The Art of Breathing to Stay Focused

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Rickson Gracie

Have you ever caught yourself in a tournament, or rolling with someone new, where you just gas way quicker than you normally would? Or in the same situations, and you do something that you would never normally do that leads to you getting scored on or tapped? It may have something to do with the way you breathe!

Breathing is something we all take for granted, because we don’t necessarily have to think about doing it. The Gracie family has popularized breathing techniques, and for good reason as it is scientifically backed up. The more you can control your breathing, the better you can control your thoughts and movements while saving energy. All things you need to do to stay in the moment and be successful in jiu-jitsu!

When you take short, hallow breaths, this increases heart rate and your fight or flight response in the body. As this happens, the amygdala region of the brain is activated, which deals with the flight or fight response. When this region of the brain is activated, it takes away the attention from other regions, such as the prefrontal cortex that deals with judgement, decision making, and problem solving. I know I would rather have my judgement, decision making, and problem solving working to the highest degree when I am rolling!

Your body is very adaptable, so the more you practice deep breathing techniques, the more you will start to breathe like that in normal, everyday life. You will be able to save a lot of physical and mental energy by doing this, and you will start to make better decisions in bad situations. It will not only make you calmer on the mats, it will make you a calmer person in general.

The next time you are rolling, try to pay attention to the way you are breathing before, during, and after your rolling sessions. Are they short and quick? Or are they deep and controlled? This is especially important during tournaments to calm our nerves! Try looking up some deep breathing techniques to work on it. When doing the deep breathing techniques, your breath should originate from your abdomen, not your chest. Start with five minutes where you count a two second inhalation (in through the nose) and a four second exhalation (out of the mouth). Or you can start a meditation practice that focuses on breathing!

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