It may seem obvious, but breathing is really important, and the proper way to breathe during various activities is often underestimated or overlooked.
Ryan recently posted a video with a little tip for maintaining even breathing during training, but this episode of the GMB Fitness Skills Show provides a more detailed explanation of various breathing techniques.
Here’s a snippet of what Ryan had to say on the matter:
When you’re working on a skill, if you’re holding your breath, that quite possibly means you’re working at a level beyond your work capacity.
In this episode, Ryan and Andy discuss when to use different breathing techniques, certain things to keep in mind, and why proper breathing is so damn important.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
- (00:53) Ryan just put out a video on breathing and smiling, and coincidentally, Al Kavadlo also put out a video on the same topic!
- (01:18) Breathing is mildly important
- (01:40) When the momentum from New Years starts to fade, it’s time to reevaluate and get yourself back on track.
- (02:20) Everyone has times when things get busier and it’s harder to stay on track. Just don’t lose sight of what matters.
If something happens and gets in your way, and you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock, just start over again.
- (03:52) Find something you want to do, find support, and go for it.
- (04:40) “Breathing is one of those things we take for granted, but if you don’t breathe, you’re gonna die – it’s that simple.”
- (05:08) It’s very common for people to hold their breath, which is not good for most of the stuff we’re doing at GMB.
- (06:17) Your breath will gauge the intensity of the movement, so if you’re holding your breath, sometimes it can make the move harder.
If you find yourself bracing and holding your breath, it could be you’re working at too high a level for you, and you need to decrease the level.
- (07:41) What is power breathing?
- (08:34) Power breathing is not bad, it’s just not appropriate for skill work.
- (10:42) How can you make your breathing better?
- (11:47) Ryan focused on breath retention to improve his breathing.
- (12:00) Recommended breath retention resources: Breatheology and Manual of Freediving.
What is “proper breath”? Breathing naturally.
- (13:27) Another book recommendation: Light on Yoga.
- (14:25) In traditional martial arts, there’s a lot of ‘magical attributions’ given to breathing techniques.
- (15:08) You don’t need to master special breathing patterns.
You will never master any advanced breathing techniques sufficiently to be able to apply it under pressure in an optimal way. You will never, ever achieve this unless you are doing it for decades.
- (16:15) Work on one technique and you can get good at it. Practicing multiple breathing techniques at once won’t work.
- (16:40) Breathing is a habit.
- (17:45) You could be a master in one particular technique but when you change the environment it’s going to change your breathing.
- (19:06) Some introductory breathing practices.
- (19:48) Ryan’s recent interview with Benny Fergusson.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Andy: All right. Breaker, breaker, one-niner on the interweb. Get your ears on for the GMB Fitness Skills Show. Over the next, let’s see, 20 minutes plus or minus, this time I think it’s going to be a little shorter than usual. We’re going to talk about how to get strong, how to get agile and how to do all these things, having fun and doing things you actually enjoy. My name is Andy. Here’s Ryan and let’s rock.
Ryan: Let’s do it. Let’s do it man.
Andy: Well, so today we’re going to talk a little bit about breathing. It’s actually kind of an interesting coincidence. Not too long ago, Ryan and our friend Al Kavadlo like maybe two days apart kind of posted videos that referenced breathing and also their shared love of smiling.
Ryan: That is funny, yeah.
Andy: So we’ve gotten some questions since then and some comments and different things and so we’re going to talk a little bit more about breathing because it’s mildly important. Yeah. But first, is there anything you want to say before we get into that Ryan?[Music]
Ryan: I’m just excited for what the future holds for all of us. The reason I say that is you come into this. You got the New Year. It’s already April right now and a lot of people, they have the momentum in January and they’re like yeah, we’re going to go and it kind of starts to fade off.
Well, the cool thing about what we’re doing at GMB is we’re just getting going and it’s pretty exciting. So for those of you out there who are starting to kind of fade, hang in there. Hang in there. Reevaluate – I don’t want to say your goals or things like that. But really, if you do have a particular goal that you’re working on, reevaluate it. Find the passion in that goal again and keep it nipped.
Andy: Yeah. Everyone has ups and downs and things and everyone has stuff that life gets hectic and stuff. The past month for me has been really, really hard. I had my parents in town visiting my family for two weeks. I had a friend from Sweden. I had an old friend and her husband who were in town for a while and I got a chance to meet our friend Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness. He was here and all these things plus a bunch of stuff with work and all this stuff going on.
We all have this. So what I’m getting at is that it happens and so now all these things are now over and I’m really happy that I’m able to just like get back into doing the things that I really like doing and getting back on my schedule. Just focus on my real goals.
