Video: Breath Training To Improve Sporting & Surfing Peformance

Breathing has been described by one of the World’s top sports doctors as the last unchartered frontier of exploration for sporting performance, and has certainly started to attract more attention of late, with increasing amounts of research stating to support the evidence for breath training. In fact, the Trek cycling team has just employed a breath coach to work with their professional cyclists.

One of the reasons we started to pay attention to breathing as a modality for improving performance was from the fact that we know that the average person breathes way below diagnostic norms for breathing – the average person breathes twice as often as we should; using the mouth instead of or in addition to only the nose; using chest and shoulders instead of the diaphragm; and we breathe fa too much volume of air. In other words, we over breathe.

By correcting this dysfunction in clinic and the lab has seen a consistent flow of research and clinical evidence as to the efficacy of breath work in treating ailments such as asthma and breathing difficulties, snoring and apnoea, anxiety and depression, fatigue, headaches and migraines, IBS, reflux and other digestive issues, chronic pain etc.

Similarly, correcting this dysfunction, and enhancing the function beyond norms can offer significant improvements in sporting performance for a number of reasons. By learning breathing in and out through the nose only, using the diaphragm to drive breathing you will slow down the rate and volume of breathing at any level of exercise, and will offer the following benefits or advantages:

1. Greater surface area of the lung used for gas exchange – therefore increase oxygen uptake.

2. Increased oxygen delivery to cells, and therefore, energy production – based on the principles of the Bohr effect (as reduced rate and volume of breathing increases blood CO2 and therefore delivery of O2 to cells – see previous videos of mine at my ‘Tim Altman’ Youtube channel or blogs on www.timaltman.com.au. Or my book, ‘Breathing Dynamics’). We have found that you can learn to breathe with nose only during exercise up to about anaerobic threshold (or roughly 90% of max heart rate). But it takes time for the brain to accept higher levels of CO2 – so be patient.

3. As a result of increased O2 delivery to cells, lactic acid onset is delayed.

4. Potential buffering of lactic acid by increased CO2 – as it can be converted to bicarbonate as well as carbonic acid.

5. Increased brain tolerance to CO2 allowing for longer breath holds (for surfers etc), reduced breathing rate & volume, leading to greater breathing efficiency.

6. Increased core stability via the role the diaphragm plays in core stability.

7. Reduced heart rate during exertion resulting in further efficiency benefits – because, of all of the automatic functions in our body (controlled by the autonomic nervous system – ANS), breathing via the diaphragm is the one function we can consciously control with ease. As such, diaphragm breathing at a reduced rate, will influence the ANS and lead to reduced heart rate (via increased parasympathetic enervation).

8. Quicker recovery between intervals – due to increased breathing efficiency, and increased parasympathetic enervation.

9. Greater access to zone states or alpha brain wave activity whilst exercising – because of increased parasympathetic activity.

I’ve used these methods when paddling and finished top 10 twice in the Molokai World Surfski Championships, despite being in my late 40’s. I nose and diaphragm breathed throughout and my experience was that, once I settled into a comfortable reduced breathing pattern, I felt fantastic, and relaxed, so was able to accelerate in the last half to two thirds of the race – something that was not typical for me previously.

If you would like to learn how to breathe more efficiently during exercise to hold your breath for longer, improve performance and recovery, increase relaxation and enjoyment of sport, and improve overall health and well-being, contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918 to discuss or make an appointment. I work one on one, with groups or online.

Nutrition for energy and performance

Video: There’s Far More to Healing The Gut Than Correcting The Microbiome.

There’s Far More To Treating IBS, Reflux & Other Digestive Issues Than Correcting The Gut Microbiome

The gut has been topical of late – with terms such as ‘gut microbiome’, the ‘third brain’ etc. becoming very popular. It has certainly become evident that gut function plays a huge role in both our physical and mental health, and we have seen an increase in digestive issues such as reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, Coeliac’s Disease etc. etc.

In treating such conditions, and indeed in exploring optimal health and well-being, we need to focus on correcting and optimising the internal environment of our digestive system. Treatments have included stool analyses, detox diets, eliminative diets such as FODMAP, paleo and gluten free programs, antibiotic treatments, prebiotic and probiotic treatments, digestive enzyme therapy etc. have become extremely useful strategies. However, very often these treatments struggle to yield significant or complete resolutions.

Given this, it is worth considering that there are other influences on digestive or gut function, other than what goes on inside the digestive system, and that ignoring these can lead to less than complete resolutions. 2 other influences that have a significant impact on gut function, and must be attended to in order to treat the gut more completely, include:

1. Our breathing via the smooth muscle that surrounds the digestive tract – the average person over-breathes, meaning they breathe twice as often as they should, and with far too much volume (because they use mouth and nose rather than nose only). This upsets the delicate biochemical balance in our respiratory system that governs how we get oxygen from the air we inhale into our cells for energy production (the mechanism of which is known as ‘The Bohr Effect’). One of the compensations that result from the upset in the respiratory system by over-breathing is for the body to constrict the smooth muscle around our breathing tubes – and we experience symptoms of breathing difficulties and asthma as a result. Yet, the rest of the tubes that service our body are also surrounded by smooth muscle and over-breathing can lead to constriction and spasm in our digestive system, which is in itself a large tube, forcing it into lock down and preventing the peristaltic action of the digestive system to work effectively, leading to digestive symptoms. This is particularly highlighted by the fact that a vast majority of digestive symptoms and ailments are exacerbated by stress, are often see associated anxiety along with them (especially IBS or reflux). When we are stressed or anxious we over-breathe or hyperventilate even more, which can really exacerbate this constriction and spasm in the digestive system.

2. How we process stress – which is regulated via our hypothalamus. Our hypothalamus, in the brain stem, regulates the automatic bodily functions (including the gut, breathing, circulation etc.), endocrine function (glands and hormones), immune function, sleep cycle, neurotransmitters, some cognitive function etc. It’s job is homeostasis, and it really is the general in regulating our body and keeping it ‘purring’ along. But a hypothalamus that is ‘angry’ or ‘overdrive’ because it is working too hard as we live in constant low level fight or flight in this modern world, can then dys-regulate the function of many o all of our automatic functions – including digestion and the gut. How we process stress in the brain is governed by the healthy working relationship between our two intelligence systems: our thinking, or rational brain, whose job it is to allow us to interface with the world we live in by analysing and interpreting information, data processing, solving problems (the world of thoughts and rational – including our story of our past, and future); and the pre-thinking, instinctive emotional brain whose role is to keep us safe, happy and comfortable by constantly scanning the environment around us (in the now) and warning us of any threat, or stress, via emotions, which serve as a call to action to deal with the threat. If these two work together we attend to emotions as they arise, our thinking brain interpreting the call to action and activating action, then we process stress effectively and we go back to being happy, safe and comfortable. However, we have created a big mismatch between the bodies we have inherited (from our hunter gatherer ancestors) and the high tech, high paced world we have created, and we are taught to ignore emotions and discomfort (therefore the call to action to deal with stress) – be tough, don’t be so sensitive/emotional/irrational, don’t be a girl/sissy, push though, tough it out, don’t show weakness etc. As such we have become top of the animal kingdom, but have forgotten how to be an animal, so we internalise stress rather that dealing with it effectively. This sends us into permanent low-level ‘fight or flight’ activation, leading to symptoms.

We must attend to more than just the inside of the gut to treat it effectively!!

 

Video: Breathing Retraining Provides a Fantastic Natural Solution for Resolving Asthma and Breathing Difficulties

Tim Altman. breathing coach and naturopath (www.timaltman.com.au) discusses some fantastic and simple to learn, natural solutions to asthma, that more often than not, will help you wean off your asthma medication for good.

Most people accept that the medical treatment of asthma using pharmaceutical drugs, such as preventers, relievers and the modern combination medicines of these two, is the only effective way to manage asthma long term.
This is not true.

Research has started to suggest that what is often diagnosed by GP’s as asthma is more likely breathing difficulty (in about 80% of cases). As such, the main pathology in most asthma is to do with dysfunctional breathing.
This is not surprrising given the average person breathes nowhere near what is considered functional, according to medical diagnostic norms. We breathe twice as often as we should, and with far too much volume (meaning that we over breathe), using our mouth and chest/shoulders to breathe, rather than mostly our nose and diaphragm. In fact, when not exercising we should use our nose and diaphragm only.

This over breathing upsets the delicate biochemical balance in our respiratory system that dictates how much oxygen we get from the air we inhale into our lungs to the cells of our body for energy production (the mechanics of which are described by the ‘Bohr Effect’). If we breathe too much, we fail to produce energy efficiently, and the body perceives this as a threat to survival, so it creates constriction and spasm of the tubes that service our lungs and respiratory system to prevent the excessive loss of air; which are the symptoms we see as asthma and breathing difficulty.
As such, whilst we must also address immune hypersensitivity in some cases, the treatment priority needs to be correcting breathing function – eliminating over breathing by retraining the breathing to functional levels, breathing more slowly and with less volume. This will naturally dilate the whole respiratory system and prevent, or make it far less likely that asthma and breathing difficulties will occur at all.

