Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Comprehensive

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This is the final lesson for Movement 1. If you’ve enjoyed this free course or benefited from the practices, please consider making a donation. It’s easy to to do through the donation page on this website. All contributions are deeply appreciated and go to support future projects and teaching.

I want to once again thank Kaizen Taki of Movement Daily, as well as Vladimir Vasiliev, Konstantine Komorov, and the larger Systema community, without whom I would not have been exposed to this type of training. So much has been given to me, and through this course I hope to have passed on some of my understanding and insights into these practices.

INTRO TALK

When I started this course, I wanted to share some of the elements of my own training to help my students and other interested people with their movement, exercise, and solo practice. And I wanted to give people some direction for using their everyday training as a vehicle for self inquiry.

We’ve gone a long way toward laying out a framework of movement that can serve as the backbone for extensive practice — even life-long practice. There is so much more to explore with even these simple exercises. The scope of this kind of practice is a large as you care to make it.

For each lesson, I had to choose carefully just a few exercise that would point you in the right direction. There is so much more I would have liked to show you. But it’s impossible to show everything at once. I will continue to point and to answer any questions you may have, but ultimately, practice is a journey you have to discover for yourself.

In this final lesson, we’ll be taking all the different elements we covered — ground checks, turnovers, crawling, push-ups, rolling, sit-ups, transitions, squats, jogging, free move, walking, and recovery — and combine them into a 20 minute workout you can utilize in your daily training. And as usual, we’ll look at how to go even deeper.


STEP BY STEP

1. Get a timer you can use to time the practice intervals. Countdown timer on your phone will do, if you don’t have a dedicated interval timer. I use an app called seconds that allows my to quickly program different exercises for different times and link them all together. It has a voice which cues your next exercise, which means you can just keep moving! :)

2. Get ready! For each exercise, you’ll just be doing freestyle movement as follows:

    • Ground Checks — 1 minute
    • Turnovers — 1 minute
    • Crawling — 1 minute
    • Push-ups — 1 minute
    • Rolls — 1 minute
    • Sit-ups — 1 minute
    • Transitions — 1 minute
    • Squats — 1 minute
    • Jogging — 1 minute
    • Free Move — 3 minutes
    • Walking — 2 minutes
    • Transitions — 1 minute
    • Recovery — 5 minutes

NOTES

a. Look at the progression of exercises. They start with just lying on the ground in various positions while releasing tension. Then they slowly build in intensity. At or around Free Move (before or after), you can start to back off on the intensity, and start a gradual downshift toward cool down and recovery. Note that there are two Transitions segments. The first one is still ramping up in intensity, while the second one is more like a cool down. Remember that even while increasing intensity, we are still trying to minimize tension.

b. It’s normal for this practice to vary day by day according to you mood and needs. Listen to what your body is telling you and allow your practice to be self guiding. Some day you need high intensity, others will be more focused on relaxation and inquiry.

c. During Free Move, you can really do any kind of work you like, including more of any of the other exercises or combining all of them. Listen to your body and see what it needs and how it wants to move.

d. For Recovery, I usually lay flat on my back and just breath, restoring my body to a pre-exercise baseline and then going into a deeper state of mind-body relaxation. This is a perfect time to continue with further meditation and inquiry.


GOING DEEPER

Movement is only a part of this practice. The approach is really broad in scope. We are using movement here at a sort of entry point or a gateway into what is ultimately a larger holistic practice.

To go deeper, we can first take all the exercises we have done so far and explore them in different environments and with different parameters.

If you have been practicing in your living room, for example, try rearranging all the furniture, closing your eyes, and then doing all the same work. It will be totally different. Or better yet, go outside, in the yard or in a forest somewhere and see how the practice changes and how you change. Roll around on the rocks, crawl into the water, run up a hill, and so on.

Next, see that whatever other practices you are already doing or that you take up along the way are not separate from this work. It is the same work. To look inward is what really matters, and to inquire into the nature of things and into the nature of yourself.

So this work really includes all types of health, meditation, and spiritual practices. Massage, sauna, cold-water dousing, good diet and sleep habits, zazen, mantras, rituals, and prayer can all be seen as parts of this great practice. And many more types of practice as well.

