Grow Your Brain and Prevent Fatigue through Breath Control

April 3, 2017 – 8:03 am

Less than 10% of people have physiologically normal breathing. Yet, the brain withers without oxygen and thrives when bathed in it. Neurodegenerative diseases heal and cognitive decline reverses in the presence of aerobic challenge.

Washed with oxygen, you grow new brain cells (neurogenesis). You get smarter from aerobic exercise, if you follow it immediately with a cognitive task, from reading, studying, or memorizing. (Ratey, John. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain)

However, without breath control, the base, emotional brain hijacks the higher, executive brain with reflexive breathing. When this triggers, fear chemistry floods your system, and deactivates brain activity and growth. Blood flow constricts as your lower brain assumes, from your lack of breath control, that your skills and capabilities are insufficient to the challenge, and that you need jet-fueled capacity to overcome the challenge. Instead of the flush of oxygen helping to build new brain cells, it is choked off from cell creation and reallocated to gross motor muscles.

With breath control, however, your brain’s perception of the intensity never triggers the fear threshold and so, the oxygen bathes new brain cells along with a “Miracle Gro” growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Even into senior age, you regain the new brain cell growth of a babe, when you have both aerobic challenge and breath control.

Breath control, despite how it’s attempted to be defined by pseudo-scientific exercise and yoga methods, from a neuroscience perspective, relates specifically to PACE: your breath synchronized with the mechanics of a specific activity.


Evolutionarily, there is a specific pace or cadence of breath for every action. When your breath falls out of that cadence, it triggers a protective reflex in the brain, conventionally called “fatigue” and begins motor shutdown sequences to reduce muscle strength and activation to avoid overexertion and injury. You literally become weak when you can’t control your breath, and stronger and more enduring when you can.

Almost every person can name someone from memory who has encountered someone who was apparently unfit or at least out of shape who could outperform the fit and conditioned counterparts. When your breath is in cadence to your stride-, stroke-, or strike-length, the brain never triggers the fatigue reflex, and so those individuals with high levels of breath control (whether from character, experience or training), seem to defy fatigue and go on indefinitely.

The internal timepiece in the brain, which lies at a particular area of the hypothalamus called the suprachasmiatic region, is wound or sprung by breath control. In cadence, it optimizes your performance and never activates fatigue. Out of cadence - you instantly become weaker and eventually collapse.


Marathoners, swimmers, rowers and martial artists can be “psyched out” by self-perception and downshift their breathing to forceful grunts or desperate pants. When this happens, the brain immediately detects your dys-synchrony, and initiates fatigue by reducing muscle control. You feel weaker faster in a downward spiral, causing increased psychological worry, creating even more rapid fatigue. Every athlete knows this quicksand.

Whereas almost all cognitive coaches and psychologists attempt to create mental strategies to thwart this decline, they are chasing the tail of a tornado; hopelessly causing their clients to feel that they’re mentally weak and that they need mental toughness against the storm of fatigue.

It couldn’t be farther from the truth. Weakness is a protective reflex of the brain designed to prevent injury and overexertion. The brain is SUCCESSFULLY doing its job. Fighting it is futile and sets you up for a lifetime of self-deprecation for your weakness. High performers are usually SO talented that they do well in spite of sub-optimized breathing, rather than because of it.

Even Olympic level athletes and high performers in Special Operations, face unnecessary war of negative internal dialogue due to:

  • Counterproductive psychological strategies for “toughness” against fatigue.
  • Unhealthy beliefs that fatigue isn’t useful or positive.

Knowing precisely what causes those alarms (lack of breath cadence) which triggers fatigue, prevents the protective reflex from being engaged.


Practicing any activity with breath control prevents fatigue from ever being triggered. Practicing and restoring breath cadence creates:

  • new brain cell growth, offsetting cognitive decline and augmenting awareness, attention and memory;
  • denser brain cell connectivity (dendrite “bushiness”) for innovation, creativity and problem solving;
  • and thicker (myelin) sheathes for faster reaction and smoother motor control and idea creation and communication.

The hardest part is once your breath has run off the rails for ANY reason. The reason it does isn’t important, though that’s where sport and performance psychology typically fixates, and thus causing the “tail to wag the dog.”

The reason isn’t critical, and could even be ignored. The mechanism, the means, by which fatigue was triggered can be reversed; and the engines - your muscle activation and control - can be re-engaged and bring your higher brain back online.

But no cognitive, relaxation or therapeutic breathing technique can help you get back on the rails once you’ve derailed. They were never designed for regaining synchronous breathing cadence. You can’t get here from there.


You need to know the evolutionary mechanisms which reset breath synchrony. Only taking the┬ásteps from a Stress Physiology perspective can reset your breath. And there’s only ONE way to do it. No variation. No styles. No individuality. You’re a human like everyone else and your brain has the same protective reflexes as every other human.

Once the base brain has hijacked control from executive function, you need to reclaim control. You can’t try to breathe like you did when you were relaxed or you’ll make it worse.

You can’t think about a breathing “technique” because your thoughts have been hijacked by the stress center of the brain.

You can’t lower your anxiety because you’re in debt and must supply more oxygen to the body demand.

You have to take one step at a time and shutdown the alarms in sequence, and bring brain function back up to the executive prefrontal control. If you do this in the right sequence, you will ALWAYS regain control. And if you don’t, you never will. You’ll either quit, get hurt or it’ll suck horribly and you’ll just be lucky that time.


You’re bound to fall out of synchrony in your breath. You’ll become distracted by the external world or by the monotony of your activity and failed attention to form. You’ll become seduced into breathing like, or in reaction to, a competitor or adversary (called breath entrainment). You’ll become hurt, hit or vulnerable, and you’ll fall from breath cadence.

When you do, you CAN re-synchronize your breath. But forget about your thoughts. Don’t worry about your emotions. Don’t even be concerned about your body. They’re all doing what they’re supposed to do: protect you.

Your breath is the master control switch to optimal (if not, supernatural) levels of performance, as well as to brain growth and longevity for your entire long life.

Because my brain was broken, I was forced to master this and re-own it every day of my life in order to give the appearance of normalcy. Because of it, I can cast the illusion of high performance above even my genetic superiors.


But you will have to steady yourself to withstand volumes of misinformation in nearly every field, and especially from subject matter experts in the activities that you do. They may be the best at the physical act of the skills in their trade but under high stress, they have no tools to help prevent you from derailing and help you get back on the rails.

A few may be able to communicate:

  • How to establish breath cadence for the activity;
  • How to restore breath cadence once lost (for any reason);
  • How to impose or disrupt breath cadence on a competitor or adversary (if you care).


I’ve been teaching this approach for over twenty years now. It can also be found in the RESET Breathing Method (from and gain up to six times the performance of even a well conditioned-athlete. More importantly, reverse neurological and cognitive decline, so that your most important organ, your brain, lives as long and high quality as possible.

Very Respectfully,

Scott B. Sonnon

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