There is no challenging exercise that is more powerful when it comes to facing yourself than holding your breath. You are floating in water, it is quiet, you are alone with your thoughts and your body reacts to the increasing carbon dioxide and decreasing oxygen concentrations. Your diaphragm starts contracting, the diving response sets in…
Can you perform? Can you face the stress and relax at the same time? Can you manage your thoughts and stay focused?
Why is it important to face yourself?
In work it is important to stay calm and focused even in stressful situations and to be able to make sober and unbiased decisions. Personal issues can become entangled in the decision making process and interfere with your personal and professional development. We experience that performing breath holds can help you become aware of personal issues you may have to confront.
Performing breath holds might seem a bit odd, but in fact breath holding make up an important part of the specific part of yoga called pranayama – breathing and breath holding exercises to optimize the life force (prana) and gain full mental control. When holding your breath, you can learn to change your brain activity (frequency of electrical impulses) and go into a state of flow. In flow the notion of time disappears and you become what you do. You don’t fight it but rather let go – and win! This is what the best athletes in the world are masters at – and one explanation to their incredible peak performances.
When you start to work more consciously with breath holding you also come to appreciate life more – and appreciate the fact that you are simply breathing!
“I became aware of the power of breathing properly for the first time when I went freediving with Stig in the Red Sea. After performing breathing exercises for a couple of days I could hold my breath for more than 4 minutes in the water. The sensation of surplus mental energy and inner tranquillity was intoxicating.”
Bjarne Brynk Jensen, 43
Company coach and consultant for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010
A simple measure
At a first glance holding your breath seems very simple: You inhale, hold your breath as long as you can and then start breathing again. It is also quite a simple measure. How many minutes/seconds? But it is at the same time a multifaceted and complex parameter. It reveals the degree to which you are psychologically in balance – your mental stability – and how finely you are tuned in on your body. The simplicity of breath holds makes it an excellent barometer of your stress level, and makes progress easy to measure.
Sit back now, relax and try a breath hold. What occurred in your body? What happened in your mind? How long could you hold your breath? What did you feel like afterwards?
Please remember NEVER to hold your breath in water alone or without professional help.
What can you gain from breath holds?
As described above, the benefits of performing breath holds are numerous and can deeply affect your life. We have experienced from courses and VIP cruises that performing breath holds and breathing exercises provides our participants with more energy, calmness, resilience to stress, mental stability, a greater focus on priorities and goals, a closer connection to the body and more attention to the moment.
On the long run meditation and breath holds seem to develop your nervous system and brain. Scientific studies have revealed that people who practice meditation and/or freediving show marked changes in their brain and nervous system. One area in the nervous system that undergo changes lies in the brain stem and is connected to the vagus nerve. This is part of the calming parasympathetic pathway which counteracts stress.