To Breathe or to Breathe Fully, LFSB

Intense Seated Forward Bend
This pose is great for taking breath into the backside of the body. Even so, there must still be breath going into the front side of our body as well.

Breathing exercises, that utilize long, full, slow breaths (LFSB), provide benefits that enhance the gains obtained from conventional, western exercise. LFSB, as is encouraged through the practice of yoga, tai chi or meditation, allows for maximum oxygenation of the blood and the ensuing, corresponding development and exhalation of carbon dioxide. During exercise, the actions of skeletal muscles, and associated physiological processes, require that fresh oxygen (O2) constantly replace carbon dioxide (CO2) in the lungs. O2 supplies fuel for the bodily processes that supply energy.

Some of the benefits of LFSB include:

  • Slows the heart rate – the heart rate slows when the parasympatheric nervous system is operating.
  • Full diaphragmatic breathing increases the ratio of O2:CO2. Normal inhalations result in a 1:1 ratio. Full diaphragmatic inhalations create a 5:1 ratio. Thus, more O2 can be absorbed into the blood.
  • Normalizes blood CO2 levels – full exhalations facilitate CO2 build up in the blood. This triggers and facilitates maximal uptake of O2 from the following inhalation.
  • Reduces blood pressure – Dilation of venous-blood vessels decreases venous-blood pressure. This allows a slower heart rate and more efficient blood flow/O2 transfer.
  • Reduces stress – Breathing deep, full inhalations and exhalations, synchronizes CO2/O2 blood levels and produces a natural autonomic relaxing effect.
  • Increases the health of lung tissue – The lungs are completely expanded and contracted during deep breathing. This maintains the elasticity of the lungs, especially as we age.
A very relaxing pose. Good for relieving tension in the ankles and for taking breath into the front of the body.
This pose requires hip flexor length and good opening in the knees. It is a great pose for allowing breath into the front of the body.

Conventional exercise (Running, Tennis, Basketball, Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Aerobics) focuses on developing (1) the external muscles and (2) the body’s ability to make O2 consistently available in the presence of an O2 debt. In a totally complementary manner, LFSB exercises help develop the ability to fully expand the lungs, which is beneficial for maximal absorption of O2 into the lungs and into the body and contract the lungs, which exhausts CO2 from the lungs and increases blood CO2 concentration. LFSB exercises also provide a natural massage for the internal organs which has a beneficial and rejuvenating effect on the physical, physiological and psychological processes. This can greatly benefit the vigorous exerciser.

LFSB training is a methodology. It can shift the autonomic nervous system away from fight or flight (sympathetic) mode into a more relaxed state (parasympathetic). LFSB inhalations and exhalations have ‘been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders‘ (Jerath et al., 2006). Jerath and colleagues add that investigations, regarding stress and psychological improvements, support evidence that deep, full breathing alters the brain’s information processing, making it an intervention that improves a person’s psychological profile.

intense twisting posture from a standing position. Ground through the rear foot and initiate the rotation from the rear ankle, rotating the rear leg outer hip down toward the ground and spiraling the torso.

LFSB exercises can enhance the benefits gained from vigorous exercise. The physical aspect of western exercise is good for muscle strengthening and development of aerobic capacity. LFSB practice benefits the body on the physical, physiological and psychological levels. Studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of LFSB. Breathing to finish that mile run is good; breathing fully to assist the body in processing O2 more efficiently will provide long lasting effects throughout one,s life.

Some techniques that can be employed to develop one’s LFSB capacity is to breath full inhalations and full exhalations at a rate of 4 breaths per minute. As one’s ability improves, the rate can go to 3 breaths per minute, then 2 breaths per minute, and then one breath per minute. This practice should not exceed a period of 15 minutes and should be done no more than twice per day.

Please consult your physician before attempting any of these practices.

Happy Breathing


Yoga and Health, Yesudian and Haich, Harper and Row; pg 67

Steady as You Flow – Part 2 of 2

The fine motor control developed by the practice of Tai Chi becomes part of our daily lives. As one continues the practice of tai chi, they become aware of consciously doing things in a stress-free manner. Tai Chi practice emphasizes spinal alignment and postural integrity. These particulars assist the body in efficiently conducting nerve impulses throughout the body. The movement combinations that comprise the practice of Tai Chi facilitate the lubrication of and the flow of nutrients to the joints. Tai Chi flowing movements comprise a high amount of combinations of joint rotations and body shifting, as well as limb extension and flexion. The elbows, shoulders, knees, hips, ankles spine and wrists are all simultaneously and continuously affected during the practice of the routine. In addition to increasing one’s range of motion and flexibility, Tai Chi practice can positively affect the health and functioning of the internal organs.

