2021 was a year of true grit and resilience.
For some it was a really challenging year. Some people lost a lot. Some people really fought hard to keep their heads above water. If this is you, trust that a blessing is around the corner. It’s the Law of the Universe and it’s infallible.
For some, it was a year of growth, new beginnings, pivots, clarity, simplicity. Maybe life got a little bit better for you. If this is you, go be a blessing to someone who needs it.
Or maybe you’re somewhere in-between. You took the punches and you also enjoyed the victories. You cried, you laughed, you won, you lost. In the end, you’re still standing, maybe even a little stronger.
However you experienced the past year, know in your heart that it set you up perfectly for what’s to come. May 2022 be your year to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
This issue of newsletter is all about breathing.
There is nothing new about the importance of breathing. Just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation is enough to destroy the brain’s ability to process incoming information forever. It is not just important THAT we breathe, but also HOW we breathe. If the way we breathe is just slightly out of balance, over time it will lead to severe negative consequences, since we breathe round the clock.
The brain mechanisms controlling breathing are so complex that they are only now being brought into focus. While breathing is tightly regulated by the amount of carbon dioxide, pH and oxygen, through feedback loops related to blood sensors, there are many other factors and brain regions that are impacted by breathing.
I have tried to provide many toolkits and articles on breathing and protocols in this issue.
If you enjoy reading the newsletter, and believe it helps in your journey to deep health, you have a zero-cost way to support this endeavour by sharing with your friends, family and on your social media.
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Stay strong, stay fit and stay healthy.
In our last two issues, we shared about 100 Day Health Challenge 2.0 that starts on January 15. If you missed reading about it, visit www.sandeepmall.com/about-the-challenge
In first three days of the registration, nearly 700 people have signed up. We are super excited about a tribe of 1000 of us taking this journey together to fitter self. Have you signed up yet?
To register, visit www.sandeepmall.com/health_challenge
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40 and above
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- Do you breathe from the mouth sometimes while going through your daily routine?
- Do you breathe through your mouth while sleeping? Waking up with dry mouth is a sign.
- Do you snore?
- Observe your breathing right now- are you breathing from the chest or abdomen?
- Do you sigh regularly?
- Do you hear yourself breathing during rest?
Answering yes to even one of these questions means that you are over- breathing. These are typical symptoms of what happens when the amount of air we breathe in, is more than what we need. Just as over-eating is bad for body, so is over-breathing.
I realized, a few months ago, that I also over-breathe. Breathing was something which never came to my mind whenever I thought of a fit life for myself. Then one day I came across an article about breathing that caught my eye. I was experiencing waking up at night thirsty. I was snoring. And many days I woke up tired and groggy despite sleeping for eight hours. This led to lot of reading and listening to podcasts on correct way of breathing. And it just changed the whole perspective towards a healthy and fit me.
We can survive without food for weeks and without water for days but not even a few minutes without air. We give so much attention to food for a healthy body but seldom is any attention paid to how we breathe.
I, like most people, always thought or was advised that taking in large amounts of air into the lungs during rest will increase oxygen content in the blood. Based on this understanding, I would take deep breaths during rest and training, especially after a run when the body was over taxed. Now I realise that I have been doing completely opposite of what should have been done. This habit was, in fact, diminishing my performance and recovery. As counterintuitive it may seem, the urge to take deeper breaths when we hit the wall during exercise, does not provide more oxygen to muscles but reduces oxygenation.
Because of the Covid pandemic, all homes now have Oximeter and we know that we are fine if we have oxygen saturation of 95-99 percent. The idea of taking bigger breaths, to inhale more oxygen, is like providing more food for energy to an individual who is already eating enough for his/her caloric needs. Our goal should be to let this oxygen reach muscles and brain efficiently for a healthy, energetic life. And Carbon di-oxide is the doorway which lets oxygen reach your muscles. When we breathe, in excess of what is required, then too much Co2 is exhaled from the lungs and thus is removed from the blood. If your blood saturation is normal and you constantly feel tired or fatigued, you may be breathing wrong. Not enough oxygen is being released from your blood to your tissues and muscles. This happens because too much Co2 has been expelled from the body. You will feel lethargic and exhausted.
In 1904, Danish physiologist Christian Bohr discovered the Bohr Effect, which in simple terms is Haemoglobin releases oxygen when in presence of Carbon dioxide. Over breathing limits the release of oxygen from the blood and in turn effects how well our muscles are able to work.
How Fit are you? Take the Bolt Test.
- Hold your nose after you breathe out with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite need to breathe
- You may feel a jerk in your abdomen or around your neck. Release your nose and breathe through it.
- Your inhalation should be calm at the end of breath. If you are breathing heavier than normal means you have over-held your breath.
