Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Harnessing the Power of Your Breath With Josh Trent
[00:00:02] PF: Welcome to Episode 343 of Live Happy Now. No matter where you are right now, we’re all doing the same thing, breathing. And this week, we’re going to teach you how to do it better. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and this week, I’m joined by Josh Trent, the founder of Wellness Force Media, host of the Wellness Force podcast, and creator of the BREATHE: Breath & Wellness Program. Josh has spent the past 19 years as a trainer, researcher and facilitator, discovering the physical and emotional intelligence we need to thrive in today’s modern world. He’s here with me to talk about how our breath affects our physical and mental well-being, and offer timely tips for using your breath to get through a hectic holiday season.
Josh, welcome to Live Happy Now.
[00:00:48] JT: Thank you for having me, Paula.
[00:00:51] PF: We are talking about something that we think we all know about, which is breathing. But even though it’s something we do from the time that we’re born, I was surprised as an adult to find out how little I actually knew about breathing. So before we dive in and get our master class from you in and breath work, can you explain what it is?
[00:01:12] JT: So breathing is a lot like meditation. But the difference between breathing and meditation is breath, work and breathing, it’s this skill that you cultivate over time. But unlike meditation, really what breathwork is, is, it’s an active form of clearing your mind and centering your body that is going to produce immediate feedback. And this is the key differentiator. So this is what lets go of stress and to calm the monkey mind is really important to literally change the way that your body responds or reacts to stress coming in. I like to say that breath work is the only autonomic or automatic lever that we can pull that actually can modulate our stress.
[00:01:51] PF: And it’s such an incredible tool, because we’re using it whether we realize it or not, when we start rapid breathing in anxious situation. So we’re kind of doing it in the dark side of the breathing. So we’re using our breath regardless of whether or not we realize it, is that correct?
[00:02:07] JT: Absolutely. The challenge that we all deal with is that most of us – And if you look at many of the PubMed studies and scientific research, most of us are breathing incorrectly. And I know for first audio, people might be like, “Wait, what do you mean I’m breathing wrong? I breathe all day long.”
[00:02:22] PF: I’ve been doing it for years.
[00:02:24] JT: Yeah, I’m breathing right now. But the key is, we are adaptive creatures. We are adaptive human beings. And so whether you’re spiritual or scientific, you don’t need a report card to know that when you do breathing and breath work properly, you feel different. You are more happy. You have less anxiety. You have less depression, right? Anxiety is a focus on the future. Depression, rumination on the past.
So what brings us to the current moment doesn’t mean that we’re on a cliff, wearing a white robe, chanting. What brings us to the current moment is the way that we can modulate with our autonomic nervous system, and we can get into that, how our breath can help us modulate our stress and really melt away the stress, because stress is essentially energy. And emotion is energy in motion. So when we have energy that is stuck in the body, literally and figuratively, the best thing we can do is breathe. Because we can actually start to modulate and remove, let go have that stress without having to take a pill, without having to do something unhealthy. So it’s a really wonderful tool that I personally have been using for the past seven years. And there is a deep, rich scientific body about the benefits of breathwork as well.
[00:03:31] PF: Yeah. I want to dive into that. But I’d like to hear more about your journey as well. How did you discover this? What was it that drew you to it?
[00:03:39] JT: You know, what drew me to the breath was my own anxiety. So I was actually born, and my mom struggled with manic bipolar. And so for anyone that’s dealt with that personally or even familiarly, when you have a headquarters as a child that is not safe, or maybe vacillates, or changes, the challenge is to feel safe in your own body. And so breathwork is a very somatic practice. And when I found it, I was actually working with a guy named Mark Devine. He’s an ex-Navy SEAL commander. And I was doing some breath work with a bunch of special operations people at a conference. And I could not imagine seeing this with so many tears as I had. I started crying. I didn’t know what was going on. It was just like a tremendously surreal experience.
And I later found out that our tissues literally store energy. And you can look at Bruce Lipton’s work, or even Joe Dispenza’s work. Our issues are where we store – Really, they’re stored in the tissues. Our issues are stored in the tissues. So when I was moving that chi, or that prana, that energy that we call here in the West, through breath, I actually was able to have a cathartic process in the breath, and I was hooked. That was 2015 or so. And since then, it’s just been a deep dive for myself personally and for my global students as well.
