375: How to Breathe the Right Way (& Why It Matters!) With Max Gomez From Breathwrk

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By Katie Wells - Wellness Mama and Katie Wells. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

It wasn’t one of the first health hacks I tried, but it’s impossible to ignore the stress-reducing benefits of using the breath to calm the body. Max Gomez is my guest today, and he’s the co-founder and CEO of Breathwrk, a wellness company dedicated to teaching people breathing exercises for stress reduction, anti-anxiety, and more

After suffering severe depression and anxiety himself, Max turned to simple breathwork exercises to aided in his recovery. It helped so much he kept it as a way of life. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Neuroscience and now teaches people across the globe about the science and benefits around breathing, and how to bring it into their everyday lives.

Episode Highlights With Breathwrk

  • The science behind breathwork, and why something as simple as our breath can have a profound impact on health
  • Physical and psychological changes that happen when we breathe differently
  • The lasting changes that happen when we train our breath
  • One big thing people do wrong with breathing
  • How to learn to breathe through your nose and not your mouth (and why)
  • A quick way to improve endurance and aerobic capacity
  • How breathing influences red blood cells and why this matters
  • And more!

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

What did you think? Will you try breathwork? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.

Read Transcript

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This podcast is sponsored by Wellnesse. my new personal care company that creates products that go beyond just safe and natural and contain beneficial ingredients that nourish your body from the outside in. Many “clean” products simply don’t work. This is why I have spent the last decade researching and perfecting recipes for products that not only eliminate toxic chemicals but also have ingredients that work better than the conventional alternatives by nourishing your body from the outside in. I’m so excited to share these products with you and am especially proud of our whitening toothpaste which took years of formulating and dozens of rounds of tweaks to perfect. Our whitening toothpaste supports a healthy oral microbiome and strengthens tooth enamel naturally using ingredients such as hydroxyapatite, neem, and green tea to support tooth and gum health. Instead of fluoride, our formula contains green tea leaf extract, which is loaded with antioxidants. Plus, a phytochemical in green tea is shown to fight bacteria that leads to tooth decay. We combined this phytochemical with hydroxyapatite (a naturally-occurring mineral and main component of tooth enamel) to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. Of course, fresh breath is paramount to good teeth brushing, and for that, we included peppermint leaf extract and neem. Neem prevents bacteria from sticking to teeth and turning into plaque. This protective measure means fewer bacteria, which leads to…fresher breath! Check out our whitening toothpaste and all of our products at Wellnesse.com. A tip – if you purchase a bundle or use auto-ship, you will receive a discount on both of those orders!

Today’s episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens, the all-in-one daily drink to support better health and peak performance. Even with a balanced diet, it can be difficult to cover all of your nutritional bases and this is where Athletic Greens can help. Their daily drink is essentially nutritional insurance for your body and it’s delivered straight to your door every month. It’s developed from a complex blend of 75 minerals, vitamins, and whole-food ingredients. It’s a greens powder that’s engineered to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. Their daily drink improves your everyday performance by addressing the four pillars of health, energy, recovery, gut health, and immune support. It’s packed with adaptogens for recovery, probiotics and digestive enzymes for gut health, and vitamin C and zinc for immune support. It’s basically an all-in-one solution to help your body meet its nutritional needs. And it’s highly absorbable and diet-friendly, whether you are keto, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. It has less than one gram of sugar and it tastes great. And here’s how I used it and still use it. When I started losing weight, I was eating a lot more protein, and it became hard to get enough greens and vegetables in because it was hard to actually eat enough volume of food. I was full. So I was able to use Athletic Greens to meet my veggie and nutritional needs, even if I was full and just didn’t feel like eating extra. It’s basically like a multivitamin, but it’s actually head and shoulders above a lot of multivitamins.

They don’t use any GMOs or harmful chemicals. And it’s NSF certified. So they really are careful about their sourcing and what goes into it. When you try Athletic Greens through my podcast, they’re also gonna send you a year supply of their vitamin D3 and K2 for free. I’ve talked about vitamin D before. We know we get it from the sun, but it can also be important to supplement, especially in the winter months. And this is something I test my own blood levels of and supplement when necessary. And it combines these nutrients to help support the heart, immune system, and respiratory system, which is especially helpful at this time of year. So whether you’re looking to boost energy levels, support your immune system, or address gut health, it’s a great time to try Athletic Greens for yourself. Simply visit athleticgreens.com/wellnessmama to claim my special offer today. You’ll get a free vitamin D3K2 wellness bundle with your first purchase. That’s up to a one year supply of vitamin D as an added value for free when you try Athletic Greens. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive nutritional bundle anywhere else. So, again, that’s athleticgreens.com/wellnessmama.

Katie: Hello. Welcome to the “Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie, from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com, my new line of natural personal care products. This episode is all about breathing, which logically is a very important part of our daily lives. We all breathe somewhere between 12 and 20 times per minute, is a really important obviously part of our physiology but also one of the better factors that we can optimize to quickly see changes in our health, which makes sense if you think about it.