We use biofeedback technology (Capnometry) to assess a person’s breathing, and retrain them using specifically created breathing rhythms that retrain your breathing from the level you are at.
There are other breathing techniques that we can also to facilitate or speed up this process also. For example, we know that a 45 second breath hold will produce roughly the equivalent vasodilation in your lungs as a puff of Ventolin.

I have found that using breathing retaining to treat and prevent asthma to be a simple and easy to learn solution that will give most clients a permanent solution to their asthma and breathing difficulties with a couple of months. It takes practice and some persistence, but it provides a long term solution, that avoids the expense and negative side effects of long term use of medications. The only side effect of breathing retraining, other than being free of symptoms of asthma and breathing difficulties, are that you will feel more relaxed, and have more energy!!

Contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918 to make an appointment.
I offer clinical sessions online, or n person in Torquay, Barwon Heads at 13th Beach Health Services – www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au) and Melbourne.

Video: We Breathe Twice As Often As We Should and It Affects Our Health in Many Ways

We breath twice as often as we should (according to medical diagnostic norms).
If our blood pressure were twice as high as it should be, or we ate twice as much as we should, we all know that would lead to health and well-being problems.
Yet we take our breathing for granted, not realising that over-breathing upsets the delicate biochemical balance in our respiratory system that dictates how we get oxygen from the air we inhale in our lungs into the cells of our body for energy production (all known as, and explained in detail by ‘The Bohr Effect’).
he implications of this are:
1. We produce less energy – contributing to fatigue related illnesses, and poor mental functioning.
2. We are more predisposed to apnoea episodes – resulting in poor sleep, low energy, poor cognitive function, fatigue, and a potential flow on to increased likelihood of suffering inflammatory conditions.
3. Smooth muscle constriction around our breathing tubes predisposing to asthma and breathing difficulties, and also conditions relating to constriction or reduced function of all of the other tubes servicing our body (circulation, digestion, lymphatic, urinary etc) – these include IBS, reflux & other digestive complaints; high blood pressure & hypertension: sinusitis, hay fever & respiratory system illnesses; headaches and migraines; anxiety & depression.
The good news is that learning how to breath functionally again is not that hard, and does not take that long. And you will feel better for it…
Email Tim at tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918. Tim is available in clinic at: Barwon Heads – 13th Beach Health Services Torquay/Jan Juc Melbourne – Sth Melbourne or Ivanhoe Or via Online Consultation

Research Suggests the Average Working Week Creates Too Much Stress and Fatigue, and Reduces Productivity.

People Over 40 Should Only Work Three Days a Week, Study Concludes

The linked article below from the University of Melbourne echoes what I have noticed so often in clinic when working with clients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, post viral syndrome, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, IBS, depression and auto-immune illnesses.

When looking at what we’ve learned from neuroscience and neuropsychology about how our brains process information, especially stress, in combination with what we’ve leaned from genetic and anthropological research on how we’re built to live (our body’s still think we live as we did as hunter gatherers), we know that our essential biological needs as an animal are for food and water, shelter, safety and love – or happiness, safety and comfort.

It’s also been determined from investigations of existing hunter-gatherer cultures, and what we can tell from previous ones, that the overage hunter gatherer cultures worked between 15-20 hour per week. Yet, the modern day human works, on average, at least double this in the name of economics, which is a concept. In other words, it’s not real according to the body’s we have inherited.

This essentially means that the average worker sacrifices a sense of our basic biological needs, including work-life balance, happiness, variety, and fulfillment in the name of a concept. Similarly, in pursuit of material or fiscal success, another concept that is learned, and therefore not real, we so often sacrifice our basic need for fulfillment, variety and leisure – and therefore happiness.

This ultimately leads to us being permanently in over-dive or constant, unrelenting low-level stress, which in turn leads to symptoms of illness that we see in the above ailments, and in the general symptoms most people seem to accept as part of life in the modern world:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Gut or digestive symptoms
  • Difficult sleeping
  • Lack of joy
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Brain fog
  • And many more.

Yet, as per the quote below from the linked article suggests, and many more studies appearing are stating to suggest, fitting with what we have learned about how our hunter gatherer bodies are built to live, our productivity, presence at work, work-life balance, sense of fulfillment and happiness all improve when we work a little less.

“After factoring in people’s quality of life, economic well-being, family structures and employment, economic researchers found that individuals who worked an average of 25 hours per week tended to perform the best. In fact, overall cognitive performance would rise until people hit the 25-hour mark, at which point cognitive test scores began dropping because of fatigue and stress.”

Hopefully one day the economic system will focus more on quality of work, and worker satisfaction, than being focused mainly on dollars and quantity of time spent working (at the expense of workers).

Nevertheless, there is still plenty we can do to reduce stress and create more balance in our current working life by understanding what our bodies are built for. More focus on work-reward ratio, work-life balance, variety at work, and a greater focus on worker well being all make a significant improvement in client’s symptoms.

In clinic when working with a client, it’s just a matter of strategy, and then trial and error, using the client’s bodily results (in terms of symptoms and emotions) to determine the effectiveness of changes made. It takes practice, and perseverance, but it works a treat. And allows the body to heal itself, which saves a fortune on medications, and supplements.St

If you would like to find more work-life balance, experience less stress, fatigue, pain, gut symptoms, sleep more soundly, or just experience more joy and happiness, then contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918. Working in this way with clients has yielded far more potent results than any approach I’ve seen; and it’s made a huge difference to how I, and many of my clients live – for the better.

https://theheartysoul.com/three-day-workweek/?utm_source=WUW&utm_content=72439-M78A

Tim Altman Talks Men’s Health @ Surfcoast Wholefoods, Torquay

Free Talk on Men’s Health Issues @ Surfcoast Wholefoods, Torquay

“Men’s Health Issues”

Free Talk by Tim Altman    www.timaltman.com.au

Surfcoast Wholefoods, Monday 9th of July @ 7.30pm – Bookings not necessary.  tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918.

Over 20 years of practice these are the main complaints I hear from men, but most suffer in silence.

  • Fatigue, Burn Out or Lack of Joy

  • Stress, Anxiety or are ‘in your head’ a lot

  • Impatience, Irritability or Chronic Pain

  • Difficulty Sleeping or Poor Sleep

  • Breathing and/or Digestive Issues

Using an evolutionary medicine approach based on genetic, anthropological and neuroscience research, I outline simple and easy to implement solutions to this chronic issue by addressing not only nutrition, breathing and exercise, but also how we rest and rejuvenate, process stress, communicate, and find work/life balance.

Research: The Long-Term Risks of Having Your Tonsils Out

 A World-First Longitudinal Study by University led by the University of Melbourne has specifically looked at the long-term effects of removing the tonsils and adenoids in childhood.

“For the first time, researchers have examined the long-term effects of removing tonsils and adenoids in childhood, finding the operations are associated with increased respiratory, infectious and allergic diseases.”

In is fantastic that the linked article (below – and captioned above), by Dr Nerissa Hannink, of The University of Melbourne, has looked at the long-term risk of removing the tonsils and adenoids in childhood – and, especially that the conclusion was; “…..our results support delaying tonsil and adenoid removal if possible, which could aid normal immune system development in childhood and reduce the possible later-life disease risks we observed in our study,” Dr Byars says.

For practitioners working with the impact of dysfunctional breathing (according to medical diagnostic norms) in clients, we find this as no surprise, especially given that most people fail to breath anywhere near medical diagnostic norms for what is considered functional for breathing – and the dysfunction most often begins at a young age.

In the linked article the tonsils and adenoids are described as acting as first line of immune defense.

“But we now know that adenoids and tonsils are strategically positioned in the nose and throat respectively, in an arrangement known as Waldeyer’s ring. They act as a first line of defense, helping to recognise airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and begin the immune response to clear them from the body.”

However, when you look at the structure of the entire respiratory system, including the nose, we are designed to principally breathe in and out of the nose – the mouth being reserved for breathing in emergencies such as high level exercise or when one is startled or out of breath, and takes a gasp.  The hairs in the nose filter the air we breathe, and the mucus in the nose and sinuses disinfect, humidify, and heat and cool the air that we inhale, so that when air reaches the lungs for gas exchange it is moist. at the right temperature and clean, optimising gas exchange.

As such, perhaps that tonsils and adenoids are not first line of immune defense. It would make more sense that the nose and sinuses are first and second line (in correct breathing), making the tonsils and adenoids third or fourth line of immune defense.

