You can listen to the Podcast here…
‘There was a time when after the accident that I had a fear of life because I had wounds, I had injuries, I had complaints and I asked, “how am I ever going to survive in this world with this disadvantage, I’m almost handicapped?” The free diving allowed me to transcend all that. I wanted to use it as an inner journey and I overcame fears. Nothing scares me anymore.’
Peter Walsh is a physiotherapist and director of the Tri-Logic Rhythms™ programme, as part of the Positive Breathing Institute – don’t worry if that tag-line is lost on you, it will be explained in detail later in the article. His practise is located in the beautiful countryside of County Tipperary, he greets us with scones that his wife made and cups of tea. For us urban dwellers happy memories of childhood summers in the west of Ireland comes to the fore, a time when you would have tea, sandwiches and homemade cakes in the fields after the hay was baled.
Aside from Walsh’s warm welcome, he has a natural ability to make your feel at ease. He smiles readily and he listens patiently. Everything he does is considered, from the way that he manoeuvres his athletic body to the words he speaks. There is no tension in his face, he is totally calm which is intoxicating to be around.
A physio table and exercise props are neatly assembled in the room. But what makes it unique is the white screen pulled down like a homemade cinema and the single seat for you to sit in and watch how you breathe, which may sound bizarre but the science of it is both fascinating and addictive. Fascinating because Walsh has spent years researching and testing his findings. Addictive because he can help you feel better and we all want that. A small clip is attached to your ear to monitor your heart and non-invasive tubes rest on your nostrils so that he can monitor your breathing. These are then hooked up to a laptop and the results are in real time and there for you to see. One of his goals is to get you to make your parasympathetic nervous system dominate your sympathetic nervous system or in other words encourage your body to relax and to slow down it’s high energy functions over the fight-or-flight response. It’s all about learning how to breathe efficiently, in the video clip below you can see him demonstrate it with MMA standout Catherine Costigan.
Before we delve more into the health benefits of his technique, it’s important to understand his journey to this point. ‘I had a very modest 125 GS 4 stroke.’ For readers that are not familiar with motorbikes, that would be one up from a moped or the car equivalent of a Ford Fiesta. ‘I got it for economic reasons at the time.’ He pauses then continues, ‘I was literally two days in a coma after the head on collision. I spent two and a half months in the hospital initially. I had over fifteen different surgical procedures. My arm snapped here,’ he traces his fingers over scar tissue, ‘I had to have a special crutch as I couldn’t use ordinary crutches. Broken knee, ankle, toe, forearm, I even had to have bone grafts off the hip as well,’ he smiles with a wink. ‘I don’t remember the accident. The impact was so great. I was actually thinking the other day that it’s a blessing that I don’t remember because I probably would have had nightmares about it. The only thing I can remember is waking up on the road then someone talking to me and the lights and the cars passing.’ When asked about his mental recovery he answers, ‘initially it was very tough to take. Family support was crucial. There is a process that I went through and after reading self help books for years, I realised it was depression and anger, you have to go through it and luckily I came out the other side. I adopted a whole positivity approach from that experience.’
Discovery Of Free-Diving
He was only nineteen when this accident happened to him and at the time he was involved in Taekwondo. The physicality of that sport had to be abandoned in light of his extensive musculoskeletal injuries so he gravitated towards yoga and water activities. It was during the process of his rehabilitation the medics discovered that he had an extremely rare heart condition called Wolff White’s Parkinson’s. ‘I actually had to go to the UK to have a surgical procedure done for that called radio-frequency ablation where they actually burned off pieces of the inside of my heart so that the electrical system would be reconfigured. Luckily enough it was successful. I got into free-diving by chance via scuba-diving.’
It took him roughly a decade to train his body to be less fearful. ‘My particular approach came from the free-diver Umberto Pelizzari, he is very much into pranayama yoga and had a relaxed style whereas if you pop over to Cuba to Pipin Ferreras, he has a very aggressive approach. He just beats his body into submission. I don’t force my body, my approach is to let it evolve. You could do the free-diving courses in two years but it took me almost ten years to do it because I was allowing my body to unfold. Every gland and organ in your body will have to adapt to that environment. There’s no quick fix of getting there. If you do force it, you’re putting your body at risk because I think that if you don’t allow the adaptation, the body is more likely to fight and resist it.’
