Having a regular breath-holding practice is one of the easiest ways to boost your energy and build resilience.
Sounds counterintuitive – we’re told to take deeper and slower breaths all the time, and that does have its place…but hear me out.
Why it works
Holding your breath engages the Bohr effect, in which the presence of CO2 in the bloodstream frees up oxygen from red blood cells and delivers it into neighboring cells and tissues.
That means more oxygen for your brain, heart, and muscles to get through the day.
Obviously, we can only survive minutes without air, but a quick breath-holding practice builds up CO2, oxygenates the whole body, and acts as a short-term stressor that creates adaptations to future stressors.
Getting started with breath hold techniques
Here are three simple ways you can start taking advantage of breath holds today:
- Wim Hof — Three rounds of 30 large breaths followed by a breath hold. Three rounds take 10–15 minutes. Wim Hof breathing tutorial by Wim Hof — YouTube
- Breath-Hold Tables — These tables alternate between periods of normal breathing and breath holds. Four rounds take 12–15 minutes. Here’s an example:
Round 1: Rest 2:30 min., hold 1:00 min.
Round 2: Rest 2:00 min., hold 1:00 min.
Round 3: Rest 1:30 min., hold 1:00 min.
Round 4: Rest 1:00 min., hold 1:00 min.
- Control-Pause Technique — Periodically through the day, hold your breath after exhaling and time yourself until you have the slightest inclination/urge to breathe. Try to build up to at least 30 seconds.
Consider which technique might work best for you and then make the decision to implement it over the next week. As you practice breathwork more regularly, really tune into how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you find that you’re living in survival mode or approaching burnout, this could be one of your (many) tools to reset and regenerate your energy in a healthy way.
More resources: The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown, Breath by James Nestor.
At Regenerate, it is our desire to bring performance science and tools to our clients to enhance wellbeing and sustain high levels of performance in the modern work era. To that end, we do share ideas, strategies, and occasionally, supplements that either have evidence based efficacy and/or we have personally benefitted from. It is in no way meant to serve as medical advice and you should seek a doctor or clinical practitioner prior to any change in lifestyle or nutrition plan.