Altitude Training in a Bottle

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3 Breathing Tricks for Thriving in Thin Air

Read this post to learn how to increase N02 in lungs, open up alveoli, increase air pressure in lungs, and hyperoxygenate your body

Any mountaineer or skiing tourist is aware of the powerfully negative effects that high altitude can have on the body and mind.  Acclimatization only does so much to keep blood oxygen levels high and protect the body’s delicate systems.

In this post we would like to give you three simple techniques that you can add to your arsenal for thriving in thin air.

 

The Proper High Altitude Breathing Technique

You may have heard the instructions “in through the nose, out through the mouth” in a meditation or even public speaking class.  Focusing on your breath helps relax your mind and body so that you can rise above distraction and nervousness.  This breathing mantra also has some valid scientific application for high altitude breathing.

When you breath through your nose, your nasal cavity releases molecules of nitric oxide into your inhalation.  These molecules dilate pulmonary blood vessels so that they are able to deliver more oxygen from the breath into the blood stream.  Nitric oxide is also used effectively as a treatment for high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), a deadly form of high altitude sickness.

Breathing out through your mouth allows for maximum removal of C02 from the body.

This simple technique, however, needs to be modified because of the need for maximal breath volume.  Instead of inhaling solely through the nose, we recommend breathing in through both the nose and mouth while emphasizing the nose inhalation by flair the nostrils.

This allows maximum oxygen uptake in the lungs, adequate natural pulmonary artery dilation, and C02 expellation.

 

The Peculiar Benefits of Purge Breathing

“Purge breathing” is a technique used by free-divers to hyper-oxygenate their bodies before breath holds that can last up to 20 minutes.  This technique can also be used to reduce symptoms of mountain sickness and to train your lungs to respond effectively to high altitude.

The best time to use purge breathing is in the morning just after waking up.  Symptoms of altitude sickness tend to be the worse at this time because blood oxygen levels dip during sleep.

When you wake up:

  • Sit upright
  • Begin focusing on deep slow breaths
  • After 1 minute on controlled breathing begin increasing your breathing rate
  • Focus on producing both fast and deep breaths for a full 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • End with one last powerful breath that you hold for 5-10 seconds as you flex your chest and abdominals
  • Repeat 1-3 times in the morning and as needed throughout the day

The purpose of purge breathing is to raise blood oxygen levels and reduce the effects of altitude sickness.  It can also be used in combination with breath holding to train your lungs to adapt optimally to hypoxia while at sea-level.

You will notice various sensations throughout the body when you do this that may include a tickling of the lips.  These are all benign sensations that are the result of lower levels of C02 in the body.  It is also important to ease into this exercise with the 1 minute session of slow deep breathing to prevent mechanical stress to the lungs.

The Hook Breath

A hook breath is another technique used by free-divers to prepare their lungs for long breath holds.  We briefly described it in bullet point 5 of the purge breathing routine.  A hook breath is designed in increase air pressure inside the lungs without over-expanding them.  Higher air pressure helps open the alveoli, which improves oxygen absorption into the bloodstream.

To execute a hook breath:

  • Take a deep breath to comfortable maximum capacity
  • Hold the breath while flexing muscles in your chest, back and abdominals
  • Try to feel your diagram pulling down
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 times

The hook breath is designed to enhance the absorption of oxygen in the lungs and to open up alveoli that may be closed as a result of hypoxia.

We hope you learned a few useful tips for thriving in hypoxia.  Feel free to ask questions or add additional breathing tips!