We eat a few times a day, we drink water hopefully more than a few times a day, but we breathe all day, every day. So improving our breathing can have a big impact on our physiology. That’s why I’m here with Max Gomez, who is the co-founder and CEO of a new app called Breathwrk, that’s breathwork without the O. It’s a wellness company that teaches people science-backed breathing exercises. And after experiencing debilitating depression and anxiety himself, he discovered the positive benefits of breathing which not only helped his own recovery but improved his life in various other ways. And he’s now really passionate about teaching other people the science and the benefits around breathing and that’s precisely what this app does. It’s great for individuals and for families, and he talks about how you can use different breathing exercises to improve everything from sleep, to relaxation, to endurance, and even how it can help kids. So very, very fascinating practical episode, and let’s jump right in. Max, welcome. Thanks for being here.

Max: Thank you for having me, Katie.

Katie: I’m excited to delve into this topic today because I’ve always thought that breathing obviously in rank of order of importance should be really high on the scale because we suffer the most consequences the most rapidly if we stop breathing versus if we stop eating or drinking. And I think it often is underestimated just how much breathing makes in our overall health. I’ll get into my own story of noticing changes in my HRV and other metrics when I changed my breathing. But you come with a whole host of both personal and now other expertise related to this topic. So, to start off, I would love to hear your story of how you first came to discover this.

Max: Yeah. So a little bit of background on myself. I’m originally from New Jersey, a small town of 4,000 people. And growing up, I was kind of that kid who could never pay attention in class and always got so bored easily. And because I was different from my classmates, I was kind of bullied a lot in my early years. So, somehow I managed to get myself into college and actually ended up studying neuroscience at the University of Southern California. Probably, I studied neuroscience subconsciously to more understand myself and why I was different from my peers. And it wasn’t until I was in college when I got diagnosed with ADHD, and then a year later, realized I had dyslexia on top of that. So, it was nice knowing what was going on, but it didn’t really help these things go away.

And as many people with ADHD experience, you know, we get heightened levels of stress and anxiety, and I was definitely one of those people who got in levels of stress and anxiety. So, after college, I go through some personal things, all within the span of three months. So, I lose a very close relative to me, end of a two-year relationship, and I lose my job. And it was crushing and devastating for me, and going into that point, I was already really dis-focused and didn’t have control of my ADHD or my anxiety or my stress. And so that sent me into this really, really low dark point in my life where I actually, you know, spent an entire month in bed and was 20 pounds underweight because of the stress and anxiety and depression I was feeling. I just felt completely lost and out of touch with my body and my mind and like I lacked any sort of control over myself.

So, it was at that point where I realized I need help and I needed to find, you know, solutions for me that could work. And I was so fortunate enough to find this great therapist who was also covered by insurance, which is really important to find these days, who didn’t wanna put me on medication but wanted to find alternative ways to help my situation. So, the first thing he tried to teach me was meditation. And like so many other people, everyone wants to aspire to be a great meditator, but yet you find out it’s actually really tough to do. It’s really hard to stick with the practice of meditation. And if you’re someone who is anxious who doesn’t have a lot of time in their hands, you feel like meditation is really stressful actually. So I couldn’t get into meditation, and I know all the amazing benefits and all the people who do meditation, and I respect it so much. But for me personally, I really couldn’t stick with meditation. So he says, “All right. We’ll try something else.”

And the second thing he taught me was breathwork, so simple breathing exercises. And I remember sitting on his couch, one of those classic therapist’s couch, and him taking me through this exercise where I breathed slowly into my belly, imagining it was a balloon, and slowly exhaled for longer than I inhaled. And I was on this couch for about 30 seconds doing this exercise, and I really started to feel a shift instantly. I really felt this, you know, wave of calm come over my body. I felt my heart rate decreasing. I felt my muscles relaxing, and I was finally clear-minded. And it was so life-changing in that moment to be able to feel like I could control my body and my mind just with my breath alone. And from that point forward, I absolutely fell in love with the practice of breathwork and how it could have a positive benefit on my life.

So I started to create this daily breathing practice, you know, started with using it whenever I was stressed or anxious, but then it formed into waking up with breathing practices, to help me calm down with breathing practices, to go into sleep breathing practices, to increasing my athletic performance with breathing practices. And I really want to go and study the field of breathing because it was so powerful and impactful. So, when I went out there to study the field, I realized that there were so many other people who were doing these different practices. You have so many diverse groups of people like Navy SEALs who practice it for high combat situations. You have psychotherapists who use it with their patients for PTSD, depression, insomnia, ADHD. You have Olympic athletes using their breath to improve their endurance and performance. And you have yogis who’ve been practicing breathwork and breathing for thousands of years for the positive health benefits of it.

And it was in this journey of learning and discovering breathing and applying it to myself is that I learned the power of breath is really life-changing. I learned that breathing is one of the fastest and easiest ways to change the state of your body and mind. And I learned that if we could control our breath, we could control and change our lives. And it was just amazing to find what was out there. And, you know, the amount of positive benefits you can see through different practices, you know, include decreasing anxiety and stress to improving blood flow and circulation to increasing your immune response, to helping you fall asleep at night, improving your energy levels and endurance, and helping improve your attention too. And it’s just so amazing to see that there are so many benefits out there.

