Dojo: Charlotte Systema, Charlotte, NC
Join Date: Feb 2001
Following is a cut and paste job I did on another forum about breathing and breathing drills. All of these drills are from Systema but would be very useful for Aikido folks, plus you can do these drills on your own. Enjoy.
Many of the breathing drills in Systema are geared towards coordinating breathing with motion or understanding the relationship between breathing and relaxation/tension. There are so many drills it would be impossible to list them all but here are a few:
Breathing and motion: Some of these drills are done while doing push-ups, sit ups and squats (PSS). The goal of PSS drills isn't to become stronger or more fit, although that is a nice side effect, it is to learn how to breath and relax. PSS drills afford the student the opportunity to study affects of breathing while in motion.
Note Systema push-ups are done on the fists. Sit-ups are done with legs extended and the back must remain perfectly straight so the lower back and head touch the ground at the same time. Squats are done with the heels flat on the ground and back perfectly straight and perpendicular to the ground. All breathing is inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. IF breathing the inhale/exhale begins a split second before the motion begins and ends at the same time as the motion.
- Exhale while doing one complete push-up down then up. Inhale while in the up/rest position without moving. Then do two complete push-ups while exhaling (motion and exhale should be completed at the same time). Continue this ladder up to seven and then go back down but reverse the inhale/exhale so you are inhaling during the motion and exhaling (breathing normally) in the up position. Hint: monitor your body for tension and release it immediately. Inhale/exhale smoothly so each second of the breath moves the exact same quantity of air. When doing more push-ups on one exhale/inhale don't be greedy and breathe to deep, this creates tension and you'll be sorry.
- Do the same ladder above but do it without breathing. One side of the ladder will be with lungs full the other with lungs empty. Hint: Don't panic, move slowly and smoothly, panic causes tension which burns up your oxygen.
- Do the same ladder but do coordinate the inhale with the down motion in a push-up and the exhale with the up motion. Reverse the breathing and do it again.
- Do push-ups but change the breathing half way through the motion. Example: exhale while going down but when you are half way down begin to inhale. When you start to go up begin by exhaling and at the half way point inhale. As with all of the PSS, do them slowly, the point isn't to see how many you can do but to explore the affects of tension, breathing and motion.
- Rolling and breathing is also an excellent method to explore the connection between breathing and motion. You will need to learn how to Systema roll instead of the Aikido break falls you are currently doing. Do the Systema rolls very slowly and coordinate one inhale to one roll, then exhale and roll, then inhale and roll, etc. Do it very slowly.
- You can also do two rolls per inhale, two rolls per exhale, three…you get the picture.
Breathing and Tension: There are to many of these to list but here is a small sampling:
- Start by laying on your back, face up and relaxed. Begin by visualizing breathing through your feet towards your head. Breathe very slowly and visualize the breath moving through each part of your body. Feel and release the tension in your body as the breath reaches it. Once the breath reaches the top of the head hold it for a few seconds then exhale from your head to your feet and repeat the process. This helps to make one aware of his/her body and the tension that is there. Frequently tension is so common in our bodies that we aren't even aware it. This drill should also be done from the head to the feet.
- Same drill as above but as you breathe in tense each muscle as the breath reaches it, therefore a tension wave will work it's way from you head to your feet. When you are done inhaling your entire body will be tense. Hold it for a few seconds then slowly exhale and release the tension in a wave like fashion back down your body.
- Inhale and tense your legs. Ensure all other muscles are relaxed. Exhale and release the tension. Then do your butt muscles, then stomach, back, chest, arms, shoulders/neck. Do each one three or four times, making sure ONLY those muscles that are supposed to be tense are, nothing else.
- Breathe in and tense the left side of your body, while keeping the right side relaxed. Reverse.
- Breathe in and tense the entire body, then exhale and release. Do these quickly. Do these slowly. Reverse your breathing. Experiment and learn.
- Breathe in and tense your entire body. Exhale but keep the body tense. Inhale but maintain the tension, exhale and release the tension. Do this a few times, it helps your body to understand the affects of tension.
One step inhale, one step exhale, do this for awhile, then two steps inhale, two steps exhale, then three steps inhale, three steps exhale, etc, etc. Don't be shy, push yourself into the teens. Try not to panic or speed up to much, relax and enjoy. There's also square breathing, breathe in for 5 steps, hold for 5 steps, breathe out for 5 steps, hold for 5 steps, breathe in for 5 steps, etc. The number doesn't matter, be consistant....but don't make it too easy on yourself.
Outside of training coordinate your breathing with every day motion. It wasn't until I started training in Systema and became aware of my breathing that I realized I started everyday by holding my breath while I struggled out of bed. Not good. Now I try to be aware of my breathing in every motion whether it is getting up from a chair, in/out of a car, walking across a parking lot, opening jars or shoveling gravel (last weekend). This coordination of movement and breathing has made my life much easier.
There is a connection between mental and physical tension, these drills can help one understand that connection.
One final note about breathing: Work on making inhaling/exhaling the same volume of air for each second that you are inhaling or exhaling. Learn to breath linear instead of the bell curve we normally do. There are times that other styles of breathing are required but for the most part linear breathing has more advantages than disadvantages.