Tag Archives: Health

Systema Health Practices – Part 2

24 Aug

One of the most magical experiences for me, from Systema was in the Russian Banya. A whole Systema group of Russians in Moscow go twice a week, and Alexander (Sasha) had invited me to go along. A Russian guy was tasked with giving me a lift from the Systema school in Moscow to the banja. On the way he asked me “have you ever been to banya before?” i said “well i’ve been to a sauna” He laughed “No,no, this is not sauna, this is banya”

What is Banya?

Banya has three main parts:

1 – You go in to a very hot stone sauna and i mean very hot. You sweat it out there for a bit. 10-20 minutes typically

2 – You come out and straight away you go into a freezing cold pool (while breathing well). You dunk your head under and hold your breath on an in or out breath, while you listen to your pulse – heart beat, under water.

3 – You repeat step 1, and while you’re doing the first two rounds, Sasha has been preparing some branches of birch leaves, adding scents and soaking them in warm water. When you  go back in for the second time, you sit down, and he begins to whip you with the birch leaves; on your chest, shoulders, back and legs.

You then repeat this process 7-8 times, not always with the birch leaves, sometimes a massage and sometimes nothing, depending on how Sasha is feeling.

This is one of the best Systema classes i have ever done. If you don’t breath correctly, it is easy to get overheated, tense up and panic.

After a few rounds it gets easier and when you come out you feel extremely relaxed, both your body and mind. Usually they have some hot fruit juice or liquor which also helps!

I highly recommend anyone going to Moscow to do this.

Systema Health Practices – Part 1

15 Aug

There are a couple of books that have been written on Systema health practices. Here i’m going to share what i consider the most important or core practices to keep your body healthy, mobile and free of tension.


Commonly called the “walking on the back” massage, the Russians have a whole series, that massages every muscle in your body in an intense way and that provides the best conditions to relax and remove large and small tensions from your body.

You can get a full description of this here: https://thomashogarth.com/2012/04/27/day-1-part-2-moscow-class-alexander-sasha/

Or if you prefer a seeing it yourself: https://thomashogarth.com/2013/05/28/ryabko-systema-massage-video-lesson-alexander-moscow-2013/

This massage is absolutely key and all of the Russian masters stress that this should be done after every class or as often as possible.

For your relaxation , health and body form, nothing beats this massage.


Breathing is not only essential when training, but all throughout our lives, especially when we become stressed or scared. Breathing is something we can rely on, something we can go back to, when everything else is out of control. Breathing can be done by feeling, for example if you need energy you breath faster or if you want to calm your psyche you breath slower and deeper.

The main point is control. Understand and feel the power of your breath and you will have a never-ending hidden resource.


In this day and age we sit a lot more than is necessary or healthy. Sitting ruins the body’s natural form and increases tension levels in our spine and legs. Standing on the other hand is natural and walking is even better. Our bodies were made to walk, stretch and move. In this modern world we work at computers all day, sitting on a chair and when we get home, our first instinct is to sit down. If you look at places like India and China where they sit cross legged or kneel down, they have much less instance of back pain and physical body issues, even as they grow older.

Check out this interesting article on sitting: http://lifehacker.com/5879536/how-sitting-all-day-is-damaging-your-body-and-how-you-can-counteract-it

So what can you do? as the article suggests standing can often help combat the negative effects of sitting. The best thing you can do is to take a walk, Systema style, so combining breathing with your steps and consciously relaxing your body. This will work wonders for your body and your psyche. 

Read this for more tips on adding walking to your training: https://thomashogarth.com/2013/07/27/how-to-create-a-systema-workout/

Part 2 – Banja, Stomach massage, the stick and whip

Vladimir Vasiliev Seminar Part 2 with Valentin Vasiliev

30 May


One person lays down, other person kneels above. Begin to shake the person, seeing the deepness of their relaxation by how the wave goes up their body, if it is stuck or restricted. Then tap the person all over, fast at first, with hands, then slower and deeper according to their heart rate, as it slows down – slow down the tapping to relax them.

– Extremely slow walking and walking backwards.

– Tenseing the body, up down, different strength’s, join with breathing.

