“Your ability to adapt is directly related to your ability to control breath in movement.” – The Jamieson Mantra

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The average adult takes 12,000 to 25,000 breaths per day; most of which is habitually taking place high their chest. In effect, this places great stress on the heart and nervous system.

Breath in it’s simplistic nature, is what keeps us alive; without the breath, all organs, tissue and senses diminish and ultimately perish. Does it not make sense then, to include breathwork and conscious intention to breathing patterns as a primer for re conditioning healing and restoring the body’s precious structures.

When we learn to master and apply healthy breathing techniques, we can immediately begin to better adapt  and transform our structure (inside and out). As we begin to feel better by breathing better, we start seeing the reflection of this optimal way of life in all other areas; our relationships, our livelihood, our creativity, our physical and mental fortitude etc.

Breathing Patterns Are Like Fingerprints

Every physiological, biochemical, emotional, psychological, and physical state has a corresponding or associated breathing pattern or quality to it; which works in conjunction with all the other systems. The way we breath when sitting calming, meditating is different than the breathing patterns we use for solving a problems or making decisions at work and our breath changes when we go for a run in a steady state vs lifting heavy objects at the gym.

At the most primal level, our ancestors understood that they had to attune and synch their breath to the hunt or for basic survival. If chasing after an animal, they needed to tap into a steady state of breath to correspond with long bouts of persistence hunting and stalking their prey, while at other times they required quick burst of energy to either flee from an area that posed a threat, or at the end of the persistence hunt, catch their dinner. This required multiple breath patterns that need to switch on and off and control the rest of our physiological systems.

DID YOU KNOW: The average person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid 20′s? As they continue to age they lose between 9% and 25% of respiratory capacity for every decade of their life! The findings resulting from a 5,200-person clinical study group observed over a 30-year span showed that the way a person breathes is the primary measure of potential life span. (From Framingham study)

Eustress Vs Distress: Stress Resilience

For instance; under conditions of imminent, unanticipated, or rapidly changing threat, activity in the thinking brain is shifted to the reactive brain, which generates the individual’s emergency response—fight, flight, or freeze. In TacFit this is called freeze, flinch, force or flow. Specific patterns people adopt when facing high levels of stress. These patterns (both breath patterns and brain patterns) can set in motion a series of stress related cycles in our body, even well after the threat is no longer there. The emotional trigger is; and therefore, establishing higher levels of resilience and instigating more positive coping strategies can greatly improve your ability to cope under stress and anticipate using breath work as a means to control your internal systems in times of stress.

Not all stress is bad, but when we do not know how to cope or adapt to the changing landscape, it can do more harm to us, then we realize.

In most psychology journals, psychologists describe four types of stress – hyopstress, eustress, episodic acute/ hyerpsress and chornic/ distress:

  1. Hypostress: insufficiently low stress
  2. Eustress: sufficient, adaptable stress, positive stressors
  3. Episodic Acute /Hyperstress: recoverable, high stress, “A” type stress
  4. Distress: excessive, unadaptable stress, inability to recover or cope

Stress tolerance is the power to endure stress and much of the tension we feel during these periods can be tolerated, diminished and re structured for positive outcomes, when we control the breath. When we breath we begin to build, what I call “Stress Resilience.’ This is the ability to anticipate stress, cope and adapt to the changing landscape while remaining neutral and calm through the use of breath work.

In a more therapeutic sense; with practice, you can ultimately accomplish the same things that great yogis and Taoist masters can. You can control the function of your immune system, your endocrine system, your cardiovascular, digestive, and nervous system, by mastering the art of breathwork. Strength and inner harmony is not something you get from improving mere strength, applying load and force to the body or popping a pill, or rolling out a mat – it is through conscious intention, breath and easing the mind of distraction. This is called Conscious Breathing.

Conscious breathing techniques have been utilized in ancient Buddhist/ Taoist traditions to master the capabilities of the mind and physical body to find inner and outer harmony. As we become more aware of each breath, we are reminded that we can indeed, control the outcome and our responses to uncontrolled forces. Can you imagine that in any challenging situation, in any stressful moment, at any given time you had the tools and power to shift your life, adapt and transform?

This can be quite profound.

