Breathing Expert James Fletcher On How To Improve Your Breathing

Inhale, Exhale: The Basics of Breathing You Need To Know About
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Jun 17, 2023

My name is James Fletcher and I am a Physiotherapist & Exercise Physiologist from Australia. I have spent the last 10 years travelling around the world training athletes respiratory function. I have worked with the Australian Institute of Sport, Olympic gold medalists, Cirque Du Soleil, WTS winning triathletes, Symphony orchestra leads and numerous clients wishing to improve their breathing.

Over 1800 clients to be exact. My passion for this started when my mother was diagnosed with a lung disease caused from years of smoking, and there were very limited treatments for her to improve her shortness of breath.

The past decade has seen some tremendous advancements in our understanding of the limitations imposed by the work of breathing.

That is, we now can clearly say that the breathing muscles do get fatigued created by their actions on the diaphragm, rib cage and chest, and this impacts performance, state of mind, shortness of breath, anxiety and the fatigue of other muscles in the body.

“When we improve the strength of the breathing muscles, breathing becomes easier!”

The breath has a tremendous involvement with a variety of pathology from COPD, anxiety, depression, cystic fibrosis, asthma, and many more. My team now work with many people wanting to reduce their shortness of breath levels, improve performance, quit smoking and reduce the reliance on medication.

Many ‘everyday’ athletes are looking to improve their exercise capacity by training the breath.

Under laboratory environments breathing muscle fatigue has  been measured in running, rowing, cycling, swimming, triathalon and even just breathing hard for 1 minute.We adapted the research from working with patients with lung disease and applied this to the sporting field and are seeing some fantastic results which is also supported in the literature (Hanghanbari et al, 2013).

Cameron McEvoy (100m Freestyle, Australian Olympic team) improved his breathing strength by 28%, Ryan Hipwood (WSL, Big Wave surfer) improved his lung volumes by 42%, John Crisp (83yr old Masters swimmer) is setting records in the pool and Melissa Krogen (Junior Triathelete) has better control over her asthma after the 6 week intervention.

Many clients are seeing an improvement in their performance by bringing science to the breath. The training usually takes less than 5 minutes to complete each day, and patients are seeing immediately. One crippling condition that we work with many clients is anxiety, by improving the strength and control of the breath we give clients a toolbox to effectively manage this condition.

The 1:2 Fletcher technique looks to prolong the exhalation phase, up to 10 seconds with each breath. This technique achieves 2 physiological responses in the body.

Effectively helps the body retain Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which can drive a anxiety attack by making people feel dizzy, light headed, tingly and short of breath by slowing down the exhalation we see a reduction in heart rate which allows people to feel more in control of their condition

Many athletes also use these techniques to improve recovery from intense workouts, manage stress within a competition, or one of the extreme cases controlling anxiety while waiting in the deep ocean for a life and death ride of his life catching a 40+ft wave. Here is Ryan Hipwood discussing “sometimes I can be waiting 20min in freezing conditions for a 40+ft wave. This wave can kill me and if I am not in control of the situation this is the first sign of trouble. Fletcher techniques gave me some tools to help control my breathing and anxiety in these situations and helped join the WSL big wave tour. ”

The techniques have also been applied to clients wishing to quit smoking, working with Corporate organisations around Australia on Wellness campaigns and changing the way we approach the quitting smoking process.

The Get Back to Life campaign creates a positive pathway, reducing cravings, controlling weight and rehabilitating the lungs to allow Ex-smokers to achieve something amazing.

These amazing stories are used to generate interest, educate and set real life examples for the family, friends and co-workers of our clients. The human aquarium was a campaign to improve underwater breath hold times for Ex-smokers to show colleagues, family and friends its never too late to quit smoking and Get Back to Life.
We breath everyday, the breath helps regulate how we feel and by training this we can improve many aspects of health and performance by bringing science to the breath.


James Fletcher is a breathing expert and director of Fletcher Techniques.


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