About a week ago, I attended the international breathwork conference Conscious Breathing Summit, an event located at the venue Solna Gate, a tranquil business area in the outskirts of Stockholm. Founder of the summit is Anders Olsson; inventor of the respiratory and lung capacity-strengthening gadget the Relaxator, and specialist on the many benefits and techniques of slow, silent and conscious breathing. He educates conscious breathing-instructors, writes books and does lectures on the power of breath. Anders is also known for the famous Stanford study, an experiment in which Anders and science journalist James Nestor investigated nose breathing vs. mouth breathing during 10 days in San Francisco.
A very interesting study indeed, and the results were crystal clear. The impact in regard to physical and mental health and well-being, were immediate and like night and day.
The study is documented in James's book Breath, and it's an interesting, capturing and entertaining read. At least for me, a science and breathwork nerd, and I'm HSP, so I could almost feel Anders's and James's miserable states and anxiety during half of the experiment as I read about their experiences (and of course the opposite of that too!)... Described in detail, and with James' signature way of bringing a warm sense of humour and glimpse in the eye, into his science-based, pedagogic storytelling and writing.
If you're curious about James and Anders, you can watch a podcast episode with them here.
Back to the Conscious Breathing Summit.
It kicked off with an evening panel talk between Anders, James and Dr. Theodore Belfor, a dentist specializing in treatment of cranial facial system (yes, how we breathe will affect the shape of our teeth, face and jaw), the summit's moderator Irina Lee and Stanford University's voice and swallowing expert Ann Kearney.
I unfortunately missed the panel evening, due to other duties, and instead arrived early morning on day 2. "Fashionably late", since I hopped on the wrong train in the morning rush hour, and ended up in Kista. I can easily navigate myself through off-grid Thailand jungles on pure instinct or intuition, but trains and me in the midst of Stockholm hecticness, what can I say. It happens.
I would have especially loved to listen to Ann Kearney, who is performing a Stanford study on mouth taping and its nose breathing benefits. I'm hoping to get in touch with her for a possible interview and will keep you posted here on The Blog if I successfully do.
But lucky me! Arriving late resulted in a happy encounter with the energetic and passionate expert in ancestral walking and running, Sebastian Se (also co-founder of Joe Nimble). We started talking about functional walking and he gave me a spontaneous coaching session, demonstrating functional and not so functional ways of walking, along with a recap of the differences between conventional, modern shoes vs. the healthier and mucho bone-strengthening barefoot shoes that I happened to be wearing. Nice. I love all things ancestral, and am always open to learning more. And the key in life and health, is in my opinion to keep going back to basics (our ancestral blueprint). As many times as you need to, and as much and as often as possible. This can be challenging in our modern times, but it is fundamental.
Next, I sneaked into the arena and joined the gathering of the summit with two full-on days with many inspirational lectures, conversations, sessions and a bit of fun experimenting with gadgets and CO2 too!
Here are a few glimpses.
Held a heart-opening talk, poking the audience and encouraging us to go within while he gave some food for thought by asking questions like:
-Who are you when you are not stressed?
-What is it that you are longing for?
-Are you living a fear-based life?
-What is important for you?
He invited us to participate in a short and playful charade-exercise. Ending with us connecting our heads to our hearts. A nice ice-breaker, and warm beginning of his lecture.
Anders touched upon topics involving how our childhood coping mechanisms that often follow us through life, aren't helpful in adult ages. He pressed the importance of investigating and re-learning the patterns we may have been programmed with as children, because not doing so will result in us not fully knowing ourselves. And living life without the ability to express our authentic selves, for most end up in not so happy states in which we don't really dare to live the life that we desire and want to.
How to do it? It begins with slowing down, so you can hear your inner voice. Next, tune in with your breathing.
This all resonates well with my philosophy in life, and I can indeed relate to Anders' background as a former high-paced, performance-based human with an active, running mind. By slowing down (which has been a real challenge for me in life) and turning to our breath as a tool for grounding and balancing our nervous system branches, we are able to choose our reactions, and re-wire our brains and behavior patterns. And when we repeatedly do something often enough, it becomes a habit. We all know it: it sounds simple, yet this is the biggest challenge for people living in modern times. But through the impact of our own breath (and also by using real food as medicine – more on that in another blog post) we have the capacity and a concrete tool, to create the changes that we long for. And it's already there, within us. All you need is some guidance on how to use the techniques that are like medicine for us.
Anders also shared another key message:
Your biggest fear has the potential to become your biggest asset.
