Brian Mackenzie

Why Breath is the Most Critical Component to Your Health | Brian Mackenzie | Better Man Podcast Ep. 001

The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!

Brian Mackenzie is a human optimization expert, educator, and coach, recognized for his expertise in stress management & breath control.

His research and protocols have shifted the way professional athletes and high performers around the world train for improved physiology and performance.

Today, I wanted to tap into Brian’s wisdom around breathwork. We discuss the power of nasal breathing and how changing your relationship with oxygen can dramatically affect how you perform—not just physically but emotionally and mentally.

We also dig into learned behavior patterns and how they can subconsciously hold you back from succeeding in all areas of life.

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Watch a Clip From Episode 001

Brian Mackenzie & Breathwork: Nasal Breathing, How It Changes Your Life | Better Man Podcast Ep. 001

Key Takeaways with Brian MacKenzie

  • The story of how Brian became a human performance specialist.
  • Shifting the way endurance athletes train.
  • Nasal breathing vs. mouth breathing.
  • How lower intensity training and nasal breathing lead to improved performance and endurance.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of developing better physiology!
  • The correlation between anxiety and low CO2.
  • What does breathing have to do with your mental and emotional wellbeing?
  • What you do is not who you are. Learn how your daily patterns affect everything!
  • How challenging the norm and experimenting can change your life—and why Brian only drives the speed limit.
  • How to become less attached to things to fully enjoy life.

Brian Mackenzie Notable Quotes

  • Oxygen is the most critical component to your health. It’s how you are basically breaking down substrates for energy. Your brain needs it to function. The better you use oxygen, the healthier you are.” – Brain Mackenzie
Episode 001 – Brian Mackenzie on Why Breath is the Most Critical Component to Your Health – Transcript

Dean Pohlman: Hey, it’s Dean. Welcome to the Man Flow Yoga podcast. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest, Brian MacKenzie. Welcome to the show.

Brian MacKenzie: Thanks for having me, Dean.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah.

Brian MacKenzie: Good to be here.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I’m super stoked about this. So, Brian and I were introduced via Kelly Starrett. I was working on Yoga for Athletes. Kelly had agreed to do the foreword for that book, and I was struggling to find somebody who would be a good fit to write about the endurance portion and connected me with you, and we got to talking. And I’m assuming at some point, you mentioned that you were an endurance athlete specialist, but the whole time, you were talking about breath and how breath had taught you so much about health and wellness as a whole. And I had to go read up on all the stuff that you did on endurance training to even like, oh, this guy is a big f*cking deal with endurance training.

So, I asked you about that. Yeah, first part, that’s how we met, and we ended up having a few more conversations to help get all the content for the book together. And I’m really happy with the way they came out and with your contributions as far as applying breathing to the poses and how to check in with your breathing while you’re doing the poses to make sure you’re doing it correctly. So, if you haven’t gotten the book, please get the book. You’ll get to see some awesome tips in there from Brian. But Brian, how did you start off as an endurance training or specialist? I don’t even know what to call it. What would you call yourself? Ten years ago, what would you have called yourself?

Brian MacKenzie: Strength and conditioning coach, but I’ve been adept in human performance for more than 20 years, which is odd to say. My background began in human movement, basically, although I was going to school, and that’s kind of a foundation for a lot of things. I figured out that I really enjoyed biology and stressing that, stressing biology and what came of that. So, that was the only thing that kind of tickled my fancy in terms of school. I mean, I dropped out of high school my senior year. I ended up getting a GED because I was so bored with school and over it.

And I went to college and messed around until I stumbled into exercise science. And then I was like, oh, this is interesting. But then I had so many damn questions and literally, nobody, no professor was answering them. They couldn’t. It wasn’t I was looking for answers. They just weren’t exploring in the way that I was. So, I ended up deviating towards mentorship primarily and was brought under the wing of a gentleman, Dr. Nicholas Romanov, who was the creator of the Pose Method of Running.

And he had opened the doors years ago before that, before 2000, on looking at running in a very different aspect. And he kind of spun my head on movement on the way I understood it. He was dealing with runners. I had gotten roped into doing a triathlon because I was going to this underground spin gym. And it was not today’s spinning. It was like f*cking Metal Mulisha, like it was out of control, it was in a dungeon. The place was gross. It was like…

Dean Pohlman: It was not uplifting.

Brian MacKenzie: No, it was not uplifting at all. And people routinely, if they showed up for the first time, were throwing up, like it was very intense. That was really my first introduction to intensity. But nonetheless, I got roped into doing a triathlon. I successfully overtrained for a triathlon. My background was in swimming and water polo. I swam, play water polo for many, many, many, many, many, many years. I came out of that triathlon in 10th place and then I got on the bike and probably lost 50 places, and then I got on the run where I was passed by just about almost everybody in that f*cking triathlon where I was encouraged to keep going by several overweight people.

I’m not overweight, I’ve never been overweight, but I got my as* kicked and I had overtrained for that thing. And I had shin splints, all this stuff, and like Romanov really spun my head because in one weekend, he showed me that I didn’t actually have shin splints. What I had was a movement problem. And so, that was why Kelly Starrett and I ended up hooking up very, very early on because we saw movement as a very different aspect, much like Romanov, and that…

Dean Pohlman: What was the way it was being taught? What was the…

Brian MacKenzie: Well, Romanov was teaching it from the perspective of gravity. Most of what’s taught in human movement, it’s all about how much power one can produce and enforce. That’s not what’s happening with gravity, but he changed things instead of looking– so, for instance, when we run, it’s falling and it’s catching yourself falling and repeating that, but we’ve gotten caught in this world of– you can see this with sprinters a lot, even though some sprinters are pushers, some of them are pullers. And it’s not that there’s any right or wrong. There ain’t two different zebras that run differently. There aren’t cheetahs that run differently, okay? There are only human beings who are dysfunctional. And I’m a part of that, right?

But nonetheless, getting people to understand the functional and getting your foot to land underneath you so you’re not creating as much leverage or you’re not stopping yourself as much was a big part of this paradigm. It’s like pressing overhead and being out in front of yourself. Like if I continue to press out here, I’m creating leverage on my shoulder, it’s unnecessary versus like getting it up and overhead. These are all positional things like in yoga, right? It’s really taking the construct of human movement and applying it broadly and universally.

There is no we are special. We live under the same laws, everything else does. Nonetheless, I got my as* kicked in my first triathlon, which humbled me so deeply that I got into endurance sports. I got into triathlon for some time, but I was already doing some coaching and movement stuff with people, and that accelerated kind of my– and I was so curious at the time and still am in many aspects, just with other things that I wanted to explore this thing that was like I thought I overtrained for. Then I did Ironman. I trained my brains out for it and felt like sh*t for a month after that. And that was just kind of the norm and what everybody was doing. And I didn’t come up with some concept. I challenged a lot of the status quo and norm.

And Romanov helped very early on, but there were a number of people and influencers, including people like Louie Simmons, who– I mean, I had VHS tapes of Louie from the 90s. In the 90s, I was watching Louie teach the bench, the squat, the deadlift. I started applying a lot of concepts to endurance training because endurance athletes were one of a couple of sports that failed at applying strength and conditioning. They were doing BOSU ball sh*t and going to yoga just to get flexible, and I did all of that stuff. And that is not what those mediums are about.