DID YOU KNOW: According to the ADAA, and the CMHA anxiety disorders are the most common illness in North America; affecting 40 million adults in the US ages 18 and older (18% of the US population), and 1 in 10 Canadians. When we breathe with shallow, constricted breaths, we are adopting one aspect of the emotional posture of anxiety.

The Inner Breath and the Outer Breath

Breathing has two levels: the outer breath and the inner breath. The outer breath is  air: oxygen and carbon dioxide. The inner breath refers to energy. This subtle element in the air is often called “spirit,” or “the breath within the breath.”

For example, the physical level has three levels of its own: getting breath into and out of the lungs; getting breath into and out of the blood; getting breath into and out of the cells. Our blood needs to be nearly saturated with oxygen if it is to supply life to all the tissues and organs and systems of the body, and the trillions of cells that require movement and contraction/response.

DID YOU KNOW: The body goes to extreme measure to maintain an optimal level of pH (7.35 – 7.45 in the blood). The most powerful system for removing acidic stress & keeping the body pH optimal are the lungs.

 Breathwork can mean strengthening, toning and coordinating the breathing muscles to improve ventilation; which in turn improves systems integration. We use 3 diaphragms when we breath; vocal, respiratory, and pelvic.  This second step in respiration depends on the partial pressures of gases,, the infusion of blood vessels in and around the lungs, and of course, cardio-vascular health and the ability to understanding that regulation and balance of intra-abdominal pressure through breathing stimulates our ability to engage and facilitate our core!

Over-Breathing is just as stressful as Under Breathing:

You have heard me talk a lot about “deep breathing” and the hyper around “breathing to stimulate the nervous system.” For example; many people are told that you can “super-oxygenate” your cells through deep rapid breathing. This is incorrect and can do more harm than good. Your blood is already 90% saturated with oxygen, so the likelihood of getting more O2 into your blood is slim.  In fact, hyperventilation can actually reduce the supply of oxygen to your cells, because in the process of “over-breathing,” you blow off too much carbon dioxide.  In turn, this can cause constriction of the micro-vessels, which prevents blood flow to the tissues and cells itself. The goal is to synch breath with movement and to learn how to put all of these puzzle pieces together to improve all systems, not just those involved with breathwork.

DID YOU KNOW: Studies show you can reduce the supply of blood, and therefore oxygen, to the brain by 40% in just one minute, by hyperventilating. Deep rapid breathing is good up to a point, but beyond that point, you can actually starve your body of oxygen.

This is a great seg-way into how to breath with strength and conditioning.


Breath Controls Heart Rate:

Once of the benefits to working with a coach, is the opportunity to put breathwork into real time action.  In order to adapt through our workout from warm up, to peak to cooldown, the first step is getting air in and out of the lungs; so that it can signal the rest of our systems to react; which involves muscular, anatomical, structural conditions and dynamic response. It is here where work can be done to increase lung volume and respiratory capacity.  Many studies prove that the greater your lung capacity is, the longer you will live, the longer you can tolerate stress (both positive and negative) and the healthier you will be.

The most important factor in a clients success; whether they are training for a marathon, a fight in the ring, preparing for active duty or merely overcoming the obstacle of substantial weight loss – is HRV.  Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon where the time interval between heartbeats varies. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. We can use this as a bio marker in training, but we must first distinguish between the Autonomic and Voluntary (or Somatic) nervous systems first.

In the TacFit Certification Course Manual 2013, page 36, Scott Sonnon describes this perfectly.

  • Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls the bodily functions necessary for survival  (includes breathing, digestion, heart, blood pressure, organ function etc)
  • Voluntary Nervous System (VNS) involves the consciously controlled daily functions like exercise, work, sport, yapping etc.

He then offers the sub divisions or “sub-branches:” of the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems which exist to better respond, control, adapt to our fight or flight, primitive patterning, genetically coded in our DNA.

  • Sympathetic System (SNS) controls the “fight or flight” reflexes. When we encounter stress, it increases physiological performance, from slow release drip when we perceive skills equal to the task, which gives you access to what sport psychologists call “The Zone” or “Flow-State.” Or it triggers a fast-release dump when it perceives your skills re ineffective or insufficient, what combat psychologists call “The Vortex or “The Suck.
  • Parasympathetic System (PNS) balances the SNS alarm system’s of “fight or flight. This system dictates how much we recover from training and stress. This is the yin/yang in constant flux, which is a primary factor in regulating our health.