Those who have suffered some sort of trauma to their brain, or may have balance that is ‘sub-par’ or are functioning at less than an adequate level, can benefit from practicing tai chi. Tai Chi can positively influence the cerebro-neuromuscular patterning associated with balance and coordination.

That tai chi can be of benefit physically and mentally has been and continues to be documented. The literature is available for those who wish to find it. The deep breathing that is part of practicing Tai Chi brings fresh air (oxygen) into the body and expels carbon dioxide out of the body as diaphragmatic breathing is enhanced, posture is improved, balance is improved, the internal organs are aligned and massaged. Also, synaptic connections, associated with balance, coordination and movement, are improved. This is an exercise modality that can enhance many aspects of one’s daily life; in particular, individuals with certain neuromuscular challenges that are a result of brain dysfunction. These are just a few of the reasons to give Tai Chi a more comprehensive look.

Tai Chi has been likened to moving meditation; a system of exercise that combines relaxation, focus and intent through the use of flowing and rhythmic movement. Meditation, per se, is the bringing of the mind to a state of total awareness within the space between the thoughts. The mind is a thought factory. Many people allow their thoughts to wander without giving them much attention. This does not have to be. If thoughts can be viewed as being stepping-stones in a pond, then what we want to achieve, meditatively, is the ability to exist between and above the stones; to suspend the thoughts. In doing so, we are able to cross from one side of the pond to the other with no overt effort. We are able to rise above the mental chatter and clutter that is always with us. In suspending the thoughts we, in effect, uncloud the dross which pervades our conscious awareness and are able to perceive things in a more direct and clear manner.

Steady as You Flow — Part 1 of 2

Tai Chi is viewed by most western exercisers as a non-effective discipline; As something that cannot assist with the maintenance of their physical or their mental well-being. We can attach the principles of Tai Chi to our exercise routines and intertwine a more relaxed focus and an inner physical-mental connectedness to our physical endeavors. As a result, we can improve our overall well-being. For our purposes here, we want to focus on the neuro-physical benefits of practicing Tai Chi as it applies to those seeking rehabilitation and neural repatterning options.

The faculties that bring about clarity of the mind are very important to our day-to-day functioning. As we age, these faculties begin to wane; therefore, it is incumbent upon us, as care takers of our bodies, to work to maintain said faculties to the best degree possible.

Over the last two decades, neuroscientists have begun to reveal how physical activity – whether it be endurance, strength or skill training – can change the neurochemistry, structure and function of the brain. We are starting to understand how these changes in brain biology affect our cognitive, sensory, motor and emotional behaviors.

Neurons are arguably the most high-maintenance cells in the body. They require a constant supply of glucose and oxygen or they begin to die. The brain represents 3% of total body weight but uses 20% of total blood supply and 25% of total oxygen supply. Thus, it would seem that Tai Chi is a most adequate exercise modality for supplying oxygen to the brain and to the peripheral neural system.

There is one family of neurochemicals known as growth factors. So named because they can make neurons “grow”, these neurochemicals have been clearly shown to increase in the brain in both number and size during exercise. If exercise and oxygen are good food for neural stimulation and growth, then Tai Chi, with its emphasis on gentle rhythmic movement and full breathing, would be an excellent addition to one’s exercise regimen.

Tai Chi is a gentle aerobic exercise modality as well as a discipline that demands and develops mental focus and mind-body coordination. I am defining aerobic exercise as any activity that involves continual deep breathing. The neuromuscular benefits of Tai Chi practice include the development of fine motor control. Tai Chi enhances the production of the synovial fluid and has a positive effect on balance and range of motion.

Tai Chi can be part of a part of a rehabilitation program for those with neural challenges. Studies have shown that exercise can enhance cognitive functioning. Because our neural cells require a majority of the oxygen that we breath in, Tai Chi practice can greatly facilitate oxygen uptake for neural rehabilitative purposes. Also, the gentle nature of Tai Chi practice and the amount of coordination that can be developed by the practitioner is something that should be considered when an individual is needing an exercise modality that will assist with their rehabilitation.