Proper Breathing Changes Your Life by KJN Gregory V. Glover
As a young Airman station in Thailand studying Taekwondo and Kick Boxing, I learned a very important lesson. In our day-to-day lives, we are constantly bombarded with an enormous number of sensory experiences that are beginning to overload our sympathetic nervous system: loud noises, flashing lights, crowds, advertisements, anything that is trying to gain our attention, which begins to activate that fight-or-flight mechanism within our body, throwing us out of balance.
However, what if there was a tool that you as a martial artist could tap into every single day. A tool that you can use that that happens naturally in our body. A tool that we can use to reverse that, activate the parasympathetic nervous system. That we could come back to that rest-and-digest mechanism within our bodies, restore our balance, reduce blood pressure, and slow down the breath/heart rate before, during, and after a stressful event. Would you be interested in learning how to use that tool?
What if it was as simple act just breathing? What if you took five minutes out of your day just to focus on breathing? You may think sitting in silence, focusing on your breathing for five to ten minutes a day seems boring. You have too many things to do. It a daily indulgence you cannot afford to do.
You might be thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” All right. I could not resist. However, what if it was a crucial, crucial regiment for your health? What if by taking that five minute a day would make a difference in your life and your day?
So, where do we start? Let’s begin here right now with your breathing. Take a moment wherever you are. Choose. You might stay seated. You might stand up. Whatever feels right for you.
You might want to stretch around a little bit. Just choose where you want to be. Then once you make that decision, take a couple of moments to even shift a little bit, get comfortable, and allow the eyes to softly close. You should hear and sense the shifting.
As a practitioner of martial arts, you should learn to let your mind, body and spirit settle. Let the eyes softly close. Take a moment as you’re here to feel the feet firmly planted into the ground, maybe feel the hip bones dropping in if you’re seated, start to feel the spine lengthening up to the sky as you take a deep breath in, start to feel the shoulder softening down the back, start to soften the muscles into the neck, into the face, into the jaw.
Take a moment here to feel the beginner’s mind of emptiness. Begin to allow yourself permission to let go, to let go of everything outside of this space, let go of anything that might have happened before this very moment, let go of anything that you might have to do afterwards, let go of any judgments, any expectations about yourself and of this practice of breathing consciously.
As a martial artist, we learn to allow the mind to settle into the heart, into the body. Even begin to listen to the beat of your heart. Welcome yourself as you are now, physically, emotionally, mentally.
Begin to bring your awareness to your breathing, to the deep sensations of the breathing to full capacity. Notice the rise of your chest as you inhale. Notice the dropping back down as you exhale. Notice the lengthening effect as you inhale the deepening effect as you exhale. Notice the natural, spontaneous breathing movement.
Historically our greatest warriors from the ancient Chinese army to the Japanese Samurai have practiced this technique daily. Imagine those ancient warriors seated beside you. Notice that without doing anything but just bringing your awareness to your breathing automatically lengthen on the inhale, automatically deepen on the exhale. Notice yourself maybe sitting up a little taller or standing up taller on the inhale. Notice yourself rooting down deeper on that exhale.
The Samurai did this breathing to calm the mind of any fear before going into battle. You too can begin to bring in a sense of peace, calmness, serenity on your inhale. Begin to let go tension, fear, and anxiety. Exhale. Allow your internal vision to move your breath throughout your body.
Take five deep breaths in. Take five deep breaths out. After your personal fifth breath, on that next inhale, count how many times it takes to get to the very top of that inhale. To balance it out, count that same number down on your exhale. You might be working with a number of four, five, six, seven, eight, or higher, whatever your number is, stay with it.
For the next five breaths, count all the way to your inhale; count back down all the way to your exhale, five deep breaths in, five deep breaths out. After your personal fifth cycle of breath, allow the count to drop away, even allow the internal vision of the breath to drop away. Allow your awareness to empty completely of any images, thoughts, sensations, impressions, experiences.
Take a moment here to notice smoothness of the breath, quietness of the mind, even the stillness of the physical body. Begin to bring your awareness back to the room, back to your physical body. Begin to draw a deeper breath in to the belly, in to the chest.
Slowly begin to blink the eyes open and close as you transition back to this room. Image those images of the ancient warrior fading away. Notice within yourself, just within a matter of minutes, that your mind has become calmer and quieter. That you are breathing smoother. Do you feel a genuine sense of peace and calmness within yourself?
You as a martial artist are now more aware of this present moment that everything seemed a little more vivid, a little more alive. Do you feel refreshed, recharged, rejuvenated? Are you ready to take on the rest of your day? Imagine if you did this every single day.
Once you have mastered this ancient technique you will begin to experience the higher level of consciousness achieved by Shaolin Monks, Samurai Warriors and the greatest martial arts Grand Masters of our time.
About the Author: Grand Master Gregory Glover is a full time professional martial arts instructor with a strong background in Korea martial arts. He is the Head Coach of the USNTA National Team and owner of the US Martial Arts Academy in Conyers, GA. Grand Master Glover is the Director of the US National Taekwondo Association (www.usnta.net).
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