Jul 302017
 

Join me and Professor Kevin Yackle at UCSF Mission Bay for a seminar on breath work and intro to freediving, 4:30-6:30 on Th Aug 10, 2017. Limited spots available (including by video). Please RSVP to me, rlee at codex.stanford.edu

http://yacklelab.ucsf.edu/

4:30-5:15 Breath Work

5:15-6:30 Apnea (up to 3 minutes)

Conference Room: Genentech Hall S261.

Google Hangout: meet.google.com/ogq-ajhc-mbu

If you are not familiar with UCSF campus, I suggest you meet me at The Pub at 4PM so I can take you to the conference room. There is free parking several blocks away at/near 16th Street. Otherwise use the meters or parking garage. Some of us may get dinner after.

The Pub, 1675 Owens St, San Francisco, CA 94158

More info here: http://fl0wstate.com/robert

And here: https://blog.bulletproof.com/robert-lee-breathing-for-performance-focus-freediving-185/

Here is a prologue to the seminar:

ZERO What Scared the Fearless Woman?

“What Scared the Fearless Woman?” was a 2013 story on NPR’s Science Friday. The story described a paper in Nature Neuoroscience that studied patients with a condition that causes atrophy of the brain’s amygdala center. The amygdala is a corpus that mediates fear and other emotions in humans. Thus it was believed that these patients had lost the ability to feel fear. An article in The Guardian describes the same study:

The patient known as S.M. has not experienced fear since she was a child, and has fascinated brain researchers for many years. In 2010, one team noted that she makes risky financial decisions in experimental economics games, because she isn’t afraid of losing money. Another tried everything they could to frighten the life out of her – but failed. They showed her clips from some of the scariest horror films ever made, asked her to handle large spiders and snakes, and took her to a haunted house. On no occasion did she show the smallest sign of fear, even when faced with traumatic events and potentially life-threatening threats.

The experimenters placed the patient on a breathing mask that simulated suffocation. Within seconds, S.M. started to waive and scream. To the surprise of the experimenters, and S.M. herself, it turns out that she was capable of experiencing fear, even outright panic, but only with respect to this one stimulus.

Upshot— the drive to breathe in humans is so fundamental and atavistic that it invokes an entirely different, and more basic pathway of fear than other stimuli associated with danger. And this is why exploring the nature of breathing and learning to “breathe better”, as we will do in this document, can be a unique and profoundly powerful way of managing fear and anxiety. At the end, we will also explore the challenge of learning to arrest that breathing— that is, holding our breath. Should you choose to try this extended breath holding (called voluntary apnea), you will experience a unique challenge that can result in powerful benefits for your confidence, literally on an existential level, and your peace of mind.

Jun 282017
 

room_cropI have rooms for rent in my brand new house 22 miles S of San Jose airport, right off the 101. It is also close to the Morgan Hill Caltrain station, where the Google and Apple buses pick up.

Why you would want to live here:

Pristine, new house in a beautiful neighborhood near the necessities – Trader Joe’s, Target …

No lease commitment, but cheap, $250/week. Perfect if you are new to town for school, and want a place to crash while looking for a permanent place (though you are welcome to stay long term). $25 extra for private bathroom.

Easy parking.

There is also a converted library (big and cozy, but near the kitchen) available for $200/week.

Why you would NOT want to live here:

A bit of a drive to San Jose (you will want to have a car unless you are prepared for a long bike / bus ride).

The house is in a town (Morgan Hill), not a city.

The house has only the basics. It is a new and clean, but I don’t have a couch, TV, living room. This is a place to sleep, study, and is best suited for those who work long hours and/or spend their leisure time out of the house.

The housing complex does have a pool, hot tub, basketball court, outdoor grill, tables with a view for eating outside when the weather is good. I often cook and eat outside.

Additional:

My house is directly across the street from this Starbucks, open from 5:30am to 9pm. It is right next to an open field, not a concrete jungle. I work from there a lot.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Starbucks/@37.1440569,-121.6643677,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x8c45f19d33c3d67c!8m2!3d37.1440569!4d-121.6643677

I am pretty well connected in the Silicon Valley ecosystem: Google, VC firms, Stanford.

Please email me at rlee at codex dot stanford dot edu. I don’t check the comments below.

Your room looks like the above picture. Here is a virtual tour of a model of the home (mine is not furnished like this).

http://www.modelhomephotos.com/tours/taylormorrison/madrone_plaza/unit_A/flash/index.html

A little info about me:

fl0wstate.com/robert

Thanks!