So we’ve said it before. We’ve said it in blog posts. We’ve said it on videos. We’ve said it on the show too. If something happens and it gets in your way and you feel like you hit a road block or that you lost momentum or something, just start again.
So quarter one is over, right? We’re in April now. We’re into the second quarter of the year. So now is the time. Start again. Reevaluate if you need to. Start again and if you need help, get help. Join Alpha Posse if you’re into the GMB thing. Tons of people there that will be so happy to cheer you on and give you advice and help you out or just do something else.
Ryan: Find something you want to do and get support for it.
Andy: Find some support and start it but don’t let the lack of progress – if you realize that oh shit, first quarter of the year is over and I haven’t done any of my goals or made any progress. Don’t let that stop you. Take that as a chance to start again.
People have this big thing about first of the year, New Year’s, and they want to start new things. Well, it’s the first of the quarter. So now is a good time to renew that motivation and that drive.
Ryan: Yeah. Nice.[Music]
Ryan: Let’s get into talking about breathing.
Andy: Yeah. So kick it off.
Ryan: Go ahead. So breathing. Interesting thing, it’s just one of those things we take for granted and of course if you don’t breathe, you’re going to die. It’s that simple. But …
Andy: Pretty soon.
Ryan: Yeah, pretty soon. Four minutes. Usually, that’s about it. So breathing is an interesting thing because we think we can do it because we’ve been doing it our whole lives. But what we found and what we all know and if you take a look at yourself when you’re learning a new skill, something like that, chances are you’re holding your breath.
Now, for some particular things, that can be OK. We talk about let’s say a different concept of breathing like a power breath where maybe if you’re performing squats or heavy [0:05:21] [Indiscernible] lifts or something like that where you might hold your breath throughout the movement.
But generally for a lot of the stuff that we want to do here in GMB, we want to make sure that we’re not holding our breath. So if you’re working on like an L-sit or a bent arm stand or something like that, you want to make sure that you have a natural breathing.
The trouble arises when we first learn the skill. It’s tough and I’m not just talking about GMB. This is across the board for anything. It can be martial arts. It can be when you’re playing soccer, learning how to do a new kick or something like that. Chances are you’re going to hold your breath, brace because you want to put power into it and just smoke through that particular movement or hold.
In the beginning, it can be really rough because it’s tough. There are a lot of things that you got to think about when you’re trying to learn a new skill. The last thing that we will think about is our breath. But really that’s one of the most important things. Your breath will gauge the intensity and so sometimes if you’re holding your breath and you don’t realize it, the skill can actually be harder than it really should be.
So something – and this is what I mentioned in the video that we put out the other day is I like to tell people to smile when they’re performing movement. I’m not talking about grimacing. I’m talking about actually showing some teeth and performing the movement.
The reason for this is we found that you can’t – you could but it’s difficult to brace if you’re smiling because you have to relax your neck when you’re performing this movement.
So like let’s say the L-sit. When you’re pushing down, pulling the shoulders back, trying to bring your chest up, if you’re holding your breath, your shoulders are going to raise up and that’s not what you want.
It is tough. This also keeps you in check and so it could be that you’re working at too high of a level for you and you need to bring it down. So your breath and focusing on the breath and making sure that you are breathing are going to help you to find the level that you should be at.[Music]
Andy: So one thing is you mentioned power breathing in passing. So I also want to make sure that just for anyone that’s watching this that doesn’t really know what that is. Let’s just explain briefly what that is, what power breathing is.
Ryan: A power breath can be where you take a large inhale before you perform a movement. You hold the breath by bracing down and then as you’re performing the movement, you continue to hold the breath until you’re at the apex of that movement or the end of the movement and then you release the breath.
So that’s a power breath and in other systems, it might be a little bit different but basically when I think of power breathing, that’s what I think of. The hold before the movement and then exhale. So that’s one movement. Now –
Andy: And that’s really common and power lifting. Any kind of sport that relies on maximum power at any given moment, you’re pretty much going to see power breathing and it’s not bad. So we’re not saying that it’s evil or it’s going to kill you or you’re going to give yourself an aneurysm or anything because that’s just totally not true.
Ryan: When done correctly.
Andy: Yeah, when done correctly. But we’re saying that for the skills that we practice and the way that we set up our training, it’s not always appropriate. For some things it definitely is but for most of what we do especially when we’re talking about skill work, it’s not appropriate. In fact if you find yourself power breathing while you’re trying to do skill work, it’s just like Ryan just said, it means you’re trying to do a skill that’s actually beyond what you should be working on.
