I lecture students about the power of their breath in the physiology laboratory
I first became aware of the role of breathing in ensuring a balanced or unbalanced state of mind and body some thirty years ago while undertaking research amongst Buddhist meditators in Thailand.
Interior of a Thai Buddhist Temple
To investigate the neuroscience of this ancient tradition, I measured electrical activity in the brains and bodies of experienced meditators as they achieved a state of transcendent awareness.
The importance of breathing, in both triggering and treating, anxiety, phobias and panic attacks soon became apparent as the EEG brain maps shown below demonstrate.
Working with the remarkable English born Shaolin monk, Matthew Ahmet, I was able to recording what was happening in his brain and body as he performed truly astonishing mental and physical feats by harnessing the power of his breath.
In a demonstration for the US TV series Superheroes, for example, he was able to push a Toyota Landcrusier across a car park at Sussex University by means of a spear whose point was place against his unprotected throat.
As he did so I measured changes in his brain activity, heart rate and breathing, watch this video of him performing this apparently impossible feat.
In the laboratory my colleagues and I researched various forms of biofeedback equipment. These devices enable individuals to see what is going on in their own body, such as changes in heart rate and respiration.
As the video shows, even minor changes to the way you breath influences the way your body behaves. By breathing more rapidly, for example, you can increases the feelings of anxiety and may even trigger a panic attack
Some thirty years ago, I published the initial findings of my researches in best selling book The Alpha Plan that became the subject of a BBC TV QED documentary.
Wiring up footballer turned actor Vinne Jones at the start of a study
An invitation from the BBC to present a series of sports programmes, under the title Sporting Partnerships, provided me with an opportunity to interview many of the UK’s foremost sportsmen and women about their approach to the challenge of such a highly competitive career and the techniques they used to maintain themselves at peak mental and physical condition. Their experiences, knowledge and insights enabled me to further develop and refine many of the breathing procedures I was using in my clinical practice.
Since then I have continued with my research and training programmes, both in the UK and continental Europe, aimed at exploring and harnessing the power of the human breath to influence performance via its effects on electrical activity in the brain.
During lectures around the world I have been able to teach international audiences about the breathing techniques that you can now find on my Bo-Tau Training Course, click to watch preview videos.