Take a Breath

variety of creative breath work processes and techniques, from the Russian martial art, Systema, to relax and revitalize the body


The profound, ever-increasing challenges of these difficult times can be enormously stressful. With the additional limitations and pressures from lengthy lockdowns, social isolation, societal upheaval and all around uncertainty, many of the ways we’ve used for relieving stress may no longer be available to us, or feel inadequate, adding to our own feelings of overwhelm, causing anxiety, depression, etc.

We are very fortunate to have the spiritual teaching, with which to nourish our consciousness, and it’s very beneficial to have tried and true resources for the health of our body, which require very little space, no special equipment and deal with the most essential element for life…our breath.

It may surprise people that this breath work comes from the Russian martial art, known as Systema, which is taught to, and practiced by the Russian Special Forces, known as Spetsnaz.

Systema differs from most martial arts in that it focuses particularly on the breath, relaxation, natural body movement and…non-aggression, a seemingly unlikely component for a military art. But it is also this overall approach that makes Systema, and especially the breath work, such an interesting, and effective, training for overall conditioning despite one’s age, fitness condition, etc., and, in my opinion, a good companion for the spiritually-minded who want to attain and maintain good health, fitness and…deeper relaxation.

First, an interesting testimonial:

 Cancer Didn’t Stand a Chance  by Anna Cruse  

In March this year, I discovered a strange lump in my abdomen, and scans showed a tumour that was deemed probably cancerous. At the time, I was struggling financially, and my job was uncertain, and yet I could let all the stress go and allow myself to just take each day as it came. I’m sure at least part of my ability to do this came from my excellent Systema training – to be relaxed and extremely adaptable under pressure, to let fear go, and to be unconcerned about the possibility of pain to come. I didn’t worry, I just prepared what I could and tried to calm my friends and family. We even joked about it – people know I’m tough 🙂

By July we knew it was cancer, and on the 23rd of July, I had surgery to remove a 1 kg tumour (hopefully that’s the end of it). I was opened up from just below my sternum to about 8 cm below my navel. That day, going into surgery, I was using Systema breathing and relaxation techniques as I was being prepped, including the insertion of an epidural. After the surgery, I was using the same techniques to minimize the pain. I could roll myself to my side using the technique of sending my hand out and following it. I could give my abs the tension they needed to give me structure to stand even though there was pain, and I could breathe through it. When I found myself growing tense from pain and all the medical paraphernalia sticking out of me, I could consciously relax. The medical staff called me the star patient. I was able to very rapidly recover my ability to move around by myself, I exercised regularly, and I needed very little pain medication. It only really hurt when I coughed.

A week later, my surgeon found it hard to believe I had had major abdominal surgery. I was dancing after 2 weeks and back to full-time work after 3 weeks.     Today I was allowed to go back to my regular Systema classes, and while I have to be a bit more careful for the next 6 weeks, it is great to be back.  I love Systema. It is the best self-defense martial art I have ever seen, and I have grown so strong physically and emotionally through the training. Cancer didn’t stand a chance!

I use my training every day, to relax, breathe, to have strong structure and movement. Systema is amazing. I recommend it to anyone who will listen.

Thank you to Vladimir Vasiliev, for bringing Systema to the world. And thank you to Loren Clements for bringing it to us in New Zealand.

Anna Cruse has been a student of Systema Auckland, New Zealand for about 10 years.


Breath for Internal Control 

Teachings of the Russian Breath Masters

Stress. Daily tension. Do we notice when it sets in? Can we prevent it from growing? Can we reverse its constant damage to our health?

Extreme stress. Fatal illness, disaster, brutal survival, danger, violence, battle. Can we control the destruction to our body and psyche? Are there covert reserves of our organism that we can utilize to survive? Can we turn a life-threatening ordeal into a motivation that will make us stronger?

Breath for Internal Control is an exceptional set of breathwork and movement exercises that will allow you to identify in yourself the very threshold of distress, control the function of all your body systems, stop the chain reactions of fear and panic, and uncover your own huge potential of power, speed, endurance, vigilance, healing and restoration.

So how do we begin? On a partial exhale…

Vladimir Vasiliev, of the Russian Special Operations Unit and chief Systema instructor, will guide you step-by-step through the amazing teachings of the Russian Breath Masters.

50 min


Breath and Body

Systema offers unique drills to raise your athletic abilities, overcome fatigue, reduce stress, accelerate recovery, and enhance your life.

Vladimir Vasiliev, chief Systema HQ Toronto instructor and founder, guides you through the functional and intuitive breathwork and bodywork.

See how to unite breath with movement in every task, how to take yourself far beyond the standard workouts to revive and empower every cell of your body.

Use simple body manipulations to remove the tension of training and everyday stress.
Prevail over self pity and low energy. Gain stamina and emotional control.

1 hour 12 min


Breathing and Fear

Can fear be controlled?
Yes. Through breathing and muscle tensing.Wrong breathing can escalate your fear into panic, it can cut off your awareness and paralyze your movements.