So, I created a paradigm shift around 2006, 2007 that began with endurance, where I started exploring, looking at lowering volumes of training but applying strength and conditioning concepts and more intensity to some of the training. But the caveat was is that skill development was at the forefront of all of this. So, basically, we were rewiring people on skills, like running drills, etc., squat, deadlift drills, pressing drills. All these things like movement mobility, all of this stuff was getting applied around these things. And it just made it so that we couldn’t be doing three and four-hour runs or bike rides on the weekend because it was just too much. And it was a low-volume approach to things. I’ve talked in the past about how volume was a big problem. Some people can handle volume, but most people can’t handle intensity, true intensity, including CrossFitters. CrossFitters get very accustomed to the pace that they’re going at, and like intensity starts to falter, and things become this kind of yellow light area. Think of intensity like a light system, green, yellow, red, right?

And most of American endurance athletes, which is why they suck, like American endurance athletes are not that great comparably. And one of the theories of this is because they’re all in the yellow zone. They’re training in the yellow, where they’re using carbohydrates as the main fuel source in aerobic function versus fat. Not that you’re not going to use glucose, but they’re very rarely using carbohydrates at these red intensities because they’re so cooked. They can actually get to those higher intensities where you’ll see a lot of these African runners, etc., who can literally peg it in red zones, but a lot of it’s done on the green, and this is where a lot of the skill development, etc., whatever.

I wrote a couple of books that followed this whole paradigm shift. They did fairly well. The second one was a New York Times bestseller. It guided a lot of people who were struggling, who were injured a lot, who were not getting results that they liked, who did not feel like they had the lives they wanted because they were training so much. It opened a very big door for that. It also pissed off a lot of people because people cling to their sports and their activities as ideologies. And it challenged a lot of people who had been doing this long, slow distance approach but didn’t really understand the long, slow distance approach. Nonetheless, breathing entered the world because somebody handed me a training mask, which set elevation training mask on it, and I at the time had probably been studying hypoxic training and altitude training for probably close to six or seven years at that point.

Dean Pohlman: What would hypoxic training be described as, for people who don’t know what that means?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. Low oxygen.

Dean Pohlman: Okay.

Brian MacKenzie: Low oxygen. So, hypoxia, and hyperoxia would be high oxygen. So, normoxia is normal, like you’re not manipulating levels of oxygen. So, I was into this stuff very early on. I didn’t even realize that this had a connection to breath control yet, right? But I had been studying this stuff, had altitude simulators, had O2 scrubbers, screwed around, like I’d been screwing around for years. And then this elevation training mask was handed to me, and there’s nothing on it except resistance. And I just laughed and was like, it can’t change. If this device somehow changes pressure, which it doesn’t, meaning barometric pressure. So, as you go higher the pressure, the air gets thinner, right? That’s why altitude sucks. It’s still 21%. It’s just so dispersed and it expands. It’s harder to diffuse and perfuse. So, that’s why altitude is difficult for people. But if you train low oxygen, you can train your body to tolerate those levels where you drop, like I’m at 6,000 feet right now. Like I said, it’s 6,000 feet. Natural blood oxygen level for this is 94%, right?

Dean Pohlman: Oh, wow.

Brian MacKenzie: So, if I’m where you’re at in Austin, I’m 99 to 100 because I actually train myself in regards to keep my oxygen saturation levels high. So, nonetheless, I laughed, but I knew when I laughed, did I never put that device on, so I was like, f*ck. Alright, so I put this thing on. And when I put it on, I did this and I sat up and I organized myself very differently. And then, all of a sudden, I was like, oh my God, like, this is what I was being told when I was going to that ashtanga practice I had many, many years ago. But as an endurance athlete, I was just going to get flexible and like controlling your breathing and why you were out of breath from position to position in an intense yoga practice, yet you were a triathlete who was cardiovascularly, supposedly functioning very well, I entered the rabbit hole and just had blown apart because I was like, wow, I have something I could give to every athlete I have. I have warmed up at this. They’d organize themselves better, start using their diaphragms more and their primary breathing muscles.

Dean Pohlman: So, let me kind of try to understand this. So, that device for you forced you to– and I brought this up with Kelly in the interview about this. I’ve never heard this concept of organizing the self. And he mentioned, okay, yeah, we have old coaches, and this is a term that they use. So, by organizing, I guess I would describe it as putting your spine into a neutral position.

Brian MacKenzie: Did you just refer to me as an old coach?

Dean Pohlman: No, I said, you had old coaches. No, I did not. No.

Brian MacKenzie: I’m kidding. Go ahead.

Dean Pohlman: But so organizing the spine, at least my understanding, well, I would put it into words is putting your spine into a neutral position such that– I mean, the ideal situation is put it into a neutral position such that you can expand and feel your breathing, expand in all directions evenly from the base of your spine all the way to your ribs, whereas if you’re in an unorganized position, you’re unable to– I’m not going to use the term diaphragmatic breathing because I know you hate that.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, it’s just incorrect, but yeah, correct.

Dean Pohlman: Incorrect, using your diaphragm, no matter what. But if you’re in a position where you are unable to fully access your breathing capabilities, then we would not say organized, but anyways.

Brian MacKenzie: Correct. And I think that even in motion or even in positions as we challenge, even though it looks like I’m getting unorganized, I can organize myself, right? Like, it’s not all about getting rigid and stiff. It’s like, oh, I’m going to use my breather, like right now, so I need access to this thing. And when I’m in this poor position or I’m unorganized, it’s really hard for me to actually breathe against resistance, right? So, I can get away with murder if I just open that trap of mine and start breathing. There were a few people talking about nasal breathing when we began to, Patrick McCune being one of them, but there weren’t a lot of people that knew about it.

And I came into understanding nasal breathing through this resistance breathing device because I was all about the resistance breathing device. For like the first two years, I was really invested in this, and then after enough time of using this thing, and look, we were not using it in everything, but I caught on to the fact that I was using my nose most of the time because it was so much easier to draw. Like with resistance, I could get more power from my nose. I was digging deeper by drawing a breath from my nose versus I can get away shallow, my neck muscles start, I start to engage my neck muscles, etc. I just can get away with a lot more. So, that began, at that point, I then started looking at the physiology behind everything, and I was just, yeah.

Dean Pohlman: So, that’s really interesting because I have to tell people. People ask me all the time, do I have to breathe in and out of my nose? I mean, you don’t have to, you’re not going to blow up, but it’s better if you do. And then they say, “Why?” And then I say, “Well, fortunately, I have Brian MacKenzie on the podcast, and he can tell you why nasal breathing is better.” I’d love for you to answer that if you could.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, the simple answer to that is your respiratory system was designed with your nose in mind, not your mouth. Your mouth was designed with your digestive system and communication system, your vocal cords, right? So, there is really one main way of filtering the air when you breathe through your mouth, which is the fourth basically way of filtering air if you breathe through your nose. So, you have as many hair follicles in your nose as you do on your head. That’s a filtering system. The mucus is a filtering system. Then you have turbinates, which is the most advanced filtering system that we know of, and we can’t actually replicate that, like we can’t actually replicate. There are a lot of things we think we’re so really smart with, and filtering is not one of them. We cannot even come close to how the nose actually filters things, spins the air, moves the air, humidifies the air, gets it ready for going into your lung tissue, which has no defense.

