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Week 4 Q&A
What are the reasons for breathing in and out the mouth with CCB? Seems to go against the #1 rule of nervous system mastery.
- During CCB we're training dynamism of the nervous system. i.e. we want to be able to go into 5th gear and rev the engine a little, just as we want to be able to down-shift efficiently.
So it's not that mouth breathing is never okay, but only in circumstances when you're increasing capacity + intensity as it allows for a far greater volume of air to pass through in and out.
Nose-breathing for a breathwork journey can be powerful too in terms exploring some of the more subtle stages of relaxation, there are certain branches of breathwork practice that only breathe through the nose.
Of all the protocols, which one would you say is the most powerful to practice daily in order to maintain a balanced NS? – Naz
- Hmmm, really it depends!!
How often is too often to take part in CCB? – Naz
I think I just need some clarification on the stress vs stimulation thing. You said how much stress we like is directly related to how activated our sympathetic branch is - but surely the more activated it is the more stressed we feel? Isn't it more that it's being able to blend sympathetic with ventral vagal (which you said was what we call flow state)? Or is that a different thing? And is the way to blend the two just a case of practicing the down-regulating breaths in the midst of high-octane situations so we're calm but activated? Or is it more about achieving a well balanced nervous system overall and then the blending just happens? Thank you – Lizzy
My answer is that essentially yes what we would tend to call a positive stimulation or being in flow state is likely when we're blending sympathetic with ventral vagal (i.e. we're stimulated whilst also feeling grounded, safe etc.)—in theory I could imagine a situation where we were in this state of flow (i.e. the ventral brake is also active) whilst also perceiving it to be 'stressful' if the thing we were doing isn't something that we'd choose to be doing (i.e. we'd rather be using this grounded + stimulated energy elsewhere)... or if the state continues for too long, as we all only have limited capacity to keep this up for a certain period of time before it gets tiring... but this is all a bit of a tangent, essentially I think what we're aiming for as you mentioned is to have some ventral vagal activity be present during the times when we want to be activated (i.e. giving a public talk etc.) and also to be able to drop into a state of deep rest following the activation period.
Okay well since there aren't many questions let's use this time for you guys to reflect back what you've learnt over the past few weeks.
- How would you explain to a friend or family member what it means to have a regulated NS?
- What have you heard or realised in the past few weeks, that you would like to remember and carry into 2022? What is important for you to not forget in the coming months?
- What thoughts have you had around how your environment shapes your nervous system? What ambient stressors have you identified?
- Has anyone thought about their 'social cartography mapping?' Which of these three areas do you feel well supported in? Who comes to mind as being in your support network?
- How about the Hedonic Calendaring?
Week 3 Q&A
- Building the glossary of terms and a directory of protocols which will include video demos too.
- Dimitris pointed out that I mispoke in the bellows breath directions in that your belly will actually be contracting not expanding with each forced exhale through the nose, so my apologies for that and thank you to Dimitris for noticing.
- And to that point I'd like to mention that this material is still quite unpolished so I'm grateful both for the feedback and also to you all for being my guinea pigs in the first version of this course.
Alright, the format for today's session will be fairly free flowing, perhaps let's begin by asking if any of you have noticed anything about your physical sensations that have arisen during or after the bellows breathing or whilst exploring exhale retentions?
- So now I'd like to open up space for reflections on any of the course materials so far, not necessarily just this week and for questions that might be coming alive in you or in your co-regulation groups?
Discord Questions/discussion points
Q. What fundamental differences have you noticed in your day to day life and NS regulation, since including these practices into your daily routine? – Nazoorah
- increased somatic awareness...
- This might sound odd but on a really fundamental level I think that experiencing the connection between my breath and my mind has helped me to take my thoughts less seriously. I'd say that the breath has been a gateway to deepen my meditation practice and experience some of the states that I'd only read about in books or when taking psychedelics
- confidence + self-empowerment — knowing that I can take myself through big emotional experiences whilst remaining relatively grounded. The breath almost acts like a tether for my mind.
