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A conversation with a respiratory specialist

Breathing, not so obvious at all

Only after my sports career did I find out how important your breathing is. And that’s what I’m talking about. I believe it could have made my body function better and therefore achieve more in the sport. Thanks to a tangible test, it became clear to me how bad my breathing pattern was. The exercises I received from a breath specialist helped me to become calmer in my head and body. I use the methods daily.

After torn anterior cruciate ligaments and a torn tendon in my right knee, I am rehabilitating with Rick van Dijk, who has had his own practice since 2001 in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam.

Rick was our physiotherapist at football, VV Noordwijk, with which we became champion in 2000. You used to have fun with Rick, it was easy to get rid of him. And if one of the staff refuses to ride the bus, you ask for jokes. Despite his well-founded explanation. There was something about the regular supporter who was also our driver. But I now have a serious rehabilitation ahead of me and I like it when a therapist is familiar with my personality and my body’s injury history. And more importantly, I know what I’m getting from him, serious and good as always in his task and performance.

He helps with rehabilitation for a few months and I train my muscles again under his guidance. There was no talk of a poop transplant yet. I only found out later that year. I took my meds every day. One thing I found Rick had changed over the years, he had become calmer and much more in control. I think the new path he had taken is the reason.

Since 2004, Rick has specialized in breathing in addition to physiotherapy. In the beginning mainly for top athletes during sports, and breathing for recovery. After rediscovering his old love for the martial arts, he was introduced to the breathing technique with the sport ‘Aikido’ as its foundation. Literally translated ‘The way of coming together with Ki’. In addition to personal guidance, Rick van Dijk has been speaking for companies for years and also gives workshops.

I visit him again and talk to him about the relationship between breathing and health.

About the breath part for rest, recovery, growth and stress situations

Hi Rick. The reason for your rest and control today cannot be other than breath, but why have you started to immerse yourself in breathing?

Hey Marco, that certainly plays an important role. I found out that few people in sports were concerned with breathing. I went to test at rest and in function and frankly I was shocked by the result. 70% of people breathed at rest as if they were on a bicycle! I started to delve into the matter through several breath specialists such as Wim Hof, Patrick McKeown, Vladimir Vasiliev (ex-Spetsnaz officer) and I started reading a lot of literature about it, dived into the world of yoga, mindfulness, biathlon and freediving, among others. and made my own cocktail from all those facets. I have obtained my certificates and have purchased measuring equipment. The conclusion that, and not just in sports, 70% of people overbreath at rest is remarkable and disturbing.

For the record. Overbreathing can therefore be compared to chronic hyperventilation. You breathe more than necessary. Breathing is also the basis of Yoga and Pilates, among other things, aren’t you quickly put in that corner?

Many people initially think that I am involved in yoga. But if you remove the frills and rituals from that, you are left with pure breathing and you can use that for anything. So I’m dealing with the core. Breathing is the basis, Breathing is your foundation. You do it 20-25,000 times a day.

Can structurally wrong breathing worsen my health?

Certainly. Breathing controls the autonomic nervous system. Many people breathe too much and not as they should, namely from your diaphragm. The machine then runs continuously at full speed and can become overloaded. Your breathing can be trained, just like your biceps can be trained. You activate the growth and repair branch of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic, which, among other things, enables the immune system to do its job properly. You also create new neuro networks in your brain, especially in your prefrontal cortex. This area is very important when it comes to concentration. I call it the focus muscle. Studies have found changes in the brain after just eight weeks.

The frontal cortex is, say, the supervisor, the conductor of your brain. It ensures peace and order in your head for focus, targeted action and therefore not impulsive, it provides overview

Exactly, correct breathing therefore ensures recovery and growth and as a bonus, your focus also improves. But you do have to make progress and consciously fit your breathing into your lifestyle.

Can you perhaps clarify what the breath does for your body?

Breathing is the first and last thing you do in life. Breathing is fundamental to life. Of all the basic things you can go shortest without breath and again, you do it 20-25,000 times a day. You can improve everything about your life, nutrition, drinking water, sports, rest, but breathing is never thought of. If you do that wrong and don’t optimize, you will never have optimal results. Our whole biochemistry, all of our regulatory systems depend on the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide, especially carbon dioxide. You can’t move properly, function properly if you don’t breathe properly. This also has to do with the use of the diaphragm. Your breath is the foundation. Besides that, I can’t think of anything of greater importance, which is actually up for grabs and trainable.

What is the optimal respiration at rest and can you describe the biochemical process during respiration?

