Beating Stress With Martial Arts
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Are you a busy executive or mom trying to do everything? Are you getting so stressed out that it seems like you’re not accomplishing anything? If so, you can use martial arts to combat that stress! Many of the skills and techniques used in martial arts training are the same skills and techniques you can use to rid your body of stress.
So, you might be wondering how a skill that is commonly depicted as a fighting tool can actually reduce stress… Some of these common images of martial arts aren’t completely accurate. The cartoons, video games and movies showing martial arts as a fighting tool are only showing you one small facet of the art. The skills necessary for training martial arts can teach you how to balance your mind and body and give you the confidence you need to face the stressful events in your life.
How Do You Do It?
One of the techniques used to create this balance is using breathing and meditation techniques to help you connect and control your mind and body. There are different types of meditation: sitting, standing, kneeling and moving. Find the position that works best for you. Here’s how to start.
1. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
2. Breathe deeply. To make sure you’re breathing deeply enough, put your hand on your stomach. If your stomach isn’t pushing out as you breath in, you’re not breathing deeply enough. Try to pull the air all the way to your navel before you let it out.
3. When you breathe out, keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This keeps helps minimize your saliva and swallowing.
In the Chinese way of thinking, breathing like this is completing a path: The mouth is a gate and the tongue on the roof of the mouth allows your vital energy called “Qi” or “Chi” (both pronounced “chee”) to circulate throughout your body. Chi is what helps your mind and body connect.
After you’ve gotten the physical aspects of breathing down, you can start counting your breaths – this is a form of meditation that many experts teach during stress management courses. Start short and work your way up.
1. Begin with a count of 4 as you breathe in and a count of 6 as you breathe out.
2. As you go along, extend the in and out until you can get a count of 6 as you breathe in and up to 24-30 as you breathe out. Just remember that you want a short, deep breath in and a slow, long breath out.
Why Does It Work?
This mind and body connection through breathing works because stress is a mental state that manifests itself as a physical symptom in your body. This physical symptom then acts as a trigger to tell you to do something about it. As you become more aware of your body, you’ll be able to notice the “trigger” before it becomes something unbearable such as a severe neck problem or a migraine headache. Once you notice your trigger, you can stop and do something about it such as practicing a breathing technique. For example, I used to get stress-induced migraines that would leave me out of commission for a whole day. Now, I’ve come to realize that it actually starts in my lower back as a small thing. If I let it go, it works its way up to my head. Now, when I noticed this trigger in my back, I stop and do my breathing. It allows the issue to surface so I can deal with it and I don’t have to deal with a migraine.
We all have those moments from time to time when we experience stress (some more frequently than others). The overall benefits of training martial arts for the mind and body (including self-awareness, self confidence, focus, concentration and physical conditioning) all lead to reducing that stress. You owe it to yourself to start relieving the stress in your life with the skills taught through martial arts.