This may also then explain why the tonsils and adenoids become so inflamed in children. Given so many people mouth breathe instead of, or in addition to, primarily nose breathing, this would mean that the nose and sinuses are largely or completely by-passed by inhaled air making the tonsils and adenoids now first line of immune defense instead of 3rd or 4th. Therefore, perhaps they are being overworked by taking too much of the load of a function they merely assist in, rather than performing entirely – the resultant inflammation of tonsils and adenoids being a consequence of this overload.

In addition to delaying the removal of tonsils and adenoids as suggested by the research in the article, it may also be prudent to investigate the reason why the tonsils and adenoids become inflamed so often in children.

Correcting, or retaining breathing to functional norms, could be the first step in addressing this issue. That, on a few occasions has certainly has been my findings in clinic with clients, and that many of my colleagues report.

If you’d like to learn to retrain your breathing to correct, or functional levels, then contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918.

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/what-are-the-long-term-health-risks-of-having-your-tonsils-out?utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_medium=social&utm_content=story

Another CFS Recovery using Mickel Therapy and Breathing Dynamics

Testimonial: CFS Recovery using Breathing Dynamics and Mickel Therapy

Below is testimonial from a lovely client who recovered fully from CFS after 25 years of suffering from it. She was an online client and we used a combination of techniques including Breathing Dynamics, Mickel Therapy, Nutrition and Naturopathy.

“Earlier this year, I completed a course in Mickel Therapy with Tim Altman.   I found this technique extremely helpful in my journey to wellness after 25 years with chronic fatigue.   With Tim’s guidance, I found the programme easy to follow and was able to achieve improvement after just one session.  This improvement has continued over time.   I appreciate Tim for his depth of knowledge, empathy and honesty and would be happy to recommend him to others suffering chronic illness.”   Andra Moores, Brisbane

Contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918 if you would like help recovering from CFS, ME, adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, post viral fatigue, IBS, anxiety, depression or autoimmune ailments.

Tim Altman Breath Coach – My Services

A detailed look st the respiratory therapy or Breath coaching work I do at 13th Beach Health Services. A surprisingly highly undervalued modality, given that most people over breathe – too often, too much volume, using chest instead of diaphragm and mouth instead of nose. Breathing retraining yields fantastic results for a number of ailments including:
Snoring and sleep apnoea. Fatigue. Asthma and Breathing difficulties. Anxiety and Depression. Headaches and Migraines. HBP and Hypertension IBS, refulx and other digestive complaints. Poor peripheral circulation. Pain management. Sleep problems. Stress management.
Also great for surfers and sporting performance.
I use biofeedback technology, Capnometry, to assess and train, client’s breathing. It yields potent results as the client sees the changes on the screed as they make them.
Contact tim.timaltman.com.au or go to www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au
Nutrition for energy and performance

Tim Altman Naturopath – My Services. Nutrition and Naturopathy

Tim Altman Naturopath – My Services – Nutrition and Naturopathy

A more in depth description of the nutrition and naturopathy work I do at 13th Beach Health Services, and my other clinic addresses in Torquay, South Melbourne and Ivanhoe. I discuss my approach to nutrition, regulating blood sugar levels, weight loss, detoxification, evolutionary medicine, fasting and intermittent fasting. I also outline that I focus on optimising nutrition and health habits, rather than prescribing lots of remedies and supplements. I also discuss the use of bio-impedance testing to give an objective measure of a clients body composition, cellular health, inflammation and toxicity, energy levels and biological age.

Areas I work on in this area include, optimal health and wellness, blood sugar regulation, weight loss, fasting (intermittent and extended fasting), elimination programs, GIT problems, fatigue, pain, chronic illness, performance for sport. work etc.

Www.timaltman.com.au or www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au

Video: My Approach to Health and Performance

A follow up to my introduction to myself as a naturopath, nutritionist, respiratory therapist, Breath coach, and Mickel therapist, where I explain in more detail my services, and also outline the underlying approach that pervades all of my services and how I treat illness (such as fatigue, pain, CFS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety, IBS and digestive complaints, excessive weight, asthma and breathing difficulties, sleep difficulties, snoring, apnoea etc). The same approach, influenced by evolutionary medicine also underlies my approach to optimal wellness and performance. Go to www.timaltman.com.au or www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au

Tim Altman at 13th Beach Health Services

An introduction to myself, what led me to becoming a naturopath, nutritionist, respiratory therapist, Breath coach and Mickel therapist as I join the team at 13th Beach Health Services.

I also discuss my battle with CFS and, as a result of such a comprehensive recovery, what inspired me to explore optimal health and performance, and help others do so, or recover from chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue and pain, fibromyalgia, IBS, anxiety, depression, asthma, sleep difficulties, snoring and apnoea etc.

See www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au or www.timaltman.com.au.

 

 

 

Breathing Dynamics For Optimal Health and Performance

BREATHING DYNAMICS FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE

 Do you want to know how you can influence your quality of life by understanding the role of breathing in rest, activity, attention and composure?

Breathing is central to all life.

It is the one thing that we have conscious control of that we do more than anything else – up to 30,000 times per day on average.

BUT, did you know that:

The quality of your breathing affects the quality of your life?

And that most of us OVER BREATHE – both in rate and depth.

Normal breathing is 4-5 litres of air per minute at 8-10 breaths per minute (as opposed to 14-20 breaths that most of us take!!).

And breathing should always happen through the nose driven by the diaphragm. Most of us alternate between mouth and nose breathing using predominantly the chest and shoulders, causing us to breathe too much volume of air, with poor postural strategy using far too much effort in breathing.

This over breathing, or dysfunctional breathing, when repeated up to 30,000 times per day can result in significant compromises in optimal functioning.

Do you know what it means to breathe optimally?

The limiting factor in OPTIMAL RESPIRATION, and therefore OPTIMAL ENERGY FOR OUR CELLS, is not a lack of oxygen that we inhale? We breathe in 21% oxygen and exhale 16%, so we only use less than one quarter of the oxygen that we breathe.

It is a lack of oxygen released into cells due to low levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by OVER BREATHING OR DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING!!!!

Yet most of us OVER BREATHE or MOUTH BREATHE.

In 1903 Danish physiologist Christian Bohr won a Nobel Prize for his discovery that the lower the partial pressure (and therefore concentration) of CO2 in the arterial blood, the tighter the bond between circulating haemoglobin (Hb) and it’s bound oxygen (O2). The tighter the bond between Hb and O2, the less the amounts of oxygen released into tissues for energy production.

What causes low arterial concentration of CO2? 

OVER BREATHING!!!!

OVERBREATHING/DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING CAN RESULT IN:                                      

  1. Snoring, sleep apnoea, waking un-refreshed         

  2. Asthma, breathing difficulties  

  3. Anxiety, panic attacks

  4. Hypertension, high blood pressure

  5. Eczema, dry skin, skin irritations

  6. Fatigue/lack of endurance or stamina

  7. Allergies, sinusitis, excessive mucous production

  8. Teeth deformities

When you reduce oxygen release to cells, those cells lose functionality or under perform.

 

OPTIMAL BREATHING CAN RESULT IN:

  1. A full night of quiet sleep. Waking refreshed. 
  1. Controlled, easy breathing (even when exercising). 
  1. Greater energy levels and vitality. 
  1. Greater mental concentration and clarity. 
  1. Significantly improved work, sporting and/or artistic performance. 
  1. Clear skin. 
  1. A well formed set of teeth.                                                                               

 

When you optimize oxygen release, you optimize cellular performance. Cells flourish!!

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MEASURING AND MAINTAINING OPTIMAL CO2 LEVELS.

Over breathing causes hypocapnia (low partial pressure of CO2 in arterial blood) which results in both vaso- and broncho- constriction. And if the required ‘reservoir level’ of CO2in the lungs after expiration (namely ETCO2) is too low there will be constant interference in smooth muscle tube function and fluctuations in oxygen concentration at cellular level – causing sub-optimal cell regeneration with the accompanying chronic tiredness, sleep disordered breathing, poor concentration and lack of energy and stamina.

THE CapnoTrainer™

This is a sophisticated bio-feedback monitoring instrument that optically analyses the exhaled breath, establishes the ETCO2 and displays it in various graphic formats along with measurements of breathing rate and heart rate variability. It connects via USB and works on most PCs and laptops.

 

 

 

ETCO2 consistently below the horizontal line which represents 35mm Hg pressure – minimum level for functional breathing.

 

 

 

 ETCO2 above the horizontal line showing 40 – 45mm Hg pressure which is the correct level for optimal functioning.

 We are the only clinic in Victoria to use this new CapnoTrainerTMbioefeedbacktechnology to assess your breathing levels and retrain you to breathe optimally.

For athletes and business people, the benefits of breathing retraining can be both surprising and life changing. Both performance and efficiency of movement will improve dramatically.

