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.

mickel therapy

Video: Tim Altman Mickel Therapist

The Mickel approach is far from therapy in the commonly known sense. It is an action based technique derived from neuroscience research that teaches people to take their body out of pemanent, internal overdrive (or fight or flight mode) to achieve extraordinary health and performance results – especially with chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue and pain, post viral fatigue, CFS, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, IBS, anxiety, depression, auto-immune conditions, and more, as it addresses the ‘root cause’ of illness higher in the body – specifically, in our hypothalamus and brain. It is also fantastic for eliminating blocks to performance in all fields.

I discuss how the hypothalamus, whose job is homeostasis, or maintaining balance in all automatic functions, ends up in most people, and especially in those with chronic illness, in chronic overdrive. Or, as what is often described as, in permanent ‘fight or flight’ mode of varying degrees. The hypothalamus goes into overdrive because of a breakdown in communication or cooperation (internally) between the two intelligence systems in our bodies – the thinking or rational brain (head mind) and the instinctive, pre-thought emotional brain (body mind) that uses emotions as a call to action to our bodies to deal with any stress or threat to our safety, comfort or happiness.

The unprocessed, or effectively dealt with emotions, become internalised, sending our hypothalamus into overdrive, eventually resulting in symptoms of illness, and syndromes. As such, fatigue and symptoms of illness are described as resulting from suppressed energy, or stuck energy, rather than lack of energy. If it were merely a case of lack of energy, then rest and sleep would fix chronic fatigue – in most cases, we know this is not the case.

This occurs as a result of a severe mismatch between the body we have inherited (from our hunter gatherer ancestors) and the world we have created. Our bodies do what they are adapted for, in a world we have not yet adapted to. This makes us chronically sick, or under-performing, which we then pass on to our children etc. In the modern world, we humans have become supposedly top of the animal kingdom by having highly sophisticated rational, or thinking brain, but we have forgotten how to be an animal – to tune into the messages our body sends us about stress, and threats to our happiness, safety and comfort.

The Mickel approach is an action based technique that uses a potent set of tools to reverse this suppression of emotional communication, or energy, by targeting the day to day patterns, lifestyle, and behaviours that send us into overdrive or ‘fight or flight’ in the first place. I have witnessed many complete recoveries in chronically ill clients who had been ill for many years, and had pretty much tried everything else. It has been very humbling to witness.

And has dramatically changed how I approach my own lifestyle, relationships and how I treat clients. It is also fantastic for performance and optimal living – as well as relationships. Go to www.timaltman.com.au for more information – including some videos by Dr Mickel himself.

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

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”

 

 

 

Vietnamese Salad – Ideal for Paleo or Ketogenic Diets, Weight Loss and Intermittent Fasting Programs

Vietnamese Salad Recipe

Even though I’m a nutritionist, I’m not much of a foodie, or a chef, so I love simple meals that are easy to prepare, and easy to digest.

This Vietnamese salad is a ripper, and is really tasty.

With no grain or dairy, and an option of removing the sugar, it is ideal for ketogenic diets, intermittent fasting programs, paleo diets, and weight loss diets or elimination/detox programs.

The recipe is as follows (courtesy of taste.com.au):

INGREDIENTS

  •  3 (600g) chicken breast fillets – in this case I used lamb.
  •  1/2 large wombok (Chinese cabbage), finely shredded
  •  2 carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks
  •  1 cup fresh mint leaves
  •  1 cup fresh coriander leaves
  •  1 quantity Vietnamese dressing
  •  1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped

VIETNAMESE DRESSING

  •  1/3 cup lime juice
  •  1/3 cup fish sauce
  •  4 small red chillies, deseeded, finely chopped
  •  2 tablespoons brown sugar – I removed this and replaced it with some stevia to make it lower in sugar or calories, so truer to a Paleo meal or detox recipe, or in line with the guidelines to keep one in ketosis on a ketogenic diet. It still tasted yum!!
METHOD
  • Step 1
    Make dressing: Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, chilli (and sugar – optional) together in a jug until sugar has dissolved.
  • Step 2
    Place chicken in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover. Simmer, turning once, for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from pan. Cool. Shred.
  • Step 3
    Place cabbage, carrot, mint, coriander and chicken in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with peanuts. Serve.

