Let Every Breath… Secrets of the Russian Breath Masters
Let Every Breath gave me a lot to think about and at least eight years' worth of things to work on. Well worth reading.
It's a good book. I found the worshipful admiration and gratitude for his teachers a little off-putting … but I do appreciate the humility and gratitude that makes someone want to share how amazing someone else is. However, when I recommend it to others – and I will – I will probably suggest they begin in chapter 3, where the breath teaching starts.
The Russian Orthodox flavor was great. Many martial arts texts (particularly the older ones, but also a number of the new) are tinged with religion. After so many Buddhist, Daoist, Shinto, etc, it was nice to see an Eastern Christianity view.
You can tell that the creators of this method were special forces and that a lot of the early training was military. You can tell that the author practices about a dozen martial arts very intensely. How? The really rather sweet, innocent assumption that everyone who reads this book is an athletic male in his prime.
I have had to completely adjust every single exercise shown in this book to something I could do.
First they have you doing lots and lots of push-ups while doing interesting breath patterns...with no tension anywhere in your body. Just as I was trying to figure out if I (with my pathetic upper body strength) could possibly work up to doing a push-up that slowly if I did it from my knees, the author has a helpful suggestion. Guess what? If doing endless slow push-ups is so easy that not only do you not have any muscular tension but you're actually bored, you can hook one ankle behind the other to make it more interesting!
I had to put the book down to laugh.
I remember my first day of kindergarten. I was four years old. I remember my mounting panic as I struggled to sit up as the teacher instructed, with my legs out straight ahead of me on the floor and my torso perpendicular to the floor. I couldn't do it. My legs simply aren't flexible like that. So I particularly enjoyed it as the writer explained that the double leg lift was easy for breath work because hey! Who can't just slowly lift both legs to a 90 degree angle without any tension? The trick, he says, is knowing when to stop so you don't overfill those lungs. Oh, and stop a lot along the way, not letting your back arch.
My Army friends would probably have a blast with this. But I am modifying every exercise for myself, based on the thought that breathing in these patterns under physical stress will probably bring me most of the same benefits: it just takes a lot less to stress my body that it does for, say, a Navy Seal.
Yes, as other reviewers have said, the actual content is more of a fat pamphlet than a book. But it is a very valuable fat pamphlet. It will take me several years to work through this, and more to make it a natural part of my everyday life. I am grateful that the author boiled down this game-changing teaching into so few words, so that we can grasp the important things and start working on them immediately. It is simply and purely the fundamentals, without frills to obscure the important parts. It is well explained and simple. And every coach, every sensei, every trainer will tell you that it's the correct practice of the fundamentals that matters.