- I count myself as a recovering startup founder with a dysregulated system, so the breathing practices particularly in week 2 have helped me to really learn what it feels like to deeply rest. And actually to live from that place of rest where the colours feel brighter and everything feels more alive.
- how many rounds of each week 3 protocols should we try? For each - bellows and holding out exhales? –Jen During
- for exhale holds, are we squeezing all the air out with diaphragm & holding diaphragm in the squeezed position for the hold, or is it more relaxed than that? –Lizzy P
- what is the breathing this week used for? a) for someone that is in the healthy green part of the window of tolerance and wants to go to the high sympathetic limits for peak performance?, or b) for someone who is dysregulated and is stuck in the parasympathetic and wants to go back to a green healthy point? Dimitris
- Explore what we mean by the 'window of tolerance' (screenshare)
- In general I would always recommend that the default practice is to use the protocols from weeks 1+2 and to save these bellows breathing for occasions when you really need to bring your A game. And to that note — Jonathan shared in detail his experience with Wim Hof in the Discord that I thought was really v
Week 2 Q&A
- Co-regulation groups - have emailed those we've not heard from
- NSDR wasn't syncing properly, but is now. Refresh page if you can't see it
- One correction — Jochem kindly pointed out that in this week's theory I mixed up Nitric Oxide with Nitrous Oxide (which is laughing gas), when we nose breathe or hum – so just to clarify Nitric Oxide is produced, not Nitrous Oxide.
- Shoutout to everyone who is sharing resources and learnings in the Discord (e.g. Jochem's diagram in 'share-your-notes' and Jason's Notion doc on behavioural science insights — Keep 'em coming!
- Open space for reflections so far...
Week 2 Curriculum-based questions
25 🤔 Q: For the VOOO HUMMM practice does it follow as such? — CarynTan - deep breathe in through the nose - breath out VOOO for the first half of our breath and then HUMM for the second half - repeat
26 🤔 Q: Should the VOO be at a specific pitch? I notice that my VOO is lower-pitched than the one in Jonny’s recording. — Dimitris
How do people find managing the balance between tracking data for their benefit and/or falling into analysis-paralysis we’re all different so curious to hear any thoughts on this – Jamie C
26 🤔 Q: Is there a specific duration for the VOO HUM breath? I noticed I can go longer than Jonny’s duration in the recording. — Dimitris
27 🤔 Q: Do we put the thumbs and ring fingers in position only for the HUM or also for the VOO? — Dimitris
29 🤔 Q: During my NSDR practice, I had an effect that I experienced before during the longer breath work journeys, which is that mind wandered to some childhood memory and then my body started shaking (well, back arching along the length of my spine) for about thirty seconds. It seemed more expected during the journey so I was surprised it showed up in this NSDR session, but I let it happen anyway. Is this to be expected? — Michael Ashcroft
28 🤔 Q: Also are we supposed to be doing NSDR every day? I have no problems with power napping every day, but wanted to check! — Michael Ashcroft
32 🤔 Q: When are we going to learn about the autopilot down-regulation techniques? Mine has definitely been dark chocolate for the longest time! — Dimitris
General nervous system/breathing questions
How to remove congestion to breathe easier? —Sarah
Can we process past traumas through the means of regulating our nervous system? Anne-Marie
How do our NS's influence the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves & how we interact with the world? Luke Butler
43 🤔 Q: What's the connection between the nervous system and the heart? — Jamie Fleishman
Different breathing rhythms are correlated with different emotional states.
48 🤔 Q: What is the VOO HUM doing for the nervous system? — Surya
Increased sense of focus and clarity due to the increase oxygen uptake flowing into the brain. Brain fog tends to fall away and also removes tension in the face if you use your fingers on your face.
54 🤔 Q: I find that alternate nostril breathing can be activating and other times relaxing. What is the purpose of the practice? — Jennifer During
Make sure you're breathing into your belly during the practice. When you start to feel the urge to breath, this will make the breath more activating, so in order to make it relaxing, don't get to this point. Alternate nostril breathing also increases the nasal aperture (muscle strength in the nostrils) which in turn, increase the amount of oxygen being absorbed.