You have one which is your tonsils here. And that’s about it. Your saliva is designed to break things down and aid in things, but it does not filter air. The air passes right through. So, it’s an emergency system and it’s a system that’s designed for when you are actually speaking, which is also why if you talk a lot all day, you feel a little cooked at the end of the day. Or if you’re anybody who lectures or goes and speaks somewhere, why you’ll feel exhausted when you’re done because you’re actually using different energy. You’re in that yellow zone that I talked about earlier. If you breathe out of your mouth, you’re a yellow-zone person, so you’re burning the high, like you’re just burning at mid-range all the time, and talking is one of those things.

Dean Pohlman: And one of the other parts of what you were discovering with your training was that people needed to train at the lower intensity. So, they needed to train at a level in which they could maintain nasal breathing, as opposed to huffing and puffing in and out of their mouth. And that allowed them to, even though they weren’t putting out as much and they weren’t running as fast or whatever, well, in terms of endurance athlete, they weren’t moving as fast. They were making more progress over time, training at this low. Is that correct?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. So, we started testing this stuff. Nobody’s tested it. So, we, Rob Wilson, Bryan Diaz, and Emily Hightower, people who I work with, Rob and I in particular at the time decided to get a few metabolic carts. And that’s something that analyzes gas exchange. That’s how you test. When you test VO2 max, when you test energy systems, when you test how people use energy, it’s done through gas exchange because we know by how much oxygen you bring in, how much oxygen comes out, and how much CO2 comes out of the system, we know what you’re burning or using as fuel, so whether you’re using fats, proteins, or carbohydrates, and that’s basically the process of how respiratory exchange ratio works, right?

And so, we went and started testing things with nasal breathing. And this is where we ended up developing a gear system towards things because we started to see that there were particular gears that actually happened. So, a lot of people who are on to this are like, yeah, nasal breathing is everything, you just got a nasal breathe, and it’s like, yeah, you don’t understand quite yet. You’ve gone about half, you’ve put your foot in the water. It goes beyond that, but that’s a great place to start, and you’re going to see fundamental changes. And the biggest fundamental change is that if you stay nasal breathing, you can pretty much guarantee you’re just in or just out of that yellow zone. So, intense nasal breathing will have you in that yellow zone. So, if I am, that’s yellow. You’re definitely burning carbohydrate at that level, you’re becoming a little more anaerobic at this place.

Dean Pohlman: And what would be the level that you would want of it? Let’s say you’re going for a five-mile run, what’s the pace of nasal breathing you would want to have?

Brian MacKenzie: We call that a gear one. Gear one is primarily what you want to develop, but most people don’t like that because they have to slow down so much. And this is where that green zone comes in is that people just really, their egos are attached things. Greg Glassman had a very famous quote. He said something at a dinner once. And he’s like, yeah, men will die for points. I figured that out. So, we made a sport about it. Like, he just used people’s dysfunction against themselves. We are so willing to die for what points, for how fast we think we need to be versus actually taking the time to understand physiologically how to develop. And this is part of that American paradox, right? Like in the West, it’s a western thing. It’s not just American, it’s the West, Canada as well.

So, when you’re in a gear one, which is an equal in and out nasal only, that’s about roughly one breath every three to six seconds in length. That’s a large spectrum, but roughly at about three seconds from what we’ve seen in developed people. So, there is a caveat here, and this is where the research has been really shady is there have been one or two research papers done where the researchers didn’t actually do homework. They just basically were like, alright, let’s just have a bunch of people go do some nasal breathing and have some people do some mouth breathing. And nobody had any development in anything. And that’s not how physiology works.

Nonetheless, when you are in this equal in and out nasal only, you can guarantee you’re pretty highly aerobic. So, meaning you’re really on that green end. Now, the interesting thing what we saw was that through development of this in about four to six weeks for a lot of people, that will translate to some very high output in the green zone. So, like I had a CrossFitter, he was a games athlete who when we started him, he could only get to a 140 heart rate nasal breathing. This is a gear three. But in a month, we had him at a 171 heart rate, and his breathing was closer towards a gear two/gear one, and he felt like he’d go forever, yeah.

Dean Pohlman: So, it takes four to six weeks.

Brian MacKenzie: Roughly.

Dean Pohlman: Training that gear one. My other thought is, are you supposed to always train? Are you always supposed to train that lower gear one or gear two or gear three?

Brian MacKenzie: No, no.

Dean Pohlman: Okay.

Brian MacKenzie: You don’t need to, no, but for most people, they should because going into doing things where their mouth breathing is only going to retard the process because then they’re going, their thinker is going to get involved, they’re not going to like that they have to slow down for the other thing. I mean, some people can compartmentalize pretty decently, but most cannot from what I’ve experienced.

Dean Pohlman: So, they just have to, and I or whoever has to just get used to training at that lower level than they’re used to so that they can…

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: My other question was if they do a competition, okay, you’ve got your competition, can they go into the red zone for the entirety of their competition? Or if they’ve been training with nasal breathing, do they stay in kind of the same range they’ve been training in? Or again, do they go into the red zone? Do they just try to do their best to maintain nasal breathing and use their mouth sometimes? Or like how does…

Brian MacKenzie: Depends on the athlete, the sport, and the time that they’ve taken to do this.

Dean Pohlman: Okay.

Brian MacKenzie: I just watched a video with a UFC fighter who was just interviewed, and the guy was like, you never open your mouth once during that fight, like you’re breathing out of your nose the entire fight. And the guy said, “Look, once you take the red pill for breathing, you really understand things and you don’t need to go back to this dysfunctional side of things.” Anybody who actually does the time and has somebody to guide them, I mean, I’m working with a number of UFC fighters right now, but regardless, a few of them probably won’t be able to get there because they can’t slow down enough for the other things that they’re doing where they believe they have to win when they’re in camp because the head game is strong, man.

The same thing with endurance athletes, people just don’t want to slow down, they don’t want to take the time to let their physiology develop, and they don’t understand why there could be metabolic problems or why their knee hurts or why their foot hurts or why their hip hurts. And it’s like, what does that have to do with breathing? Well, let me explain. When you are a mouth breather, you’re more sympathetically charged, you’re more sympathetically dominant. When you breathe out of your nose, your parasympathetically dominant. When you’re using faster energy for glucose, so when you’re in that yellow zone, your tissue is more tense, your system is more tense. When you mouth breathe more, you’re more tense, so the tissue takes longer to recover. Yet, they’re not giving themselves enough recovery.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. But in these, like, let’s say, I’m a fighter, let’s say I’m a UFC fighter, I’ve got a two-minute round and my body basically thinks I’m fighting…

Brian MacKenzie: Five.

Dean Pohlman: Five-minute.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: Clearly, I watch a lot of UFC.

Brian MacKenzie: It’s all right.

Dean Pohlman: So, let’s think I’m in this five-minute, my body basically thinks and I’m fighting for my life, right? Or I guess if you’re breathing through your nose, maybe you don’t think that, but I guess what I’m thinking is, you have your parasympathetic nervous system for a reason because it turns on and it can take you, and I’m assuming it could turn on and it takes you into a higher gear or makes you able to do more. Are you saying that?

