Ed Harrold returns to discuss breathing health during COVID-19
(21 minutes) Ed is an author, motivational speaker, inspirational leader, coach and educator. Ed’s mastery in the science of breath has guided him to apply mindful, conscious breathing practices in the fitness & athletic training industry, wellness and organizational performance in corporate settings, professional trainings and retreats along with lifestyle coaching for individuals. He is a Faculty Member of the Medical Wellness Association, and is a contributing editor for many publications including Thrive Global, HuffingtonPost, and MindBodyGreen. Ed discusses maintaining breathing health during the coronavirus, utilizing breath for mindfulness, and my we should always breathe through our nose.
For more about Ed: www.edharrold.com
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Welcoming back Ed Harrold
DR. HACKIE REITMAN (HR): Hi I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman. Welcome to another episode of “Exploring Different Brains”, and today it’s my distinct pleasure to have my old friend, Ed Harrold, the world’s breathing expert come and teach us all about breathing today. Ed, why don’t you introduce yourself properly.
ED HARROLD (EH): My name’s Ed Harrold, and I have a company called “Go Be Great” and for the past 25 years I’ve worked in the healthcare market with doctors and nurses trying to reduce stress and produce peak states of mental activity. I work with athletes, individuals, and teams trying to win a lot of medals and really find a lot of happiness in sports, and I also work with corporate America in reducing stress, reducing absenteeism, removing a lot of the traditional ailments that we see in healthcare America so that we can provide the greatest result as possible.
The Role of Healthy Breathing
HR: Ed, because we’re coming to you now, it happens to be in the middle of this coronavirus chapter in our lives, let’s address the importance of breathing in general, but even more so during these coronavirus times.
EH: Thanks so much. Well number one is we know this is an airborne pollutant which enters our body, and it creates havoc. So, one of the first things that we need to do is we need to keep our mouth closed. No mouth breathing. When the air comes in through the mouth, it’s unfiltered, it goes directly into our lungs and if there is toxins there, it’s going to enter your body and wreak havoc. God’s created this great, this great nose and this nose has a filtration process that removes airborne pollutants before it enters the body. There’s thousands of villi in the nose, and these villi structures, little turbinate’s will remove particles that once they get in our body create inflammation, they create a host for a virus like COVID-19. So, shutting the mouth, breathing as slowly as you can through your nose is a wonderful tool to keep your immune system strong.
HR: You know some of the Premier Medical institutions like Mass General have been coming out with a lot of information lately on nasal, on nitric oxide. Can you explain to our audience what is nitric oxide? What does it do? And what does this have to do with our breathing?
EH: So, when we breathe through our mouths or we breath shallow there is no nitric oxide created by the brain, it just affects your circulatory system. When we breathe through our nose, we amplify the nervous system and the circulatory system all at once. One of the benefits that we get from nostril breathing is the brain secretes this amazing molecule called nitric oxide and in the most simplistic terms it is an anti-inflammatory molecule that removes mucus, phlegm, and fat from the alveoli sacs in the lungs, from the cells of the body. Remembering that COVID-19 lives in our fat cells, it lives in inflammation, in mucus and we create a host for those types of intruders. So, when you’re breathing through your nose and you learn simple breathwork strategies, your brains going to create nitric oxide. It’s an anti-inflammatory molecule. The alveoli sacs in the lungs are going to be able to exchange more oxygen and carbon dioxide so the blood stream is more oxygenated. It becomes difficult for you to become a host for the virus, and when you improve respiratory function, when you improve the quality of your breathing, taking less breaths per minute and closing your mouth when you breathe, the major benefactor of that is your digestive function, and your digestive function plays a huge role in the strength or weakness of your immune system.
Reducing Stress & Anxiety
EH: So, just right now everyone watching this video, if you could just slow your breath down, straighten your spine, and relax your eyes and jaw. Now that slow motion inhale is going to activate your abdominal diaphragm muscle, which is going to interact with the enteric nervous system of the gut, which is imbued with serotonin and dopamine. So, it slows the thoughts down, it stabilizes the mental activity of what you’re choosing to occur. So, slowing down that inhale through the nose and getting “feel good” hormones and neurochemistry. Number two, exhaling longer than your inhale, so if you inhale for a count of five, at least try to inhale exhale for a count of 6 or try to build up to 10 and during the process of lengthening our exhale, we create a parasympathetic or a relaxation response to move through our body, to move through our brain. Most of the anxiety that we have is coming from the subconscious brain, it’s coming from events that have occurred prior to this moment, and as you begin to exhale longer than your inhale and you trigger a relaxation response in your autonomic nervous system, your neurochemistry has a chance to reorganize itself in regard to past events and habits that are intruding on your ability to be totally present right now and make the best choice as possible.