57 🤔 Q: How can I decongest my nose? — Laura Karpinski
Take a full breathe in through the nose and hold it at the top. Pinch your nose at the bridge of the nose and tilt your head slowly backwards and forwards 4 to 5 times.
You can also try a nasal rinse using a neti pot or a nasal wash bottle (such as this) to flush out the sinus passages.
Remaining Time // Exploring Discussion Questions Together
Week 1 Q&A
📢 Announcements from Week 1 Q&A
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- you can create your own private channels to chat with your co-reg crews
🔥 Questions answered
03:25 🤔 Q: Is it better lay down or sit up whilst doing the cadence breathing? — Laura Karpinski
Try both. You can also try on your belly.
04:15 🤔 Q: Is it better to do our breathing before eating? — Laura Karpinski
We ideally want to be in a parasympathetic response for eating to aid with digestion, so breathing practice is actually ideal either before or after breathing, although you may find it harder to soften the belly if it's really full!
05:12 🤔 Q: How does one know when their nervous system has reached an optimal state of functioning and flow? Especially knowing that we can become so accustomed to a dysregulated state and view it as "normal" since we're not really aware of any other way. — Kelly What even is nervous system dysregulation? — Timporal
🔥 A: Working definition: The short working definition of nervous system dysregulation is that, often due to being subject to extended periods of stress, our nervous system (meaning our thoughts, feelings, behaviours) will respond disproportionately to an external event or situation—either by under-reacting or over-reacting.
This dysregulation is generally caused due to accumulated emotional debt... such that we're actually reacting to past stressors rather than current ones in front of us. In contrast, a regulated nervous system is one that responds appropriately to external circumstances.
Also speaks to a concept that we'll be unpacking in week 4 known as the 'faux window of tolerance' – which in a nutshell refers to a phenomenon where someone has been dysregulated for often a number of years (or decades) and can no longer recall what the sensation of being genuinely down-regulated (i.e. relaxed) feels like and instead develop so-called "defensive accommodations to manage chronic levels of hyper- and hypo-arousal states."
08:10 🤔 Q: Do we need to have the tools and equipment mentioned (i.e. Oura band) to take part in the course? — A few people
🔥 A: Absolutely not essential. I think it can be helpful and even fun for those of us who like to nerd out on numbers and data, but the vast majority of humans alive who have the most regulated nervous systems I would hazard a guess don't have Oura rings, they're in tune with their bodies and have learned to listen and respond.
Exploring Tension in the belly
Having tension in the belly is extremely common — there's also a set of cranial nerves that connect the pelvis to the jaw & neck, so releasing tension here can sometimes release holding in the belly. My recommendation is to try lying supine and use a small weight on your belly (or downward pressure from your right hand) and patiently self-massage wherever the tension is, aiming to breathe into this space... it might take some time but eventually should soften along with a parasympathetic response (deep sigh)
08:53 🤔 Q: How can I reduce tension in the eyes/face/body during breathing — Several people incl. Max Michael & Laura Karpinski & Jen During
🔥 A: As a general principle, if you bring awareness and attention and breath if possible to an area of tightness then it will gradually, with time soften.
11:40 🤔 Q: How do I deal with air hunger and forced inhales when breathing — Multiple students
🔥 A: It would be helpful to have a bit more context here, but essentially you want to find your own edge where there is a little bit of discomfort, but not too much, you never want to be gasping for air.
12:45 🤔 Q: Learned from Alexandra Technique that we can only breathe into the lungs and the lungs don't full reach the belly. I feel like I have to unlearn something or harmonise two seemingly contradictory concepts. I'm trying to think about the diaphragm when it comes to breathing, but I'm not sure if this is helpful.
A: When we say the breathe is reaching into the deep pelvic floor, it's not air, it's muscle movement. We have three diaphragm, which is the main diaphragm underneath the ribcage, which is typically what we know of. Then there's a thin muscle sheath in the pelvic floor and our two vocal chords which can restrict and open our breath capacity. When we breathe deeply, we active the pelvic floor diaphragm which many of us don't have a felt sense of. With practice in breathing practices and conscious connected breathing, we can improve our connection to this area of the body and improve our lung capacity.