But with this and with my story, I saw that there wasn’t one place that brought all these practices together, and it was really surprising to me because there is so much science behind breathwork. There’s so much science behind breathing. And there’s so many people practicing it around the world, but there wasn’t one central location where people can go and learn, practice all these different breathing exercises. So, you know, a couple months after learning about breathwork and really starting to empower my life and push it forward, I went to the App Store to see if anyone created an app around breathing. And to my surprise, there was really nothing out there. We had those meditation apps like Calm and Headspace for meditation, but I couldn’t stick with those, and that wasn’t really for me. And I thought, “Let’s put together a breathwork app.”

So, I gave myself a few weeks to put together a prototype, a pitch deck, a website, and Instagram, and I’m like, “Maybe I will find someone who wants to start this with me and is as passionate about breath as me.” And luckily, after two weeks of doing that hard work and putting in that effort to really get something started, I met my co-founder, Addie, who is this amazing individual who has an amazing story how she found breathwork herself too, leaving a nine-figure offer on the table for a company that she was about to sell and then going on a journey around the world to really help find her purpose and stumbling across breathwork. And she showed me in her phone that a month before she met me, she wrote a note that said, “Create a breathwork app.”

So when I presented her the breathwork app that I was working on and creating, she asked to partner with me, and right on the spot, we instantly linked up and started the company, incorporated a week later, and then put it in the App Store. And it’s been absolutely kind of amazing to see the response, the uptick of people who have been benefiting from these exercises. We wanted to create something that was so easy and so accessible and so science-driven that anyone can use it, and we were really starting to see that with people who are practicing with the application. There’s people, you know, who are 7 years old and using it for stress and anxiety to people who are 77 years old to help improve their endurance and lung capacity.

We had a father write into us the other day who was saying that this helped put his autistic daughter to sleep at night, and he was thanking us because we offered this to him. And then we also have people writing in to us saying, “Hey, this is, you know, helping me get out of bed in the morning with the stress and anxiety wrapped around COVID.” I then had someone talking to us who had PTSD and says they love using our app whenever they’re feeling really agitated. And it’s been absolutely amazing to go from this state of feeling like I absolutely had no control in my life to actually discovering something as powerful as breathing and then applying that to my life and then being able to go and apply that to other people’s lives too. And it’s been an extremely grateful journey, and I’m extremely grateful for this past couple of months.

Katie: That’s awesome. Okay. So I’d love to delve into the science of this a little bit because like I said and like you touched on, breathing is one of the biggest inputs we put into our body and so making a change there can make a really dramatic shift in overall health. From my own perspective, I started doing some breathing exercises to help me fall asleep at night including there’s one called 4-7-8 and then also like box breathing in the sauna, different just patterns that calm my resting heart rate and seem to help me get into parasympathetic and improve my heart rate variability. But I know there’s a lot that goes into all of this. So can you walk us through kind of some of the science behind breathing and why these things work?

Max: Yeah. I love to start at a great place that shows us the importance of breathing. So recently, I discovered that there was a 70-year longitudinal study with over 5,200 participants showing this indicator of lifespan wasn’t actually genetics, diet, or the daily amount of exercise someone got. It was their lung capacity and their breathing mechanics. So, the better you breathe and the more you can control your breathing, the longer you actually live. This is what this is showing. So, it’s really important to understand our breathing and how it works too.

So, one way that breathing works is it acts in the autonomic nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system is what is responsible for our heart rate, for our breathing, our skin temperature, and digestion. And it was previously thought that we couldn’t control these things, that our autonomic nervous system was just something that happens, and it was something that couldn’t be influenced by us. That’s why they call it the autonomic nervous system because autonomic, automatic. But what happens with breathing is that since breathing is a part of the autonomic nervous system, you can actually send a signal to your brain to change the autonomic nervous system and the autonomic response.

So, as you know that many people today exist in a state of sympathetic nervous system response. So, they’re basically in the sympathetic state, which is the fight or flight state. So there are increased levels of stress and anxiety. They’re shallow breathing. They’re breathing fast. Their heart rate’s high. Their blood pressure is high. They’re feeling nervous and agitated. And that’s what happens when you’re in a sympathetic state for too long. And what you can do with breathing is you could actually change the sympathetic state into a parasympathetic state, which is the rest and digest state.

So, by breathing slow and by breathing deep and with your diaphragm, you can actually start to trick your body and put it into the sympathetic state because, you know, if you do something, if you do this practice of breathing slow, then your body tends to follow it. And there’s also a lot of receptors for the parasympathetic nervous system which are deeper in your lungs too. So, if you breathe slow and deep into your lungs, you can actually start to send those signals back to your brain that, “Hey, I’m actually in a rested and calm state right now.” And by actually breathing like you’re in a calm state, you will send that signal back to your body and put you in that calm state. And that’s why there are so many breathing exercises that help people with anxiety because when people have anxiety, they’re breathing extremely fast, they’re breathing shallow. The worst thing to do with anxiety is to, you know, try to breathe more. It’s actually, you wanna breathe slowly and you wanna breathe less. So breathing more slow and controlling your breathing through anxiety helps really lower that response when you’re having it.