We focus on training you to:

  • Nose breathe at all levels of exertion.
  • Use your diaphragm (rather than the chest and clavicles) as the main driver of breathing.
  • Reduce the rate and volume of your breath at all levels of exertion.
  • Manage stress levels by regulating your autonomic nervous system – specifically by reducing sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) dominance and increasing parasympathetic (relaxation) function.

 

This will result in the following benefits:

  1. Use of a greater surface area of your lungs for gas exchange.
  2. Increase oxygen release to tissue and cells of your body.
  3. For athletes – delay onset of lactic acid.
  4. Reduced heart rates even under pressure or at higher levels of exertion.
  5. Greater relaxation at all levels of stress or exertion via increased parasympathetic nervous system activation.
  6. Greater access to ‘Zone’ or ‘alpha’ states during performance, exercise or racing.
  7. Increased deep system stabilization (postural) via diaphragmatic control.
  8. Relaxation of nerves prior to stressful events or races.

We teach Breathing Dynamics to the public both one on one in clinic or in courses for groups.

 

Tim Altman B.Sc.; B.H.Sc (Naturopathy) www.timaltman.com.au

Ph: 0425 739 918

 

 

Long Slow Breathing

Long Slow Breathing

A fantastic article, linked, posted on Facebook by Simon Borg-Olivier, founder of Yoga Synergy, on long slow breathing and readying your breathing for pranayama. Along with colleague, physio and Chinese medicine practitioner, Matt Radford,  I interviewed Simon recently for our upcoming podcast, Take A Breath, and it was incredibly educational and inspiring.

Simon’s knowledge of breathing is incredibly thorough, and he has transferred this knowledge into his daily life and practice. I can’t wait to release the podcast so the general public can hear Simon’s great wisdom also. Coming soon.

https://www.facebook.com/simon.borgolivier/posts/10156365507456095

 

 

 

 

ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF MUSCLES INVOLVED IN BREATHING

ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF MUSCLES INVOLVED IN BREATHING:

I ran a Breathing Dynamics course for Surfers and Sports people over the weekend, (details linked here https://www.facebook.com/events/2083394425213514/) and a question came up about the muscles involved in breathing, and their relationship to posture. One of the attendees, Torquay myotherapist, Gary Javoneva was able to contribute some fantastic information. He followed up with this fantastic article on the ‘Anatomy and physiology of muscles involved in breathing.’  I have included the full article, including Gary’s contact details here.

“I have prepared this article to explain you the principle and the relation between breathing and your muscles and on how can your posture mess up with your training. I tried to keep it simple and brief.

BREATHING PUMP MUSCLE:

The breathing pump muscle are a complex arrangement that form a semi-rigid bellows around your lungs.

Essentially, all the muscles that attach to the rib cage have the potential to generate breathing action. Here are the main muscles involve in breathing and that can be treated during a myotherapy session:

INSPIRATORY MUSCLES:

The principle muscle of inspiration is the diaphragm, it attaches to the lower ribs and the lumbar vertebrae.

Diaphragm contraction induces the lower ribs upward and forward, increasing the thoracic volume.

The muscles of the ribs: The Intercostal muscles located in the space between the ribs. Contraction of the intercostals cause the ribs to move upward and outward.

Intercostal muscle contractions also stiffen the rib cage during lifting, pushing, and pulling movement.

Some muscles in the neck region also have an inspiratory function, the Scalenes and Sternocleidomastoid muscles are attached to the top of the sternum, upper two ribs and clavicle (Collar bone). When these muscles contract they lift the top of the chest, but the scalene muscles are also involved in flexion of the neck.

EXPIRATORY MUSCLES:

The most well known and visible expiratory muscle is the rectus abdominis (6 pack), the other muscles less visible, but arguably more functionally important in any sports with their primary actions are the transversus abdominis and the internal and exterior oblique muscles.

The internal intercostal which slope backward, when they contract the ribs move downward and inward. Both internal and external intercostal muscles are also involved in flexing and twisting the trunk.

HOW POSTURE CAN MESS UP YOUR BREATHING:

If you sit down and lean over, stretching your hands toward the floor in front of your feet, your breathing is far more difficult, because your lungs cannot be filled as easily with air.
What does this extreme example tell us? Quite simply, the more restrictions you place on your breathing, the harder it becomes. Leaning over squeezes your lungs, making them smaller, and decreasing your breathing volume. Shallow breathing means less oxygen into your system. Less oxygen means less energy support.
Sitting or standing straight for a few minutes after slouching most of your life is not good enough. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments become trained by constant slouching. You need to train them with an entirely new habit. You need to create a new “upright” lifestyle.

If you would like to learn more about your posture or you breathing muscles, feel free to contact me 0456074732-

gary@torquaysmc.com.au, or come in a for a chat at the clinic which is located in the heart of Surf City in Torquay. Torquay Sports Medicine Centre.

Gary Javonena – Myotherapist”

 

 

 

Breathing Retraining Can Help Sleep Apnoea Quicker Than You Think

Correct Breathing: A Natural Cost Effective Solution For Sleep Apnoea and Snoring

Below is a text that came from a sleep apnoea client the day after our first session – I’ve modified a name and omitted the client’s full name for privacy purposes.

Last night had 2hrs more sleep and haven’t needed a sleep so far today. Enjoyed a session with #$% and run up the stairs ! Wow!……..When I woke just breathed properly and off to sleep I went!! Many thanks Tim.” Jan, Torquay

We don’t always see such a quick response, and this client still has a long way to go in terms of making permanent change as, whilst correcting a person’s breathing can definitely yield fantastic results very quickly, it does take consistent practice over several weeks to make those results permanent.

This is not a surprise given the fundamental pathology in sleep apnoea is caused by the consequences of dysfunctional breathing whilst sleeping – especially mouth breathing. See the inserted link for more information on the role of breathing retraining in sleep apnoea and as a solution for snoring and sleep apnoea.  http://timaltman.com.au/breathing-dynamics-solutions-snoring-sleep-apnoea/

This client may also require a few other interventions if an obstruction in the airway is evident.  These include dentistry and orofacial myology (if the jaw position is leading to an obstruction), weight loss (as excessive weight can obstruct the airways) and other body work (physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy). Time will tell. However, the combination of breathing retraining with these interventions very frequently yields fantastic results that can prevent a sufferer of sleep apnoea from a life time of dependency on an obtrusive, and expensive CPAP machine. Or a lifetime of fatigue, and many other side effects of sleep apnoea (see link above).

Nevertheless, this is a great start. And a great living example of the effectiveness of breathing retraining in treating sleep apnoea.

If you or someone you know suffer from sleep apnoea and would like to source a natural, cost effective and easy to learn solution, then contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918.

 

 

 

 

Roadtripping Everest Video

Here’s the video from the fantastic article I linked in yesterday’s blog on the cyclists who attempted to an ‘Everesting’ at the foot of Everest itself. I was happy that the small role I played in training the cyclists to breathe more efficiently to aid in acclimatising to altitude, to recover from exertion and to relax, was of some help in their mission..

Worth taking the time to watch this video – not just for the adventure. The scenery is incredible.

https://cyclingtips.com/2017/12/roadtripping-everest/

Breathing For an ‘Everesting’ Cycle Mission

Article: Roadtripping Everest – www.cyclingtips.com

Linked below is a fantastic article and video by Andy Van-Bergen from www.cyclingtips.com on a road trip he took to base camp at Mt Everest at an altitude of 5,000m to attempt what has now become known in the cycling world as ‘Everesting’ – to climb the equivalent of 8,848m — the height of sea level to the summit of Everest — in one ride.

Andy’s desciption of this task sums it up:

“Doing a regular Everesting is hard enough — 24 hours spent riding up and down the same road is beyond taxing, both physically and mentally — but doing it on the approach to Everest itself would take things to the next level.

The temperature would range between 8 degrees and minus 5, the cold air rolling down the North Face would all but ensure we faced a block headwind as we climbed, and the effect of high altitude would be an unknown factor we would struggle to simulate and prepare for. After all, there was no precedent for endurance cycling at high altitude that we could find.

In short, it was clear that we had found ourselves an adventure.”

As a part of their preparation they trained regularly at Melbourne Altitude Training using the Wattbike-equipped altitude chamber which replaced oxygen with nitrogen, as well as adjusting humidity to simulate a height of 5,000m (at 11.5% O2).

It was via Oz Begen of the Melbourne Altitude Training that I met Andy and Matilda (two of the three cyclists attempting this gruelling and pioneering task).

Training at altitude has benefits of helping the body acclimatise to low oxygen environments, making it more efficient at taking up oxygen into the bloodstream. At lower altitude the body then maintains this increase efficiency at up-taking oxygen into the bloodstream for a period of time. Athletes from many sports have found benefits using altitude training over the years, and many research studies have validated these benefits. In fact, many professional athletes and clubs have invested in altitude training facilities at their training venues.