[00:04:53] PF: Yeah, you’ve done a tremendous job of building this up in such a short time, and you’re such an excellent presenter of what it does. So let’s get into that. Let’s talk about and start with our physical state, and talk about what using our breath can do for our physical well-being.
[00:05:09] JT: So one of the best ways that I describe this, maybe if somebody is just starting their breathwork practice. Your diaphragm – So we’ll go to the physiology first. The benefits of breathwork, starting with the physical state, is that when it comes to well-being, we have a very ancient system, and it’s called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve attaches all the way from the back of the cranium, all the way down the spine, and it innervates around what’s called our enteric nervous system. And also, it has nerve endings in our diaphragm. So the beauty of doing conscious connected breathing, which is what we teach in our BREATHE: Breath & Wellness Program, when you breathe properly, with the right muscles, the right technique and the right posture, you start to do what’s called vagal toning. You tone your vagus nerve. The primary function of the vagus nerve – It has many functions, but one of its primary functions is to modulate our parasympathetic and our sympathetic branches of that autonomic or that automatic nervous system I was talking about.
So whether you’re a scientist or not, basically, there’s two sides of this nervous system. One of them is fight and flight, one of them is rest and digest. So when we have a proper use of breathwork, through the diaphragm, we are literally physically pushing on those nerve endings that tone our vagus nerve, which allows us over time to have what’s called more vagal tone. The higher we have vagal tone, the more adaptive we are, the more resilient we are as human beings, as men and women, to stress. And so that’s just the primary function of breathwork.
But the ancillary benefits are so beautiful. Not to mention just being in the current moment, which is the best place ever. But there are certain things that breathwork can do like increasing nitric oxide. Respiration, by the way, 70% of how we cleanse the body of toxins is through breath. The other 30% is bladder and bowels. So this nitric oxide stimulation, this also helps protect the cells from oxidative stress.
Now, this is a type of stress that’s oxidative for the reasons that our body ages faster when it appears in larger quantities. So reducing oxidative stress through breath holds. This is what has been shown to reduce this process, to literally slow the aging process. And then the last thing I’ll mention is it’s really freedom from the stress of the default mode network. The default mode network is a very ancient system that’s also tied in to the amygdala. The amygdala communicates with that vagus nerve that I mentioned before.
So when we’re doing our conscious connected breathing, and we’re pushing on those nerve endings, and we’re doing our diaphragmatic breathing and our belly breathing, essentially, the default mode network gets turned down. The volume of that mental access in our brain gets turned down. Now the default mode network is it’s a part of our brain, it’s the prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate, and also the amygdala. This is what activates when you’re trying to do a myopic task. So if anybody out there has ever felt like, “Gosh! I literally can’t focus. I have brain fog. I can’t seem to finish my report. Or I can’t seem to focus at work.” Promise, from me, and 1000s of people that have done this breathwork for a program, it’s the only way to really send to yourself without caffeine, without drugs, without all these things that really aren’t always needed in the current moment. So those are some of the physiological benefits, the default mode network, the vagal toning. And really getting us here right now, which is where all the good things happen anyways.
[00:08:36] PF: And what is the proper way to breathe? If someone’s saying, “Okay, I’m in my car right now, and I’m breathing wrong.” And maybe they’re feeling a little tense, or maybe they just know they’re going into a meeting and they’re going to feel tense. What is the proper way to breathe? How do we start this?
[00:08:52] JT: So I’ll give an analogy and then I’ll go right to your question. The analogy is this, if anybody out there is parents – And, Paula, I don’t know if you have children, or if you have maybe cousins, or nieces, or nephews at all.
[00:09:03] PF: I have nieces and nephews.
[00:09:04] JT: Great. So you know that when a child is very young, children are very happy. They haven’t had a lot of life that is experienced for them to believe that they’re not safe or that they’re not happy. Look at how children breathe. The answers are always found in nature. When you have a child and that child is two years or less, they naturally breathe through their nose. Now why is that? Right? Why is it when a child breathes through their nose that they’re happy? It’s because that is how nature designed us to breathe. And I tested this, by the way. I have a five-month-old son. I plugged his nose really quickly and he started to choke. And it validated – Of course I let go after a second.