You should be able to control your breath while you’re working at a skill and while you’re practicing because if you have to force or brace, then it means that you’re not able to exercise the kind of control. If you can’t control your breathing, you can’t control other things either, right? So you should be working at a lower level.[Music]
Ryan: And this can also – I mean to take it even further and looking at our daily life. If you find yourself bracing, maybe you’re speaking with someone and you don’t really get along with that person. You might find yourself breathing. You might find yourself getting excited when you’re talking to that person.
Something that I found interesting when I teach children and they’re having issues during class, to try and bring them down a little bit. I will try and get them to match my breathing by regulating my breathing. This is a teaching technique that I use with actually a lot of students. If they’re over-breathing, things like that, trying to talk them down and get them on the level of breathing.
But that’s going a little bit deeper but this also goes into your daily life too when you have a lot of stress. Focus on your breath, something good to do.
Going back semi related to the power breathing, a way that you can actually help increase – well, lung capacity, is one way of looking at it but another way is bettering your breath is actually sitting down and focusing on your breath. There are different ways to do this.
Andy: Wait. You mean by practicing breathing and being aware of my breathing, I can get better at it?
Ryan: It’s a pretty amazing concept.
Andy: What kind of bullshit are you talking?
Ryan: Actually, one of the very first certifications I ever got was a 200-hour yoga certification. I mean this is way back and I just remember one of the things that really I enjoyed for just some weird reason. Maybe some of you might be like, “What?” What is the breath work? I mean that was quite possibly the best part I thought of the whole thing and I carry that with me. I use it a lot as far as meditation, things like that, focusing on the breath.
Now, I’ve always wanted to go deeper and learn more about the breathing technique. So I actually got into apnea or in this case, I’m talking about free diving, holding your breath, while submerged in water; not necessarily sleep apnea which is bad where you might die.
But in order to actually get better at my breathing, I focused on breath retention and so this is another option that you can work on. This is not power breathing. This is actually focusing on holding, filling up the lungs as much as possible and relaxing while holding your breath.
I actually prepared a few things, some good reference material, Breatheology. The book is a good book about that and actually something that recently – interestingly enough over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten back to them and I’m rereading a lot of it. It’s called the Manual of Freediving. This book is absolutely incredible. It’s not just talking about holding your breath. It’s just relaxation, being able to deal with stress in other situations and this is extremely good because like we said earlier, when you’re working on a skill, if you’re holding your breath, this quite possibly means that you’re working on a level that’s beyond your capacity, your work capacity.
So we always want to make sure that the movements that we’re performing, the holds that we’re performing are beautiful. One of the only ways that you can do that is by having the proper breath. So what is the proper breath? Breathing naturally. That’s what it is.
Andy: Yeah. Before we go on, I just want to say that both of those books, we will have the links to those, if you want to read those. We will put them on the blog post for this episode. So make sure you check that.
Ryan: And these are just two examples of books that I enjoy. Of course there are yoga books out there, wonderful Light on Yoga.
Andy: Light on Yoga is something that pretty much I think everyone should read that anyway. Some of the philosophical stuff is a little weird but I suppose it’s a classic.
Ryan: It’s solid. It’s good stuff.
Andy: Anyone can learn from that.
Ryan: But breathing really, I mean it’s not rocket science really. It’s just a matter of being aware of your breath like you said Andy.[Music]
Andy: One thing I want to say, like you said, it’s not rocket science and so we all come from a martial arts background at GMB and I especially come from a very traditional Japanese martial arts background where I grew up hearing that if you could learn to breathe a certain way, you could direct your chi and shoot fireballs from your ears or something. I’m not sure exactly what they were trying to say that we would mentally be able to do.
But there were all kinds of magical abilities that were ascribed to breath practice and to be honest, most of that is complete and utter bullshit. But the interesting thing is through practicing various breath control techniques, I feel like I have pretty efficient breathing patterns and it’s mostly just because I practice specific patterns of breathing. Not that those patterns themselves are good but that I practice patterns and got good at them, but basically I was practicing breathing and being aware of my breath.
So you don’t need to practice special patterns and that’s really what I want to get to because some people will try to tell you that there are special breathing patterns that you can master that will allow you to shoot fireballs or just allow you to lift more weights or allow you to do whatever.
True, there may very well be optimal breathing patterns for specific movements. That may be correct. But let me tell you this and I promise you are not an exception to this, whoever you are watching us. You are not an exception. You will never master any advanced breathing technique sufficiently to be able to apply it under pressure in an optimal way.
You will never ever achieve this unless you are doing something for like decades. If you’re a free diver and you were practicing the free diving kind of breathing technique in that situation over and over again, yes, you will probably be able to practice and master optimal breathing.
