Breathing your way to better health

If you've ever been to CrossFit East Nashville on a Thursday, you've probably done some kind of breath work that made you think, "what the heck did we just do?"

I'll be the first to admit that breath work is the last thing I wanted to do. I knew if Caleb was programming it then it must be important, but it's not "sexy" and I pretty much blew it off out of pure laziness.


It wasn't until recently when I got a Whoop band that I started to have interest in the importance of breath work.


One of the measurements that Whoop tracks is your HRV - heart rate variability. HRV is the variance in time between heart beats. While my resting heart rate may be 60 beats per minute, that doesn't necessarily mean that my heart is beating one time every second. There may be .8 seconds between two beats, and 1.2 seconds between the next beat.


Our brains are constantly sending signals to our bodies to either relax or stimulate. Our parasympathetic nervous system is our relaxation response. The sympathetic nervous system is fight or flight. These two are rapidly changing and often sending signals at the same time, causing variance.


A higher HRV signifies that your parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation) is telling your heart to slow down, which allows for higher variance.


A lower HRV means that your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is telling your heart to speed up, thus limiting space for variance.


My husband and I have had our Whoop bands for about a month now and, sorry if you're reading this John, his recovery was less than ideal basically every day. My HRV also seemed to be lower than I would have expected.


As I listened to a podcast about HRV, I quickly realized that breath work is a major component that I was missing. Totally should've listened to Caleb all along, but better late than never :)


I've been using the Breathwrk app at least twice a day and have also made a conscious effort to do 6 breaths per minute as much as I can throughout the day. Five seconds in through my nose and five seconds out through my nose. After one day of doing this, my resting heart rate dropped and my HRV doubled. I got my husband on board and for the first time ever, his recovery was in the green three days ago - and he's now on his third straight day in the green. His resting heart rate dropped 20 beats per minute after the first day and his HRV also doubled.


I know that I have much more to learn on this topic, and I am quickly seeing more and more how important it is to my health.


At CFEN, we want to take a holistic approach to your health. Of course it is so important to be in the gym regularly, but what you're doing outside of the gym matters just as much. Whether it's nutrition, breathing, mindfulness, or sleep - we would love to help you on your journey to holistic health.


Here are some resources we recommend if you want to learn more about the importance of breathing:

Art of Breath

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Breathwrk app