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Limbic Oxystatic Exercise

Majid Ali, M.D.

In the early years of my work in integrative medicine, I recognized that exercise in chronic illness and for healthful aging must be different from that done by competitive athletics. I developed a program for non-competitive, meditative, and restorative exercise that:

1. Restores oxygen homeostasis (see below for a listing of major oxygen functions),

2. Avoids micro-traumas to muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones,

3. Does not directly or indirectly stress the body organs affected by disease processes, and

4. Can be individualized to the patient’s specific needs.

The last two items are crucial. I have seen a very large number people who were injured doing exercises for which they were not physically conditioned. For example, many of my patients had developed atrial fibrillation (a type of heart rhythm disturbance) after exercise, and many others suffered heart attacks after exercise. For example, it is not uncommon to see patients who developed chest pain or heart attacks while shoveling snow or lifting heavy objects. Of course, stress was often a cofactor in such cases.

I offer my guidelines for nutrients for endurance exercise in a companion tutorial.

In my program of exercise, I adopted some ancient Chinese and Indian concepts of physical fitness. I introduced the term limbic exercise for my program to underscore its spiritual aspects, and specifically excluded the prevailing no-pain-no-gain-huffing-and-puffing schedules that are in vogue in the United States at present. In my book entitled "The Ghoraa and Limbic Exercise" (1993), I defined the following terms:

1. Cortical and Limbic Exercises

2. Type I (slow twitch) and Type II (fast twitch) Fibers

3. Lipolytic and Glycolytic Exercises

4. Energy, Fatigue and Stress Molecules

5. Cortical and Limbic Pacing

6. Cortical Greed and Limbic Gratitude

7. Cortical Clutter and Limbic Openness

8. Limbic Breathing

Limbic Exercise for Neck and Back Pain States

I I strongly urge readers who suffer from chronic neck pain and chronic backache states to consider Limbic Exercise, beginning with very gentle exercise and building strength as they proceed.

Cortical Exercise

Cortical exercises are intense, competitive, and goal-oriented. These exercises are of the stop-and-go type which focus on technique, style, duration and results. The best examples of cortical exercise are competition sports and athletics such as wrestling, bodybuilding, football, tennis, basketball and soccer. Sharply focused, highly intense and meticulously analyzed cortical exercises are evidently essential for such sports.

Limbic Exercise

Limbic exercises are continuous, non-intense, non-goal oriented, noncompetitive exercises. There is no hyperventilation or perspiration. When done limbically, exercise ends with more energy than that with which it began. The essence of limbic exercises is the absence of focus. When we run limbically, we do just that — we simply run. There is no effort made to run well, to run at some predetermined speed, to run for some defined distance or to run to solve the problems of the day. When we walk, we simply walk. We make no attempt to solve our problems or sit in judgment on how we walk. Limbic exercises are done with abandonment, with total disregard of all the demands of the thinking head.

Cortical exercises are performed while taking commands from the thinking mind. Limbic exercises, by contrast, are exercises done while we take counsel of our tissues, counsel from muscles that contract to produce motion, counsel from tendons that carry the commands from the muscles to the bones, counsel from the ligaments that hold the bones together and counsel from bones that provide muscles their scaffolds. We take counsel from lungs that bring air into the body and from the heart that pumps the blood to spread nourishment to the body tissues. A period of listening to body tissues (and dismissing all demands from the thinking mind—the cortical monkey) is a necessary prelude to limbic exercise. It generally requires several moments to switch from the analytical (cortical) to a meditative (limbic) state. With continued limbic exercises comes what I call "limbic openness."

Limbic openness is a period of inner reflection, meditation, prayer and deep visceral stillness. There is no rush of cortical thoughts. There is only a spontaneous flow of limbic perceptions past one another. I elaborate this subject in many healing stories posted on

Type 1 (Slow Twitch) Muscle Fibers

Type I muscle fibers burn fats to generate energy, much like a candle burns wax to generate light slowly but for a long time. These muscle fibers are rich in mitochondria — and the oxidative enzymes contained in them. They are designed to break down fats and utilize the fatty acids liberated from fats by their oxidative enzymes.

Type 2 (Fast Twitch) Muscle Fibers

Type II muscle fibers burn sugar to generate quick bursts of energy, much like a piece of dry paper burns to produce sudden heat with a flash but only for a few moments. These muscle fibers have fewer mitochondria and are poor in mitochondrial oxidative enzymes. Unable to use fatty acids for energy, they follow the path of less resistance and burn whatever sugars are available to them (the glycolytic or sugar-burning molecular pathways for energy generation).

Lipolytic Exercise

Lipolytic exercises are fat-burning exercises. In these exercises, Type I muscle fibers burn fat in a slow and sustained fashion; the flame of the candle is subdued but it lasts for long periods of time. So it is that exercises that require a low but sustained supply of energy are predominantly lipolytic. Again, the myocyte (muscle cell) senses the energy needs and acts accordingly. In general, fat-burning exercises are limbic exercises.

Glycolytic Exercise

Glycolytic exercises are sugar-burning exercises. In these exercises, Type II muscle fibers burn sugars fast; the flame of the paper is bright but it dies out within moments. So it is that exercises that require rapid bursts of energy for short periods of time are predominantly sugar-burning. The myocyte knows it, is quick to sense the requirements for energy and acts accordingly. In general, sugar-burning exercises are cortical exercises.

