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Brian Mackenzie and Rob Wilson on Breathing for Performance

By March 13, 2019 August 14th, 2020 No Comments

“The mind is the king of the senses, the breath is the king of the mind. That is a profound statement that most people are just like ‘what?’” – Rob Wilson

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Brian MacKenzie is the founder of Power, Speed, Endurance and Rob Wilson a co-presenter on the new Art of Breath seminars. They talk with Commander Divine today about the importance of proper breathing and breath control for performance in both athletes and everyday life.

Learn how

  • The nose is specifically designed for breathing, so breathing through the nose is the right way to breath. Don’t be a “mouth-breather.”
  • Breath control is the basis of performance both as an athlete and everything else as well
  • Nasal breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system so that you can be relaxed and focused at the same time.

Listen to this episode to get insight into the least recognized, but most important physical activity, namely breathing

Mark has talked before about the Halo Sport system for neural plasticity. By stimulating specific parts of the brain during activity, it makes you better able to learn new types of movement. As a listener, you are able to use the code DIVINE to get the new, upgraded version for half the regular price. Go to

Mark just tried MUD/WTR drink and wants to tell his tribe about it.  MUD/WTR is a very healthy alternative to coffee. It actually does a better job of giving you the focus you need, without the jitters or crash. They’re not mad at coffee, just disappointed. Go to their site at

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Mark: Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. My name is Mark Divine. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to have a really interesting discussion today with Rob Wilson and my friend Brian Mackenzie, who are running now seminar by that name. And I’ve known Brian for many years, about 10 years now at least. Right?

Brian: At least. Yeah, yeah.

Mark: Author. I knew him when he first started Crossfit endurance. He’s the author of “Unbreakable Runner,” is that right?

Brian: “Unbreakable Runner.” “Power, Speed, Endurance.” The last one was “Unplugged“…

Mark: And we did a podcast about “Unplugged.”

Brian: Yes, we did.

Mark: It was awesome. They were like, you were at the vanguard of the unplugged movement. Speaking about it with regard to training, but like I’m seeing more and more information pop up about getting unplugged not just from your iPhone, but…

Brian: Ironically, that’s I think the importance of what it is we’re here to kind of really talk about. And something that is… Which you’ll totally get and understand, you know,

Mark: I can’t wait to get back into that. Okay. So Brian comes from that kind of endurance, strength conditioning, Crossfit, you know, just like all around human developer.

And Rob has an education in what he calls “manual therapy.” I’m curious what that is. As opposed to non-manual.

Rob: Well, so manual therapy means specifically that I’m using my hands to manipulate the human body.

Mark: So a massage therapist is a manual therapist…

Rob: Exactly.

Mark: As opposed to like a psycho-therapist. They’re not touching anyone.

Rob: Or if they are there, they’re in trouble. But even like physical therapists, not all use manual therapy techniques, so it might be more exercise instructive, whereas my focus is specifically on using the hands.

Mark: Very cool. Okay. And he’s got a background in and he’s a man after my own passions. Jeet Kune Do, Judo, Muay Thai. Um, I don’t even know what that word is. And Cali. So my experience with Muay Thai was our SEAL platoons in Thailand. And of course the national champion happens to be a Thai navy SEAL. We’re training, right? So he wants to reciprocate. So, here we all are in the gym with this guy basically getting beat up and getting our legs chopped up. I felt like someone took like a machete to my legs,

Brian: Strengthening the bones.

Rob: That’s like my most formative… It’s like getting hit with a baseball bat over and over. A baseball bat. You can’t believe that a human being can hit that hard, especially one that small. So I know like our Muay Thai sort of master who is a Chai Sirisute. Basically brought, Thai boxing to the states. When he would come to a seminar, he would kick the banana bag and he couldn’t have been much taller than like 5′ 4″.

Mark: Is that like a bag full of bananas? It seems like if you kicked it, it would get really mushy.

Rob: You know what? I never really… I never inquired, but now I’m curious. It didn’t feel like bananas when I kicked it, but it sure did when he kicked it. So he would kick this thing and it would basically fold around his shin.

Mark: Wow. And when you kicked it. It just stared back at you.

Rob: Yeah, I was like, “all right, kid. Try again.” So it was a really good experience.

Mark: I remember my practice Goju. Got a black belt and then one of our practices was basically, yeah, slapping our… Hitting really hard our forearms and our shins and the idea was that you’re creating all these little micro breaks in the bones. And then those would heal…. a little cement would come in and fill up the cracks and then you can do it again and they break again to the cement would come.

So Muay Thai, they’re like literally breaking their bones and their femur, not femur. What’s the…? Tibia?

Brian: Tibia.

Mark: Over and over and over and over. Literally, almost every time they practice until they have these stumps. Right? Tree trunks.

Brian: My co-writer on “Power, Speed, Endurance” was a big Muay Thai guy. Spent years in Thailand fighting and he was… His shins were like steel. It was just unbelievable…

Mark: You know, I’ve always had this like the saying, “you don’t like karate chop karate guy. You don’t do Jiu Jitsu against Jocko and you don’t like try to kick a Muay Thai guy. Know what I mean?

Brian: Yeah.

Mark: But what you do is they’re coming at you, you just poke them in the eye.

Rob: (laughing) That’s strategy.

Mark: Exactly what they’re not expecting.

Brian: That’s having a plan.

Mark: All right, enough on that. But it’s all connected to breath, isn’t it? Everything goes back to breath. Every martial arts movement, endurance…

Brian: The body’s number one goal is respiration. That’s it.

Mark: Right. That’s a great way to say it. You know? I would say it another way. It’s like if you were considering fueling yourself, like most people think of macronutrients,

Maybe micronutrients. But rarely do they think of water and oxygen. The primary fuel your body uses is oxygen.

Brian: Yeah. I used to give a lecture at the Crossfit endurance stuff, cause we talk about nutrition and I would say “so here’s the hierarchy.” And it’d be like oxygen, hydration, then nutrition. And then everything else kind of fell in line. And we would talk about nutrition. That was the nutrition lecture. But I, at the time was not connecting well how do we get more efficient or better at using that oxygen molecule?

Mark: And the average person when they look at that hierarchy at the top it’s smoke and then alcohol or coffee and then a big Mac…

Rob: and then Netflix.

Mark: Yeah. And then so we could change those four things…

Brian: From a general populous standpoint, absolutely. But I mean you even look, but this was the interesting thing, the most interesting and it starts with me or it starts with Rob, but even at the most elite levels, in any sport we were seeing major discrepancy. You had a gold medal, great, but we still were picking up discrepancies in respiration and what was going on, what we, you know, we think is going on or how we think we’re using oxygen.

And I think that goes really back to, I mean, and you’ll understand this is your yoga background. Like what is Yoga? What’s the foundation of yoga? Breath practices. Pranayama, boom. Like what does that mean? And Rob’s done one hell like, you know, so rob Rob’s broken that work down quite well into a language I think we all can understand.