However, whilst increasing blood saturation of oxygen certainly has benefits, being able to deliver the oxygen into the blood stream more efficiently will further increase these benefits – and this is where breathing retraining comes in.

I had only 2 weeks to train with Andy and Matilda, so I couldn’t teach them to effectively nose and diaphragm breathe whilst riding at higher levels of intensity, however I could teach them techniques that would facilitate their recovery and help them relax.

The diaphragmatic breathing rhythms using the nose help athletes to return to resting heart rate more quickly after exertion (so they can exert again sooner, and/or more efficiently when they do exert again). In addition they help to use more of the lung volume for gas exchange, deliver oxygen to the cells for energy production more efficiently (which also means they delay lactic acid production), and relax the nervous system, increasing parasympathetic nervous system enervation.

Whilst the mission they undertook proved too difficult, the techniques learned did help them out along the way. Here are a few excerpts from the article illustrating the training and benefits:

“We also used the sessions to work on our strength and recovery breathing techniques with our respiration coach Tim Altman. The recovery breathing felt like a structured version of meditation, with a simple 5 second inhale, 2 second hold, 10 second exhale. It took a few minutes to get on top of following an effort, but was calming and relaxing.

The strength training to build lung capacity was genuinely terrifying in whatever form it took, and there were many forms. While riding at altitude in the chamber we would perform 10 second maximum effort sprints while clamping our nose and mouth shut. We were given ten seconds recovery, followed by another 10 second sprint and so on for blocks of two minutes. Usually by the third or fourth rep things were far beyond uncomfortable. These blocks were then finished with a coached breath hold. At around the one-minute mark convulsions would start to set in, and all the while Tim was gently telling us to fight through it.”

“The training certainly seemed to help. A few weeks in and I was feeling stronger than I had in years. I was on every supplement known to man (well, the legal ones anyway), the respiration coaching we’d been doing with Tim Altman was finally starting to kick in, and I even scheduled in a Zwift ‘virtual Everesting’ before we were due to leave. I felt as prepared as I could, considering I had no idea what to expect.”

“Walking up the gangway while lugging 20kg of ‘carry on’ a strange sensation of dizziness and the sound of rushing blood in my ears combined with a noticeable breathlessness. We shot each other panicked looks. Gone was the banter, replaced by fear. As we stood waiting for our bags we reminded each other that a big part of this initial feeling could be attributed to anxiety, and we knew from our training that this could be controlled with our breathing. Sure enough, in the time it took to arrive at the hotel we were on top of things again, and had almost forgotten about the altitude. This was to be the pattern we’d follow for the next two weeks. A seed of a thought could easily grow into breathless anxiety, only to be controlled with breathing.”

“Tim Altman’s respiratory recovery came to mind. I flipped on some jazz, closed my eyes, and spent the next ten minutes performing breathing exercises. I wasn’t back above 80%, but I felt like a different person, and it only took one mention of the switchbacked descent to come to have me out on the bike again.”

It’s a enthralling read and a fantastic video, scenery is simply breathtaking. I highly recommend you both read and watch. And huge thumbs up to Andy, Matilda, Shannon and the team for attempting such a monumental, unchartered challenge. Super impressive. What an adventure.

If you would like to learn more about breathing for sporting performance, relaxation, health and well-being, or assisting in acclimatisation to altitude, then feel free to email me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call +61 425 739 918.

https://cyclingtips.com/2017/12/roadtripping-everest/

MEDITATION OFFERS THE IDEAL COUNTER-BALANCE TO THE MAN-MADE STRESSORS OF THE MODERN WORLD

Article: Meditation as a Voluntary Hypometabolic State of Biological Estivation.

I first came across the linked article by John Ding-E Young and Eugene Taylor (News Physiol. Sci. • Volume 13 • June 1998) in 1999 via a university physiology lecturer whilst completing second degree, a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in naturopathy. It really made a huge impact on me.

I had been meditating on and off for many years, since being introduced to it and yoga in my teens, and had always found it to be a deeply profound and potent practice for not only achieving fantastic health and performance outcomes, but also sense of calm, focus and flow in my day to day life. It felt so good.

However, as most meditators will attest from their experiences, my practice had always been sporadic, which frustrated me a lot. It was the first thing I recommenced when I felt down or not well, or life had got on top of me, and was always the best cure for all of these. Yet, as soon as I stated to feel well again, or in control, it was the first thing I dropped from my routine. Yet I knew how good it was for me and how much better I felt internally (both physically and psychologically) whenever I practiced it; and especially when I had a consistent regular practice.

When I saw in this article from ‘creditable’ western scientists in a ‘credible’ western publication on what was being observed and measured in many ‘advanced’ meditators, I was really shocked. I had read about these so-called physically and physiologically impossible phenomenon in books about holy men in India and Tibet, but to read about it so clearly, and validly measured in a western scientific publication really brought it to my attention. I felt a sense of guilt and disappointment that I had not meditated more often and more consistently. It had felt like I had a golden opportunity for, or the keys to the door to freedom and limitlessness, yet I had turned my back on it.

Using a swimming analogy, if this is what the Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps of the meditating world can achieve, then there is still scope for there to be so much benefit for the average ‘lap swimmer’ of the meditation world.

I will say that this article shocked me into action, and I began a consistent practice of meditation for several years, including spending time living in an ashram in Melbourne whilst I was completing my studies. It began a profound period of internal growth that changed my body physically and helped me release many out-dated, negative self-limiting patterns. Whilst it did involve hard work, discipline, and often sitting through some very unpleasant times (as the old emotional layers and patterns peeled away), the reward was a physical robustness that I had never before felt, and a deep sense of mental and emotional sweetness that I have been deeply grateful for ever since.

The process is an ongoing evolution, and I was by no means living in permanent peace and bliss as a result, but I did feel very well physically most of the time, and know I only had to turn inwards to experience the sweetness again and again. And to come from having been very ill for a long time with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and very frustrated and miserable internally,  a couple of years earlier, I felt very, very grateful – like I had escaped a very dire future.

Below, in italics, is an excerpt from the article that I hope shocks you enough for you to pay more attention to the potent and profound benefits of meditation on health, well-being and performance. Especially, given many of the people who find my website, read my blogs and come to me for treatment, have similar experiences to my past, where they suffer from chronic illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Sydrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, IBS, Anxiety/Depression and feel helpless, misunderstood and miserable.

“In a different study done in a more naturalistic setting on a different adept, Yogi Satyamurti (70 yr of age) remained confined in a small underground pit, sealed from the top, for 8 days. He was physically restricted by recording wires, during which time electrocardiogram (ECG) results showed his heart rate to be below the measurable sensitivity of the recording instruments (see Fig. 1). News Physiol. Sci. • Volume 13 • June 1998 151 “Hypometabolism is markedly increased in the advanced meditator. . . .” by 10.220.32.246 on November 6, 2017 http://physiologyonline.physiology.org/ Downloaded from

The point is that deep relaxation appears to be the entryway into meditation, but in advanced stages refined control over involuntary processes becomes possible, in which systems can be either activated or inactivated. From the practitioner’s standpoint, in a purely naturalistic setting, this is achieved through mastery of a particular technique that is understood in the context of a specific philosophical school of thought, usually communicated under the supervision of a meditation teacher……………. During his 8-day stay in an underground pit, Yogi Satyamurti exhibited a marked tachycardia of 250 beats/min for the first 29 h of his stay. Thereafter, for the next 6.5 days, the ECG complexes were replaced by an isoelectric line, showing no heartbeat whatsoever (see Fig. 1). The experimenters at first thought he had died. Then, 0.5 h before the experiment was due to end on the 8th day, the ECG resumed, recording normal heart rate activity. Satyamurti also exhibited other behaviors similar to hibernating organisms. One of the most economical methods of preserving energy during hibernation requires animals to bring their body temperature down to that of the surrounding environment. Satyamurti, brought out of the pit on the 8th day, cold and shivering, showed a body temperature approximately equal to that maintained in the pit, namely, 34.8°C.”

Finally, the authors of the article have postulated that the evolutionary significance of meditation, the authors have associated meditation physiologically with processes such as hibernation and estivation, and have suggested it to be the re-acquisition of a very old adaptive mechanism.

When we consider the evolutionary significance of the hibernating and estivating response, the most obvious benefits include conservation of energy and adaptive survival in harsh environments where the weather is bad and the food and water supplies are not always available year round.

Similarly, now, instead of being merely reactive to environmental variables, such as temperature change or lack of food, human beings must be trained to re-enter this conservative and restorative state, but as a voluntary act of will in response to the increasing and unpredictable stresses of man-made environments.

