Getting enough oxygen to power you through the 26 miles of your marathon.
I have posted this before as part of the anti-aging programme but it is vital before beginning any exercise programme that you learn to breathe correctly. Not just because you will need the oxygen to enable you to exericise, but because breathing efficiently has a whole raft of health benefits.
We can live for around six weeks without food, six days without fluids but any longer than six minutes without oxygen and we are gone for good. It is estimated that 70% of us do not breathe correctly. Good singers are probably the best role models for breathing as are athletes and free divers. Taking regular exercise that forces you into breathing more intensively will also bring oxygen into the system but there are ways to maximise the benefits of that.
What sort of benefits will people begin to see in the short term?
Breathing correctly and taking in the right amount of Oxygen for our body can help you relax and reduce stress. It will improve your skin tone, reduce stress and improve your sex life. You will sleep better and in some cases lose weight.
More importantly many functions of the body, including the essential elimination of waste and toxins is dependent on our breathing. 70% of our elimination is through breathing, yet most people only use 20% of their lung capacity. This causes a build-up of toxins which leads to disease and chronic illnesses associated with old age. Very importantly, most bacteria and viruses do not thrive in an oxygen rich environment.
Our lungs are a tool that we can learn to use effectively at no cost and without taking in suppressive drugs that can cause us long term damage. A few minutes each day spent in a deep breathing exercise and learning to breathe correctly using the lungs at full capacity, will have lasting benefits.
How can it help to lose weight?
As far as losing weight is concerned, achieving an aerobic state means getting enough oxygen into the bloodstream to convert fuel to burn fat. This does not necessarily mean racing around breathing as hard as you can manage. What it does mean is achieving optimum breathing in gentle but effective exercises.
Breathing correctly can also release endorphins into the brain. Anything from panic attacks to migraine headaches can be improved by increasing oxygen into the system.
It may take some practice but after a few days you will be amazed at the sort of power you can achieve working with your body’s own capabilities.
As we get older we find we become more and more breathless as we undertake activity but this need not be inevitable and in this post I am going to provide you with the tools you need to improve this absolutely vital function. These very simple exercises are a definite weapon against ill health and also will enable you to walk your marathon more comfortably.
What are some of the benefits to the whole body by breathing correctly?
THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
- Gives you more energy.
- Reduces mental and physical fatigue.
- Reduces chest pains caused by tight muscles, the tension causing anxiety of “heart attack potential” is reduced.
- Aids in relief of many long-term respiratory difficulties such as asthma and bronchitis.
- Reduces need for artificial stimulants and many harmful prescription drugs.
- Helps eliminate waste from the body
- Improves blood circulation and relieves congestion.
- Increases supply of oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. Major organs such as brain and eyes need plenty of oxygen.
- Eases the strain on the heart by increasing oxygen to the heart.
- Helps increase the supply of blood and nutrients to muscle blood and bones.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
- Better breathing can calm or stimulate the nervous system, balance or unbalance brain hemispheres, depending on the technique.
THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
- Diaphragmatic action acts as a pump to massage the internal organs, aiding their function.
- Helps push the movement of lymph throughout the body, which helps eliminate toxic wastes and strengthen the immune system.
THE URINARY SYSTEM
- Shallow breathing puts stress on other organs of elimination.
- Better breathing can reduce oedema, (swelling of the body) by eliminating fluids thorough the breath.
- CO2 waste is eliminated more directly through breath.
- Wrinkles can be lessened due to improved circulation and blood oxygen flow.
- Radiant skin is a sign of good oxygenation
- Relaxes muscle spasm and relieves tension.
- Releases and reduces muscular tension that eventually may cause structural problems.
- Helps increase flexibility and strength of joints; when you breathe easier you move easier.
- Facilitates stretching of connective tissue, which prevents formation of adhesions and reduces the danger of fibrosis.
- Can partially compensate for lack of exercise and inactivity due to habit, illness or injury.
BREATHING EXERCISES FOR MORNING AND EVENING.
Our breath is much more than just an intake of oxygen. It is our connection to life itself as without air we would die. There are 4 parts to every breath,
The inhale, a moment’s pause, the exhale and another natural moment’s pause before the next inhale. Exhale usually longer than the inhale.
Stand with arms loose by your side, the whole body relaxed and still. The posture straight but not held taut. The shoulders rolling back and down to open the chest and release neck/shoulder tension.
As you inhale slowly lift the arms out and up above your head with palms parallel. As you exhale, release the arms back down gently to your sides.
So not only do you receive a gentle stretch to wake you up, but also there is more space in the body to take a deeper inhalation. It is very simple but very effective. The most important thing is to unite the length of the inhale with the rise of the arms so that when the arms reach the furthest point above the head you have completed the inhale; there is a tiny pause, then the exhale down, slowly lowering the arms. When they reach your side the exhale is finished.
Generally the exhale is longer than the inhale as you are ridding the body of impurities with it. Then a little pause. The movements follow the breath, like surfing a wave. Don’t rush the moves or you will get tense, better to do them slowly and relaxed with total concentration, better still outside (on a beach) or in front of an open window to receive all that free energy!
Practice for several minutes or at least 12 times. Better to do 12 focused breaths then 25 rushed ones. Quality versus quantity.
If you suffer with high blood pressure and or restrictive shoulder/ arm movements, better to take the arms up only as far as the shoulder height.
Evening exercise –
Lie down on your back on the floor. If you suffer with lower back pain, better to have your knees resting up over on sofa or chair. If your head doesn’t relax onto the ground easily, use a cushion.
Start with hands on lower belly, fingers pointing down to groin. Notice how you are breathing. The breath reflects our mental, physical and emotional state.
After several minutes consciously encourage the beginning of the breath into the belly to feel the hands rise with the inhale and relax down with the exhale. So you are using the abdomen to breath. This in good health should happen spontaneously, but all too often with stress many people breath only using the upper chest.
Do this for several minutes, then place the arms out in a cross, shoulder height with palms up. Now there is more room to take the breath up into the middle lungs, feel the movement of the ribcage outwards and upwards. But you still begin each breath down deep in the belly. Do this for several minutes, relaxing the body on the exhale.
Last of all, slide the arms higher up above your head relaxing on the floor, if you cannot do this due to tension or injury, leave them where they were in a cross. The purpose of this move is to now bring more space and awareness to the upper chest towards the base of the throat. There is little movement here compared to the ribs, but you can feel the rising of the chest and clavicular bones to the throat and chin at the peak of the inhale, just before you exhale.
So you now have 3 places to breathe into, the abdomen, the ribs and the upper chest to make one long, deep, satisfying breath. Feel each of the 3 places as the breath flows up the trunk as one long wave. As you exhale the wave retreats back down to the lower abdomen. Remember to feel the slight pause between inhales and exhales, but don’t hold your breath.
Try and practise this for at least 5 minutes, but 10 is better. It also helps improve your posture with the back flat and the arms out.
Complete the morning exercises before you walk or exercise and again last thing at night to help you sleep better.
The next Marathon post will be on Thursday and I will be talking about your nutritional programme for the next 26 miles.
Please feel free to share with anyone who you feel might be interested in joining us in our marathon. Thanks Sally