The Respiratory Revolution Part III—Tips and How to from a Performance Coach
by Catherine Morris | November 10, 2020, updated 10 days ago
How often do you find yourself taking a deep breath before a difficult task? We grab a big lungful to psyche ourselves up for something unpleasant, clear our minds, and take a second to pause. The breath has a profound impact on our fight or flight response, and can often mean the difference between failure and success in high-pressure situations.
Mental Performance Coach at AURA Peak Performance Consulting, Jamie Bunka, works with athletes, artists, businesses, first responders, entrepreneurs, and others who need to maximize their performance—whether on the track, in the boardroom, on stage, or on the frontlines. Unsurprisingly, breath is a big part of her work—
“Proper breathing can help put the individual in better control of their automatic response and reactions to stressful situations. For example, an employee may get extremely nervous before making an important presentation and feel sick to their stomach, or an athlete who gets so nervous before they compete that their muscles tense up too much or their limbs feel like jello. If either of these individuals were to use a paced deep breathing program before or during their stressful event, they would be able to bring their body back into a more stable, balanced state. Resulting in them delivering a better performance.”
We all have stress, we all know that feeling of being out of control. Whether it's gearing up for a big meeting, organizing an event or just rushing around trying to juggle everything life throws at us. If you're not breathing through those moments, chances are you're not giving them your best.
“In conjunction with emotional awareness and cognitive practices, choosing to incorporate a breathwork practice into your life, you may feel more autonomous over stress provoking situations. The individual may feel more in control, knowing they have a tool they can turn to. Over time, through a combination of in-session work and at-home practice, clients can see and feel how their paced breathing leads to positive and meaningful mental, physical, emotional and behavioural changes.”
“You can start with a self-count breath cycle of five seconds in, and five seconds out, and practice it for a minute. Then as you get more practiced with the fuller, deeper breaths and your body gets used to this way of breathing, you can then increase the practice time to 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes a day. It may feel slightly uncomfortable or odd when you first begin if you are not used to breathing this way [but] practice, practice, practice. It’s easy to do anytime, anywhere, and it’s free!
“It has been remarkable to witness the positive changes in my clients in such a short time when they commit to this type of work. They often report feeling more in control of their emotional response to events and situations. They are able to move themselves into a balanced, more coherent state, quicker and sustain it over time. The body adapts to the ‘new’ coherent state and the body will naturally return to this breathing pace when it is needed. It’s a win for the body, mind and performance.”
It's been a challenging year. The pandemic, political turmoil, economic decline—they all take their toll on our wellbeing. Better breathing is more important than ever for helping people cope with anxiety and uncertainty. Bunka is confident that as our understanding of breath increases, more people will tune into their respiratory rhythm and start paying attention to this often thoughtless process.
“Breathing is our body’s natural response. It’s not something we have to learn how to do in order to survive, therefore breathing is rarely something one seeks to improve, practice or enhance. However, as research expands on how the breath influences the body’s autonomic system we continually gain more knowledge and information on how valuable and influential breathwork is for our internal health and wellness. Benefits can include clearer thinking, better decision making, improved immune functioning, improved emotional regulation and wellbeing, and improved physical performance to name a few.”
This is the end of our three part series about breath work and its myriad benefits. We sincerely hope that it inspires you to greater heights on your wellness journey—even if your journey doesn’t take you to Kilimanjaro.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.