Energy, Fatigue, and Stress Molecules

One of the principal energy molecules in the human frame is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), while lactic acid is one of the principal fatigue molecules. Adrenaline and its cousin molecules catecholamines are the principal stress molecules. Although cortical exercises have many health advantages, when it comes to prolonging one's life span, the effects of cortical exercise are not as beneficial as those of limbic exercises. Cortical exercises deplete the body of its ATP energy molecules and increase the number of fatigue (lactic acid and others) and stress (adrenaline and others) molecules. Limbic exercise, by contrast, has the opposite effect: The number of lactic acid and adrenaline molecules is reduced and the number of ATP molecules is increased.

Cortical Pacing

Cortical pacing is the common method for determining the type, technique, speed and duration of exercise. This type of exercise pacing is highly goal-oriented, much like keeping a tight schedule at work. It includes the commonly used methods of "pushing the distance of the run," measuring the "pulse peak" and counting the breathing rate.

Limbic Pacing

Limbic pacing is a mode of exercise whereby a person allows himself to simply follow his inner "limbic voice." This voice may wish him to walk slowly or quickly, run with arms swinging from the shoulders or just hanging by the side; it may urge him to continue or stop.

Cortical Greed

Cortical greed is the irrepressible desire to "do autoregulation right." The core idea of autoregulation is to listen to the tissues by overcoming the unrelenting cortical demands for knowing what was, is and will be happening within our body tissues. These cortical demands negate the very idea of autoregulation. This is a point of enormous practical significance. Unquestionably, this has been the most common obstacle encountered by those patients of mine who have tried to learn autoregulation.

Limbic Gratitude

Limbic gratitude describes the sense of gratitude with which we accept whatever responses we receive from our tissues when we do autoregulation. Autoregulation, I reiterate, is about listening to body tissues; it is not putting demands on them. Limbic gratitude is gratitude in receiving, at a nonintellectual, limbic level.

Cortical Clutter

Cortical clutter is a term I use to convey the unending chatter in which we engage with our cortical minds. It is living in the head, an unremitting case of head fixation. It consists of all the What if, Why couldn't it, Why not, Why me and all of the other favorite lines we use for punishing our tissues. Unfortunately, canceling the cortical clutter is easier said than done.

There are other less threatening forms of cortical clutter, for example planning your day during your walk, or examining somebody else running on the same track, or simply not wanting to do exercises because it is Sunday or Saturday or the 4th of July. Most people who walk, run or cycle for fitness know what cortical clutter is, though the term may be unfamiliar to them: it is all the thoughts that cross their minds while exercising, all the problem-solving, head-clearing and goal-setting.

Anger and hostility are the first casualties of autoregulation. Walking or running without autoregulation is not nearly as effective in dissolving these serious threats to health and fitness as the same exercises when they are combined with autoregulation.

Limbic Openness

Golfers know what it is to be "on the greens." For tennis enthusiasts, it is being "on the courts" and for fishermen, "on the water." In autoregulation lingo, the term limbic openness describes a comforting limbic state in which there is no thought activity, no anger, no hostility, no desire to excel and no judgmental overview. It is a state of calm communion between what is under our skin with what is outside it. There is a consciousness of an openness, a wide, limitless, comforting limbic openness. In a more advanced state, there is a consciousness of a larger presence, a state totally free of any desire to map out, define, understand or know this presence. The presence is simply there.

I don't know if achieving the full depth and breadth of limbic openness is possible for most people during limbic exercise. Perhaps not. What I know from both personal experience and that of some of my patients is that limbic openness in some form or other is attainable by most people through limbic exercise. At the very least, most people who practice limbic exercise learn to allow themselves an escape from cortical clutter without much difficulty. For many individuals, it may indeed require considerable practice.

Motivation for Exercise

The subject of motivation fascinates me, and I find motivation "experts" to be fascinating people. Consider the following quote from Physical Therapy (70:808; 1990):

I examined movement science research on personal and social-environmental motivational influence in physical activity contexts. Motivation is defined as a process in which internal and external factors direct and energize thoughts, feelings, and actions. Motivation is described as a consequence of meaning, which is derived from a combination of personal and social factors, including personal goals or incentives, expectations of personal efficiency, movement-related perceptual and affective experience, and social and physical features of the environment.

                                                                                                  Physical Therapy 70:808; 1990

When I read the above lines I squirmed. The language of this motivational piece intimidated me as I imagine they would almost anyone. I read the piece a second time. No relief. A time to escape, I told myself. I went limbic.

I wonder how many people will read such an article and become so motivated that they will jump up and run out for some exercise. The subject of exercise is not pleasant for many of us. It conjures up images of boredom (endless running), lost time (too busy to exercise) and sore legs. Running on the street, missing the step on the curb and spraining an ankle. How often do street runners wear those awful, tortured looks? Stooping down, ready to collapse. Inhaling air rich in diesel exhaust. Who ordered this punishment? Self-flagellation? What are they running from anyway? Movement-related perceptual and affective experiences? No thanks, you say. Go ahead, call me a couch potato. At least I like what I do.

If exercise is to successfully reverse catabolic maladaptation, it must first be good enough to be desired. Not only at an intellectual level, but at a deeper limbic level. If the butterfly is to find its escape, it must first recognize the illusion of the skylight glass. This is the essence of limbic exercise.

Limbic Breathing

Limbic breathing is a specific type of breathing that significantly lowers the blood level of lactic acid, adrenaline and other catecholamines. There is strong but indirect evidence that limbic exercises also prevent depletion of ATP energy molecules. I describe in detail the specifics of this type of breathing in The Cortical Monkey and Healing, of which excerpts appear at the end of this chapter.

Extensive experience with autoregulation and other non-drug treatment protocols for the reversal of immune and degenerative disorders has convinced me of the central place of limbic breathing in the healing process. That work — and my conviction based upon it — raised the possibility that limbic breathing might be of great value in limbic exercise. This indeed did happen soon after I started experiments with such breathing during my own daily exercises.



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