Rob: Yeah. So, when you look at ancient practice like Pranayama, it literally means energy control. Yama means my force control or restraint pronto. That’s Prana means life force or breath, right? They’re synonymous terms. And if you look at it from the perspective of the yoga culture being a storytelling culture, that’s romantic in nature, right? It’s not by our standard of scientific culture, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have empirical knowledge that’s valid, right? So if we translate that into like a western scientific language, energy literally means how we produce work. And breath is absolutely the epicenter of how our body deals with all of our energetic requirements, both physiologically and psychologically. It’s the absolute hub in the center of the wheel. There’s no denying it. If you understand human physiology at all.

So when you look at how many layers of understanding those ancient people may have had because they spent so much time with it. Perhaps when they said energy control, it wasn’t as “woo woo” as we might think. Maybe it wasn’t as esoteric and the more I study this stuff, the more I realize that a lot of those words are rules of thumb.

They’re heuristics for behavioral paths like energy control. Like how efficient are you with your body, your movement, your attention, your intention. And those are all completely linked together. And breath is at the center of that because the only limiters for breath control are nearly dead and dead. Unless you have severe neurological impairment or lack of awareness, right? But everybody has access to it. So there’s nobody who can say like, “well, when I’m on my bike, I don’t breathe.” That’s not true.

Mark: Otherwise you’d be dead or nearly dead. Until and EMT started you back up. Right?

You said something interesting, empirical evidence. I believe that the Yogis and the Rishis had empirical evidence. It was just subjective. And so it wasn’t readily observable by the western scientists because they didn’t have the methodology to do the studies. The ethnographic studies and subjective studies.

Nor did they care. Glassman used to talk about evidence based fitness and he was talking about objective evidence. But when I looked at that and said, “The evidence for me is the subjective evidence. How do I feel when I do a Crossfit workout? How do I feel before I started Crossfit or versus after six months. I can see the difference in terms of the six pack abs and maybe then you know, the glutes and everything else is growing and I’m looking a little bit more like a mutant, which a lot of Cross fitters do these days. Separate subject.

But it really is what’s the subjective sense of self that’s accruing as a result of that training, which includes, you know, breathing more and more effectively, and moving more and more effectively. Stuff like that. So yeah, there is evidence. It was just basically this massive subjectiveness then which got collected through the stories like you said, and then which was transmitted both through training and some actually exceptional writing. Which most westerners haven’t yet addressed. Except for those who are really passionate about breathing.

Rob: And a lot of times I think people are fast to throw the baby out with the bath water. But you know, sort of a parallel that we see in martial arts is there was a time when like for example, traditional styles of karate, when MMA came on the scene, people would throw it away like, “oh, that’s not applicable in the octagon.”

But now you see traditional karate style athletes, very successful if they understand how to apply it in the context. So all of is context driven. So you have to understand the context of the story and its application so that you can get to the bottom of what they’re talking about. And then go, “okay, well what culture do I live in? And how do I apply those same lessons in the context that I find myself in?” Otherwise you’ll miss all the good stuff and throw it away.

Mark: I love… let’s stay on yoga for a second. Cause obviously I’m very passionate. So, Patanjali and his yoga sutras, it says basically first futures, here’s yoga. If you’re ready, you’ll hear what I have to say. It’s profound in and of itself, right? Because if you’re not ready then you won’t even understand what I’m about to say, is what he’s saying.

Then he goes right into it and says yoga is about seizing the fluctuation or the modifications of the mind. It’s basically about controlling the mind. Retraining the mind, right? And then he begins to tell you how to do it and he says “now first, we’re going to develop some basically some disciplines around how we live.” Check, right? We got to eat better, we’re going to move better. We’ve got to challenge ourselves. We’ve got to do these different things.

And then what we need to do is begin to move our body so that we’re less agitated and we can manage our stress. Check. And next we take control of our breath and we bring in a life force into our body to enliven it and to further develop the mind. And then the rest, right? Everything flows from there.

Now these aren’t necessarily linear, even though they’re explained in a linear manner. They are actually all done at the same time. Right? And he’ll go back to later is saying, “You know what? Actually the breath is the path.” Even when working on those disciplines of movement and fueling. The breath is what’s going to control the physiology. So at the physical level, breath is everything because it’s going to basically get your body to a state where you can even be disciplined enough to do the movements and to do the further deeper work of meditation, concentration…

Rob: And it makes sense if you’re a teacher of anything. Then you know, something as simple as like how you dress yourself, how you, you know… so my parents were strict, my mom is real strict, so it was like “make your bed every morning, keep your room really clean.” And there was a lot of profound… to me it was just like, “ah, mom doesn’t want me to clean the house,” you know? But there was a lot of profound lessons about me being responsible for my space. And even in something like that, people think is sort of esoteric and nebulous, like the Yoga Sutras, it’s actually really important that you have normal life stuff in order because ultimately breath control at it’s sort of peak expression can be very subtle. And if you’re not able to do the discipline of like, “hey, make your bed,” it makes it a lot more challenging. But you are doing it all at the same time. But you know, people’s ability to sort of grasp a new behavior a lot of times happens in a linear fashion. But on the surface, right? But later they go, “oh, that was there the whole time.” You know, and I know that’s happened to me repetitively, regardless of what I was studying.

Brian: Well, on that same… B.K.S. Lyengar. The mind is the king of the senses. The breath is the king of the mind. That is a profound statement that most people are just like “what?” You know.

But it’s so attractive now to us because we look at, I look at an athlete and so this is what most athletes that I’ve ever dealt with are just like, “yeah, yeah. Whatever,” with something like that. “So I want to get flexible cause I do yoga. So I can be better at my sport.”

And it’s like, “yeah, you’re missing the point of that.”

Mark: Yoga has been conflated to exercise.

Brian: 100% 100%. And so you start to look at an athlete and work with an athlete and you see these discrepancies that are actually the same discrepancies that you’ll see in anything. From a fundamental yoga layer.

Mark: You can almost like trace it back. So a dysfunctional movement pattern – which we love to talk about – really stems from a dysfunctional mental pattern. Which is linked to a dysfunctional breathing pattern.

Brian: Which is involving a physiological problem.

Mark: Right. Exactly. Greasing the groove of a dysfunctional life. What?

Brian: Bada Bang.

Mark: So if you can reverse engineer that and start with the breath. Cause every, every thought pattern and emotional pattern has a corresponding breath pattern. So if you can engineer the breath patterns in a functional capacity, that will lead to better thinking, better emotional states, that’ll lead to more effective movement. And then those will cycle back, right. To more of a virtual cycle of, you know, more effective breathing. And so now you’re on, you know, now you’re getting somewhere on developmental path.

Brian: So it’s about becoming, using it as a tool to become a more conscious participant in the direction of your own life. So like, “Hey, what is this behavior I’m engaging in?” Whether it’s a sport behavior, a mechanical behavior, food related, or whatever it is. What’s the, what’s the root of the behavior I’m engaging in? And then is it a behavior that I want?” It always ends up boiling down to that ultimately, right? “What do I want?” And one of the things that…

Mark: As opposed to what do I desire? So let’s make that distinction clear.

