Welcome to Dr. Mitra Ray’s E-Newsletter
FROM HERE TO LONGEVITY
Issue 2 — October 30, 2003
drm.ticketjunior.com — The Official Site of Mitra Ray, Ph.D.
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“The real thing is not the path. The real thing is the authenticity of the seeker.”
Today’s issue includes:
1) Article — “Spirit, Spirare, and Agni Sara” by Mitra Ray, Ph.D.,
2) Extra Reading — Take the Stress Out of Repetitive Stress Injuries
3) Q & A — Glyconutrients
4) Dr. Mitra Ray Testimonials — October 2003
5) More Information
1) “Spirit, Spirare, and Agni Sara”
In Latin, “spirare” means to breathe. In the dictionary, you will find “spirare” at the root of such English words as respiration, inspiration, and SPIRIT. Like the ebb and flow of the tides, each breath is but a wave on the vast ocean of air. With each exhalation, release your SPIRIT, so that it can come back to you — renewed.
We were talking about the breath in the last issue. The timeliness of this topic is clear from the series of experiments published on this very topic in the June, 2003 issue of “Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback” (www.aapb.org).
Recently, however, I read a series on the breath that comes from a far more ancient source of collected wisdom – the Upanishads. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that the benefits that are attributed to this breathing technique are still needed today – perhaps even more so than in ancient times.
What is this timeless technique? It is called Agni Sara. (“Agni Sara”; Yoga International Reprint Series; www.yimag.com) With proper practice, it is possible to:
* Stimulate digestion
* Stimulate elimination
* Increase the assimilation of nutrients
* Increase circulation throughout the body
* Tone abdominal muscles
* Radiate the glowing appearance of good health
Anyone interested in more information?
For years, I ignored the many books and articles that were available on breathing techniques. Like most people, I didn’t have time to focus on something as mundane as breathing. Yet, the benefits listed above become ever more enticing and relevant to us as we age. Observe most middle-aged folks, and you will notice the obvious weakness in their abdominal muscles. But, this decline is not purely on a muscular level; it impacts the organs behind those muscles as well.
On the other hand, longevity is associated with strength in the abdominal and pelvic region. This strength helps the body to maintain the integrity of posture necessary to provide space for the vital organs to function. An aligned spine, strong bones, and toned muscles provide this integrity; and, it is further strengthened and reinforced through breathing exercises — especially Agni Sara.
Breathing provides an excellent biofeedback mechanism for your muscles and bones to learn proper alignment. How? First of all, it is simply difficult to breathe when you are misaligned. Furthermore, the breath brings energy and nutrients to all parts of the body. The quality of the breath is primary; then water; and, finally, food. Remember, without air, you would last only minutes; without water, maybe you could make it for days; without food, maybe weeks.
Before we continue, take a moment to check in with your body. Does your current alignment support your breath?
* Are your feet touching the ground with your knees bent at ninety degrees as you sit in your chair?
* Are you at the edge of your chair using your core muscles to hold yourself up? You may be lucky or diligent enough to find the occasional chair that will properly support a relaxed, yet upright, spine while you are sitting with your back supported by the chair.
* Are your shoulders pulled back and down? Is your neck being pulled up by an imaginary skyhook, while you restore that ever so slight tuck to your chin?
In this newsletter, I will guide you through a few minutes of new breathing exercises that I hope you will practice each day for the next month. With a small commitment of time, you can take the important first step toward mastery of the Agni Sara technique. You will start noticing changes in this first month. Then, within a period of three to four months, you will be getting enough information that, with continued regular practice, you will be enjoying the full benefits of Agni Sara.
A modern interpretation of Agni Sara that I would like to play with involves its ability to “turn on the metabolic fire.” This means increasing digestion, assimilation, and elimination, which in turn impact the neurological, immunological, and circulatory systems. As we age, the metabolic fire goes out. Today, we simply call it “metabolism.” But this definition has limits, since it doesn’t expose the true impact of the process. Thus, I like the image of the metabolic fire much better.
The metabolic fire does not begin to die out purely as a product of age. Sometimes we actually douse the fire by the unconscious choices we make. For example, let’s look at the decline of liver function under the stresses of modern life. Think of the liver as the brain of the digestive and eliminatory systems. It oversees everything that you ingest, store, and eliminate. It even has the “brains” to regenerate its own cells. Today we deprive this beautiful organ of essential nutrients and overwhelm it with toxins such as caffeine, alcohol, processed sugar, and trans fats. When the liver is toxic, circulation is restricted, and every other organ is negatively affected. A toxic liver will cry out for help by manifesting any of the following symptoms: abdominal weight gain and bloating, high blood pressure and cholesterol, indigestion and fatigue, depression and mood swings, and even skin rashes.