Brian MacKenzie: You’re going to see the room. When you’re sympathetic dominant, you’re like this. And if you’ve ever watched a fight where somebody basically just starts to get their as* kicked and they can’t do anything or they gas out, like once they’re gassed out, like everybody in boxing or fighting knows this, the moment you see that jaw just go drop, and they’re gasping for air, it’s over. They’re like this, they can’t see what’s coming from over here and over here. It’s impossible. There is no coming back.

Dean Pohlman: Got it. So, fighters have to be able to stay in control in order to be in the fight.

Brian MacKenzie: That’s the name of the game.

Dean Pohlman: They start losing control.

Brian MacKenzie: That’s the name of the game. And unfortunately, they’ll convince themselves otherwise of that. Like the biggest problem with any and all of us, including myself, we’ve constructed culturally in a way that it’s just a very– like worse, we have so many attachments to ideas, we don’t know how to listen to our heart or listen to the gut. We don’t know how to listen to our physiology at all, something that’s innate. Our ability to listen to our physiology, our ability to listen to our gut, our ability to listen to our heart, that’s really just one thing, that’s listening to your physiology, that’s what your body is communicating to you constantly. Like this is an innate thing we are born with. Like your son is born with the ability to tell you exactly when he is hungry, when he needs to be cleaned, and when he is going to go to sleep, right? These are very primary things that are happening. It’s just driven. We start to go, no, no, no, let me, here. Like all these games start to get played based on how our emotional intelligence functions, right?

So, because society at large has the emotional quotient of like f*cking what we had 200 years ago, we just aren’t driving ourselves in the way that technology and everything else is trying to drive. So, our attachments go to the things that we construct is like these, oh, I need to have this, I need to win this race, I need to do this event, I need to go– well, no, what you actually need to do is listen to your f*cking body like you’re breaking down right now because you have this idea that you need to go accomplish this thing. And I get it, like it’s gotten some people out of hard times, some really rough times, like kids out of ghettos, like the whole David Goggins thing. Bro, that saved his life, that changed his life.

But I’m going to come do and guarantee that at some point for the body if you don’t listen to it. And that’s what we’ve seen, and right now, I’m convinced that breathing sits at the forefront of that, that signal, when something’s off. And it’s not that we should have to run around and control our breathing. I’m not going to go teach my dog how to breathe, I’m not going to teach some cheetah or some zebra how to breathe, I don’t need to. I don’t need to teach what’s wild anything. They do it the way it’s supposed to be done. That’s why zebras run like zebras or cheetahs run like cheetahs, right? Like all of these animals move and do things all in the most similar fashions. They don’t because they’re operating under the laws of the universe. We’re operating under attachments, and that’s where our problem sits.

And so, when we actually want, like I get, like wanting to train for something or do something, but it’s like, well, how about we train your physiology to get there first. That should be the first goal, but it’s not, it’s usually the last because the last comes when they’re injured, overtrained, overworked, don’t know how to regulate, all of that, versus like, hey, do you want to enjoy this? I mean, you want to get out of this in a good way or you want to be stuck to this ideology you’ve created around who you are?

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, I think this is a great segue into your realizations with breathing.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: And kind of what I’m getting a sense of is that if these people who basically overworked themselves, if they were better able to recognize their breathing and use that as a tool to gauge where they were physiologically, then they would have been able to sense that, hey, I’m working too hard right now or I’m putting out too much work right now and I’m not able to recover and I’m really stressed. And I’m curious what was your personal experience with that? And what did that as far as opening up the rabbit hole, what all did that uncover?

Brian MacKenzie: That was my experience. I was pretty cooked and I didn’t even really realize it. I couldn’t nasal breathe, save my life, and then I finally locked it up and was like, screw it, I’m going four weeks doing this straight. Not I’ll stop if I can’t nasal breathe anymore, and then I’ll get back to it and repeat it.

Dean Pohlman: Is that like one really good way to– I’m curious, like, how can people gauge this for themselves? Or is that the nasal breathing the best way? Or are there some other ways that they can try?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. I mean, there are a lot of things that could be done. It’s just how deep into the well do you want to go? Starting a breath practice, having a breath practice, like starting your day with one, ending your day with one, your bookending, controlling your nervous system, getting a hold of it, engaging in some walking, at least, like decent walking, probably three or four times a week, shutting your mouth and walking, not talking on your phone and walking.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, just leave your phone at home.

Brian MacKenzie: Well, take it with you, but just like, don’t talk. And the reason I say that is, if you don’t believe me, go get yourself a portable metabolic cart and go for a walk and put it on and breathe out of your mouth. And then, for five minutes, do that, and then do it for five minutes with your mouth shut. You’re going to see two very different forms of energy that are being used. And that was what we saw, and we kept repeating it and we kept seeing it with everybody. So, it’s not like I didn’t just want to make any of this. I was like, let’s test this stuff. Let’s see what’s going– nobody’s testing this. So, we did that, as we did. I mean, I’ve been up to San Francisco State University, and we’ve tested on the COSMED. We’ve done stuff there with breath control. We’ve got some papers and things that are working right now in research.

But the important part is, is that people need to do this for themselves, not for what the research says. Going out and doing some training to the degree that you don’t have to blow through it, but you can control your breathing, you’re going to instantaneously change your relationship to oxygen. And the reason you’re doing that is because you’re controlling how much actual CO2 is getting out of you. When you breathe through your nose, you’re actually taking deeper breaths. And when you breathe through your mouth, you’re not taking this deeper breath. So, you’re faster with your mouth breathing, you’re slower with your nasal breathing, but you’re basically digging in and bringing in oxygen. You can only absorb so much oxygen, and that oxygen will come out. It’s how much oxygen I’m actually using in the system, which is a part of how the Bohr effect works, which is a dissociative curve. It’s basically the relationship between oxygen and hemoglobin and how that works with the pH of the blood, and carbon dioxide plays that switch.

So, there’s an intimate relationship with carbon dioxide and oxygen. Look at it kind of like an equal-equal, like if I don’t have enough carbon dioxide, I don’t get to use all that oxygen that’s potentially in the cell. And you have billions of oxygen molecules in one red blood cell, which are strung up on hemoglobin, which is the protein carries the red pigment in the red blood cell, but that also is kind of the magnet that sucks on the oxygen when you take a breath in. So, those capillary beds at the ends of the alveolar beds that are allowing the fusion to happen are picking up, like oxygen is going in the blood and the red blood cells quickly dumping CO2, and O2 is entering in to suck on to that hemoglobin.

Well, the only way that oxygen comes off is if there’s CO2 to kick it off. And if I overbreathe, it’s not that I’m taking in more oxygen or less oxygen, it’s the control of CO2 and it’s the allowance to do that. And unfortunately, that’s our mechanism to breathe, it’s also our panic switch. So, CO2 is the mechanism to breathe when we’re conscious, largely. So, if I just said, “Alright, everybody, hold your breath.” And I just ran a timer. However many people are listening to this show is exactly how many different breath holds you’d have. That right there tells you the difference in how we tolerate carbon dioxide, not oxygen. That is the sensing mechanism for how you breathe. And so, if I feel like I’m panicky, there’s a relationship, there’s a psychophysiological connection between CO2 and the brain and our panic switch. This is why anxiety is through the roof largely. People’s CO2 tolerances are like, it’s not the whole story, but from a physiological perspective, there isn’t a person with anxiety I have not come across and done a consult with who does not have a low CO2 tolerance score.