Heart rate changes with every breath .When we exhale our PSNS sends signals to slow the heart rate, and when we inhale, that PNS signal dissipates and the SNS tone returns, causing the HR to increase yet again. It is a constant cycle.  This ebb and flow offers us a look a the state of our autonomic nervous system.

FACT: “When the “rest and digest” PSNS response triggers, we find a higher HR variability; but when “fight or flight” reflexes usurp our ANS, then HRV is lower. That variability accurately reflects your current degree of adaptive recovery from the sum total stress you are facing and the threshold you’re currently able to accept.” – TacFit Certification Course Manual, Page 36

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Strength, combined with focused breath = evolution

For instance, in Movement Coaching and Corrective Program Design, I find higher degrees of flow-state” and improved movement patterns when the client understands this methodology. In my S&C hours, I find better results and performance when the client understands that the transition from exercise to exercise and recovery breath is just as important as the lift of drill itself.

For example in Movement Coaching: breath enables stabilizers to be more efficient in facilitation. When your stabilizers efficiently align your joints, there is crisper coordination and crisper contraction. Sometimes it’s not that you become stronger in your prime movers, you became more efficient in your integrity of movement and breath. And efficiency is another way to get stronger.

In S&C (Strength and Conditioning): When load or stress is applied to the officer or athlete; immediately, the elicitation of SAPS,  fine and complex motor skills deteriorate, . The mind starts to get distracted and lose focus. When a client rapidly approaches HRmax, they become winded and out of gas, breathing rate increases. This is an evolutionary survivable reflex, but only useful for gross motor control, not fine or complex motor control. Therefore, training the client from “survival breath” to “recovery breath’ technique is vital. This enables the client to anticipate HRmax and to apply this technique; which trains the client to recover the inhale (which switches off the reflex of hyperventilation) and then reclaim the exhale. (refer to Scott Sonnon’s “Breathing Gift” for techniques). This allows the client to start mentally focused, adapt to the work load, start responsive to technique and coaching cues and have better recovery leading into their desired set.

Breathing Techniques

During your workout, there will be various techniques you should use to ensure you receive optimal results, recover more effectively and use as little energy as possible in good form with higher levels of effective training. We can recover and become stronger if we are able to increase this understanding. The five sequence technique of “Resilience Breathing” cannot be described as a singular technique, as it involves a series of techniques strung together to produce a synergistic effect. They address the challenge of reclaiming breath from involuntary reflex back to voluntary control while counter-acting the reflextive breathing elicited by distressing situations.

For more information on Resilience Breathing and techniques please download this free gift from Scott Sonnon and Rmax International:

DID YOU KNOW? When given an optimal diet and exercise program, the respiratory system is responsible for eliminating approximately 70% of our metabolic waster materials! The remainder is eliminated through perspiration (19%), urination (8%) and by “going number 2’ (3%).

Now, that’s a great note to end on isn’t it! Moral of the story: “master your breath”


Part 3 Movement Culture: Surpassing ouRMAXimum with CST

Movement, mobility, stability and then strength

Let me repeat that; movement, mobility, stability and then strength… what to focus on first and how to reach optimal levels of either one has been an on going debate for decades; where I have spent the last 14 years learning a vast spectrum from both sides of the strength and movement models. As a movement coach my goal is to teach the pre requisites or blueprint of movement mechanics. To teach the client the technical side how we apply strategy and how dysfunction limits their potential, on and off the field (or arena, court, track etc).

move culture 3a

To stimulate adaptation and better movement mechanics the body’s joints and surrounding tissue must be prepared and ready to absorb shock, be able to move freely without compensation and restriction, and requires optimal recovery to perform efficiently. After an online post, my friend and mentor, Carmen Bott owner and founder of Human Motion Strength and Conditioning in Vancouver, and professor at UBC and Langara gave great insight into performance metrics with this discussion post…

“What comes first…the chicken or the egg? Mobility and ‘general, primal’ movement comes first – next, we have CONTROLLED and PLANNED movement which could be described as relative strength/power…FINALLY absolute strength gets introduced into the process. Where does on-field reactive agility (which in essence is power) come in?

“Traditional programs (3 x 10 reps of “X”) without a full understanding of human adaptation fails to produce elite levels of anything.” There must be attention to the neuromuscular mechanism”.