And also, there’s a lot of breathing for sleep at night. So you mentioned the 4-7-8 breath, which is an amazing breath created by Dr. Andrew Weil, and what it does is it kind of mimics the breathing pattern of someone who’s in a deep sleep. So, by mimicking this breathing pattern, it puts you into that state and actually makes you trick your body to think that you’re falling asleep, or you are asleep, so you tend to be able to doze off pretty easily because of that. So that also acts on the parasympathetic nervous system and really helps lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and clear your mind. And also just the act of focusing on the breath itself too helps clear your mind of the other thoughts that may be happening when you’re in a more sympathetic state.

And then with breathwork, there’s also the flip side of it too. So there’s breathwork that you can do to actually help energize you and help keep you focused and increase your endurance. So, with breathing, you can actually activate the sympathetic state when you want to. So if you wake up in the morning and you’re feeling groggy or trying to get out of bed, there’s amazing exercises you can do to actually help put you in a more alert and focused state. And there’s also exercises you can do over time which can actually increase your endurance. So, there’s a lot of athletes who train in high elevation to help increase their endurance, but there’s actually breathing exercises you can do here at sea level that can also increase your endurance and increase the production of red blood cells, which helps increase the offloading of oxygen to your cells and your body.

So there’s all these amazing benefits behind breathing, and the science is quite amazing. And there is so much extensive research and studies behind it, and there’s more and more coming out every single day. There’s a great book by James Nestor that really goes into the science and the history behind breathing and like what happens to the body when you breathe properly and what happens when you don’t breathe properly. And there are all these, you know, risks that happen to yourself if you do not breathe properly.

One big thing that people do wrong with their breathing is that they breathe through their mouth. So, if you really wanna start to get into your breathing and to really improve your life with breathing, one place to start is by breathing through your nose. So 50% of the population are actually mouth breathers, and mouth breathing is actually associated with a huge amount of risks like increased cardiovascular issues, decrease cognitive functioning, decreased levels of circulation, decreased levels of oxygen efficiency. And mouth breathing is actually one of the quickest ways to actually start improving your health quickly with just breathing alone, and the reason why is because, when you breathe through your nose, you’re actually moisturizing that air coming in, and you have this amazing gas called nitric oxide.

And nitric oxide, which is being produced in the nasal cavity, helps with blood circulation, with oxygen efficiency, and also cognitive functioning. So, when you’re breathing through your mouth, you’re actually not getting the benefits of nitric oxide for your nose. And you’re also, by breathing through your mouth more, you’re closing your nasal cavity more because if you don’t use your nose, then you’ll kind of lose that, and your nasal cavity will start to shrink. So, by breathing through your nose more, you actually open up your nasal cavity more. So people who are chronically congested should really try to practice breathing through their nose more in order to get their cavity opened up more and be able to take more oxygen through their nose and to have the amazing benefits from nitric oxide, which exist in the nose.

There’s also been studies that show that people who breathe through their mouth have decreased circulation in their prefrontal cortex, and your prefrontal cortex is responsible for your decision making, for your focus, and is really associated with people with ADHD and shown that some people who suffer with ADHD have huge amounts of positive benefits from actually breathing through their nose and using their nose to breathe at night too. So, there’s amazing benefits with just breathing through your nose alone. And also, we lose 40% of our water when you breathe through your mouth. So, someone who’s a chronic mouth breather tends to be more dehydrated and needs more water to stay hydrated, which is completely fascinating to think that something as simple as breathing through your nose as opposed to breathing through your mouth can really have a positive health benefit on you.

Katie: That’s fascinating. I know I’ve read some data about the problems with mouth breathing. I’ve read a lot from even the oral health perspective that you put yourself more at risk for cavities because the strep mutants bacteria that leads to cavities can be much more opportunistic with the mouth when it’s dry, and so breathing through your mouth especially at night can lead to problems there. There’s also studies talking about the link with sleep apnea. Are we able to retrain our body to nose breathe using active techniques like this? I know I’ve also seen, you know, kind of extreme measures like taping the mouth shut. Like, can we consciously, like, learn better habits when it comes to this?

Max: Yeah. So, I think the first step is really being conscious of your breathing and being aware of how you’re breathing. The first way to really do this is to just breathe properly and feel how good that feels to breathe properly. So, start breathing more with your diaphragm and using your stomach to breathe. So, a way to think about your breathing and every breath should be taken in through your nose and into your stomach with your stomach being pushed out on the inhale and then collapsing back flat on the exhale. And that helps work the diaphragm to get your diaphragm moving. With the exhale too, it’s always recommended that you breathe out through your nose too. So, by going through these practices, you can even start 5 to 10 minutes a day of just breathing through your nose and into your belly and then out slowly through your nose. You’ll start to really feel the benefits of breathing, and then you also start to slowly open up your nasal cavity so you can breathe through your nose more often. The biggest thing is to become more conscious of your breathing and how you’re breathing throughout the day.

