Your Breath as A Carrier – Part II – MCM Structured Breathing

Your Breath as A Carrier – Part II – MCM Structured Breathing

I’m glad that many people liked the post on ‘your breath as a carrier’, so I thought you might like some additional tools.The WHM is based on a number of key tenants, of which gaining control over the autonomic nervous system is key.

I have also noticed that the WHM uses a 3 phase approach to breathing in: 1) abdomen, 2) chest, 3) head. And Wim also emphasises that the focus is on breathing in and expanding the lung area as much as possible but that breathing-out is just letting go.

Just as focusing on your breath as a carrier allows you to visualize and harness your breath, using structured breathing allows you to get better control of the breathing/ mindfulness process. And the structured breathing is not separate from the breath visualization, it is just another layer, another tool in your tool-kit.

Reading the previous comments, this point is worth emphasizing: there is a difference between training and practice that is evident in most things we do. When training the focus is on big, slow movements – in practice and once these movements have been ingrained, you can make them both smaller and faster – with just as much, if not more, effect! In other words, this stuff takes some effort and focus to learn, but then becomes relatively automatic.

Breathing and movement go hand in hand, but maybe not as you know it. Most people focus on the ribs and diaphragm for breathing, but there is a trigger (trigger action) that brings both of these nicely into action – flexing your spine. And there is a trigger to get your spine flexing – tilting your pelvis.

Practicing structured breathing requires a little bit of set up to get you going:1) Stand gently upright with your knees slightly bent and soft (this allows you to flex your pelvis/ hips better) and let your arms hang loosely at your side. 2) Purse your lips, open your mouth and widen your throat – you are just going to let air flow in and out as it needs to.

Pelvis Tilt

Now without moving your head too much, tilt your pelvis top forwards and up (45 degrees) and pelvis bottom back and down (45 degrees). It will cause your back and abdomen to stretch and curve. You should also feel an intake of breath as your lower diaphragm drops. As you continue slowly to tilt your pelvis, you should also feel air being drawn into your chest area as the middle diaphragm drops. As you continue further, let your head go with the flexing of your spine and let it tilt back slightly (at 45 degrees up).

If you practice this slowly you should feel a distinct 1-2-3 phasing to the breath. Abdomen, chest, head. You can add to this feeling by dropping your jaw slightly as you start the flexing and expand your ribs as the flex reaches your chest. As you get to your head you should feel a distinct feeling of your head getting slightly lighter, or as Wim describes it – breathing into your head. At this point just let the breath as a carrier visualization take over the exchange of oxygen and Co2.

Letting Go

I find this next part lovely and relaxing. By tilting your hips, flexing your spine and expanding your rib cage you have nicely built in some elastic, bow power into your breathing cycle. As you feel you need to let your breath flow out, just tilt your pelvis the other way – let your pelvis bottom go forward, your pelvis top go back, and your spine flex the other way (to a forward facing U). Release the air in your lungs and encourage your head to tilt forward (45 degrees). That’s it.

Try this in a slow methodical way a few times and your body should map onto it fairly quickly – it is a natural way of moving and breathing. What you may also notice is the effect on your head and mental feeling. That’s because a few extra treats come with this way of breathing: toning the vagus nerve, pumping your sacrospinal fluid, releasing your ‘front line’, ‘charging your bows’, and of course using your breath as a energy carrier!

I hope you find that this makes a big difference to the control and depth of your WHM breathing and brings the relaxation and mindfulness aspects of it into clearer focus. It might also engender the concept of moving energy at will around your body.

Enjoy!
Julian.

(picture relevance: you might be playing all the right notes … but not necessarily in the right order!)

Wim Hof Method – Addin #2

WHM Addin #2

Following on my from my post on Mindfully Connected structured breathing, here is another simple trick to help with the breathing.

Out-Breath Hold

My out-breath hold length varies depending on whether I am in the shower or lying down. Lying down I can hold my out-breath after the 3 x 40 structured breathing for around 1.5 minutes – standing up for around 1 minute. The addin is on the in-breath hold.

In-Breath Hold

When breathing in, I keep my abdomen flat (i.e. I don’t let my abdomen expand). Then when I have taken the in-breath, I hold it and distribute the air around my body. The way I do this is, what I call, a 5 star mind-model. Imagine that your body is a star shape with it’s centre around your abdomen (dantien) and each part of the star pointing into your feet, your hands and your head. When I distribute the air in my body I push it along the points of the star, going around the star 2 times slowly (i.e. to a long count of ten). This gives a wonderful feeling of moving energy along your limbs and up your torso into your head and a mindful sensation of inflating the fascia around your body.

Enjoy!

Julian.

The next post in this series is Moving Mindfulness.

 

Systema Striking

Systema Striking

I’m someone who likes to understand how to practice as much as what to practice. In our club we are fortunate enough to have not just one good instructor, but two.

