One breathing exercise I highly recommend is the 4-7-8 breath. It is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; but the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. Practice at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.
SOURCE: ANDREW WEIL, M.D.
If you’ve ever been told been that a massage is good for “releasing toxins”—or to sound more scientific, “lactic acid”—from your muscles, then you’ve been told wrong. Turns out muscle cells do like a good massage, but it has nothing to do with lactic acid.
In the first study on the cellular effects of massage post-exercise, researchers found that massage bolsters chemical signals reducing inflammation and promoting repair of muscle cells.
How the Heck:
Strenuous exercise actually tears your muscle fibers; that’s why an intense workout can leave you sore for days. (Don’t worry—it’s normal and it generally heals fine.) The researchers wanted to study how massage affects this muscle damage, so they made 11 healthy young men cycle to the point of exhaustion.
Then, finally, relief! Sort of. One leg on each man was randomly chosen for a 10-minute massage. Unfortunately more pain was then in store for these volunteers. A tissue sample was taken from the quadriceps muscle (often known simply as “quad”) of each leg 10 minutes and 2.5 hours after the massage.
Researchers looked at the level of different mRNA, or messenger RNA, transcripts in these tissue samples. mRNA carries the information for building proteins in the cell, so the level of a particular mRNA molecule can tell you how much of its corresponding protein is being made.
Compared to unmassaged muscle cells, the tissue from massaged legs had different levels of two key proteins: less NFkB and more PGC-1alpha. Lowering NFkB levels reduces inflammation and increasing PGC-1alpha levels leads to the creation of more mitochondria that generate energy for cell growth, so both these massage-induced changes are good news for healing muscle cells.
What’s the Context:
Massage is one of the most common forms of “alternative” medicine, and it’s been proven toreduce pain. Before this paper though, there was surprisingly little science on how massage actually works. And this study might finally kill the lactic acid myth that has persisted for so long.
Reference: Justin D. Crane et al. “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage.” Science Translational Medicine, published 1 February 2012. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002882
Breathing exercises are a wonderful way to reduce anxiety, agitation and stress, while promoting relaxation, calm and inner peace. It may take some practice - and requires some commitment on your part to achieve results. However, the long-term benefits are well worth the effort - a calm and relaxed body and mind are less prone to health issues.
Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing, and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation. Too much attention on upsetting thoughts may cause anxiety, guilt and unhappiness. Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on stressful situations.