Based on the research, breathing and meditation clearly appears to offer a brilliant adaptive advantage to mismatch we have created between the body we have inherited (from our hunter-gatherer ancestors) and the largely artificial, highly stressful world we have created. Without it, our bodies are poorly adapted to cope.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/67ec/32b0d49be7fe6b4137c064dbe43d81b65cc9.pdf

 

 

MEDITATION IS MEDICINE

Research Review: The Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Meditation

Below is a research review on meditation I wrote back in 2001. It’s old, however it’s still very compelling. It is long, and I apologise that I lost most of the references (my word processing skills were/are not my forte). Definitely worth a read however.

Possibly the greatest bit of health advice I could give any client would be to stat a daily medicine practice. It truly is medicine. And, eventually, it will set you free.

MEDITATION

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

Meditation is commonly defined to be a state of single-minded concentration. Concentration being focused restfully on a particular thing or focal point; hence the term ‘restful alertness.’ It is often used loosely to describe activities such as relaxation techniques, concentration exercises, contemplation, reflection and guided imagery. Meditation however, is more than just physical relaxation for it engages the mind as well as relaxing the body. It is often regarded as a heightened state of conscious awareness – a state of mind such as a state of inner peace, of stillness or silence, of union, of oneness. What differentiates meditation from the state of being awake or asleep is the conscious awareness of being profoundly still, and involves ‘waking up’ or ‘tuning in’ the mind – it is a state where we let go of the ‘doing’ of the normal waking state, and settle into a state of simply ‘being.’

The researcher John Kabat-Zinn describes meditation as a ‘way of being’ by helping a person go more deeply into themselves, beyond all the surface physical sensations and mental activity1. The hallmark of meditation being this state of inner stillness or silence. In this state of stillness we learn to detach from our endless stream of mental activity, reducing the emotive force of it, and eventually ‘transcending’ it by becoming the observer. In this way meditation can also be seen as an exercise in enhancing autonomy, self control or effective action. Similarly it can also be seen as an exercise in self knowledge or even spiritualism.

It was for this purpose that meditation was derived in Asian cultures many thousands of years ago. They directed the use of meditation and yoga towards the attainment of a ‘unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration.’2 Modern psychologists have described this state as ‘individuation’or ‘self-actualisation’ and it has traditionally been termed ‘self-realisation.’

 

HOW DOES MEDITATION WORK?

 

The ‘Sahaja Yoga Hypothesis’ is that meditation triggers a rebalancing process within the autonomic system (a complex system of nerves that governs the function of all the organs of our body) thereby allowing our natural healing process to revitalise and rejuvenate diseased organs.3 According to this hypothesis, imbalance in this system is the cause of both physiological and psychological illness.

The balancing of the autonomic nervous system occurs via the seven chakras, or subtle energy centres within our body; each of which govern specific sets of organs, and aspects of our psychology and spirituality. Imbalanced function of these chakras results in abnormal function of any aspect of our being (physical, mental or spiritual) that relates to the imbalanced centre.

Meditation is a specific process that awakens the ‘kundalini’(an innate, nurturing energy), causing it to rise from its base at the sacrum bone piercing each of the seven chakras, thereby nourishing and rejuvenating them, and bringing each of them into balance and alignment. As the kundalini reaches the brain and the chakras within it, mental tensions are neutralised. An inner state of mental calm is established. This inner silence becomes a source of inner peace that neutralises the stresses of everyday life, enhancing creativity, productivity, and self-satisfaction.

 

PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES IN MEDITATION

 

Recently scientific research has been establishing how meditation works. A new area of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology (or mind/body medicine) is demonstrating how our state of mind powerfully affects our state of being. Science is now beginning to unravel some of the mystery surrounding meditation, and we are now beginning to be able to observe and understand the physiological changes taking place in the minds and bodies of meditators.

Meditation is characterised physiologically as a wakeful hypometabolic state of parasympathetic dominance analogous to other hypometabolic conditions such as sleep, hypnosis and the torpor of hibernation.4 Meditation, however, represents a special case of the hypometabolic state. The body appears to move into a state analogous to many, but not all, aspects of deep sleep, while consciousness remains responsive and alert.5

Physiological evidence, shows that, indeed, sleep and meditation are not the same. Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings are quite different in the waking state, in sleep and in meditation. Studies suggest that alpha (8-12 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) activity is predominant in meditation, whereas delta (1-4 Hz) activity predominates in deep sleep, and beta (13-26 Hz) predominates in the waking state. There is also greater coherence of alpha waves across the cortex in the meditative state. Theta wave activity is indicative of dreaming (or rapid eye movement or REM sleep), however alpha wave activity is the predominant of these two in meditation. Alpha wave activity is associated with relaxation. It is also more closely associated with a state of wakeful alertness, where one’s state of consciousness is characterised as empty of any particular content but nevertheless active and alert above the threshold of awareness.4

Slightly contrary to this suggestion that the alpha state more closely resembles the state of wakeful alertness, were the results from one study, which had meditators signal when they had definitely entered into this state of wakeful or thoughtless awareness.3 Widespread alpha wave activity occurred initially, however, as the meditators signalled they had entered into the state of mental silence or ‘thoughtless awareness’ theta wave activity became focused specifically in the front and top of the brain in the midline. Precisely at the time that the theta wave activity became prominent, the meditators reported that they experienced a state of complete mental silence and ‘oneness’ with the present moment.

Of further note with this study was the focus of the theta activity at the front and top of the head, both in the midline. This suggests that structures deep within the brain, possibly the limbic system, are being activated. The limbic system is responsible for many aspects of our subjective experiences, such as emotion and mood, so it is no surprise that meditation, which is traditionally associated with blissful states, might involve this part of the brain.

Of final note with this study, is that the subject group investigated was only very small, so the reported results need further investigation before they can be considered to be extremely valid.

In the hypometabolic state induced by meditation the following changes occur6:

* catecholamine (adrenaline, noradrenaline) levels drop

* reduction in cortisol levels

* galvanic skin resistance increases markedly (low skin resistance is an accurate marker of the stress response).

* cerebral blood profusion increases

* respiration rate and minute volume decrease significantly without significant change in pO2 & pCO2.

* decreased vascular resistance

* lowered O2 and CO2 consumption and metabolic rate (well below that achieved in sleep)

* marked decline in blood lactate (which is a metabolite of anaerobic respiration and is high in stressful situations.

* reduced blood pressure and pulse rate7

The above pattern of changes is so consistent it is now called the ‘relaxation response.’ Meditation is a very potent way of eliciting this relaxation response. It is also often evident in many forms of prayer and contemplation across cultures.

Although it is generally conceded that a wakeful hypometabolic state of increased parasympathetic dominance characterises almost all forms of meditation in their initial stages, advanced meditators who have been meditating for years or even decades show marked differences in both their physiological response and their ability to control their own physiology compared with meditators who have only been practising a short time.4

The prominent feature found in advanced meditators as the voluntary control of internal states was that they displayed sympathetic nervous system control in the presence of parasympathetic dominance. This was discovered by the finding of increased plasma adrenaline in advanced meditators, in the presence of decreased heart rate and acute and marked decline of adrenocortical activity.

Other differences between advanced and novice meditators include markedly increased hypometabolism in advanced meditators; significantly decreased sensitivity to ambient CO2, and increased episodes of respiratory suspension which are highly correlated with subjective reports of what is called in yoga the experience of pure consciousness.

Dramatic increases of phenylanaline (an amino acid used in depression as it is a precursor to tyrosine which is an excitatory neurotransmitter) and urinary metabolites of serotonin (which influences moods and sleep and is antidepressant, helps induce sleep and relieves pain) are also noted in advanced meditators. Also thyroid simulating hormone has also been noted to decrease chronically and acutely

in advanced meditators.

Several studies have corroborated this phenomenon in advanced meditators of sympathetic control in the prescence of parasympathetic dominance. In these studies the advanced meditation practitioners have gained phenomenal control over normally involuntary bodily processes.

In one such study Tibetan monks were able to generate such body heat during meditation that they could dry wet sheets on their backs in freezing weather. In another study in the laboratory, an Indian yogi lowered his metabolism so much that he was able to remain in an airtight box for 10 hours with no ill-effects or signs of tachycardia or hyperpnoea

In another intriguing study4 a Yogi Satyamurti (70 y.o.) remained in a small underground pit, sealed from the top, for 8 days. He was physically restricted by recording wires. For the first 29 hours of his 8-day stay Satyamurti exhibited a marked tachycardia of 250 beats/min. For the next 6.5 days the electrocardiogram (ECG) results showed no heartbeat whatsoever. ‘The experimenters at first thought he had died.’ Half an hour before he was due to leave the pit his heart rate returned to normal. In addition Satyamurti was able to maintain his body temperature at a level approximately level to the temperature in the pit (34.8 deg Celsius). This is a behaviour displayed by many hibernating animals.

In a final study8 Tibetan Buddhist monks were found to be able to raise their resting metabolism (VO2) up as much as 61%, and lower it down as much as 64%. This reduction from rest was the largest ever recorded.