Dean Pohlman: So, I’m trying to get through all what you’re saying and distill it into, like do this because this. And something that happened for me while you were explaining that, something that I used to think of before was people would say, well, nasal breathing is more efficient. I’m like, okay, well, I’m not going to run out of oxygen. It’s here. I’m not going to breathe it all up. So, yes, I’d love to be more efficient, but like, what’s the– so, the point is not that you’re using less oxygen, the point is that the faster you breathe, the more you’re expelling or the more you’re keeping in.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, or you could say that, or the faster you’re breathing, the less you’re using oxygen.

Dean Pohlman: The less you’re using oxygen.

Brian MacKenzie: Oxygen is the most critical component to your health. It’s how you are basically breaking down substrates for energy. Your brain needs it to function. Like the better you use oxygen, essentially, the healthier you are because the better your mitochondria function, okay?

Dean Pohlman: Okay.

Brian MacKenzie: So, yes, you’re offloading excessive CO2, but look at it as like you’re using less oxygen the more you breathe.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, got it. And if you’re breathing faster, then you’re going to have higher levels of anxiety, you’re going to be more stressed, you’re going to have a higher risk of injury, like all of these…

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, and you may not even have that. You may be breathing fast, I can guarantee you’re reactive and stressed out. I mean, yeah, it’s across the boards of what breathing tells us about what’s going on. It’s not the answer by any stretch. Like there are many, many biochemical things that go on, like nutrition, etc. I think our major, major things that we’ve fallen again into ideological, like little silos. I eat this way because cavemen did. I’ve done all this, man. I’ve done it all. Like I used to sit in every camp there was and then I started, really– I’m investing time in all of these things, but it’s like your nutrition is going to affect your pH. And if your pH gets affected, the first thing to get affected is going to be your breathing.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. Well, I wanted to get a better idea of what are the other things you noticed outside of when we talk about– I want to understand when you started focusing on your breathing more, what other things did you start thinking about? Like we can talk about your mental wellbeing. Let’s talk about your emotional wellbeing. I mean, what did you learn? What did you discover? What came up? How did you start thinking? Did you start thinking differently? Like, what are these? I’m curious about that.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I became less reactive, which gave me time to actually respond, more time to respond to things. I was still reactive to plenty and I still react to plenty, but breathing slowed me down enough to actually give a sh*t about what my patterns were.

Dean Pohlman: So, it made you think more about your actions?

Brian MacKenzie: Yes, more importantly, my patterns, which leads directly into, I think we could call it your emotional intelligence. And most of us aren’t at the place. I was not for quite some time to actually recognize that. I think, yeah, I’m almost certain that some of the statistics are right around 100 or 200 years where our emotional quotient has not actually changed. It’s not progressed at all. And it’s a sad thing because biologically speaking, that’s our limbic system, which is a part of kind of where the emotions play, but it also plays up into the prefrontal cortex, in the developed part of the cortex, right? These are newer things to our biology.

And when I say that we talk about human beings being a specific age, I’m really of the mindset that that’s a really poor decision that we’ve made. I mean, we’ve got cells in us and on us that are three-quarters the age of this planet. So, they’ve been replicating that long. We’ve got hardware on us that is so old that it’s like there’s a reason why it’s gone this long. Like, there’s a reason why it’s made this long of a time and why this new operating system is trying to figure it all out. And the fact that we’re not progressing some of that stuff is scary. And that’s where this whole busy, busy, busy, like got to do more, the whole internet, social media, all of it, it’s not bad, but you better be aware of what it’s doing if you’re on it enough because it is affecting how this system works. And it’s not that I can’t be a nice guy and a quality human being on it. No, you’re going to change how your brain actually functions and how the systems in that actually function and you’re going to start having to scroll, look, tap, do things, and this impacts your day outside of that stuff.

Dean Pohlman: That sounds scary because you’re basically saying that you are becoming what you are doing on social media.

Brian MacKenzie: We are. We think…

Dean Pohlman: And I’ve never thought about that in the terms of like me doing social media and me becoming social media. That sounds gross.

Brian MacKenzie: Think about it. Other than the fact that you and I have spent a number of hours on phone calls and gotten to know each other slightly, we don’t truly know each other, right? But by and large, we do think we know who people are based on what we watch on social media. And yet, people are only showing you what they want to show you.

Dean Pohlman: Right.

Brian MacKenzie: They don’t show you what they don’t want to show you.

Dean Pohlman: That’s very true.

Brian MacKenzie: So, how is it we’re going to actually understand? We can’t. And I’m not calling anybody out. I’m a part of this, like, I’m in this whole thing, right? But breathing got me to the point where I really started looking at my patterns, which is, I’m going back to these patterns. The path is not in a pattern. There is no truth in the pattern. No truth lies in a pattern. And the truth sits outside all patterns. That was Bruce Lee, that was J Krishnamurti. This is a philosopher as well before Brian MacKenzie decided to f*cking pop that one out of his mouth, but it does not exist in a pattern. This is why you won’t see animals behaving. Animals are very different behaviorally than we are. Sure. Oh, they eat the same way.

But there is no I have to go do this, I have to go do that. No. The weather just changed, I felt the pressure change. I’m moving down here versus like, oh, well, I’m still going to go train and work out the way I need to. I’m going to expose myself in this storm and do this thing. Like we get caught up in the ideas of thinking and the attachments of what we’re doing, and this is where the patterns start to show up. So, by slowing myself down and actually taking the time to start to look at some of the patterns of the ways I react to things, I started to allow myself to respond differently and I started to look at things differently. And then that opened up a whole can of worms into, well, what’s this doing from a neurobiological standpoint?

Dean Pohlman: So, what were some specific patterns that you learned or uncovered or that came up and you were like, whoa?

Brian MacKenzie: Constantly needed to be doing something.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, feel that one.

Brian MacKenzie: Can’t sit still.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, that’s just who I am. No, no, you are not what you do, we are not what we do.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. So, how did you address that when you realized that?

Brian MacKenzie: I mean, it took some time, man. It took a lot of time. But it’s like I catch myself all the time and it’s like, oh, got to go do something. I’m trying to force myself. Why can’t I sit still right now? Oh, why can’t I be bored? Dude, I didn’t have a phone when I was a kid. I didn’t have a computer to screw around on as a kid. Like, I got bored all the time and was perfectly– I used to go stir around in the woods, like this could build jumps. Like I used to go like, get lost in things. Why can’t I go get lost in something? Why can’t I go play? Why do I need to be doing anything? I don’t need to do anything. How about I just experienced something, driving, right?

I challenged myself at one point, I used to drive like a maniac. I mean, in some people’s idea, probably not a maniac, but other people’s, yeah, definitely like a maniac. But I grew up in Southern California. I drove fast, was in a hurry to go everywhere, raced around people, cut people off, got cut off, got pissed off, and people cut me off, took it personally. I challenged myself to just drive the speed limit for a week, and that didn’t work for a day. And then I came back to it a few weeks later and literally did a week. And now, I’m the guy who puts it in cruise control and doesn’t drive five miles an hour over the speed limit because I’m no longer in a rush to get anywhere, man. On occasion, I’ll catch myself starting to go a little faster, but it’s like things start to change when you become aware of them, and all of a sudden, that way of doing something that you thought was you, you’re no longer doing it. And you’re like, oh, I guess that wasn’t me, no.