Rob: It’s different. What’s my actual vector? Like what trajectory am I on and what part am I playing in that trajectory, and one of the things about breath that’s so amazing is that it never lies you. Your physiology is it absolute direct reflection of the state you’re in and it doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s like, “here I am and this is how it is.” And if you confront it and deal with that stuff, it puts you on a much better path of understanding yourself and your relationships with other people. And outside of all the cool sports ramifications that are around this stuff, which is really cool stuff. You know, one of the major benefits that I know I’ve seen personally and Brian has to, is I’m just a better human being. I have a better relationship with my loved ones and people that I work with and…

Brian: Myself I think is where ultimately that’s where it began. Yeah. And everybody benefits. But you make some blanket or a hard statement like respiration is the absolute indicator of what’s happening with energy and metabolically. And so when we start to really look at that from the, “Oh, like that’s a bold statement. Like what does that mean? If I’ve got Crossfit athlete doing something and I’m watching them huff and puff through their mouth from the beginning of a workout and it was just something we routinely did.

Well, if we actually look at that metabolically, okay, well let’s test that. Let’s look at that. Let’s look at that from a scientific standpoint. “Oh, you’re burning sugar. 100% basically. And if I’m doing that workout after workout after workout or I’m an ultra-endurance athlete and I’m off running long distances, right?

But I’m supposed to be this aerobic athlete, but my mouth is wide open. What am I doing? What’s going on? I have no control. I’m not controlling anything. I’m not using anything. So when we start to move into this area of really grasping or hey, we’re talking about the mind and creating a better person, well that begins with what I’m doing in any movement I’m doing, you know? And that is where we see, oh, if we actually grab hold of something, we’re actually metabolically controlling. We’re in control of what is happening from a substrate standpoint.

That is a game changer. All the way around for any, any sport, any athlete, and any human being. Sitting on the couch like, “Hey, we can get you breathing? Hey, you can’t work out? Can’t move too much? Great. Let’s get you breathing. We’re going to get you more efficient at using oxygen as an energy source.” That changes the entire paradigm, you know? So I think that fits right into where my brain or where my head’s at and what type of a person I’m becoming, because I’m looking at it for an athlete because they’re not interested in this esoteric world over here of what we’re trying to talk about being a better human being. Okay, great. We’ll get there another route. I’m going to show you what I’m going to show you and that’s great. And then all the sudden months or a year later it’s like, hey, like breath is a door. Like what’s going on? Like I’m such, I’m so much more aware of what’s going on in my life. And it’s like, Yep, yes you are.

Practical Breathing


Mark: It’s neat because I agree. I’ve been teaching breath to Spec ops candidates since I started SEALFIT and you’re right, you have to, in teaching it, as you guys are, aware, you have to break it down and make it very practical for most people. So it’s gotta be about physiological benefits. How it’s going to make you a better… For the SEAL candidates…. how to make them be a better warrior. How’s it gonna affect my strength training and my recovery, you know, all that kind of stuff.

Mark: But then experientially, very quickly they begin to experience the arousal control effect, the energizing effect, and then the mental clarity effect, right? And you can point those out as teachers. You’re saying, “Okay, so this is what you’re going to experience after this training session when you breathe like this.” And they’d be like, “damn, you’re right. That was incredible.” Right?

And then once they get that, then they can take it to the next level and the next level, the next level. And you know, like you said Rob, it’s an endless journey, right? The breath is a gift that never stops giving.

Rob: And every rabbit hole I explore it opens up three more. “Whoa. There’s a whole ‘nother sort of like microcosm here that I just didn’t even know that was connected to breathing.” I don’t even know if I have time…

Mark: Right. Maybe at the end of the podcast, we can come back to some of the more esoteric aspects of breath. Cause it’s obviously a passion of mine. But I think most people listening going like, “okay guys…” I tend to go down those rabbit holes. Let’s get to the practical.

There’s a couple things, in no particular order that I know some things about, but I really want to hear your perspective. One is like, why breathe? Why breathe through the nose versus the mouth? What’s the big deal? What does a dysfunctional breathing pattern look like versus a functional breathing pattern? And also like for a raw beginner who is just listening to this maybe driving their car. What’s the first thing you teach people in terms of how to breathe effectively? And you know where they go? Like what’s the first thing you would do in a seminar? Maybe start there and then we’ll… the rest of the stuff will come through this talking about the physiology and the practical application.

Rob: Yeah, I mean I think when it comes down to just brass tacks like if you are in your car listening to this, just pay attention to what’s happening. That’s the first step is attention. And most of us take what’s going on with our breathing so for granted, unless it’s taken away. That the simple act oftentimes of just beginning to pay attention to it, will start to have an effect. You know, it’s an automatic thing that… Or I should say it better like this… making recommendations to each other like, “oh man, you look stressed out. Just take a nice deep breath.” Like we know that that’s a way, and that’s not a protocol. Like, “Hey, take a nice, deep breath.”

Mark: That’s an intervention.

Rob: Yeah, exactly. But you know, if you’re in your car, you’re sitting in traffic and it’s going slow. Most of us our arousal state is getting more and more stressed. We’re getting more and more sympathetic. We’re getting more and more wired rather than, “hey, this is an opportunity. I can check in, just slow things down and pay attention.” And that’s an easy first step without having to worry about any kind of fancy protocol or anything. Just start paying attention.

Mark: I love that. We used to have this… Or not used to, but the three breath rule. Heard about that. And you know, so like I had to employ that last night and I pulled into my community. It’s a gated community and I was trying to send a voice text, you know? But it wasn’t on the highway. I was in my community. So I thought it was kind of safe, but I still couldn’t quite figure it out. Right.

So there were four parking spots in front of the pool and I just kind of like pulled over parallel parked like halfway in them knowing that I literally it was going to be there for 20 seconds. And as I did that, literally I started sending the voice text and three seconds later I get this rapping on my window and it’s the president of the HOA and he’s like, “You’re taking up our parking!” And I’m just looking at him and I’m like breathe in, breathe out. And I didn’t have to say that, cause I practice them. I’m just looking at him, “man, this someone really kicked this guy’s cat today. Holy cow.” So I’m just like looking at him. My mind is processing, I’m breathing and I’m still speaking into the voice text and then he’s like, “Move! Now!” I kid you not.

Rob: Wow.

Mark: This is like this seventy year old guy. And I’m thinking, “Dude, you’re going to give yourself a heart attack.

Brian: There’s a lot going on in that dude’s life, right?

Mark: So much going on. But like my 20 year-old self would have responded really differently, you know what I mean?

Brian: Meet me five, six years ago, whatever. Right, exactly.

Mark: That’s the power of the breath. Like “I’m sorry that you’re feeling so bad.”

Brian: That is the actual importance of a breath practice though. It’s not, “hey, I’m sitting down for five or 10 minutes and going through some Pranayama. It’s the reality that you connect, and go, “oh, I got this thing. I’m now in control of what’s going on. Like versus react…

Mark: That conditioned reaction. Breath is what gives you the control back then you have choice again.

Brian: Yeah. I think from a fundamental…

Mark: Everyone’s experienced that every day. The question is how do you want to respond? Come back to the breath. And that’s what you’re saying.

Rob: There is no spoon. You’ve seen the matrix. Right? The kid… It’s impossible to bend the spoon. You have to bend your mind. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s it.

Brian: I think from a fundamental layer as well, like… And, principles is basically what this is about. What we’re teaching. It’s not, hey, Wim Hof method, uh, you know, some sort of Pranayama.

