breathing greg warburton mental and emotional fitness wellness

By Greg Warburton

Part 1

Over a score of years in my mental health and sport performance work, I always invited people to reply to this inquiry: Please tell me what you think you already know about how to breathe to produce a relaxation effect?

Invariably, no matter what age, across all these years right up to the current day, no one person has ever described a breath practice that dependably relaxes their body and calms their mind. Typically, they respond by saying, I don’t know or I know you want to take a deep breath.

Let’s now consider the value of developing a breath practice as one mental and emotional fitness skill for managing anxiety and fear in life and in sport performance. As I anguish over more and more youth struggling with worry, anxiety and fear in a destabilized, divided nation/world, I am recommitting to teaching mental and emotional fitness…teaching skills to use and practice. And one of them is learning how to breathe correctly, as well as, how to slow our breathing to more effectively manage the nervous system and boost health.

One point of focus in starting a competition is to consider this: Have you noticed whether or not you actually begin a sport competition while you are holding your breath? I worked with a young 400 meter running star who discovered, as he began learning how to breathe to relax, that he had actually been tensing up while holding his breath when getting himself set in the starting blocks. With his new awareness, he was able to master a breath to relax and calm while in the starting blocks so he started his race with energy and “air,” rather than draining energy and being a bit out of breath at the very start. Another awareness to gain is noticing whether or not you are a “mouth breather?” I have recently been “going crazy” watching professional athletes, while performing under pressure, attempt to relax by “mouth breathing.”

Now on to application. As Black History month (2022) comes to a close and Women’s History month begins, I want to honor a remarkable female pioneer and “gift” our readers with some breath training. I am providing a link to a conversation I had with Dwania Kyles just before she joined Evo Sports Collective for her Master’s Series talk in March, 2021. You will find the link to our chat following the Introduction for Dwania’s talk in the box below.


The Power of Breath: Turning Trauma into Triumph

How breathwork can be your frontline of defense in healing wounds and expanding the limits of your human potential.

Dwania Kyles, Civil Rights Advocate, Wellness Consultant, and Breath Coach is an alum of The Memphis 13, subject of the highly touted documentary by the same name chronicling the desegregation of Memphis City Public Schools in 1961 by thirteen, 5 and 6-year-old girls and boys (dubbed '"the smallest pioneers" of the Civil Rights Movement), in answer to the 1954 landmark decision by the U. S. Supreme Court on Brown v. Board of Education.
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To assist our readers in gaining some traction with developing an effective breath practice enjoy the short video conversation I held with Dwania. Listen for Dwania’s comments on mouth breathing versus belly breathing, on the function of the diaphragm and the role of carbon dioxide in healthy breathing.


In Part 2 of this blog post on the value of learning to breathe correctly, I will describe one breath practice I teach and have fine-tuned by adding a progressive muscle relaxation component. At the same time, I know there are many, many ways to breathe. I am simply teaching one effective breath practice which some athletes I have trained have used in 10 National Championships in the past 15 years of my work.


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