The Power of Breathwork with Reis Paluso

What’s the first and last thing we do when we come into the world? Cry? Look at the ones we love?  Take a long, satisfying stretch?

Nope. We breathe.

Over the course of our lives, we do a lot of it: About a billion breaths from start to finish.

So why should we start thinking about something we never have to think about? Reis Paluso gets it.  This is a new field of study, and the benefits of paying attention to this simple, unconscious process will change your life.

Frozen and Fit

The Wim-Hof method has a chilly origin. Known as the “Ice Man,” Wim-Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete who has broken world records for swimming under ice, prolonged full-body contact with ice, and is the patriarch of the “Ice-Plunging” movement all over the world.

He runs marathons, routinely barefoot, and on both ice and snow. His method for tolerating the cold involves deeply and slowly breathing, thereby learning to control the nervous system. (11:30)

After discovering this profound method of mind/body control, Reis saw usefulness in this technique for the common man.  As a successful entrepreneur, husband, father of two young girls, and a lover of surfing,  Reis understandably found himself searching for a way to maintain balance in life. This dive into the Wim-Hof method eventually led Reis to an exploration of frozen mountains (wearing only shorts), and becoming fascinated by all types of breathing methods which are central to Wim-Hof.

  • Gradual tolerance of cold through breath work and relaxation brings a physiological response that causes “happy hormone” release.
    • The circulatory system tenses, or closes during cold therapy, but reopens to a greater degree after warming up again.
    • Dealing with stress during cold therapy can translate into an increased ability to deal with everyday problems.

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Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

“As humans, we had a lot of stress a thousand years ago.  There wasn’t a refrigerator with food that we could get at any time. There weren’t temperature controlled rooms or a lot of clothing that was keeping us warm,” Reis reminds us.

A lack of what we consider “basic necessities” in today’s world, brought resiliency to those who had to adjust without them. A forced exposure to heat, cold, exercise, and fasting causes stress to our bodies, but a perfect opportunity to become more resilient.

  • 67% of Americans cite “Comfort” as their #1 goal in life, which is very telling.  We are not a very resilient culture.
  • Endocrine System Flushing involves the dumping of unwanted hormones out of the body through cold therapy. (17:00)

Heat V. Cold

“Absolutely, an infrared sauna can have similar benefits as cold therapy,” says Reis. “There will be different physiological responses”  to the two types of extreme stressors, and the sauna will require 20-30 minutes of exposure, as opposed to a 3-5 minute ice bath. (19:30)

Commercial ice baths are now available. DIY ice baths involve sealing chest size freezers, adding water, and waiting 30 hours for the temperature to drop to 32 degrees.

  • Temperature gauges can be added to monitor the water, and be sure to unplug the freezer before getting in to avoid possible shock.
  • Commercial cold-plunge units run anywhere from $5K-$20K
  • Modern studies show that shower water as cool as 64 degrees has great benefits for cold therapy.

“You don’t actually need the water to be that cold to have a benefit,” says Reis. “Take advantage of natural water sources if you can.” (Beach/River/Lake/Springs, etc.)

Home Hacks

“A simple home hack is putting your hands alternately into an ice water bucket for 10 seconds, then to a bucket of room temperature water for 10 seconds. (Repeat for 5 minutes)  Strengthening one part of the circulatory system strengthens the whole thing because it’s a closed loop.”

Showering in warm water, then switching to cool or cold is a great way to treat your body to cold therapy.

Before switching the water to cool/cold, breathe through your nose and out through your mouth to bring your nervous system down.  Prepare mentally for the cold and “just do it”…mentally commit.

Gradually bring your heart rate down through inhaling through the nose, and breathing out through the mouth.

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Men V. Women Tolerance for Cold

  • Women have 40% more nerve endings in their skin, but females have a high pain tolerance as well.
  • Women tend to “surrender” to the cold and adjust faster to it, while men usually try to “muscle through it” to avoid the pain.

Our minds tend to limit what we believe we can do, but after conquering our fears, we come out stronger. (25:15)

Toolkits for Health

“There really isn’t one best way to breathe,” says Reis. “Most people start with coherent or resonant breathing, which is equal parts inhale and equal parts exhale.”

  • 5-6 seconds in, 5-6 seconds out, repeating for 5 minutes.

Different nervous systems require different breathing techniques. Breathing techniques can substitute for caffeine demands on the body during those afternoon doldrums.(39:30)

  • Shallowness (or deepness) of breath, as well as chest or belly breathing can either speed up or slow down the nervous system.
  • Nose breathing v. mouth breathing slows down the nervous system.

During exercise, breathing through your nose is best for filtration, air-temperature correction, and dilation of the circulatory system. (45:00)

  • The best marathon runners in the world run while breathing through their noses, not their mouths.

Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art, written by James Nester, describes how constant mouth breathing causes sleep apnea, snoring, blood pressure increases and other health issues.

Check out Reis’s unique web-club, Our Breath Collective for daily breath work training and techniques!  Catering to the young and old alike, Reis recommends starting and ending each day with breath work that applies to your schedule and agenda. Whether you’re just discovering the importance of correct  breathing, or looking for advanced techniques,  every breath you take will be a little more intentional!


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