The real bonus is that they do their Systema in slightly different ways – both of which are valid forms of Systema. What that means in terms of my learning is that I can work out the differences, look for the common factors, see the specifics and understand the different options available.

This has helped me look for patterns.

Something I focus on is Tai Sabaki (Japanese for body management). Over the years I have come to understand that what you see is not what you get. Which means that all the people that purely learn by rote are learning the end effect rather than the deeper skill – which may eventually present itself over time – but often doesn’t seem to. A faster way to learn is to understand the moves better.

Every hitting move has three elements to it:

– the hitty bit – the hand or fist

– the transmission part; and

– the power source.

What can look like arm/ shoulder muscle based strikes (and pulls) are in reality very different.

– the purpose of the hand is to deliver the power into the opponent – and this is best achieved by being “at one” with the opponent when power is transmitted i.e. connected. In a boxing type punch a lot of the transmitted energy is lost in the bounce and rebound.

– the purpose of structure is to deliver power down the channels that can deliver it – bones, joints and tendons, and significantly not muscle. Muscle absorbs energy – one of the needs for relaxed muscles in Systema is so that the other structures have priority.

– once you have those two elements, power can come from any number of different sources. Momentum, aka movement is one of those sources.

A Systema strike that superficially looks like it is an arm powered strike can actually use the much more powerful and less detectable forces of momentum from movement.

What this means in practice is that the fist doesn’t have to move much, but the body does and there are some wonderfully elegant ways of doing just that!

Interestingly that covers-off three of the core principles in Systema:

– Structure

– Movement

– Relaxation

And the fourth is Breathing properly.

#wholebodypower

Try some Systema you’ll learn something new about yourself!

Best
Julian.

Systema Reflections

 

Systema Reflections

Systema is one of those Martial Arts that is very different from most peoples’ perceptions of it. Having practiced it regularly for over 6 years now, I can truly say that it is the discipline that has taught me most about myself. It’s been tremendously useful.

Reading online discussions, most people’s perception of Systema is from videos, and opinions voiced about those videos. My view of it and what I take away from it is far from the aggressive fight system that many people think it is or fails to look like.

I have zero interest in Systema as a fighting art, but I have huge interest in Systema as a healthful practice giving intrinsic capability.

There is a widespread belief these days that having a little physical stress regularly is important, because when a stressful event happens you can handle it in a much better way. An important aspect of this is that the ability to handle physical stress transfers directly to your ability to handle mental stress.

My main practice is Qigong – Mindfully Connected Method. Again, most people’s perception of this is an art that is slightly more interesting than watching paint dry!

The reality is very, very different. The reason that Qigong is practiced slowly is that your body learns the whole movement much better when done slowly – this builds in powerful, supple body structures. If you charge through an exercise your body learns how to get from the start points to the end points, but not much else in between.

What is fascinating for me is that I see Systema as an application of Qigong. Many principles I know from Qigong are in Systema. There are strong indications that Qigong used to have far more Systema like elements in it in the past, but these have been progressively dropped out to gentrify the art. I think there are large benefits to training in Qigong for Systema practitioners – as there are some useful elements in it that I haven’t seen in Systema.

Systema, on first sight, seems to be a very straightforward discipline. It has four pillars: press-ups; sit-ups; squats; leg raises. And it has four main principles: breathing, structure, movement and relaxation. Simples! But the nuances are the real skill and they are also the real benefit.

Personally, I have been both amazed and surprised at the nuances. I like the analogy of climbing a tall mountain. From the bottom you can only see what’s immediately above you – but at each level there is yet another level to climb!

The latest nuance for me has been deep relaxation combined with an autonomous response. This is beyond letting go of tension, beyond re-training your muscle structures, beyond acceptance. The best way I can describe it, is letting go of intention – transferring from seeing and thinking what to do, to observing and letting your body do what it needs to do – at an autonomous level.

I’ve understood the concept for many years – even thought I was doing it – but when your body actually responds without your conscious input it is a very different feeling – a Eureka feeling! And your thinking brain is not involved – so you stay absolutely calm.

Anything you practice is going to have some good parts and it’s going to have some bad parts. Systema does have some concepts that I’m not totally happy with, but the positive aspects way exceed any of the negatives I see and experience.

If you want to not only get back in touch with yourself, but marvel at what you can actually achieve, do come along to a Systema class.

Class times are 8:00pm Mondays, in Guildford.

If you’d like to practice some Qigong, Body Centered Mindfulness or Whole Body Power training, please contact Glen (glen.robertson@rocketmail.com www.fusion4health.com) or me (julianj@threnergy.com www.mindfully-connected.com) for details on classes and workshops.

All the best for some inspiring, meaningful and healthful practice.

Julian.