 

Research: Intermittent Fasting Slows Down The Ageing Process

Harvard Study Shows The Surprising Impact of Intermittent Fasting On The Ageing Process

More evidence (linked at the bottom) showing the outstanding benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting.

If not for weight loss, detoxification, reducing inflammation, treating chronic illness, CFS, fibromyalgia, IBS, depression, anxiety or boosting your immune system, why not try it so that you live longer…

I offer intermittent and extended fasting progams one on one with individuals or with groups. I use bio-impedance testing along the way to monitor energy levels, inflammation, body composition, biological age. See these link for more details:

http://timaltman.com.au/case-study-weight-loss-intermittent-fasting/

Contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918 to make an appointment.

 

https://ideapod.com/harvard-study-shows-impact-intermittent-fasting-aging-process/?utm_content=buffer8ddc4&utm_medium=share&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=mam

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.

Evolutionary Biology and Mismatch Diseases

The Story of the Human Body – Evolution, Health and Disease.

Evolutionary biologist, Daniel Lieberman in his book ‘The Story of the Human Body’ suggested that medicine could benefit from a dose of evolution. Whilst evolution may appear irrelevant to medicine at first glance, our body is not engineered like a car; rather it evolved over time with modification. It therefore follows that knowing your body’s evolutionary history helps us understand why your body looks and works as it does, hence why you get sick.

Although scientific fields such as physiology and biochemistry can help us understand the proximate mechanisms that underlie a disease, evolutionary medicine helps us make sense of why the disease occurs in the first place.

Over time, natural selection adapts (matches) organisms to particular environmental conditions and this process occurs over tens of thousands of years. Research suggested that it takes 40,000 to 100,000 years for an environmental change to assimilated (genetically) by the body.

However, as innovation has accelerated, initially since farming began (approximately 2,000 to 10,000 years ago), and especially over the last few hundred years as a result of the industrial and technological revolutions, we have devised or adopted a growing list of novel cultural practices that have conflicting effects on our bodies. Many of these cultural changes have altered interactions between our genes and our environments in ways that contribute to a wide range of health problems known as mismatch diseases – which are defined as diseases that result from our Paleolithic bodies being poorly or inadequately adapted to certain modern behaviours and conditions.

Most mismatch diseases occur when a common stimulus either increases or decreases beyond levels for which the body is adapted, or when the body is not adapted for it at all. Moreover a common characteristic of these diseases, is that they occur from interactions whose cause and effect are not immediate or otherwise obvious. And most of these mismatch diseases are ailments that, as far as we can tell, were rare in our Paleolithic ancestors.

In other words, we get sick because we do what we evolved to do in an environment to which we have not adapted, and then pass these habits and illnesses onto future generations, who also get sick..

Hypothesised mismatch diseases account for a vast majority of deaths in the modern Western World. These are the chronic, insidious onset ailments that include heart disease, cancers (some), stroke, diabetes (Type II), obesity, chronic  respiratory conditions, cavities, apnoea, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ADHD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, IBS/Crohn’s disease, OCD, hypertension Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.

Following this understanding, it makes sense that in preventing and treating these mismatch diseases, we apply what is understood of how we lived and therefore, how our bodies are structured to function ideally.

The aspects of living that most impact our health include:

  • Nutrition
  • How we move and stabilise
  • Breathing
  • Sleep
  • How we think and emote – which influences how we process stress (which subsequently affects all other aspects of living).

This is the primary influence or core philosophy in my approach to treatment and prevention of disease, performance and optimal living. Using what understanding we have of how we performed these aspects of living as we were evolving and applying this in an approach to treatment or living can yield outstanding and life changing results. And, over time, it reduces or eliminates the need or reliance on synthetic or artificial medicines.