And then you mentioned mouth taping, which is something that I actually started to pick up on since studying more breathing is that, you know, we often open our mouths at night, and when we open our mouths at night, then we’re actually obstructing the airways. And by obstructing the airways, we actually tend to snore more, we get less oxygen, and we’re also losing more water, and we’re not getting the nitric oxide by breathing through our nose. So mouth taping, which is, you know, you can put a small piece of medical tape across your mouth at night with holes in each end just in case you have to breathe or rip it off or if you tend to drool at night, actually has a huge benefit. And if you tape your mouth at night, you can wake up in the morning feeling great because you breathed through your nose the entire night.

Katie: That’s fascinating, and it reminds me of something that I think might actually overlap with something you said about breathing through the nose and improving… Something I think that would relate to exercise. So I’ve recently been training at a local facility where they do something called contralateral training. Basically, it was designed to increase aerobic capacity even for non-distance runners and non-sprinters but for other types of athletes. And the part of this is you tape your mouth shut during this kind of circuit-based exercise. So you are only breathing through your nose, and they see really drastic changes in aerobic capacity from this. So is that kind of along the same lines as what you’re talking about?

Max: Yeah, exactly along the same lines. So, with nose breathing, we actually have better oxygen efficiency, which means that we have better CO2 and nitric oxide in our blood and our body. So CO2 as most people think is a byproduct of breathing, you breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2. But CO2 is actually responsible for helping your red blood cells offload oxygen to their cells, and CO2 is also an amazing vasodilator too. So it helps increase circulation. So if you’re breathing through your mouth a lot, you’re actually expelling way more CO2 than you should be. So that’s why it’s recommended to breathe through your nose during exercise, so you are building up more CO2 in your body, so you have a better oxygen efficiency and exchange of oxygen through your blood with the CO2 and the nitric oxide in your body.

And what most people don’t realize is that when you first start to exercise through your nose, it’s pretty tough but that’s because your body has to adjust to the vast amounts of CO2 that it’s not used to. So, when you have a low tolerance to CO2, you actually get winded pretty quickly, and one way to actually help with your endurance in the short term is actually to increase your tolerance to CO2. So the amount of time you can breathe slower while running, the amount of time you can hold your breath for is an indicator of your tolerance of CO2. And by increasing these things, we could actually increase our ability to slow our breathing down when we’re running and when we’re exercising and increase the oxygen efficiency within our blood. That’s a pretty quick way to do it. And then over time, as you start to increase your tolerance of CO2 and start breathing more slow, you actually increase the red blood cell production, so increase this thing called EPO, which is responsible for helping red blood cells be produced in the bone marrow.

You know, by doing slower breathing and by holding your breath for longer, you actually increase the amount of red blood cells you have, and it stimulates very similar results as people who are training in high elevation situations. So, by breathing through your nose and by breathing slow and being more aware of that, you’re actually able to increase your endurance in the short term and then also increase red blood cell production in the long term, which is pretty fascinating to think about that something as slowing your breathing down can help because we think that when you’re out of breath, you need to breathe more. But the problem is when you breathe more, you’re actually expelling so much CO2 from your body that you’re actually not able to get this oxygen that you’re trying to breathe in more to your cells. So it’s all about building up that tolerance to CO2.

Katie: That is so fascinating, and it makes sense because I noticed that when it comes to like running distances, which I’m not a fan of anyway, but I always…I felt like it was my lung capacity that would catch me before my legs would get tired. I felt like I needed more air. And since doing this kind of training, I feel like I’m able to actually train my legs more efficiently because I don’t get winded, and I don’t run out of breath easily even with sprinting. And so I’m not doing long distance workouts anyway, but I’ve noticed a big difference in my lung capacity, and that’s fascinating. It makes complete sense when you kind of explain the physiology about that.

This podcast is sponsored by Wellnesse. my new personal care company that creates products that go beyond just safe and natural and contain beneficial ingredients that nourish your body from the outside in. Many “clean” products simply don’t work. This is why I have spent the last decade researching and perfecting recipes for products that not only eliminate toxic chemicals but also have ingredients that work better than the conventional alternatives by nourishing your body from the outside in. I’m so excited to share these products with you and am especially proud of our whitening toothpaste which took years of formulating and dozens of rounds of tweaks to perfect. Our whitening toothpaste supports a healthy oral microbiome and strengthens tooth enamel naturally using ingredients such as hydroxyapatite, neem, and green tea to support tooth and gum health. Instead of fluoride, our formula contains green tea leaf extract, which is loaded with antioxidants. Plus, a phytochemical in green tea is shown to fight bacteria that leads to tooth decay. We combined this phytochemical with hydroxyapatite (a naturally-occurring mineral and main component of tooth enamel) to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. Of course, fresh breath is paramount to good teeth brushing, and for that, we included peppermint leaf extract and neem. Neem prevents bacteria from sticking to teeth and turning into plaque. This protective measure means fewer bacteria, which leads to…fresher breath! Check out our whitening toothpaste and all of our products at Wellnesse.com. A tip – if you purchase a bundle or use auto-ship, you will receive a discount on both of those orders!

