The subject of proper breathing hits home for me on many levels. Some of my biggest physical struggles over the years involves asthma and insufficient breathing due to a broken nose that I can barely breath out of. Thankfully I have mostly overcome these handicaps to make the best of what I have been dealt. Never got the nose fixed,but I manage to be conscious enough to inhale through my nose when in a relaxed state and breath mainly through the mouth when I'm training and need more air. I have learned to accept it and manage to work around it successfully. What I could not accept is my asthma! I have been physically at a pro athlete level of performance and then on an odd day I would get winded running up a small flight of stairs. This was frustrating to say the least and completely unacceptable. I was working in casinos at the time and was exposed to second hand smoke on a daily basis. After going to a specialist I was told I have asthma and it's triggered and made worse by the smoke. I already knew that much. It was obvious that I was hacking and coughing after a smokey day at work and I could not even take a deep breath. I ended up on a steroid I had to inhale every day just to function somewhat properly. It did help but I couldn't come to terms with having to take one unhealthy thing to compensate for another. On top of that my doctor told me I would always have to use it to some extent. So I said screw it, I QUIT! My health was more important than a paycheck. The funny thing is that I stopped taking the steroid the day I quit and within a month after I left the job I never had an issue with my asthma since. I simply removed myself from what was causing my allergy induced asthma. Still to this day people think i was exaggerating,but I alone know how big of a difference I have experienced. Even though it has been a huge financial struggle since then,when I wake up in the morning with a big deep breath and no coughing and wheezing,I am extremely thankful!
  Breath work or rhythmic breathing has a lot more to do with performance and general health than we usually notice. Maybe this is because we take it for granted to a point. Breathing is part of our autonomic nervous system(ANS). The ANS acts as a control system that functions automatically and with little or no control from us. For example the ANS controls heart rate,digestion,perspiration,respiratory rate,salivation,pupillary dilation,micturition(urination),and sexual arousal. Most of these functions are involuntary but a few of them can work alongside of conscious control to some degree. Breathing,swallowing,sexual arousal,and even heart rate to a point are good examples of things we have some control over.
  Health benefits of proper breathing are of coarse numerous. When we breath properly we have a more efficient cycle of oxygenation and removing carbon dioxide from our blood. We also release tension and relax body and mind. When we breath properly we get more efficient digestion,strengthen the heart and lungs,boost energy,improve the nervous system,and improve cellular regeneration just to name a few.
  My favorite practice for breath work stems from the Russian martial art called SYSTEMA. A large part of Systema is based on relaxation and breath work. Practitioners of Systema learn to stay relaxed and tension free when faced with a threat response. For example someone coming up behind you and pushing you to the ground. Most people would tense up,hold there breath,and crash to the ground because they are stiff and rigid. Systema practitioners on the other hand practice a constant flow of breath and stay loose so they won't hold there breath and crash to the ground. Instead they practice keeping body loose and continuously breathing as they roll out instead of falling flat. Systema breathing emphasizes 2 basic requirements.
-Your breathing continues constantly,no matter what.
-Your breath permeates your entire body.

 Then we have Systema's 7 principles;
1.The principle of nose inhalation and mouth exhalation.
2.The principle of breath leading.
 -Starting and leading any physical movement with the breath.
3.The principle of intake sufficiency.
 -Do not be greedy with the breath. Inhale only what you need without going to the point of inhaling too much and causing tension in the neck and collarbone.
4.The principle of breath continuity.
 -Your breath never stops. Inhale/Exhale continuously.
5.The principle of the pendulum.
 -A pendulum moves in a simple continuous cycle,extending and retreating back and forth in a smooth cyclic motion.
6.The principle of independence.
 -This means your physical actions should not be linked to any single phase of breathing(Inhalation,Exhalation,Or Pausing).
7.The principle of Non-Tension.
 -Always relaxed with smooth cyclic breathing.

  Now that we understand the basic principles and how important proper breath control are,we can get into a few practices to help us be more conscious of the breath. For now I will go over 2 basic exercises and a walking drill. These will all be explained in the Part 1 Youtube video. Below is a basic outline of how to practice these movements and to better help you get accustomed to how it works.
Exercises;
1.Push Up
2.Body Weight Squat
3.Walking Breath Work

BREATH            ACTION            COUNT
INHALE             LOWER             1
EXHALE            RISE                   1
INHALE             LOWER              1,2
EXHALE            RISE                    1,2
  ---                       ---                       ---
INHALE             LOWER              1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
EXHALE            RISE                    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
  ---                       ---                        ---
INHALE             LOWER              1,2
EXHALE            RISE                    1,2
INHALE             LOWER              1
EXHALE            RISE                    1

*USED AS A LADDER* 

WALKING BREATH WORK;
Same principles as above,but we are counting steps and synchronizing the steps with complete inhale,a hold,complete exhale. We incorporate a hold to help our bodies get accustomed to it. So it mimics a stressor and we put it on our neurological map so to speak. Even though it goes against continuos breathing it is a stress practice. 
Example;
1 step inhale,1 step hold,1step exhale
2 step inhale,2 step hold,2step exhale
Up to 10,10,10 when you have built up to it. Then count back down like a ladder.
 
  I cool down with walking breath work. It helps calm me down to a very relaxed and recovered state after a good outdoor training session. Since there is so much to this subject,I will follow up with more exercises on my Youtube channel in near future. This is a good place to start.
  These concepts have been taken directly out of a great book called LET EVERY BREATH Secret Of The Russian Breath Masters by Vladamir Vasiliev and Scott Meredith. Great read and I highly recommend it. You can purchase the book on Vladamir's web site russianmartialart.com.

Ares Nikolopoulos

      
 

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