Physical Training Oct 2001

Oxygen Debt Does NOT Equal Cardio Training - Dykhaniye’s Control Pause

By Scott Sonnon, AARMACS Head Trainer, Zdorovye System Developer

Frequently, I am asked the health, sportive and combative value of the ROSS Respiratory Performance Technology, called Dykhaniye Natural Breathing.  Cursory exploration of the answers may be confusing initially without dedicated engagement of the strategies.  Therefore, I consider it important to expand upon our respiratory technologies for the sake of our collective understanding.


We are taught since childhood that we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and the conclusion to be drawn is that oxygen (since we take it in our body) is good and carbon dioxide (since we expel it) is bad. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, and this belief lies
at the root of unhealthy lifestyle habits and diseases, not to mention at the core cancer of performance enhancement.  Remember, belief dictates behavior, and in this case, this myth creates dysfunctional breathing patterning.


Should a person hyperventilate (“over-breathe”), a classic remedy is to give them a paper bag to cover the person’s mouth and breathe into.  If we exhale carbon dioxide (CO2) and CO2 is bad for us, then why offer a bag to re-breath CO2 emissions?  When we over-breathe, we lose carbon dioxide.  Breathing into a bag has been a time-tested remedy for hyperventilation.  This remedy works because it normalizes this dangerous breathing pattern by reducing the loss of CO2 supply in our circulatory system, thereby normalizing our breathing pattern.

When we breathe normally (“Reflexively”), hemoglobin, the principle carrier of oxygen in the body, remains 98% oxygen (O2) saturated.  When we breathe more, we increase O2 saturation negligibly but lose CO2 that is essential for O2 utilization.  If the level of CO2 in the body decreases our hemoglobin does not release O2 to the tissues (called the Bohr Effect), which in turn causes O2 starvation.

As a result, the more you breathe the less oxygen the tissues of your body might receive!


Akin to good nutritional patterns, good breathing patterns are those that meet our needs and provide optimal conditions for health and performance.  The “commercial health and fitness industry” preaches the common misperception that “the more you breathe, the better you live.”
This is like saying about good nutrition that “the more you eat, the better off you are,” (but they say this as well, don’t they?). Furthermore, if the “industry” does specify how to breathe, it is often through dysfunctional patterns detrimental to performance and health.

We breathe 70,000 thousand times per day and over millennia the human has developed defense mechanisms to compensate for lack of oxygen rich blood.  These defense mechanisms were meant to be temporarily compensatory, not sustained substitutions for Reflexive (natural) Breathing.  Sustained reliance imposes a demand upon the organism causing an adaptation: embedding dysfunctional breathing patterns.

The six dysfunctional breathing patterns are hyperventilatory, clavicular, thoracic, paradoxical, periodic, and hypoxic.  These may appear exclusively or in combination depending upon the state and level of the individual’s respiratory dysfunction.


This rapid-breath pattern (averaging 20 breaths/minute) uses accessory muscles and restricts diaphragmatic movement being predominantly Thoracic (see below) in nature.  Produced from poorly managed anxiety, this pattern manifests as very shallow, very rapid, and compounded by sputtered sighs (periodic) and gasps (clavicular).  Panic, anxiety, and shock habituate this common phenomenon.  Trainees exhibiting this pattern immediately imperil their health.


Those conditioned with this pattern exhibit chest-raising that elevates the collarbones while drawing in the abdomen and raising up the diaphragm.  Trainees who are “open-mouth breathers” attempt to increase intake through oral inhalation, but this provides minimal pulmonary ventilation.  Worse still, the accessory muscles used in this pattern consume more oxygen than it provides.  In training, these individuals fatigue quickly.


These “chest-breathers” typify aggressive individuals.  This pattern lacks significant abdominal movement, being shallow and costal. Enlarging thoracic cavity creates a partial vacuum by lifting the rib cage up and out through external intercostals muscles.  Although the lungs do manage to be expanded by negative pressure, it is not enough to ventilate the lower lobes.  This reduces pulmonary ventilation, since the lower lobes receive the greatest blood volume due to gravity.