Don’t limit yourself. See how everything you are doing, everything you encounter in life, all the ups and downs, and every practice and teacher you are blessed by, are all working toward an understanding and a way of being beyond your current conception of yourself.

It is the nature of paths that we do not really know where they lead. We have to follow them, all the way to the end, to find out.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, do a 20 minute movement workout that incorporates all the movement elements of this course.

OBJECTIVES

Find consistency in daily practice, but allow that practice to expand and change over time. Allow your practice to go where it needs to go, and you will always be in the right place.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Recovery

INTRO TALK

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.

NOTES

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.


GOING DEEPER

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.


ROUTINES

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.

OBJECTIVES

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.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Walking

INTRO TALK

Walking is so familiar that it gives us a unique opportunity to look deeper within. Since we are just walking, it would be difficult to seek something extraordinary or exciting. And yet within this simple movement, there is so much we can explore.

All the same work we began with jogging — working with various breath patterns and manipulating the course of impact waves through body — can be continued with walking. The impacts are smaller so we’ll need to use more sensitivity, but this greater sensitivity allows us to see small variations in greater detail.

Furthermore, because walking can easily be slowed and tempered to a very calm, even meditative state, it facilitates deeper inquiry while moving. So within movement we can explore such things as minute sensations, ego volition, and spacial perception.


STEP BY STEP

1. Walk very slowly and monitor every minute sensation as weight shifts and various pressures and tensions travel through the body. Bit by bit try to adjust your walking to reduce overall tension and any tension that seems to stick out or rise above the overall tone. At first it will just seem to move around from one place to another, but slowly see if you can balance out all the tensions … as much as possible. :)

2. Experiment with placing your attention in the feet, then the calves, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, upper back. Shoulders, neck. Make note of any changes in your walking as you shift your attention to different places. Experiment with generating the walking movement from different areas. There are so many subtly different ways to walk!

3. Close your eyes, and walk around the room. Note how this changes where you place your attention. As you walk, note any anxiety or fear that builds around running into something or not know where you are. And note proximity to walls and object can create a kind of pressure. Relax yourself and walk in such a way that running into something will not injure you. Don’t worry if you run into things, but pay attention to any self-judgment and your desire to do well.

NOTES

a. If you’re ambulatory, there is hardly another exercise that you will have more opportunity to practice. Walking is fundamental movement in our daily lives. Use your everyday walking as an opportunity for practice.

b. If you’re not ambulatory, every practice we have done can be modified to whatever level or type of movement you can manage. The walking part, or the jogging, or push-ups, rolls, or whatever, is just a variety of movements that provide stimulus for inquiry. Find this stimulus within your own movement and activity, pay attention to your body, sensations, thoughts, and do the same kinds of inquiry.

c. There is no excuse not to look into and try to understand yourself. Even if we are on our deathbed, we can look and understand what gets left, what remains, what we are not, and what we really are. True happiness and peace can come from nothing else but recognition of our true nature.


GOING DEEPER

When we walk, we usually perceive ourselves as moving through space or through the world. In other words, what we think of as internal we perceive as moving, while what we think of as external we perceive as being static or stationary. But this is just a particular way of looking at things.

As an experiment, try to see things the other way around. In other words, when you walk try to see yourself as remaining stationary while your walking moves the world — and the entire universe — around you. This may take a little work at first. If you need to, close your eyes and imagine empty space moving around you as you walk.

If you get it, the feeling may be a bit disorienting at first. Suddenly you are seeing the yourself and the world in a whole different way. This is just a step in exploring perception. This kind of exercise can point toward seeing all views as conditioned habits of interpretation, rather than inherent experience. More work will likely be need to uncover the depths of this conditioning.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 10-30 minutes walking, specifically working different breath patterns and experimenting with spacial perception.

OBJECTIVES

Learn to use walking as a the context in which to work on yourself internally and to do serious inquiry.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Free Move

INTRO TALK

To move freely implies more than just do whatever you want. Of course, that fine too. Maybe you are a dancer so you want to dance. Maybe your are a martial artist so you want to kick. Maybe you do yoga and you want to move into your favorite postures. Maybe you feel like doing more rolling or crawling. Maybe you don’t know what to do. That’s all fine.

