Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Squats

INTRO TALK

The squat is another classic movement that many people treat as a prescribed exercise only. However, nothing could be more natural than a squat. Babies do it at about twenty months, and for most people all over the world they continue to squat on a regular basis — to do work, to wait, to rest one’s legs, to relieve oneself, and so on.

If you want to move freely squatting is a fundamental position, and if you want to build functional capacity in the legs, squats are of course great exercise too.

In our progression, we will treat the squat similarly to how we treated push-ups and sit-ups. It’s important to examine how tensions in the body allows or inhibits squatting, how tension builds throughout movement, and how to coordinate breathing.

We will also look at the importance of pushing oneself beyond initial thresholds for fatigue, unpleasantness, and mental resistance. This is a lesson that can be applied to all our work, and especially push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.


STEP BY STEP

1. From standing, on the inhale squat down, all the way if you can or as low as you’re able. Note how the tension builds and at about half-way down, 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 going 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. Then do a few squats where you inhale all the way down and exhale all the way up, and vice versa, checking and minimizing tension levels as you work.

2. Do a single squat as slowly as you can, breathing continuously in the nose and out the mouth. Move at a constant rate. Don’t speed up. Watch as the tension, pressure, pain, and discomfort builds. Breath into it and release, but continue your slow pace all the way down and all the way back up. If your legs start to shake, let them shake, let your whole body shake, but continue your slow pace through the whole squat.

3. Try some freestyle variations. With each squat, change your feet positions — wide narrow, lunge forward, lunge back, different angles, all the way up onto tip-toes, with a jump, and so on. Breath freely with the movement, as needed, making sure you’re not holding your breath.

NOTES

a. Try to keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed. For a straight squat keep you feet pointed forward and heels on the ground. If you can’t go into a full squat, go as far as you’re able.

b. The slow squat exercise can be done on a count if needed — say a ten count down and ten count up, then twenty count, and then even a forty count down and up. If you haven’t had doubts about what you’re doing in the middle, you haven’t gone slow enough. The same can be done with push-ups, sit-ups, and leg lifts. This is great work that pushes you mentally and physically.

c. Remember that at the end of the day squatting down is just squatting down and standing up is just standing up. We can work on fine tuning details and that’s good, but don’t trade natural movement for one specific technique.


GOING DEEPER

If we just go through the motions of an exercise, without actually pushing the boundaries of our comfort, our progress and opportunities for insight will be small. On the other hand, if we push at the boundaries of our selves, of our fears, our self judgement, our pain, an so on, our progress and opportunities for insight will expand proportionally.

We should, of course, look after our health in a responsible way. We are not trying to injure ourselves. The work should be done in a way that heals and strengthens the body. But nevertheless, we have to work and we have to push ourselves.

On the level of exercise this means pushing past our initial discomfort, fatigue, and psychological resistance. Only then does the real transformative work begin, because we are taken out of our conditioned conditioned responses and forced to find new ways to continue, activating dysfunctional areas and finding hidden reserves of strength.

On the spiritual level, we push at the boundaries of ourselves. We work to challenge our conception of who and what we are. Only then can we discover that we are not our thoughts, we are not our fears, we are not our judgments, we are not our pain. And beyond all of that, we may discover what we really are.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with various movements, and then spend some time working on squats. Do at least one slow squat and 1 minute of continuous free-form squats. For deeper practice double the time to 2 or 4 minutes squats.

OBJECTIVES

Increase freedom of movement and overall health and functional strength in the legs by challenging yourself with a variety squats.


COURSE SYLLABUS

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