People you can follow to build physical and mental resilience.

There are some unique Individuals out there changing how scientists view the body. And I often wonder, what is the psychology behind people that push human performance?  A part of me often wonders whether you’re just “born with it”, or whether you’re born into environments that allow people to discover and consistently practice these techniques. Or, maybe it’s just luck.

There are many different paths you can walk on the journey to health and wellness, nutrition, drugs, meditation. However, I want to put diet aside in this discussion to look at how these people gain performance through the mindset of physical practice alone. I think this could be a really interesting topic to dive into.

I’ve come up with a list of people that I have followed for some time and they all seem to push the limits of human performance, sometimes further than what science would say possible.  Unfortunately, a few mentioned here have passed away, but they deserve a mention because they have radically changed how some people see the world.

My personal list of inspirational people that have, or do, push the limits of mindset and performance are:

  • David Goggins
  • Scott Carney
  • Wim Hoff
  • Stig Severensin
  • Lee Holden
  • Laird Hamilton
  • Buddha
  • Iyengar

What do they all have in common and what makes them unique?

We currently live in a world with seemingly limitless food and dietary choices available each promising unique health and performance benefits. But if we set diet and nutrition aside, how can we change our physiology, our way of being, purely through mindset, action or breathing techniques? Does the way we move our bodies and think have long lasting and permanent effects on our metabolism, our emotional state, and the way we relate to our environment?

Through studying people that have pushed through perceived “human limits”, I think we can understand more about consciousness and the true driving force of change. And maybe, it can lead to us being more effective, happy and resilient human beings. Which means, we are getting more from life and giving more to others.

Observation:

Breathing is a conscious and unconscious process that can be manipulated to greatly enhance our energy, immune system and emotional state.

The mind and breath are woven together. They are 2 x sides of the same coin, the yin and yang, inseparable, with conscious and unconscious states of function. But they can also be consciously brought into our own control if we focus in the right way. And what these leaders in mindset, breath-work and manipulators of physiology show us is that:

We can change our breath and mind, to change our lives.

  • Teachings of the Buddha often spoke about how the mind is directly related to breath. The Buddha focused on the application of mindfulness and observed how the body and breath was affected. 
  • Laird Hamilton is a professional big wave surfer and joint founder of XPT. He uses breathwork, ice immersion and specialised underwater training techniques to manipulate and improve physiological performance.
  • Wim Hof or “The Iceman” uses specialised breathing techniques and ice therapy to create peak oxygen saturation levels, which can directly increase breath holding capacity. Scientific trials evaluated his techniques, which revealed abilities to control the immune system. The “Wim Hof Method” is a 10 x week online training course teaching the entire method.
  • Stig Severensin (breatheology) uses the power of the breath to dive to the deepest parts of the ocean, and holds the world record for the longest free dive. He uses specialised breathing techniques and workshops to boost performance.
  • David Goggins is an ex Navy Seal and author (Can’t Hurt Me)with the seemingly unshakeable power of mindset, a master of his own mind and body. He radically transforms and alters any normal person’s belief of what we are capable of.
  • Lee Holden is a QI Gong practitioner. Qi Gong is an ancient art that has evolved over thousands of years, working with the body’s own energy systems, focusing on Qi (oxygen) transformation, movement with breath, for the accumulation of positive energy states.
  • Iyengar is a well-known yogi who passed away some years ago, who used certain physical postures to improve the human condition. Another core practice of yoga is pranayama, the use of breath work in various forms to transform the mind, body and spirit. Check out this video for one seriously long breath!
  • Scott Carney is an author (What Doesn’t Kill Us, The Wedge) and journalist/anthropologist, brings investigative journalism and uses himself as the test subject. Even though he may not necessarily be seen as a “Guru” in the space, he has been deeply involved in some of the above techniques and has intricate knowledge of how the systems work, with great journalistic insight in the field. He showed us real data that breathwork and cold therapy done consistently can shift your body into a ketogenic state.

These individuals have an understanding of how breath and strength of mindset have immediate and long-term effects. Some use breath to modify themselves, or mindset to alter their trajectory in life. They understand how breath and mindset can transform our limiting beliefs, building an optimistic perspective, leading ourselves, through our own dedicated work, to the promised land of mind mastery. But that’s one key point: 

No one can do it for us. We all must do the work. Using our mind and body to sketch out over time, a masterpiece of physiology.

Buddha was more focused on the function and purification of mind, how the mind affected our lives, so was more aware of how our breath was affected by the mind in its natural state. But individuals like Wim Hoff and Laird Hamilton seem to understand how to use that mind/body connection of breath, reverse engineering it, training the breath to alter our states. With consistent practice, that creates long-term changes for peak Pperformance.

CONSISTENCY = ADAPTATION.

There are however some key differences between how these leaders have gone about change. That is, the observation of mindset and how it influences us in the environment – VS – How we can use power of breath to drive positive mindset and physiological change.

Given how closely the breath is linked to the mind, it almost appears that breath can be reverse engineered to affect the mind. Buddhist practices noticed this:  A turbulent mind affects the breath. Notice in yourself what happens when you come face to face with a stressful event, see if you can observe what your breath is doing in that moment.

What I think modern day leaders in the field have done is learn how to reverse engineer the breath, using various techniques, practices and environmental stresses (cold water therapy) to direct physiological responses, which is ultimately linked to how the mind perceives the environment.

So what can we learn?

Every human has a set of lungs. Which means everyone has the ability to practice the very same techniques that these “Gurus” and Mindset leaders have so graciously shared with the human race. I am truly grateful for what they have brought to us.

It means that everyone has the potential for change if we are willing to put the work in and be consistent. And with that said, if all of us have the same equipment (lungs, brain) and have the ability to focus on anything, then:

Each and every one of us have the potential to achieve feats that we might only see or read about, or think is impossible. We can find ourselves in territory previously undreamed.

Although not all of us might want to use that potential to surf a 30 foot wave at Jaws, or break records climbing Mt Everest in nothing but shorts (read more), at the very least, whatever we decide our passions in life are, we can use the breath and mindset to have a positive impact on our lives and mindset.

We can all push ourselves to new limits, using these passionate individuals as a beacon of inspiration. 

Something we can all be grateful for. 

Thank you for reading,

Chad

References/Credit:

https://www.sonima.com/meditation/wim-hof/ – Picture Credit