Mark: Yeah. It’s not a technique. I know. I love when people get excited about Wim Hof in that at least they’re breathing. But then I have to give them the old warning sign. It’s like, okay, that’s one technique and it’s a very, very aggressive and you know, depending upon who you are, that might move some energy that you aren’t ready to have moved.

Brian: And I’ve observed that on a very large scale. I’ve spent, I spent considerable amount of time with Wim Hof. And we’ve done a lot of work together. He’s spent some time with me. But I’ve seen groups of people, and things and that was one of the connections that actually spearheaded the movement that we were like, “oh, there’s like, I’m seeing a girl cry, a rugby player cry. I’m seeing this guy get popped up and pissed off. I’m seeing this…”

Like I was seeing different reactions, emotional reactions to this entire thing in a group setting. And I’m like, “this isn’t like, we’re not all reacting and we’re not all getting the same thing from what this thing’s doing.” And so there’s this energy movement going on and although the physiology is doing things, the brain is set up like raw. There’s a very different person than Brian and who’s a very different person from Mark. But we can all get along and do things. But emotionally there are things going on.

Well, it just so happens that we now understand the things that Yogis were saying, that all of this connectedness, that there are actual paths that cross with emotions and respiration patterns. And so if I trigger something that you know is getting into something and I’m not prepared for it, we’ve got something wrong.

Mark: It’s like going from zero to hero, like anything. Doing Wim Hof is like taking someone off the couch and having them do like a 500 pound deadlift. They haven’t ever lifted before. You know, it’s like maybe you should do some preparatory work. Yeah. I asked, one of my mentors is a yoga teacher named Gary Kraftsow… His teacher was Krishmacharia who was Lyengars and Patabijois’ teacher, for Vishtanga yoga. And I asked him at a podcast, I haven’t, you know, I had him speak at our, Unbeatable Mind summit. Like, here’s a Yogi speaking at our summit. You know, everyone’s like, really? And what does he got to teach us? Standby.

Standby. It was a phenomenal presentation, but I asked him on a podcast, I said, you know what, I’ve been teaching this thing called “box breathing” and it’s very, very simple and safe, you know, just four count in, hold, four count out, hold four count. And people really responded to it. What do you think about that as a beginner’s practice?

He goes, “you know what?” He goes, “I think it’s okay, but if it was me…” Very good not to criticize me. “But if it was me, I would literally just teach them to inhale slowly and exhale slowly through their nose with complete awareness.” Basically what you just said. Because even, you know, for some people even the holds could be causing anxiety. I was like, “yeah, it’s true. I know that. Good point.”

Rob: Well, it’s something that, that I’ve witnessed with clients that I’ve had who have extraordinary anxiety – clinical anxiety problems. Yeah. And any pause in the breath cycle, it triggers anxiety. They… This person in particular told me that it felt like she was going to die. That’s it. That was her sense of holding her breath. Breath.

Mark: The breath essentially is mimicking death. Right? That’s why it’s so profound, but you have to be ready for it. Right? So you trained a little bit for that… the inhale hold has this sense of an energized death and the suspension has a sense of a relaxing in or surrendering. Right. And so that’s can be terrifying for people who haven’t learned to examine death.

Brian: That’s so good. It’s so true, because I got people who think they’ve got the breathing down and it’s like, “hey, send me over. You know, we’re going to work on some CO2 tables.” Cause we’re trying to employ a lot of different things and you start pulling some free diving stuff.

Mark: You’ve got to bring the science into it. For people to accept it.

Brian: 100%. 100%. And it’s like you got somebody who thinks they’ve got it and it’s like, “Hey, send me over your max breath hold. You know, just relax for five minutes and just hold your breath as long as you comfortably can and you know, and when it gets too stressful, breathe, just tell me what that number is and you know, and it’s like 33 seconds and it’s like, whoa. You’re stressed. There’s some stress going on. There’s some stuff you’re holding on to.

Mark: In your guys’ experience through your work, what do you think a healthy, functional duration for breath hold is? I know everyone’s different. I’m not talking about navy SEAL deep sea diving breath hold. I’m talking about someone who’s listening to this and be like, “I’m curious. So you know, they do a breath holds…

Brian: I’d say a minute, but we use actual, we have an actual test that we’re taking that we stole from…

Mark: A comfortable breath hold, right?

Brian: Yeah. Not getting contractions.

But we have a test that we actually stole from the freediving world that we’ve now called… It’s a Max exhale test and they use it to set up apnea tables, things like that. Right?

Well we’re calling it a CO2 tolerance test, because we’ve found a threefold reason for its application. And if you exhale after you’ve relaxed and you do a full inhale and then exhale as long and as slow as you possibly can. Right? And this is showing us a mechanical how well, how much control you actually have on an exhale. And then B, what’s going on with the physiology? As the CO2 builds, how much can you tolerate? And then see what’s going on with the mind. Where is the connection in the mind with that high CO2 tolerance? Because CO2 is actually that reactionary thing that we’re seeing in things where it’s like if I take somebody and go, “all right, let’s have you hold your breath right here outside of the water, right? Hold your breath as long as you can. Now let’s get in the water. I’m just going to hold you. We’re going to go under and you’re gonna hold your breath as long as you can. What do you think’s going to happen to that number?

Mark: Decrease. Because the mind’s going to start causing some anxiety. The anxiety or require more energy. The energy you’re going to suck off.

Brian: Bingo. And so there’s this trigger that’s happening with chemo receptors up in the brain that we’re seeing with things in a reactionary mechanism to breathe, right? So if I have somebody hold their breath for a minute, but they were only capable of doing it for 30 seconds, they’re going to freak out. But what’s going to happen from a physiological standpoint, they’re perfectly fine. Nothing bad is happening.

Mark: It’s actually the CO2 that triggers… you called it a gag… What is the term for when you do that?

Rob: Oh, that’s a Vasal response.

Mark: A Vasal response that says “I need to breathe.” And of course in the breath hold diving and in the SEAL training, we learned to kind of push through the first two or three of those and then you fall back into the…

There’s actually enough oxygen in your body. It’s the build-up of CO2 that’s causing that response.

Brian: Yeah. It’s not the oxygen. You’re actually getting your… Your body’s actually starting to use up more of the oxygen that’s inside that red blood cell. So it’s starting to be versus, and this is going back to the exercise…

Mark: So how does that… so let’s talk about the science. How does that create a buildup of CO2? Because you’re breaking the bond of the oxygen?

Rob: Exactly. In aerobic respiration CO2 is the waste product of the use of oxygen in the blood. And so it builds up at the longer you’re without fresh oxygen. The higher the level.

Brian: The only way to get rid of the get that oxygen molecule off the iron hemoglobin with the iron molecule is to create an acidic environment. And that acid is carbonic acid, which when CO2 is in the blood, it’s carbonic acid. And then the by-product of that is “whoo.” And the trigger for you to actually breathe when you’re in a conscious state is CO2. Unconscious, there are levels… What we started to figure out was there are levels where it becomes O2. So you will start to see… Like if you watch or you know, your wife fall asleep or your kids or anybody or your dogs. Like I’ve seen this in multiple different animals. There’s a breathing pattern that starts to happen when we fall asleep and it’s this and it just this all out of an exhale and it pauses and it just holds. And that gets deeper and deeper and deeper to where that hold goes longer and longer and longer. And oxygen, low O2, is what starts to trigger some of the breathing in our deeper states of sleep.