[00:09:46] PF: Yeah, I’m assuming.
[00:09:46] PF: I wasn’t choking my son or anything? But I noticed that because it validated all the scientific literature that I had researched in creating the program and I thought, “Wow! If it’s good enough for my child, it’s good enough for me.” And when we breathe properly through our nose, everyone should be inhaling smoothly through their nose. And we can try this right now. If you just release your jaw, wherever you are – It’s totally safe to do this while you’re driving. We’re not going to do a deep cathartic process. Wherever you are, roll your jaw around five to six times. So roll your jaw around five to six times and just release any pressure you feel in your jaw. We carry a lot of stress in our jaw. Roll your neck around a few times, keeping your eyes on the road, being safe. And just feel for a moment that all the stress you carried on your eyes, on your cheeks, on your jaw, and your neck and shoulders, just let that go. Take as much time as you need. And I want you to practice doing with me right now six, circular, conscious, connected breaths.
Imagine there’s a balloon behind your belly button. Every time you breathe in through your nose, I want you to fill a balloon behind your belly button. So let’s just do one together now. Inhale through your nose, fill a balloon behind your belly button. And let it go. When you let it go, you obviously naturally let it go through your mouth. Let’s do two more together. Watch your belly go out as you breathe in through your nose. Inhale, belly goes out. Exhale, belly falls. One more time. In through your nose, and breathe out.
Now doing that six times without a stop at the top or bottom, that is called a conscious connected circular breath. When you breathe conscious and connected, and you fill your belly, like there’s a balloon inside of it, you actually are pushing on those nerve endings that we talked about when it comes to the vagus nerve and vagal toning. So that is the number one way that we can all learn how to breathe. Now from there, that’s the baseline, obviously. And there’s lots of postural techniques, and training, and training the right muscles, and training the right posture, how you sit, how you stand. But the beginning of it all is actually identifying, “Am I a horizontal breather? Or am I a vertical breather?” Or this is the third, am I a reverse breather?
So I learned this from Dr. Belisa Vranich. She is a very renowned specialist. She wrote Breathing for Warriors. I was one of her students. And in my journey, I found that a lot of the clients I would work with, they actually had, Paula, a reverse breathing pattern. Now the best way to know that is remember when I was guiding us there through those circular breaths, if you take a breath in, if you’re breathing in through your nose, and your bellies going flat, you’re a reverse breather.
[00:12:29] PF: Oh, no. I’m a reverse breather, Josh.
[00:12:30] JT: Okay. Well, then we would need to work on that if you’re one of my students. So what we want to do is when we breathe in through our nose, as we inhale through our nose, we want our belly to fill. So inhaling through the nose, belly fills. Exhaling through the mouth, belly collapses. And it doesn’t matter your state of health. Everyone can do this slow conscious connected breathing. So that’s a great place to start.
And then also, what we talked about in the program, is identifying if you’re a vertical or a horizontal breather. Vertical breathers, they raise their shoulders when they breathe. They’re breathing into their neck in their collarbones. They’re literally bypassing. They’re shutting off all the health benefits of doing that belly breath and really breathing through the diaphragm. So that’s a really great starting place as far as how do we breathe correctly? And I’ll tell you, I guarantee somebody said, “Hmm, I’m probably not breathing correctly right now.” So that’s a good starting place.
[00:13:22] PF: And how much time do we need to spend on this? Is it something we like to have a practice if we’re going to do a breathwork practice? Because, honestly, let’s face it, it’s like, “Okay, if I can choose learning to breathe versus learning to meditate, this is way easier and faster.” So how much time do we need to invest in it? And is this something we work on daily throughout the day? How do we do this?
[00:13:46] JT: I found that when I traveled the world, I went to Copenhagen for 30 days. I trained heavily for a month there. I went to Sedona. I went to Costa Rica. I went to Arizona. I mean, I traveled around. And I learned from all these masters, both ancient styles and contemporary. And what I found was, you can do breath in 3, 5, 7 or 10 minutes a day. That’s all you really need to start getting these benefits.
