The MindFuel Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode 182: Artur Paulins - Breathwork Practices To Become A Better Balanced Entrepreneur

Artur Paulins

Artur Paulins is the creator of Breathwork Academy, helping his clients transform their access to daily calm through breathwork. Artur is one of the first instructors trained directly by Wim Hof, and that was his first training in breath mastery, which now spans a variety of breath-based approaches to wellbeing, resilience and inner-strength.

On this episode, we chat about breathwork - what it is and how you can incorporate it to help you become a better balanced entrepreneur.

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We have these psychological needs, and if we don't fulfil them, they just keep yearning and yearning and become bigger. The more we sacrifice the values in our journey and the more we sacrifice ourselves, then the less fulfilled we become and the more frustrated we become.

How did you get started with breathwork and training with Wim Hof?

For me, breathwork is like a broad spectrum of things that I practice to address my mental wellbeing. I got into this quite a few years back when I was a student and I was training in martial arts and competing in martial arts, and I really put a lot of attention and effort in that.

At that time, I had plenty of ways on how to train myself, train my physical body, but I didn't have a good understanding of my mind and how to take care of it and take care of the stress, take care of anxiety. But all at the time it was related to the martial arts competition, because there weren't that many life stressors as I was a student.

This is a different lifestyle than running your own business. And at the time, my coach actually had a meditation practice. He was meditating and I asked him about it, because I was always curious about meditation and monks and all these cool things that I wasn't exposed to, because I didn't come from an environment or social circles where that was a common thing to do or practice.

So my coach told me about it and recommended reading a book on pranayama that was written by a free diver. That was my initial introduction to meditation and it was through the use of breathing. And I read the book, I found a Buddhist center in the city I was living at in Denmark.

I went there, I studied meditation, downloaded Headspace years ago and it was wasn't as big as it is as it does now, just read a bunch of things, and kept on exploring and practicing this breathing based meditation.

And that was great. That was something that was amazing for me. Then years later, when I was already in London, I was working at a busy job in a city and I was still training martial arts. I was still competing and training quite a lot to the point where I was getting injured. At one point, I got seriously injured and I couldn't train and I was basically stuck.

I didn't have my escape from my everyday working reality, which was martial arts at the time and Brazilian jiu-jitsu specifically. So at that point I was like, oh, there was so many things that I didn't have time to explore, or I wasn't allowing myself to explore.

And I kind of remembered about the name Wim Hof, and so I looked up his online stuff, tried it and I felt different. I felt really a massive shift and effective shift in my perspective, which I could describe as having a bit more contentment simply by being in the same situation I was at.

Just changing my perspective and that really helped. And I basically decided to go and meet the guy and learn from him and study with him, years ago when it wasn't as obvious thing to do as this now.

And years later, I kept on learning from different teachers, explored other physical modalities, like strength training, yoga, other breath practice. And here I am now diving into just breathwork and learning and teaching it.

What exactly is breathwork? What is the science behind breathwork? Why does it work?

People would often say, why do I need to learn how to breathe? That's a valid question. But at the same time, by now most of us can recognize meditation or some similar practice that calms our mind and stops some of the chatter that is always going on in our heads.

Breathwork is beneficial to our health, mental health and physical health, and also beneficial to how we can show up in the world, perhaps perform better in some ways by having some of these practices.

And what breathwork is, is simply using the breath to change your state of arousal. That's probably the simplest way to describe it. You can regulate your nervous system if you are in slightly agitated state or you're a bit anxious or overwhelmed, and you can use the breathing to calm yourself down quite quickly using pragmatic, simple exercise.

You put yourself into this relaxed state where you can sit down for 10 minutes and actually not have those thoughts racing. So you're addressing state of physiology. Breathing can also be applied to improve your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, improve physical performance for an athlete. It can be used to improve cognitive performance.

It can be used for so many different things like improving the respiratory function and how it affects your general health, but it all starts with breath awareness, and there's so many applications that we can go into.

What are some of the applications that would apply for breath awareness?

One of the things with learning how to use the breathing and starting to become aware of what happens, and that's what science says as well, is our mental state and how we basically feel about ourselves, how we perform, is regulated by our physiology. If our physiology is out of whack and we're in this stress state, we're not thinking straight and we're not able to create rational decisions.

We're not able to connect distant ideas in our mind. Basically we are not able to be creative. With breathing, we can influence that physiology, that base layer of our existence, and we can calm it down. We can calm down our primitive brain and then our heart cognitive functions can function more effectively, and we can actually think rationally and we can see things clearly by first addressing our physiology.

And what happens when we are developing our awareness of the breathing, we can actually note this, is that we might be falling out of balance earlier, and instead of finding yourself totally burnt out - maybe you've been putting in several months of intense work working on a project - you can catch yourself earlier that you're going into that space.

Then you can make a decision to perhaps take a break and then carry on with refreshed levels of energy instead of noticing when it's too late.

What does your own breathwork routine look like whenever you start to feel as stressed out?

I don't think there's a way of getting rid of stress in our lives. Stress is also not necessarily just bad. It can be a useful way of using stress as a stimulus, but that's another topic.

In my own personal experience, what helps me now is having this practice. I'm noticing my stress levels building up earlier, instead of years ago, I would be like, oh, I think I'm just getting lazy. I just should just get on with work and I continue to push through. It's just moment of weakness and I should just continue.