Mark: Sleep apnea is like if your sinuses are blocked or if your nostrils are blocked,

Brian: That’s extreme low.

Mark: Yeah. So you get down, down, down then you’re like, “Gasp.” Which is really unhealthy over the long-term.

Brian: Yes. And this is where it kind of, the nose starts to play its role and where we can dive in.

Mark: You know, all right, let’s do that as a segue way. I want to come back though. Let’s just make a mental marker to come back to the physiology of creating homeostasis through the breath in terms of the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Brian: Well the nose plays right into this. Yeah.

Mark: So why nostril versus mouth? Let’s just start, where did this like this negative connotation of being a mouth breather come from? Cause I’ve heard that for like 30 years.

Rob: It’s not a compliment right? Doesn’t mean you’re bright.

Mark: “You’re a caveman.”

Rob: Breathe through your mouth, that means your dummy, right?

Mark: There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Like, don’t be a mouth breather.

Rob: Totally. Yeah. And so, I mean, if you just look at it from a structural standpoint, the nose, it’s not that you can’t breathe with your mouth, obviously you can, but structurally, your nose is built to deal with processing air, right? We have, there’s hair and that’s there to filter out particulate so they don’t go into your lungs. Your sinuses have a lot of important responsibilities. One being mucus, which releases T cells into the air as it goes into your lungs. So if there’s an antibacterial, there’s an antiviral humidifies the air as it goes in, which lends to more successful diffusion of oxygen into the bloodstream.

Mark: So your nose is a natural antibiotic.

Rob: it’s a natural antibiotic.

Brian: It’s your first line of defense for the air. It’s your only line of defense. The first barrier to you, other than skin, for the air that travels into the body there. This is the line of the defense.

Mark: It’s the sentinel, right? It’s like you’ve got a little bunch of little…

Brian: There’s something wrong. Sneeze. Oh. Like you know, it’s reactionary, right?

Rob: Yeah. And also we can, we can actually control much better from a, like a breath practice standpoint.

Mark: Because it splits into two instead of one big stream going through this giant gaping hole, you got two smaller streams.

Rob: Yeah. And then there’s more and more scientific evidence that lends itself to lots of dysfunction that is part and parcel of breathing with the mouth. So for example, there’s a really good book that just came out, I think this, this last quarter called “Jaws,” which came out of Stanford Press. And it’s really interesting because of the amount of like facial and jaw dysfunction and they’re linking a lot of that to mouth breathing, because when your sinuses aren’t functioning properly, the maxilla in your face doesn’t grow in the right position. And as a result, your jaw doesn’t set.

Mark: Okay. Remember that character in James Bond? The silver teeth?

Rob: I do, he used to bite metal all the time.

Mark: He had massive like Tony Robbins style jaw. And his name was “Jaws” right, or something like that. He was a mouth breather.

Rob: Well, definitely.

Mark: Doesn’t it have an effect on your heart as well?

Rob: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because if you’re having inefficient absorption of oxygen, how much harder does your heart have to work in order to get the oxygen you do have?

Brian: So the chemistry behind that or the physiology behind that is if I’m actually breathing through my mouth and we’re observing this, we’re literally launching… How many like three studies right now kicking off? Like we’re literally involved in this stuff right now to show what we’re seeing… What we’re actually seeing through testing subjectively. But what we’re actually seeing on medical grade equipment, that the difference between me just standing here and going (mouth breath) or (nose breath is a very different metabolic profile. And thus I’m ridding myself of more CO2, making it almost an impossibility to efficiently use oxygen in any capacity.

Mark: When you breathe through your mouth, your exhale, too much CO2.

Brian: You can offload so much more CO2. But the big kicker here is there’s no real difference in how much oxygen I’m actually getting in on the intake.

Mark: You can take in the volume.

Brian: I can just move it faster.

Mark: That’s only with like effort, because most people don’t breathe with that type of effort unless they’re exercising. Through their mouth.

Brian: Totally. And there’s a time and a place.

Mark: I do this drill, like think about like to get people to recognize the difference between just unconscious mouth breathing and unconscious nasal breathing.

Now, of course, it’s not unconscious cause I’m actually then asking them to pay attention to it. But for the average person, whoever’s listening can do this. Just breathe kind of a little bit through your mouth. Like you would normally be breathing, right? First of all you’re just basically using the upper part of your lungs, not activating it in the muscles. Your diaphragm is disengaged and you’re taking in about 30 to 40% of your lung capacity.

So in order to get a full lung capacity, you have to work at it. You know, like you’re in an endurance event, you know? But when you breathe through the nose, it activates the diaphragm, which then pulls oxygen deeper into the lungs. Unless your diaphragm is frozen. And a lot of people have frozen diaphragms because of the way they sit and that’s a dysfunctional movement pattern.

Rob: Absolutely. And so like, you know, and at least in the approach when we teach, there’s these three pillars that we talk about. And their state, mechanics, and physiology, right? So what’s going on in your mind, the position that your body is in, how are you moving through space and what’s going on in the chemistry? And those are completely interchangeable and interconnected. And that’s exactly the point you were just making. They influence each other. And you can only focus on one at a time usually, but they’re all always getting influenced.

Mark: But through practice you can align the state and the posture. Which then will have a positive benefit or um, you know, accrue over time a positive physiological balance or homeostasis.

Brian: And it gives you a lot of, you feel it, you feel like, like I got, I got the flu like right after Christmas and I shut down for like three or four hours in my sinuses. And that was the first time I had really slept and like fell asleep at any portion in the last few years where my mouth drew open to breathe. Right?

And I was so uncomfortable I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t sleeping. I was just built up and I was like dry mouth and it felt worse. And you start to feel that stuff. And through a performance standpoint, you will learn that if you spend time with this, that you cannot hack your biological and physiological responses. Meaning if I cannot operate in an aerobic capacity well enough breathing through my nose, you’re going to be operating with a mouth open, which means we’re no longer operating in an aerobic capacity. And so you’re trying to hide from the fact… You’re trying to hide from your own fitness. Your real ability because anaerobic training…

Mark: So if you’re banging through, let’s say a 20 minute Amrap… And you, you just have to open your mouth and suck the air in.

Brian: There’s a mechanical problem.

Mark: Right. So you need to slow down.

Brian: Most likely it’s a mechanical and physiological problem. You actually are blowing through something that you are incapable of doing.

Mark: Cause that’s the norm. I don’t see too many people not slobbering, you know, through their mouth.

Brian: I don’t see many runners cruising on the street. Like this is what we do. I mean, I just see this in any exercise. I mean, forget Crossfit. Cause Crossfit’s easy to look at and just go, “oh my God.” This is why we see a lot of people who have the metabolic problems that they do, right? Like, and that’s where their burnout, red line, adrenal fatigue, things like that. And that’s not Crossfit. It’s the individual not playing the realistic role of, “Oh, I can’t, I’m not actually operating in a high aerobic capacity right now.

I’m actually operating in an, in a very anaerobic place I’m burning through sugar, which is a limited resource. And a very costly resource to use. That means so when I do switch over to mouth breathing, I should be under…

Mark: Costly in terms of its deleterious effect on the body.