The point of illustrating these cases is that ‘deep relaxation appears to be the entryway into meditation, but in advanced stages refined control over involuntary processes becomes possible, in which systems can be either activated or inactivated.’

 

MEDITATION AND STRESS

 

A great deal of attention has been paid in recent years to the role of stress in health and particularly in disease. The amount of research being conducted in this area is on the increase. Stress has been recognised as a contributor to, or direct cause of many illnesses. In acute situations, stress can be a natural and appropriate physiological response to an exceptional circumstance. This is often recognised as the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, as soon as the stressful stimulus disappears or dissipates, the physiology of the person should return to normal, with the event being left mentally in the past. This is not always the case.

Hans Seyle first identified the stress response as the ‘general adaptation syndrome’ as a means of explaining the way in which psychological stress translates into physical disease. Stress is postulated to induce psycho-hormonal changes. In acute situations, as mentioned above, the response is functional; but in the chronic situation the organism continues to adapt successfully to ever-increasing levels of stress in the environment until the point of exhaustion, resulting in debilitation of bodily systems and, ultimately, death.

In the chronic situation above, the stress is inappropriate as the nature of the stressor is invariably a by-product of thought; we must actually think about the events for them to produce stress. These thoughts being either of past experiences or of events we anticipate will occur in the future. One common denominator is that neither stressor is actually real – the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t occurred yet. As far as the body is concerned, it does not distinguish between what is a real stressor and what is a perceived or imagined one.

The effects of prolonged and excessive psychological stress on the body involves every system. Psychoneuroimmunology has told us that stress can negatively affect our immune system and susceptibility to infection. In one study9 394 people had their levels of stress measured and were then inoculated directly to five different cold viruses. The results demonstrated that the likelihood of actually getting a cold seemed to be directly proportional to the level of stress, which the host was experiencing at the time.

In another study, it was found that profound immune suppression in medical students over the exam period. In particular there was lowered natural killer (NK) cell activity, a 90% reduction in gamma interferon and lowered response of T cell lymphocytes.10 Also the immune-suppression in those going through marital separation is proportional to the amount of negative emotion or difficulty the person experiences in letting go.1

It is also well known that stress can increase blood pressure. Other less well-known effects of chronic stress include:

* slowing wound healing11

* increasing genetic mutations12 and decreasing repair.133

* effects on genetic expression which can predispose to problems as diverse as addictive behaviours,14 cardiovascular reactivity,15 depression16 and schizophrenia17.

One study recently demonstrated that a woman placed under considerable stress, particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy, will have a 2.8 times increased risk of her offspring developing schizophrenia18.

 

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS REDUCTION AND MEDITATION

 

The relaxation response or the state of restful or wakeful awareness that occurs in meditation helps to reverse many of the physiological and psychological effects of stress by undoing many of the harmful affects of inappropriate stress. The hypometabolic state of parasympathetic dominance resets the internal metabolic functioning to a state of rest, rather than a constant readiness and perceptual over-reaction, and helps to counter the excessive demands placed on the mind and body by chronic stress. Also the inner silence created in the ‘wakeful or thoughtless awareness’ state of meditation helps to bring about (over time via constant practise) a naturally stress-free environment.

Prior to listing many of the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and stress reduction (following), some interesting studies on the role and efficacy of meditation in stress reduction (one in a working population and one in laboratory conditions) will be discussed.

The first study looked at the efficacy of meditation and stress reduction techniques for the management of stress in an organisational setting. Employees selected for stress learned either one of two meditation techniques, a progressive relaxation technique, or were put in a waiting list control group. After 5.5 months, both the meditation and progressive relaxation groups showed clinical improvement in self reported symptoms of stress, but only the meditation groups showed significantly more symptom reduction than the control group (no relaxation/meditation training). Also the meditation groups had a 78% compliance rate at 5.5 months with treatment effect seen whether subjects practiced their techniques frequently or occasionally56

Another study looked at stress in a laboratory setting57. Whilst the mechanisms by which stress leads to poor health are largely unknown, high basal cortisol levels produced by chronic stress and low cortisol response to acute stressors has been suggested as a result of studies in animals. This study compared changes in baseline levels and acute responses to laboratory stressors for cortisol (and three other hormones – TSH, GH and testosterone) in a group trained in meditation with a control group that received stress education. After a 4 month intervention, the meditation group displayed decreased basal cortisol and average cortisol levels, which was not seen in the control group. The meditation group also showed increased cortisol responsiveness to acute stressors compared to the control group. The above results supported previous data suggesting that repeated practice of meditation reverses the effects of chronic stress significant for health.

 

PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF STRESS REDUCTION

 

In addition to the physiological changes that occur as a result of the hypometabolic state produced by the relaxation response seen in meditation, following are further physiological benefits that have been made evident by research into meditation and stress reduction:

 

  • reduction in serum cholesterol, more than would be accounted for by diet alone19

 

  • lowered serum levels of lipid peroxides, which are associated with free radical damage to cell membranes20

 

  • changes in EEG patterns associated with the state of restful alertness including an increase in alpha and theta waves and EEG coherence (co-ordination of EEG waves).

 

  • a reduction in epileptic seizure frequency21

 

  • changes in neurotransmitter profile including high serotonin production as seen in recovery from depression22

 

  • increased night-time plasma melatonin levels (useful in insomnia and resetting biological rythyms, and has anti-tumour effects)26

 

  • reduced TSH and T3 levels23

 

  • significant decreases in reaction time7 and improved reflex response24

 

  • improvement in perceptiveness of hearing and other senses25

 

  • reduced calcium loss and risk of osteoporosis (probably related to a reduction in cortisol)

 

  • improved immune function. Of note is that stress reduction stimulates an under active immune system due to chronic stress, whilst it reduces an over-active immune system as may be seen in auto-immune and inflammatory conditions. For example, in a study of patients with early stage malignant melanoma27, following a six month stress management intervention (in addition to the usual surgical management) patients displayed significantly better immune function than the control group and, as a consequence, showed a halving of the recurrence and much lower death rates. Alternatively, in a chronic inflammatory disease such as asthma which involves an over-active immune system, patients who received a two week yoga training program demonstrated significantly less attacks per week, improved scores for drug treatment and improved respiratory function tests28.

 

  • excellent benefits as an adjunct to therapy for a variety of illnesses including the following:

* cardiovascular disease. In one study29, patients with cerebrovascular disease (CVD) were divided into either a group which took up 20 minutes of transcendental meditation twice each day, or a group that had a CVD health education program aimed at lowering risk factors and were also encouraged to spend 20 minutes per day in relaxing activities other than meditation. Over a 6-9 month follow up the meditation group showed reductions in arterial wall thickness that would translate to reductions of risk of acute myocardial infarction of 11% and of stroke of 15%. The improvements were not attributable to changes in other cardiovascular risk factors. Alternatively the other (control) group showed a slight advance in their disease (based on arterial wall thickness).

In the Ornish study30 a significant improvement in both coronary heart disease (CHD) and quality of life was shown by an intervention group who were given a comprehensive lifestyle program (including group support, meditation, yoga, a low fat vegetarian diet and moderate exercise) in addition to their medical treatment, when compared to a control group who received conventional medical treatment only (most of whose CHD deteriorated). Ironically the costs of the lifestyle program were vastly less than for bypass surgery despite the results being much superior.

* irritable bowel syndrome31

* cancer – see study on malignant melanoma above27. Another study showed in women with metastatic breast cancer a doubling of survival time from the time of entry into the study if the women were given group support and taught simple relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques as a part of their management32.

* chronic pain33&34

* diabetes35

* fibromyalgia36

* asthma – see study above28. A study performed at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney3 compared the Sahaja yoga meditation technique to a simple relaxation technique as an adjunct to treatment for patients whose asthma was so severe it did not properly respond even to maximum levels of medication. The results showed that while both groups did appear to bring about improvements in the way patients felt, the meditation also showed improvements in the severity of the disease process itself.

 

  • Reduced frequency of menopausal hot flushes. A study found 9 out of 10 women who enrolled in an eight week meditation program reported at least 50% reduction in the frequency of their hot flushes. Six of these women had a 65-70% improvement in their hot flushes, which after eight weeks of meditation treatment, is comparable to that seen in conventional HRT treatment. In addition, standard measures of quality of life and symptom profiles showed similar degrees of improvement3. It should be noted however, that the authors did emphasize that larger, randomised, controlled trials need to be carried out to more conclusively validate the above results.

 

  • Reduced medical care utilization and health care costs. A field study compared 5 years of medical insurance utilization statistics of 2000 regular meditators with 600,000 non-meditators37. The findings suggested that in every disease category (17 in total) there were significant reductions in illness, for example an 87% reduction in heart disease and in diseases for the nervous system, 55% reduction in tumours, and 30% reduction in both mental disorders and all infectious diseases. On the weight of such evidence, insurance companies in the USA and Europe are beginning to offer up to 30% reductions on life insurance premiums for people who practice an approved form of meditation regularly.

