Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Push-ups


In addition to being a good exercise, so much can be learned from the simple push-up and its endless variations. But forget about maybe 90% of what think of when you think of push-ups. Try to approach this with a real beginner’s mind. The practice here is quite different from what you may be used to.

As with all the exercises, what’s presented here is just what I’m calling Level 1, meaning it’s a place to get you started. Deeper insight takes time and experience. But whatever we are doing in life, we can only experience what we’re experiencing right now, and we can only see what we can see right now. If we engage fully with this moment, then in the next moment we may see something entirely different.

This approach to push-ups is not as an exercise to build upper-body muscular strength. It will do that to some degree, but in end that’s very limited and there are many more aspects of doing push-ups that are much more interesting and beneficial.

When doing these push-ups, we are developing relaxed strength, whole-body strength, spiritual strength. Some hallmarks of this method are coordinating breath and movement and using only enough tension to accomplish the task. In this way, we are still looking to maximize relaxation in the movement. We’re just making the movement a little bit harder. :)


1. Get into a push-up position. If you need to, go from your knees, making sure to relax the lower part of the legs. As you inhale, start to go down. Note how the tension builds and at about half-way, exhale, releasing as much tension as you can as you continue the rest of the way down. Then go up the same way, inhale and start pushing up. Note the tension building and at about half way, exhale as much tension as you can as you push the rest of the way up.

2. Next, do a few push-ups where on the inhale you go all the way down and on the exhale you push all the way up. And try the reverse, exhaling down and inhaling up. Try not to let tension build up in the movement. Check yourself to see that you aren’t tensing your muscles more than you need to keep form and go up and down.

3. Now, try some freestyle variations. With each push-up, change your hand and feet/knee positions. Breath freely with the movement, as needed, making sure you are never holding your breath


a. Don’t be worried about how many push-ups you can do, especially at the beginning. If you focus on numbers, you will not pay attention to body alignment, breathing, and tension. You will end up sacrificing quality practice for achieving a number.

b. Treat the push-ups as part posture exercise — making sure head, neck, back, and hips are in alignment — and in part relaxation under pressure exercise.

c. Make breathing primary by engaging breath before movement, by focusing attention on the breath rather than muscles, and by inhaling into tension and exhaling excess tension.

d. Don’t do so many push-ups that you over-strain yourself. And don’t do so few that you aren’t challenging yourself. The push-ups are designed to put pressure on the body and psyche. You have to work.


Pay attention to how your mind responds to doing push-ups. Do you resist working hard? Do you have negative thoughts? These are just more forms of tension. Inhale into them and release the thoughts as you exhale.

Usually the inhibiting factor is not the capacity of the body to do more push-ups. We are limited more by a buildup of resistance in the mind. Clear the mind of all negativity, and see how much easier the push-ups become.

If you’re having a particularly difficult time, you can work on taming the mind by repeating an internal prayer or mantra. If you don’t know what to say, try the words “Lord have mercy.” It’s pretty neutral and captures the feeling of surrendering your self and the situation to a higher power.


Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, and crawling; then spend 1 minute on the ground doing push-ups. For deeper practice double the times to 2 or even 4 minutes of steady-paced push-ups.


Maintain calm, clear mind and relaxed body, while under the pressures created by doing push-ups.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice