I have been into breathwork for a while. I started out with Wim Hof breathing. I heard about it through the usual suspects: Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan and tribe. It interested me because I’ve also always been into meditation and meditation is always closely tied to breath. So I thought of this as a little microcosm of meditation; something that if trained could enable me to go deeper.
Shortly after hearing about breathwork, I started to notice it elsewhere. My Jiu-Jitsu teacher Kron Gracie has the most intimidating breath pattern while training. He’s breathing like an engine, the closer he gets to a submission the faster and deeper the breath. Like an animal, his breath isn’t necessarily tied to his movements. It’s steady and filling his lungs with enough oxygen for the long haul to bring his opponent to a point of tapping or worse. After class he often sits to the side of the room and goes through a deep trance like meditation. This is something taught to him by his dad Rickson Gracie, possibly the most legendary martial artist of all time and known for his unmatched dominance but also his breathwork, yoga practice and spiritual strength.
I signed up for Wim Hof’s online course and got into it. He prescribes cold showers, stretching, some pushups and of course, breathwork. Within the first couple sessions I started to feel the benefits and vastness of this practice. Breathing reduces stress and when you breath intentionally it brings you into the present moment. Then you breath intentionally for long periods of time you begin to reach psychedelic/spiritual states. Whatever you want to call it, if you roll your eyes at that sentence, you haven’t been there. If you know, you know.
Beyond the meditative benefits I was surprised by the physical benefits. In modern times, we rarely use our lungs to their full capacity. Like a muscle, when you don’t use it, you loose it. Your breath capacity atrophies similar to the range of motion of a once-limber child becoming stiff with age and neglect. After weeks of Wim Hof I felt like my lungs were able to hold more oxygen, my breath was coming in and out more freely and with less energy expended. Beyond that — I felt like I could regulate my energy/oxygen usage. I felt this new and very very profound control over my body. In-hindsight, I’d say this makes sense because Wim Hof’s rise has been largely due to his ability to regulate body temperature, immune response and oxygen capacity through his simple method that can be learned by nearly anyone. But, even when backed by science by major institutions, this is still something that you have to experience to believe.
After a couple months of adopting breathwork into my daily ritual, I was in Peru at a retreat deep in the Amazon jungle. I was on a property with 2 people who spoke my language and sleeping in a tree hut 100 yards from any people. With time on my hands I spent one afternoon breathing in my hut. I did maybe 10 rounds of full Wim Hof breathing. Each round consisting of thirty breaths in and out as deep and as fluid as possible, ending with an out breath and hold. I became relaxed on a level I had never experienced. On my negative breath holds I would drop into these visionary dream states where time would cease to exist. I would snap out of it and wonder if I had breathed in already or not… I was so relaxed I honestly wondered at times if I would ever need another breath.
The urge to breath doesn’t come from the need for oxygen, but rather from a build-up of carbon dioxide. So, when our body is flooded with oxygen, you can almost forget to replenish it which can cause blackouts (don’t try this in water.)
I had never held my breath for longer than about 2:46 previously so after round 30 I became curious as to how long I could hold my breath for in this state. I did one more round of 30 breaths.
On my 30th breath I breathed in the biggest breath of my life at that point and just went blank. When you start to breath a lot you can start to feel the nuances of energy usage in your body and mind. It becomes so subtle that you can feel the energy needed to experience a thought. Or at least it feels this way.
I was able to explore the space of my breath, it was like being in a flow state — no dialogue narrating the moment, just presence. I don’t know what it was, but I felt this intense joy, gratitude — almost an ecstacy-esque euphoria in this moment. I looked at the clock and I was at 2:30 minutes and didn’t even have a slight desire to breath. I laid in silence and my mind went to this very tranquil frequency.
At around 4 minutes I started to feel like I needed some air soon, but felt almost like I had enough circulating around my body that I could corral up into my mind to stay awake. To stay calm.
At 4:25 I started to convulse a little, it sounds brutal but this is natural and fine. I held on for a bit longer. I breathed out at 4:35 and sat there for 7 more seconds and breathed in like I had just surfaced from a bad dream. I laid there panting catching my breath. It didn’t feel like something I should do every day, but it was a rewarding test and one I will do periodically. I guess that’s how you improve your breath time.
Wim Hof breathwork course: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/classic-10-week-video-course-introduction
I have since gotten into holotropic breathwork:
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