Often called “Reverse” Breathing, this pattern abdominally contracts during inhalation and expands on exhalation (using the muscles for the opposite purpose for which they were intended.)  Paradoxical breathing associates with the expectation of exertion, sustained effort, resistance to flow, and stress.  We see this most prominently in new trainees, who require intense pattern deconditioning.  Through stress, shock and fear, they have conditioned themselves to inhale (often married to Clavicular and Thoracic patterns), followed by Hypoxic breath-retention and Periodic sighs. As a result, this pattern causes very rapid fatigue.


This pattern demonstrates rapid-shallow breathing, followed by a holding of breath, followed by a heavy sigh.  It is an over-responsiveness to CO2 concentrations in the bloodstream.  This “airy” panting “blows off” or flushes out the CO from the bloodstream, which causes the brain’s autonomic system to shutdown respiration until the CO2 level raises to appropriate gas mixture.  In the Periodic pattern, this cycle perpetuates.  This is not to be confused with true Apnea, and can be diagnosed by witnessing that the pattern does not cause a change in color – no blueness of the lips – and the individual resumes shallow, rapid breathing without intervention, following the sigh.  This pattern can be created through sustained anxiety, or by post-traumatic stress


In preparation of perceived exertion, this pattern comprises an inhalation, withholding of exhalation (breath retention) until the perceived exertion concludes.  Holding the breath dramatically increases intra-thoracic pressure, causing health risks such as, fainting associated with Vagal nerve stimulation, increase in blood pressure, and hypoxia (lack of oxygen).  Chronic, baseline hypoxic breathing is very common, especially in “athletes” – those conditioned to exertion. Hypoxic patterning connects with Fear-Reactive Armoring, the defense mechanism of “bracing” caused by anxiety.  This inflexible armor either aggressive exerts (breath-holding)

Through these six dysfunctional breathing patterns, alone or in concert, we undo our health, as well as our sportive and combative performance.

Dysfunctional breathing patterns reduce oxygen delivery to the lungs, as well as biomechanical and structural efficiency, resulting in fatigue. This sets us in motion for a feedback loop, where the longer within the dysfunctional pattern(s) we remain, the more we attempt to work harder through the pattern(s), which conditions us more to remain in the pattern(s), and so on and so forth.

Becoming “fat” takes a lot of hard work, and requires a great deal of work to maintain.  We must understand that becoming “fat” took training, albeit lacking our deliberation – we “succeeded” at the outcome of fat-ness.  Becoming “healthy” requires the same dedication, especially with respiration.

Remember, training happens ALL THE TIME, deliberate or not.  Everything in life is an act of conditioning.  For this reason, we find difficulty deconditioning dysfunctional patterns, and normalizing Reflexive Breathing.  Only once Reflexive Breathing is restored may we enhance our performance to optimal levels.  Playing the guitar is not difficult, merely strum or pluck the strings!  Making music however takes study and discipline, and so it is with breathing training.


Many people believe that they breathe too shallowly but in fact they breathe very deeply.  Those who suffer asthma, allergies, bronchitis, or emphysema will tell you they cannot breathe enough, when in fact they are breathing three or more times the normal volume of air.  People suffering these symptoms require deep breaths all the time, while healthy people with natural breathing patters exert themselves without breathing deeply.  Russian and former Soviet research surmised that deep breathing serves as the root CAUSE of such illnesses.  These deep-breathers suffer from O2 starvation, and so they begin to over-breathe, which begins an endless cycle of over-breathing, called the “Hyperventilation Feedback Loop.”

When we are anxious or stressed, people advise to ‘Relax and take deep-breaths.’ However, deep breathing in a relaxed state causes dizziness and sometimes fainting. People often incorrectly attribute this to O2 saturation, when actually the ratio of CO2 to O2 permits the release or retention of O2 from the blood.