Brian: 100%. Yeah.

Rob: High waste. That’s hard to manage.

Mark: Think about all those endurance athletes. Of course everyone, you know the heart attacks started happening. People started to look at diets. Well maybe you know, pasta isn’t the right thing to eat all the time.

But I think it’s equally the breath. That may be the primary cause of the heart attack.

Brian: I will tell you right now that the breathing is probably the bigger culprit. Because you should be able… we were talking about this on the drive down here is we’re an efficient machine. Like we can take a lot.

Like go to Vegas. People are pulling it off out there. Not well, but they’re pulling it off and they’re doing some time.

Mark: That goes back to that hierarchy, smoke, alcohol…

Brian: Right, right. You look at my dogs and my dogs been eating the same type of food their entire lives and they’re pretty damn healthy. Like we talk about diversity and in food and we talk about all this stuff with nutrition and it’s like…

Mark: Yeah, but the dog, he’s eating the same thing and he’s healthy.

Brian: Right? Like, well why shouldn’t we? Why do we fall apart if that happens? Well, is it the food or is it how we’re actually absorbing that? You know? Right. And I think, yes, I’m not trying, I’m not trying to say go to McDonald’s and eat like

Mark: Well, that would be one of the control groups, right? Eat the Big Mac and breathe through your nose. Then the other people eat the big Mac and breathe through their mouth and of course they take us years to kind of get to the…

Brian: Well, I don’t think we need to actually pull that study together, but we can pull together a study that does show, “hey, mouth breathing versus nasal breathing, what’s going on? What’s the health implications of this? What’s going on from a stress standpoint?” Because person breathing through the mouth from what we’re seeing, those are stressed individuals. Those are high stress people. Those are people who are actually holding onto…

Mark: How do you recruit those people to say, “Okay, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t change a thing. Cause we want to study you.

Brian: We just say, “Hey, we’re going to put you on a bike. You’re going to do this workout. And you’re going to breathe through your mouth only. And then you are going to go breath through your nose briefly.

Mark: But doesn’t it matter how they breathe before they come to the training?

Brian: Well we can measure what’s happening in that moment.

Rob: Yeah, we can have baselines and some of the analyzers like the breath analyzers that we’re using to do the preliminary work on this are really accurate. And I mean, you can see… we can see it in real time where you know, we’ll be not even necessarily on a bike, sometimes just sitting still and breathing through the nose. And you can look at things like respiratory exchange rate, right? Which is how, what’s the volume of oxygen going in and out versus the volume of carbon dioxide. And that equation literally tells you how aerobic are you, how anaerobic are you? And just opening the mouth immediately pings that thing towards anaerobic. By large percentage points and there’s not even any work being done. As soon as you open your mouth, your respiratory capacity becomes far less efficient. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a time and a place.

And so again, that brings us back to the question of what do we want? You know, so you brought up like doing a 20 minute amrap kind of workout and if you’re doing that training session with the goal of developing your aerobic capacity then you absolutely need to keep your mouth closed. But if over the course of that 20 minutes you’re trying to see how much crap you can get done, no matter what the cost is, then by all means.

But hey, you have to know what it is you’re getting out of that session. And to me, thinking about trying to win the workout every day is kind of like being the tallest midget, right? It just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. So you have to know why you’re there and what you’re trying to get out of it. And if it’s like, “Hey, I’m trying to improve my aerobic capacity,” well then I gotta eat a little dirt here. A little bit more aware and be a little bit more aware.

Mark: Might also lead to fewer injuries over time as well.

Brian: You think there’s a tissue response? There is. 100%. Like you just start, I mean look the difference between nose and mouth. I’m parasympathetic dominant. I’m sympathetic dominant. Okay.

So what does that mean for my life? Well, you wake up in the morning and get the kids ready, you’re going crazy, yelling or whatever. You go work out, and mouth’s open and then I go to work and I’m not… I’m in front of a screen and I’m not like enjoying what I do. Like you’re sympathetic all day long, you haven’t dropped out of that. So this is where that fundamental play is. Like, “hey, how you breathing throughout your day? Just chill and try and keep your mouth shut when you can, you know.”

Breath through the nose


Mark: This is kind of a little bit of a sidebar here, but wouldn’t we all be better off, if people kept their mouth shut? So you can’t, you can’t, breath through your nose when you’re talking.

Brian: Start to look at your community – the community you come from. The martial arts communities. You start to look at the yoga community. You start to look… let’s look at native cultures, right? Like George Catlin wrote a book in 1869. And he was a guy that came over and he was an attorney, came over from England and observed over a million indigenous people in North and South America. And the biggest difference that he picked…

Mark: Silence.

Brian: But here’s why. They kept their mouths shut. They hunted with their mouths shut, they slept with their mouths shut.

They were… The other name they gave to the civilized man other than “round eye,” was “black mouth” and that was… When we start to look back on things, what’s happening to the jaw? Alcohol. Oh weird. Jaws always open. Alcohol’s around all the time.

Like these things that cause massive stress. Like, that don’t fix any of these things are actually implicating a lot of…

Mark: How did the Western man gets so unhealthy?

Brian: I mean the global warming thing…

Mark: Everyone descended from some native tribe. I wonder where it got lost. Maybe the Vikings were mouth breathers.

Brian: They might’ve been, might’ve been. Potatoes and like, you know, taking other people’s shit.

Mark: They were very mean. They were probably mouth-breathers.

Brian: You know, like we just don’t…. we’re not real good at learning, I think, about history. And that’s what it’s for. And I mean that’s why we, you know, like I bring up the global warming thing. Sure. Global warming, all this stuff is going on. It’s terrible. Like there’s stuff going on. But this is old. Like we were told a long time ago that if we don’t treat this place, this planet, this earth in a more respectable way…

Like who sets up cities? Massive cities in flood plains? We do. We’re going to set up a place called Houston and we’re going to put it in a floodplain and we’re going to literally just hope or we’re going to build a place and not finish the dikes and dams in New Orleans, which sits below sea level and just call it home. Like no native culture would have ever done that.

Mark: Yeah. So if the white men had learned to keep their mouth shut and breathe, they would have had a little bit more awareness, a little bit more wisdom accrued to them through the breath practices and they probably would have made different decisions.

Rob: Unfortunately wisdom is not retroactive.

Mark: Truer statement never spoken.

There was a few more things about breathing through the nostrils. We haven’t quite finished them all, right? What about nitrous oxide? Tell us how that works.

Rob: Absolutely. Absolutely. So nitric oxide is a vasodilator, so that’s released by the paranasal sinuses. So as the air passes through, that molecule attaches to oxygen and as it travels into your alveoli, it actually causes them to open up and makes diffusion much more efficient.

Mark: You get more oxygen to your cells.

Rob: Exactly right. You get more oxygen to hemoglobin.

Mark: To hemoglobin, which then goes and works…

Rob: As long as the cellular environment, like Brian was saying, as long as there’s enough carbon dioxide in the cellular environment, then the oxygen gets released to the tissue.

Mark: And then Brian mentioned it in passing, but nostril breathing stimulates through the massage of the vagal nerve, the parasympathetic response.