Now I'm better at noticing the times of getting stressed and I'm better at noticing the thought patterns that are slowly creeping in and disturbing my inner peace. And at those times, I can basically choose to take an hour off from my work instead of just slugging through for eight hours and doing half-assed work.

That is not necessarily the most creative or effective. I can catch myself earlier and choose what I want to do. It can be breathing technique, it can be a walk outside, it can be a nap. Whatever works for you.

It starts with awareness and starts with actually having that ability of noticing the mental chatter and then choosing rationally. What is the best option at the moment? Instead of just beating yourself up or continuing with the momentum.

At least that's been my personal experience, because I have a mental chatter that's oftentimes is not necessarily helpful for me.

What are some telltale signs that let you know that you're starting to get stress?

It's so different for each person. Each one of us has different levels or ability to tolerate stress. For me, oftentimes it is actually when I feel my stress levels are building up when I'm not able to make decisions as quickly.

Let's say if I get an email and it's a pretty simple trivial email that I can just not respond to or respond to with one line sentence. I tend to procrastinate on that email. I tend to put it off for later and I look at things that I have to do in a day and then be like, oh, should I do this? Should I do that?

But when I have taken care of myself, I can take care of things much quicker. Things work smoother and I find it takes less time to do stuff and I'm just generally happier. It's almost seems paradoxical to take more time off so you can be getting more stuff done, but then not necessarily doing more.

How does a breathwork session look like?

It can be quite different, because I've studied with different breathwork teachers and some of them have contradictory views about what breathing should be like or how you should breathe or should not breathe, what can be applied for.

For me, oftentimes if it's one-to-one session, I ask the person what the person needs and maybe the person needs me mostly for guiding them through slow, calm, breathing exercises, and teach the person about physiology and how to use that breathing technique for the future.

Whenever stress comes up, it can be a therapeutic practice where a person goes into long breeding session that can bring up emotions, thoughts, past experiences that can help integrate those in almost a form of therapy.

But when I run classes or group sessions, it's actually guided breathing experience where you use the breathing to pretty much create altered state of consciousness, which is quite close to deep meditation. You are in this, not necessarily passive state where you're observing, but where you're actively breathing.

And that changes the chemistry in your body and it changes the brainwave states. You can access stillness and you can access powerful insights that you haven't connected yet. It is a kind of guided experience like yoga flow/meditation internally that's happening all inside while you do the breathing.

How should we breathe? Is there a wrong way of breathing?

Oftentimes there's a misconception that you have to breathe a lot, or more breath is better or bigger breaths are better. And that's not necessarily the case, because we have quite the intricate balance in their body.

Actually when you talk about deep breaths or big breaths, it's better to think about breath as deep as breath going deep into your belly and starting the breath from your abdomen, instead of this big, massive, expansive breath, because when we take large breaths often and unnecessarily, we are actually disturbing the gas balance in their body.

We are exhaling too much carbon dioxide, which leads to constriction of blood vessels in our hands and our feet and also constriction of blood vessels and delivery of the blood to the brain. It also reduces the release of oxygen from our blood into the tissue.

By breathing too much, that can lead to different disturbances. A healthier way of breathing is slightly smaller, slower, quite minimal breaths. That's one of the first misconceptions that can arise about breathing.

Are you for or against mouth breathing?

Both have real applications, and I'm not saying, oh, you should never breathe through your mouth or you should never breathe through your nose. Because that would be silly.

Basically I believe that noses are there for breathing. Our mouths are for eating and at rest when we're sitting down, when we are walking, even when we are jogging or running slowly at low intensity levels or when we're sleeping, we should be breathing through the nose basically 24/7.

That's how we breathe at rest. That's when air is the right temperature when it enters the lungs. It doesn't create asthma and other respiratory conditions. It protects us from pollutants, from dust, from viruses.

Mouth breathing is for cases when we are exerting ourselves. For example, when we are running really fast and we are running in a sprint pace. We don't want to force. I wouldn't recommend anyone who's doing let's say sprint training and he or she is an athlete and preparing for competition, I wouldn't say, oh, don't do that high intensity training because you will be breathing through the mouth.

Both have applications. Even in breathwork sessions, oftentimes I use mouth breathing to have an ease of accessing that altered state. It's just the right time and right application.

But I would say, for 95% of our time, we can be breathing through the nose. Even experienced runners oftentimes start breathing too early through the mouth and they can actually increase their performance by retraining themselves to breathe through the nose.

We are quite busy as entrepreneurs. How can we incorporate breathwork into our daily lives?

One of the simplest and most basic things that is always going to be there when you are exploring breathing is breath awareness.

One thing I would say is generally 80% of the benefits from addressing your breathing can come from simply reminding yourself to breathe through the nose. A lot of people actually have a habit of mouth breathing whenever it is not necessarily.

For example, when you are walking and you're not walking that fast, but you start breathing through the mouth because it's easier, or maybe you are typing and you get an email that triggers you, you start breathing through the mouth.

So just find those moments and just remind yourself to breathe through the nose as much as you can, even when you're walking. Even if you jog or you run, try to breathe through nose and that can prevent a lot of things that might happen dysfunctionally with your breathing.

Second, think of breathing from the belly, breathing from your lower abdomen and engaging the diaphragm more than breathing in upper chest. Those are simple things that anyone can learn quickly, easily, and that's going to be a massive benefit to their health.

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Links & Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Learn more about Artur at arturpaulins.com

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