Category Archives: Breath Work

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

On Swimming, by Hébert (Part 1)

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Here’s a more thorough insight, paraphrased,  from the upcoming standalone “Swimming” section of Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education and his Natural Method.

Swimming is considered the most complete of all the exercises.

A complete exercise must at once be hygienic, aesthetic and functional; it must develop absolute strength, as well as sustained strength and develop skill as well as mental energy.

Swimming fulfills all these conditions:

1)   Its hygienic effect is intense: swimming activates all the major functions of the organism, particularly respiration; it also cleanses the skin and builds resilience to cold; finally, it is done outdoors. (Translator’s comment: bear in mind that historically speaking, indoor pools were not in existence at the time of Hébert’s authoring of the book).

2)   Its action is very effective on the amplification of the thorax and the increase in respiratory capacity. Indeed, in all manners of swimming, the arms are constantly brought beyond the head in the alignment of the trunk, which produces an expansion of the ribs and results in a widening of the thoracic cage. Moreover, the disturbance produced by the body of water and the vigor of the muscular effort force to breathe long and deep.

3)   It also has a very intense action on the development of the entire musculature, as it requires various muscular contractions of the arms, legs, trunk and head (neck muscles).

Generally, all these contractions, being very expanded, constitute wonderful exercises for the stretching of the joints and limbs; they are also excellent for the straightening of the spinal column.

4)   It requires, to go far and quickly, a perfect coordination of movements and an adequate rhythm.

5)   Difficult exercises of diving or water rescue develop dexterity, cold-blood (“even keel”), courage and self-confidence.

6)   Finally, all swimming exercises are of no-contest usefulness (meaning, functional, as it’s an important skill you don’t want to overlook, even if you don’t swim daily).

Evidently, to learn something, or simply to perfect one’s technique, it is necessary to work methodically, to have a goal and outline a program.

The swimming session, or “lesson”, just like any training session,must be comprised of a certain amount of varied exercises, performed in a logical order, and must be perfectly regulated when it comes to energy expenditure.

A complete swimming lesson must contain:

1)   One or several sudden submersions (of varying height), either head first, or feet first, then coming back to the surface.

2)   A regular breast stroke swim, on the stomach, slowly, to begin. This manner of swimming is the best one to realign the spine and any hunching and help acquire or maintain good posture.

3)   A swim on the back. Swimming on the back provides rest after a swim of a certain duration on the stomach; this stroke is also indispensable to be adept at during rescues.

4)   An underwater “dive”, either starting from an elevation, or at surface level. This exercise consists in staying as long as possible underwater, the body fully submerged.

5)   A period of complete rest, called “floating”. No arm or leg movement is to take place during this exercise.

6)   One or more “hauls”, using the fastest swimming methods.

7)   Finally, finish the lesson with a few slow strokes, on the stomach or the back, in order to restore enough calm in the breathing and circulation, before exiting the water.

Such is the “complete” program of a swim, both hygienic and functional. It’s not just swimming laps, which becomes a specific endeavor, for a sporting event like  Swim Meet or a Triathlon, where racing is emphasized, whereas here Hébert is talking about cultivating the skill.

 

 

Workshop Syllabus Bulletpoints

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Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til

THIS IS A “REFRESHED” POST INITIALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY OF 2015:

If you are reading this and want to register, click here and bring a friend and get a special discount of 2 people for $229 (save $129 on the second admission, or almost $65 each).


Standard/Special




I realize many these days tries to come up with some new method of training. Marketing gimmicks are running amuck on the ole “Interweb”. There have never been more public “secrets of fitness” than in the last 2 years, if I were to believe the numerous newsletters I get from people telling me they have the secret(s) I am missing in my training.

The best tools for training are your body and things you can get your hands on, to lift, put back down, throw, catch, climb on etc. The best tools for weight loss are your silverware and that hole in the bottom third of your face, or quarter depending on your facial symmetry. (Thank you, James Neidlinger, for “the best tools for weight loss” arsenal tip from your recent Facebook post).

To placate the skeptics or explain to the curious, below is what we’ll cover on October 24 at The Natural Method Workshop, in Los Angeles, CA, at The Gym @ Hayden.