 

  • Effects on ageing – increased longevity. One study investigated the effects of meditation process on ageing using a standard test of biological aging (utilising auditory threshold, near point vision, and systolic blood pressure as variables). Results found that the mean biological age for a control group was 2.2 years younger than that for the general population, whilst it was 5.0 and 12.0 years younger for intervention groups of short and long term meditators respectively (mean age of the study population = 53 years). The difference between groups was still significant after covarying for a diet factor. Also, there was a significant correlation between length of time practicing meditation and biological age38.

Another study found higher improvements on variables relating to age related decline for meditation treatment groups than for relaxation treatment or no treatment groups (mean study population age = 81). Also, after 3 years survival rate was much higher for these meditation groups than the other groups39.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION AND STRESS REDUCTION

 

A study worthy of note in this area attempted to rigorously map the psychological effects of Zen meditation among experienced practitioners. Analyses revealed that in comparison to a control group, experienced meditators are less likely to believe in God, more likely to believe in Inner Wisdom, and more likely to display the relaxation dispositions Mental Quiet, Mental Relaxation, and Timeless/Boundless/Infinite. Pre- and post-session analyses revealed that meditators showed greater increments in the relaxation states Mental Quiet, Love and Thankfulness, as well as reduced Worry55

 

  • decreased anxiety40. One study using a group mindfulness meditation training program on patients diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder or panic disorder, found in 20 of 22 subjects, significant reductions in anxiety and depression scores after a 3 month follow up period; and reduced number of subjects experiencing panic symptoms41. A 3 year follow up analysis of this study also showed maintenance of the gains made in the original study; and ongoing compliance with the meditation practice was also demonstrated in the majority of subjects at 3 years42

 

  • decreased depression and hopelessness41,42,43 – also as indicated by elevation of serotonin.

 

  • as an adjunct to a happiness enhancement program43

 

  • happiness tends to be less conditional1b

 

  • more optimism1b

 

  • greater self awareness and self-actualisation44

 

  • improved coping capabilities45 and better sense of control54

 

  • reduced reliance on drugs, prescribed and non-prescribed, or alcohol46. This study reviewed 24 studies on the benefits of meditation in treating and preventing misuse of chemical substances. Taken together, the studies indicate that meditation ‘simultaneously addresses several factors underlying chemical dependence, providing not only immediate relief from distress but also long-range improvements in well-being, self-esteem, personal empowerment, and other areas of psychophysiological health.’

 

  • improved sleep; more restful, less insomnia, and in time less sleep needed1b – aided by increased night time plasma melatonin levels.

 

  • reduced aggression and criminal tendency47

 

  • improved I.Q. and learning capabilities, including the aged and intellectually impaired1b. One study found that when other factors were held constant (i.e. age, sex, education, and duration of practice of meditation) a few months practice of meditation significantly predicted higher performance on perceptual-motor speed tests and tests on non-verbal intelligence48.

 

  • greater efficiency and output at work1b

 

  • better time management1b

 

  • improved concentration and memory49,50

 

  • reduction in personality disorders and ability to change undesired personality traits51

 

  • reduction in coronary prone behaviour – reduced time urgency and impatience and hostility resulting from enforced waiting52

 

  • reduced anger53

 

  • increased occurrence of spiritual experiences54

 

5 DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDITATION

 

  1. progressive muscle relaxation.
  2. concentrating on the breath
  3. mantra meditation
  4. mindfulness meditation
  5. visualisation

NB: the first four techniques are aimed at achieving stillness and silence ‘beneath the mental activity’ whereas the fifth is more directly aimed at ‘reconditioning’ the mind.

 

Most meditation techniques will rely on the attention being focused or rested on something and in the process learning to not struggle with, but let go of, unnecessary and distracting mental activity. The quality of your meditation can only be judged based on your own previous experience, and there will be some days where you have very deep meditations where your mind is very still, yet on other days your mind will be cluttered with activity. It is important not to get uptight or try to hard on these days. Simply knowing that the quality of the meditations will fluctuate over time will help you to relax and just observe your thoughts during the busier sessions. Combining different types of meditation in each meditation session can be very effective. For example, on a day where the mind is very calm mindfulness meditation is excellent and often effortless. Yet, if the mind is very busy during a particular session, then it may be easier to focus on the breath or use a mantra on the in breath and out-breath to settle the mind. You can then either try going back to mindfulness meditation, or simply spend the rest of the session focusing on the breath or repeating a mantra.

It is also very useful to lead into a meditation session using a relaxation process such as deep muscle relaxation. This allows you to go to a very deep place before you start practicing mindfulness or mantra repetition.

The different forms of meditation suit different people. Dr Craig Hassed sums it up beautifully by saying that the best form of meditation is the one you practice! As with most skills, the quality of your meditation will increase the more regularly you practice and the longer you have been practicing. As mentioned above, the only reference you need in order to judge the quality of your practice is your own experience. It is important not to get too goal or success oriented with your meditation. Just practice it. If you keep it simple it will improve.

Likewise it is important not to compare your meditation with that of others. As meditation experiences can only be reported by the individual experiencing them, there will be great variation in what is reported. Some people naturally have a lot of visual experiences in their mind during meditation, other will not. That doesn’t matter. Meditation is not about how many ‘experiences’ you may or may not have. The whole point of meditation is in achieving stillness. The more you practice, the more you will achieve this. Profound visions, or insights etc. may occur, but they are not the goal of meditation and it is important not to try to elicit ‘experiences’ every time you meditate, as you will often end up very frustrated. If they occur, good. If they don’t, that’s good also. Just keep practicing and trying to achieve silence and stillness.

When you first learn how to meditate, just sit for whatever time you feel comfortable. 15 minutes twice a day is excellent. You will be able to meditate comfortably for longer periods of time the more you practice. As will all other aspects of meditation let this develop at your own pace.

Regular short pauses at other times during the day can help to reinforce the meditation practice. Even if it is only a couple of deep breaths at your desk, this is often enough to help punctuate the day and help to break the build up of tension and mental activity.

It is also often very useful to meditate with a group occasionally, for example once or twice a week (or whatever you can achieve). Not only is it a very powerful experience, it also gives you exposure to feedback and to hear of different techniques etc. It is important however, as mentioned previously, to only use feedback etc. for your own learning, not as a means of comparison of yourself against others.

 

1 Hassed Dr. C ‘New Frontiers In Medicine. The Body as a Shadow of the Soul’. Hill of Content. Melbourne.2000

2 Neki, J.S., ‘Sahaja: an Indian ideal of mental health.’ Psychiatry 1975; 38(1): 1-10.

3 Manocha R. ‘Researching meditation. Clinical applications in healthcare.’ Diversity 2001; 2(5): 3-10.

4 Ding-E Young J, Taylor E. ‘Meditation as a voluntary hypometabolic state of biological estivation.’ News Physiol Sci 1998; 13: 149-153.

5 Wallace RK, Benson H. ‘A wakeful hypometabolic physiological state.’ Am J Physiol 1971; 221: 795-799.

6  Jevning R, Wallace RK and Biedebach M. ‘The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response.’ Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1992; 16: 415-424.

7 Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K. ‘Effect of Buddhist Meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time.’ Physiol Behav 1991; 50(3): 543-8.

4 See page 2

4 See page 2

8 Benson H et al. ‘Three case reports of the metabolic and electroencephalographic changes during advanced Buddhist meditation techniques.’ Behav Med. 1990; 16: 90-95.

9 Cohen S et al. ‘Psychological stress and the common cold.’ New England J Med 1991; 325: 606-612

10 Kiecolt-Glaser J and Glaser R. Cited in Ch. 3, ‘Mind-body Medicine’ from Choice Books.

1 See page 1

11 Kiecolt-Glaser J et al. ‘Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress.’ Lancet 1995; 346: 1194-1196.

12 Fischman H, Pero R, Kelly D. ‘Psychogenic stress induces chromosomal and DNA damage.’ Int J Neurosci. 1996; 84(1-4): 219-227.

13 Kiecolt-Glaser J, Glaser R. ‘Psychoneuro-immunology and immunotoxicology: implications for carcinogenesis.’ Psychosom Med 1999; 61(3): 271-272.

14 Self D, Nestler E. ‘Relapse to drug seeking neural and molecular mechanisms.’ Drug Alcohol Depend 1998; 51(1-2): 49-60

15 Gui, Gutstein W, Jabr S et al. ‘Control of human vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation by sera derived from experimentally stressed individuals.’ Oncol Reports 1998; 5(6): 1471-1474.

16 Lopez J, Chalmers D, Little K et al. ‘Regulation of serotonin 1A, glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid in rat and human hippocampus. Implications for the neurobiology of depression.’ Biol Psychiatry 1998; 43: 547-573.