Further, the use of accurate and reliable biofeedback to provide information on the efficiency that one is achieving in performing these aspects of living, makes learning much easier and more rapid.

Finally, the use of pure extracts as medicines and supplements, where necessary, provide the perfect balance. As opposed to manufactures and synthetic, or new to nature, pharmaceuticals and supplements, pure extract herbs and nutritional medicines exist in the form that our bodies were exposed to them over millions of years and are therefore far more easily assimilated, or are more bio-available than artificial chemicals and lead to no side effects as a result.

Modalities used to bring about recoveries from these chronic illnesses include:

  1. Mickel Therapy – which addresses imbalance at higher levels – specifically, the hypothalamus which regulates all automatic functions, endocrine function, immune, cognitive function, sleep cycles, neurotransmitters etc.
  2. Nutritional medicine
  3. Breathing retraining
  4. Therapeutic fasting
  5. Herbal medicine

The more we begin to understand how nature has adapted us to live and living our lives in accord with this, and using foods and medicines provided to us by nature throughout our evolutionary history, the more we will shift the focus of medicine from treatment to prevention and optimal living.

The Nasty Side-Effects of Too Much Sugar

What Sugar Does To Your Body and Brain

I’ll let this image do the talking for itself, other than to say that all of the nutritional programs I run focus on moderating sugar intake and regulating blood sugar levels – be they programs for energy and vitality; optimal wellness; weight loss; weight gain; fasting; intermittent fasting; detox; performance; boosting the immune system; ketogenic programs; paleo; elimination diets; FODMAP etc. etc.

I have found after close to 20 years of doing clinic and askingmost clients their average daily diet, that very few people actually regulate their blood sugar levels well, or at all. This includes many apparently ‘healthy’ people who eat organic foods etc.

Regulating blood sugar levels does the following:

  • Allows the cells to produce energy more efficiently.
  • Eliminates insulin resistance.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Regulates other hormones.
  • Detoxes your system.
  • Improves your immune system.
  • Mobilises the body to burn fat for energy – so you can lose weight more easily.
  • Prevents and treats many chronic illnesses – diabetes Types I & II, fatigue, hormonal issues, heart disease, stroke, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches and migraines, sleep disturbance etc.

If you’d like to learn how to regulate you blood sugar levels and function so much better,contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918 for an appointment.

 

Sugar Side-Effects

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson

A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life That Resonates Very Strongly With The Principles of Mickel Therapy in Treating Chronic Illnesses Such as CFS, IBS, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety etc.

I love this book – ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’, by Mark Manson.

It is so real and authentic, and cut’s to the chase about living a ‘good life’ or being happy so quickly. As the description on the cover says, it is counter-intuitive, but it is a breath of fresh air that is worth a read.

I have recommended it to many clients I am working with – especially those with CFS, Fibromyalgia, IBS, Anxiety and Depression with whom I am using the techniques involved in Mickel Therapy. Like this book, this approach is counterintuitive, or involves a paradigm shift which, I believe, speaks so strongly for the extraordinary results it has yielded with so many clients worldwide suffering with the above, and other chronic illnesses, as well as those looking to explore greater levels of performance or discovering optimal health.

Both address without saying this directly, what the the evolutionary biology/medicine approach to health and performance describes as a ‘mismatch between the body we have inherited (from our hunter gatherer ancestors) and the culture we have created today.’

The principles are so similar – being authentic, accepting how you feel now without judgement, focusing on true/core values etc. The Mickel work takes it further by targeting behavioural patterns cause people to get stuck in their head and miss the vital, instinctive emotional messages our emotional brain sends us in order to warn us of any threat and keep us alive (or happy, safe ad comfortable). The result is that we internalise or suppress these emotions (or, another way or describing it is we internalise stress) causing us to be hyper-vigilant, or permanently in fight or flight, which subsequently leads to our hypothalamus going into overdrive, and the homoeostasis in our body becoming severely disrupted. We then wind up with less than optimal health and performance, and very often chronic illness – which so often fails to respond to many other treatments as they fail to target the root cause higher in the brain.

