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roadster 06-11-2007 01:41 AM

Breathing exercises
 
Does anybody know of some good breathing exercises I can practice at home? I have a bad habit of breathing erratically when I am uke. It fatigues me badly.

I asked a few senior students and Sensei about what I can do at home and on the mat to help me breath right. So far I have received responses such as focusing on breathing during stretching, breathing out during every roll, and to practice breathing with my diaphragm to gain more breath.

Do any of you have any methods that you used at home to help you?

Timothy WK 06-11-2007 05:44 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
For me personally, I found zazen to be extremely helpful.

I find it very difficult to concentrate on my breathing during more complex activities (such as normal training) because so there's so many more pressing issues to think about. I have only so much mental ability to work with, and breathing is such a low priority (since it's an automated behavior) that it tends to get dropped. And even if I can spare some mental focus for breathing, proper breathing training is a rather subtle thing, IMO, and I don't feel I get the full benefit.

Since breathing is an automated behavior, IME, it requires a certain amount of mindful, dedicated practice to overcome and "re-wire" your ingrained habits. Zazen gives me that. I'm sure some sort of modified-zazen breathing practice would do the same.

If you don't want to practice full-fledged meditation, you can try this---sit in a chair with good posture and a straight back, arms resting on your thighs. I suggest you practice in silence, but some non-distracting music would probably be fine. Breath in and out through the nose (breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is OK too). Try and breath with your lower belly rather than your chest; it might be helpful to wear some pants with an elastic waist, as the slight pressure will give you some bio-feedback on whether you're doing it right or not. Also try to breath fully, that is, try and fully fill and empty your lungs with every breath. If you breath fully the actual speed of your breath isn't so important (breathing fully will naturally slow down your breathing). Think about every breath, be very mindful of what you're doing. If your mind starts to wander, just go back to your breath. Keep doing this for like 20 minutes.

IME, if you do this daily (or 5-7 times a week), you should start to see your breathing patterns change during your day-to-day activities after maybe 2-4 months.

George S. Ledyard 06-11-2007 07:41 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Quote:

Erik Jacobson wrote: (Post 180568)
Does anybody know of some good breathing exercises I can practice at home? I have a bad habit of breathing erratically when I am uke. It fatigues me badly.

I asked a few senior students and Sensei about what I can do at home and on the mat to help me breath right. So far I have received responses such as focusing on breathing during stretching, breathing out during every roll, and to practice breathing with my diaphragm to gain more breath.

Do any of you have any methods that you used at home to help you?

There are a wide variety of often conflicting recommendations about breathing. I would recommend this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Breathing-Free...1568934&sr=1-1
It's by an author names Hale but it is really based on the work of a Russian researcher. The breathing exercises they use are pretty much what the Systema approach to breath control uses. I find it very interesting because it goes completely against the conventional Western belief in the value of deep breathing.

Walker 06-11-2007 06:59 PM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
An oldy but goody is The Science of Breath 1903 by Yogi Ramacharaka (who was neither a yogi or named Ramacharaka), but he did write a good book on the breath. I think Bugei Trading carries it and it might also be found at a metaphysical type bookstore.

RvW 06-12-2007 04:49 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Note that Tada advocates the same reference (the Yogi Ramacharaka book) for quite a number of the breath excercises he uses. I was/am somewhat astonished by that, because of the controversial source of the writer. Anyway Tada explicitly mentionned this book in one of his seminars he gave in Switzerland.

roadster 06-12-2007 06:42 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Thanks everyone! A lot of great advice. I am going to research all of it.

George S. Ledyard 06-12-2007 09:44 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
I should have remembered "Let Every Breath" by Vladimir Vasiliev. It can be purchased on their website: http://www.leteverybreath.com/
I would highly recommend checking this out. It is perhaps the best thing around for getting started on connecting ones breathing to ones physical technique.

gdandscompserv 06-12-2007 09:49 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote: (Post 180678)
I should have remembered "Let Every Breath" by Vladimir Vasiliev. It can be purchased on their website: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/newrep...ote=1&p=180646
I would highly recommend checking this out. It is perhaps the best thing around for getting started on cennecting ones breathing to ones physical technique.

I have that book. (Thank You Thomas Campbell.:) ) I like it alot and am now utilizing the breathing exercises in it. I think it has helped me alot.

Erick Mead 06-12-2007 10:32 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Quote:

Erik Jacobson wrote: (Post 180568)
Does anybody know of some good breathing exercises I can practice at home? I have a bad habit of breathing erratically when I am uke. It fatigues me badly.

I asked a few senior students and Sensei about what I can do at home and on the mat to help me breath right. So far I have received responses such as focusing on breathing during stretching, breathing out during every roll, and to practice breathing with my diaphragm to gain more breath.

Do any of you have any methods that you used at home to help you?

I don't know about dedicated home work, but as for practicing, when you find you are having trouble in practice see if you are exhaling or inhaling. With few exceptions, you should be inhaling when receiving either an attack or a technique, and exhaling when delivering an attack or technique.

Leaving aside all the structural and more esoteric explanations (which are very valuable, don't get me wrong) air itself (esp. oxygen) is potential power -- which brings your potential to maximum (inhaling) as his is being (literally) exhausted in exhaling. Try it and see if it helps. If you are exhaling to receive attacks as nage or exhaling to receive the technique application as uke, or not ordering your movement around your breathing at all, it will exhaust you, particularly in randori.