HR: Ed, what are some of the problems you’ve seen in some of the elite athletes you work with on their breathing?
EH: Number one, the coaching is very outdated. They have very limited knowledge or science behind how the breath plays a huge role in peak performance state. So, what I like to do with that athletes is number one, is you get your breath under control you strengthen your muscles of inhale, and your muscles of exhale. As you strengthen these inspiratory and expiratory muscles you take pressure off the cardiac system, so that you can keep your heart rate lower in the heat of battle. And when your heart rate’s slower you have greater command over the patterns of movement that you’ve honed from hundreds or sometimes thousands of hours of training, and when you have the breath control which is going to reflect what your heart rate is, and when you can control your heart rate with your breath, you have a greater command over choosing what thought you’re going entertain at any given moment in athletics. Being completely present with a large supply of norepinephrine in the brain, so there’s not a lot of really great coaching going on in athletics around the importance of breathing, but at the end of the day it’s your breath that is either sustaining you and helping you grow, or it’s debilitating you in regard to trying to get to the next level of where you are.
Misunderstandings About Breathing
HR: What’s the biggest thing that society misunderstands about breathing?
EH: Well, we forget about breathing because our autonomic nervous system does it for us on our own. We don’t have to concentrate on it. When we just begin to see folks place attention and consciously try to control the length, depth, pace. The length of the inhale and exhale, the depth of the inhale and exhale, and the pace of the inhale and exhale, amazing things begin to happen that create a strong mind-body connection and you stay connected to your lower body mechanics, which is so important in what’s happening in your upper body and it’s super important in regard to what’s happening in our perception in our brain.
Mindfulness and Breathing
HR: Ed, because you’re one of the world’s leading breathing experts, let’s talk a little bit about the intersection of breathing and mindfulness.
EH: Well, for thousands of years breath has been used as the bridge to move us into more of a meditative or reflective state. Every mindfulness practice initially is going to begin with some sort of breath control. So, from my standpoint being mindful first begins by placing our attention only on the flow of breath moving in and out of our nostrils, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It’s about slowing the breath down. Anytime you slow your breath down you’re going to slow your mind down and you’re able to interact with the film that you’re watching internally in the subjective states of your brain slowing the breath down, slowing the film down in your mind, and when the flash cards of our mind move slower it’s very easy for us to grow, and create neuro-plastic states in the brain. Let go of what’s already happened. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen. Be in the present moment. The foundation of mindfulness for America in my opinion begins by first emptying the mind of all thought forms habits and behaviors that are moving you away from your intention of what you want to manifest in this moment, in this life.
HR: What role has technology played in people’s breathing habits.
EH: There’s a lot of great technological gizmos out there that we can attach ourselves to that are going to help the mind work with the breath to get us calm. In my opinion, you don’t need it, okay. What you need to do is, you need to use some basic common sense, when life starts to move too fast for you mentally you begin to slow your breath down the balance the external world challenges. When life outside of you begins to move a little bit too slow and you feel stagnant, or you have a foggy mind, or there’s low energy, or no creativity, you need to breathe fast through your nose for 20 or 30 rounds to flush the two prefrontal lobes, to get some fire going in the gut, to allow your blood to become more pH alkaline and balanced. So, simple strategies that you can turn onto internally will really help you interact with the technology outside of you, but a lot of times outside of us when we start to get help we constantly set in motion on our mind, like we have to get something outside of us to help us. So, the technology is great, you know, I’m happy it’s out there and it’ll help many people but at the end of the day, most of the folks, you don’t need it.
HR: What are some of the nutritional tips or supplements that you might know of, that help us with our breathing.
EH: Probiotics helping digestion. You know, the more energy that the body uses per day for digestion, elimination, and assimilation, the less energy the body can send up to the brain for high-level thinking for high-level reasoning and strategies. So, when the gut health becomes dynamic, in other words, you’re removing mucus, phlegm, and fat from the internal walls of our gastrointestinal organs you’re getting to remove inflammation from the glutes, and the hips and the bottom of the belly area. Areas that are very hard to move, they’re very stable. Once we start to remove inflammation from the internal walls of the organs and where we traditionally put on a pound or two as we age, that energy that we used to use for digestion is then shot up into the brain, and there’s so much more energy for the brain to help us grow, to help us expand, to help us become more intuitive, especially during these challenging times.
A brief breathing exercise
HR: Is there a quick breathing exercise we can share with our different brain’s audience, just to get them on the track of thinking more about this.