Lewis S. Coleman, MD – the Carbon Dioxide Professor
This! My goodness what a capturing and interesting lecture. Lewis is an American anesthesiologist who works with Stress Theory, and is an absolute gem in his field of knowledge.
In his lecture, he dove deep into the scientific wells and the importance of CO2 (carbon dioxide), blood biochemistry and the functions of the heart, yet in a pedagogic, easy-to grasp way (that's an art).
Lewis was a favorite of many at the conference, but unfortunately he was cut off before he had finished his whole lecture, and many in the audience were surprised / frustrated that he didn't get space to talk. We really wanted to hear him share his knowledge. I hope I will get a chance to join a lecture of his sometime in the future, possibly overseas or digitally.
Until then, I'll think of his lecture as a lil' cliffhanger for future science findings, and will look into his recommendation, the book The Origin and Nature of Emotions, by "the father of modern anesthesia" George W. Crile, MD. And Lewis' book The Great Medical Hoax of the 20th Century, is on my personal reading list for Christmas.
His primary message when speaking at the Conscious Breathing Summit: CO2 is as essential as oxygen. And people need to know it.
Find out more about his work here.
*George W. Crile was also a part of starting up the renowned Cleveland Clinic, in 1921.
Last but not least, day 2 on the summit was gilded by lectures from three personal favorites of mine:
Bitten Jonsson, Johnny Oduya and Susanna Heli.
Bitten Jonsson – Sweden's sugar free queen and expert on addiction and brain science
Bitten is my friend, mentor and colleague since many years, so it was extra nice to be able to synchronize with her when she came to Stockholm for the summit, from her home in the Swedish province of Hälsingland (a gorgeous forest area northwards). She arrived accompanied by sugar addiction coach, farmer and author Annica Strandberg-Schmidt, my new friend and colleague whom I've connected with during the past year over social media but hadn't met in person, as she also lives in the Northern parts far from my home city Stockholm. It was a pleasure to finally meet irl. Annica and I will most likely create a joint coaching package including SUGAR® screening, food plan, behaviorial coaching and breathing techniques later this year, stay tuned if you're curious.
The three of us had a great time catching up, sipping bulletproof coffee and talking about our genuine passion for all things low-carb, sugar free, high-fat, animal-based and of course the power of breath and its great effects on everyone, but addicts in particular. Primal, real food and ancestral breathing patterns go hand in hand. It's my philosophy that one simply cannot live a fully authentic or sober life (as i like to call it, a life in technicolor) with just one of these cornerstones. Food and breath are both crucial when building a solid foundation for the very best metabolic, mental, biochemical or simply healthy and balanced and optimized life. If you want to thrive in life, my sincere suggestion is to take a good inventory of both how you breathe and how you fuel yourself. These are the building blocks, together with ancestral movement or your choice of sports or fitness routine, that are needed to then add other important parts of the human health puzzle (like connection), in order to create a whole.
Bitten's lecture was fiery, warm, filled with science and vast knowledge yet delivered in a pedagogic way, and boiled down to a very nice wholeness complemented with visual examples.
She has a fantastic way of inspiring, and brings education and science-based information to the table, along with providing eye-opening facts to any audience. The majority of participants at the summit had no idea before her lecture what sugar addiction is actually about, because the knowledge is not yet widespread. It is a physical brain condition* (or disease), not a question of character or will power. And real, unprocessed, sugar free food and breathwork are essentials for living a life in recovery, with huge positive impact and healing benefits for the brain, which of course brings better and healthier behavior patterns, emotional landscapes, gut health, hormonal balance, inner well-being and overall quality of life. Breathwork and real food is a game changer for all beings, but especially for addicts. This knowledge needs to be spread, so that more professionals can learn and more addicts can receive help through the right holistic treatments and tools. And it will also bring a positive change in health care once society understands these things. So very many people today seek help in the wrong places and are left to a health care system that doesn't have the knowledge or tools. This results in misdiagnosis, unnecessary and often life-long SSRI prescriptions, and no right treatment. It creates suffering far more than most non-addicts can understand or relate to, and is also an expensive burden on the health care system. Through the right guidance, however, addicts would be able to save years of wandering between the wrong instances, and it would save both them and the system a lot of money, too.
*I will publish a blog post on this later this Autumn, and do lectures on the topic too.
A few key points from Bitten's lecture:
-Don't think, DO.
(to create new habits, you need to re-wire you brain's neural pathways by repeating, repeating, repeating, until your ancestral brain gets it)
-Things should go by the names of what they are; a shovel is a shovel. An addict is an addict.
(most people are too afraid to even take the word addiction into their vocabulary)
-Addiction in our society is hiding in plain sight.
