Tag Archives: Sasha

Systema Health Practices – Part 3

29 Aug

There are many unique health practices in Systema, which are unlike anything i’ve seen elsewhere.

One such is the whip massage, which i get in some form every time i go to Moscow, and i leave feeling refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated.

The Whip

A whip is not a normal thing to use for massage or fighting in western culture. However in the old times in Russia, whips were used both as a method for fighting and for healing. If you’ve ever been hit by a whip you’ll know why.

A whip “massage” can be standing up, laying down or even while moving. This depends on the person’s skill who is doing the whipping.

Generally a good starting position is laying down, as your whole body can be relaxed and doesn’t have to support itself.

This starts with one person laying down on their stomach, the person with the whip initially starts from the persons head and whips lightly from the head to the upper back, arms, lower back etc down to the feet. A light strong whip, can be made by folding the whip in half. This is a preparation or warm-up for what is to come.

Now you start to whip harder on the large muscle areas, shoulder, both sides of upper, mid and lower back. Then onto bicep muscles going down arms to hands. Now on to buttocks – there is a reason this area must be hit hard, as between the upper and lower body are the hips and the main muscle in the buttock muscle, if this is tense, it means your arms and legs will not be joined, and the blood flow will not be free and smooth. So to create body unity, the area in the middle (the buttock muscle) must be relaxed.

Then onto the upper and lower legs, finishing on the feet. The person can then turn over and the same can be repeated.

One important thing to remember is: if the person begins to get tense or panic, give them a few pats on their head with the whip.

This is an extremely interesting phenomenon, which relaxes the person, probably due to: our attention going to our head, it relaxing the scalp muscles and brain – which would relax our psyche and calm our emotions, and the fact that simply touching someone’s head in a calming way is relaxing, for instance when a mother strokes a babies head and they relax and sleep.

Throughout this the person being whipped should be breathing, fast if they feel pain, and try to keep their body relaxed.

Here is a video of me experiencing this in Russia, go to 16:05 which is the segment with the whip:

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.

Ryabko Systema Massage – Video Lesson – Alexander Moscow 2013

28 May

At each Moscow seminar each instructor shows his own interpretation and ideas of an aspect of Systema, with Michael being the main teacher.

At the end of the internal work seminar Alexander or Sasha, showed us the correct method for Systema massage. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the demonstration:

If you have any questions; comment or send me an email: thomas.hogarth@hotmail.co.uk

Slow Exercises: Pushups

9 May

After we had finished the squats, we went on to push ups. In these push ups Sasha pointed out that the focus was on relaxation and not to keep the back straight, but to relax it, and let it dip.

We began in push up position back, body and neck completely relaxed, the arms shoulder width apart in a comfortable position. Let the whole body weight rest on the arms. (note the arms should be on the level you punch)

Then to understand how to relax your shoulders, rotate your shoulders both backwards, forwards, and just get a feeling for the relaxation in your shoulders, you are still in upright push up position. do this for about 5 minutes, feel the blood going to your hands, and remember to continually relax your body, neck etc.

When you have the relaxed feeling in your shoulders and body, begin to puff/burst breath, and as you exhale allow the breath to pump you down, incrementally. When you get to the floor, relax your arms to the sides, and burst breath to recover. Then put your arms either side of you, push up way, keeping you back and spine relaxed, and then puff/pump breath yourself up incrementally. Repeat this for 10-15 minutes. Focus on relaxing yourself, your neck, spine, upper and lower arm muscles and try to keep the feeling of relaxation in your shoulders, as in the first part.

After repeating this for a while, you may feel some soreness. Sasha said “in this exercise we have accumulated tension in the bicep muscle and the joint connection, so now we do a stretch for it”

You lay face down on the floor, touch your hands to the front part of your collar-bone and put your body weight on them, so your forearms are under your body, your elbows are bent, and also mainly under your body. Relax your shoulders, back and arms in this position, try the burst breathing, then a long exhale for relaxation. Turn your head and repeat. Do this for 5-10 minutes, then slowly get up and stretch your arms out. Feel the relaxation and strength.

I found this slow exercise, then stretch combination awesome.

Next: The Stomach: Sit ups, Leg raises, Back Raise



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…