Good posture, spinal stability, a calm yet focused mind, quality movement patterns, good quality sleep and peak performance cannot be achieved without functional breathing. It’s well known that breathing can also help through times of acute stress, such as when delivering an important presentation at work, dealing with a fresh trauma or injury, and getting through the initial shock of entering an ice bath!

Breathing is the mother of all movements, the movement which keeps us alive. Yet breathing pattern disorders are so common throughout all sectors of society, and quite often overlooked and under-evaluated in the clinical or sports setting of injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. All too often, manual therapists only focus on the biomechanics of breathing, diaphragmatic breathing and intra-abdominal pressure. The Oxygen Advantage® excels by providing a simple yet powerful practical application to restoring functional breathing to all times of the day and night by holistically addressing breathing in terms of biochemistry, biomechanics and optimal cadence all combined together. The method can teach you how to simulate high-altitude training despite training at sea level. It also shows you how it is possible to still maintain reasonable levels of cardiorespiratory conditioning if you aren’t able to push your muscles or joints hard due to say an injury, post-surgery or arthritis.

Breathwork training is not just for high performance athletes – everyone owes it to themselves to breathe well day and night. Better oxygenation of the brain and body allows for better mental and physical performance, better sleep and better recovery from injury. Restoring slow nasal breathing is one of the fundamental goals of the OA breathing method. Creating air hunger through controlled breath holds is another key exercise.


Slowing down our breathing (when resting) to a cadence of six breaths/minute has been shown in heart rate variability studies to be a powerful activator of the vagus nerve, which is part of our parasympathetic ‘rest and repair’ system. This is why when we are thrown into a stressful situation, like presenting or performing in front of a large crowd, or going into an ice bath, slowing down our breathing can be really helpful. Since we breathe all day and all night, this is such a simple yet rewarding skill to master.

Nasal breathing

When I first tried taping my lips together before going to sleep, my wife thought I was crazy! But waking up the next morning I felt a noticeable difference in how refreshed and well rested I felt compared to usual, I hadn’t woken up with a dry throat or feeling thirsty, and I didn’t wake up to go to the toilet. Do you breathe through your mouth when you exercise? How about when you sleep? How do you breathe during the day? Nasal breathing has so many health benefits over mouth breathing. Breathing through the nose doesn’t just warm and humidify the air we breathe in (to open up the airways into the lungs), but the nitric oxide gas that’s naturally released in our nasal cavity gets picked up and carried down into the bronchioles and lower airways. This nitric oxide gas helps sterilise the air we breathe in, and it also redistributes the blood more evenly throughout our lungs in preparation for gas exchange. Although it can take a few weeks to get comfortable exercising using nasal breathing, there are performance gains to be made and recovery after exercise is much faster if athletes train with nasal breathing instead of mouth breathing. With nasal breathing we don’t breathe out as much CO2 (especially when we are exercising), and CO2 gas is a catalyst for hemoglobin to release O2 into the tissues. Better tissue oxygenation not only improves the performance of the brain and body, but it also assists with healing of injuries. When we breathe out through the nose, we are also limiting the amount of moisture and O2 we are ‘wasting’ when we’re breathing out – an important consideration if you are exercising in warm weather. Nasal breathing provides a resistance to breathing that is about three times greater compared to mouth breathing, hence it’s a natural easy way to slow down our breathing as well as keep our diaphragm and other breathing muscles nice and strong. Many people with deviated septums, narrow nostrils or a blocked nose, are still able to benefit from at least some of the exercises from the OA method. With the nose, the more you use it, the better it works! Breath holds can also help unblock the nose.

Breath holds

The idea of holding your breath can be uncomfortable. Our blood gas concentrations change, CO2 goes up and O2 drops. If you can remain calm you reduce your oxygen demand (a busy mind especially chews up a lot of oxygen), which will help you should be able to hold your breath for longer and more comfortably. Breath holds can help improve the buffering capacity of the blood to deal with high CO2 and low O2 levels. The Wim Hof Method has popularised cold exposure together with breath holds, and has scientific support for multiple health benefits including boosted immune system, reducing inflammation, easing depression and anxiety amongst other things. However, the breathing technique involves hyperventilating for 30 breaths prior to holding the breath. Whenever we hold our breath, the trigger for us to breathe in isn’t the drop in our oxygen levels, but the rise in our CO2 levels. The breath holds in the oxygen advantage differ as we don’t start with the 30 deep breaths in and out so we don’t blow off all that CO2. The breath hold is commenced after normal nasal breathing, at the end of a normal (not prolonged) exhale through the nose, and as such you won’t be able to hold your breath for as long because you are commencing the breath hold with normal CO2 levels. This builds tolerance to higher CO2 levels, but also protects us from oxygen levels dropping too low. CO2 also has a protective effect of increasing bloodflow to the brain, so it’s safer from that perspective too.

Breathing is an incredibly powerful gift from mother nature. At first glance you may not think much of it – after all, it’s something that our body automatically just does for us. But we can have a conscious control over how we breathe, and how we breathe during the day, during exercise and during sleep can all have a profound impact on our health and physical and mental performance regardless of our goals, regardless if you are a student or an elite athlete, a singer or a corporate executive.

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