My long term plan with this newsletter is to give you the information you need to turn on your metabolic fire — through the quality of the air, water, and food you consume. But, this will take some time. Patience, Grasshopper. Master each step.
Breathing is the only bodily function that is both voluntary and involuntary. Thus, we can ignore it and still stay alive.
Modern living is all about not doing anything that we don’t absolutely have to, because we all have so much on our “to do” lists to begin with, everyday! So, let me guess. “Breathing” is not at the top of your list, right? And yet, you might just decide that it should be!
Conscious breathing can be the key to incredible vitality. Consider this. The breath is not merely something that you take into your lungs. The breath is literally transported to every cell of the body through an immediately willing circulatory system. In the lungs, oxygen is transported into the blood and thus carried to the rest of the body. If the breath is not regulated with conscious effort, then other forces (emotional distress, poor diet, lack of movement) take over and stop the breath from reaching certain tissues, which in a sense, die over time. Without the breath, the cells cannot burn the food that we eat, nor eliminate the toxins that we create from the burning of that food.
Let’s talk about the diaphragm for a moment. The diaphragm is the breathing muscle. Like other muscles, the diaphragm has a contracted state and an expanded state. Intuition will probably not be sufficient to understand these two states of the diaphragm because the two physical states are actually counterintuitive. When relaxed, the diaphragm “umbrellas” up like a dome under the lungs, making more room for the digestive organs below. This occurs at the end of an exhalation. When inhaling, the diaphragm contracts and becomes more like a disc, pushing down on the digestive organs. Expansion and contraction happen automatically when we breathe. But, what I am realizing more and more everyday, is that we can use the unique placement of the diaphragm in order to breathe purposefully, and thereby exercise our lungs and our digestive organs. This is the physical access we have — the catalyst — for getting that metabolic fire going.
Often, when people try to focus on improving their breath, they work their abdominal muscles backwards: sucking in the stomach and expanding the chest during the inhale, and pushing out the stomach during the exhale. This is to be expected. As I already mentioned, the action of the diaphragm is counterintuitive. So, in Agni Sara breathing, we will focus on using the abdominal muscles in a way that is synchronized with the action of the diaphragm, thereby making the breath more efficient.
Now, we are almost ready for some exercises. First a few precautions. To be responsible, I should say that people with heart disease or high blood pressure should consult their physicians; but hopefully, you can be the best judge of your body. If you start to feel dizziness and discomfort, you have gone beyond your own edge – at least for today. Patience, Grasshopper. Take it slow. If you take it slow, Agni Sara may actually help many of these conditions over time; however, pregnant women and people with stomach ulcers or hiatal hernias should completely avoid these exercises.
Did I forget to say that these exercises should be done on an empty stomach? Wait at least 3 hours after a meal. Preferably, do them first thing in the morning and/or before mealtimes. If you exercise your digestive organs before putting food in them, they will be ready to go to work for you. Let’s begin:
1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Now, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips, placing your hands on your knees to support the weight of the upper body. Pull your sitz bones back and your ribs away from your hips — such that your lower back (lumbar region) is not curved. By sitz bones, I mean those two huge boney protrusions that you sit on. Your doctor would call these ischial tuberosities. As you take care of your lower spine, also be sure to take care of the neck. Don’t scrunch up the shoulders. Rather, let the neck be a natural extension of the spine. You can look down in order to watch your abdomen, but don’t hold your head in a position that strains the neck.
2. Be sure that your weight is supported by your arms, so that the abdomen is relaxed and free to move. Now, breathe freely a few times and observe your breath. Notice the rate at which you breathe. If needed, adjust your breath so that the duration of the inhalation is approximately equal to the duration of the exhalation, and so that there is no jerkiness to the breath. If you find this difficult, first practice breathing according to the description in Chapter 14, p. 318 of my book “From Here to Longevity.”
3. Now, we will move on to the first stage of Agni Sara breathing. Begin contracting your abdominal wall inward toward your spine as you exhale — do it slowly and smoothly until all the air is expelled and your abdomen is concave, applying firm and gentle pressure. By this I mean that you should use your abdominal muscles to push your navel in, towards your spine, slowly and deliberately.
4. Without stopping, begin a smooth inhalation while slowly releasing the abdomen. Don’t push it out, rather, let it simply relax back into the starting position.
