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Letters to my students who were prepared for climbing Kilimanjaro Mountain - Letter 3

Dear Climbers,

Following my previous email, I am coming back to you today to focus on the breathing preparation.

Air composition at sea level, 6000mtr above sea level, or the Kilimanjaro summit remains the same, 20% oxygen and nearly 80% nitrogen; the difference is in the air pressure, lowering the absorption rate, hence the lack of oxygen.

Atmospheric pressure drops roughly one tenth for every 1000m of altitude. Thus the air pressure at the top of Kilimanjaro is approximately 40% lower than that found at sea level, making it harder to breath.

As such, although each breath inhaled at the summit still contains 20% oxygen, it becomes much harder to fill your lungs since due to the lower pressure, not so much air is pushed into them. As a result, every time you breathe at the top of Kilimanjaro, you take in only about half as much air (and, consequently, oxygen), compared to what you would at the bottom of the mountain

Learning about the difference in air pressure and the resulting changes in our bodies constitution allows us to understand how it functions and how best we can prepare our bodies to absorb the oxygen it needs even under such different air pressure.

Allow me, first to share with you some important information about your breath:

Our breath is and will always be our ultimate sanctuary, the first and the last thing we do in this life, the “place” where you will be coming back again and again to recharge, to energize, to heal, to discover.

Every cell in the body is utterly dependent upon oxygen.  Without oxygen, no cell can continue to live for more than a very limited number of minutes.  Furthermore, if a cell is receiving just enough oxygen to stay alive, but not enough to thrive, its function declines significantly.  When it happens to muscle tissue cells, they ache.  When it happens to brain cells, it causes a feeling of emotional distress.

The importance of oxygen in the bloodstream is well-known, however most people are not aware of the importance of adequate carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) plays an important role in the human body as well.  It is a waste product of the cellular metabolism, exhaled by the lungs at the same time that oxygen is inhaled. This waste product is involved in the transportation of oxygen from the blood, to the cells of the body.  CO2 helps dilate the smooth muscle tissues and regulate the cardiovascular system.

We have been working together to increase our bodies’ capacity to perform under different air pressure, increasing the lungs’ capacity to absorb the required oxygen even if the pressure is less by almost 40% than the air pressure at sea level.

First we need to know how to breath correctly, and how long each component (Inhale, Exhale, holding) normally takes, then we define what is the maximum.  After that, we need to use an intelligent vinyasa to increase each component.

An adequate time length for each component of our breath is very essential and is needed to allow the required modification to our lungs’ and body cells’ capacity to take place.

Case studies:

· Some of the participants managed to increase their breathing capacity from Inhale=Exhale=4sec and the hold Exhale=Hold Inhale=3sec to Inhale=Hold Inhale=Exhale=Hold Exhale=16seconds.

· Others have reached 25 to 30 seconds each component.  Wawwww!

Reducing our breathing rhythm should allow our lungs and cells to be much fitter and, thus, be able to work under different air pressure.

I encourage you all to continue practicing with your breath, to minimize the challenges at the peak of Kilimanjaro.

In my next email, I will be sharing information on the optimum diet that suits our individual bodies for the upcoming adventure.


Nermeen M. Hassan

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