In short, the Mickel approach involves identifying the behavioural factors that create this lead to this emotional suppression and internalised stress, and then uses an action based approach to reverse them. The persistence or removal of symptoms being the indicator of whether the action takes is the correct one or not.

I will quote a few passages from chapter one that I love – and, if you will allow me to indulge, I may end up doing a blog or two more with some other passages soon…

“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and half  kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that is likely to save the planet one day.”

Ironically, this fixation on the positive – on what’s better, what’s superior – only serves to remind us over and over gain of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be.”

“Now here’s the problem: Our society today, through the wonders of consumer culture and hey-look-my-life-is-cooler-than-yours social media, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences – anxiety, fear, guilt etc.- is totally not okay.”

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

The author has fun with his writing style, however what it downplays is a wealth of knowledge and understanding from a numbers of areas. So very profound and real.

Enjoy. And go get a copy of the book.

If you’ve read this book, or suffer from a chronic illness or lack of performance, and would like a realistic, action based approach that deals with this mismatch between how we’re built to live (including how we process stress and emotions), and how we live in the modern culture we have created, then email or call me on tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918

 

 

Soak Your Seeds and Grains for Better Digestion & Nutrition

Article: Why You Should Be Eating More Overnight Oats, According to Science.

Linked is great little article (and recipe) by Tori Robinson, on www.mindbodygreen.com, that reminds me of the recipes I have used post fasting to better digest and get more nutritive value out of oats.

The article focuses on the nutritive benefits of oats, and how soaking them overnight allows you to get far more of the benefits, however I have found that the same applies soaking grains/sees such as buckwheat kernels or brown rice overnight also.

As discussed, soaking is not new. I learned it from a Russian practitioner using traditional methods carried down over many years.

The recipe I was taught involves using 1 part (1/2-1 cup) of oats/buckwheat kernels/brown rice and  parts of water, bringing it to the boil, then turning the heat off, putting the lid on, and wrap with newspaper and a towel and leave overnight. In the morning add fresh fruit, yoghurt, cinnamon, fresh nuts and seeds (these can also be soaked overnight) etc.

These recipes are fantastic following a fast or for an easy and quick breakfast any time.

Yum!!

 

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-27026/why-you-should-be-eating-more-overnight-oats-according-to-science.html

Article: Keep Your Mouth Shut To Improve Your Performance

Nose Breathing Improves Athletic Performance

A great article by Annette Verpillot of Posturepro (shared by the ‘Strength Sensei’ website, www,srengthsensei.com), on the importance of nose breathing for athletic performance.

Here is a quote from the article that summarises much of the content.

“It has been known for many years that people with proper occlusion of your mouth have greater endurance and better performance than those with malocclusion. The alignment of the muscles of the jaw and teeth can have a direct impact on a player’s performance and strength, as the upper and lower jaw are what allows you to connect your anterior and posterior muscular chains. Without the jaw it would be impossible to exert strength.”

“The vast majority of health care professionals are unaware of the negative impact of mouth breathing on global health and sports performance. The development of the jaw and all the functions attached to it, nasal breathing, chewing, suction, swallowing and phonation, will either put the body in a state of physiologic health or state of dysfunction.”

