IF you’re like me and have ever marvelled at the feats of free divers as they plunge beneath the surface then you have probably been intrigued about how they hold their breath for so long.

In fact, the current world free-diving record – set by an Austrian named Herbert Nitsch – saw him drop to a staggering depth of 214 metres.

That’s 700ft – and a hell of a long time before you can come back up for air.

It is the discipline these athletes put into their training away from the actual dive which I admire as much as anything.

These athletes will spend hours each day purely working on their breathing.

I feel the effects on our mind and body from breath work are worth our attention – especially in our current

world of high stress where we are expected to be constantly on the move.

Swimmers have always learned how to use their breath in relation to performance.

They have developed incredible aerobic capacity while endurance athletes have also taken advantage of altitude training for years.

Why should you be interested in breathing?

Well, it’s the foundation of our life support, is essential to our health and well-being and it is something we do on average 20,000 times a day.

Yet we almost take it for granted.

In recent times, people such as Wim Hoff have made us think a bit more about it through his unbelievable human feats based around controlling his breath.

However breath practise can actually be traced right back to 700BC where yoga practitioners practised what is known as Pranayama breathing.

There is evidence of these breathing techniques as far back as 3000BC, so this is hardly a new thing. Yet research shows one in three of us don’t breathe correctly.

We don’t need to be at the level of a free diver, but having awareness of how we breathe I feel is very important.

Making that connection to your breath could especially be the case as we move into what feels like a long winter ahead of Covid-19 stress.

Those who have followed my column will know how living from scan to scan with a spinal-cord injury has been a journey of discovery for me.

In today’s world of social media life has become about instant gratification and extrinsic reward.

Breath work is about intrinsic motivation and what is known as autotelic reward.

That means you don’t always automatically see any changes.

That said, this week I was really struggling mentally, like most of us. All this Covid stuff has taken a toll on my mental health – with no bike yet after my accident I have found my freedom of movement taken away and this has caused some low days, even after my great news last week of a clear scan. I live in a hot spot of Covid and am vulnerable so I have to be careful, but I don’t want to let it run my life.

So something that helped me this week was when I stumbled across a book from James Nester called Breath: The Science Of A Lost Art.

I started breath work when I was a seven-year-old in the karate dojo but never fully understood its powers until I read this book. As I read I started to understand that this is something we should all

invest in and the best part

is that it’s free. The only thing it takes from you is commitment.

I started with just becoming aware of how I breathe then followed a 10 minute session.

I can honestly say at the start of the session I was feeling very low and after the session I felt great; is that possible in just one session?

As the week progressed I spent all day breathing only through my nose and slowed my breathing down to around 6-10 breaths per minute.

This was allowing me to become more tolerant of CO2 which in turn has many health benefits – not just sporting benefits. What we need to know is that we should be breathing only using our nose and not our mouths.

Our nasal pathway has its own filtration system and is designed to get efficient oxygen into the body unless we are engaged in high intensity sport where we might need to use our mouth to breathe, too.

So as I leave you this week I challenge you to become aware of your breath. Why not try going for a walk and only breathing through your nose?