16:47 🤔 Q: These practices are easy to time-block and practice with just a little bit of discipline, but how do I translate these practices into everyday life and lean on them when most needed? — Rachel Williams
🔥 A: We'll be coming to this next week when we introduce 'IF THIS THEN BREATHE' – just to mention briefly... for true integration requires an increased level of interoception such that we can feel and notice when we're in a state of fight or flight—and then cue ourselves to drop into a down-regulation practice.
18:38 🤔 Q: If breathwork is a “bottom-up” approach that goes from the body to the mind, is it then just a way to treat the symptoms but not the illness? Doesn’t a deregulated nervous system start from the mind? What if the root cause is the mind? Don’t we need the “top-down” approach (e.g., therapy, meditation) instead? — Dimitris
🔥 A: Our nervous is bi-directional. Our thoughts and emotions influence the state of our nervous system and vice versa. It's 80% from the body to the brain via afferent nerves. Talk therapy and meditation are incredibly powerful tools however so much of our psychology is rooted in the brainstem, which is often unconscious and can be influenced through bottom-up processing.
Using the example of psychological safety, we could have thought of feeling safe however unless this also felt in the body, then we may not feel safe. Our sense of safety can be influenced and changed by how deeply we are breathing.
23:30 🤔 Q: Does it matter whether I breathe out through the nose or the mouth? If so, why does it matter? — Daniel Kestenholz
🔥 A: During nasal breathing, several things happen differently than they do during mouth breathing— basically we were designed to nose-breathe.
- When breathing through the nose, the lungs can extract oxygen from the air during both exhalation and inhalation. Although the oxygen supply to the air sacs in the lungs is renewed during the inhalation, oxygen diffuses continuously into the blood, because the small size of the nostrils helps create a flow of air back into the lungs even during nasal exhalation.
- The slower nasal exhalation gives the lungs more time to extract the oxygen. When this optimal blood gas exchange occurs, carbon dioxide is processed properly, and blood pH remains balanced.
- Air inhaled through the nose passes through the nasal mucosa – which helps filter out bacteria... This stimulates reflex nerves that control regular breathing. (One reason mouth breathing can lead to snoring, sleep apnea, and irregular breathing patterns is that it bypasses this nasal mucosa.)
- The air passes through the nose which houses the olfactory bulbs. Those are connected to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain linked to many automatic functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, appetite, thirst, and homeostasis.
- In nasal breathing, the sinuses produce nitric oxide (NO), which is necessary for regulating inflammation in the airways and in the body’s defense against airborne pathogens, viruses, and bacteria.
Nasal breathing performs at least 30 functions on behalf of the body71. One of the most important of these is oxygenating the blood, organs, and cells.
Because the nostrils are significantly smaller than the mouth, nose breathing while awake creates about 50% more resistance to airflow than mouth breathing. This results in a 10 to 20% greater oxygen uptake in the blood.
Breathing through the nose filters and warms the air before it enters the lungs, and the resistance created by nasal breathing makes the breathing slower and deeper, engaging the diaphragm and calming the mind74.
Contrary to the advice of many sports coaches, it is not a good idea to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. In one study where subjects were instructed to breathe that way, nasal stuffiness increased by 200%. What’s more, congestion persisted for 10 minutes after the challenge ended.
Even when only exhaling, mouth breathing causes the loss of heat and water. To be precise, 42% more water is lost when exhaling through the mouth than through the nose.
This loss of moisture and warmth causes inflammation, stuffiness, and dehydration – which makes breathing more difficult. Once your nose is blocked, you can find yourself needing to breathe through your mouth, and so mouth breathing can become a habit. It is best to breathe both in and out through the nose. This not only facilitates oxygenation, it also helps prevent nasal congestion.