Dean Pohlman: So, let’s focus on this thing, there’s one thing in particular, because I think this is a really relatable pattern is this idea of I have to do something all the time. How did you feel? Or how did you realize that that was a– I don’t want to say bad, but how did you realize that that wasn’t, I don’t know how to say it other than your truth.

Brian MacKenzie: There is no bad. Yeah. And let me preface everything I’ve just kind of gone on a little bit of a bender on. There’s no bad in any of this. If your goal is to become more aware, which I got on this truth, that’s all I’m doing with anybody I work with or consult for. I’m just trying to create, I’m just guiding them towards understanding how to be more aware so they can develop their own practice the way they want but to be more aware. Awareness is the answer to it all. Like that is from what I’ve come to understand. So, what was the question?

Dean Pohlman: It was how did you become aware of that pattern and did you intuit or did you feel that this was a pattern that didn’t resonate with who you were or what was it? Or did you just realize it was causing you discomfort or stress?

Brian MacKenzie: Like with driving?

Dean Pohlman: The driving thing, or no, specifically with you having to do something at all times?

Brian MacKenzie: Oh, yeah, that’s just the function of society and culture. And I was just being sheep and I bought into the whole idea hook, line, and sinker just like everybody else. And we’ve got an economy that moves at the speed of light and needs to function, and that’s got marketing and everything behind it. And I found when I started to slow down more that I started to care less about all of that stuff, and I cared more about my experiences with things. I stopped taking pictures less of things that I was doing because I was present with what I was doing. I wasn’t trying to actually create a moment that I was going to attempt to share with people, being an amateur f*cking photographer with my iPhone. I mean, I watch it, like I’m making fun of myself because I used to take pictures of everything I do, and I’d have these thousands upon thousands of pictures in my phone.

I live in the mountains now. Like I went skiing, like snowboarding today. And it was a powder day. And I can’t tell you how many people were stopped on the mountain taking pictures or videos of things. Willing to stop with their experience to try and get an idea of that to actually share with other people while not– and there’s no way to actually share that with anybody. How is anybody supposed to be like, oh, yeah, that was awesome that I got to go experience your powder run?

Dean Pohlman: Right.

Brian MacKenzie: No, man. I could tell you the story about it, but it’s like we’re so caught up in just trying to share everything. Like social media, got to share it, man. I want to share, but I’m not going to share what I don’t want to share.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that actually brings up a great habit of yours that I only uncovered last week. You delete all of your Instagram posts right after you posted a new, and so, you only have one post on your…

Brian MacKenzie: There’s three.

Dean Pohlman: There’s three right now?

Brian MacKenzie: Because I’m doing a series, but yeah, I basically decided that I didn’t want– there were so many, like, I get all these messages. And I started to catch on to people basically taking information that I, myself, or the people I work with take a lot of time to curate and share, and they’re basically just memorizing it or regurgitating it. And I’ve done that in the past, but I’m at a point where I was just like, you know what? It’s not that I don’t want to share information with people, I do, but memorizing anything is not a skill. Learning something requires some sort of like scare or like jolt, right? Learning is immersing yourself into something, and not studying it like we did in school, which is the most as*-backwards place of learning that we’ve ever created. And I just unfollowed everybody except my businesses and my foundation, so that I stopped scrolling through and clicking on things and liking things and doing the mindless things. So, I go, I take some time, work through something, and I basically drop it and get out and I’m out. And that has changed me physiologically.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, that’s definitely a good way to go if you’re looking to relieve stress. I think I had a solid six-month period where I deleted all the apps from my phone and I didn’t get on social media. I think I monitored my Facebook group, like I have a private Facebook group for our community, so I answered questions there, but I didn’t do any timeline, I didn’t do any Instagram. And slowly but surely, within the last couple of months, I still don’t have the apps on my phone, but my brain has learned that I can also open a browser and use the browser version of Instagram or Facebook. And so, I’ve sucked myself back in. So, I don’t know how I’m going to get myself out of it this time. But one other thing you told me, I made you download an extra app so you could do this podcast with me.

Brian MacKenzie: Alright, that’ll get deleted after this.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I hope so. But you only have three things on your home screen?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I’ve got my messages, WhatsApp, and then Signal, and then a virtual private network browser if I need to get on the internet and study something.

Dean Pohlman: Wow. Yeah, that is a brick you’ve got in your– the true brick you’ve gotten in there.

Brian MacKenzie: I know.

Dean Pohlman: It’s probably better for you though, so.

Brian MacKenzie: My screen time went down 80%.

Dean Pohlman: Wow. That’s impressive. Well, I want to get into kind of my rapid-fire question section, which isn’t really rapid-fire but some questions. And I’d love to hear your answers, so I’m going to dive in. What do you think is one habit, a belief, or a mindset that has helped you the most or helped you significantly in terms of your overall happiness? Maybe something we haven’t discussed yet, or if it’s something that’s so important that you like to mention it again, then do it again.

Brian MacKenzie: I think probably to just be an experiment, like that whole thing with the driving, right? That was just an experiment. I wonder what will happen if I do this for a week. And it changed my life, like legitimately changed my life, like not just the driving experience which changed, but my entire life.

Dean Pohlman: Do you track? I’m curious, how do you assess that? Do you journal about it? Do you think about it?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I write a lot, but that’s taken a decade or more of writing. But I experiment a lot, I’m super curious, I’m just very curious in experiential ways. And so, I like to challenge my own kind of patterns with things and that the driving thing slowed me down so much, and then it becomes so grossly apparent when I get in the car with other people because I’m not judging in a judging way, but I’m like, holy sh*t, they’re just a nervous mass trying to get somewhere. And it’s like, wow, and I don’t need to tell them what to do because I’m not. But it’s like I was that and I could go be that again if I want. It brought my pulse down a lot, man. It changed a lot. And I think we are scared of finding out who we are because we don’t know that we can find out who we are. We think we’re what we do. That’s why it’s like, well, so what do you do when you meet somebody? Like I’m a human performance specialist or whatever, it’s like how about what do you like? What do you love to do?

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, sure. What is one thing that you do for your health that you think is overlooked or undervalued by other people?

Brian MacKenzie: I mean, breathing is the obvious one, but it’s like, I mean, like…

Dean Pohlman: What’s your breath practice look like right now? Or how did it start? What’s a good way to start?

Brian MacKenzie: Ten minutes a day in the morning.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, so you just sit and breathe?

Brian MacKenzie: Sit and find a breathing pattern you like. If you go to ShiftAdapt.com, our website, there’s a tab that’ll come down on what we do, and I’ll say three steps to starting a breath practice, follow that stuff.

Dean Pohlman: Perfect.

Brian MacKenzie: And that’ll dial people in for really a breathing protocol that’ll work for them based on their exhale task, which is basically testing their CO2 tolerance. It’s a great way to just go sit and follow something and then repeat it and then retest the CO2 tolerance and see if it increases over time, and you’ll start to notice that that bucket gets a little bit bigger and bigger and bigger as that score starts to get longer and longer and longer. So, your bandwidth gets bigger, and you’re a little bit calmer, and things function a lot better, so.

