During our RVIVAL experiences, we often practice breathwork on a more profound level during our well-being sessions in order to prepare for activities such as freediving, spearfishing as well as centering ourselves prior to more challenging experiences like abseiling or even a covert survival training scenario.
How we deal with adversity defines us. If you’re feeling more stressed than usual, that is understandable in these unprecedented, uncertain times. But everything can be dealt with, with the right mindset and techniques. For the RVIVAL team breathing techniques have become an essential part of our ‘survival toolkit’. In this article we talk about how simple breath-work techniques are beneficial in your daily life when faced with high stress situations as well as enhancing your overall well-being.
When we receive bad news, a deadline got pushed forward from work, we misplaced our wallet or we feel like we are faced with a dangerous situation, like being too close to a predator (or a bathrobe that looks like one), the sympathetic autonomic nervous system kicks in. You’ve probably heard of it before as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. It prepares your body for immediate action by dilating your pupils to capture more information visually, and dilating the bronchia in your lungs, which increases your intake of oxygen. It accelerates your heart rate to push more oxygen-rich blood to your muscles, makes you sweat to prevent overheating, and ups the secretion of adrenaline. It also stops your body wasting energy on functions that won’t be needed in an emergency – it inhibits digestion, reduces saliva production, and stops other ‘secondary’ muscle functions, notably in the bladder and bowels. It’s also the reason behind the dry mouth and butter-flies that you feel when you’re confronting something stressful, like a job interview or giving an important presentation.
We only have one set of biological processes to deal with stress and they evolved to deal with short, sharp moments of crisis before fading out when we move to safety. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we are often receiving tiny bursts of constant stress, whether they’re from the tyranny of the email inbox on our smartphone or scrolling through the news. Many of us now live in a wash of constant low-level stress, which is bad for our bodies but also bad for our ability to make good decisions. At its most debilitating this can lead to unexpected attacks of panic and fear in our everyday lives.
What we almost always mean when we talk about panic as it relates to more everyday anxiety is that feeling of tightness in the chest and the heart beating too fast. In a world overloaded by information and stressors in our daily life, it is more important than ever to actually give our sympathetic autonomic nervous system a break and let the parasympathicus (also referred to as the "rest and digest" or "feed and breed" system) take over. This will promote a state of relaxation and restore the body to a calm and rested state. It replenishes energy, such as digestion, nutrient absorption and metabolic activities. It also helps regulate body temperature and supports cellular repair and growth. When the parasympathicus kicks in acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter is released that acts to slow the heart's rhythm and dilate blood vessels, leading to a decrease in blood pressure.
In a healthy system the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems work together to maintain a dynamic balance within the body. They continuously adjust and respond to internal and external stimuli to ensure optimal physiological functioning. This balance between the two systems is essential for overall health and well-being.
If you ever feel the symptoms of ‘panic’ welling up in your chest during your day-to-day stuff – maybe a tight deadline is making you feel really anxious at the expense of getting your task done – try putting your free hand on the top of your stomach just below your ribs and practicing these breathing techniques:
Step by step breathwork Techniques
by Nicole Schongart, RVIVAL Wellbeing Specialist.
“Inhale all the way down into your belly, allowing the belly to fully extend when you breathe in, then release the breath returning the navel to the spine.
Try it right now. Right where you are. Just come in an upright position, straighten your spine, close your eyes if you want to, take a deep breath in through your nose, let the breath travel past your throat, past your chest, past your lungs all the way down to your belly. Place one hand onto your belly to help center yourself and feel how your stomach extends out when the breath arrives there.
Picture how the oxygen is feeding all your blood cells, tissues and organs. Then, sloooooowly let the breath go, either through the nose or the mouth. If your breath comes out through your mouth with a little sigh then that will help release even more stress hormones.
When releasing the breath, picture and feel your whole body and muscles softening. Relax your jaw, an area which tends to hold a large amount of tension in the face and in turn leads to tension in the neck and shoulder area.
Repeat this for 3 or 4 more cycles and see how you feel after. You can start with one minute or take it up to 3 or 5 minutes. Whatever is available to you, whenever you need it. Make it a part of your survival toolbox.
Nicole, our Wellbeing Specialist, is currently training the RVIVAL team to progressively work towards what is called the '1-Minute-Breath’. This is to consciously slow down your breathing rhythm to one per minute - meaning, 20 seconds inhale - 20 seconds hold - 20 seconds exhale. It's a great way for us to prepare for freediving and spearfishing!! To give you some context, a healthy adult takes 12 - 20 breaths per minute, a trained person around 8.
When we are able to slow the breath down to one breath per minute we not only increase our lung capacity we also calm anxiety, fear and worry. This triggers the whole brain, especially the brainstem and frontal lobes, into a relaxed yet focused mental state and our intuition develops. It is said if we are able to control our breath and slow it down to that pace, we are able to control our life in a more mindful manner.
We would like to invite you to join a few of our training session so you to can get a taste for the benefits of the practice - but don’t worry, we will not reach 1 minute during this first 3 day session - something to work towards!