Why holding your breath might actually be a good idea


Holding your breath may seem like a bad idea as if you don’t breath you just might die, now I couldn’t tell you from experience but I’m pretty sure that’s how it will end. But holding your breath for short intermittent periods seems to have some great health benefits including the release of stem cells to repair major damage, prevent and relieve disease like Parkinson’s and much more.

This theory of intermittent hypoxia, the practice of holding your breath for short periods of time, was made most popular by Wim Hoff (the ice man) but has been used in a very large number of meditation practices for centuries.

There are a few ways to go about creating this intermittent hypoxia

  • Breathe more air in then you breathe out for 30 breaths then exhale fully till you lungs are empty and hold until you get an urge to breathe in. You can aim to improve the time you hold your breath for each time and even add an exercise like press ups, squats or lunges to increase the level of hypoxia (Wim Hoff technique).
  • Exhale completely and hold for as long as possible before taking a recovery breath and repeat several times again measuring how long you can hold each time
  • Inhale fully really drawing up the breath, almost imagine pushing it up in to the back of your head while sitting up as straight as possible. Hold your breath before relaxing and exhaling and again repeat several times (can cause an increase in body temperature and blood pressure).
  • Co2 ladder (see tables below). Hold your breath consistently for 1 minute and then breath for a period of time that gets shorter each round.
  • O2 ladder (see tables below). Breathe consistently for 2 minutes and increase the time you hold your breath each time.

Although holding your breath may seem counter intuitive it actually holds some huge benefits for your health and performance via its ability to stimulate specific responses. This effect is utilised from birth and is controlled by HIF (hypoxia inducible factors) which stimulate protective and growth responses in low oxygen environments.

When we breathe in the sole purpose is to provide oxygen (O2) for our mitochondria to create ATP (cellular energy) and when we breathe out it is to release carbon dioxide (Co2) which is the by-product of ATP from the mitochondria. O2 is negatively charged and has an alkaline effect on our body and Co2 is positively charged which has an acidic effect on our body, for this very reason the idea of diet creating either acidity or alkalinity in our system is absurd as breathing is our primary source of controls in this balance. So breathing is an extremely important part of living and there are many things it has a big impact on and many things that the body will use as a bio feedback loop to decide on what your natural breathing pattern should be. Brining awareness to our breath is the easiest way to create a conscious bio feedback loop with the power to control certain balances within our system and switch on or off certain reactions, we now can control our automated responses. This is the prime reason breath is at the centre of some many spiritual and health orientated practices, even if they don’t know or can’t explain why. When you look deeply into many of these practices you will find they are all just systems developed around creating a conscious biofeedback loop to control the automated systems in the body.


Here are some of the top reasons to start practicing now

  • Improved circulation, intermittent hypoxia will cause a release of nitric oxide which causes vasodilation and proliferation of VEGF which will stimulate the growth of new blood vessels.
  • Increased red blood cells via proliferation of EPO (erythropoietin) which also protects the red blood cell precursor cells from programmed cell death.
  • Improved memory, cognition and mood, intermittent hypoxia has been shown to improve neurogenesis which is the creation of new brain cells. Contrary to common belief new brain cells can actually be made at any age and this is one of many ways of stimulating that effect.
  • Release of P53 also known as the guardian of the genome which protects DNA and the cells and prevents them from becoming cancerous.
  • Proliferation of anti-aging and rejuvenating stem cells. Stem cells need a hypoxic environment to thrive and the few that remain in our body after maturity are kept in areas like the bone marrow. It has been shown that stem cells increase in the blood during hypoxia by around 15 fold.


02 ladder

Round 1 Hold 1.00 minutes Breathe 2.00
Round 2 Hold 1.15 minutes Breathe 2.00
Round 3 Hold 1.30 minutes Breathe 2.00
Round 4 Hold 1.45 minutes Breathe 2.00
Round 5 Hold 2.00 minutes Breathe 2.00
Round 6 Hold 2.15 minutes Breathe 2.00


Co2 ladder

Round 1 Hold 1.00 Breathe 1.30
Round 2 Hold 1.00 Breathe 1.15
Round 3 Hold 1.00 Breathe 1.00
Round 4 Hold 1.00 Breathe 0.45
Round 5 Hold 1.00 Breathe 0.30
Round 6 Hold 1.00 Breathe 0.15