Today’s episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens, the all-in-one daily drink to support better health and peak performance. Even with a balanced diet, it can be difficult to cover all of your nutritional bases and this is where Athletic Greens can help. Their daily drink is essentially nutritional insurance for your body and it’s delivered straight to your door every month. It’s developed from a complex blend of 75 minerals, vitamins, and whole-food ingredients. It’s a greens powder that’s engineered to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. Their daily drink improves your everyday performance by addressing the four pillars of health, energy, recovery, gut health, and immune support. It’s packed with adaptogens for recovery, probiotics and digestive enzymes for gut health, and vitamin C and zinc for immune support. It’s basically an all-in-one solution to help your body meet its nutritional needs. And it’s highly absorbable and diet-friendly, whether you are keto, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. It has less than one gram of sugar and it tastes great. And here’s how I used it and still use it. When I started losing weight, I was eating a lot more protein, and it became hard to get enough greens and vegetables in because it was hard to actually eat enough volume of food. I was full. So I was able to use Athletic Greens to meet my veggie and nutritional needs, even if I was full and just didn’t feel like eating extra. It’s basically like a multivitamin, but it’s actually head and shoulders above a lot of multivitamins.

They don’t use any GMOs or harmful chemicals. And it’s NSF certified. So they really are careful about their sourcing and what goes into it. When you try Athletic Greens through my podcast, they’re also gonna send you a year supply of their vitamin D3 and K2 for free. I’ve talked about vitamin D before. We know we get it from the sun, but it can also be important to supplement, especially in the winter months. And this is something I test my own blood levels of and supplement when necessary. And it combines these nutrients to help support the heart, immune system, and respiratory system, which is especially helpful at this time of year. So whether you’re looking to boost energy levels, support your immune system, or address gut health, it’s a great time to try Athletic Greens for yourself. Simply visit athleticgreens.com/wellnessmama to claim my special offer today. You’ll get a free vitamin D3K2 wellness bundle with your first purchase. That’s up to a one year supply of vitamin D as an added value for free when you try Athletic Greens. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive nutritional bundle anywhere else. So, again, that’s athleticgreens.com/wellnessmama.

I’m curious because I know you’ve been working with a lot of people through this app and through the development on changing their breathing. I’m curious some of the ways that you’ve seen this change people’s lives. Obviously, I would guess in instances like that, but what other areas do you see changes in people’s lives from changing breathing?

Max: Yeah. So, I guess one of the biggest changes is just people who suffer from anxiety and who suffer from high levels of stress and depression. So, when you start to breathe with our application, we teach you these exercises that really help you calm down and become more aware that you’re in control of your body. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we tend to think that we’re not in control of our mind and body, but with breathing, we become more in control of that. So, by having, you know, the Breathwrk app with you when you’re in an extremely highly anxious state, you can start to train yourself to be in control and to breathe and slow down your breathing in order to slow down your heart rate to, you know, increase your levels of calmness and increase your ability to be present in the moment. So that’s where it really starts to help people, and we’ve seen a lot of people write in and talk about how this is really helping with their depression to get up in the morning or it’s helping with their anxiety when they’re going in for a meeting.

A lot of people use it with their family at dinner to help everyone breathe and be on the same pace because when everyone’s breathing at the same rate, you start to sync up your heartbeats and you start to sync up just the energy within the room to bring people into this one grounded place. And then we have other people who are saying that “This exercise helped give me the best sleep of my life.” So, people are now, or insomniacs are now breathing like this every night to go to sleep, and then if they do wake up, they breathe to put themselves back to sleep, and they’re saying that they’re really starting to see amazing improvements in their lives. You know, we didn’t launch the app too long ago. We only launched it in November, but since then, we have people who are on over 100-day streaks on the platform who absolutely cannot, you know, wake up or go to sleep without it because it does have such a positive benefit with them.

And then like I mentioned before, we have people writing in who use it with their kids too a lot. So, we have some mothers who use it with their kid when he has a panic attack or when he’s feeling frustrated with school, and then we also have, you know, a father who’s using it with her daughter to help put her to sleep at night who suffers from autism and ADHD. And he’s saying it’s really helping benefit them too. So we have people from all walks of life and backgrounds who can benefit from breathing because there are so many breathing practices out there to do and to benefit from. And it’s just so exciting that, you know, we have one place to put them all and we have, you know, one place to show all the science and to show, you know, how it works in your body and to give you this amazing, you know, full sensory experience when you do the exercise.

With the app, we have these amazing sounds that were created by this Grammy award-winning artist, DJ White Shadow. We have vibrations that help guide you and put you through it. And then we also have these really simple visuals that just help you focus on the breath because breathing is so, so easy, but it’s done wrong all the time. And we wanna make it easy for people to do it right. And with creating the app, we made this whole experience of being able to get to where you want within like a single click. When I created this, I wanted my, you know, grandmother to be able to use it and I wanted everyone from a 5-year-old to be able to use it. And because it’s so simple and so easy and so to the point, we’re able to get all these diverse users who all love it and who are finding amazing benefits across their lives.

