The effects of stress
Tension, tiredness, lethargy, headaches, bellyaches, sickness, insomnia – are you struggling with any of these problems?
If so, it stands a good chance that they are linked directly, or indirectly, to stress in your body and mind.
This can be a chicken and the egg scenario…
Worry and anxiety can create tension throughout the body, releasing a cascade of stress hormones.
Such hormones often lead to negative thought patterns and yet more tension, throwing you into a constant feedback loop of worry and stress.
Interestingly, your body gets addicted to these negative hormones, eventually craving them like drugs.
This is when stress becomes the master!
Your mind is overrun with a craving of stress hormones; therefore you must suffer to get your daily fix – not good!
Luckily, there is an answer…
Why be more wolf?
Now you may be thinking what is this lunatic on about now?
I’m already considered crazy for trying to get people to take cold showers but there’s method to my madness!
The wolf has the most economical gait in the animal kingdom and can travel from 10 to 25 miles per day in search of food, without stressing or breaking a sweat.
Now I know what you’re thinking – wolves pant to keep cool, they don’t sweat.
This is exactly my point!
If you watch wolves move, they are very relaxed. They are not tense and they breathe/pant constantly. They do not hold their breath.
Wolves, like all other animals, live in the moment. They do not worry about someone cutting them off in traffic three weeks ago!
How can you be more wolf?
Using some techniques taken from Russian Systema, you can be more wolf!
First of all you need to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with pursed lips, breathing from the belly not the chest.
As you breathe in, don’t inhale so hard that you create tension in your body, and as you breathe out, release tension.
Do this all the time when you are moving. Think of the breath as a circle that flows and never stops.
Just notice how many times per day you hold your breath without even realising you’re doing it. A good example is climbing stairs…
Next time you climb a set of stairs, just notice…
- Are you holding your breath?
- Are you tense?
When you move around, lead with your breath and exhale as you move.
As you move around, think of your muscles as balloons hanging off your body and only use the muscles you need to use!
For example, don’t tense up when reaching for a pen, just use your hand and arm.
When walking, lead with your knees and, as you walk, keep your circle of breath flowing all the time.
Just before you move off, start to exhale, release tension and then move, allowing your breath to flow.
Allow your body to soften and release any tension as you walk.
When running, start off the same but, as you run, let your arms hang free. Let them dangle as you run, again, keeping tension out of the body.
One advantage we have over our canine friends is that we can breathe independently of our running. Wolves cannot do this when running fast.
As they stride there body acts like a pump, pushing the breath in and out – one stride one breath.
We are different. We can take numerous strides on one inhale or exhale, so you may want to try a 4 step inhale and a 4 step exhale.
Try different routines until you find what works for you, as long as it doesn’t create tension in your body!
Try watching a wolf run and visualise yourself striding with the same relaxed gait.
But doesn’t tension make me strong?
So you may be wondering why I want to keep tension out of the body.
Tension makes you strong right?
Well, not necessarily…
Firstly, too much tension in the body can cause many ailments and it also uses a ton of energy!
If you have ever done any kind of isometric hold in the gym (tensing a muscle for time and not moving the joint) you will know how hard and energy-demanding they are.
When you’re tense, you’re essentially doing isometric holds throughout your body all day.
This burns energy quickly and has a massive impact on you metal and physical health.
Secondly, the fact that tension makes you stronger, tougher or more powerful is a myth!
You only have to look to the martial arts arena for this.
All of the most successful martial artists operate with flow, not tension!
You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.
– Bruce Lee
A little note on breathing in stressful situations
If someone is panicking, don’t tell them to breathe because they will take a big gulp of air, hold their breath and tense up.
Instead, tell them to exhale. This way they won’t hold their breath and they will automatically release tension from their body.
This is a good one for ground grapplers and it’s easy to shout from the corner:
Relaxing like a wolf
As Rudyard Kipling once said:
“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
Wolves have very strong family bonds, something else we can learn from them!
If you want to roll around with your fellow humans after work or howl at the moon, like a wolf pack would, do so, it’s fun!
Sometimes we need to be a little less serious about this thing we call life, howl at the moon and have fun for fun’s sake!