But if you’re trying to learn like three different breathing techniques for different kinds of movement because somebody told you that they’re optimal, well, I’m sorry but that’s pretty much just not going to work.
Ryan: So basically what you’re saying is work on one thing and understand that …
Andy: Yeah. If you’re doing free diving or something, there’s like one or two techniques that you learn probably and you master them and practice them over and over again to the point that they then become habit.
Well, then that’s your habitual way of breathing again. But if you’re trying to get to the point where you’re a breathing master and you can choose the correct breathing technique in a certain situation, I don’t believe that’s possible because I think breathing is a habit and I think that we have to practice to be able to control that habit or improve that habit, but we’re never going to get to the point where we have a perfect optimal control over our sympathetic nervous system. I’m sorry. It’s just – that’s not the way it works.
So yes, if there’s a specific movement that there is a specific breathing technique that’s right for, practice it to the point that it’s habitual but don’t think that you will ever master the manipulation of breathing techniques.
Ryan: Yeah. I see where you’re going with that. Yeah, I get it. I totally get it.[Music]
Ryan: It’s interesting because you can take a master and let’s say judo, the judo master, and you look at him and when you’re doing judo with them, the body is not there. It’s like you’re just fighting a gi [0:17:35] [Phonetic], right? And they’re breathing. It’s just amazing.
Then you take them out of their element and put them in something completely new. What do you find? They’re going to brace up. They’re going to forget those breathing habits. They’re going to hold and so like what you’re saying right there, you might be a master at one particular way of doing something but when you change the environment, it’s going to change the breathing.
Andy: That’s why we just say natural breathing is great skill work because there may be a better way to breath for some skills. But you know what? It’s situational and it’s just far better to get to the point where you can execute a skill with natural breathing because then, it means that you’re comfortable enough at that level of skill that you can just be pretty relaxed and fall back on your habits.
Ryan: Exactly. So a good way to practice this then is to get away from that skill or whatever that you’re working on, sit down, literally sit down and focus on your breath. See what you’re doing when you’re in a relaxed state. Then take it up a little bit, whether that be standing, or maybe walking and focus on the breath.
Then a little bit more so that you’re building up to that skill so that when you get to that skill, you can focus on the breath. So that’s just a way to practice your breathing.
Andy: We have also in our blog where you’ve written some of your – a couple of introductory breathing practices that you’ve written and we will link to those from this as well, that you can check those out. If somebody wants to practice breathing, some very basic things.
Ryan: Very basic, yes.
Andy: They’re basic but they’re more than adequate if you practice them. Just read them and say, “Oh, well, I can do that.” It’s not going to help you. Just like anything else. Eventually you practice them. They will teach you a lot. So definitely check those out if you want to practice them and I recommend that you should want to practice.
Ryan: Benny Fergusson this morning, I noticed that the video that we posted yesterday, he reposted it, shared it on this Facebook thing and we actually talked about this briefly in an interview that we did with Benny and the bracing side of it and breathing.
It’s just – it’s interesting because it’s something that we should all know about but because it’s a habit, that we can all do just like we can all walk. It’s something that you really don’t focus on. So it comes back to being aware. Everything we want to do in GMB, we’re doing the skill for warming up if we’re stretching. It’s about being aware of what’s going on inside our body, our breathing and our mental state. So it’s all related.
Andy: Yeah, definitely.
Ryan: All right. Yeah.
Andy: So I think that’s great. We could talk about this for probably hours but the most important thing for you to get out of this is, yeah, if you want to practice breathing, look at some of the links that we’re going to have here. But it always comes back to awareness of what you’re doing. Practice and be aware and you will get better. For breathing, yeah, don’t worry about fireballs and shit seriously.
Ryan: Dragon Ball, I think that’s the name of it. I don’t even watch the animated things, but yeah.
Andy: You mean you live in Japan and you don’t watch anime?
Ryan: Actually the other day someone – there’s another foreigner here and they were talking about that and I was like, “What is that?” They were like, “Dude! You don’t know?” Like, I’m sorry. It wasn’t in the comic books and stuff like that. I will go in the other room for you. OK? All right man. I think that pretty much covers the breath today.
Ryan: Any questions? If you want to give us a shout out, feel free to click the little button and tell us hi, what you think of the show and let us know some things that you would like for us to talk about in our upcoming shows.
Andy: Yeah. I will say we do also still have the podcast available on iTunes and those tend to be updated about a day before we post these on the website. So if you want a head start, you can actually go and subscribe to us in iTunes there too and you will get things on average about a day before we actually post it to anybody else. So you can feel super special. You could listen to us on Thursday instead of Friday. All right? Woo! All right. Thanks again and we will chat with you again soon.
Ryan: Later.[End of transcript]
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