A lot of what has been popularized, Paula, is this cathartic breathing. And I’m sure maybe we’ve seen it online where there’s people like breathing really heavy and their bodies are flailing around. That’s fine. I think there’s a time and a place for that. And I definitely recommend that people do it with a qualified practitioner. But when it comes to the other two phases of breath work, one of them is acute breathwork and the other one is meditative, or proactive. Acute breathwork can be done in one to three minutes. You do not need more than one or three minutes to do a very specific style of breathing. And there’s many, many, many that we talked about in the program, because so many people deal with different varieties of stress, anxiety, stage fright, relationship, things like this. There’s breathing for sleep. There’s breathing for creativity. There’s breathing to ground you. There’s breathing to bring you up into your creative center in your brain. But everyone, everyone can do the acute style breathing in about one to three minutes.
Obviously, that second phase is a little bit longer. Some of the practices that we have guided in the program are more around seven minutes. And then some of them lead up to actually 21 minutes. And I’ll say this, if you have trouble meditating, the best and most powerful thing you can do is learn how to breathe properly for three minutes with the acute, and for maybe 7 to 10 minutes with the proactive, or the wellness breathing. That’s the most powerful thing you can do for people that can’t meditate is actually learn breath work first. Because as you learn the breath work, you’ll be able to be more still, and you’ll be more clear, and then you can meditate.
[00:15:40] PF: And so we know it’s doing great things for us physically. And we know in that moment, it releases that stress. What does it do for us long term? And how does that affect our emotional state?
[00:15:52] JT: So the major impact of this is we’ll go back to the default mode network. And there was actually a study done, and I can link this for the show notes here, and it’s titled Default Mode Network, Meditation, and Age-Associated Brain Changes. What can we learn from the impact of mental training on well-being as a psychotherapeutic approach? And what they found was the default mode network showed a high level of simultaneous activation during rest, while their activity diminishes during the performance of goal-directed tasks. In other words, we were able to be in the present moment when we’re consciously practicing this breath work over time. As you know, the default mode network is a scanning mechanism. And so if we are constantly in a state of stress, we’re constantly scanning. We have elevated cortisol. We’re in that sympathetic branch of the nervous system. And the default mode network is totally lighting up.
So what we all have to realize is not only does the science show us that, obviously, increased presence over time will lower cortisol. It’ll lower blood sugar. The number one thing that I’ve seen in my practice, and also in almost 20 years now in the wellness industry, it’s not that people want to be losing weight, and letting go of weight both emotionally and physically so they can be happy. It’s actually about gathering all the tools to be happy first, and then the weight, it just melts away. It literally goes away on its own. So to paraphrase, you don’t lose weight to be happy. You first cultivate happiness to let go of weight. And that is the biggest long-term health benefit of breath work. It lets go of physical. And most importantly, it lets go of emotional weight.
[00:17:31] PF: We’ve had so much focus on health in the last couple of years, people really being concerned about how to improve their health. And this is such a simple, but effective and meaningful way to improve your physical and your mental well-being.
[00:17:46] JT: It really is. And honestly, it’s tattooed on my body. It’s “Se posso respirare, posso scegliere.” And what that means in Italian is, “If I can breathe, I can choose.” And I got that tattoo because when I was struggling with my anxiety back in 2015, 2016, I really needed something that didn’t come in a pill. I wanted something more natural. And I was like, “Well, what’s it going to be?” I too, went down the path of meditation, Vipassana meditation, sitting for 10 days in silence. And these are great things, but they’re not accessible for everyone. Every human being, once they learn the fundamentals of how to sit, the muscles involved, the posture, the breathing techniques. Once you learn it, it’s yours literally forever. And I guess that’s the most powerful thing that comes from learning the breath, because the breath is your ally. It’s your friend. Whenever we can breathe, we can choose. We can choose to show up loving. We can choose to show up happy. But what do we do, Paula, when we’re stressed? We hold our breath. We go “Hmmp!” right? And we stopped breathing. So when we’re not breathing, we can’t choose anything, because all we’re focused on is the feeling of stress inside of our body.
[00:18:52] PF: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of us have been holding our breath for about two years now.
