The Art of Breathing

Adam Mahmoud

Health, Performance and Resiliency Coach at Yogadam

Learning Objectives

It's amazing that we constantly breathe throughout our life, from our first breath to our last and yet no one has ever taught us how to breathe! Breathing happens naturally but current research shows that 90% of people do not breathe correctly or sufficiently. The list of health issue that arises from poorly oxygenated cells in the body is shocking! Respiratory issues are the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide and given the current pandemic, it's time to strengthen our respiratory systems. I will share with you the most effective and simple way to enhance your breath, find balance, health, and resiliency.

Key Takeaways:

  • It's all about your breath. Master your breath master your life

  • Learn how much the breath plays a key role in how you function in work and life

  • Learn how to be calm, stable, present, and more resilient through the skill of knowing how to breathe

"When you deliver the correct amount of air in your oxygen and in your system, the mind naturally becomes more coherent."

Adam Mahmoud

Health, Performance and Resiliency Coach at Yogadam


Alright, everyone. Welcome to this breathwork session with me, Adam. I am a Health, Wellness, and Resiliency Coach. What I’m about to share with you today potentially could be life transforming ane of the most important tools that you can add into your repertoire to really just make your life and work life just be that much more healthy, efficient, productive.

The focus is breath. Now, how important is our breath? We can really never underestimate how vital this is. Because really, from the moment you’re born, you take that first inhalation from to the moment that you transition to that final exhalation, you’re constantly breathing. Often, people say, “Well, Adam, why do I need to focus on my breathing. I’m 30, 40, 50 years old, and I’m breathing fine. I’ve been breathing my whole life.” Yes, part of the breath is involuntary. But with training, you can expand your breath and just bring so much more vitality, health, and strength into your life.

The breath is so important that, last year, the Nobel prize went to a group of three researchers. One of the key findings from one of the researchers was actually that when we’re breathing poorly, and on a cellular level, your cells are not being oxygenated properly. They are not able to metabolize correctly and perform their crack function. What they discovered from that finding was that the root cause of almost all cancer starts with a poorly oxygenated cell.

There’s so many health issues when you look at scientific research that are related to poor breathing habits. Knowing that 90% of people in the world breath either poorly or incorrectly, it affects everyone and it affects everybody’s health. Wen you think about the respiratory system, it’s the third largest cause of death in the entire world. If you look at what’s happening right now with the current situation, it’s a respiratory issue. We breathe so badly.

If you speak to an anthropologist who really researches and knows this stuff, they will actually tell you that a human’s face have shrunk, got longer, and our nasal passages have actually shrunk as well, simply because we’re just not breathing properly, we’re not breathing efficiently, we’re not breathing well.

I meet so many people that have chronic snoring, sleep apnea. It’s amazing how I’ve been able to help these people by retraining them how to breathe. You take 25,000 breaths approximately every single day, and most people are not even conscious whether it’s in through the nose or out through the mouth.

It makes me smile because, my whole life, I’ve been involved in sports, health, and wellness. I remember doing athletics when I was in my youth, and moved up numerous sports, but I went to semi professional in basketball. The only ever instruction that I ever had was breath. “No, just breath. Breath more,” when the coaches would see us out of breath.

Later on in my life, I got into circus arts. My last contracts were with Warner Brothers Studio and Cirque du Soleil. Through that time of studying a lot of flow states, getting into peak performance, and I was also doing a lot of mindfulness, obviously with my actual work, but also, I took up yoga and meditation. These two things complemented each other so well when I had this very intense, vigorous performance, lifestyle of traveling a lot, performing in very high pressure situations. This is where I learned how to breathe properly.

I found that everything got better—sleep, moments of feeling very anxious, or that stage fright before going on. I was able to shut all of those off, and just solely focus on my breathing and calming my nervous system down.

