Lowcarbezine! 23 March 2000
Thought For The Day
Ever run across a new idea, and think to yourself, "Hmmm. That's either
the most amazingly brilliant thing I ever heard of in my life, or the
most ridiculous idea in the entire universe -- and I have absolutely no
This is exactly how I felt when I first heard about breathing
exercises. I was flipping through the channels one day, and came across
this woman on Home Shopping Network. She was saying this astonishing
thing: she said that the important thing about aerobic exercise for
burning fat was not the exercise itself, but the increased oxygen
consumption, because fat only burns in the presence of oxygen. She said
that by stoking up the level of oxygen in your blood with breathing
exercises, you could burn fat without doing the running, jumping,
I was, to say the least, incredulous -- but I knew from taking anatomy
and physiology that she was right about fat needing oxygen to burn. I
also knew that many cultures had strong traditions of breathing
exercises, and felt that they were a powerful force for health. Still,
one thing was for sure -- I wasn't going to shell out $40 to find out if
she was right. I forgot about it for the time.
But several weeks later I ran across the same videos she had been
selling that day at the local Play It Again Sports (a used sporting
goods store), for cheap. I picked 'em up, took 'em home, and tried it.
Damned if it doesn't work like a charm. I've now been doing breathing
exercises a minimum of 5-6 days a week, between 15-25 minutes a day, for
just about a year -- for most of this winter, it was about the only
exercise I got. And I can honestly say this is the best form of formal
exercise I have ever found.
I haven't dropped another several sizes or anything. But I started
losing inches very quickly -- noticeably within the first week. I did
drop some more weight. But the weird thing is, I've been getting muscle
development from it, too. I have muscle definition on my legs like
never before -- more than I got from going the gym three days a week and
spending 40 minutes on the StairMaster, and then some more time lifting
weights. I also can see the division between my bicep and delt quite
clearly! And I swear that I now have virtually no cellulite on my
There are less tangible benefits, too -- you know, stuff like energy, a
clear head, a sense of well being, not to mention being able to sing
better because of my terrific breath support! All told, breathing
exercises are the best thing I've done for my body since I went low carb
almost five years ago.
"All right, already!" I hear you cry. "What is the name of this
fabulous exercise?! Where do I get the tape? Can you just tell me how
to do it?" Patience. Here's the deal: I have now tried three separate
systems of breathing exercises, not to mention messing around with ideas
of my own. I haven't found a bad system yet. Each has its merits.
The first system, the one I originally saw advertised on Home Shopping
Network, is called Body Flex, and the originator is Greer Childers. No
question about it, she's tall and skinny and blonde and gorgeous. She
says she was a size 16 when she discovered breathing exercises, and that
in 6 months she got down to a size 4. My results, I must say, have not
been that spectacular -- but then, I'm not about 5'10", either.
(Nothing like having a whole lot more frame to distribute the weight
on!) I also have the feeling that she wasn't fat as a kid, but had
simply put on some weight after the kids came -- the longer someone's
been obese, the more likely it is that they have a real problem with
metabolism, and I've been fat since I was a kid.
Greer's Body Flex system is available on video, but not in wide, general
distribution; you can't get it in stores, or at Amazon.com -- you might
contact the Home Shopping Network. She does also have a book, called
_Be a Loser_, which describes everything on the tapes, and is pretty
easy to follow. I have only one complaint about the book, which is that
she speaks disparagingly of people who are size 14 and 16, as if that
were terribly, terribly fat. As a person who rejoiced when she got
back down to a size 14, and who still hasn't gotten skinnier than a
size 12, even using Greer's exercises, I felt a bit slighted by this.
Clearly, this is a woman who was skinny most of her life. Nonetheless,
the information is good. You can order Be a Loser from Amazon.Com in
Paperback edition or
If you want the videos -- and I do think that it's at least somewhat
easier to learn from the videos -- you'll need to contact Home Shopping
Network. There are two videos that come as a set -- one that teaches
you the basic breath and the various body positions and stretches that
go with it, and one that runs you through an actual 18 minute breathing
Substantially similar to Body Flex is Life Lift, by Rashelle Haines, who
claims to be the one who first taught breathing exercises to Greer
Childers, which would certainly explain the similarity, wouldn't it?
The basic breathing technique of Body Flex and Life Lift is the same,
but many of the positions and stretches are different. The two women's'
personalities are quite different as well -- Greer is sort of brisk,
concise and no-nonsense, while Rashelle is sort of warm and fuzzy and
nurturing. Depends on your own personal style which you'll prefer.
Life Lift has only one video, which teaches you the basic breath and the
various positions and stretches, but only one repetition of each. It's
up to you to put together a work out and do it daily. You can get the
Life Lift video from Rashelle Haines website at
http://www.aerobicbreathing.com . The website also includes a rundown
of the basic breath technique, but I'll explain it for you.
Here's the basic breath from both Body Flex and Life Lift:
That is one rep of the basic breath. There are a variety of stretching
and strengthening positions that you do while you are holding your
breath in the Stomach Lift Position. Body Flex has you squat a bit
with your hands on your knees, sort of like an umpire, to get into the
Stomach Lift. This bent forward position makes the Stomach Lift
easier. If that position is hard for you, you could bend forward
slightly and rest your hands on a table top to get a similar effect.
- Purse your lips and blow out as if you're blowing through a straw.
Blow out all the air you possibly can -- empty your lungs completely.
- Breathe in through your nose, sharp and fast, as if you were trying
to take in all the air in the room at a single breath.
- Hold for just a second. You're not holding your breath for very
long, here, just giving your lungs a second to absorb oxygen.
