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Breathework Before Work

I believe that breathwork is the most underrated tool to living a healthier life. No supplement, workout, or gimmick can replicate physiologically or mentally what breathwork will do for you. I want to first state that none of these breathwork techniques are mine. I developed these from professionals who study and create these techniques through research and science. My goal is to simply share what I do, when I do them, and why.

First Ill start with the why.

I perform breathwork because I work in an ICU where almost all of my patients are intubated. They’re intubated because breathing is the most important and easily controllable way to correct a lot of issues in the body. Acidosis, hypoxemia, hypercapnia, and pulmonary edema are a few of the major reasons we intubate. When we intubate there are many different settings that can correct these issues. Some settings such as APRV are extreme and dramatic and often times patients need to be paralyzed because the brain naturally does not want to comply with the ventilator. But what if we can control our breathing during times of high stress? I won’t get into ventilator settings but for those of you who are unfamiliar with APRV, the vent inhales for usually 4 seconds, holds the breath then quickly exhales for usually less than one second then inhales. So as I grew smarter as a critical care nurse, I grew as a person in realizing that I can control my breathing to do the same things, ultimately to perform better throughout the aspects of my life. Another quick science background as to why breathwork is important is because acidity is the root of most cancer. Blood is constantly on a scale of alkalosis and acidosis called pH. We never want to be too high on either side because that is not compatible with life. But if our blood sits in the acidotic side, we start to increase our risk for cancer, we cannot perform exercises optimally, and we frankly take time off our lives. One more reason why breathwork is so important is because it is the easiest way to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system. One way we monitor this is through Heart rate variability or HRV for short. No herbal tea or supplement will do this better than breathwork, I promise.

When is the best time to perform breathwork? For my personal life I do breathwork on my way to work, before a workout, during a workout, before bed, and during my ice baths. Each session takes 2-5 minutes and all you have to do is count and focus. Quick disclaimer, it is incredibly easy to lose focus during these 2-5 minutes because it may feel uncomfortable at first but stick with it and you will notice a difference.

To start my day while driving to work I perform what is tokened as the breath of fire. I got this style from yoga. Essentially, think of a dog panting. The technique is to purse your lips while using your belly to quickly inhale and exhale. The rate will be about 50 breaths in 30 seconds. The purpose of this is to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Do this for 30 seconds then finish the minute with deep slow inhales and exhales and repeat this 4 times. Stimulating the sympathetic nervous system before work, especially as a health care worker will put your mind in a tremendous focused state, you will be able to start your day without feeling hungry for the first portion of it while having more mental clarity.

During a workout (specifically running) I will often perform a long inhale through the nostrils with second inhale almost like a gasp at the top, with a long exhale. I do this a few times throughout the exercise. The purpose of this is to open the alveoli all the way into the base of the lungs to maximize oxygen intake, as well as release more CO2 from the body, which builds up and causes blood to become more acidotic. Often times, professional endurance athletes like runners and cyclists will have their pH and lactic levels tested during their sport to see how long it takes the the body to start using muscle as an energy source. The goal is to use oxygen (an endless supply) and fat stores (also virtually endless) as the main source of energy during exercise and to prevent muscle breakdown.

While laying in bed, I perform what is called box breathing. It is simply inhale for 4-6 seconds through the nostrils, hold at the top for 4-6 seconds, and exhale for 4-6 seconds through the mouth and repeat 5 times. This tactic is used by navy SEALs to silence the mind and increase the parasympathetic nervous system AKA rest and digest. I do this while laying flat on my back in bed and have found that my heart rate variability trends up. The calming of the mind prior to sleep is so important. Falling asleep used to be so difficult for me because my mind would race thinking about unimportant things. Using a tool I found called WHOOP has shown that my sleep latency, which is the time it takes to actually fall into a deep sleep is significantly reduced when I perform this breathwork.

My goal was to share what I do to maximize my time and perform optimally everyday. Breathwork is a free and easy tool to hone. You will never be an expert, not will I, but practicing these as well as trialling different things you might stumble upon to see what fits your lifestyle the best is what I hope you can take away from this!

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