.
I have yet to join the cold shower enthusiasts, although I’m intrigued by the potential benefits. I’m certainly keen to see how regular breath-training impacts my own asthma and general well-being.
With five flights of stairs to reach the Airofit office, we have our own simple fitness test built-in. Perhaps a year from now I will be racing up those stairs without a care. But, for now, I’ll be happy to briskly walk up without feeling like I just made an ascent of mount Everest.
Tom Stijven Home (justbreathe.be)
Wim Hof Welcome to the Official Wim Hof Method Website