Whatever the case, though, usually our movement is constrained and guided by prior conditioning — both in patterns of movement and in thoughts. If we are trying to do the exact same thing in the exact same way based on preconceived ideas or prior circumstances, we are not really training for freedom. Instead, we are imprisoning ourselves in a limited conception of our bodies and being. We may or may not break out of this prison later on, but for the time being, we are incarcerated.

So in these exercises, the practice is to move from something other than conditioned thoughts and habitual movements. Be careful though. It is easy to trick oneself. If you say, “I don’t want to repeat my same old patterns, so I’ll do something different,” then you are moving a thought. If you do not think, but just repeat the same old movements, then you are moving from habit. We need to find an origin for our movement that is not prior thoughts and habits.

When we move freely, the body adapts and responds to current circumstances, always attentive and listening to what is really happening now. And when we move from a place of real silence, even if the body responds in a familiar way, it is something different entirely.


STEP BY STEP

0. As preliminary, just move around however you want and see what you do or don’t do, as well as your mind set and how you relate to the body.

1. In the first excercise try to guide your movement be moving into tension. Think of when you wake up and and stretch out to release residual tension get every loose and moving. Feel where there tension stick outs and move to stretch and mobilize those areas.

2. The second exercise is a little more subtle. Try to guide your movement by moving into relaxation. It may help if you create a little tension first on an inhale. Then exhale and follow the direction of the relaxation to guide your movement.

3. The third exercise is more subtle still. In the previous exercises note how the mind tends to pay attention to and identify with either the tension or the relaxation, depending on the instruction. In this exercise, being neither here nor there, move from emptiness, into tension or into relaxation as guided by … what should we say … the whole situation … or just something quite mysterious.

NOTES

a. We might think there’s a lot to wrap our minds around in this section, but that would be missing the point. Explore what is actually happening within yourself and see where it leads. That’s all.

b. Even if you fall into or want to do familiar movement patterns, that’s fine. But look deeper into what’s happening within the movement. Find yourself beyond the body and beyond the movement.

c. This work is endless. So it’s important to practice hard, cultivate curiosity, and have some fun too.


GOING DEEPER

When we approach this work, even with a so-called “open mind”, most of us are still deeply entrenched our ideas about who we are and what this experience of life is. And our own conditioning is a blind spot. We do not see how conditioned we really are, and so we mistake our ideas for reality.

We often act like we know what is going on, without ever having investigated our experience thoroughly and honestly. If we are studying movement, ask yourself: what is the origin of movement? We usually leap at anything we might attribute it to — thoughts, sensations, the ego, the world around us, and so on. But look closely and see if you can ever really pin it down and establish a definitive origin.

Make no mistake: the direction I am pointing challenges all the concepts and ideas you may identify with. If we trace our experience back, looking not just for the origin of movement, but for the origin of our thoughts, sensations, egos, and world … you may discover what first appears to be a kind of emptiness or nothingness. The tendency is to ignore it, but if you would like to go deeper, don’t ignore it. Investigate this too.

Look beyond the prison of your mind, and beyond the prison of your body by seeking the source of yourself. when not bound by thoughts, ideas, and concepts, you truly will understand free movement.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up and spend 5 to 20 minutes doing free movement and inquiring into the nature of this freedom.

OBJECTIVES

While exploring and enjoying movement variety, inquire into and recognize a deeper more profound kind of freedom than the idea of “doing what you want.”


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Jogging

INTRO TALK

Jogging is another movement we have learned to take for granted. It’s good exercise, of course, but it’s also ripe for deeper inquiry.

In the progression of our practice, there are some reasons for starting with jogging rather than walking. At this point we are still increasing the intensity of our work while simultaneously relaxing ourselves. So … let’s jog.

In general, we are using the jogging as feedback for posture and internal tension. We are also using it as a mechanism for relaxing the body further and making sure the whole body is working and ready for more standing movement.

With each step, the impact travels through the bones and tissues of the body like a wave. When it hits tension the wave doesn’t travel through as well or stops completely. If you pay attention you can diagnose and even massage out various tensions just through jogging.


STEP BY STEP

1. Check your standing posture: bend the knees a little and relax the hips and shoulders. Pick your whole foot up as if it were being lifted by a string attached to the knee, and then put it down again as if the string were lowered. Do the same with the other leg … back forth a few times until you get the feel of jogging in place like this, making sure the knees have some bend in them, the hips stay relaxed, back is mobile, and the arms hang freely. Finally take a little jog like this to get the feel of it.

