At the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention, I had the privilege of attending a session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” with long time fitness pro and award winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Petra offered compelling reasons to start meditating. Even if you are like me – energetic, wiggly, and on the move, mentally and physically — you can reap the benefits of meditation.When your mind is full, try being mindful #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
Join me in a brief summary of highlights and quotes from Petra’s presentation. You may be inspired to start with just 3 minutes a day to gain happiness, reduce stress, and create more loving kindness in your life. (Great phone apps to begin with are listed in our post, Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory).
At its simplest, most accessible level, meditation is about paying attention to your breath. As Petra proffered, “the longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart.” And “breathing” she says, “is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body.” For a methodology on mindful breathing, try our suggestions in Breathe Life Into Yourself.Mindful breathing is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
People crave two things, according to Petra:
1) to be seen and heard
2) to connect. (She may be onto something. I know I often tell my husband to “please just listen. You don’t have to DO anything else. You can even pretend to listen and I’ll feel loved.”)
Two of the benefits of meditation include connecting more compassionately to others AND to yourself. Mindfulness, which is another definition for meditation is about making friends with our body, mind, and self. “Mindfulness is also about human beings, not human doings,” Petra reminds us. Being in the present is key to meditating. Being mindful puts the attention on the senses – how does our breath feel? Sound? The senses can happen only in the present moment. Therefore any time spent focusing on the senses will bring us to a meditative moment.
When under stress, we can shift from the Fight or Flight syndrome to “Tend and Befriend” just by paying attention to our breathing and calming it. When your mind is full, try being mindful. (Saaay, that’s a quote I made up just now!) Whether sitting calmly with eyes closed or walking at a comfortable pace (need I say, eyes open), put attention to your breathing. Feel your breath enter and exit your body. Note the rhythm and temperature of your breath. Create space within yourself as you inhale. Scan your body with each in- and exhalation. Send your exhalations into places of stress and tension to release.
We may not be meditating experts. But we are all professional, lifelong breathers. Therefore even without attending Petra’s session, we can reap the benefits of loving kindness meditation when we use our breath to become more present. And loving. And kind. Except towards that one guy who really acted jerky and ….. Inhale Exhale Inhale Exhale.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: I’m taking a deep breath before I answer. Exhale and ready —>> This is a Big Fat Myth…or not. Here’s what I did for you, Deborah. I went and read piles of so-called research just to answer your question in a somewhat informed way. Blah blah blah. Took a nap on keyboard after about the 20th “Let me tell you all about my secret breathing techniques where you’ll lose 50 pounds next week. All you have to do is sign up for my magical potion/newsletter/product/blog.” They were all like that – one deep breath at the start of the site, then a sales pitch and excited testimonial about the wonders of breathing for weight loss. First of all, the blog you should subscribe to is ours! Second, anything that has the word “secret” in it is suspicious.
Kymberly: Shoot, does that mean you do not want to hear my secret about deep breathing? I practiced by calling random phone numbers and breathing heavily. Then I left Alexandra’s call back info. Even if your metabolic rate and calorie expenditure do not go up with strong breaths, my income might. And Alexandra’s heart rate.
Alexandra: Taking a deep breath for weight loss has lots of enthused proponents, all of whom claim it’s backed up by research. But — and this is a flag to anyone who had to do research in grad school — I couldn’t find any of the research to which they alluded. Or, the “research” I did find was done by companies with a financial interest in the results. Translation – they were selling “accompanying” weight-loss products. Go to a reputable site (or don’t, since we did it for you) such as mayoclinic.com and you will see they totally copy Fun and Fit when they recommend three things, and three things only, for appropriate, successful, lasting weight loss:
Kymberly: Alexandra did such a good job answering that all I have to do is change her opening phrase “Big Fat Myth” to “Small, Slim Myth” and voila! Insta-Skinny through breathing while typing.Certain approaches to breathing may bring benefits other than weight loss #activeaging Click To Tweet
However, we do want to clarify that certain approaches to breathing may bring you valuable benefits other than weight loss. If you are keen to reduce stress, increase energy, decrease fatigue, minimize anxiety, and raise your compassion, then try Active Breathing. You can get easy instructions from our post, Breathe Life Into Yourself.
Alexandra: I would like to add one caveat, just in case you are holding your breath. Don’t hold your breath! Do read our post, Dizzy From Breath Holding.
What if you are doing strenuous exercise (for example, watching Clive Owen on tv) and you start to get all sweaty with shallow breaths? Then you pass out. In this instance, deep breathing would help you tremendously. You would not lose any weight, but you would be alive and in possession of your senses (if you were prior to the exercise – wouldn’t want to assume anything). This would free you up to start that weight loss program with the 3 components Mayo stole from us! So in that sense, yes, the deep breathing helped with your weight loss. Keep this advice secret. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll have to come and hyperventilate on you!
Kymberly: Where can I buy the secret advice you just shared? (Let’s out deep breath of excitement and anticipation).
Readers and breathers of the world: What “secret” weight loss approaches have you tried? How much money did you throw down a hole?
ACTION: Catch your breath and a lot more good stuff when you subscribe to our blog. Twice a week you’ll get practical, active aging advice you can use to enjoy the second half of life even more than the first. Enter your email in any box.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Maybe leaping and frolicking are not on your “to do, ta dum!” list, However, do pay attention to your breath, as you will reap a ton of benefits from “active breathing.” Soooo easy, we baby boomers can do it in our sleep. Oh, and you will sleep better too, once you breathe more actively. (A biggie for those “enjoying” menopause!)
