Monday, 8 August 2011

Use what destroys you to restore you

Since I have arrived in Toronto Vladimir has repeatedly instructed us to do the following when running in class:

                                                     "Don't look down,
                                                 run because you breathe,
                                              run because you are relaxed,
                                               speed up and stay relaxed."

There was a lot more to these things than I realised when I first arrived. It has been interesting to play with these ideas, seeing the effects that they have on the body, and how you can keep yourself in a calm and neutral state when undergoing a physically demanding activity.

One of my teacher's here Emmanuel (Manny) Manolakakis has explained it to me in several helpful ways:

A person can run or jog slowly and remain relaxed. There is nothing particularly amazing about this.  A person can become quite tense, and run faster, expending vast quantities of effort and energy. There is also nothing particularly amazing about this. HOWEVER: If a person is able to run faster, or perform a task at a higher intensity, whilst still being able to remain relaxed, minimise their tension and maintain a stable/neutral psyche... Well then we really have something here ;)

Manny being quite the cycling enthusiast used the analogy of the riders in the Tour de France. The race covers more than 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) and lasts three weeks. These guys will have to ride for several hours every day, and cannot afford to be frivolous with their energy. In this race these guys will have to constantly push themselves to keep going, and at the same time still be able to rest without stopping (for quite a lot of the race). Pushing non-stop with nothing but tension is probably not going to be a good idea given the duration of the race. The ability to work at an increased intensity whilst maintaining relaxation is essential here.


Study how to use what destroys you, to restore you instead. In this way learn to keep your energy, and to use it wisely. Study to the very best of your ability to make what is your extreme begin to feel like your normal. Don't just become good at suffering.

The work

Begin with walking and breathing. Pick a comfortable count of steps per breath. Be mindful of your physical, emotional, and psychological state. Remember what "Normal" feels like. Your goal will be to maintain this state. Once you are comfortable, begin to jog lightly, whilst still keeping yourself as free of tension as possible. Don't look down. The human head is approximately the weight of a bowling ball, and deviating from a neutral position for extended periods will create and accumulate excess and unnecessary tension which will burden you in this (or any) endeavour. (i.e. your form will be broken, your breathing will become laboured, the tension from your neck and shoulders will spread to the rest of your body restricting your movement, and ability to dissipate any further development of tension, and also there will be implications for your psyche etc...)

Only speed up if you are able to do so whilst remaining relaxed. Breathe to remain relaxed and use the movement of your jog/run to feel and clear out any unnecessary tension in your body. I find speeding up is easier when I think of projecting my head and spine forwards as one unit with my shoulders, arms, hips and legs remaining relaxed and attached to this unit. When I do this it feels as if I relax into my run, almost falling into my run. Then it is just a matter of adapting my breathing in order to minimise the tension. I find also trying to cultivate a feeling of lightness with the breath also helpful.

You can also do this work performing the core exercises (push ups, squats, sit ups and leg raisers). Do these exercises at comfortable pace and as relaxed as possible, then speed up whilst maintaining this relaxation.

It is simple work, but very deep when you perform it correctly.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Justin. In Systema you breath out through the mouth whereas in say Buteyko you breath out through the nose even when running.Does it really make any difference?