Travelling to the Himalayas bestows many pathological, physiological and psychological blessings on us humans but we must have the stomach to absorb and assimilate them. And you know that the way to get your stomach to function optimally is to sleep well. The Himalaya literally and figuratively takes your breath away and can leave you sleepless in the nights. This phenomenon is called “Periodic Breathing”. What happens is that in the night when you sleep, your lungs actually slow down the rate at which they are breathing and every few seconds suspend your breath, as in won’t breathe at all. This happens to allow you to accumulate enough carbon dioxide before going in for another round of oxygen. Technically, this is in response to the low partial pressure of oxygen.
So this is your cardio-pulmonary system, your heart and your lungs, doing their bit to help your body cope with hypoxia and it does this by, and this really is my favourite part, buiding more efficient oxidative pathways, in simple words-burn more fat!
Here are just some of those adaptations your body goes through-
- Uses/explores newer areas in your lungs to accommodate for your breath ie; increase in lung volume
- Builds more capillary network all over your body to make it easier for your cells to receive oxygen
- Builds more mitochondria in your muscle tissue- again to help you receive more oxygen.
- Increases the concentration of haemoglobin in your blood- again to absorb more oxygen to beat that hypoxia
- More red blood cells- won’t bore you with a technical reason here, but essentially as more carriers of oxygen
As a response to all of the above and many more physiological changes in the body, it becoms a much more physiological changes in the body, it becomes a much more efficient fat-burning machine. Come on, you do not know that higher lung volume, more muscle, more mitochondia, more HB means more fat-burning than ever before and higher fitness levels than you can ever hope for at sea level. That’s exactly why athletic federations the world over have disallowed all records above 1000m, because in the mountains you are physiologically aided or at an advantage to perform beyond your best. The federation sees this as an unfair advantage, an advantage that will be hard to replicate at lower altitudes or at sea level and will take the fairness out of competition. so now you know why the legendary Shankaracharya planned for this at the Vanaprastha stage, i mean it’s with climbing age that the heart and lungs need some aid. And there is no better way to increase lifespan than to travel to the Himalaya. Our Modern techniques of bypass, stents and angioplasty sound so nauseous and crippling when compared to this beautiful, natural and wonderful nature’s gift!
Read more about Himalays in the book – “The land of Flying Lamas” by Gaurav Punj