Everyone starts life with a deep breath – and continues to keep breathing for more than 25,000 times a day until their final breath. Despite breathing on autopilot for all our lives, Severinsen argues that few people know how to breathe properly, and by inhaling and exhaling incorrectly, can induce bad habits and stress that inhibit wellbeing.
As a mix of timeless wisdom, cutting-edge science and measurable physical performance, Severinsen explains his philosophy to fine tune mind and body, called Breatheology, offers ‘something positive to every single human being interested in improving various areas of their lives.’
Here, we look at Breatheology – the claims, evidence and the exercises and ask does Breatheology work?
Who is Stig Severinsen?
The Stig Severinsen roll of honour is highlighted on his web site Breatheology as a biology master and a PhD in medicine, four times world free-diving champion, a multiple world record holder, founder of Breatheology, bet-selling author of Breatheology – The Art of Conscious Breathing, coach and mentor.
Voted The Ultimate Superman on a Discovery Channel program, Severinsen, born in Denmark in 1973, is known as the man who doesn’t breathe.
His iron man reputation and physical prowess started young.
Starting to swim form the age of six years old, Severinsen graduated to holding Danish national swimming titles for four years in a row aged nine to 12. During this time, he reportedly sat at the bottom of his parent’s pool and practised holding his breath for longer and longer periods.
He played underwater sports, such as rugby and hockey, finding he could hold his breath for a long time while submerged. This led him to free diving, where he held four world records.
His Guinness world records include shattering Wim Hof’s achievement of swimming under ice in only a pair of shorts by reaching a massive 72 metres. Hof managed just under 58 metres. Severinsen also took the Guinness world record for holding his breath under water by submerging for an unbelievable 22 minutes.
Severinsen gave up sports and competing for world records in 2013 to concentrate on teaching Breatheology, which he describes as his life’s mission.
Breatheology is one of many alternative therapies expounding the benefits of conscious breathing to promote physical and mental wellbeing.
The method is part of a bigger craze called breathwork that has swept the world of alternative therapies in recent years.
In Breatheology, Severinsen proposes that breathing properly links the body and mind so a person can control stress, increase energy, perform better physically and mentally, alleviate pain and improve health.
The online site Breatheology offers advice about how to improve health, increase athletic performance, reduce stress and post-traumatic stress syndrome as well as explaining how to recover and rehabilitate faster with breathing and breath holding techniques.
Severinsen argues few people breath properly and changing their breathing patterns can lead to better relaxation and a healthier mind and body.
Breatheology is a business as well as a way of life, which allows Severinsen to sell books, clothing and courses and professional coaching through his web site.
Other coaches and mentors can also buy in to Breatheology to offer their own life coaching under Stig Severinsen’s global branding.
What the scientists say?
Stig Severinsen repeats across his web sites and Breatheology promotional material that his method has ‘proven its worth in helping people rehabilitate faster from post-traumatic stress/anxiety and normal daily stress to Olympic gold-winning athletes and Navy SEALs increase their mental power and keep calm in stressful situations.’
Despite the claims and some individual testimonials posted online, there appears to be no mainstream scientific support that Breatheology or any other breath technique delivers the physical gains claimed by any exponent.
The best advice medical practitioners can suggest is if you feel better after taking part in Breatheology or similar methods, then go ahead if you are with someone else who can help if you are exercising in water.
The American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies(2009), which states breathwork has no proven positive health impact other than promoting relaxation.
A Dublin Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience study adds that breathing patterns can improve focus on tasks needing a great deal of concentration.
“It took me 20 years to put all this knowledge together and I’m still learning,”
Does Breatheology really work?
Deciding if Breatheology works probably depends on what you are looking for the techniques to provide.
The argument can run both ways, with thousands of satisfied customers praising the benefits of Breatheology, while others would criticise the deal as a slick repackaging of techniques and wisdom available for free elsewhere.
Severinsen freely admits he has combined the techniques of free driving with the timeless mysticism taught by Indian gurus.
“It took me 20 years to put all this knowledge together and I’m still learning,” he says.
Stig Severinsen points out that most of the people he speaks to on his travels spreading the word about Breatheology only use three-quarters of their breathing capacity and the rest goes to waste.
This means the way you breathe translates into the way you live because breathing in oxygen generates energy and that’s why so many ancient Eastern philosophies have so much focus on breathing.
Severinsen explains that breathing is life energy and is called prana in India and Chi/Qi in China, but modern science has no term for this, so Severinsen along with others had to invent their own.
And this is how Breatheology was born.
Passionate teacher with a mission
“I’m passionate about teaching people to breathe freely because I think it’s such a shame, because I see the pain in their faces and the sickness in people and the frustration because people do not know how to breathe,” says Severinsen in his Discovering Your True Breathing Power video.
The course goes on to explain that training the body and following a decent diet is not enough – you must add conscious breathing.