Brian: It’s parasympathetic response, but it does not… It isn’t actually…

Rob: It’s not directly influenced by the vagal nerve. So by the vagal nerve, but it enhances vagal tone because it intrinsically slows your breath rate down. And because of that, the mechanisms that link, breath rate and psychological state, that two way street. as soon as your breathing slows down, it’s a signal to your brain like, “hey, everything’s cool.”

Mark: So are you suggesting that’s just a neuro-chemical reaction to slow breath? Or there’s some sort of physiological thing that’s going on from the slowing down in the breath that causes…?

Rob: Well, it’s both. So it’s simultaneous, right? So as you start to slow your breath rate down, there’s a physiological reaction for sure. Things like buffering of acidic products, your entire metabolic cascade moves closer to homeostasis. And as a result, all of those layers of signals that tell your brain how to react to the environment respond differently. And that’s what it is, is that your body has all these redundancies in place so that you can understand what’s going on in the environment and how you should be reacting.

Brian: And there’s an epic, I mean there’s a ton of research already out on controlled, slowed breathing and how it calms the brain. That calming effect puts us in more of that parasympathetic… And the importance of parasympathetic tone, especially for an athlete becomes, I’m no longer here. Right? Or an operator. I’m here, I see everything going on. I’m in a creative space. I can learn. We aren’t learning in high sympathetic tone. You aren’t. You’re just reaction. It’s boom, boom. Crisis. Who like we don’t need all athletes in that position. That’s like I until it’s game day or that moment, I don’t like training going into that. Okay.

Mark: The irony is that I think that the human body, like unless you’re meditating or sleeping, you’re not meant to be like in total parasympathetic, or total sympathetic state. Like a navy SEAL going into combat is using the breath to control the internal environment and to create more awareness. But a lot of people… and this is a common misunderstanding when I was teaching the SEAL candidates – it’s like, “well, you know, that’s great, but I need to be able to laser focus on my target.” I said, “You will be able to, because you’re going to still have, right, a sympathetic response that’s going to really sharpen your senses. But you’re also modulating that with the parasympathetic response, which is expanding your awareness. You’re going to be able to see what’s happening over here. You don’t get tunneled…

Brian: That guy that might have popped up over here…

Mark: You’re going to be able to engage this target while you see this guy over here,

Brian: That’s what parasympathetic tone means. And there’s never an off switch for either or they’re all both working. It’s just, it becomes that, “oh hey, where am I actually learning? What’s the process of what I’m doing?”

And that’s where I think we see things with a lot of the athletes especially. Where the learning curve just goes, “oh, okay. Like, if I don’t have control of my breathing, my respiration…” And this was something I’m working on. And this goes into something like our gear system, that we’ve really… the energy system control thing is there’s actual gears to understanding where I’m at metabolically, and I can actually control where I’m at and what I’m doing and when I’ve lost control of that, I’m toast. Like it’s time to figure out, to get back to control so that I can get a hold of the situation.

Mark: You know, for the bio-hackers who are listening who want, you know, love the Muse or the Halo and think that you can reduce everything to a device, right? The EEG effect, like the electrical stimulation or electrical currents that run through your brain are also affected by the breath. So if you want to put your brain into a kind of a high Alpha, low Beta state, which is ideal for learning, then breathe through your nose, slow it down, pay attention. You don’t need a Halo or a Muse to do that.

Brian: And we looked at that, I’ve looked at that and we’ve dived did it with two buddies of mine who are engineers. Both are from NASA and we looked at this stuff on a Muse and they were flabbergasted as to what was going on with my brain waves as opposed to theirs. And the only difference in what we do or did is how much training I have with breath practice, what I’ve spent time with, and what they hadn’t. And they just didn’t have the formal type of breath practice I had had. A very deep understanding of this and how to… where the control is and what I can do with it and how my brain was actually operating in a much more functional capacity. So very, I would be certain that you take people who are high level breath practitioners and you are going to see some really interesting things.

Mark: Yeah. I remember my friend Stu Smith did a National Geographic thing. I forget what they called it. Do you remember what they called that thing?

Well anyways, they put them into an ice tank. And they had him submerge for an hour, not submerge. I mean he was obviously breathing. He held his breath for an hour. That would be impressive. He was sitting up to his neck. and yeah, they didn’t really tell us what he was doing or anyone, what he was doing. And then he got out and immediately picked up, you know, went through an obstacle course and then picked up a rifle and shot a target. And hit… Two of the three shots, hit the bullseye. Now they did a pretest where he was warm and you know, warmed up and ready and he did better after an hour in the ice tank. And what was he doing? Breathing. Breathing.

Brian: The practice of Tummo.

Mark: 100% awareness. Just radically slow inhale, slow exhale. Tummo breaths. You know, controlling his body temperature, but also getting his mind and like a perfect state… it’s like Neo at the end of the Matrix, you know what I mean? There’s the bullet and then… and then when the obstacle course came, he was like, “do-do-do”.

Brian: That’s why we moved over to like all this ice stuff that everybody’s doing now. It’s like, you know, it’s cool, but it’s also like, what are we doing this for? Like, what are you doing it for?

Mark: Yeah, what’s your outcome? So you can just walk up Everest in your shorts?

Brian: And the moment that we started applying…

Mark: Tallest midget on top of Everest?

Brian: Exactly. Let’s put you in a new stressor and control your breathing. Show me 10 breasts, then you get out. Well 10 breaths is going to take me 30 seconds.

Rob: This is because humans… We so often have the fallacy that achievement means understanding. Does not.

Mark: No. Often leads to a lack of understanding.

Rob: And so just because you can sit in it – and I’m not saying anything against the ice thing, it can be extremely…

Mark: Valuable awareness mechanism, certain aspects about their physiology and how their mind works in fear.

Rob: And there has to be an underpinning understanding of why am I doing this? And it can also become a hiding place. Like anything that you know.

Mark: What’s the, it’s peak state. You know, I had Jamie Wheal come talk at our summit and the whole talk was about, you know, in my opinion, and then Jamie, because Jamie could… it wasn’t just about flow, but it was about conflating flow with development. Does that make sense?

So a peak state is a peak state, right? So when you breathe 30 Wim Hof breaths and jump into the ice bath, you’re going to feel amazing. All sorts of things going on.

But it’s not going to evolve you as a human being. It’s not going to change anything except make you feel good in the moment. And like we talked earlier, actually it might cause some emotional ruts

Brian: Wim doesn’t actually do that. When he gets in the ice, right? Like if you watch him break the world record for an hour and 52 minutes on ice, he’s sitting there doing a Tummo-like breath. Focused, controlled, slow…

Mark: Like, I got an ice bath with Joe DeSena on a podcast I did. I kind of ambushed him and I was sitting there doing the Tummo breath and I was comfortable. You know what, I was on a beach in Hawaii. And he’s there going, “can we get out of this thing now?”

Rob: Nope.

Mark: Nope. You’re on my turf now, Joe. You can get me up on one of your obstacles and laugh at me, but right now…

Rob: We can get out when you stop asking.

Brian: The sold is great, but what I think people really miss about it, and this is why we teach an exposure clinic and it’s not just… even though we use ice and heat… it’s not about the ice and heat. It’s exposure. Let’s expose…

Mark: Through a broad range of experiences.

