Four Ways We Can Control Our Health & Balance
This lifestyle guide is meant to help restore and foster balance in the body through simple considerations as to how we perform basic life functions. It is meant to be simple, easy to follow, and not at all a diet, exercise program, meditation practice, optimism brainwash, or anything like that! It is more about what makes movement, breathing, eating, and thinking natural; what makes it unnatural; and how to tweak the things you are already doing on a daily basis in order to optimize your health without making unsustainable changes.
Many of us remain unaware of the essential processes of life until some devastating dysfunction or disease demands our attention. These essential processes include respiration, ingestion, movement, and mental activity. These four functions work in unison to help avoid dysfunction and disease by regulating the body and keeping it in balance. Typically, imbalances begin as barely perceptible, but gradual “insults” from poor movement habits, shallow breathing, rushed eating, and negative thinking, increase the imbalance, eventually leading to pain, structural misalignment, and eventual disease. People these days, as our culture has rapidly grown apart from nature, need to reconnect with the natural principles of life through the interrelationship of respiration, ingestion, movement, and mental activity.
By bringing these four factors into balance, we can live long, healthy, natural lives the way nature intended. We can enjoy pain-free movement well into old age; enjoy delicious foods without the compulsory habits of overindulgence; and enjoy social interaction and entertainment media without feeling easily stressed out, insulted, afraid, or oppressed by our reactions to passing thoughts. The focus of Natural Mobility is largely movement, and when movement is natural, it is be graceful, efficient, effortless, beautiful, powerful, and without strain. There are specific parameters that make a movement natural, such as moving the whole body as one, control of the center of gravity, proper body-weight shifting, and exhaling with strenuous movements. As for the other factors, they have an equivalent effect on your emotional state, digestive health, and circulation, and all four factors influence one another; If one is out of balance, all are out of balance. The main points of this article are:
- Breathe through your nose.
- Take long breaths.
- Make your breathing inaudible.
- Chew your food like your mouth is a blender, and sip your drinks (don’t chug).
- Practice some form of intermittent fasting.
- Listen to your body, discover which foods agree with you and which don’t.
- Move with the whole body.
- Keep your center of gravity and the pivot point of your movement aligned.
- Shift to the same side when you flex, and the opposite side when you rotate or extend.
- Exhale with the strenuous part of movements.
4) Mental Activity
- Think productively; if you are brooding over negative thoughts, do something about those negative things, or change what you are focused on.
- Learn to let go of mental fixation (overthinking).
Respiration is the most vital function of life. We cannot survive for more than a few minutes without breathing. The vital things to consider about how you breath are 1) inhale only through your nose; 2) Make your breath silent; 3) Make your breath long.
Nasal respiration increases blood oxygen levels up to 20%. The paranasal sinuses generate nitrous oxide, a vasodilating gas. Vasodilation is the effect of blood vessels expanding, allowing an increase in blood circulation, to the lungs in this case, allowing for more oxygen exchange, and thus, greater blood oxygen levels. That means more oxygen and nutrients circulating through your blood stream.
Mouth breathing is often accompanied by lower blood oxygen levels, which means less oxygen going to the organs and brain, which means weaker organs, less energy, more fatigue, and in some cases, cognitive disorders, such as autism or ADHD in children.
Furthermore, mouth breathing makes your mouth a more welcome environment for bacteria, also affecting your gut microbiome. Breathing through the mouth changes the temperature of your mouth and throat, demanding the body to spend extra energy restoring the core temperature. The neck muscle are also used when you inhale through the mouth, and chronic neck tension is often an obvious symptom of this. I could go on; entire books have been written about this subject alone.
Some people have trouble breathing through their nose. If your nose is usually stuffy, then you are like me, and it will take a few weeks of your body adjusting to nasal breathing before your nasal passages become clearer. Other people have structural issues such as a deviated septum. I am not a big advocate for surgery, but this is a case where if there is a surgical procedure that can restore the function of your nasal airways, and that’s the only way to make nasal respiration possible for you, it is worth looking into.