2. Start jogging with the follow breath pattern. Inhale one step, exhale one step. Inhale two steps, exhale two steps. Inhale three steps, exhale three steps. And so on. Go as high as you can, keeping in mind you’ll have to go back down. Let’s say you get to inhale 15 steps and exhale 15 steps. Then go back down, with inhale 14 steps, exhale 14 steps. Inhale 13 steps, exhale 13 steps. All the way back down to inhale 1 step, exhale 1 step.

3. Jog freely in different direction — forward, backward, sideways, and so on. Try long steps, short steps, different gaits, and so on. Look inward and see how the impact of each step travels through the body. Where does the energy go? Where does it stop? Where does it accumulate? Try to jog in such a way that energy passes freely through the body and does not accumulate in any particular area.

NOTES

a. With jogging, as with other exercises, so many breath patterns can be explored. Try triangle type breathing where you inhale, hold, exhale for your steps, or box breathing where you inhale, hold, exhale, hold for your steps. And this is only the beginning. Breathing itself is a much deeper topic than a few patterns.

b. Too much tension in the joints prevent them from functioning properly to absorb and transmit impact. Examine the tension patterns inside your body while you jog. Are impacts predominantly hitting one area or joint, or are they distributed throughout the body?

c. Jogging has ancient roots. Our ancestors jogged for hunting, survival, travel, and surely pure joy. Jogging can be good check on the status of your mind. Go for a run and watch your thoughts. See what kind of thoughts intrude. After a mile or two, you will have a good picture of your mental blocks and habits.


GOING DEEPER

Once we begin to see how the impacts created by jogging travel through the body as waves, where they go and why, we can begin to manipulate the waves through changes in body structure, tension, and density.

Work on changing the course of the impact wave by experimenting with slight changes in posture, gait, and breathing. See if you can direct it into various areas and body parts. And see also that the source of the walking can come from different areas as well.

Now, just by jogging, we can work from and massage various parts of the body: the feet, calves, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, upper back, neck, and so on. Jogging then becomes a way of diagnosing various dis functions and of healing them.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 5 to 20 minutes jogging. Work different breath patterns, and use the jogging to relax yourself and massage different body parts.

OBJECTIVES

Learn to jog in a efficient way that keep you healthy and expands breath capacity. Use jogging to remove stress, re-pattern conditioned tension, and even heal injuries.


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

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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Transitions

INTRO TALK

Until now we have been working on ground movement up to the point of doing rolls and sitting upright. Now we will begin to work on transitions from lying down to standing up and back down again.

The ability to get down on the ground and get back up can be a good indicator of overall mobility and potential life-span. It is fundamental movement that promotes health and well-being, reduces fears and stress, and increases one’s sense of freedom.

I often recommend transitions as a daily practice for people of all ages. It can be done with assistance if needed, and as slowly as necessary. But consistent practice can promote health and mobility throughout our lives. With proper attention, it also offers deep insights into the nature of self.

In the progression of our practice, transitioning to standing opens up a whole new realm of training. Transitioning up and down completes the evolutionary cycle of fundamental postures. And the possibilities for movement within are limitless.


STEP BY STEP

1. Stand up and go back to the ground in as many different ways as you can, using assistance if needed. Breath continuously and go slow. Check yourself at various stages and actively minimize, release or redistribute any tensions or fears that arise.

2. Next start to focus on breathing. Inhale and start going down. About halfway down or when the tension peaks, exhale and continue the rest of the way down. Then inhale and start going up. About halfway up or when the tension peaks, exhale and continue the rest of the way up.

3. Exhale and go all the way down. Inhale and go all the way up. Then reverse — inhale down and exhale up. If this is too much, go back to exercise 2. If it’s easy, try down and up on the inhale and down and up on the exhale. and so on.

4. If you’re having trouble with coordinating breath and movement, watch and follow the natural rhythm of your breathing. Move toward up when you are inhaling and move down when you are exhaling. Once the breath feels primary, you can start to stretch out the breathing a little while keeping in your awareness.