Near the close of the 19th Century, Verigo, a Russian Physiologist, and Bohr, a Dutch Scientist, independently discovered that without CO2, oxygen remains bound to hemoglobin, unreleased and incapable of being utilized by our tissues.  As a result there is an O2 deficiency in tissues such as our brain, kidneys and heart, as well as a significant increase in our blood pressure.

Notice how someone “holding his/her breath” becomes increasingly hyperactive. Over time, the level of CO2 increases dramatically causing the rapid consumption of O2. This hyperactivity continues until syncope, or unconsciousness.

Regardless of how this sounds, the cause of O2 deficiency is not due to the lack of O2 presence, but by the lack of CO2 retention. Over-breathing causes O2 deficiency.  If we breathe too much, we have less O2 in our body.


Over-breathe for 5-10 minutes and we may experience an asthma attack, blocked nose, dizziness, chest pains, palpitations, coughing, epileptic seizure, and many other symptoms.  Properly reducing the depth of our breathing by breathing shallowly can reverse these symptoms often within a few minutes.   Mild, chronic breathing dysfunction, crowned “Hidden Hyperventilation,” forged from sustained anxiety and tension, creates a lifetime of symptomatic aches and pains.  Why do ardent practitioners of ROSS and Zdorovye just seem not as susceptible to illnesses?  Hmmmmmm…

Hidden Hyperventilation often goes undetected, predominantly due to conventional fitness training, which remains ignorant of Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns.  However, the basic ROSS Trinity (the integration of Biomechanical, Structural and Respiratory efficiency) illuminates this

This misperception spawns from “Aerobic Debt” – which we create through intense anaerobic exertion.  If we sprint a short distance or lift a heavy object the O2 we utilize may exceed our current reserves.  Since these activities occur anaerobically, we reflexively begin to breath heavily to compensate for the debt of oxygen we owe.  Unfortunately the aerobic debt becomes misapplied to respiratory health.  When we recruit intense physical exertion, this heavy breathing pattern indicates our objective accomplished (intense exertion).  Through an erroneous leap of logic, conventional thought presumes, respiratory health equals heavy breathing.

As a result, when people wander like lemmings to the gym, they do not feel comfortable leaving until they have accrued their aerobic debt. When they go to “do some cardio” they’ll pulverize their knees until they are puffy, red-faced, and gasping for air.  All this because they have been taught to assume that being “out of breath” is having “worked cardio.”

Furthermore, there are breath-retention exercises for extreme power exertions that have become foolishly associated with respiratory efficiency.  The inherent health risks (including aneurisms) of embedding this type of exercise as a sustained breathing pattern are utterly perilous!

You can surmise the dramatic negative impact on our health and performance these gym cardio myths create.


Our pulse, blood pressure, sugar levels, temperature and breathing each have relatively constant physiological norms.  When a person is at rest, he should breathe only superficially and nasally.  Natural (or Reflexive) breathing results in the accumulation of a very specific gas mixture that our organism requires for optimum normal function (“normal function” here refers to those times of little to no externally or internally imposed stress).  The function of our respiratory system is not merely as a bellows - to “push out the bad air” and “pull in the good air,” but is designed to maintain a very specific ratio of O2 to CO2.  The Reflexive Breathing Pattern instinctively perpetually recalibrates this mixture.

How much O2 and CO2 do we need in this mixture of gases we call breathing?  For the cells of the brain, heart, kidney and other organs, our blood requires a concentration of:  6.5% CO2 and only 2% O2.  Our actual breath contains 10 times more oxygen than we require and 200 times less carbon dioxide than we need.


As we have seen above, changing our breathing pattern increases CO2 retention, which utilizes more O2 from each breath, which in turn leads to significantly improved health and disease prevention.  Dykhaniye Natural Breathing works to decondition dysfunctional breathing patterns
and to retain CO2.