Especially breathe less and breathe through your nose! I jokingly call it “The Hippie LSD Breath.” And that stands for LOW, SLOW and DEEP. So breathe lower from your diaphragm, slower and deeper. And breathe through your nose! Because that’s what it’s meant for. The area above your palate that you feel with your tongue is open area, your nasal cavity, meant for breathing. It is your first line of defence. Everyone knows that when you breathe through your nose you filter and humidify the air. But if you look at the anatomy of the nasal passages, it really shows that your nose is meant for breathing. There is curvature in the nasal cavity above your palate and that has a function. It ensures that the flow rate of the breath slows down a bit, which in turn has a beneficial effect on oxygen uptake and the mixing of nitric oxide, which the nose produces. Nitric oxide helps the immune system fight inflammation. Which is very important to your readers. So breathe through your nose and not through your mouth, which is for eating and chattering.

Suppose I am sick, weak or nauseous, perhaps chronically ill. What improvements can I achieve with breathing exercises?

If you don’t breathe optimally, overbreathe, and not in the right way, your body is constantly ‘on’ and mind you, even when you sleep! And if your body has to work extra at rest, or when you sleep, there is much less room for recovery and growth. If you train your breathing, it will become automatic at a certain point. Even when you sleep. Proper breathing at rest ensures that all processes in your body can function optimally. Then your body has all the attention for the recovery of possible problems and for growth.

Do you perhaps have a breathing exercise for the readers of this blog that is good for the stressed body, for rest and recovery in your body?

There is a good book by Sander Aarts, Special Forces operator, ‘Unbreakable’. And I quote him directly. “The easiest way to ease your stress response is to focus on your breathing. No matter how extreme or difficult the situation, you always have a secret superpower with you, and that is your breath.” Breath can regulate stress and in its situation, in fierce war zones, that can be life-saving. Start by breathing less, lengthening your exhalation and taking some more breaks, then you activate the part of your autonomic nervous system (Parasympathetic system) that ensures growth and recovery. The vagus nerve plays an important role in this. The vagus nerve, or floating nerve, is your tenth cranial nerve that lowers your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and lowers your muscle tension. I

call this breathing exercise ‘Stand on the brake pedal’. So you have to train this and certainly not think lightly about it. Get to work really well. Preferably 3 x a day for 10 minutes and certainly before going to sleep. You will notice that you will sleep easier and deeper and that your body will have more space or more energy to recover.

I also want to quote another book “The Biology of Belief.”

Dr. Bruce Lipton, cell biologist, former lecturer, researcher and discoverer of the fact that thoughts and emotions can influence our well-being. He did extensive research into the processes by which cells process information. This showed that it is not the genes that determine our behaviour, but that the genes are switched on and off by external factors. They are triggered by a plethora of perceptions and all of our thoughts and beliefs. Especially in this age of social media, where multitasking has become an understatement. Dr. Lipton shows that influences and beliefs, whether true or not, positive or negative, affect activity at the genetic level and can even alter our genetic code.

Thoughts and emotions are highly regulated by the conductor, the prefrontal cortex, which acts as a “dimmer”. So look at your phone less and do a breathing exercise instead.

Can this exercise also help against chronic pain?

Certainly, chronic pain can be compared to a continuous stress situation. One is, as it were, in a constant battle with the pain. Research has shown that only 6-10% of chronic pain can be traced back to tissue damage. These are nasty diseases that can usually be diagnosed properly. In most cases it is a “software problem” of the brain. The pain is certainly real and real, but it is mainly created by an overactive and over-anxious brain and can no longer be traced back to tissue damage. Pain is a warning system. Sometimes a bit too sharp. Especially the limbic system (the emotional brain), the area where the color and charge is given to the pain, is overactive in chronic pain and is insufficiently inhibited by the prefrontal cortex, the conductor of the brain. So you see in research of patients with chronic low back pain that the prefrontal cortex has become smaller. The emotional brain (the limbic system) is so dominant, it screams very loudly, weakening that conductor. You get into a negative spiral and what you can do is strengthen that conductor, which can be done with, among other things, breathing exercises that give you control in your brain again. Just say reset the software system. Training your breath is therefore also training part of your brain.

nd it’s nice that you can do this breathing exercise all day long. In addition, just like with poop transplants, it is an age-old phenomenon that is unfortunately underexposed. I hope it has become clear to the readers that something as simple as breath is not only vital but also essential for the quality of life. It has helped me enormously from the moment I gained insight into my breathing through your measuring equipment. Thanks Rick, for the introduction to the world of breath. We have only highlighted one side of your breathing techniques, for example you also do functional breathing techniques. Handy in physical and extreme situations to keep the peace and overview. Visit the site if you want to know more or for a consultation with a breath analysis..

Rick helps people and institutions with his breathing techniques, in all walks of life. From the health of the citizen, the recovery and performance improvement of a (top) athlete to a workshop on the work floor at companies, to breathing training for snipers at defense or firefighters in turnout suits with breathing air bottles.

Rick van Dijk, sports physiotherapist