The techniques that I want to share with you are basically going to be a very simple practice of learning how to breathe and use the body’s full capacity to breathe. Also, on a scientific level, this is the most efficient way to calm your nervous system down. I teach a variety of different breaths. But this is easily the safest, the most beneficial that everybody can tap into. This will just bring so much more longevity and health into your life.

Even if you look at what is the greatest determination of longevity in a human being, have a guess. You guessed it right. It’s not your diet, it’s not how much you exercise, it’s your lung capacity, how much can you breathe in. Even if you do train a lot, you might notice—

Now, I see it all the time, everyone is chronically breathing through the mouth. The disadvantage of breathing through the mouth. The mouth doesn’t have all of the sensory devices that the nostrils have. You have all of the microscopic hairs that help to stimulate and produce more oxygen going into the brain. Also, when we breathe in and out through the nostrils, a lot of people might know this, but when you inhale through the nose, the nose or nasal passage, moistens and dampens the air going in so the lungs can more easily absorb oxygen going into them.

It’s like anything in life—if you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s very common that I meet people that have just lost the capacity to breathe through their nose. They either have some restriction or it’s blocked. But because you do this every single day, you’re always breathing, it doesn’t take long for you to retrain and open up the nasal passage. Again, it happens very quickly. It just requires you to pay more attention and put some more effort into the breath.

Let’s get into the instruction parts. First, I’ll just explain to you a little bit about how to breathe in a much more healthy and efficient way. Then, after we’ve done the instructional part, we’ll actually do just a quick five minute practice so you can feel how good it is just to be oxygenated, just to have the right amount of oxygen in your system.

What I find often is this rounded position that we’re in often working very intensely focusing on our projects, focusing on our goals, not commitments, we’re not able to first breathe properly because we’re in a slightly slouched position. Also, because we don’t have that awareness of breath. We go so much into our mental activity. This might have actually happened to you that, all of a sudden, you realize that you’ve just forgotten to breathe, and there’s that moment of “Oh!”

When you learn how to breathe properly, it’s the most effective way of training mindfulness for a start. When you get that laser focus and you’re centered in breathing, you’re able to focus and produce much better results and stay much more centered and focused, especially when you’re in, for example, a meeting. You have to present or it’s quite stressful, and you’re constantly taking in new information. The brain is just going through its normal thing of concentrating and focusing, jumping with distraction. When you learn how to focus on the breathing, it transforms everything. Like I said, you do it all the time.

The diaphragm, which I briefly mentioned earlier, is a muscle that sits at the bottom of your lungs. It’s often picturised as an umbrella or a parachute. So envision that sitting at the bottom of your ribcage attaching to your lungs, and going down, and attaching to parts of the spine. What happens on an inhalation when we’re breathing correctly, and also when you are sitting, it does help if you’re not in a completely rounded position. If you can sit up a little bit more upright, that will just give you the greater capacity to use the diaphragm and move in this situation.

So when you breathe in, you stick the belly out. What happens in that scenario is the diaphragm draws down. It softly compresses your internal organs, but it draws the lungs to move down as well, which creates a vacuum for air to go in and fill. Then, the breath out happens by the navel drawing in, and then the diaphragm softly pushes the lungs back up to expel all of the stale or carbon dioxide the air that you finished with.

Let’s practice the first part of our three part breathing and sometimes hold. Also, you might hear it referred to as abdominal or diaphragmatic breaths. If you find any of this training work that we’re about to do a little bit challenging, it is an amazing practice that you can improve very quickly. Like anything you do in life, any new skill, it just requires a bit of persistency, patience, and also just that enthusiasm that you’re learning something that’s pretty cool because you do it all the time and will bring so many benefits to.

So hands to the belly. When you go breath in, stick your belly out. Then, on your exhale, draw the belly in. Keep doing that. Inhale into the hand, stick the belly out. Breathe out, draw the belly in. Keep doing that. So when you inhale, the diaphragm goes down and actually compresses your internal organs, almost like a massage and stimulating, creating some fresh oxygenated blood to move into them, which is so beneficial in itself. Then, breathe out, the belly draws in. Feel, if you can, close the eyes if that helps you, that the breath travels more into the lower portion of your lungs. If you don’t feel that, that’s fine, but just continue to move the belly out on your inhalation, and the belly draws in on your exhalation. Very good. That’s the first part of three part breathing.