Continue steps 3 and 4 for a few minutes or to your capacity. Reclaim your diaphragm. Close your eyes once you get comfortable with the exercise and visualize this dome-shaped muscle at work.
By the way, I suspect that most of you are taking Juice Plus+. Agni Sara will maximize the benefits of this product, as well as other nutrients you eat, by increasing their assimilation in the body.
Be prepared for the new you.
p.s. Thanks to everyone who has asked for my Tofu Chocolate Chip Cookie Receipe. I will include it in the next e-newsletter.
To read previous articles from the Mitra Ray, Ph.D. E-Newsletter Archives, or to order a copy of her new book, From Here to Longevity, click here
2) Extra Reading — Take the Stress Out of Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are among the most common work-related illnesses in the U.S., affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year. Frequently associated with computer use, RSIs can cause pain and discomfort in the neck, back, arms and hands. They are also quite expensive: The Department of Labor estimates that carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-strain disorders cost more than $20 billion a year in time lost from work and worker’s compensation.
A series of experiments published in a recent issue of “Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback” show how working on a computer can alter a person’s posture breathing patterns, and how proper training can reduce the incidence of RSI in the workplace. In the first study, 18 computer users were hooked up to a monitoring system that measured their muscle tension and breathing rate while working at a PC. The monitoring session found that when users became more immersed in their work, they tended to elevate the shoulders and breathe faster. Muscle tension in all of the muscle groups increased, especially the muscles in the upper back opposite the hand that used a computer mouse. In addition, users often continued working without taking breaks, which would have relieved some of the tension and reduced the risk of developing a repetitive strain injury.
In a separate experiment, the researchers trained a group of computer users in muscle relaxation and breathing techniques, then compared them with a group of workers who did not receive training. After three training sessions, the computer users reported significantly decreased symptoms of repetitive strain compared to the untrained workers. Trained users relaxed their necks and shoulders more often, breathed from the diaphragm rather than the chest, and took more frequent breaks.
If you use a computer, there are several steps you can take to reduce, or even eliminate, the risk of repetitive strain injury.
Take regular breaks and stretches. Organize your office equipment so it is ergonomically correct. And of course, talk to your doctor about specific exercises and other habits you can adopt to keep RSIs out of your workspace.
Excerpt from: Peper E, Wilson V, Gibney K. The integration of electromyography (SEMG) at the workstation: assessment, treatment and prevention of repetitive strain injury (RSI). “Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback,” June 2003. www.aapb.org
Q: A reader writes ‘Mannatech is a company that claims that there are “essential carbohydrates” that we need in our diet and that they have products that include these essential carbohydrates or “glyconutrients,” as they call them. How important are they?’
A: I went to Mannatech’s website to see if they were actually publishing claims that there are such things as “essential carbohydrates.” After thoroughly researching their website, I couldn’t find anything but hints and suggestions to support the claims the distributors of the product are making. For instance, they have a trademark on the word “Glycentials” — but they don’t go so far as to say that there are such things as “essential carbohydrates.”
Please understand that I am not suggesting that Mannatech is a bad company, nor am I suggesting that they do not sell beneficial products. I will be the first to applaud them when they present independent research to validate their product claims. My only point of contention here is around the concept of “essential carbohydrates.”
Just for the record, I have been telling people that there is no such thing as an “essential carbohydrate.” The word “essential” means that our body cannot manufacture it and we need it from our diet. Of the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats- only proteins and fats have “essential” components that we must get from the diet. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Nine of them are essential and must come from various sources of protein in our diet (Juice Plus+ Complete has them as well); furthermore, there are essential fatty acids that we need from our diet. The concept of essential nutrients is thoroughly covered in my book From Here to Longevity.
Yes, we do need carbohydrates in our diet, but there are no “essential” carbohydrates. The most important thing about carbohydrates is that you choose raw vegetables and fruits as your main source, as opposed to pasta, rice, bread, and the like.
This is because the latter sources contain few to no disease-preventing micronutrients, are high in glycemic load (meaning they convert to body fat easily), and are acidic to the body. Fruits and veggies on the other hand, contain over 12,000 micronutrients, don’t convert to stored body fat, and are alkaline to the body. A body that is slightly alkaline, as opposed to acidic, is less prone to osteoporosis, as well as other diseases.