Robert

Jun 162017
 

room_cropI have rooms for rent in my brand new house 22 miles S of San Jose airport, right off the 101. It is also close to the Morgan Hill Caltrain station, where the Google and Apple buses pick up.

Why you would want to live here:

Pristine, new house in a beautiful neighborhood near the necessities – Trader Joe’s, Target …

No lease commitment, but cheap, $200/week. Perfect if you are new to town for school, and want a place to crash while looking for a permanent place (though you are welcome to stay long term).

Why you would NOT want to live here:

A bit of a drive to San Jose (you will want to have a car unless you are prepared for a long bike / bus ride).

The house is in a town (Morgan Hill), not a city.

The house has only the basics. It is a new and clean, but I don’t have a couch, TV, living room. This is a place to sleep, study, and is best suited for those who work long hours and/or spend their leisure time out of the house.

Additional:

My house is directly across the street from this Starbucks, open from 5:30am to 9pm. It is right next to an open field, not a concrete jungle. I work from there a lot.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Starbucks/@37.1440569,-121.6643677,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x8c45f19d33c3d67c!8m2!3d37.1440569!4d-121.6643677

I am pretty well connected in the Silicon Valley ecosystem: Google, VC firms, Stanford.

Please email me at rlee at codex dot stanford dot edu. I don’t check the comments below.

Your room looks like the above picture. Here is a virtual tour of a model of the home (mine is not furnished like this).

http://www.modelhomephotos.com/tours/taylormorrison/madrone_plaza/unit_A/flash/index.html

A little info about me:

fl0wstate.com/robert

Thanks!

Robert

Apr 042016
 

Introduction to Breathing Skills for Surf Survival and Freediving

On May 11, I will be doing a lecture introduction to breathing skills and freediving. We will build up to a three-minute breath hold.

The curriculum will follow these materials

For those of you who don’t know me, here is my bio and podcast

Three-Part Seminar
1: Breathing Skills for Stress Management & Performance
2: Introduction to Breathhold
3: Introduction to Bay Area Diving (equipment, classes available, abalone diving)

You are welcome to bring drink and snacks, but don’t eat a large meal beforehand, because breath holds are difficult on a full stomach.

Price: $120 ($100 after $20 deposit)
Group of two : $110 each ($200 after $20 deposit)

$20 deposit payable here, which gives you an easy-to-read pdf version of the above document to review before class (optional)

Pay the balance in cash on site. Add $20 to each spot if paying the by Venmo, Check, or Credit Card

One Embarcadero Center, 4th Floor
SF 94111, Clay & Battery, 94111

Take escalator to the business lobby. Turn left at the guard desk, go to the fourth floor, text me at (510) 427-2049 and I will let you in. Class starts at 6:15, but you should aim to arrive before 6 so you don’t have to check in with the guard. You will save significant time an hassle by arriving before 6.

You can also attend by Google hangout!

Join video call

My SkypeID is buriedmirror

My # is five one oh 427 2049
Email is rlee at codex dot stanford dot edu

And finally, follow my Facebook Page for trips and adventures

Apr 042016
 

The 12 Second Meditation: Mindful Breathing for Stress Management & Performance

Available for free across multiple web pages. Start here

Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes

These products do not qualify you to carry out or supervise breath holds in water, but give you an introduction to short breath holds on land. I do not provide breath hold info for free online so as to create a gateway to warn of the risks.

***

Some Freediving Videos

(1) My favorite freediving video

Kirk Krack chilling underwater and perfect bubble rings. Freediving not as extreme competitive sport, but meditative, contemplative way of enjoying the ocean. Filmed by Ren Chapman.

(2) Freefall

The most viewed freediving video of all time.

(3) GoPro’s Whale Fantasia

Mandy, Erin, and Ashleigh also chilling underwater, with humpback whales

(4) Blackout

The video ends abruptly because the cameraman had to rescue the diver! Also filmed by Ren Chapman.

Plus, my video podcast from the 2014 Bulletproof Conference.

Some great photographers who specialize in freediving

(1) Joakim Hjelm

(2) Courtney Platt

(3) Logan Mock-Bunting

Freediving schools certified by Performance Freediving

Garo Hachigian’s California Freedive Academy & Shell Eisenberg’s Hawaii Classes

Ted Harty’s Immersion Freediving

May 072015
 

This is an updated version of a post I did in 2014 for Erin Magee’s Freediveblog.com.

