Originally published in 101 Great Ways To Improve Your Health, Selected and Introduced by David Riklan and Dr. Joseph Cilea
Everyone knows the story of the man who goes up in a spacecraft and comes back to earth years later. His wife, who was in her prime when he left, is now old and decrepit; his children who were mere toddlers are now grown and have children of their own. The space traveler, however, has only aged a few years. So goes aging in space. It goes so very, very slowly. So goes the theory of time and space by Einstein.
There are reasons why. And thanks to Newton, we know the main reason. It’s gravity. Gravity is one of the greatest forces that we earth inhabitants contend with. It keeps everything in place, holding everything down so that contact with earth is always maintained. It is only since the first Sputnik, in 1962, that man has been able to even dream about transcending the force of gravity. But, space travel has had other advantages. It paved the way for us to begin to understand something about the process of aging that had previously eluded us.
Because we live day-in and day-out with the force of gravity, we don’t often think about how much energy we exert fighting it. Yet, when we feel tired, we are sensitive to the effects of gravity and feel compelled to lie down to ameliorate some of gravity’s inexorable pull. When we go to the zoo and look at the animals on all fours, we develop a great appreciation for our up-rightness. However, we don’t often think about how much stress our being erect puts on our bodies. When we walk or run, we’re putting all of the gravitational pressure of our entire body on one small spot, creating thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Merely standing creates tremendous gravitational force against the feet and the spine. Wherever there are weaknesses in our bodily structure — in the knee and hip joints, the lower back, the neck and abdomen — there will be more frequent injuries. In fact, the single largest health problem in the United States is back pain, an effect from our perpetual struggle against gravity. As well, gravity effects us on a cellular level. Many biologists now feel that gravity plays a significant role in the cell’s loss of ability to replicate itself, thus contributing directly to aging and death. Bernard Jensen has said that there is not a single disease in which gravity does not play a part.
Clearly, if we could diminish the force of gravity on our bodies, we could, as well, diminish the sagging muscles in our faces that give us, after the age of 50 or 60, jowls and necks that look like a chicken. If we could diminish the force of gravity, we can diminish the crowding of our internal organs that occurs because our insides, as well as our outsides, start to sag, thus making them less efficient. In short, if we could reverse the force of gravity on our bodies, we would look and feel younger.
Well, we can’t. Gravity is a fact of life that is inescapable, and short of space travel, there is no way that we can escape its effects. What we can do, however, is find ways to allow gravity to work for us instead of against us.
What’s wonderful about the last 20 years is that the health movement has made working with gravity (and thus aging reversal) so accessible. There are several methods, each thoroughly enjoyable, and you will see and feel the effects almost immediately. They are: rebounding, skipping, using the slant board and floating.
Rebounding is unique as an aerobic exercise because it stimulates, strengthens and cleanses every cell in the body. This is because it uses vertical motion rather than the horizontal motion that is used in all other forms of exercise.
Simply explained, when you bounce up and down, your entire body goes through repetitive vertical acceleration and deceleration, working against gravity. At the bottom of every bounce, your entire body stops for a split second. At this moment, the force of gravity shoves down on every cell in your body. This is the deceleration working with gravity. Then your body shoots back upward, again stopping for just a split instant. This is your moment in space. The movement upward has exerted pressure on your body from the opposite direction of the downward movement. This is the acceleration working against gravity. Because of the repetitive pushing and pulling on all your cells, the tissues and fibers and muscles in your body all grow stronger. This includes your heart fibers and the muscle layers within the arterial walls, even if you don’t dramatically get your heart rate up.
Also, rebounding cleanses and purifies every cell. Your cells depend on the diffusion of fluid through the permeable membranes in order to carry oxygen, nutrients, hormones and enzymes into the cell, and to flush out metabolic waste. This process is increased by a factor of 300% by rebounding. This is because at the top of every bounce, your body actually becomes weightless for a fraction of a second. The cells therefore oscillate between increased G-force and no G-force, providing a constant compression/decompression factor. This on-going compression/decompression of the cell membranes significantly boosts the diffusion of fluid into and out of the cells, carrying fresh oxygen and nutrients, and flushing out the toxins. There is literally no other form of exercise that has this same capacity for total cellular cleansing.