In addition, the article also discussed that (and I’ve added to the points they make) when you nose breathe, you:

  • increase energy production in the cells by increased supply of oxygen to the cells – based on the principles of the Bohr Effect.
  • allow the body to function more in a parasympathetic, or relaxed, state – which also improves immune function, digestion, blood flow to the brain and increases serotonin and melatonin levels.
  • increase nitric oxide production which enhances memory and learning, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, and improves immune function. 
  • increase the flow of air through your nasal system and sinuses, preventing mucous from getting blocked or clogged.
  • allow the nose and sinuses to do their job so you deliver filtered, disinfected, air conditioned, moist air to the lungs for optimal gas exchange – which is how they like it. 
  • reduce the volume and rate of breathing which, based on the priniciples of the Bohr Effect, optimises delivery of oxygen to the cells for energy production, and also allows for the tubes in the body to be more vasodilated resulting in improved function of the systems these tubes service – the respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, digestive, urinary systems etc.

This article was shared by a close friend and colleague of mine, Ramon Andersson, head kayaking coach at the Western Australian Institute of Sport, who has done a lot of training of optimal breathing both personally and with his athletes. Our subsequent discussion agreed that once you get above anaerobic threshold in intensity of exercise, it is often necessary to use the mouth to facilitate breathing, as the intensity is at a level where it is extremely uncomfortable to nose breathe on it’s own.

The consensus is, from our own trials and with those we have trained, that at this level of intensity, as long as the inhalation is driven by the diaphragm first, before using the chest and shoulders to increase the volume of air inhaled, then the efficiency of breathing is still optimised. That is because using the diaphragm will allow you to use the full lung volume for gas exchange, as well as having greater control of both inhalation and exhalation which then allows you achieve slower breathing rates at certain intensities of exercise. The importance of this is that of all functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system (meaning that they are automatic), breathing, via the diaphragm, is the one function we can consciously control with ease (with training of course). As such, our breathing can influence other bodily functions controlled by our autonomic nervous system – including heart rate, digestion, the immune system, neurotransmitter levels etc.

Getting to the point; being able to breathe at lower breathing rates for a certain level of exercise intensity, will also allow you to have a slower heart rate, greater oxygen delivery to cells for energy production, reduced lactic acid levels, and for you to be more relaxed whilst exercising at this level. In other words, you will be far more efficient, or get more from your body.

If you would like to learn how to breathe more efficiently whilst exercising, and therefore increase your performance potential, contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918.

 

 

 

The Mammalian Dive Reflex: A Fascinating Evolutionary Adaptation

The Mammalian Dive Reflex and How It Helps Feedivers

I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘mammalian dive reflex’ and have enjoyed experiencing it’s benefits in courses I have run training surfers to hold their breath longer under water, and to breathe more efficiently. Despite experiencing the obvious discomfort of holding your breath, I have always found the under water breath hold work extremely relaxing. Most people doing courses leave feeling super relaxed.

So, I thought I’d share an article on it from www.deeperblue.com.

Enjoy.

 

In this article we’ll looking at the mammalian dive reflex and how this helps us dive deeper for longer.

What Is The Mammalian Dive Reflex?

The mammalian dive reflex, or MDR, is a reflex hard wired into our genetic makeup and is brought on by immersion in water (particularly the face) and holding your breath.

It is seen in all kinds of mammals and is very strong in children. In the middle part of the twentieth century, when people started setting freediving records for the first time, the mammalian dive reflex in humans had not been recognized and it was believed that a dive to 30m would crush the lungs. Experiments on freedivers, particularly with Jacques Mayol and Bob Croft, demonstrated the extraordinary effects of the mammalian dive reflex and research is still being performed today to further investigate the incredible adaptations of the human body to breath holding.

The main characteristics of the mammalian dive reflex are bradycardia, peripheral vasoconstriction, blood shift, the spleen effect and immersion diuresis, and we’re going to look at each in turn to see the benefits and some drawbacks for freedivers..

1. Bradycardia

This is translated as ‘heart slowing’ and refers to the fact that when we hold our breath, our heart rate decreases, all the better to conserve oxygen. Jacques Mayol’s heart rate slowed to 27 beats per minute when he dived to 101m and a study in 1985 of cold water facial immersion showed that five people out of 27 experienced bradycardia of less than 15 bpm – one individual’s heart rate dropped to an incredible 5.6 bpm. The same study discovered that the effects of bradycardia are enhanced as the temperature of the water in which the subject is immersed decreases.