Now, there are rare genetic diseases that disable the body’s ability to make certain carbohydrates that are necessary for the final step in making a fully functional enzyme. This final step, called glycosylation, occurs on the golgi apparatus in the cell, where a carbohydrate is added to a newly made enzyme molecule. For these rare cases, the missing link can be provided by the ingestion of particular sugars, such as mannose. Again, the need for such intervention would be rare.
Just to make sure that I was on track with my thinking on this, I asked a colleague who is a Howard Hughes endowed professor at University of California, San Diego and is an expert in this particular field. My question to him, “Did I miss something in my Biochemistry classes about essential carbohydrates?” Here is his response:
“Hi, Mitra. Nice to hear from you. Actually, I don’t think you missed anything in Biochemistry (and you came from one of the best). Anyway, there are no “essential carbohydrates” in the sense of nutritional components. Typically, carbohydrates are defined as sugar polymers (glycogen is a carbohydrate of glucose for example made in the liver and necessary for energy production).
Carbohydrates are secreted and attached to the surface of cells [onto enzymes]. They are made mostly in the Golgi apparatus inside of cells, from the nine basic monosaccharides (sugars), including mannose, glucose, fructose, etc. The nine monosaccharides can be made from glucose through various synthetic routes available to the cell, and so we don’t need to ingest any one or more specific monosaccharides (even glucose can be made from other sugars). What we need at some level is sugar. Now, there are some disease states in which one or more enzymes in the pathways to synthesize the various monosaccharides can be missing, and those are quite interesting. In fact in one such disease state in which mannose production cannot occur, ingestion of mannose is a clinical cure.”
Then you may be asking, how do I know if I have this disease state? What my friend is referring to is a severe childhood disorder, typically accompanied by mental retardation and gastrointestinal deficits. For the rest of us, we are OK without these so-called “essential carbohydrates.”
4) Dr. Mitra Ray Testimonials — October 2003
Here are some of the dozens of testimonials and comments we received over the past few months from readers of ‘From Here to Longevity.’
I LOVE your book, I LOVE your tapes and hearing you speak!
I am so excited to have a resource like the electronic magazine on health from Dr. Ray. I have known Mitra for many years and have trusted her advice over the years concerning the health and well being of my family. Sincerely, Nikki
I was a first time attendee to the Juice Plus Conference this past weekend and wanted to thank you for you presentation. It was informative and inspiring and a pleasure to see you in person. I have thoroughly enjoyed your CD’s and cassettess and look forward to sharing your information with others. I didn’t get the opportunity to purchase your book at the conference, but intend to do so online.
Thanks Mitra for the great newsletter, looove it!
–Guy De Boo
I just came home from a seminar in Vancouver BC from Mitra Ray and she was fabulous. Thank you very much for your information.
Your newsletter is wonderful. Thank you for sharing so openly. I feel your heart.
I would like to subscribe to your e-newsletter. I heard you when you were in Atlanta and have learned so much from listening to you and reading your book.
To the dear person who organizes this: I would love to subscribe to the newsletter. I am a Juice Plus Sales Coordinator and I loved the Celebration By The Sea training camp. I was sent a copy of Dr. Mitra Ray’s newsletter; very excellent. Thank you so much, love and light
I would very much like to subscribe to your newsletter. I am always cheered by your delightful countenance and humor when I’ve seen you in person at conferences. Thank you for your contributions to the realm of health and prevention. We need more of you!
I’ve read your book from cover to cover, highlighted and underlined info. . .
and as a Dietitian for over 20 years feel blessed that I have such a solid and
credible source of nutrition information.
–Honey Kirila, R.D. Georgia
Nicely done, Mitra. The e-newsletter looks great and reads well. Thanks for sending it to me. I will pass it along and P.S., I am sitting up taller and breathing more deeply as I write.
–Tamara Sachs, M.D.
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What your body sees with vitamin pills:
T k r ght t th H ds n Str t G t th f rst tr ff c 1 ght nd st y n 1 f11 n t m k 1 ft n M ntg m r y Blvd P ss thr st p s gns nd f 11 w c rv d r d p th h 111 th f rth st p s gn. M k r ght n M ch g n Str t.
What your body sees with whole food:
Take a right at the Hudson Street. Go to the first traffic light and stay in left lane to make a left on Montgomery Blvd. Pass three stop signs and follow curved road up the hill to the fourth stop sign. Make a right on Michigan Street.
Well, how would you like to look at your world? I think it’s clear that if we want to get where we’re going, we’d better be able to read the directions! Obviously, whole foods and whole food based concentrates help us to stay on the right track.
–Mitra Ray, Ph.D.
Thank you for reading. Make it a great week!
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