Breatheology is Severinsen’s framework created from his years of experience studying and being studied as part of his ambitious mission to make the world breathe better.
The first major tip from Severinsen is to always use your nose because it’s there to help you breathe, while the mouth is for exhalation.
So, he says, breathe in through the nose and exhale with the mouth.
“I guarantee what I am teaching you will change your life,” he confidently boasts in the video.
Severinsen borrows many of his techniques from yoga and embellishes them with a personal touch.
The first exercise simply breathing in deeply through the nose, pausing for a second or two, then slowly breathing out through the mouth.
The sound of inhaling and exhaling is important, he says, because focus on the sound links the activity to feeling more relaxed.
The secret of yoga is controlling your breathing and slowing down your heart rate, which reduces blood pressure and stress.
“Linking the mind and body through controlled breathing allows you to unleash the true potential,2 says Severinsen.
Exhalation is the key
The key to relaxation is exhalation, he adds, which reliefs your stress.
Breathing with your chest has negative effects, like pressurising the heart and other vital organs.
“There’s no fine control of the way you breathe if you breathe with the chest rather than through the nose,” he said.
The objective is to become conscious of how you breathe so you can develop a way of training and controlling your body.
The second exercise is to put one hand on your belly and one on your chest, while inhaling to feel your lungs first and then your chest. Next, exhale.
Basic yoga breathing
“This is basic yoga breathing and what you should do all day,” he said. “You can change your life for free with this right away.”
Severinsen takes this further with exercise three – what he calls the warrior or psychic breath, which seems to be the same as exercise one with an added ‘haaaaaa’ as you exhale.
Of course, Severinsen has 20 hours of guidance and exercises in his fundamental and experience courses, but there seems a lot of padding in the video that takes 24 minutes to get across the simple basics of breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.
Holding your breath is also a key part of Breatheology and this is covered in the second free video Hold Your Breath – Meet Your Inner Dolphin
The first exercise on this video is breathing in and holding that breath for up to 15 seconds, then exhaling.
Now, gradually extend the time that you hold your breath for as long as you feel comfortable. Try 30 seconds or even a minute.
Seeking your inner dolphin
The more you practise, the longer you can last, says Severinsen, and after weeks or months of training, you should be able to hold your breath for much longer than a minute.
“Holding your breath for a few seconds help you destress and organise your mind,” Severinsen. “But don’t attempt to hold your breath alone in water because you could black out.”
One-Two breathing is also introduced as the next exercise.
“This is the simplest and most effective exercise if you need to relax,” says Severinsen. “Just inhale for five seconds, pause and exhale for 10 seconds. That’s why it’s called One-Two breathing, because of the ratio of inhaling to exhaling.
“This exercise let’s you tap into your inner dolphin and if you feel your pulse, you can actually feel your heart rate dropping.”
Improving rest and recuperation
Video three has a focus on rehabilitation and how Breatheology can improve rest and recuperation.
“Rather than doctors resorting to drugs, you need to rewrite your story and stop visiting the past if you want to improve,” says Severinsen. “Breathing and holding your breath is so beautiful and powerful in these cases.”
Severinsen offers two case studies – Morten, a sports psychologist who suffers from Lyme’s Disease and Geoff, who struggles to control post-traumatic stress (PTSD).
Lyme’s Disease impacted his balance and his eyesight.
“Doctors said he would never walk again,” said Severinsen. “I told him I would get him back on his feet. Over three months we worked together in land and water. After three months he walked out of the hospital regardless of what the doctors said. It was an amazing transformation.”
Breatheology can help recuperation from many diseases, not just Lyme Disease.
Helping victims of extreme stress
In Geoff’s case, his best friend died in his arm while he was serving overseas.
“He had difficulty coming to terms with the death,” said Severinsen. “He came to one of my workshops and we worked with positive psychology and in the pool. He doesn’t think about the past because he can’t change it and must turn to living in the moment.”
His research suggests personal tragedy is the biggest trigger of PTSD and they wanted to find out how to rewire their system – which is what he aims to do with Breatheology.
The final exercise on the video is training the diaphragm, the muscle that helps with breathing.
Severinsen demonstrates breathing from the diaphragm, like an opera singer.
The free mini course is followed by some other free videos, drip-fed over a few days, covering water safety and rescue techniques and seven steps towards the Elements Of Breatheology.
These are listed as:
- Breathing consciously
- Power of relaxation
- The unknown benefits of breath holding
- Breathing in sports
- Why breathing can benefit rehabilitation
- The importance of daily breath work
The extra material consolidates the free Discovery course videos.
“In all modesty, I feel The Breatheology Method – with it’s very approachable and techniques and framework is a great way to start on a new journey – with more consciousness and simple and practical tools to implement in everyday life situations,” says Severinsen.
“Trying to condense the very best from thousands of years of ancient knowledge and thousands of hours from science and sports is no easy task. But I have made this my life’s mission and I sincerely hope that you will find something just for you to use in your life.”