Katie: That’s incredible. Are there specific ways or stories you’ve heard of people using this with kids because, sadly, I know we hear that anxiety is on the rise even for kids, and certainly, the last few months seemed like they could have increased anxiety across the board for all age groups. What examples do you have of people using this? You mentioned like family dinners. Are there other ways specific to kids that we can use this?

Max: Yeah. So, I think creating a practice with your kid is really helpful and beneficial and showing your kid the positive benefits of breathing slowly when you’re in a stressful situation. So, we have this mother who actually gives her child her phone when he is really stressed out or really fussy and is, you know, feeling stressed from work, not from work, from school or from his classmates. And when he gets the app, he’s able to breathe with it and to really feel the effects of it and to calm himself down. And she says that she uses this all the time with him, and it’s really been helping him become more relaxed and then also helping him over time become less stressed and less anxious because, the more you practice your breathing, the more you’re in tune with your breathing, the more that you breathe in a slower and more proper fashion. So, with the app, we also have, you know, Kiko the monkey who’s one of our mascots who breathes in and breathes out with you too if you’d wanna choose him, and it’s great to use that with kids because they get to breathe with this cool looking monkey. And that’s really one way that we’re able to get to younger people.

Katie: That’s awesome. I’m also always curious about kind of the idea of the minimum effective dose. So, you’ve made a pretty strong case for why obviously breathing is important and the way we can drastically influence our lives through breathing. What would you say is the minimum effective dose for something like the Breathwrk app? How much of this do we need to do to start seeing results?

Max: Yeah. So, you could start seeing results pretty quickly, and that’s really what led me to breathing in the first place is that it is something that happens very fast. So, if you are someone who is stressed and is looking for relief from stress, just doing a two-minute exercise kind of will help you get to the point of being more calm. And sticking with it for five minutes to eight minutes will also help you stay more calm over time. So just getting into it and feeling it and then adjusting for how much you need is really the best way to do it. And then by creating a practice, a daily practice over time of being more aware and control your breathing and doing exercises that help either calm you down or wake you up or put you to sleep, you can start to really benefit from it in the short term because it works very fast and over the long term start to really see the long-term health benefits from it.

Katie: I wanna circle back and learn a little bit more about CO2 tolerance because I think when it comes to breathing, people often just think of oxygen, and that’s, of course, where they put people on in a hospital when they are having trouble breathing. But the little bit that I’ve researched, the CO2 component is equally important, and it’s like you said, it’s about that ratio, not just oxygen in. So can you explain a little bit more of that science and how we can harness that to our advantage?

Max: Yeah. So, you can build your tolerance up to CO2 by breathing more slow and being able to hold your breath for longer. And by breathing more slow, you get more tolerant of CO2 over time. So the more you can slow down your breathing and the more you can get to six to five breaths a minute, the better efficiency and balance you have of CO2 and oxygen within your body. And when you have that good balance, you have, you know, increased levels of circulation and you have increased oxygen efficiency. So your red blood cells can offload oxygen to their cells in your body more efficiently because you have more CO2 and you have a good balance of CO2 and oxygen in your body. So, that’s really kind of one way that this CO2 tolerance works, and by building this over time, you really start to feel the effects of it and to, you know, be in a more calm and relaxed state.

Someone who is more tolerant to CO2 is actually less stressed and less anxious because when you are anxious, you tend to feel like you can’t breathe, and that feeling of can’t breathing is actually your intolerance of the CO2 within your body. So when you’re able to train yourself to tolerate more CO2, you kind of lessen that effect of the anxiety you get when you can’t breathe. And that’s why it’s really important to be hyper-aware of your breathing at all time and always remember to breathe through your nose and breathe slow into your diaphragm and, you know, really pay attention to your breathing throughout the day because, if you start to breathe more shallow and are unaware of it, you tend to decrease your tolerance to CO2, which can, you know, put you into that stressed and anxious state, which is a reoccurring cycle. So, it’s just great to really go into practice breathwork and practice breathing on a daily basis or to help build up your tolerance of CO2 to get you in a less stressed and anxious state throughout the day.

Katie: Very cool. So, talk a little bit more about the detail of the app. Of course, I’ll make sure there’s a link in the show notes for you guys to download it or it’s available in the App Store. What are you finding people are using this for the most and what kind of feedback are you getting based on the most user cases?

Max: Yeah. So, it’s actually really exciting. When we first started to see the usage of the app, we thought that it would be one use case. We thought it would only be calming exercises. But what we realized is that it’s pretty equally distributed across the different benefits we have. So, our number one exercise is sleep, which really helps put people to sleep at night, and the number two exercise is awake. So, it’s able to get people up and awake and energized and alert in the morning. And then the third most used exercise is calm. So it’s a calming exercise that helps put you in a more parasympathetic state. And then the fourth one is recharge so that one’s box breathing is based off the Navy SEAL breathing, which helps, you know, put you in a more relaxed and calm and focused state and also can help increase your tolerance of CO2.

