How often do you hear yourself instructing your students to “take a deep breath”? Well, as it turns out a Russian physiologist Dr. Konstantin Buteyko believes most people consume five to ten times more air than their bodies require. Called “over breathing”, it creates an insufficiency of carbon dioxide in the lungs and bloodstream, which impacts metabolism and blood chemistry, leading to abnormal neuromuscular function. This carbon dioxide deficit also affects respiratory gas exchange and diminishes the amount of oxygen carried by the blood to the brain, heart and kidneys. Over breathing is believed to cause asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, heart problems, etc. After years of research, Dr. Buteyko came to the conclusion that about 150 of all known diseases are the result of “over breathing” (hyperventilation).
Diseases aside - over breathing effects performance. Breathing rock star Ian Jackson who worked with 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Alexi Grewal has developed the ultimate tool for learning to control breathing on the bike. Grewal said of Jackson’s method, “the most powerful tool that can be imagined.”
Breathing is both learned and automatic. The antidote to over breathing is to slow breathing down so that it matches our level of exertion. This is where Ian comes in - his upside down breathing technique does just that. Originally called BreathPlay it emphasizes breathing actively out and passively in.
By exhaling as if to “flicker a candle” and then allowing the inhalation to happen on its own we are able to maximize our breathing efficiency and reduce the chance of “over breathing” (when you have to gasp or suck air in - you’re over breathing…).
Jackson’s method also organizes each breath cycle into rhythmic patterns, or breathing gears, so that breathing is always harmoniously integrated with movement, no matter what the work rate. This rhythmic focus allows “body to follow mind” and is a perfect complement to any Energy Zone Ride.
Try this in your next class:
- Inhale for 3 downstrokes of your pedals, letting the air flow in.
- Exhale long and slow for 6 downstrokes, slowly forcing the air out with an audible “sss-sss” or through pursed lips. Draw your navel towards your spine on each exhalation.
- Inhale again for 3 downstrokes, letting the air flow in. Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth to support the neck and to allow most of the air to come in through your nose.
- Exhale for 6 downstrokes with the intentional and audible, “sss-sss.”
- Continue for the duration of class - challenge your students to slow their breathing to match their exertion level and varying terrain.
Want more info: get the book! Breathplay Approach to Whole Life Fitness