– If your relaxed, you don’t have to breath,

“Michael said he’s relaxed so he does’nt have to breath”


There was a small group of us, that had a conversation with Valentin during the break, he had a lot of interesting things to say:

– If you have a hurt throat/solar plexus/stomach. Breath in a ball of air through your mouth and swallow it, that will relax the muscles and remove blockages.

– If you have a blocked nose open your mouth and breath in the same time through your nose and mouth and out at the same time through both. This clears the airways. This is awesome.

– He emphasized if you have an injury, immediately start breathing through the injured part. It heals it much faster.

– He said also that just breathing through your body, and in and out through your organs is a very good health practice.


Overall an awesome seminar, with many interesting experiences, when Vladimir came round i got to work with him a little, and that for me, was the highlight.

Moscow HQ training – Slow Exercises: Squats

5 May

Slow exercises: Squats

Every evening class with sasha included this progression of slow exercises, followed by the massage in the previous post.

Squats – Feet shoulder width, weight on whole of foot, not only on heel or toe, wide enough minimal tension in hips, not too wide. Using burst/pump/puff breathing going down. Exhale through mouth, keep mouth closed and just push the air out let your lips open and as the exhale escapes so does the tension in your body let that pump you down, slowly. A tip : focus on the exhale, the inhale through the nose takes care of itself, very interesting..
Keep head and back straight trying to relax all of the muscles of your spine, hips and shoulders.
Repeat for 10-15 mins pumping yourself up and down with the breathing.

Alexander then said ” after these exercises tension gathers in the muscles, so after this particular exercise we stretch the thigh muscles”
1 – We all got a mat, and sat on our knees, heels under backside, relaxing our legs in that position.
2 – Then bend backwards slowly keeping you backside on your heels, until your head touches the ground or a far as you can go, puff breathing as you go down. in that position relax yourself, try a few seconds of burst breathing then one long exhale. repeat. Relax all your muscles, your thighs, back, shoulders. Stay like that for 3-5 minutes. Then pump yourself up with the breath, help yourself with your hands.
3 – Then bend foward in kneeling position so your head touches the floor, turn it one way, relax your shoulders, back and everything in that position with your breath. Stay for 2-4 mins turn your head and repeat. Then slowly come to a sitting postion stretch and shake out your legs.

– Something interesting Sasha said “The same word for life in Russian is the same word for belly, your stomach and your life are connected. Healthy stomach is important. Belly = Life. The Russian word is живот (zhivot).
i felt this – the russians made a point of eating together everyday, and ate and ate until they were full, this has interesting effects on your stomach, as when you are full your stomach relaxes, your psche relaxes, you become more cheerful and happier.

In many ways there was much more training, when i wasn’t training.

Next Pushups…

Mikhail Ryabko Seminar – Nov 2011 Berlin – Sun

20 Nov

My memory is fading of the seminar so i thought i ‘d better write some stuff, while i still remember.

a big part of the seminar was about health:

– Keeping the spine healthy is very important, if it is out of balance the back and organs will be twisted, pressured and Pushed Down.  The heart will be twisted, and the blood will not be flowing properly which can cause many problems; headaches, stomach problems etc

– The spine should be relaxed (the muscles) and then should be corrected into the natural position then can be strengthened in this position, otherwise you get muscle imbalances and an inefficient use of the body and power.

– Exercise for relaxing and healing the spine, get a bench lay facing up with your head on it, now use your shoulders to move yourself over the bench – slowly, – then when you are over the other side with your feet on the bench go back moving yourself as much as possible only with your shoulders. (I heard loads of cracks and my back felt really relaxed after this exercise)

– Then after this exercise, one for lifting the organs: Your breath in and tense up the stomach and the back 2 inches up the spine, then breath out keeping the tension on bother sides of the body but only two inches, then go up another two inches with an in breath and tension on the stomach and back keeping the first tension, keep going until you are at your chest then breath out and relax slowly feeling what you feel.

– Punching taking ability increase exercise from daniel.  Your partner lays on the floor and you push your fist or a stick into his solar plexus area , he has to constantly breath, and relax that area and his body as much as possible, then when he is relaxed as much as possible you slowly give him pressure, teaching him to let the air exhale with the fist is pushed in, not doing it himself but letting his body learn that, working up to faster and harder pressures, the faster the push in the faster the air exhales and slowly the slower, working up to punches, then sitting up with punches, then standing with punches.

a little more to come…