The lymph system, specifically, cleans the body of debris. Lymph fluid surrounds every cell in your body. The human body contains three times more lymph fluid than it does blood. The pressure that is exerted on the lymphatic system in rebounding activates the valves in the lymph channels to their maximum capacity, increasing lymph flow by as much as 30 times normal. In fact, the entire lymph system can be cleansed in the span of a single, short session on the trampoline. Clogged lymph nodes are cleared; tonsils and adenoids are cleansed, as are the larger organs of the appendix and spleen.
And if you thought that was enough, there is still more. Jumping can also substantially boost the immune system by increasing the activity of lymphocytes within the bloodstream. Any form of exercise can, of course, do this. But research shows that when the body is exposed to higher than normal gravitational pressure, such as that produced in rebounding, that the lymphocyte activity is increased to the greatest extent. With more lymphocyte activity, infectious organisms are more quickly zeroed in on, attacked and neutralized by the lymphocytes, and infection is much less likely to settle in. For all these reason, NASA has embraced rebounding, and shown that it is 68% more effective as a fitness conditioner than running or any other form of aerobic exercise. Do yourself a favor. Jump in the morning and jump at night.
We know you remember skipping. You may also remember how happy you felt when you skipped. We don’t mean content, or satisfied, or feeling good or nice. We mean happy. It may seem puzzling, but if you look around at any playground, you will notice that any child who is skipping is also laughing, or at least smiling a big, broad grin. Skipping induces happiness; it did when you were seven, and it will have the same joyful effect now. Just try it, even if just for a few skips (which is all you will be able to do anyway, even if you’re in reasonable shape).
Frankly, we’re not sure why skipping stimulates happiness. Maybe it tickles the pleasure center in the brain for some reason. What we know is that anyone who tries skipping for the first time since being a child will invariably break out in a mirthful laugh.
The health benefits of skipping are the same as rebounding. There’s the instant that you’re in the air, suspended, before you begin your descent downward. This is the no G-force when all your cells do their backing up trick. Skipping is more aerobic than running with none of the disadvantages of running. It’s all done on your toes and the front of your feet, and this area has great padding. This cushions all the bones and joints in your legs as well as your back, so you will not get injured the way runners do. Don’t get discouraged. This exercise is so aerobic, and uses muscles that are not used to being used so strenuously that you’ll only be able to do a little at a time. But that’s another one of its beauties. It’s so efficient. And because you can go back and forth within a small space, you can do it indoors.
We’ve found that the best shoes to skip in are running shoes in which the fronts of the shoes angle up. Some of the more expensive running shoes don’t have this feature. You need maximum flexibility for the front half of the shoe, and the upward tilt at the front will give you that.
We’re hoping to create an exercise revolution. We’re hoping that someday soon there will be skipping shoes, skipping shorts and a skipping club, like the New York Road Runners’ Club. If you start seeing people skipping, you’ll know that the word is getting out.
The slant board
Our bodies have evolved in a way that they normally work, not too badly, with the law of gravity. For instance if we look at the construction of the intestinal tract, we see that through most of the journey, food follows a downward slope. When the food reaches the beginning of the colon, it is now mostly liquid, and thus responds easily to peristaltic movement. In the ascending colon, the appendix lies below, and this organ, usually thought of as useless, actually serves to act as an irritant to force the food material uphill. By the time the material reaches the descending colon, gravity is able to exert its force to pull the waste downward.
To find an occasional reprieve from gravity, the logical question is: since gravity is the force that keeps pulling everything down, why not change the direction of our bodies so that what was going down in us now goes up, and what was going up now goes down? In other words, since we can’t change gravity, we have to change ourselves. We can turn ourselves upside down. In this way, we are using the force of gravity for healing.
Yoga discovered the importance of upside-down eons ago. They invented the shoulder stand and the head stand. The slant board is, you might say, the short-cut version of these yoga postures.
When you are standing up, the pull of gravity, and thus the pull on the flow of blood and all other fluids in your body is five or six feet. When you lie on the slant board, with your head lower than your feet, the pull of blood to the upper part of your body is about 18 inches. It’s not a lot, but plenty enough to accomplish a considerable task.