[00:18:57] JT: Exactly.
[00:18:58] PF: And that brings up another point, where we’re in the middle of the holiday season. And there’s, once again, a lot going on. And already, holidays were already stressful enough. This is kind of adding another layer. So your advice, people who are facing the holidays, whatever it is they’re going through, what’s your advice for them to be able to take a breath and get through this feeling better.
[00:19:20] JT: Find a space in your home, where you live, on your land, in your car, somewhere. find a space that you create a little nook for yourself. It could be in your master bedroom, It could be in your kid’s room. Well, maybe not in your kid’s room. But it’s going to be somewhere where you know when you go there, that you can sit, you can be with yourself, and you can melt away what you’re feeling. Because what you’re feeling, and I’ll say this from my own personal experience, you are not your anxiety, you are not your depression. You are experiencing anxiety. You are experiencing depression. But energy in motion is described as emotion.
So if your experiencing an emotion of depression, or sadness, or anxiety, it’s the pain teacher. It’s you yourself. It’s the lessons of life of a higher power, if you hold on to one, wanting to wake you up. Wanting to point you in the right direction of your own healing. So don’t run from these feelings. The worst thing we can do, Paula, is to run from our feelings. The most powerful thing we can do is create a safe space in our home, create a little nook, and start to do this breath work once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week, then maybe seven days a week and multiple times depending on your level of stress. That is the number one thing you can do in this holiday season. I’ve done it myself, right? In-laws aren’t always the easiest to deal with. Go into the next room, find your space, use a guided practice, like we haven’t – There’s many guided practices in the program. They are for different emotional states.
One of them that I find is the number one that people write in about is the feeling of overwhelm. And overwhelm is actually you just needing a break. It’s just you needing a rest? Well, if you don’t have a lot of time, and maybe you only have 20 minutes or less, or maybe three minutes, you find that space in your home, you find that safe space, and you go there and you give yourself that gift of breathing properly. So you can start to increase your vagal tone, all these physiological benefits we talked about. And I guarantee you, when you’re done, you will feel so much better. And you’ll be able to live more happy. I mean, that’s really what your show and what this movement is all about.
[00:21:25] PF: I appreciate you sitting down and talking with me today. You have so many great resources we’re going to direct our listeners to. You’ve got a fantastic website. As you mentioned, you’ve got your own podcast. And I know that we all have a lot that we can learn from you that we could never fit in a 30-minute podcast episode. So thank you for sharing this time with us and helping us start on this journey.
[00:21:45] JT: Paula, it’s been a pleasure. And I know we’re at holidays. And for a lot of us right now, we’ve had a lot of changes. So I just want to offer this gift. If anyone is feeling inspired, just use a code, use a discount code. It’s a holiday code. It’s holiday25. And holiday25 will get you 25% off of the program at breathwork.io. So that’s my gift to everyone.
[00:22:07] PF: Thank you.
[00:22:07] JT: I’m doing that because it’s really important that we all use this tool. And I want to make it more applicable to everyone. I’ll tell you, it’s already inexpensive enough, but you’re going to love the extra saving. So holiday25 at breathwork.io.
[00:22:20] PF: That’s terrific. And we’ll put that code on our page as well. So if someone’s in their car and it’s like, “Oh, what was that?” They can just hit the landing page and use that.
[00:22:30] JT: Wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for the beautiful questions. And I trust that we all will breathe easier after this conversation.
[00:22:38] PF: I know I will. Thank you so much.
[00:22:40] JT: Thanks, Paula.
[00:22:45] PF: That was Josh Trent talking about how to use breath work to improve your physical and emotional well-being. If you’d like to learn more about Josh, listen to his podcast, get a free wellness guide, or learn more about his program, visit our website at live happy.com and click on the podcast link.
And as we continue this holiday season, Live Happy wants to make your holiday shopping easy. Visit our store at livehappy.com and check out our new live happy beanies and hoodies, because giving happiness is always in style. We offer free shipping on orders of $75 and more. And if you use the code LIVEHAPPYNOW, you’ll get 10% off your entire order. So check us out and start checking off that gift list.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all new episode. And until then, this is Paula Felps reminding you to make every day a happy one.