-Addiction is the root cause behind many modern metabolic diseases.
(and you can't fix it without looking at and treating the root cause)
-There are three categories of people with three different brain chemistries. We are born with and pre-disposed to one of these three for life: Normie, harmful user or addict.*
(which category you belong to, will be key to finding your way to health and well-being)
Bitten found conscious breathing in 2013, when she read an interview with Anders on the topic of mouth taping during sleep. She thought the taping idea sounded crazy, but got curious and tried it herself. She instantly understood the benefits and contacted Anders to learn more. She became a conscious breathing instructor herself, and has since then implemented the breathwork knowledge into her teaching of certified holistic sugar addiction specialists. This is how I myself initially found breathwork, alongside with my yoga practice many years ago. I did Bitten's one-year-education and that's when I came across Anders' concept, and the sleep tape for nose breathing at night.
Johnny Oduya – the breathwork and sports performance specialist who took the term breathwork to Sweden
Next up on stage was Johnny, former professional hockey player and two time winner of the Stanley Cup. He found breathwork during a sabbatical year after retiring from his hockey career, and it came to be a game changer not only for him but in time also for a growing number of people, in Sweden and worldwide. He founded Scandinavia's first center and community for breathwork, hale center, to make ancestral breathing techniques as accessible as possible for everyone. Regardless of age or background, to improve health and well-being of individuals, to upgrade public health and hopefully one day offloading the Swedish health care system too. This is something I personally think is just bound to happen once breathwork finds its way into society – sooner or later it will explode in popularity, for the greater good of all.
At the summit, Johnny talked about his love for working out, guided us into stillness with a gentle breath hold exercise and held a very nice lecture on how you can use breathwork techniques to improve your sports performance (and thereby gain a competitive advantage). He described how he does what he does because it was a missing piece back in the days when he was a competing athlete. At the summit, he encouraged all those curious in exploring (especially those interested in combining sports performance and breath) to bring playfulness into your breath control exercises.
He also talked about how he investigates patterns and behaviors in his work with athletic clients, described and demonstrated a few breathing techniques that he often uses in his work as a breath coach, and pressed the importance of having a mindful approach – to tune in with yourself and notice what happens in your body when you are exploring your breath.
Johnny agreed on Bitten's message in her lecture that the sooner you can find the root cause for illness, the better, and he connected with her first approach when it comes to creating change, the thing that is so basic yet so challenging for many, and fundamental:
How do you start?
You have to do something.
Susanna Heli - Birthing without fear
Last out on stage was a woman empowering women: Susanna Heli, founder of the Birth Without Fear concept. She is a doula, physiotherapist, author and inventor of the upcoming digital app CoCo the Contraction Coach which guides couples and pregnant women before and during labour.
Susanna has vast knowledge and experience when it comes to creating a birth experience free from trauma. She talked about how it all starts and ends in the body, the importance of using your tone of voice and mindset tools when birthing, how you can bring your mind back to feeling safe through breathwork, and that the core when giving birth is to let go of control. To fully relax into the experience, and to shift focus from fear to safety by becoming heavy and visualize your baby going down (it makes sense when following her CoCo-guidance, which I highly recommend!).
She described how a lot of our emotional stress and trauma is located in our diaphragmatic area, and how this is one of the reasons why breathing in certain ways is a direct gateway to releasing those things – which at first can be an uncomfortable experience. But when practiced on a regular it transforms into feelings of wellbeing, safety, trust and other rewarding effects.
Susanna also talked about the primary focus in her work being to help women deal and cope with their fear of giving birth. Most women are afraid of the pain, as a result of modern times and modern, faulty approaches to birthing. Us females have given birth for thousands of years, yet many today fear that they aren't capable of actually doing it, or being able to cope with pain.
Just as Johnny and his former hockey colleagues didn't have the tools for breathing optimally during his athletic career, Susanna didn't have access to the tools for breathing when she gave birth to her two children. The tools were simply missing. Now she works to spread the knowledge she would've wanted back then, in order to improve the birthing experience for future mothers.
Susanna's mission is to educate couples and guide women into taking back their courage, to realize how powerful they truly are, and that all you need for a trauma-free labour, is already within you. Since ancestral times.
...And congrats to the creators and organizers of CBS 2022, Anders, Irina and Malin Eldh!
You really put together a fantastic lineup of speakers, and provided a great mix of workshops and sessions, creating a nice holistic mix of science, inspiration and expertise within several health areas – all connected in one way or another to the power of breath. The venue was perfect too.
I'm looking forward to next year and to see and experience the blend, shape and form of the breathwork conference 2023!