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Russian Systema Breathing

Andrey Patenko
Man is composed of such elements as vital breath, deeds, thoughts, and senses.
—The Upanishads
There is no need to tell anyone how important breathing is to one’s life. A man arrives into this world with a breath and finishes his path with his last breath. Yet not everyone knows how to breathe properly and how to regulate many functions of the body with breathing. Many people do not even suspect that once they learn to breath properly they can improve health and, if they are athletes, to improve training and recovery.
Breath is the beginning of all energy in the body. And with proper use of breath our own body/mind can be trained to do that which does not seem possible. In the beginning, it is essential that we begin to harmonize with our breath. Most people breathe as effort increases because their body is telling them that they need more oxygen. However, as you become more aware, you breath so that you can do more work and thereby gain more ability and performance. 
The next step up the ladder is to breathe so that we can do more. The proper use of the breath is not just emphasized in Systema, it is EVERYTHING. The Systema technique focuses on adapting your breathing style to the work so you do not use more or less energy from breathing than necessary. This why I teach my students FIRST breathing and then practice exercise.
One of the exercises that I use, the Systema breath-walk exercise, breaks up the breathing process into step sections.:
  • You inhale through the nose over one step, and exhale for one step.
  • Then progress to two, three, four, five, six and more.
  • You start build steady breath with out depending on your physical activity, increasing performance. Let breath lead physical action in time!
Over thousands of years yogi, monks, martial arts masters have learned to achieve maximal results through breath mastery and have been passing this knowledge through centuries. Yet in modern times many ignore proper breathing. Coaches often teach their students the technique of an exercise greatly downplaying the breathing. This might harm one’s health down the road and will definitely prevent the achievement of maximal results. Which is why I have written this article to tell about the Russian system of breathing which came out of Russian martial arts.
The main breathing principles are:
1.    Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.
2.    Breathing leads physical movement.
3.    Breathe with the frequency demanded by the given activity in the given moment, not more and no less.
4.    Do not stop breathing, no matter what you are doing, with the exception of special breath holding practice.
5.    Every breath starts and ends following the pendulum principle.
6.    Develop the ability to perform an action on an inhalation and on an exhalation, regardless of the intensity of the effort and the position of the body.
7.    The skill to remain relaxed while breathing.
If you use these principles you will be able to reach great results in physical exercises, increase your endurance, speed up the processes of restoration, and become healthier. I will give you an example of an exercise for quick recovery after intense physical activity or a stressful situation. This method does not require much time or special equipment and can be practiced in a group setting.
Lie on your back, close your eyes, and inhale to ¾ of your lung capacity. Tense all your muscles, make fists and pull your toes towards you, hold your breath, and then exhale with complete relaxation. Repeat the drill 10 times. Then do the same exercise, but this time tense only separate body parts: the left arm, the right arm, the left leg, the right leg, back, chest and stomach. Totally relax on every exhalation. Repeat for 10 reps for each body part.
Next do the breath holding exercise. Inhale to ¾ of your lung capacity and hold your breath. Listen to your cells. Once they start demanding oxygen, resume calm breathing until complete restoration. Repeat the sequence 3-4 times. Then slowly open your eyes, sit up and stay seated for 1-2min, then slowly stand up. You should feel total relaxation and restoration of your energy.
I wish you best in your endeavors! Let everyone breathe!
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If you are interested in Russian Systema breathing, contact Andrey Patenko, RKCII, Russian Systema Instructor,, (215) 715-6314