Dean Pohlman: Got it.

Brian MacKenzie: Breathing is the obvious, but there’s no amount of breathing you can do with a pain you’re not willing to confront. So, meaning like you could go do all the breathwork in the world, but if you’re not willing to talk and look at the pain that you’re suffering for, like changing your f*cking driving, like looking at thing, why would I want to do that? So, one of the people who I work with, she’s just like– she has this aversion to blood and getting blood done, all that stuff. Her new experiment is she’s going to do glucose monitoring three times a day and she’s going to figure out. I’m just like, you should just try this out, go through the experience, and see what you can learn. But I prefaced it with this story. There’s an Alan Watts’ story on how this Westerner went to Japan to get into this Zen monastery, and the Zen Master wouldn’t let him in. And the guy kept begging and begging and show up every day and beg and beg and beg, and after a few months, he finally said, “Okay, I’ll let you in on this condition. Every morning you wake up, you’re going to go down to the stream.” And they’re in the mountains in Japan where there’s snow and all that. “And you’re going to get a bucket of freezing water and you’re going to slowly pour it over your head in the morning and then you can come and you can join us and then you can’t go warm yourself up, can’t go dry.”

Anyway, this guy literally went and lived, like he did this. And every day, he’d get up and he’d just be like, f*ck, I got to go pour this cold freezing water over me. It’s hard as hell to get warm again, da da da da. And then a few months into this, the guy realizes that the way he’s looking at this cold is the reason why, like, he might as well start to enjoy this because he’s suffering through this process, right? So, the guy somehow just gives up and says, “You know what? I’m going to start to learn to enjoy this cold. Oh, it can wake me up, it can do all these things.” Like I feel invigorated, my body’s going to warm up, and I haven’t died yet, and all this stuff. And at that moment, the Zen master said, “You’re allowed to be in the monastery now.”

So, he basically changed the way he was looking at this thing and how he was doing it, it changed his entire life, right? But we are so very fixated on a lot of things, the thing like, oh, cold training, that’s the hot thing. That’s what I got to do, right? It’s like, the same story goes, is that a student walked up and saw the Zen master rubbing two bricks together in full lotus, and he was like, “Master, what are you doing?” And he says, “I’m making a mirror.” And he goes, “You can’t rub two bricks together and make a mirror.” And he said, “And you can’t meditate and find enlightenment, but you’re going to do that for the rest of your life, aren’t you?”

Dean Pohlman: Yeah.

Brian MacKenzie: So, breathing’s great.

Dean Pohlman: And that’s– go ahead, sorry.

Brian MacKenzie: No, no, it’s great, and these things we do are awesome, but they are not making us who we are. Like, I shouldn’t have to control my breathing to do anything. I should be able to shift into where I want to go and what I want to do next and pay attention to my breathing. It just so happens if we screw around with your breathing enough, like if you’re practicing enough, when you’re working hard enough, you prefer to breathe out of your nose than your mouth because when you start to breathe out of your mouth the same work rates, you can feel the tension in your body and you can start to feel what happens physiologically. And you can only handle that for so long. So, you start to be able to listen to your body and all these things, and it’s like, oh, I prefer, I would. Oh, well, no wonder why indigenous culture did this.

Dean Pohlman: So, in this story, I’m curious what your recommendation going to be. So, what would your recommendation be for someone who wants to start changing that pattern or change the way that you look at things to– is it by focusing on breathing internally? Is it by thinking?

Brian MacKenzie: The easiest path would be to find something like my driving or like the aversion to blood that I just talked about and going and doing it until you could love it or figure out how to change it in a different way so that you can potentially understand that that’s not who you are. And that this whole idea of blood being gross or like I just drive fast because I like it, and it’s like, no, you’re doing it because you’re in a rush to get somewhere that you don’t know, like you can’t actually be present where you’re at right now. There is no like future, there really is not, it’s just now.

And so, what are you doing now to be present with who you are? And why is it always trying to do something more? Like, I would go pick something that the fastest way is to find something you really are hard-wired with thinking this is just the way you do things and you’re not going to change that for anything. I can’t tell you how many dudes I’ve talked to, who I’ve worked with, who I’ve thrown that driving thing at, and they’re like, oh, there’s no way, there’s absolutely no way. Nope, I just have to drive. No, I’m like, I guess there isn’t.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I think that would be a great test for me would be to do that. Actually, my dad does that. He drives a speed limit, and it is a recent adaptation, but it is something that he does, so.

Brian MacKenzie: Great.

Dean Pohlman: It’s a cool thing to do but works. Do you regularly reflect or analyze yourself? Do you have periodic…

Brian MacKenzie: Always, every day.

Dean Pohlman: What’s that look like?

Brian MacKenzie: Well, it’s usually in an instant and an uncomfortable moment or a moment where I feel a change in things or a pattern or like an old behavior. And it’s like, oh, that’s interesting, that just popped up or that just happened. Let me look at this, yeah.

Dean Pohlman: And you’re able to– got it. And you’re just…

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, like, for instance, here, for instance, today, something happened that I’m very clued into. There was an older guy behind me in line, and I was in the singles line to get on the lift, a bunch of people trying to get on the lift, and it was a six-person chair. And the guy in front of me goes, jumps in with a group of people, and then there’s a group that goes by that’s five people, and I just let them go because they’re a bunch of skiers and I’m on my snowboard today. I have ski and snowboard. And I let them go and the guy behind me goes, that was five, you could go with them. And I just sat there, and all of a sudden I’m like, oh, boy, here we go. And there’s my head start and run it, right?

And another group of five goes by, but I see a group of two snowboarders behind them that I’ve planned on going with. And the guy goes, that’s another group of five. You can go with them. And I just turned around and looked at him. Now, it’s like you want to go in front of me. And the guy just goes, sorry, sorry. I normally would have said f*ck off. The old me was like getting teed up to do. And it’s just like, hey, man, you want to go in front of me. Like, it’s cool. And that’s that point, and it’s like I didn’t even need to sit on the chair and think about that guy at all. Had I wigged out on him, that would have spun in my head for some time. That dude would have taken up real estate for my day. Instead, I enjoyed powder and the trees and had a great day and didn’t have to think about this dude who was freaking out about getting in line, like whatever. You know what I mean? It’s like he’s in a rush. Like, I get it, most people are in a rush.

Dean Pohlman: And the theme that I’m getting from what you’ve been saying is that by practicing mouth and nasal breathing, but really by just keeping yourself in this more relaxed state where you’re breathing slowly, where you’re not anxious, where you’re able to think about your responses rather than just doing whatever you automatically feel that gives you the ability to do that kind of thing, to make this…

Brian MacKenzie: I look forward to very hard, emotionally reactive things that are going on underneath the hood to get to explore that.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to be just some zen hippie person, I don’t. I still want to be my experience, like I’m a part of what I’ve grown up with through my parents and culture and all of that. But I don’t have to be an asshole and I don’t have to be internalizing things. I want to experience life. I don’t want to rush to get somewhere else.

Dean Pohlman: Got it, yeah. What’s the most stressful part of your day-to-day life?