So we’re seeing pretty equal distributions of the use cases within the application, and we’re seeing, you know, people come in whether it be, you know, alpha male looking to increase his endurance comes in for, you know, something, an exercise that helps increase their CO2 tolerance, but then they end up using the calming exercise or the sleep exercise, or we have the other way where we have someone who is really anxious and is looking for a way to calm down and be coming in for the calming exercises but then they realize the sleep exercise and then they realize the energize exercise and the awakening exercises. So it’s been fascinating to see the users coming in for one specific reason and then staying with it for multiple different reasons and then creating a daily practice based on what they need and where they’re at.

Katie: That is so cool. Let’s talk a little bit more about heart rate variability. So we touched on this a little bit. I mentioned that I saw changes in that when I started being more cognizant of my breathing. I know there’s also science and data that support this. If someone is interested in improving their heart rate variability, what type of breathing exercise would you point them toward?

Max: So, two of the best breathing exercises for heart variability are coherent breathing. So that’s breathing at equal pattern, so breathing either for six seconds in and six seconds out or eight seconds in and eight seconds out. So, helping breathe at that rate really helps heart variability. And then the other way is by breathing more slowly on the exhale also helps attribute to heart rate variability. So, breathing in for four seconds and then breathing out for eight seconds or breathing out for six seconds is one way to do it. And it’s always helpful to remember to breathe with your belly. When I first start to teach people breathing and when they come into the app, we always teach them to put a hand on their belly when they’re breathing so they can feel themselves breathing properly when doing it because that’s the best way to get the most results from it.

Katie: Got it. Okay. That makes sense. Is there any science…I would guess based on the different programs in the app, obviously, the sleep ones are best done pre-sleep. Other than that, is there any science about the best time of day or the best environment to do these different types of breathing exercises?

Max: Yeah. So there are a few times of days and environments to do these exercises. The ones that are more…in the app we have them all in yellow, they’re more awakening and they’re more sympathetic and they’re more energizing and they’re more for focus. Those are best done within the morning. So they’re best done to wake you up and get you out of bed and get you going. And then the calming ones are best done throughout the day too. So, if you’re at work and you’re an hour in and you’re already feeling anxious, you could just do a calming exercise to help you feel relaxed and in place. And also, if you are someone who doesn’t wanna get that energy boost in the morning but wants a more calming morning, you can also replace your morning instead of with a yellow exercise with a calming exercise, which is our green exercises. So using that in the morning and figuring out what works for you is how you can really start to benefit from these exercises. And then with something like sleep, it’s obviously best used at night before going to sleep or preparing for sleep. And then something more like the recharge breath in the red section, which is more focused on endurance and energy, that’s best used before or after exercise.

Katie: Awesome. I am new to the app, but I’m gonna give all of those a try. I think I’ve already done some of the ones that you mentioned like the 4-7-8. I’ve done pre-sleep, but it’s helpful. I’m looking at the app now to have a visual that helps you do it. I can see especially for kids why this would be so helpful than trying to just count with them and explain to them because they have something tangible to follow, which is amazing. As we get close to the end of our time, a couple somewhat unrelated questions that I love to ask. First of all, is there a book or a number of books that have really influenced your life, and if so, what they are and why?

Max: There’s two really important books that influenced my life. One is “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday, and it’s kind of a book that’s on stoicism about dealing with tough situations and finding, you know, power within these tough situations. And it talks about, you know, controlling your perspective and controlling your mindset, and I think that’s why I was attracted to that book was because it really helped me, you know, feel more control of my life and then adding the practice of breathwork on top of that really helped me empower my life. So that’s one amazing book that was more on the mindset side of things that really helped empower my life.

And then another amazing book, which became probably one of my favorite books right now since it was released two months ago is “Breath,” and it’s called “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor. And James Nestor is a journalist who’s been studying breathing for over eight years, and he goes into the history of breathing, he goes to the science of breathing and really makes an amazing case for why you should be paying more attention to your breathing and why breathing is more important and how, you know, society is a little bit lagging behind with all the positive benefits of it. But, you know, we really see breathing becoming a bigger industry within the future and we see more people, you know, taking control of their breathing and being more aware of their breathing, you know, not going anywhere, but actually getting bigger over time. And this one book was great for me to help me understand more of the science behind it and to know the history behind it too.

Katie: I love that. I’ll make sure those are linked in the show notes and also, of course, I’ll make sure we link to Breathwrk. Like I said at the beginning, I think this is such an important topic to bring awareness to because of all the inputs that we have in our life. We eat several times a day depending on if we intermittent fast or don’t, and we drink water more times a day per that, but we breathe I think it’s 12 to 20 times per minute. So, making a change to our breath can make a much bigger, more rapid change to our health than even improving things like diet, which is also very important, of course, and sleep and exercise. And I love that you guys have turned this into such a practical system, and it’s exciting to see that you’re already hearing such great results from app users. So thanks for the time and for sharing the science with us today.

Max: Thank you so much for having me.

Katie: And thanks as always to you for listening and sharing your most valuable asset, your time with us. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

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