I’m sitting here in our condos with Andrew Hogan on Monday, May 19, 2013, two days after the end of Deja Blue V. We’re the stragglers, tying up some loose ends before heading off for SF and Vancouver.

Deja Blue was a great experience as always. Deja Blue III in 2012 featured Ashley’s world records and Erin’s national records, as well as the national records of our late friend Nic. Logan Mock-Bunting published a fantastic photo essay about the competition on CNN. This year’s competition didn’t feature as many deep dives, but was still a great success.

Part of my own personal approach to freediving is represented in this photo.

40.5 crop

On any given day, after we prepare the diving rig for competition, we have some time do our own warmups. Depending on the day, we may have time to do a couple of deep dives.

The dive recorded on this watch expresses, quite succinctly, my approach, philosophy, and skills with respect to this sport. It says 40.5m (133ft) and 4 minutes, 5 seconds, which was my longest warmup free immersion dive in Cayman this year.

The reason I enjoy teaching freediving and doing safety work is because they are forms of functional freediving. I’ve never been able to dive super deep— I have some equalizing issues that make it difficult for me to easily get beyond 40m. While I’m sure I could dive deeper than my PB of 50m, it would take quite a bit of work for limited reward. These sorts of issues are not uncommon. People have different physical idiosyncracies, and equalizing/ear issues are foremost among them.

However, I do have the capacity to dive 30-40m meters in a very useful way. I can go to those depth and carry out tasks such as tying off a line or supervising a student with ease. I’m especially known for being able to dive to 30m at the drop of a hat, and did so at Deja Blue III up to a dozen times a day. I can also equalize without pinching my nose to that depth, which makes it easier to carry objects such as a camera, or to dive fast to catch a dropped object.

As I passed this photo around at Deja Blue, I was surprised by how impressed people were by it. Even national record holders who have gone 80m+, were uncertain that they could do the same. I think they probably could, but the fact that they thought it was more than trivial was gratifying.

We freedivers know that pretty much most of the general population has the capacity to dive hundreds of feet and to hold their breath for several minutes. So while many people could learn to dive 40 meters for 4 minutes, I guess I can safely say that very few actually have. Someday I may try solve a Rubik’s Cube down there.

Along these lines, my favorite freediving video of all time is the one Ren Chapman filmed two years ago, of Kirk Krack blowing bubble rings, very casually, at 20m. It shows that freediving doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. It can just be graceful and intimate way of exploring the ocean.

And that is what appeals to me about this sport. The experience of learning to operate comfortably in a seemingly alien environment is immensely rewarding. It’s the closest thing to a space walk that I’ll ever experience. I am grateful to be able to share this experience with other people, and to use my skills to make students and dive competitors feel safe and attended to.

Apr 272015
 

(1) $2: The 12 Second Meditation pdf, https://gum.co/iuVY

If you wish to purchase any breath-holding products below, you must first review, agree to and comply with this document: Assumption of Risk 2015. This document is also included in the purchase packages, but if you want to review it before purchase, you can do it at the link.

These products do not qualify you to carry out or supervise breath holds in water, but give you an introduction to short breath holds on land. I do not provide breath hold info for free online so as to create a gateway to warn of the risks.

Purchase of these products is limited to a one-person digital license, to ensure that each user understands, agrees to and complies as such.

(2) $39: The 12 Second Meditation pdf + webinar, https://gum.co/iuVY

(2) $39: The 12 Second Meditation pdf + webinar, https://gum.co/iuVY

(3) $17: Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes pdf includes (1), https://gum.co/xXFP

(4) $96:Breath Holding: Getting to 3 Minutes pdf includes (2),  + https://gum.co/xXFP

***

Some Freediving Videos

(1) My favorite freediving video

Kirk Krack chilling underwater and perfect bubble rings. Freediving not as extreme competitive sport, but meditative, contemplative way of enjoying the ocean. Filmed by Ren Chapman.

(2) Freefall

The most viewed freediving video of all time.

(3) GoPro’s Whale Fantasia

Mandy, Erin, and Ashleigh also chilling underwater, with humpback whales

(4) Blackout

The video ends abruptly because the cameraman had to go any rescue the diver! Also filmed by Ren Chapman.

Plus, my video podcast from the 2014 Bulletproof Conference.