Initially one may think that we lose CO2 through Dykhaniye’s forceful exhalatory exercises.  However, we should not perceive Dykhaniye as a vigorous blowing out of air.  We engage Dykhaniye to structurally (through Polozheniye) and biomechanically (through Dvizheniye) manipulate our respiration.  Remember, we produce breath through alignment and movement (just like we produce alignment through movement and breathing, and produce movement through alignment and breathing – the basic ROSS Trinity.

Dykhaniye’s contractile force “squeezes” fluid-air out of our lungs. Remember, the lungs do not operate – our movement and structure operate our lungs.  The muscular control we gain over our breathing, through Dykhaniye, allows us to regulate our exhalation, finely tuning intensity and volume.  Furthermore, Dykhaniye retrains inhalation to be a product of the release (of exhalatory contraction), rather than an exertion – we don’t need to “breath-in.” Rather we are BREATHED by our structural and biomechanical release and expansion, allowing the negative pressure of our squeezed-out lungs to “suck” in air.


Dykhaniye is a system of breathing exercises, not a collection of specific breathing patterns.  Patterns are our current mode of operating (in this case, breathing modality), whereas exercises seek to enhance our current pattern (in this case, increase our respiratory efficiency). We don’t practice to breath “like” Dykhaniye.  Rather, we use Dykhaniye to increase the efficiency of our breathing patterns.

Hidden Hyperventilation results from airy, loose, flaccid, shallow, inhalatory-dominant breathing patterns typifying the average “untrained” breath.  Dykhaniye allows us to cease this low-intensity, baseline over-inhalation, through regulation of exhalation (retraining inhalation to be a product of releasing “squeezed” exhalation).  As a result, our breathing patterns continue to be enhanced over time, increasingly preventing the CO2 over-expenditure.

We benefit from Dykhaniye by derailing the Hyperventilation Feedback Loop.  Remember how anxiety makes us breath fast and shallow (in an effort to gain more oxygen for fight-or-flight syndrome)?  Through Dykhaniye we prevent excessive inhalation:  hyperventilation - that would flood us with oxygen while depleting carbon dioxide needed to utilize the oxygen.  Thus we do not become swept into the downward spiraling cycle of poor performance and health.  With the necessary oxygen, we are able to have the physical energy and mental wherewithal to address crises.  Not just Hyperventilatory, but Dykhaniye works to decondition all six Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns, returning you to your natural Reflexive Breathing.

However, there’s an even more subsequent benefit: Dykhaniye as a means of optimizing respiratory performance in the presence of stress and through the medium of anxiety.  Life does not happen in a vacuum.  We are fraught with internal and external stressors that seek to deteriorate our health, state of being, and performance.  Dykhaniye trains us to operate within this volatile and viscous medium.


Dykhaniye transcends mere dysfunctional breathing deconditioning. Dykhaniye trains us to extend the “Control Pause” (CP) – the period of absence of inhalation at the cessation of exhalation.  The CP is that which we have when driving our cars, or sitting at our computers, or engaging an exciting ROSS exercise, game or drill, and realize that we have not been breathing.  Whenever we are in potent reverie, we do not breathe.  Our recent biofeedback tests confirm Russian research that the CP directly connects with the Optimal Performance Zone.

In precision-based events, such as archery, marksmanship, boxing, and sambo, successful athletes learn through experience that the CP is one’s stillest point.  Ten years ago, while working with a student who was on the US Olympic Archery Team, we discussed how she could apply her CP extension to her martial art training.  In archery, shots are loosed in between heartbeats during CP, when the body is most quiet.  So too, in combat…

In combat, we are most vulnerable during inhalation, and critically vulnerable if accompanied by dysfunctional patterns.  This is why through ROSS, we work to operate combatively during the CP, as well as to extend our CP longevity.  This is also why we focus upon opponent manipulation during his inhalation, since when he is farthest from his CP, he is farthest from his “Optimal Performance Zone.”  Furthermore, this is why we manipulate an opponent to increase his propensity for inhalation, knock him out of his CP through stimulating his “Fear-Reactivity”  - the term I coined referring to each individual’s unique pattern of defensive mechanisms conditioned through trauma, anxiety and panic.  Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns are examples of how we manifest Fear-Reactivity.