Apart from sitting kokyu practice there are also standing and moving breathing exercises that will help. Try funetori/funakogi undo (rowing exercise) with good kiai for slightly different rhythm of breathing. That you can easily do at home. The sounds are typically "eh" or "ee" going forward and "ho" or "sa" coming back. (The sounds really do matter as they shape the breath movment). You may find that you tend to breath in at the neutral (still points) of the movements. It makes you focus your attention on the structural aspects of what breath does to your movement. If you do not feel silly at first you probably are not doing it right. As my first teacher said, it doesn't matter if you understand why you should do it. Just do it and it will help.

Another and very different seeming rhythm is found in tekubi furi (wrist shaking) where the arms/wrists and the breath are variously coordinated in a shaking vibration over the head. You will find that if you are relaxed, the shaking naturally causes shallow involuntary panting breaths in time with the shaking cycle, as well as moving your whole body in tune with it and that vibrating cycle of breath. Then the wrists are are together flung at the ground with a natural and explosive exhalation (if you are relaxed and let the breath/motion coordinate with one another, it happens spontaneously).

Furitama (spirit shaking) is more subtle but the same basic thing with your hands cupped in front of your belt, and a slight vibration of the hands/arms coordinating the "liveness" of breath as you breathe in and out steadily. In both of these, you should focus on how your breath and your whole body movement relates to the shaking motion, when breathing in/out voluntarily and when at the still points of not voluntarily breathing at all.

Lastly are the standing ten no kokyu / chi no kokyu exercises, here you expand your arms and whole body up with the inhaled breath and then let your arms and whole body deflate steadily down with the exhaled breath.

And these are hardly exhaustive :D

bkedelen 06-12-2007 11:08 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Vasiliev has a Let Every Breath DVD out there somewhere as well, which is basically an english dubbed recording of one of the seminars he is doing on the subject. It is extremely potent and I found it easily integrated into other training systems and/or exercise programs.

Misogi-no-Gyo 06-28-2007 10:07 PM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Quote:

Erik Jacobson wrote: (Post 180568)
Does anybody know of some good breathing exercises I can practice at home? I have a bad habit of breathing erratically when I am uke. It fatigues me badly.

Do any of you have any methods that you used at home to help you?

Erik,

Very good question. To address your two points would require quite a bit of space here. I am sure you will find many various and often conflicting responses. My favorites from among the "inaccurate but often repeated" category would be:

1. always breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
2. you should always breathe out when doing a technique.

You certainly can do either or both of these, but there is a time and place when it is highly inadvisable to do either.

Ko-Kyu literally means breath out-breath in... However my current understanding is that it is the method by which you do those two simple things that will bring you stability and eventually Kokyu-Ryoku (breath power) Note, while a topic for another thread, breathing correctly, alone, does not give you breath power.

Two points on which to focus

1. Conservation of breath.
2. Control of breath.

These are not the same things...

From my practice I believe this can be achieved by understanding the following two points

1. When not to breathe.
2. How not to breathe.

You can try the following two exercises to see if you are able to improve your understanding in these two critical areas.

1. Active - During techniques and ukemi do not breath at all. You do this by breathing very shallowly between techniques and between rolls.

2. Passive - sitting in seiza, complete the following four elements in flowing succession: Please note - get an old-fashioned clock that loudly ticks away the seconds. The timing is very important and you can raise your sense of hearing during this exercise.

1. Breathe in for 5 seconds, letting the breath fall to just below your navel (belly button). Things to note: Do not breath in to 100% of your lung capacity. Keep your chin tucked in, your eyes open, your tail bone tucked under, your hands and fingers relaxed, your shoulders slightly back and down so that your shoulder blades move towards each other. Please also try to release any tension in your stomach area.

2. Hold the breath there (in as relaxed a manner as possible) for 5 seconds. Please do not send the breath to the crown chakra either while maintaining or upon releasing the breath.

3. Release the breath for a duration of 5 seconds. Try to expel as much of your breath as possible. Once fully exhaled try visualize your tail bone moving forward and up towards your navel.

4. Maintain the absence of breath within the lungs for 5 seconds.

One complete breath (breathing in and out one time) now takes you a total of 20 seconds, or three breaths per minute. Repeat this process for 5 minutes for a total of 15 breaths in 5 minutes. As time goes on you can move to 7 second intervals (10 breaths in 5 minutes), 10 second intervals (7.5 breaths in 5 minutes), 15 second intervals (5 breaths in 5 minutes), 20 second intervals and so on...

Hints:
Do not rush to try and do less breaths per minute too quickly. Try to focus on maintaining the proper interval at all times throughout the exercise. You should breath comfortably at that interval. If you are having any trouble with any one of the four sections, then go to a lower interval. Once you become fully comfortable doing a particular interval for 5 minutes try doing it at that interval for ten minutes before your practice and 5 minutes immediately following your training session. If you are able to maintain this interval for 5 full minutes at the end of your training session you might look to go up to the next interval. There isn't much of a need to do this exercise for more than ten minutes at a stretch, unless of course you are trying to improve your seiza and need something to focus on other than your legs falling asleep. There are quite a few subtleties that you can look to work on later on. In the meantime please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions.

.

roadster 06-29-2007 06:01 AM

Re: Breathing exercises
 
Wow that's a whole lot of information to take in. Thank you for a well written, informative reply. Since I have some time on the beach right now due to injury I can really open up to these exercises.


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