Note your time. The ideal BOLT score for a healthy individual should be 40 seconds. Most people manage 20 seconds or less. I managed 23 when I tried it the first time. Now it has improved to 30 seconds.
by Kamana Pereira
“Our breath is linked to our emotions. For every emotion, there is a particular rhythm in the breath. So, when you cannot directly harness your emotions, with the help of the breath you can do that”.– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
In today’s fast paced life people live without being aware of how many breaths they take in a minute. Correct breathing techniques play a vital role in any workout regimen. It is therefore necessary to understand and practice correct breathing techniques. Pranayama trains the lungs and improves the capacity of respiratory system immensely. Pranayama directly works on the nervous system. Daily Pranayama has positive effect on Autonomous Nervous System which controls and governs essential functions of the body like the heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. Other benefits of Pranayama’s are as follows:
- Daily Pranayama slows the ageing process.
- It makes your skin glow and releases toxins.
- Provides stillness of mind and provides lightness in your body.
- Helps in weight reduction and melts excess fats.
by Sri M
Just when I was discussing with a mentee, about the challenges in keeping up the New Year’s resolutions, my sister shared a wonderfully written piece by Sri M – The Secret of Implementing a Resolution. I am quoting a few lines from the article:
“It’s time to take a step forward once more, for the New Year is at hand.
One can move from ‘the past’ to ‘the present’ and turn over a new leaf in one’s life. Change completely if required and have a new life altogether!
Resolutions are made every New Year. By the time the day dawns on the New Year, all resolutions are forgotten – no resolutions are implemented. Can we have this New Year differently? Can we resolve that we will discipline ourselves?
So what resolution should we make again for this new year and, the most important part – implement the resolution – not just make.” – Sri M
Click here to read the complete article by Sri M, on learning the secret of implementing a resolution.
During our previous 100 Day Health Challenge, we had an enriching session with Sri M on ‘Yoga – Way to a healthy body and super mind’. Click here to watch the video.
Sri M, born as Mumtaz Ali, is an influential thought-leader, an eloquent orator, educationist, social reformer and spiritual guide, who largely dedicates his life to humanitarian and peace-making initiatives. A Padma Bhushan awardee, his life and work are fine examples of bringing forth the essence of ancient scriptures into modern-day living. You may connect with Sri M on Instagram @SriM_Official
What is Pranayama?
Prana refers to the universal life force and ayama means to regulate or lengthen. Daily practice of Pranayama is a holistic wellness for mind, body and soul.
What are the types of Pranayama?
Based on different areas of respiratory system, various types of pranayama are:
Natural Breathing, Basic Abdominal Breathing, Thoracic Breathing, Clavicular Breathing and Deep Breathing.
Each pranayama has its own benefit as well as contraindications; Hence, should be practiced under supervision of a qualified teacher.
How to practice breathing exercise?
Let’s start with the basics:
- Place should be well ventilated.
- Mornings and evenings are an ideal time for the pranayama practices
- Everyday do about 15 minutes of pranayama
- Place should be neat and clean, free of dirt and pollutants.
- Make it a point to practice every day at same place and time
- Place should be distraction proof
- Daily pranayama practice should be done on an empty stomach (at least 4 hours after any meal/snack consumption)
One of the easiest and well-known pranayama is Anuloma – Viloma.
We normally inhale and exhale for approximately 1 ½ half hours from one nostril and then unconsciously the other nostril takes over for the same period. This pranayama is practised to regulate the natural way of breathing which brings balance between positive and negative effects of breathing on both the body and mind.
Recommended practice – Practice daily, five rounds/ day
(Limitations- Children under 12 years should not practice. Cardiac patients should NOT exceed their time capacity)
- Favourable pressure changes in lungs for better oxygenation.
- Experience quietude and inner harmony.
- Sedative effect on the nervous system – concentration is improved
- Balances the energies in our system which helps us cope with pains and aches.
Kamana Pereira is a level III Certified Yoga aacharya from The Yoga Institute, Mumbai. She has been associated with The Yoga Institute as the Center Head, Goa branch previously and is currently the Head of The Yoga Institute’s Health and Wellness Centre at Kochi. She has worked on the rehabilitation program for rescued girls at the Deonar camp and underprivileged children with the Mumbai, BMC. You can reach out to her on firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on twitter @Kilo_Bravo13
BOOST YOUR ENERGY- Energy production with oxygen is far more efficient since it gives up to 16 times more energy compared to without oxygen
INCREASE FAT BURNING -Fat can only be burned in the presence of oxygen, so impaired breathing closes the door slightly to our fat reserves
RELAXED BRAIN – Our brain is a major consumer of oxygen and consequently it is the organ that suffers most from poor breathing habits
GREATER SEX LIFE-The sex enhancement drug Viagra was developed thanks to research on NO, a substance produced in large quantities in our nose
SLEEPING BETTER – Man is the only animal that sleeps with an open mouth. Mouth breathing at rest gives oxygen deficiency, increased stress and less sleep.