Fear-Reactivity, in this instance, shortens CP duration through respiratory inefficiency.  ‘Flinch Reflex’ (the term referring to the organism’s innate protective measures) gives us a necessary extra inhalation so that we may extend our operation of the subsequent critical handful of minutes anaerobically.  Dykhaniye trains us to take advantage of that extra “juice” that instinct reflexively provides. Dykhaniye FURTHER trains us to exhale, relax, and remain clear-minded in order to address the crisis at hand.

Through ROSS we diminish and eliminate our Fear-Reactivity, so that it will not prevent the healthy flinch from being followed by optimal performance.  Remember, breathing directly connects to wherewithal. When Fear-Reactivity inhibits proper respiration, we become mentally smudged, stuck in the ADE Feedback Loop.  From what my friend Tony Blauer would call a “Cerebral” perspective, Fear-Reactivity interrupts the Assess-Decide-Engage process and mutates this into Assess-Can’t Decide-Assess-Can’t Decide-Assess-ad nauseum, paralyzed… Optimal respiratory efficiency within crises permit and promote effective decision-making skills, which remain undeniably a key to crisis management.  Dykhaniye trains us to have an exhalatory response through motor launch once Flinch Reflex provides the booster platform.  Without Dykhaniye, Flinch Reflex is instantly followed by our pattern of Fear-Reactivity (in this case, alluding to the Six Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns), causing us to seize with “deer-in-the-headlights” panic.

“Ah Hah,” I can hear some of you saying!

As a bonus, we additionally produce complete solidity of the intra-abdominal contraction.  Unlike the 'rigidity' of inhalatory intra-abdominal pressure, exhalatory intra-abdominal pressure is that 'toned suppleness' which we call “Plasticity” that manifests in ROSS Shock Absorption, an absolutely critical element of survivability, performance and health.  Efficient respiration and structure and movement are inextricably interwoven!

The uniqueness of Dykhaniye lies in the fact that all other forms of breathing focus upon relaxation patterns, but NOT upon anxiety management exercises like Dykhaniye does, NOT upon creating maximal energy reserves like Dykhaniye does, NOT upon sustained access to our Optimal Performance Zone like Dykhaniye does, and NOT upon how to place a combative or sportive opponent in a Poor Performance Zone like Dykhaniye does.  This is where ROSS shines in her uniqueness. Performance Respiration and Natural Breathing through Dykhaniye is one
of our finest contributions to the health, fitness, martial art and sport communities.


Now… The above serves as an important platform for us to discuss something of even greater import.  Without training, this “knowledge about” Dykhaniye remains as useful as a hammer without a carpenter! Therefore, this article functions as a reference aid to active ROSS Trainees (calling a ROSS Trainee “active” is redundant, for there can be no inactive, or passive ROSS Trainees!)  This article acts for personal edification of ROSS Trainees, for reasons to be explicated.

What ROSS constitutes is not only more than the sum of its parts… she has no parts.  One cannot take a portion of ROSS and call it ROSS, for she is a SPECIFIC SYSTEM OF TRANSFORMATION.  One can go as far as one wishes.  I remember Alexander Retuinskih warning me in the early years  not to try to go too quickly too far, for “without understanding the map, one becomes lost in the forest.”  ROSS is a very specific map.  She is not “just anything.”

To “know” and to “understand” are not synonymous. One can know about without understanding.  Someone who has never spent years training Dykhaniye can read the above and “know about” Dykhaniye without have the slightest clue or understanding of it.