Some great photographers who specialize in freediving

(1) Joakim Hjelm

(2) Courtney Platt

(3) Logan Mock-Bunting

Freediving schools certified by Performance Freediving

Garo Hachigian’s California Freedive Academy & Shell Eisenberg’s Hawaii Classes

Ted Harty’s Immersion Freediving

Apr 242015
 

Thank you so much for taking time to read this document! I hope the content will serve you well. The materials in this document are available in webinar form at www.fl0wstate.com/book. You can also find materials there on Breath Holds for Surf Survival and Freediving: Getting to Three Minutes. Thank you again, and remember to breathe mindfully!

Inhale and Exhale, 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Apr 242015
 

Let us now apply mindful breathing to the use cases of Chapter 2.

(1) We will first look at management of chronic, everyday stress. In the abstract, there is nothing wrong with the build up of energy that accompanies a “fight or flight” response. It is evolutionarily adaptive in that it primes us to deal with a challenging event. In its original context, e.g., seeing a mountain lion, this stress can accurately be described as eustress, or good stress. Exercise is another kind of eustress. However if you exercise continuously for 16 hours a day, eustress become distress, or bad stress. The same is true of “fight or flight” stress, and we need to learn to deal with so that it doesn’t become chronic.

For example, many health and wellness practitioners recommend periodic breaks to combat the ills of sedentary jobs, particularly those with prolonged sitting. I like to schedule a very quick activity break every 15 minutes. Over the course of an hour, at 0:15, I will do one minute of mindful breathing (about 5 breaths) perhaps while standing or walking. At 0:30 I will take three minutes to do light physical activity that is ideally mentally challenging and engaging. Walking a slack line or riding a balance board (a board which simulates surfing) are great breaks. A quick yoga sequence or Microsoft Kinect game are also good. At 0:45 I will again do one minute of mindful breathing, and at 0:60 I will take five minutes to do something more active, such as jumping rope or swinging kettle bells. Three one-minute sessions with one minute rest work for me. I can do these activities at the office and they won’t cause me to sweat. You should use very modest weights, particularly for the first minute, because you will not be warmed up. You should of course do only activities that are appropriate for you and that are safe, and receive a medical doctor’s clearance to be safe. Balance activities can of course lead to falling and injury.

8. Balance Board, www.indoboard.com        9. Slackline, Wikipedia, Steffan A Frost

indo-board2

Cambridgeslackerssaf40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2) The idea behind managing a stressful event is quite similar to (1), except you will likely be in a more heightened emotional state than with chronic stress of (1). You heart rate will be rapid and your blood pressure high. Your breathing will likely be rapid and shallow, thus indicating a stressed state. But now you can take control. Do a comfortable diaphragm inhalation and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. You may find you have to work at it to slow down the exhale to a full 8 seconds. And you may find it takes more than a minute to get yourself back into a calm state. That’s OK, take as long as you need. Over time, you’ll find that you can rebalance yourself more quickly.

(3) Dealing with a stress-inducing performance or task is quite similar to (2), except that the stress is entirely self-imposed, by your own expectations. Physiologically, though, the symptoms are identical. It is important to deal with such anxiety because it often impairs our performance. A small amount of anxiety in anticipation of a task is good, but most people become too highly-aroused, likely because we as human being tend to over think things, unlike less cerebral animals. And too high a level of stress impairs performance, as has been studied and articulated in the Yerkes-Dodson law. This phenomenon was discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink:

Dave Grossman, a former army lieutenant colonel and the author of On Killing, argues that the optimal state of “arousal”-the range in which stress improves performance-is when our heart rate is between 115 and 145 beats per minute. Grossman says that when he measured the heart rate of champion marksman Ron Avery, Avery’s pulse was at the top of that range when he was performing in the field. The basketball superstar Larry Bird used to say that at critical moments in the game, the court would go quiet and the players would seem to be moving in slow motion. He clearly played basketball in that same optimal range of arousal in which Ron Avery performed. But very few basketball players see the court as clearly as Larry Bird did, and that’s because very few people play in that optimal range. Most of us, under pressure, get too aroused, and past a certain point, our bodies begin shutting down so many sources of information that we start to become useless.

10. Yerkes Dodson Law, Wikipedia, Yerkes & Dodson

yerkes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to prepare for an anticipated performance, go back to the mindful breathing basics. Take an inhale and exhale, 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Do a minute or more, as needed. If you don’t have much time, even one or two breaths will help. You will likely be unable to discharge all the stress from the impending task, as the task will still be hanging over your head. But that’s OK, since the Yerkes-Dodson curve tells us that a modest amount of anxiety is good for focus and performance.

