Recovery is an often neglected, but critical phase of any exercise or practice that pushes the body or mind out of its norms. However much attention we give to a practice session, we should give equal attention to recovery. But recovery is not just a static return to norms, although that is sometimes used as a benchmark. Ultimately, recovery also involves assimilation of the training and adaptation to new norms. After all, the exercises are meant to have an effect on you.
Much can be learned from actually practicing recovery. Too often people don’t recover properly because they don’t understand the process or they have not bothered to look inside themselves to see what is going on. So we can approach recovery as its own practice, and learn from it.
Through observing the process of recovery, we can learn a lot about the body, the mind, and ourselves. What happens to the body when we push it? What happens to the mind when we stress it? What body and mind elements do we most identify with and why do we suffer when they are taxed?
By actively engaging in the process as a practice, we can learn to recover faster when we are tired, out of breath, stressed out, afraid, or in pain. This is an incredibly useful skill — more useful than any particular movement or technique. It is a skill that directly facilitates survival, comfort, insight, and joy.
STEP BY STEP
1. Recover from breath hold: Lie down, get comfortable, and take an internal picture of you feel a kind of baseline. Note tensions, sensations, thoughts, emotions, et cetera. Now, Inhale … exhale … and when you’re at about neutral pressure inside and outside stop breathing. Hold your breath long enough to induce some internal tension, fear, and stress and watch carefully to see how these things arise and the course they take. Hold a little bit longer … and when you start breathing again, inhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth to facilitate recovery. Allow the breath to find the right rhythm to restore the body to baseline. Watch carefully the progress of recovery, and pay particular attention to heart rate and any feelings of anxiety and shortness of breath. Once the body stabilizes again, you find yourself taking a big breath as it settles back down.
2. Recover from exercise: Again, take an internal snapshot as your baseline. Then get into push-up position. Inhale … exhale … hold you breath, and do 1 push-up. Then lie down and breath in through the nose and out the mouth to recover, monitoring carefully your internal state. Be sure that you have recovered fully, and when you have, get into push-up position — inhale … exhale … hold your breath, and do 2 push-ups. Then lie back down again and recover. Continue like this until you’ve done 5 push-ups on a breath hold, and then go back down, each time making sure you have recovered fully from the exercise.
3. Recover while moving: Start with a slow walk. Inhale … exhale … hold your breath. Walk with breath held until you feel you have to breath again. Then start breathing, in the nose out the mouth, and do any other exercise while you recover — push-ups, sit-ups, jogging, rolls, crawling, et cetera. When you have recovered repeat the process, only this time try a different exercise for recovery. Pay attention to which exercises seem to facilitate your recovery more. This will vary by individual, circumstance, and what stressors are involved.
a. This is just to give you some practice with facilitating and speeding recovery through focused breathing, and to get you into the habit of monitoring your internal state.
b. We are using basic breath-holds as a method for stressing the body and to have something to recover from. Other stimulus can be used, including any exercise, work stress, pain, et cetera. It’s important to see that the application of this work is wide ranging, and reaches into all areas of one’s life.
c. While recovering, if you can link your breathing to heart rate — for example, three beats inhale three beats exhale — you may be able to expert some control of actively slowing the heart rate. When you listen for the pulse, do so internally if possible, not with a finger to your neck or wrist. Develop the kind of internal sensitivity that allows you to know how hard your heart is working.
d. As with all these exercises, it’s vitally important that you actually do them and observe yourself if you wish to have any understanding of what they’re teaching. There is no substitute for doing the work.
More than any other exercise, the practice of monitoring stress and its effects offers benefits in every area of our lives, be it work, relationships, health, or happiness. If you don’t see the wide-ranging benefits of this training, you are missing the point. It can truly transform how you live.
So in addition to the focused exercises, it’s important to make an effort to notice stresses in your daily life. Pay attention to when you are holding your breath, tensing up, getting worried, becoming anxious, or angry. When it happens, take a moment to practice recovery, calm yourself down and return yourself to a more neutral baseline.
When we allow stresses to go unnoticed and do nothing to bring the body and mind back into balance, we are headed for trouble. Eventually we will become overloaded and have some kind of meltdown. Depending on the situation that could be an embarrassment, miserable, painful, unhealthy, or even life threatening.
Because recovery is so neglected, it’s helpful in some sense to make it the focus of your practice. All the exercises you do, are just to create opportunities for practicing recovery, which includes skill assimilation, as well as mental and physical adaptation.
Every day for 1 week, monitor your stress levels throughout the day. Practice recovery as needed, and spend 5 to 20 minutes working on focused recovery by deliberately stressing the body and mind with various types of exercise and breath holds, and then practicing active recovery and observation.
Observe and understand stress responses and the recovery process in yourself. Develop instinctive practices that enhance recovery time and efficacy. Notice stress levels as they’re happening in the context of your life and apply appropriate recovery strategies.
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