CST (Circular Strength Training Concept)

Over the last several months I been looking very closely into an operating system called CST. A concept pioneered by Scott Sonnon, whom I have been corresponding with for well over a year and have featured many times in my articles. Part 3 of our Movement Series features this system, because of it’s “Tri-Ring” Integration that focuses on a balance of work load, and recovery so that the athlete can maximize the effectiveness of the cycle/workout.

Why does CST fit into “Movement Culture” so well? The CST “brand” of movement-based exercises are different from other comparable training because it uses a full scope vocabulary of mobilization, traction, decompression and activation drills to “restore” and alternate stability and mobility structures in the body.  It offers errorless, injury prevention methods by approaching each segment of material as a “health-first fitness” approach, through monitoring the internal experience of exercise towards “flow.”


I attended last weeks CST 3-day certification course, thinking that this would primarily by a Clubbell course (strength course) I was blown away by the detail and specificity placed upon the joint by joint approach, screening (Poise Analysis), breath mastery and attention to the myofascial matrix.

“Bones need to float. Our myofascial matrix is a web, the muscles that drape over our scalp, down to our toes are what give us shape and density. Joints will adopt the position based on compensation and on our recreational or occupational habits. Joints cannot be stable if the neighbor joint is tight and not mobile and vice versa. If we do not provide the body with the functional opposite – tension builds and compensations result in altered movement and distortion in structure. We must work from head to toe, core to periphery, bones to skin” – Scott Sonnon (quote from Day 1 of CST, March 19 2013)

 Inside the CST toolbox are body weight exercises, some based on primal movement and neuro-developmental patterns, martial arts and yoga based movements, and breath mastery techniques all with the focus of “cleaning the slate,” of compensations that can build up in the body from daily life and injury.

The 3 Rings of CST meets the Functional Movement Systems and Corrective Movement:


CST & TacFit Trailer Here:  (shot at Wolf Fitness System).

Flow Fit Testing at Wolf Fitness Systems:


In “Part 2 Movement Culture: 6 Degrees of Freedom,” I featured insights into the 3 rings of  CST; which were (1) Intu Flow (joint by joint approach, dynamic range of motion) (2) Prasara Yoga (agility, flexibility and grace) and (3) Clubbells, Kettlebells and Gymnastics (functional athletic strength).

This operating system or motor development direction relates to how the “3 Ring” process is designed to coordinate with the principles of structure and function come first. According to the Prioximodistal principle, development proceeds from near to far – outward from central axis of the body towards the extremities.

This methodology directly relates to the Functional Movement Systems and how I, as a Movement Coach approach my one on one hour. The neurodevelopmental process in pediatric development show us that even in adulthood; these pathways of learned motor control do not just turn off. In fact, these “neurophysiologic growth and development highways” remain open to switching back on even if laying dormant for years. The baby was not told to fire it’s core, to roll over or learn how to stand… he or she just did through experience.

The FMS and SFMA screens are only 1 part of the Functional Movement Systems and the idea behind program design from a corrective standpoint is designed to identify and address dysfunction (or compensations as in the CST vocabulary) and then work the line of that compensation to restore movement to all joints, and their surrounding tissues that are show asymmetrical patterning.

The CST systems provides it’s own screening process that reflects many of the same check points in the FMS systems; taking into account current training, postures, gait, injuries etc. The measuring stick is referred to for performance gains during and after the session, where regressions and or functional opposites are given to “activate” these highways of learning. As re-coordination and refinement continues, new measuring sticks are selected and performance enhancement breeds results.

Isolation Vs. Integration; Segmental vs Systemic: This is another key area that aligns with Movement Coaching and Corrective Movement Program Design. Training lines of movement vs muscles. “Complex training effect,” (CTE) provides additional bang for the buck on the client’s end, because when you pair simple movements together, the synergistic effect is greater than if the individual exercises were performed independently.

This requires attention to transition from one movement to the next, and proper breathing mechanics to pace ones movements and regulate intensity. My sessions in Salinas, with Wolf Fitness Systems; were geared towards high emphasis on transitions and working from one movement to the next to keep “in flow.”

baby bell

Clubbells: Structure, Breath, Movement = Power.