Brian MacKenzie: Probably the mornings in getting organized to get out of the house. I got a dog, I’ve got to get her fed, whether I’m going skiing or whether I’m going to train or whether I’m going to go do some sort of thing, whatever. I take care of myself first. Four days out of the week, I have meetings with business in the morning that I’ll take on my way to something, but I take care of myself first of my day. And I think the most stressful part is usually when I get up, I don’t wake up to an alarm, but it’s like, oh, what time did I wake up at? Oh, I’ve only got so much time to get food ready and all of that and get my dog ready and get that done and get her out, like walk her and make sure she’s taken care of, etc.

Dean Pohlman: Got it. Yeah, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to, for sure.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing men in their wellbeing right now?

Brian MacKenzie: Their ego. I shouldn’t even say that. Like the ego is nothing more than the focus of conscious attention. So, most men are so focused outwardly, like that whole statement, like Greg Glassman, men will die for points. We’re so focused on attached on things outside of us. Society, this is our entire problem. This is why we don’t actually understand what love is because you cannot have love with an attachment to anything, including a person. So, getting rid of those attachments and finding out that you have, like inside you, you’ve got every tool needed to thrive.

Dean Pohlman: Does getting rid of attachments mean letting go of expectations? Specifically, what does that mean?

Brian MacKenzie: I don’t know that necessarily expectations, but an attachment would be to something or someone. I need this, an attachment. Here’s a big one. I need to buy that house. Do you? I don’t think you understand the difference between wants and needs. You’ll be perfectly fine without that house, but you don’t believe that. I need that girl. Do you? Like, we need to start to be able to look at people and things kind of like sunrises and sunsets. Why can’t we do that? Because of attachment. You can sit there and look at a sunrise or sunset and just be in awe and just be like, f*ck, that’s so beautiful right now. That’s cool, right? And you know it’s going to go away and you’re okay with that because it’s probably going to come back. But it’s such a beautiful thing and it’s great and it’s awesome, and I can just let it be. I don’t have to get it to change or do anything for me. So, it’s like, look at the people in your life, look at the things in your life, and let them be so that you can enjoy them.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. Alright, that’s concrete. I can take that.

Brian MacKenzie: It doesn’t mean you can’t buy a house.

Dean Pohlman: Well, depends if you’re in Central Texas or somewhere else. Sorry, that was my complaint about real estate in Austin right now. So, I’m actually curious for myself, do you have courses on breathing? What do you do with Shift Adapt? So, what are some good ways for people to learn more about that kind of stuff?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. So, we have a membership program on there that basically takes people through breathing, mood, strength, and conditioning work, and then some aerobic development work if they want, as well. This all utilizes breath control. We have courses, the Art of Breath course, which we have online. We also do that in person. We’ll be doing one in the UFC in March next month.

Dean Pohlman: Cool.

Brian MacKenzie: We have the Skill of Stress course, which Emily Hightower does. That’s online. And then we, Emily Hightower and I, run a collaborative mentorship program. I also run a mentorship program where people can sign up and request mentorship. And then we do events. We have an event this April out here in the mountains of Colorado, where we’re going to be doing all this stuff about exposure and basically exposing you to stress and teaching you how to read, regulate, and reinforce that stuff and really understand that.

Dean Pohlman: That’s cool. That sounds awesome.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. If you go on to Shift Adapt and check it out, you’ll see. It’s at a pretty radical location as well, my buddy’s place that is pretty unreal. It’ll blow your mind.

Dean Pohlman: That sounds like a– I mean, I live in four miles from downtown, which is still pretty much in the city and I’m looking out my back window right now, and there’s not enough nature. I can drive for 10 minutes and I can see some rivers and some little hills and some stuff, but it’s not enough.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I climbed an 11,000-foot mountain today.

Dean Pohlman: Sounds awesome. Hey, so selfishly, I have one more question. If I wanted to start incorporating nasal breathing into my weight training routine, what would that look? Do I just drop the weight and start breathing through my nose or taping my mouth? Or like, what?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, I’m not a big fan of taping the mouth. Like, just shut your mouth.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, yeah.

Brian MacKenzie: But yeah, lower the weight. Lower the weight a little bit. But to be honest, it’s like weight training, it shouldn’t involve some mouth breathing. Like, look, to be clear, there is a time to mouth breathe, and when metabolic demand from things like weight lifting, heavy weight lifting happens, you’re going to need to offload that CO2 because you’re blowing through energy. But getting back to nasal breathing is critical, but yeah, it can help. Like, I don’t mouth breathe as much as I used to when I would weight train.

Dean Pohlman: Okay. Yeah, I was going to ask that. But you were going, man, I didn’t want to stop you. So, I was going to ask about the difference between nasal breathing with resistance training and endurance training, like doing five reps or lower or something like that. So, my goal should be to– I’m going to have to breathe out of my mouth from doing resistance training and doing something heavy.

Brian MacKenzie: At a certain point.

Dean Pohlman: But try to get back to?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, let it happen. Like, keep your mouth shut, and then when it’s like, f*ck, I got to breathe out of my mouth, breathe out of your mouth.

Dean Pohlman: Because you’ll probably pass out if you don’t.

Brian MacKenzie: Then when you’re done with the set and rack that thing, how quick can you get back to nasal breathing? Like sometimes what I’ll do is I restrict the recoveries to nasal breathing, and it sucks at first. It’s claustrophobic at first, right? But not all the time, but that’s a very quick way to make some very big changes.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, that sounds cool. That sounds like something I can do right now. So, I’m looking forward to incorporating that. So, aside from all the stuff we just mentioned, you’ve got your Instagram when you don’t delete all your posts. Is that the best way to…

Brian MacKenzie: Actually, I don’t know if I’m going to be posting. I don’t know that I’m going to be deleting anymore. I think I’m just going to keep going, but I’m actually really thinking about what I’m putting out, and it’s a little f*cking drawn out because there’s a bit on survival I’m doing right now. Like, I’m doing this contrast between cells and humans, in general, and I’m working through that whole thing right now, and then I’m going to start layering in some breathing stuff after that.

Dean Pohlman: Cool. So, is the Instagram best way to keep up with you or what other stuff?

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah. Or you go to @shift_adapt. That’s a lot of stuff. We put out a lot of content and information.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, you do.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Dean Pohlman: Okay, cool. Alright. Well, Brian, that was an awesome conversation. That was like an hour and a half, and it just pretty much flew by. So, thank you for being an awesome guest. Thank you for your participation in Yoga for Athletes. We even talked about that.

Brian MacKenzie: People should get the book, but the fact of the matter is like we really looked at breathing and how it works positionally through the poses that you chose to put up. And I think we took a very unique approach to that, one that is much different than what I think is mostly mainstream in yoga.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah. And it’s actually those few conversations that I had with you in that stuff that I put in the book that has actually changed the way that I personally do yoga, and it’s also changed the way that I teach. So, I talk much more now about breathing into spaces and how you can use your breath to expand certain areas, especially in twists. I found that when I’m doing twists and I’m like working more in my thoracic mobility, I found that breathing there and visualizing, getting wider across my back has been really helpful. So, thank you for that, yeah.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, you’re welcome, man. You’re welcome. Thanks for having me on.

Dean Pohlman: Yeah, absolutely. So, everybody, go check out Brian, go check out Shift Adapt. Thanks for joining me today. And I will see you guys in the next episode or see you in the next video. Thanks again, Brian.

Brian MacKenzie: Yeah, thanks.



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