EH: Wonderful. So, let’s sit up tall everyone. Everybody’s probably in a chair and you just sit up tall and you roll your shoulder blades back and down, so you get a lot of length between the shoulders and ears. So the trachea is long, you’ll sense your chest broaden like the swimmers V. Now place your hands on your thighs, and just hinge at your hips and bring your chest forward three or four inches, like you’re going to stand up, but don’t. Now press into your feet, squeeze your thighs like an ancient redwood and then bring your chest back to the neutral position. That’s going to ground the lower body. You can feel how the brain enjoys that. Now relax your eyes and jaw completely. There’s facial nerves, that when they become taunt or stressed, it affects our cardiac system and our digestive hormones.
So, soften the face, here we go, breathing through your nose, slow motion inhale from the belly to the collar bone. Hold the breath in for 2 seconds. Slow motion exhale through your nose. Hold the breath out for 2 seconds. Let’s do this three more times. Engage your legs. Slow-motion inhale from the naval to the collar bone. Hold in for 2. Exhale slowly through your nose. Hold the breath out for 2. Repeat slow-motion inhale. Hold. Slow-motion exhale. Hold. Last one. Super slow. Pay attention inside. And on your next inhale turn your palms up. Beautiful. On the next inhale take your arms out and up overhead. Open your rib cage. Interlace your fingers overhead. Press into the Earth like you’re going to stand up. Squeeze your belly and hold the breath. Exhaling through your nose, take your hands out across the ceiling, back down the opposite walls and to your legs. Then do another one. Press down, sweep up. Hold in. Squeeze your thighs, squeeze your bi’s, squeeze your belly. Isometric contraction. Now release it slowly. Hands come out. Relax. Take a resting breath. Feel that fire, that energy moving through your brain. Feel your heart rate come back down. Feel the love, and joy, and happiness that’s inside each breath for you. And then open your eyes and re-engage the outer world.
HR: That was great. I feel better and I want to share with our audience. When you and I first met, when you were giving a keynote speech out at the Aspen Institute at the Aspen brain lab and I was out there speaking too. I remember you had everybody stand up and do some exercises, and I remember afterwards everybody talking to each other about how much better they felt, you know. A good, good thing this is to make you feel good every day.
EH: Yeah it works every time it’s tried. A little bit of this goes a really long way to having more energy. To keeping the brain clear of what you would prefer not bring your attention to. To burn fat, not store fat. Remember, the coronavirus lives in our fat cells, it doesn’t live in our glucose or sugar. So, you want to be in that fat burning mode all the time. You’re working with the computer, every couple hours step back, stand up, do some stretching, do some mindful movement, do some breath control, reboot your brain, and then sit back down and re-engage the technology, and you just get so much more out of the day where there’s so much more there for you, especially during these times of separation.
HR: Ed, where can our audience learn more about you.
EH: My website is www.EdHarrold.com. I’ve got a couple new books out. Well this 3 months during the COVID, I have Ed TV and we’re giving this away for three months while everybody is quarantined as I really think it’s really good time to give rather than get. I want to do my part to help make the world a better place. So just go to EdHarrold.com. There’s all sorts of ways we can work together and I really hope to support everyone as we move through these challenging times.
HR: It’s very kind of you and very good and well, I’m sure we’ll be taking you up on that. Do you happen to have any of your books handy to show our audience?
EH: I do not. My first my first book is called “Life with Breath IQ + EQ = NEW YOU”. And it’s got a lot of great science, and it has a little bit about my story about how I came to be, who I am today. And it has a wonderful 30-day breathing program that you could practice at home that’s going to give you tools, so that you never get sick, so that you don’t get stressed, or in fact when you do get stressed you use the stress to grow as a human being. My second book is “Body Mind Business”, and it’s applying the foundational breathwork and movement practices into a corporate environment, to have peak performance at work with the lowest heart rate as possible, and not sacrifice our health for the desires and passions that we have in the working world.
One tip for promoting health through breathing
HR: Ed, what’s one thing people can do to use breathing to promote their health.
EH: One thing folks need to do is, I have requested you close your mouth while you’re awake and breathing during the day and notice if you don’t have more energy during the day Notice you don’t, notice if you don’t get a better night’s sleep. Notice if the cravings and habits of food that we’re putting into our body that we shouldn’t be putting into our body do not creep into your mind. And you feel more grounded. You feel more centered. So, zip the mouth. The mouth is for eating. The nose is for breathing. Slow your breath down. Energize yourself from the inside out and make it a great day.
HR: Well, that’s great Ed. I want to thank you so much for being with us again today. It’s been a pleasure. I learned a lot and I’m sure our audience learned a lot. So, thank you so much for being here on another episode of “Exploring Different Brains”.
EH: Thank you Hackie, you’re one of the all-time greats.