Brain anemia may not be a medically recognized disease entity, but anyone suffering from chronic fatigue has it. If muscle tone or circulation are not good enough, then the blood can’t travel uphill to the brain sufficiently to feed the brain. Without sufficient blood to the brain, virtually all of our functions will be weakened. The cerebellum, the back part of your brain, is where every physical organ is regenerated. You cannot breathe, you cannot hear, see or taste, you cannot think properly, nor move any part of your body without your back brain getting enough blood flow. This is, as well, the first part of the brain to be adversely affected by gravity.
Animals instinctively feed their brains the blood that is needed by how they sleep. An animal is always in a prone position during sleep, and its head falls lower than the rest of its body. In fact, if you hold an animal up by his front feet for long enough (for a dog, it’s four hours, for a rabbit, it’s three quarters of an hour), the animal will die because its heart and arteries cannot pump enough blood into its brain to keep it alive.
One of the conditions that we find the most responsive to the slant board is prolapsus of the internal organs. Any of us who have been on a traditional western diet, with refined foods, for any extended period of time, will have a prolapsed bowel. The transverse colon, which crosses over the abdomen, will dip in the middle, thus forcing the waste products in the colon to actually have to go upward, against gravity. This almost always proves too difficult, and a prolapsed colon then becomes a clogged colon. Bladder and prostate difficulties generally arise because the organs have fought against gravity for too many years, and the bladder is no longer in its proper place. Uterine fibroid tumors can be caused by the organs above bearing down, causing pressure on the uterus. The uterus, then, becomes malpositioned, thus rendering the uterus less capable of throwing off toxic material.
Lying on the slant board repositions all of the internal organs. Gravity pulls the organs upwards, thus creating space between the organs so that the oxygen can reach the organs more easily. Simply lying on the slant board with your arms stretched out above your head is wonderful. You may have noticed that between 3 and 5 p.m., it gets harder to keep your energy level up. This is because at this time, the sun and moon change their configuration in relation to each other. The fluids in our bodies make a concomitant change in response. It’s best to find time to do the slant board around this time and you will find that you have renewed vigor for the rest of the day. In fact, 15-20 minutes on the slant board renews your body the same as an hour of sleep.
You can augment the effect of the board by doing simple exercises.
Slant board exercises:
Exercise 1) To bring more blood into the abdomen, pull the stomach in and up, toward the shoulders.
Exercise 2) You can also pat the stomach, stretching your upper torso from side to side. This both increases circulation and breaks down pockets in the intestinal tract.
Exercise 3) Flex the knees, bringing them as close to your chest as you can get. This is a brain exercise.
Exercise 4) Bicycle on the board. This is good for the abdominal organs. Exercise
5) Lift the legs and rotate them in large circles. This brings circulation into the pelvic area and stretches the muscles around the prostate. It also releases pressure on the bladder.
Exercise 6) Lift legs straight up to as close to a 90° angle to your body as you can get, then lower them slowly. This builds abdominal strength.
Dr. Shizuo Inoue, Chairman of Japan’s Oxygen Health Association, has spent decades researching the relationship between oxygen levels in the body and health. He has come to agree with Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg that a deficiency in oxygen is the root of many diseases. His inspiration for one way of correcting an oxygen deficiency came from observing fish in the water. He noticed that when the fish swim, they move their whole bodies in gentle undulating cycles. He thought that the steady undulation of the spine is, in part, responsible for the full oxygenation of the fish. He sought to replicate this movement in humans.
Dr. Inoue instructed his engineers to design a machine for humans that would move the spine as well as the rest of the body in these same undulating movements — to make us fish, in a sense. Dr. Inoue calls the machine the Chi machine because he believes that in oxygenating the body, the Chi, the “life force” or “life energy” of the body is raised.
Children love to spin, to rock, to swing — to do anything that momentarily changes their consciousness of ordinary reality. It is probably the case that this desire is genetically inbred into us given the tenaciousness with which we hold on to any method that accomplishes this — from drugs and alcohol, to daydreaming and fantasy, to yoga and meditation.