I am sure you have noticed, so far in this post there has been little to no mention of this ancient piece of strength wielding wisdom. That’s because; where it is the shiny, sparkly draw to CST, it’s the peak of the climb, once you have put forth the effort to understand and climb the terrain to the peak.

In order for one to wield and tool or load, your joints must be prepped and motor control must be evident to perform the complex tasks, such as; shoulder or joint packing, arm locks, leg drive, spinal integrity in movement etc. For instance: “If the neck is tight, then the scapula will de stabilize, if the thorax is tight, then the lower back is forced to move and the core de stabilizes.


Myth number one; Indian clubs are not club bells. This is a question I am asked all the time. In the sources section of this article, refer to Scott’s Blog page, Shane Heins (Dare to Evolve) dispels this myth.

 “Martial arts around the globe have used the club not just for combat but for health restoration and strength development, most notably in India, Iran, Okinawa, Burma and Russia. The records go as far back as Ancient Egypt, reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th century. Early versions of the club were espoused by US President Grant, and it was recognized as “the oldest known implement for military gymnastics” (Posse 1894) – a critical section of exercise in the 1914 US Army Manual of Physical Training. From 1904 to 1932 club swinging was an Olympic Sport which resurfaced in the form of the lightweight bats included in Rhythmic Gymnastics, though the club was then viewed more as a juggling implement than as a tool of physical exercise.” (One Tool – Infinite Possibilities™ RMAX International except).

In the early 20th century Scott resurrected this tool and pat-tended International Clubbell Sport. This tool provides athletes with a unique blend of functional, full range, three-dimensional muscular development. Swinging weight in three-dimensions rather than lifting weight in one, creates traction and torque, which stimulate connective tissue strength and elasticity, bone growth and much more. After visiting Wolf Fitness Systems in February, this was one tool I knew had to be one of many in my coaches toolbox.

However, dragging 2x10lbs and 1x 15lbs clubbells across the border in a sport bag, proved to be very amusing for the border cross agent and I may have snagged a new client.

Border guard: “Anything to declare, looks like that’s a heavy bag of beef?”

Sarah J: “35lbs of clubbells sir, and an open bag of trail mix.”

Border agent (no smile): “I’m sorry, what’s a clubbell.”

Sarah J: “Ummm… I’ll have to show you. It’s like a big bat, you wield around.”

Border guard: (sideways look): “wield? …. what do you use those for, what’s the purpose of your trip.”

Sarah J: “ I took a CST and Tactical training course, you swing ‘em, you can use em in 3 dimensional patterns, full range of motion.. (border agent, cuts me off….

Border guard: “You an officer? what do you do for work? Those look kinda big for you.”

Sarah J:  “I am not an officer, my “to serve and protect” are keeping guys like you injury free. Speaking of which, you keep shifting around, your back okay?”

Border guard (half way grin, does not make eye contact, waves hand): “ NEXT.”

Sarah J dead-lifts and cleans bag on one arm…. “Not so small, Thanks.”


Our last article “Part 4 Movement Culture,” will feature TacFit Tactical training and more on movement tools, such as; the clubbell, kettlebell and more.

Movement Culture Leaders:

Please feel free to join our conversation and to “LIKE” the following “Movement” centered pages for flow sequences, articles, tips and trends… click on the links here:




The subject this week is gratitude, again. Here I am living my life and then I got news that an old friend who has cystic fibrosis just got a double lung transplant after waiting for years. So there you go. I am so happy for him and so thankful that it makes me cry.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle”

I talk a lot about being grateful for each breath in my classes, but imagine getting new lungs after having to fight for each breath for years. Plus he asked his girlfriend to marry him before the surgery and she said yes.

It puts everything in perspective

So I’m standing tall here in my life, breathing one sweet full breath after another. Each breath is an opportunity to begin again. To start over and live the life I want. Make the choices that I want to make.

And be grateful that I can.

The more I understand this life– my opportunities, the incredible gifts that I have been given that I am oblivious to– the more grateful I become for every inch of it. Every moment. It is such a gift to be able to practice and teach yoga with a healthy body and an open heart because I am safe.

Every time that something holds me back from happiness I have the opportunity to let it go– shed everything that I don’t want and stand here, full of breath, grateful.

Grateful for Jamie’s new lungs and grateful for mine too.


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