The effect of bradycardia on breath holding can be seen even when a person is nowhere near water. If you strap on a heart rate monitor and do an apnea ‘dry walk’, you will see your heart rate rapidly drop, even though you’re physically active. I have advanced students perform this to see how pronounced their dive reflex is. They sit on a chair breathing gently, then take a last full breath in, hold their breath seated for 30 seconds, and then stand up and walk (still breath holding). Responses vary by individual, but all experience a drop in heart rate whilst walking, some to less than half their resting heart rate.

Freedivers can even train to increase the effects of bradycardia, such as beginning a static session with a period of facial immersion while breathing through a snorkel, while others train by doing breath holds in bowls of ice water, varying the temperature to see different results.

2. Peripheral Vasoconstriction and Blood Shift

Peripheral vasoconstriction and blood shift are linked. Peripheral vasoconstriction is where the blood vessels in the extremities (your hands, feet, arms and legs) begin to constrict, shifting more blood to the core of the body. By moving blood from areas where the body needs it least, the vital organs are prioritized. This can be observed out of the water, too. One of my students relaxed in a seated position and performed minute-long breath holds repeatedly, with only one breath in between the breath holds. After a few minutes, his hands and feet went white and this started spreading up his arms and legs.

Blood shift, meanwhile, explains why freedivers can exceed the residual volume of their lungs when diving, all without their lungs collapsing, and what happens to some of the blood from peripheral vasoconstriction. As the lungs compress, the blood vessels around the alveoli expand with blood to compensate for the reduced volume of the lungs. Blood shift goes hand in hand with diaphragm and rib cage flexibility, because without those two ameliorating factors lung barotrauma can occur, when blood can actually enters the lung cavities.

3. The Spleen Effect

The spleen effect is another way your body can maximize oxygen efficiency. After repeated freediving, the spleen contracts, releasing more red blood cells into the blood. This increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, enabling longer dives or breath holds. There is inconclusive evidence of when this occurs in the dive session, but at least one dive or breath hold has to have taken place before the spleen effect occurs. It is thought that the effects are only temporary, however anecdotal evidence has shown that active and deep freedivers have managed to sustain a higher than normal haematocrit level (the amount of hemoglobin in the blood) for many days after their last dive.

4. Immersion Diuresis (aka “the need to pee”)

One side effect of the mammalian dive reflex is immersion diuresis, whereby the freediver’s body increases urine production. This is brought on by pressure caused by full body immersion in water, peripheral vasoconstriction and a reduction in body temperature.

Water draws heat away from the body, leading to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in order to conserve heat. The mammalian dive reflex also causes peripheral vasoconstriction which has the same effect. In response to the resultant increase in blood pressure, the body inhibits the release of the anti-diuretic hormone ADH, also known as vasopressin, causing increased urination.

Increased water pressure on the body also increases blood pressure, no matter the water temperature, again increasing urination. All of which means it’s incredibly easy for freedivers to rapidly become dehydrated. Consequently it is important to keep your fluid levels up during a long dive session. A headache and bad breath are both indicators of dehydration.I need to go to bathroom!

5. Muscle Fatigue

Another side effect of the mammalian dive reflex is the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. As blood moves away from the limbs, the muscles rely more heavily on anaerobic respiration, which produces lactic acid. This causes a feeling of heaviness, or lactic acid ‘burn’ in the muscles and, in extreme cases, the muscles can simply stop functioning.

The mammalian dive reflex is a fascinating series of adaptations that the body has developed to aid breath holding and immersion in water. It enables the freedivers to better handle pressure and depth, enhances the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity and enables more efficient use of that oxygen in the body. In order to fully benefit from these advantages, however, freedivers need to be aware – and plan to prevent – the associated disadvantages. Keeping hydrated is vital and the better your physical fitness, the faster your body will recover from the buildup of lactic acid.