When people confront a difficulty or a challenge, typically their breathing stops. Constricting the breath is a key element in the experience of not being good enough, and breathing more openly is the foundation for efficacy. To teach people fullness of breath, I start by having students stand up and alternate tightening their bellies and letting them plop out. Then I have them release their bellies without doing a preliminary tightening. People generally experience a noticeable release even though they had not first tightened their bellies consciously, and they realize from this that they had been unconsciously holding themselves tight and that they probably hold themselves tight all the time. I have them touch their bellies and experiment with their breathing until they discover how to drop the movement of inhalation into the pit of their bellies, expanding the belly and the lower back as well as the chest when they inhale. This is just the opposite of the pattern of breathing involved in fear or anger, in which the belly is tightened and the chest elevated during inhalation.

To give people a clear experience of the effect of constricting their breath, I have them stand and resist a light push on the shoulders, first while constricting their breath and then while letting their breathing be soft and full. People readily notice that they are far more stable when they breathe easily. Fear/anger breathing makes one a pushover.

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Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

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