Most health and fitness books for seniors miss the mark when it comes to losing belly fat and lowering blood pressure. Almost every article and book on the shelf preaches the same approach to flattening your belly and lowering your blood pressure: diet and exercise.
I used to accept that theory until I met a former fitness trainee who left my class to study yoga and pilates. In just a few months, she went from quite chubby to surprisingly skinny. When I asked him what he did, he explained that for about three months he had mainly practiced controlling posture and breathing. And little or no cardio.
That’s when I had to take another look at my training classes. So, I reread an old yoga book by Selvarajan Yesudian and Elizabeth Haich.
Yesudian told a story about a 40-year-old office worker who couldn’t lose weight. She had tried various exercise routines, including boxing and weight loss formulas (such as laxative teas) with no results. When she approached Yesudian, he had taught her yoga breathing and how to apply it to swimming. As she swam, he noticed that she tended to Hold your breath instead of the normal breathing pattern for the front crawl.
Then it occurred to the yoga instructor that the lady’s metabolism was altered by her breathing patterns. This irregular breathing can reportedly affect the thyroid gland and cause weight gain or loss.
When Yesudian again taught the lady how to do the front crawl with two strokes per breath, she began to lose weight. £10 the first month and £8 the next month.
Now, in the physical training of the western world, we were always instructed to exhale while exerting ourselves. Holding your breath while straining, known as Valsalva Manuvere, can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure. But we didn’t learn much more about breathing than that! Nothing about lowering blood pressure or body weight.
So how do some people develop proper breathing patterns?
Short answer: some of it is self-learned at a young age. Part of this is genetic.
Therefore, it is not the older person’s fault that they gain weight and/or develop high blood pressure.
This writer has seen how a change in breathing improves performance during fitness classes. Many beginners just can’t seem to catch their breath. Some manage to adapt if they hold out for several weeks. They start to Learn to exhale while exercising. This is exactly the same advice that is given to some people with asthma. They are taught the importance of exhaling. It’s that easy. (But it is not easy.)
Try this experiment.
Take a deep breath, hold it, and try to lean forward at the waist. Soon you may feel blood flushing your face, your temples throbbing, and maybe even dizzy. (Note: do not do this if you are prone to motion sickness).
Then breathe normally.
Then do the same movement. Only this time, take a deep breath and then let it out as you bend forward at the waist. Exhale completely and then expel more air. Then some more. As you straighten up, let air fill your lungs instead of sucking in air.
It may take a few tries to get the flow right. It’s important not to get frustrated the first time you do this. Instead, relax, focus, take another deep breath, and start over. Pause and repeat until you can do it five times without gasping for air.
Now this movement is flexing the spine, stimulating circulation and stimulating digestion. So very little to do with burning calories.
The next stage is to add long, deep breaths to activities like walking, jogging, rowing, swimming, or whatever. It’s really that simple IF (and a big IF here), you do it five days a week or more. 15 minutes at a time. It is not a joke. I’ve seen it work over and over again. Have fun.