Some liken the feeling under water at great depths to what it must of felt like in your mother’s womb. ‘You have to learn how to relax into it even though it’s a claustrophobic environment initially. When you learn to relax your body to a point where there’s no tension in all the muscles, that’s when heart is in the conservation zone where it’s actually slowing down and the oxygen that you have is being utilized very efficiently. That’s a lovely experience, provided that you don’t outstay your welcome!’
A Love Of Singing
As this was happening Walsh explored his passion of classical singing fervently. Even though his teacher had a six month waiting list she took him on because she was enthralled with Walsh’s unconventional approach, he was led by science and his findings from free-diving. ‘I sat showing her some pranayama manipulations of the diaphragm. I think she was quite taken by it. It was really the free-diving that got me into breathing anatomy, a free-diver needs to breathe efficiently in order to be able to stay down there safely. I wanted to understand why that happened. I also wanted to understand from a singing point of view. When I started, I had a powerful diaphragm, I could huff and puff and she said to me, “Look, it’s not about power. It’s about utilising it in a very relaxed way but having the support mechanism in place.” That’s when I realised the crossover between singing and free-diving. A lot of the exercises in free-diving were for increased flexibility of your diaphragm. Also you needed to create an ideal posture to make this lovely chamber where there’s no conflict or tension in the chest. Then the diaphragm is almost unimpeded in its activity.’
The Science Of Breathing
Now back to the laptop that we mentioned earlier on that displays your breathing results for you to see. ‘I acquired it in late 2005, we went to my brother’s for Christmas in Australia and I brought the machine with me. I orientated myself on the usage of it whilst over there. Then I began to start monitoring divers. In that process I would be monitoring people and seeing what their reactions would be. I would get really cocky scuba divers coming up and saying, “gosh I’m a brilliant breather,” and I put them on the machine and all of the sudden they weren’t as efficient as they thought they were. For years I was just monitoring and using it on myself.’ He then went on to work with the Limerick Sub Aqua club for a decade, ‘I began to use the free diving techniques with people in the class. They were showing remarkable improvements in terms of the distance they could travel under-water and in terms of their breath hold time just by using these simple manipulations that I learned over the years. We had a GP medical doctor in the class and I used to bounce these ideas off of him and he was totally into it. I got many people on a breath hold from 20 metres up to 50 metres (in the pool) over a period of months.’
The constant iteration of his research to yield incredible results like when he swam 100 metres on one breathe, which you can see in the video at the bottom of the article, attracted the attention of many. They wanted to learn what he knew.
He went on to set up his business and called his programme, Tri-Logic Rhythms™. It’s a cumulation of his years of research, now he can teach that knowledge in five weeks. ‘There’s a symmetry that’s going on between the heart and the diaphragm. The both of them are constantly moving from the day you are born till the day you die. The diaphragm is intrinsically linked to the electrical component of the heart. That electrical component manifests in this wave. This heart wave is called heart rate variability. On a simple level, the joy or the warmness in your heart almost induces a big wave. There’s a link there to relaxation. I get people who are very high performance oriented. Pushing themselves very hard in sport and sometimes when I look at them they may not be reaping the health benefits of that. There’s a lot of burnout in sport. That could be linked to your heart wave variability not returning to normal after hard training.’
How well you breathe seems such a simple yet crucial thing to overlook. ‘The beauty about the physiology technology is that it tells you if you are efficient. I’ve had several yoga instructors on the technology and a lot of them were not breathing as efficiently as they would’ve liked to. It’s almost like you get this impression that when you become a yoga instructor that you almost should be doing it naturally.’ His approach is three pronged, the nervous system, the heart and the emotional well-being, ‘if you get your diaphragm and physiology right and then you get your chemistry right as in your efficiency and then you superimpose that positive emotion, well then you’re sailing!’
This is a man that was plunged into a physical and emotional quagmire after his horrific accident at such a young age. He slowly scaled his way up with a strength of mind that we all possess yet many have not accessed it, he did. His voyage of knowledge around the potential of his mind and body led him to feats that he would never of dreamed of before his accident. You can tell that he is aching for everyone to enjoy the health benefits that they all possess, ‘anyone into acid based physiology will medically understand that your breathing and your kidneys control your PH. It takes 3 minutes for your breathing to change your PH. It takes a week for your kidneys to do it. I give a 10 minute a day breathing routine. It’s you that make the change if you really want it.’
If you want to learn more about Tri-Logic Rhythms™ you can visit the website here.