Sometimes, people will cue breathe into your belly, but you can’t breathe into your belly. Obviously, you only breathe into the lungs. That is the action of the diaphragm going and pressing out the belly. Just doing that can help transform so many things for you.

Now, the second part is, for me probably the most challenging that I find my students and clients working with, it’s the mid portion of the lungs. So what I’ll ask you to do, if possible, is bring your hands onto the outer ribcage, sides of the ribs. Now, very gently, on a breathe out, press your hands against the side ribs. On an inhale, breathe into the hands. Expand out laterally. Breathe out. Let the ribs softly move together. Imagine, like an accordion. Inhale, the accordion expands, the fingers spread apart softly. Breathe out, fingers draw closer together, lungs deflate. Keep doing this a few times. Inhale, expanding out laterally. Breathe out, hands drawing in. Good, keep going.

So what this does—this helps to strengthen all of the musculature between the ribs and under the ribs that intercostal muscles. Often, when we’re not breathing properly, this is one of the first areas to weaken in the body. It’s very soft, the hands are not physically pushing very strong here. Be gentle. It’s really with a sense of awareness. Just a little bit of extra weight on the side of your ribs to help you breath. Remember, practice. That just creates more benefit. The more you do it, the better you’ll become, like anything in life—repetition.

Now, the last part of this, you’ll bring your hands to the upper chest, just below your collarbones. This is where I find a lot of people find it easier to breathe in. It’s where the breath actually happens if we’re not breathing very deeply. It’s quite a shallow one into the chest. But what I’m asking you to do is breathe in quite deeply here. Inhale to the top of your chest. Feel the hands lift. Breathe out. Feel the lungs deflate. Hands softly, really stand. Again, breathe in. Fill up to the top of your chest. Breathe out. Deflate the lungs. Keep going, and really fill all of this upper chest or the upper lobes of your lungs to really expand as much as you can. Breathe out, belly goes in, lungs deflate. Keep going. Two more rounds.

So that is the three part breath that’s been broken down. The breath really happened In a three dimensional shape change. Think about it, we did the bottom, which goes really bottom to top, the lat scope, side to side laterally, and then, when we get to this top part, it really helps the opening front to back of the breath. Just to recap, I’ll do it very slowly. Its breathe in, fill the lower lungs, side ribs, mid lungs, and upper lungs. Breathe out, the belly draws in first, clear the lower lungs, the mid lungs, then the upper lungs.

Do it with me. Expand into the abdomen, fill the lower lungs out to the side, mid lungs up to the top of the lungs. Breathe out, draw the belly in, clear the lower, the middle, and the upper. Keep going. Keep practicing it. Breathe in, belly sticks out, go out the side up to the top. Breathe out, belly draws in, clearing the lower, middle, the upper lungs. Last round. Keep going. Just to demonstrate, I’m obviously over exaggerating it.

Now, we want to keep this smooth. We don’t want to force the breath to come in because that can just make the breath happen too quickly. We’re going to slow the breath down to make it more expansive, and do a breath count of in five and out five, which has been shown to be the most beneficial way to find homeostasis in your body, but still deliver that pure oxygen high that you get from just breathing efficiently and correctly.

Just one more time. Remember, it’s the belly first, the lower lungs out to the side, mid lungs up to the top, then out from the belly, clearing the lower, middle, and the upper. It might feel like very rigid in the beginning, but the more you do it, it will be seamless. It will just naturally flow in and out like a wave very smoothly. I tend to breathe.

Now, we’re going to do just a quick five minute practice of three part breathing all put together. I’ll invite you to sit up nice and tall, if you can. Ideally, you’re not resting on the support behind you and you’re sitting up tall. But honestly, whatever you can manage, whatever is accessible for you, and the way that you show up today. An extra part that you can add into this is placing your right hand onto the chest and the left hand onto the belly. This can be very calming and centering.