It first starts with the upright posture which aligns and prepares the body for movement. Without a strong upright posture the movements taught will not be as effective. Once we are comfortable with the upright posture then we can start to explore movements in the entire kinetic chain.

  1. Arm Movements: positions at hips, shoulders, chest, neck and derivatives, as well as why we do them, what they do and how.
  2. Leg Movements: various “bends”/flexion/slits. Combine with 1.
  3. Suspension: hang and do leg stuff. Or lie down if you can’t hang to get similar benefits*. Btw, that noise also works your Dear Abbies. And hits the body parts from 2, like, hard, and from 1, but differently. And yes, that’s some aspects of pull-ups, but not limited to. This isn’t a class on pull-up variations.
  4. Support Movements: stuff that looks like push-ups, but isn’t limited to. This isn’t a class on push-up variations, though you may recognize or learn some.
  5. Balance Movements: equilibrium. Although symmetry is also balance, this is more literal. Combine with 1 and 2.
  6. Hopping Movements: not jumping. Hopping. Not like a bunny. More like jump rope (without the rope), or skipping as some call it. Not skipping like a kid, though I recommend you do that. It’s fun and beneficial and my friend Paul Daniels once taught a class where some people forgot how to do that. Combine with 1.
  7. Trunk Movements: the torso, the thoracic stuff, aspects of the core. Flexion, extension, twisting, rotation. Combine with 1 & 2. Wakes up your vestibular system. You need that.
  8. Breathing: why cover that last? Because now, we get to redo everything 1-7 but make it even better.
  9. Add tools and repeat 1-7 with 8 throughout.

And you’ll learn how to weave it all together for durations of 5, 10, 20 minutes or whatever time you need/have/want and whatever goal you aim for.

So, people, get ready to move, well and throughout the day. (quality and quantity guaranteed). And when we’re done, you’ll be tired and happy and free. Like getting some. And the next day, you’ll feel it before you’ll get to talk about it.

This is just a taste of what can be achieved with the method.

Ideally I would love to teach the method over multiple days covering other movement qualities like: walking, running, climbing, throwing, lifting, rescuing, swimming without water, jumping and more. But in 8 short hours, you get plenty of coverage of the fundamentals so you can explore and even program.

*benefits vs goals will be explained. Benefits are things that stay the same, no matter what the goals are. Like opening up the chest vs building a bigger chest.

Breathing Bandwagon

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Statistically, unless medically contra-indicated, if you:

-Don’t eat for an hour

-Don’t drink for an hour

-Don’t sleep for an hour…

… You will be fine.

Try not breathing for an hour and get back to me (or have your next of kin notify me). On second thought, don’t try this, at home, at work, driving or at all!

“Lips together, teeth apart, from this rule thou shall not part” -Brett Jones

These words will always resonate with me as they were essential to proper movement by promoting relaxed breathing throughout my Indian Clubs certification a few years ago.

I call this post “breathing bandwagon” because there has been a lot of attention across the web and in the fitness community lately about proper breathing. Truth is, it’s not a bandwagon, a trend or a fad. It’s always been there. From your first moments on this Earth, to your last. I just choose to talk about it right now, that’s all.

My driving force for creating the SmartFlex™ was to promote better movement for everyone in a done-for-you type of activation. Better movement begets better performance and I frequently, as do my smarter peers, focus on establishing proper movement baselines. But it’s all for naught if your breathing is labored when it should be relaxed (anatomical, “matching the breath with movement”), or if you’re not applying a biomechanical (power breathing, more explosive) breathing match when tension strength is required (for a heavy bench press or deadlift, or a kiai! in martial arts).

Just like there are the right kind of tires or vehicles for the right conditions, there are various forms of breathing for various forms of training. Chest breathing vs belly breathing (diaphragmatic) are also on opposite end of the spectrum, respectively during stressful life-or-death situations — or in today’s world, job or environmental stressors like traffic — vs the relaxed breathing pattern of a baby, which I have the pleasure to observe daily with my 9-week old infant with envy.

I am not offering any in-depth explanations here. I rather invite you to research more on your own. I myself will be doing the same. Relaxed breathing patterns are what I choose to focus on for my personal goals: meditation, relaxation, tension & pain relief and even potentially promoting better hormonal balance (free testosterone), all of which I will discuss in future posts.