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“One of the easiest ways to combat [anxiety and stress] is to just practice your awareness of how you’re breathing throughout the day.”
- Taylor Somerville
Breathing techniques are no joke when it comes to your body’s mobility and reacting to stress. I became fascinated by the Wim Hof Method, and have been practicing this technique for the past four years and have experienced amazing results. For those who may not know this method, Wim Hof Method is when you take 30-50 really deep breaths with complete exhales until there is no air inside your lungs. The Wim Hof Method relies on three pillars: cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. Combined, these pillars have given tremendous benefits, both physically and mentally. Since starting Wim Hof, I haven’t been sick for over four years, and I have improved my athletic performance.
Knowing the results of Wim Hof Method to be accurate, I began to research more breathing methods/techniques, and came across Laird Hamilton. Along with his wife Gabby Reece, and fitness guru Brian Mackenzie, they created XPT (Extreme Performance Training). On their website, I had noticed XPT does coaching seminars, and the Coach of the Month award had been given to Taylor Somerville.
Based out of Memphis, Taylor has committed himself to health and fitness, and helps clients obtain healthy lifestyles, especially by focusing on breathing techniques. Taylor has worked in seminars with Chris Henshaw, receiving the Art of Breath certification, as well as being Aerobic Capacity ambassador.
I reached out to Taylor, and found out we have a lot of similarities: went to University of Alabama, and both would fish in Duck Key when they were younger. Thinking this was unusual that both of us would hang around Duck Key, I had found out that Taylor is related to legendary fishing guide, Steve Huff.
Somerville had started his career working for an investment business, and continued to work there for 15 years. Going through the same motions every day, Taylor realized he needed a change in his life, and knew that he no longer wanted to continue his tedious routine. To find out if changing his career was right for him, Taylor began studying breath work and meditation, and soon became interested in the Wim Hof Method, XPT, and SEALFIT. Focusing on deeper areas of breath work and techniques, Somerville noticed there was a change in how he approached situations. Usually when given a stressful complication, Taylor said he would get angry and hot-tempered quickly but with the breathing techniques, his reaction slowed and was able to respond without any anger. Soon after, Taylor officially quit his job, and became committed to fitness, nutrition, and having a holistic lifestyle.
Because the XPT sessions are usually held in Hawaii or California, I asked Taylor how this session went. Taylor said this was unlike anything he had experienced, especially walking in to a group of Type A people and immediately starting with a 45 minute breath session. From there, Taylor did pool workouts with dumbbells under water, and said that slowing his inhales and exhales during the ice experience really changed his state of mind.
Since then, Taylor has taught quite a few classes in Memphis, and is dedicated to helping his clients deal with stress. Regardless of the client, athlete or non-athlete, Taylor incorporates 20-30 minute breath work to change the mind and body.
I asked Taylor about breathing tips, and Taylor’s response was to focus on breathing horizontally instead of vertically. This is because upper chest breathing will cause more stress. Taylor also recommends box breathing before workouts, which is when you inhale for three seconds, hold for three seconds, exhale for three seconds, and hold again for three seconds. The box breathing may be stressful at first, but with continuing practice, this routine allows the body to become less anxious and gathers a mindful approach instead.
Another tip from Taylor is to increase nasal breathing as much as possible. This includes high intensity workouts and truly impacts your overall mobility. Unlike mouth breathing, nasal breathing filters about 95% of pathogens, increases CO2 tolerance, and activates your diaphragm.
When experiencing fishing or hunting, your heart can begin to race quickly, knees begin to knock, and the stress response mode is in full force. Taylor says these experiences happen all the time, and the best way to approach this is to use slow inhales and longer exhales. That way, you are slowing down the mind and your heart rate. When fishing, it is important to practice your techniques in every weather condition so you can improve your performance outcome.
Recently, Taylor competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour event located in Las Vegas last year. This competition involves getting you in and out of cold water, running around a loop nonstop, and trekking up a mountain, consisting of hard obstacles. To train for such an intensive event, Taylor used CrossFit workouts, incorporated XPT, and would do a bunch of grip work and track workouts. In total, Taylor officially completed 55 miles in this event, and said the winner completed with 110 miles.
See you on the water!