Proper breathing can remove fear from your body, your mind and your psyche. It can make you a calm, efficient fighter, and a strong, healthy person.

Systema head instructor, Vladimir Vasiliev, explains how to use inhales, exhales, and breath holds through various patterns, speeds, and depths to achieve outstanding results in real confrontations and in everyday scenarios.

The topics of this film include:

• Breath-fear dynamics
• Causes of breath holds
• Light breathing
• Full breathing
• Locating tension
• Burst breathing
• Breath and muscle tensing
• Imaginary fears
• Contact and pain
• Weapons threat

Breathing is your most powerful tool to control fear.
Learn how to apply it.

Running time: 56 min



NOTE: I was pleased to bring Vladimir Vasiliev to Los Angeles, in 2000, to introduce Systema to the martial arts community there. You  can learn a bit more about the founders here. And don’t be concerned about the cover of Breath and Fear, Vladimir was just demonstrating some gentle, elective dentistry.


For those who are interested, here is information the history of Systema:

“Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. The battles took place on different terrain, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat alike, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces. As a result of these factors, the Russian warriors acquired a style that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative and versatile tactics that were at the same time practical, deadly, and effective against any type of enemy under any circumstances. The style was natural and free while having no strict rules, rigid structure or limitations (except for moral ones). All tactics were based on instinctive reactions, individual strengths and characteristics, specifically designed for fast learning.

When the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. Those practicing the old style of fighting could be severely punished. At the same time, the authorities quickly realized how viable and devastating the original combat system was and reserved it just for a few Special Operations Units.

In our schools and through the instructional materials, you will learn this fascinating style and see for yourself why Russian Systema is said to open a new page in the world of martial arts.

In Systema, the synergy of three components creates a TRUE WARRIOR – Combat Skill, Strong Spirit and Healthy Body.

The body has to be free of tension, filled with endurance, flexibility, effortless movement and explosive potential.

The spirit or psychological state has to be calm, free of anger, irritation, fear, self-pity, delusion and pride.

The combat skill includes movements that are powerful and precise, instant and economical, spontaneous, subtle and diverse, the signature of a true professional.

There is a reason why Russian Martial Art is called SYSTEMA. It is a complete set of concepts and training components that enhance one’s life. In this case, acquiring the martial art skill is a way to improve the function of all seven physiological systems of the body and all three levels of human abilities the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.

The key principle of the Russian Systema is non-destruction. The goal is to make sure that your training and your attitudes do no damage to the body or the psyche of you or your partners. Systema is designed to create, build and strengthen your body, your psyche, your family and your country.

Systema has another name “poznai sebia” or “Know Yourself”. What does it really mean to Understand Yourself? It is not just to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, that is good but fairly superficial. Training in Russian Martial Art is one of the sure ways to see the full extent of our limitations – to see how proud and weak we really are. Systema allows us to gain the true strength of spirit that comes from humility and clarity in seeing the purpose of our life.

As the roots of the Russian Systema are in the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, the belief is that everything that happens to us, good or bad, has only one ultimate purpose. That is to create the best possible conditions for each person to understand himself. Proper training in the Russian Systema carries the same objective – to put every participant into the best possible setting for him to realize as much about himself as he is able to handle at any given moment.

One of Mikhail Ryabko’s words to the beginners is “Be a good person and everything else will come to you.” In a simple, yet comprehensive way Systema helps you choose and follow the right path.”

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Stan Del Carlo

Can you please supply the link to the letter composed by the Plejaren that was written to the U.S.federal government?

Thank you

Melissa Osaki

Here’s the link, but it’s not https:, so you’ll have to enter it in the address bar manually. Make sure you close all the spaces on the link. http:// theyfly.com/ 1979_Letter.htm

Melissa Osaki

These are all valuable insights and greatly needed with all the stress from the pandemic. I’ve also noticed that many folks are exhausted, worn out, and at their wits end from all the political and religious pandemonium in the world.

Breathing correctly really does make a difference.

Terry Carch

Hi Melissa I usually try to do breath work while meditating but some days I`m so stuffedup due to airborn allergies so some days are better than others. I also try to do the Salome peace Peace Meditation when ever I can to quiet Planet Earth down too. Salome

Anita Marek

I have been using breathwork since 2019. First it was the Wim Hof Method, now I am trying dopamine activation breathing by Marcel Hof. Both techniques are very beneficial. Reduction of stress levels are felt immediately after you complete exercise also mood gets regulated. I use the breathwork together with joga and cold exposure.
Will perhaps try out Systema breathing too…the price is not really high for the courses.

Elias Gutierrez

I try to do breathing exercises (or meditations) in the mornings when I wake up, and before I go to bed. They work wonders. Also, Billy’s meditations also helps tremendously like his 77 Point Meditation

Terry Carch

MH I just heard on CNN that teachers in Arizona are resigning due to the corona virus out brake concers. Checkthis out on cnn.com