STRONGER HEART- Tense, non-rhythmic and stressed breathing makes for a strained, non-rhythmic and stressed heart
STRAIGHTER TEETH -Mouth breathing alters the position of the tongue, which affects the development of the face, teeth and smile
IMPROVED ENDURANCE -We can’t swim, bike, run or maintain optimum strength and endurance if our breathing is impaired
LESS WORRY – When afraid and worried, we breathe high up in our chest in an attempt to “run away” from the unpleasant feelings often situated in our abdominal area
EXPERIENCE LESS PAIN -Improving your breathing habits give you access to a powerful tool for pain relief.
IMPROVE ASTHMA – Asthma is a disease that constricts the airways, often because of impaired breathing habits
INCREASE SPIRITUAL GROWTH – A calm and cantered mind is better equipped for the path of spirituality. So, for any individual on the spiritual path, one of the most important objectives is equanimity—the ability to stay calm through the ups and downs of life.
1.Breathe through your nose. Always. Nose is for breathing and mouth is for eating. Nasal breathing results in 10-20 percent more O2 uptake. It removes a significant amount of germs and bacteria from the air you breathe in. If you are doing Nasal breathing during exercise it gives more aerobic training effect, improving your Vo2 max. And most importantly Nasal breathing is imperative for harnessing the benefits of Nitric Oxide. Mouth breathing bypasses this special gas which helps in keeping us away from various diseases including cancer and promotes a longer life.
Observe your breathing throughout the day. Good breathing during rest should not be seen or heard. Avoid taking big breathes during talking or yawning. Stop losses of Carbon dioxide.
2. Improve your tolerance of Carbon dioxide. Do breathing exercises. Some of the exercises are shown in this newsletter
(Please do not practice this exercise if your BOLT score is less than 10 seconds, or if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, or any serious health concerns.)
To unblock the nose, perform the following:
1. Take a small, silent breath in and a small, silent breath out through your nose.
2. Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath.
3. Walk as many paces as possible with your breath held. Try to build up a strong air shortage, without overdoing it, of course!
4. When you resume breathing, do so only through your nose; your breathing must be calmed immediately.
5. After resuming your breathing, your first breath will usually be bigger than normal. Make sure that you calm your breathing as soon as possible by suppressing your second and third breaths.
6. You should be able to recover your breath within 2 to 3 breaths. If you cannot, you have held your breath for too long.
7. Wait for about a minute or so and then repeat.
8. Repeat this exercise 5 or 6 times until the nose is decongested.
Patrick McKeown. The Oxygen Advantage.
This should never be practiced near water, or while driving or walking, or in any other circumstances where you might get hurt should you pass out. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant or have a heart condition.
Tumo Breathing.Find a quiet place and lie flat on your back with a pillow under the head. Relax the shoulders, chest, legs. Take 30 very deep, very fast breaths into the pit of the stomach and let it back out. If possible, breathe through the nose; if the nose feels obstructed, try pursed lips. The movement of each inhalation should look like a wave, filling up in the stomach and softly moving up through the lungs. Exhales follow the same movement, first emptying the stomach then the chest as air pours through the nose or pursed lips of the mouth. At the end of 30 breaths, exhale to the “natural conclusion,” leaving about a quarter of the air in the lungs. Hold that breath for as long as possible. Once you’ve reached your absolute breathhold limit, take one huge inhale and hold it another 15 seconds. Very gently, move that fresh breath around the chest and to the shoulders, then exhale and start the heavy breathing again. Repeat the entire pattern at least three times.
Here’s a link to WimHofs guided session
James Nestor. Breath.
4-7-8 Breathing This technique places the body into a state of deep relaxation. I use it post my workouts or long stressful activity .
Take a breath in, then exhale through your mouth with a whoosh sound.Close the mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, with a whoosh, to the count of eight. Repeat this cycle for at least four breaths. A video is illustrated here.
For last many months I have been taping my mouth to bed. A simple 3M tape. It has helped me to get long deep sleep which has spilled over to other health benefits.
Benefits of Using The Sleep Tape
Taping your mouth at night is a remarkably simple, yet extremely powerful tool. The feedback frequently given is that people wake up more alert in the morning, sleep more calmly, don’t wake up during the night, and need less sleep.
- Safeguards from hyperventilation – If you sleep with an open mouth your breathing will automatically exceed your body’s needs and you will hyperventilate, which upsets the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and causes oxygen deficiency.
- Keeps your mouth shut – Applying tape to your mouth at night is an easy and inexpensive way to ensure that your mouth stays closed and respiration occurs only through your nose. This will make breathing work for you instead of against you.
- You wake up rested – Nasal breathing is the first step towards good breathing habits. Nasal breathing during sleep increases the chance that your body can relax and get the rest it needs.
- Gives a deep sleep – Restless sleep is common amongst nightly mouth breathers. When we perceive danger we automatically open our mouth. It’s an inert reaction associated with our fight/flight/freeze-system. To promote deep sleep the fight/flight/freeze-system needs to be put on the back burner, which is easier achieved when our mouth is closed.
Watch what, James Nestor, author of the book Breathe, has to say about it.