Active breathing simply means paying attention to your in- and exhalations. Notice your breathing patterns when you are sitting still, focusing on an activity, or moving rhythmically. (An example of moving rhythmically is syncing your breath with every 4th or so leg stride when walking. Inhale, walk walk walk walk; Exhale walk walk walk walk. Call this a “breathwalk”). The attention alone to your breath will elicit the relaxation response. Think of this attention as “meditation lite” — and you have to spell it that way to really get the lite effect.
While I totally value and accept the benefits of meditation, the reality is that less than 10% of US adults meditate. But I am pretty sure that 100% of us breathe. Hmm, I need to fact check my sources on this stat. What with the zombie apocalypse and all, one can never be too sure.
Let’s do a quick flow chart: breathing actively induces the relaxation response. Becoming calmer minimizes inflammation that is stress-induced. So QUIT STRESSING OUT, I TELL YOU!! Reducing inflammation decreases your odds of cardiovascular disease and improves your health overall. Lowering stress levels helps trigger your immune cell genes. Did you just sigh with relief or gasp with excitement? Way to breathe!
Another benefit: Active breathing may aid you almost as much as meditation when it comes to reducing depression and pain. If you saw my post on the high incidence of chronic pain and trends in the fitness world, you’ll know that pain reduction is on a lot of people’s minds… and bodies. If you did not see this post, click the link and get on over there! Worth it, I tell you!
So breathe for your betterment. Free, convenient, portable, available in shallow, middling, and deep sizes. And oh so healthy!
Does your event need education, motivation, and fit-elation? Call us and breathe heavily on the phone when you book us to speak: (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comfortably move your way to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Note from Fun and Fit: * Freqins are freaks who wear sequins. Or twins who frequently wear sequins. While freaking out.
Alexandra: We’ve never answered this specific question. Nope. One simple thing you can do with the weights is relax your grip on them. You probably have a death grip, which leads to breath-holding. Release at least one finger (I always tell my students that it can be the middle finger if that makes them remember), and you’ll find you won’t be so tense or tight.
Pilates is specific about exhaling and inhaling, so your teacher should come over and talk you through it. But…..that’s not what you want to hear right now. You happen to have a bad habit, so you need to park yourself right in front of the mirror and watch yourself. Staring at your tense, tight face will remind you to exhale. If you just can’t remember, stick a lipstick or something like that between your teeth to force your mouth open. The little bits of dry heave drool will remind you to exhale.
Kymberly: Another trick is to talk to yourself throughout each repetition. Exhale with Exertion; Inhale with Release; Exhale with Exertion; Inhale with Release.
Alexandra: It’s really hard to remember to breathe when you’re on your own; it takes reminders. So you have to somehow train yourself to be your own reminder OR ask the teacher to watch you very closely. When I’m teaching, I wander around class and ask students if they’re breathing when I see breath-holding. They have to exhale in order to answer me. Do you by any chance have a class buddy?
Kymberly: For what it’s worth, breath-holding is super common. Not that you aren’t special and all. But at any given moment when in a class or the gym, we see people forgetting to exhale. If you find it hard to get a teacher, trainer, or friend to remind you to “breeeeaaaaathe” then look around at others. If you see jaw tension, red faces, bulging eyes, raised, tight shoulders, or hear gasping sounds, use those external signs as your own reminder.
Readers: What trick do you use to remind yourself to inhale and exhale with some semblance of normalcy?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall. Is That Spin Sweat Sanitary at All? No and Yes. Have a nice day!
Alexandra: Oh, you want to know more? Fine, be that way. We humans burn 4-5 calories to perform 1 calorie of work. Where do those extra calories go that aren’t being used for work? Heat. Yup, we dissipate heat from our bodies. This is kind of like the thigh bone is connected to the shin bone song: in order for our bodies to stay at a constant (internal) temperature, the excess “energy” is directed to the skin, which converts it to sweat as a cooling (evaporative) mechanism. Hey, don’t wander off – I’m talking to you!
That sweat goes off your body and flies in a counter-clockwise direction around the cycle room until it finds a window or mirror or wall to fall in love with and steam up! Okay, I made up the direction – I don’t actually know how the sweat travels to the window – that’s physics or advanced calculus or something. Maybe it takes the train from platform 9 ¾.
K: We interrupt this storm for an additional update: Warm moisture in a room looks for a cool, smooth surface to land on.
A: Bottom line: You are breathing their sweat. Here’s hoping that’s okay with you.
Double bottom line: That studio needs more fans. There are no additional fitness benefits to be had by fogging the guacamole out of the room! Unless you think passing out from being overheated or dehydrated is a good plan! One of Kymberly’s favorite words is “thermoregulation” so she is going to love this study that essentially says, “Turn on a fan, fools! Fogging up the windows and mirrors is not conducive to a proper corporeal temperature nor cardio functioning.” Um, translated into English, “Turn on a fan, fools! You’re just being stupid.”
K: If you are a “Do Right, All Night Kind of Man,” then “dew” get a kick out of this explanation of dew point and condensation. I liked the part about “water molecules being more crowded in humid air.” Sounds just like some of the indoor cycle classes out there! Take a shallow breath, then exhale and inhale fully…outdoors. And enjoy the sun as extolled in this 1912 Popular Science chapter on “Stuffy Rooms.” As the chapter purports, you will then be “raised to the contemplation of the workings of the soul.”
Dear Readers: Want more bona fide cycling info from someone with both the qualifications and a sense of humor? Ride on over to Dr. Ron Fritzke’s website, http://cycling-review.com/. Also, listen in to our upcoming radio episode on womensradio.com with Dr. Ron, wherein he answers such key questions such as “should we wear undies under our bike shorts?” and “what do sheep do now that their wool is no longer used for bike shorts padding?”
Photo credits: Creative Commons