When your nose is clear, breathing is easier during both rest and exercise. It may sound contradictory that nasal breathing helps to clear your nose. After all, most people breathe through their mouth because their nose is blocked. However, when your nose is blocked, the counterintuitive act of breathing through the nostrils helps keep the
When you inhale or exhale through the nose, breathing is slower due to the extra resistance created by the smaller airway. This resistance to exhaling in nasal breathing helps maintain lung volume. Even after maximum exhalation, there is always some air left in the lungs. This air is called residual volume. When the nose is blocked, forcing mouth breathing, total lung capacity and residual volume both decrease significantly. To understand why this residual volume is important, think about inflating a balloon.
The most difficult part is blowing the initial volume of air to get the balloon going. However, if you allow an inflated balloon to deflate just part way, it is much easier to re-inflate it than when you let all of the air escape. In the same way, if your lungs were completely emptied of air after every exhalation, breathing would require more effort, the lungs would collapse, and strenuous activity would be impossible.
- Every time you exhale through your mouth, you may breathe out more air than necessary. That means that every inhalation takes extra effort. Breathing becomes much harder work than it needs to be.
25:10 🤔 Q: Is it "desirable" to increase the length of one breathing cycle – e.g., instead of 3-3-6-3 increase to 4-4-8-4 etc.? What's the impact of increasing the length of the cycle in this way? — Daniel Kestenholz
🔥 A: Yes, the main benefit of this is that you're increasing your body's tolerance to C02 by extending the length of the overall cycle, this may create some 'air-hunger' initially and it's important to stay with a rhythm that feels comfortable, but one of the primary goals of building healthy and resilient nervous systems is decreasing our sensitivity to this CO2 build up through being able to breathe more slowly or holding our breath (without CO2, the tissues would become starved of oxygen, even when oxygen is available in the blood)... this has a cascade of health benefits including increased oxygen delivery, increased capacity for stress.
30:17 🤔 Q: Slow breathing and fat loss, is there a correlation?
🔥 A: If we have slower breathing, we're operating in a parasympathetic nervous system response which means there's more likely to be less cortisol and adrenaline in our systems. Increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline are likely to relate to over-eating.
31:19 🤔 Q: What are the common barriers people face when integrating the concepts/practices around NSM into their lives? Chris_n
🔥 A: Would love to hear suggestions from you guys here in the chat. For me personally the biggest shifts happen when I realised how good it feels to be living from a place of groundedness and calm.
I think sometimes being in toxic work environments can make it very challenging to effectively detox from stress long enough for the body to re-adapt.
Many of these habitual patterns have been hard-wired in us since our early years.
44:18 🤔 Q: What is the best form of breathwork for me right now? — Max Michael
🔥 A: This is a question that I'd love for you to all to be able to answer by the end of week 5.
45:28 🤔 Q: I’m really interested to learn more about tight throat (Darth Vader breath) breathing as I’m noticing it keeps breath in the chest and doesn’t allow it to get into the lower belly. A tension intern for me is not breathing low at all. As a woman, we are subconsciously taught not to expand the belly. – Jen
🔥 A: Yes the tight throat / darth vader breath is a big topic. In the context of the breathwork journeys that Ed was speaking to, from what I've witnessed it's typically correlated with an internalised desire to stay in control and/or times when we've not felt safe to fully express ourselves. When the holding in the throat releases, often there is a simultaneous drop in the pelvic floor that allows the breath to go deeper and the belly to relax. You're right that both men & women in our culture have been conditioned to hold our belly's tightly, which is the antithesis of what is required for healthy balanced breathing.
🤔 Q: Are emotions/stored memories; the trigger point of the nervous system reaction, or does the nervous system drive emotions? — Nazoorah
🔥 A: Really interesting question. To answer this it's helpful to comeback to the idea of our nervous system being bi-directional, meaning that our thoughts + emotions influence our nervous system, and the state of our NS influences our thoughts + emotions. You said 'what if the root cause is in the mind'—I'm certainly not discounting talk therapy, it can be very valuable... but let's try an example, we've been talking about psychological safety in the coaching thread—now I might say that 'in my mind' I don't think I'm safe in this moment.