German 19thcentury philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that seems to sum up Breatheology.
The aim is to improve mind and body by reducing stress through breathing exercises.
Stig Severinsen says athletes can perform better because Breatheology not only makes them focus but helps tune their bodies into stronger machines that can cope with extremes of movement and temperature better and for longer than untrained bodies.
Individuals can also learn how to handle day to day stress by pursuing breathing techniques that reduce heart rate and tension and give them a platform for calm meditation.
Breatheology can balance the immune system and help with recuperation from mental and physical illness.
How much does Breatheology cost?
Stig Severinsen offers two paths for Breatheology devotees – as an individual or as a certified trainer.
If you want to find out about the techniques just for yourself, then follow the individual path.
As a trainer, you are effectively buying into a Breatheology franchise and renting the right to market the brand as a business by paying an initial certification fee followed by renewals that lock you into continuing professional development.
Your Breatheology journey starts for free
Start your Breatheology journey with a free, discovery taster course.
The course sets out the basics of Severinsen’s Breatheology and the benefits you can expect from following his tuition.
He also tells the story of how he became a diving champion by discovering his ‘inner dolphin’.
Severinsen also claims his techniques can aid those struggling with post-traumatic stress, depression, post-polio and Lyme Disease by combining Breatheology and positive thinking.
Discovering the fundamentals
Fundamentals is the next step for individuals who enjoyed the free taster and want to move up a level with Breatheology.
Unlocking the course costs US$497 and leads to 51 lessons that for 13 hours that last eight to 12 weeks. Monthly membership can be bought for $67.
Severinsen says the course is about training people to give good breathing habits with a guided online program.
He says the Fundamentals course is designed to give people a structure to a training program that fits their body and daily routines.
Take the experience
If you are really a fan of Stig Severinsen, you can add another course, the Breatheology Experience, to your learning library.
The experience adds another 12 hours of guided lectures, exercises, lessons and worksheets to improve ‘performance, endurance and mental strength in any sport, water or stress situations.’
The package costs $497.
Buying into the Breatheology franchise for professionals
The Breatheology Instructor Certification program sounds grand and expensive – and lives up to both.
Severinsen explains the program shares his secret tips and coaching methods and goes ‘in-depth with human anatomy, mental triggers, psychology and communication and all the aspects of the Breatheology.’
The course offers eight weeks of intensive online video training and mentorship, plus a chance to share thoughts with other professionals in a closed online community.
The course comprises 42 videos, Severinsen hosting conference-call classes every week and a three-day certification workshop in Denmark and a workshop introducing underwater breathing techniques.
Breaking down the cost
The price is $7,497 including meals and accommodation for three days in Denmark, but excluding travel.
Certification is valid for two years and costs $150 to renew after taking a renewal workshop, completing an online seminar or showing merit through speeches, coaching or publishing Breatheology material.
Marketing material licensing and listing on the Breatheology web site costs an additional $475, although the first-year licensing cost is included in the initial cost of certification.
The Breatheology web site lists 26 certified instructors worldwide, excluding Stig Severinsen, although application is open for up to another 30 to join in 2019.
The Breatheology Masterclass.
With the Masterclass, Stig Severinsen offers one-to-one tuition and mentorship in an exotic location.
Previous masterclasses have run in Fiji, the Maldives and involve a lot of underwater wildlife encounters is crystal clear seas, such as swimming with sharks and large rays.
The video shows Severinsen and the course delegates aboard a luxury yacht and swimming in coral atolls, but don’t mention a price.
Stig Severinsen has enlisted testimonials from several athletes who are pleased that following his Breatheology method has enhanced their performance.
- CrossFit Games athlete Scott Mackenzie, who said: “I was in awe of what he was talking about, so simple yet so powerful… everybody had a lightbulb moment… it´s not just breathing – there´s so much more to it.”
- Pro surfer Courney Conlogue personally thanks Severinsen for helping with her breathing.
- Pro big wave surfer Greg Longon, who explained: “The knowledge and expertise around the art of conscious breathing that Stig provides with Breatheology is the foundation to creating that balance within oneself. That balance is something that every individual in this world will benefit from.”
Stig Severinsen – Crank or guru?
Like his colleagues Wim Hof and Dan Brule, Severinsen is well-meaning and offers what he feels is genuine knowledge, coaching and mentorship to people who want to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing by taking up his methods.
They undoubtedly work for many people who benefit from Breatheology in their daily lives.
According to Severinsen, 40,000 people are registered with the Breatheology web site and 3,000 have gone on to take a course.
Against, the cynics would argue that Breatheology is a revamp of Prana Yoga and other mystical Eastern philosophies and breathing techniques given a slick commercial badge as a money-making machine.
There’s no judgement here – you must pay your money and make your choice.
And the cost is fully worthwhile if Breatheology changes your life for the better.