Silent breathing. Audible breathing causes excess friction and force in the airways, though at a very low level. A natural breath should be inaudible (can’t hear it) and invisible (can’t see the nostrils or body moving obviously). Yes, your belly and chest will expand when you inhale, but this movement shouldn’t be noticeable if you are taking long breaths.
A long breath, or deep diaphragmatic breathing is a key to good health, the diaphragm actually presses down into the abdominal cavity, stimulating the internal organs. Every deep diaphragmatic breath you take is like a mini massage for your organs, stimulating circulation and supporting their overall functions. Don’t obsess over trying to control your breath every moment of the day; breathe naturally, but check in every now and then and make sure you are not reverting to short and shallow breaths. An optional practice can be taking a few minutes per day to focus on long, silent, deep breaths. Doing this regularly will impact the way you breath throughout the day when you are not thinking about it, and it is an easy practice to do anywhere without attracting any attention.
Most people breathe through their nose when they are at rest, but also be aware of how you are breathing when you eat, speak, exercise, and sleep. without even knowing who is reading this, I’m 90% sure without that you mouth-breathe when you speak and 100% sure that you do at least half the time when you sleep. Just be aware while you work, eat, exercise, and speak, and start catching yourself and correcting to build the subconscious habit of nose breathing.
As for during sleep, this will sound weird, but a lot of people do this, and it makes a big difference: cover your mouth with a strip of microporous tape (looks like masking tape but it’s for skin, you can find it at any pharmacy) before bed. There is no danger in doing this, but it is the easiest way to ensure that your are breathing through your nose at least 1/3 of the hours of the day, and that’s not only a great start, but a powerful bare-minimum. I know it sounds weird, but try it for a week, and you will notice better sleep, better morning-breath, and perhaps other unexpected benefits.
Bare Minimum: Breathe through your nose when you talk, rest, exercise, eat, and sleep. Try mouth-taping at night.
Diet is something that is unique to each person, and it should be taken as a personal responsibility to learn what foods agree with you, or what dietary approach works best for your digestive system. The more important thing than what we eat, is how well the food is chewed and digested. Food should be thoroughly masticated, and fluids should spend at least a moment in the mouth before being swallowed, not gulped.
If someone is thinking about stressful things at mealtime, or watching something distracting, or eating on the move, it will affect digestion. Ingestion should be deliberate, there should be a mental preparation for eating, you should pay attention to your food at mealtime so that your body can prepare for what you are trying to digest. Think about it like this, you want to use all of your senses to tell your body what you are eating, and you want to digest as much as you can with your teeth so that your stomach has smaller food particles to deal with. The key points to focus on are, to be present when you are eating your meals, and make your mouth treat every bite like a food processor would.
If you want to do something else for your digestive health before considering a special diet, look into daily intermittent fasting. This involves fasting during a portion of your day, for example, if you stop eating after dinner, at 8pm, then don’t eat the next day until 10am, that is a 14 hour fast, but it can be any duration. You can try your fast at different times in the day and find out what works best for your body. When it comes to diet, the key is to find out what is right for you, so experiment if you like, but always listen to your body.
Bare Minimum: Chew your food like your mouth was a magic bullet blender. Sip, don’t chug your drinks. Fast sometimes.
3) The Principles of Physical Movement
Move the whole body as one. The concepts of “body parts” and “muscle groups” are illusions that only exist in the mind’s eye. There is a principle in biophysics called mechanotransduction wherein every cell in the body responds to mechanical stimulus applied to any cell in the body. That means when you swipe the screen with your finger to scroll down, every cell in your body gets involved to help support that action. Keeping this principle in mind when we move the body is called movement in linkage. When we do something like reach out, or bend forward, even if it feels like just and arm or leg movement, we should be trying to involve the rest of the body to support and counterbalance. This makes movement more efficient, prevents the buildup of abnormal tension and reduced wear on overused joints.