In the 1950’s, John Lilly started experimenting with the deliberate induction of a change in consciousness through the use of sensory deprivation. By 1970 he had perfected the flotation tank in which the adventuresome person would lie buoyantly atop body temperature water saturated with Epsom salts. The tank inside was pitch black, and there was no sound penetrating through. Although Lilly did some interesting experiments in his tank, it was not for the faint of heart. The tank itself was more like a coffin than a tank. And because of a series of other experiments done on severe sensory manipulation in which experimental subjects had adverse reactions, many people became fearful of the tank.
Today, we have moved away from any interest in altered states which resemble the drug-induced states of the 50’s and 60’s. Today, instead, most of us are interested in relaxation, stress reduction and relief from exercise-induced injury. In pursuit of this goal, John Lilly’s original flotation tank has been up-dated into a flotation room. You actually step into the chamber and lie down only when you’re comfortable and acclimated to your new environment. An optional soft, blue light and optional piped-in music have been added. Many major cities have facilities with a flotation chamber. It’s a little expensive to create a flotation chamber in your own home, but once you’ve floated, you’ll be hooked and you’ll want to float frequently, maybe enough to create you own home flotation chamber (for a cost of $1500).
These are the benefits you can expect. The relaxation is utterly profound. Research shows that one hour of floating is equivalent to five hours of sleep. New parents and insomniacs (if you’ve ever been a new parent, you’ll know that new parents and insomniacs have a lot in common) say that floating has transformed impossible, exhausted days into high energy days. Some floaters say that they have the experience when they float of “coming home.” This is, of course, because the environment in the float room is roughly equivalent to our very first environment, the womb. Our memories may even be reaching back further, back to the sea before we even became human.
When you float, you are not straining against gravity, and thus every muscle in your body is more relaxed than you can get it in any other way (except space travel). Consequently, you develop a heightened awareness of any tensions, spasms, knots that may have escaped your notice. You can work on consciously releasing the tension in these places. Michael Flatley, star of the Broadway show Riverdance, claims that floating was the only thing that soothed his aching feet after his strenuous performances.
Floating creates a drop in blood pressure, a slowing of pulse rate and allows the blood to circulate more freely throughout the body. Because of the sensory deprivation aspects of being in the float room, you become extremely aware of your internal world. (It’s why, as well, patients in psychoanalysis lie on the couch. The mild sensory deprivation they experience in not seeing the analyst facilitates access to the unconscious.) You become sensitive to your thoughts and feelings, as well as to your autonomic functions such as respiration, heartbeat and dilation of blood vessels. If you choose to use the floating experience in such a way, you can bring these involuntary functions under conscious control, thereby achieving a unity of all parts of your brain, the reptile brain, limbic brain and neo-cortex. This unity, achieved in a state of utter passivity, confers on you a unique state, one that is both extraordinarily quiet and intensely conscious.
Research on floating shows that it is healing for a number of abnormal conditions. It helps people to fight addictions, depression, anxiety and fears, and facilitates weight loss. There are tons of hard medical data to support these claims.
One of the most powerful effects of floating is its detoxifying aspect. All that healthy Epsom salt just pulls toxins right to the surface of the skin where you can shower them off. And all that healthy salt is absorbed right into the skin, nourishing everything that lies below the skin.
If you’ve gone to the trouble to create your own flotation room, you’ll want to experience flossage. Flossage is underwater massage while you’re floating. The benefits of massage are well-known: it increases circulation, eases tension, brings oxygen to all parts of the body. When the benefits of massage are combined with the benefits of flotation, the experience and effects are quite profound. You need another person with you for flossage, but specific massage training is unnecessary. More important is a sense of trusting the person and allowing yourself to become vulnerable with that person. As you feel the different parts of your body held afloat not only by the water, but also by the hands of your massager, you will begin to experience a profound sense of being supported. In fact, you may come to feel more supported, in all senses of the word, than you’ve ever felt before in your life. Your massager can use the gentle undulations of the water to gently rock you back and forth so that you begin to have the experience of moving in the water. The stillness of consciousness that you acquire from floating is then combined with the synchronized movement of your body and the water; you begin to experience yourself as stillness moving.
Flossage can begin with your feet or your head. The massage person will gradually move around your body, with gentle, small strokes made in a circular motion. Your feet and your head should both be cradled in the lap of your massager. This is when the rocking should take place. As your massager comes to your sides, he or she should place one hand underneath the small of your back and the other hand remains free for massaging the abdomen.