- Press your lips together, and then breathe out explosively through
your mouth, with a sound like, "PAH!" It should sound a bit wheezy.
You should empty your lungs entirely again. (Yes, you will feel like
a big ol' goofball doing this the first several times. Persevere.) You
may well find yourself coughing; that's good, it's your lungs cleaning
themselves. You may also crack up the first couple of times, which is
- Stop breathing, in the back of your throat, and, holding your
breath, use the vacuum you've created inside your thorax to suck and
roll your abdomen and all your organs in and up as far as you can! Hold
for 8-10 seconds. This is called the "Stomach Lift", and does very good
things for your gut. It also massages your organs, and increases your
- After that 8-10 seconds, open your throat and let the air flow in
There are a few problems I know of that this variety of breathing
exercise can entail. One is that for the first week or so, it gave me
nasty headaches. I found that keeping my chin tucked hard, especially
during the facial exercises in Body Flex (which do very good things for
the jawline, by the way) helped some, and the problem went away in about
a week. Also, because of the breath-holding, I don't think I can
recommend this form of breathing exercise for folks with high blood
pressure, glaucoma, or other health problems having to do with pressure
of various sorts. Also think you probably couldn't/shouldn't do it
while pregnant. And because you suck in your gut very hard, you must
do this form of breathing exercise on an empty stomach; Greer Childers
recommends first thing in the morning before breakfast.
The third system is very different from Body Flex and Life Lift. It's
called Oxycise!, and it's the brainchild of a woman named Jill Johnson.
The basic breathing technique of Oxycise! is totally different; no
breath holding, no making funny noises, although you do make a
moderately silly face while doing it. On the other hand, I think being
a little silly is good for the soul, don't you?
For the Oxycise! basic breath you need to be standing with your feet
shoulder width apart, knees soft (slightly bent), butt tucked. You show
your teeth in a great big grin while breathing in through your nose
(the grin opens your nostrils wider, and helps your jawline get
exercise). You breathe in as far as you can, and then take three more
sniffs, to make sure you've got all the air you possibly can. You lift
your abs (pull them up and in), then purse your lips while holding them
flat (instead of puckering them out), and blow out, and when you're
entirely empty, you give three final puffs. Going through this four
times constitutes one "rep" of Oxycise! breathing.
Jill Johnson has put together a good series of videos here -- and there
is a series, with new and more advanced positions and stretches as you
go along from tape to tape. This is one of the things I really like
about Oxycise! -- it gives you a way to keep progressing without adding
more time to your 15 minute workout. Also helps prevent boredom.
Johnson is a good, clear instructor, quite easy to follow. She also has
an audiotape to be done while driving, called the Commuter Workout --
you do the breathing technique while doing simple things like pulling
out on the steering wheel. It's quite possible to do on an open
highway, especially if you have cruise control, but don't try it in
around-town traffic! There is also an
Since this version of the breathing exercise doesn't involve holding
your breath, there are no extreme internal pressure changes, making this
safer for those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or who are
pregnant. And you don't have to have an empty stomach, which means that
you can do Oxycise! pretty much any time.
You can get Oxycise! through Amazon.com -- here are some links:
Oxycise! Level One video
Oxycise! Level Two video
Oxycise! Level Three video
Oxycise! Level Four video
Oxycise! Abs and Upper Body video
Oxycise! Buns and Thighs I video
Oxycise! Buns and Thighs II video
Oxycize! The Book
So, do I have a clear favorite? Not really. I probably split
half-and-half between the two techniques -- my husband much prefers Body
Flex, so if we're doing it together, that's what I do, although we've
modified Greer Childer's original workout with some positions from Life
Lift, and one I made up. On the other hand, left to my own devices, I
generally do Oxycise! these days, because I can move on to new levels.
All the systems have the huge advantage of letting you get in an
effective workout in less than 20 minutes, without a lot of equipment,
or even messing up your hair. About the only preparation is that you'll
need to be wearing comfortable clothes. I've done my breathing while
camping, as a house guest, in hotel rooms -- it's a workout that it's
really, really hard to find excuses not to do. And it's so fast that
even if you don't feel like it, you're done practically before you know
Also, since the increased oxygen consumption, not the positions, is the
most important part, you can get a good effect out of these breathing
exercises even if you are disabled. (Rashelle Haines claims to have
worked with folks in wheelchairs.) If you're seriously out of shape,
have sore knees and a bad back, this is a kind of exercise you can do,
to help move you toward greater fitness.
By the way, the effectiveness of these breathing exercises has inspired
me to be more conscious of my breath during other sorts of exercise, and
I recommend this very highly. In particular, when I go for a walk now,
I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, as deeply and
fully as I know how, taking in all the air I possibly can. Feels
wonderful! And when I was doing this last summer and fall, before the
winter set in, I got down to the smallest size and lightest weight I've
been since I came down from 190 lbs. I put on a few pounds over the
winter, but now that the weather is nice again, I know exactly how to
get those few pounds off! I also use my breathing far more consciously
when I do aerobics videos -- why not get the greatest effect possible?
My only caution would be that all three of these teachers say that if
you do their exercise, you don't need to watch what you eat. You know
how I feel about that! Doing even the most effective exercise is no
excuse for eating a lot of garbage.
This is very, very good stuff, folks. I have contacted the local
university (IU, Indiana University) to see if I can get some testing
done by the department of exercise physiology; this may give me a few
more answers as to whether one system or another has an edge. (Jill
Johnson has testimony from a Dr. Robert Girandola that when tested she
was burning 140% more calories when doing Oxycise! than test subjects
burned pedaling a stationary bicycle. Very impressive! Especially
considering how much I hate stationary bicycles!!) But they're all
good. They're all worth doing.
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