The greater the distance that the pivot point of a movement is from the center of gravity, the greater the imbalance, and the greater the risk of creating compensatory distortions. To keep the pivot point in alignment with the center of gravity, the lumbar vertebrae must be held straight and used as an axis. Movements should be performed with the force passing through the big toe, such as in walking, where the big toe is meant to be a mechanism for propulsion. For movements that involve exerting force through the hands, such as pushing a door open, the force should be exerted through the ulnar (little finger) side. Pressing through the big toe and ulnar side of the hand directs the force through your center. If that force passes off-center, you have to spend excessive energy stabilizing the force so you don’t stumble.
Shifting the weight should involve moving the center of gravity in the opposite direction during flexion and to the same side during rotation or extension. This means you should shift your weight toward the left when your lean toward the right, shift toward the left when your rotate toward the left, shift your weight backward went flexing forward, and vice versa for each of those points. Think about this the next time you turn to reach for your seatbelt, or lean over to reach for something at your desk while working, bend over to pick something up, or do some exercise at the gym.
When it comes to movements involving forceful exertion, it is important to exhale during the most strenuous part of a movement. The breath can also be held, but never should dynamic movements like lifting, jumping, or throwing be done during inhalation. The nervous and musculoskeletal systems do not coordinate well during inhalation. In many cases, for example, injuries like slipped discs occur during inhalation.
Your emotional state can affect your posture and pattern of abnormal tension. When a person is sad they are often slumped forward, shoulders rolling in, and head drooping down. Being angry, high-strung, stressed out, anxious, or depressed all manifest in the way we hold our bodies. Diet is also something that is closely related to a person’s endurance and flexibility, but this is a very broad and complex topic, and not the area of focus for the basics.
Bare Minimum: Anywhere that you can identify a movement of lateral flexion, forward flexion, or rotation in daily life, you can apply the aforementioned principle of counter-balancing with shifting the weight.
4) Mindfulness and Productive Thinking
Mindfulness and productive thinking may not be as obviously necessary as breathing, but it is equally important. If you are being mindful, you are focused in the moment, whereas negative thinking requires your thoughts to be fixated on a past that cannot be changed, or a future that has not yet happened. It is vital to deliberately focus our thoughts on the things that we love and cherish that are right in front of us, and be fully involved in our moment, our movement, our breathing. Our thoughts determine our circumstances, and we should be focused on where we are, not stagnating on what we don’t want or what we fear, or waiting for something to happen to us. Yesterday is gone. The future never comes. Time is always now.
When you find yourself worrying or brooding, think of what you can do right now to change whatever it is that is bothering you. If there is nothing to be done at this moment, and focusing on it doesn’t change anything, then it’s time to apply a little discipline to pry your mind away from what’s bothering you, and focus your energy on doing something that will be affected by your effort.
Bare Minimum: Try to catch yourself when you are lingering on a thought for too long, and either decide to take action, or find something else to focus on that makes you feel productive or content.
Where Does This All Come From
These timeless principles, first outlined by the late Dr. Keizo Hashimoto M.D., perfectly reflect the philosophy of Natural Mobility; to foster an effortlessly natural relationship with our internal and external environment. Dr. Hashimoto is the founder of Sotai, a surprisingly effective movement therapy from Japan that involves fostering balance in the body, through comfortable active moving. His practice was very much focused on movement and breathing, but his philosophy also extended into thought and ingestion as major considerations. In reality, the realms of movement, breathing, ingestion, and respiration are inseparable, and part of one system.
What makes this way of life so special is how simple the guidelines are. The Sotai lifestyle does not preach a specific diet, nor does it involve a complex and time-consuming practice of meditation, nor hours of stretching every week. It is more about adjusting the way you do the things that affect your health, than trying to replace everything that you do with something new and praying that it sticks. I chose to adapt this approach into Natural Mobility’s paradigm as it is simple, and allows for great diversity of different diets and movement practices.
My recommendation is to adapt this model as the basis of your lifestyle. Any diet, exercise program, or meditation practice, that you want to stack on top of it all is up to you, but all of these principles should fit in without contradicting any natural approach.