Guided Breathing Exercises with Lucas Rockwood

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I started yoga in my early 20s, and I wanted to learn everything. The topic of breathing came up in every class, so I asked all my teachers for more information. Here’s what I wanted to know: Why is breathing important? You say we should breathe deeply, but how deeply? You say breathe slowly, but how slowly? And why not breathe fast?

I quickly realized that the yoga community pays lip service to breathing but doesn’t teach or understand it well at all. In fact, I’ve practiced with some of the most esteemed teachers including some modern masters, and I was disappointed to discover that most had only a superficial understanding of breathing. Frustrated, I turned my research to the mainstream medical community and the world of extreme sports, and finally found answers.

Medical doctor Patricia Gerbarg has dedicated her career to breathing. Her work, writing, and our conversations were hugely influential. I worked closely with a senior Buteyko Breathing coach who taught me about the vital role of CO2. I also interviewed a number of record-setting free divers and daredevils like Wim Hof, who push breathing to the limits (not something I advocate).

I came to learn that there is no mystery to breathing at all. The science of breath has been well-researched for over 100 years, but very few people had applied the actual science to the practices of yoga students. This seems crazy, but it’s true.

My 3 Discoveries About Yoga Breathing

#1: Breathing Exercises Are All About CO2 (not blood oxygen)

Breathing exercises are mostly about the manipulation of carbon dioxide in the blood, not oxygen. CO2 is not a toxin to be avoided. It’s hugely valuable, and most people over-breathe, not under-breathe, and we need to learn how to conserve CO2.

#2: Slow Breathing Increases Cellular Oxygen

Logically, you’d think that if you breathe fast, you’ll get more oxygen, right? Not true. In fact, if you breathe really quickly for a few minutes, you’ll get dizzy and might even pass out. Slow breathing increases blood CO2 levels that allow for greater absorption of O2.

#3: Breathing Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated (at all!)

One of my first yoga teachers taught me 15 different breathing exercises with funky Sanskrit names. As I went further, I learned dozens more. It was so overwhelming. Here’s what I know now – every single breathing exercise is simply affecting your nervous system in one of three ways: parasympathetic, sympathetic, or balancing response.

All that complexity and terminology doesn’t add any value to the practices. Simple exercises work just as well and can be learned in minutes with no hard-to-pronounce Sanskrit names or complicated hand positions.

I was so excited by this new knowledge and so frustrated with the misinformation being passed around in the yoga community that I put together a TEDx Talk. So far, the response has been amazing, and it’s being watched by 10-20K people per day.

As it turns out, many people were confused with all this “breathe deeply” advice too.

3 Free Guided Practices

Learn the power of water (balanced), whiskey (relaxing), and coffee (energizing) breathing to take control of your runaway nervous system in minutes.