Also, it brings that extra awareness so you know that you’re expanding on the inhale to the hand and up to the chest. I’ll let you decide. Remember, if you’re doing this when you’re doing your regular day to day life, if you’re just doing it when you’re driving or commuting or working or in a meeting, obviously you wouldn’t do this, but for the first parts of practice, if you are feeling like you really need to calm down, this can be really a great centering practice.

Sit up nice and tall. Find a position that works for you and your body where you can maintain for approximately five minutes. Now, take an exhale so we’ll get on the same page together. Breathe out. Breathe in. Expand your abdomen, fill the lower lungs out to the side, the middle up to the top of the lungs. Breathe out, draw the belly in, clear the lower lungs, midlungs, the upper lungs. Beautiful. Inhale to the abdomen. Fill the lower, out to the side, mid all the way to the top upper. Breathe out, draw the belly in, clear your lower lungs, your mid lungs, and your upper lungs. Again, breathe in, expand into your abdomen, fill the lower, back to the side, mid lungs, all the way to the top, fill the upper lobes. Breathe out, draw the belly in, deflate completely.

Now, with the breath count. Same thing. Inhale for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. You can close your eyes if you feel comfortable, too. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Last round. Inhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Good. Last round. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Continue to count on your own. In five and a out five. If my counting was a little bit slow, just speed up your count. Remain effortless. Closing the eyes can be very relaxing, just turn more inward. If the eyes are open, relax your gaze and fix it on a steady point. Use the full capacity of your breathing apparatus, your body without straining, struggling, or forcing. Remember, be effortless. Make the breath smooth, rhythmical, and even. In five and out five.

You might find the mind wandering or jumping, that’s fine. Humans think about 60 to 70,000 thoughts a day, which is a lot. So when you observe the mind wander, just bring it back to the present moment, and focus on breathing in for five and out for five, staying in three part breathing diaphragmatic breaths.

Sense that, with every inhalation, there is a wave of life force of energy, of revitalization moving throughout your entire system with the exhale a sense of releasing, of expelling, of letting go and relaxing. Great. Continue to focus on your breath. Again, if the mind is busy and wanders, no judgment, no stories, just continue to focus. Make it enjoyable, really enjoy the sensation of you retraining or expanding and improving your breath, reminding yourself of how beneficial this is for you.

Stay with your counting. Stay with your breathing. You’re doing very well. Do the expansion of the inhale, feel the release, the deflation of the exhale. Engulf your mind, really engrossed. Go into the breath, feel the sensations in your body as you inhale and exhale.

When you deliver the correct amount of air in your oxygen and in your system, the mind naturally becomes more coherent. It’s much more easy to be focused and present, calm and centered. That’s really the space that we want to show up in in life. Getting out of reactivity mode, and really just showing up present, calm, centered, very grounded, and stable. Keep training your breath, focusing the mind. Very good. Last few rounds. Stay focused. Almost done.

Very slowly, just take your last nice, big deep inhale. [Inaudible] a small side of the mouth as you finish on an exhalation. Take your time, and then softly open your eyes, and come back round to life. Take a moment just to sense how you feel. Subtle, maybe profound view, but the health impacts are very profound.

Now, this helps with so many things—circulation. I mean, the list can go on and on, but I don’t want to bore with bore you with facts. It’s an experiential practice. I really encourage you to train this and to share it with as many people as you can, because it’s quite simple. Really, who doesn’t want to be able to breathe better, especially when lung capacity is the greatest prediction of longevity in life? This is how you’re going to show up as a better version of yourself.

Thank you for joining me. It’s sunset time here in Bali. The mosquitoes are out and it’s dinnertime, and I do not want to be someone else’s dinner. Again, thank you for joining me. I look forward to sharing more with you soon. All the best.

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