From DevOps Expert to Breathwork Pioneer, JJ Ruescas Possesses a Passion for Human Optimization – Part 2

(Editor’s Note: Part 1 of this interview with DevOps expert and breathwork pioneer JJ Ruescas appeared here on Wednesday.)

Q: What are the similarities between breathwork and technology?

A: I call breathwork a two-fold technology. The first one is healing and the other one is optimizing.

Going back to this point of learning one thing a month; over the years, I started diving into the mechanics, or the essential elements of being a human – the respiration movement. Breathwork is a technology for me because it changes state. It’s an immediate change of state through a substance called oxygen.

What happens is that many people don’t realize how their nervous system has been conditioned to be stuck in a stressful mode. By changing the way that we breathe, we are changing the way that the nervous system is perceiving reality, which changes the state. State management is like a technology, and technology changes, especially if you’re leading the infrastructure teams. If you’re stuck in a state, it doesn’t matter how many resources you put into it, it’s not going to work. Likewise, in the human body, if you’re stuck mentally or emotionally or physically, you’re not going to perform at your best. Breathing, when it happens first, is coming back into our regulated nervous system. It becomes a vehicle for the passing of thoughts and emotions. Thoughts are the software. Our bodies are the hardware. Emotions are the fuel or the energy of that system. And now we start talking about the word system, right? We’re talking about the nervous system. But, also, we’re talking about an infrastructure system.

It’s probably to our benefit to be able to hack our own bodies. Knowing all this is how my body responds or reacts when I am in a in a stressful situation. Therefore, how can I hack it to come back into a neutral state? And from there, make better decisions, or respond instead of react?

Q: Why is breathwork important for technologists?

A: I’ll start by giving you an example.  Take Google and its engineers on the infrastructure side. The majority of companies cross their fingers and hope that nothing is going to happen to their system. But that is the illusory. Companies or teams that are mature know that something is going to happen. So, the next level is knowing that something is going to happen, and that I’m going to learn and profit from that.

What Google has done with its engineers is install a tracker, which measures the biometric markers of its engineers, meaning the company knows when they’re under stress, they know how long this cortisol lives in their bodies, especially, for example, when there is fire, and the Google Map Service has gone down. Millions of people on the planet are going bonkers because it’s not working. Think about the engineer that is behind all of this. If that person is not able to manage their state, they’re not going to solve the problem.

When the engineers that I have led, have been in that situation, we know that we have screwed up. The first thought for many people is, “I’m going to get fired?” There is fear. So, what I do with people is condition them so that when this thing happens they need change their state, so that they believe, “I am not going to get fired.” Second, “We can learn how to solve this, and mitigate the risk in the in the future.”

Breathwork is a way to manage your state immediately when this happens. It can become innate, right at the beginning of a crisis. I have a prompt in my nervous system that says, “okay, relax.” I can make decisions from that point, which is very different than making a decision when there is fear.

Q: The impulse to breathe during a crisis, where does that come over time? Is that something you just build with habits?

A: You can you train yourself to do this. That’s the reason, for example, that we are seeing so many people doing cold plunges. Now doing cold plunges doesn’t mean that they’re training themselves to do this. You still need to get coached and get trained and be very aware of what you’re doing. The first time that a person gets into cold lunches is like the first time a person blows up something in technology. Everything constricts. They hold their breath at the top, like they are in full panic. That’s exactly the same response from the nervous system in a crisis. Now, the difference there is the delta between the moment that the stressor hits and the moment that you become aware of it. For some people, they never become aware of the right Delta, but the engineers that are trained or even a human that is trained, whether it’s a Navy Seal, an engineer or anyone who’s under a stream situation, it is coming back into a state of regulation where we can act. Then, later, we can analyze situations and respond better in the future. I have workshops on developing that capability. You come to the breathwork session to get your nervous system in a heightened state. But on the flip side, you can easily train yourself. In other words, with breathwork, you’re doing reps, holding at the bottom, slowly exhaling, etc. I’m talking about practices of three to five minutes, twice a day, right? And that starts conditioning the nervous system to be alert to the situation, or more aware of these situations.

Q: What are some of the other benefits?

A: A breathwork practice also promotes the release, or discharge of stress that has been built up upon the system. For example, when a server, or a virtual machine, gets turned on, and you start putting things on top of this virtual machine, all the memory starts getting piled up, piled up, and piled up, until at some point, it becomes a sluggish machine. It is not going to be very efficient. What is happening with the nervous system is that we are stocking up stress, and stress is registering stress. But we’re doing it so slow, like in the in virtual machine, that we don’t realize when it gets to a point where it is too much.

When you have breathwork techniques that are very intense, those are the ones that clean up around the release. The ones that are more relaxed, are to keep a balanced state, our hormones, homeostatic state, which is what we also want in systems. We want that virtual machine going back to the same example, not to be highly taxed, not to over perform, because then we will be paying for something that we’re not making use of. And that’s when we go into containers of different technologies. We are losing all of that. But in this we are developing a stable state that we know how to come back to over and over again — because the stress is going to come.

Q: Can people do breathwork remotely on zoom?

A: Yes. One of the main things that we do, as in any system, is evaluate or determine a baseline for the person. You cannot improve a system if you do not have a baseline. Peter Drucker used to say, “If you can measure, you can manage.”

For example, we do a test to measure a test to measure their carbon dioxide resistance. Why carbon dioxide? Because of a person has a low sensitivity to carbon dioxide, that means that their nervous system goes into stress mode quicker. By synthesizing the carbon dioxide, your nervous system can endure more.