Brian: Exactly. How does your body work and what is that big thing you can use? And it comes back to, “oh, your breath.” The moment I’ve got control of my breathing, I’m in control of my physiology. I’m in control of what’s actually happening to my mind.

Mark: It’s safe to say that it’s the single most important leadership tool also. cause again, it’s going to be what’s going to keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of your team. You know what I mean? Or it’s going to allow you to give the presentation with absolute authenticity and presence.

You know? I mean, I can’t tell you how… I can tell you, but you’re going to tell me right back.

Brian: I mean, you’ve been on this train for a long time.

Rob: From a leadership perspective… Because if it enhances awareness…

Mark: That’s why we’re so passionate about it. Cause, you know, personal experience. We’re not coming at this as like scientists who’ve studied it. Well maybe you are, but you’re also a practitioner…

Rob: Practitioner first. So my introduction was yoga actually. That was my first introduction was through yoga practice. That’s amazing powerful stuff.

But as I say, awareness means perspective. And so from a leadership standpoint, having a more broad perspective also allows you to navigate difficult situations and personalities. organizing people is one of the hardest things that you can do, because beings are so unpredictable. And so being able to maintain perspective allows you to manage those situations with some grace. and not sort of turn into like a cutthroat utilitarian, where it’s just like, “oh, this guy didn’t do what I wanted. And so we write him off.”

Mark: So we got to probably wrap up pretty soon here. What is the seminar you’re going to give tomorrow in San Diego? What would be like the… Beyond, you know, setting up the stage with your lectures and all that… When you put people either on the ground or in a chair and you say, “Okay, now we’ll do our first lesson or first practical exercise.” What does that look like?

Rob: We start the day with our very first practical exercise. so, before any lecture, we want people to feel it. Because being able to feel it is not, then you don’t have to take my word for it, right? So we do a protocol first thing in the morning that directs everybody’s focus and awareness out of the gate. and it takes about five minutes and it’s a combination of a slow breathing protocol and a fast breathing protocol to get kind of in a sweet spot and arousal where nobody’s going to feel overstimulated, but they won’t be drowsy early in the morning either. So it’s kind of like a half caf.

Brian: Yeah. The dragon chasers will be disappointed the people who aren’t aware of it will be like, “oh wow. That was really cool.”

Rob: Yeah. Yeah. And every community that we, this protocol in particular called “step-up protocol” and it’s kind of like finding a sweet spot in your arousal spectrum and it helps people get really attentive and focused and there is a palpable shift in the participants. And the instructors notice it and they notice it not only in themselves but in others.

You can feel a change between sort of the chattiness and sort of unsettled nature of not knowing what to expect, and who’s going to talk and do I have the right tee shirt on and all that stuff too. Who is this in front of me? And what information will I get? And it makes for a really positive start to the day.

Mark: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. We start every of our training with the… except for the Kokoro camp, that’s a different thing. We start that with bull horns.

But Unbeatable Mind training we start with breath. Although there is a lot of breath training, in Kokoro camp and I just got an email from someone who’s like, you know, I graduated Kokoro 43 and it’s been an extraordinary ,life-changing thing – blah blah blah blah. But one thing has always puzzled me. He said I always experience like delayed onset soreness. I go out and on a 100 mile ruck and you know, I’m sore for a week and everything.

And so I just expected that with Kokoro camp I would have this… I’m up for 50 hours doing this enormous amount of work, physical work that I would have delayed onset soreness and I’d be sore for a month. and he didn’t. He was up and about the next week.

Which is common. That’s the more common experience. It’s kind of like SEALs go through Hell week and we’re back training on Monday after seven days of nonstop physical training. And I really think it comes down to the breath. Because we’re teaching them how to breathe and the breath is constantly, you know, basically helping to rebalance the body. And to eliminate the toxins that are causing the soreness.

Brian: Quite possibly could be. What about the prep that you send out for people prior to coming to Kokoro, do you send out a prep for that? Yeah, and I’m probably betting that prep is something new to a lot of those folks to getting the tissue in the body ready. But I do, I’m of sound mind because of my own experience that the change of breathing and understanding my breath work and understanding my breath practice and what it is I do for exercise has changed. All of that. You’re changing the ph of the body, you’re changing how acidic it gets, right? So you’re changing how things are actually…

Mark: You’re moving energy, which is moving out toxins…

Brian: and as you want to burn, you want to burn more. If you want to from a burn more sugar, that is going to mean you’re probably going to bring on Dom’s a lot sooner. Those types of things are probably connected pretty well. High intensity anaerobic effort is a burner.

Mark: Add six hours in the ocean, which is going affect recovery. Add all the hydration, which most people think they hydrate but they don’t. But when you’re handing someone throughout 50 hours, “drink this, drink, drink this, drink this,” you know, they actually stay pretty darn well hydrated. It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Brian: Yeah. But to make clear about like what we’re saying with a lot of the stuff and “Oh, you know, if you’re going anaerobic that’s not bad.” Yeah. It took me a couple of years, but in two years I can operate it roughly 95% of Max heart rate. Nose only. Absolutely. Like, so that is a possibility for anybody to do. And that means almost any workout I do, I can operate just using that. To a large degree. Until the end. And if I want to gasp more, I can do it, throw that gear in and go. I do know that for long-term that’s going to come at a bigger cost.

Mark: Yeah. If you just want to get a little taller. Gasp. That’s awesome.

All right. Oh man, we could talk about this forever. But your seminar is called “Art of Breath.” That’s great. I love that.

Brian: So we’ve got the regular “Art of Breath” on Saturday and then the exposure on Sunday.

Mark: And do you have a website for this? Is it a business that you guys have organized?

Brian: Yeah. Off Power. Speed, Endurance. So the home base and the seminars that we offer. This is the one seminar we offer. So yeah.

Mark: So people can find out more at

Rob: Correct. Forward slash artofbreath.

Mark: And how like if they wanted to reach out and talk to you in person, is that possible?

Brian: Yeah. [email protected].

Rob: Dot com/gettaller.

Mark: Become the tallest midget in your organization.

Rob: That would be a great… it’s like a 1950s Tagline, right? Do you want to become the tallest midget in your organization? Sign here.

Mark: Okay. Awesome guys, thanks so much for your time today. It’s really important work that you’re doing. Yeah. Thank you man.

Brian: As is yours and it has inspired.

Rob: Yeah, very much so.

Mark: No kidding. And you know what it’s like, it’s a little bit selfish, because you know, we get to breathe when we teach people how to breathe. And we get to earn money doing what we love to do. So someday this will all be kind of commonplace and we’ll have to have something else to talk about.

Rob: That’s the goal.

Brian: That is the goal. Yeah. Where did we go?

Mark: Awesome. I appreciate you guys very much. Thanks. And thanks for coming by.

Rob: Thank you very much.

Mark: So folks that’s it. Unbeatable Mind podcast, appreciate you being here. Breathe through your nostrils, slow it down. Be Aware and check out the “Art of Breath.” Slash tallest midget. Don’t be a mouth breather.

Brian: We got to make that into something now.

Rob: I’m all right. I’m going to get so much little people hate mail.

Mark: Hooyah.

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