To stand-under means that one SERVES as the platform upon which your learning and the learning of others may grow.  Understanding ROSS requires personal mastery through ROSS.  Yes, being a tribal movement, AARMACS provides a graduated process of standing under ROSS.  However, collecting, scouring and memorizing material does not constitute standing-under.  Avoid trying to know at all costs, for it imperils your ability to continue development!  Humility isn’t patronizing lip-service – it’s vigilantly protecting your ability to continue development.

If you know about ‘A’, before you understand, you create a preconceived idea about what understanding ‘A’ comprises.  For instance, ask a new trainee to demonstrate “throwing” and s/he’ll often begin illustrating all of the various ‘techniques’ with this name or that, which s/he has encountered over time.  Rarely will one find the new trainee who will say, “please specify what you mean by the concept of ‘throwing.’” Scarcer still are trainees who then explain that each motion is a renovated manifestation of immutable principles… that no two throws are
alike.  In other words, to know a throw is not to understand throwing.

In order to share ROSS, one must understand her.  To understand ROSS, one must understand one’s self.  In other words, we each must first explore personal mastery through ROSS, and stand-under what it is to be uniquely “ourselves,” before we can begin to stand-under what ROSS is as a specific system of transformation.

Twenty or thirty years of training in this martial art style or that combat method, plus one year of engaging the ROSS System equals… one year of engaging the ROSS System.  Twenty or thirty years as a Clinical Respiratory Specialists, plus one year of engaging the ROSS System equals… yes, you guessed it, one year of engaging the ROSS System. Although ROSS enhances your personal edification in your field of interests, it does not mean that your various past activities accelerate your ability to learn how to teach ROSS as a specific system of

Using the above as a template for appreciating this, personal Dykhaniye development comprises:

1.        Deconditioning dysfunctional patterns (Recovery Period)

2.        Normalizing Reflexive Breathing (Coordination Period)

3.        Optimizing Performance Breathing (Refinement Period)

The Refinement Period lasts… as long as we continue to be addicted to breathing.  Once within this period, we stand-under ourselves through Dykhaniye, and can then serve as our own platform for beginning to stand-under Dykhaniye, a totally different creature.

For instance, watching a Dykhaniye video and thereby “knowing” a collection of Dykhaniye exercises, does not mean that you stand-under yourself through Dykhaniye, and certainly does not mean that you stand-under Dykhaniye, especially if you think you “know” Dykhaniye because you’ve seen or experienced things “like it” in your past!!!

Contrarily, we continually have trainee hopefuls expect (yes, some even demand) to have ROSS System explained to them a priori, before exploring, engaging and standing-under themselves, (and far before standing-under ROSS.)  Some go as far to say that if it cannot be explained to them before they begin training, then it is not for them. Stop trying to know!  ROSS is not for them (at that point in their lives).  However, because ROSS is a specific system of  transformation, rather than an arbitrary style of information, you cannot know ROSS before standing-under yourself through ROSS, and then standing-under ROSS (through yourself).

Yes, we say these things to protect the integrity of ROSS as a specific system of transformation.  However, I also say this because it shall imperil your development to do otherwise.

My Philosophy mentor, Doctor Jonathon Ellsworth Winter, once told a story about Earthlings first encountering Martians.  After considerable laboratory study, the Earthling Scientists discovered that due to the limited atmospheric conditions of Mars, the Martians had evolved a thin pink-hued membrane that covered their eyes to guard against harmful exposure to direct sunlight.  When the Earthling scientists explained what they had found and that Earthlings never developed this membrane, they asked the Martians what it was like to see everything as “pink.” The Martians replied, “What is Pink?”

You don’t need to know what Pink is in order to see the world. Teach only that which you embody and embody that which you teach.

Scott Sonnon is USA National Sambo Team Coach, former USA Coach for World Police Olympics, and an International Sambo Champion. His website is at: 

Physical Training Oct 2001