While engaging in mindful breathing, it is helpful to close your eyes and visualize your performance. There have been many articles and books written about how to do such visualization, so we will not go into such details here. But let us do a quick visualization of an impending task that is brief and simple, using another basketball example. It is one where you will only have about 30 seconds to prepare for the task, but you can use mindful breathing effectively in this short amount of time.

Imagine you are playing a basketball game, whether it be the state championship or a pick up game with friends. You are on a fast break and you score a layup, but you have also been fouled with no time remaining on the clock. The game is tied. Now close your eyes. You have been exerting yourself, so you might need a couple of quick breaths to catch your breath. Go ahead and do that. As you walk over to the free throw line, you take a mindful breath, inhale and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. The referee bounces the basketball to you. You catch the ball as you inhale and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Now as you inhale you raise up the ball, and right when you exhale (a little harder than a relaxed exhale) you shoot the ball. Since the ball is now out of your hands, we won’t visualize whether it goes in or not. In fact, there is a term in sports performance called outcome expectation, which states that if you focus too much on the outcome, it is likely to hinder performance.

I hope that was visualization was useful for you. Now let’s move to (4), mindful breathing as a gateway to meditation and other practices. Meditation and other mind-body practices can seem a bit obscure when starting out, and they often have steep learning curves. It is this steep learning curve that has been one my main motivation in coming up with the 12 Second Meditation. I wanted to give people an extremely easy way of starting on the meditation pathway, a sort of “meditation for dummies”. And I do think it is a meaningful practice on its own, or in combination with some of these other arts. It is a natural fit with pranayama and kundalini yoga, as well as qigong and other arts that focus on the breath. Serious freedivers will often engage in one or more of these other practices to increase their breath hold and freediving abilities.

This is a good time to discuss nose versus mouth breathing. Both do the basic job, which is getting air into and out of your lungs. Most breathing arts prefer that you use your nose, especially during the inhale. Breathing in through the nose does do a few things— it filters the air via mucus and hair, and it warms the air as it passes through our sinuses. As it warms the air, it may also help cool the brain at the same time, see, for example, the work of Robert Zojonc on breathing.

How important these factors are as a matter of ongoing, autonomic breathing is up for debate. Actively trying to breathe through the nose may lead to you eventually using the nose more when you are not thinking about it. This is something you can work on yourself. We can try a little exercise with this now, and draw your attention to some interesting details.

So, let’s go back to our mindful breathing, using the mouth as before. Inhale and exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Do that twice more. Now, this time, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Do it twice more.

What did you notice? You probably felt that inhaling through the nose is a bit slower, as the passages in the nose and sinuses are smaller. There is nothing wrong with slowing down the inhale like this. We have been emphasizing that an extended exhale is the key to relaxation, but if the inhalation is a bit slower, this is fine, and many breathing arts prefer longer inhales.

There is one more thing that you might have noticed. When switching from exhaling through the mouth to inhaling through the nose, there is a slight pause, and a small movement inside your head. This movement is your soft palate moving from the up position to the down position. During breathing, air must move into or out of the lungs, whether we are using the nose or mouth. When using the mouth, the soft palette is in the up position, that is, open to the mouth, and when using the nose, the soft palette is in the down position, that is, open to the nose. Even though you are not generally aware of it, the soft palate is moving all the time to accommodate breathing and swallowing.

11. Upper Respiratory System (including Soft Palate), Bruce Blausen

Blausen_0872_UpperRespiratorySystem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can play with the four combinations of inhaling/exhaling and nose/mouth and be attuned to the movement of your palate with each. Freedivers generally both inhale and exhale through the mouth because we have a diving mask over our nose. You can even try to keep your palate in the neutral position, that is, halfway between up and down, although I can’t think of any good use for it except for freediving, where we have to move the air from mouth to sinuses in order to equalize pressure at depth, and circular breathing, for playing wind instruments without having to pause to take a breath. You can use a balloon to check if your palate is in this neutral position. Blow up the balloon and put it in your mouth. If you can let the air out of the balloon, through your sinuses and into your mouth, and out your nose, then the palate must be in the neutral position, that is, open to both your nose and mouth.

This is an opportune time to mention neti pots. Some medical professionals recommend rinsing your sinuses with salt water as an easy and cheap way of addressing respiratory health. This can be particularly helpful if you live in a dry environment or one with large amounts of particulates in the air. A neti pot or sinus rinse bottle is the device you use to do this.

sinus rinse big neitpot