NOTES

a. Monitor physical and psychological tension throughout the movement. Check yourself when fully lying down that you have fully relaxed before going back up.

b. Lead with the breath by starting inhale or exhale just prior to movement. Try to time the cycle to complete as the movement completes.

c. Press at trying more difficult breath patterns and go back to easier ones, aiming to find a place where breath and movement work together to create comfortable transitions that can be sustained indefinitely.


GOING DEEPER

This practice to very deep when you begin to look at coordination of mind, breath, body, and movement. And when you begin to ask questions like: How is the body controlled? Who is controlling it? What is the difference between mind, breath, body, and movement?

There’s not time in this Level 1 course to detail progressions on how to use transitions as a form of self inquiry. But start by asking these questions, and by trying to observe and manipulate the coordination of the mind-body elements.

Finally, as you go up and down, quiet the mind, slowly withdrawing the ego and volition. Allow all the elements — mind, breath, body and movement — to find their own self-coordinated and synchronized rhythm.

Allow everything to happen on its own and you may experience total unification — mind and body, inside and outside, movement and stillness. Ultimately, there are no differences, whatsoever.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up on the ground with various movements, and then spend 5 minutes working on transitions. For more practice work for 10 or even 20 minutes on your transitions.

OBJECTIVES

Increase freedom of movement and overall health by developing a wide variety of adaptive, smooth, relaxed transitions between lying down and standing up.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Sit-ups

INTRO TALK

Sit-ups are a classic exercise, but again, forget your idea of sit-ups. We’re not here to crunch out six-pack abs, either in terms this course or in the larger sense of our lives and this world.

Because the task is somewhat simple, now is a great opportunity to put everything we’ve learned so far together and go deeper into it. The first step is reminding yourself of what we’ve covered in previous lessons and applying it to sit-ups.

Sitting up is not an exercise! It is not an artificial movement rooted in an idea. It is completely natural and is just something human bodies do when they’re able. Learn to sit up with relaxation, smoothness, and comfort. Sit up while breathing, and with a calm mind.


STEP BY STEP

1. Lay on your back with legs relaxed and sit up using no arms and minimal tension. Try from different positions on the ground and to both sitting on your butt and sitting on the knees, if you can do it.

2. Experiment with legs and arms in space as counterbalances and to help assist sitting up.

3. Maintain continuous movement, from lying down to sitting and back to lying down.

NOTES

a. Remember the progression from previous exercises. Check yourself in and between movements. Breath into tension and release any excess.

b. Take care not to grind your spine against the hard ground when you go down. Be mindful how you position your body, so softer areas can make contact first and ease your transition to lying down.

c. Study and develop different seated postures to expand the range of seated positions.


GOING DEEPER

Although sitting up is completely natural, it profoundly changes our relationship to the ground. It changes our spinal axis from horizontal to vertical, fundamentally changing our orientation to space, gravity, the earth below and the heavens above.

Various kinds of sitting meditation are a backbone of spiritual traditions around the world. When considering the fundamental postures of lying down, sitting and standing, sitting is a kind of middle point — a position in which our top half is upright, while our bottom half is still firmly on the ground.

Sitting encourages a balance between relaxation and attention, between restfulness and activity. In this orientation, we are invited into deeper inquiry and an expanded dimension of our practice.

So for 10-45 minutes a day just sit in a meditative posture — cross-legged or in a chair, back straight, eyes soft, breathing through the nose. No need to do anything special — just sit there and see what happens when you do this consistently.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, crawling, push-ups, and rolls; then spend 1, 2, or 4 minutes doing a variety of continuous sit-ups.

OBJECTIVES

Make sitting up smooth and intuitive from any laying down position to any sitting up position.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Rolls

INTRO TALK

As children you may have done log rolls or somersaults down a hill, or spun around with joy. There’s something freeing and fun about rolling that we can recapture in practice.

Rolling around on the ground is a primal, healthy instinct that begins with some of our earliest movement. To some extent, we continue this movement regularly when we roll over in our sleep or roll out of bed in the morning. So let’s bring this movement into our intentional practice.

Rolls can be a slightly more technical and challenging than the previous exercises, depending on each person’s body condition, internal tensions, flexibility, and so on. But if you’ve gotten this far, you will be able to do some kind of roll and improve over time.

It’s important to start slowly so the body understands the movements before throwing yourself into more dynamic rolls. All the work we’ve done so far will help. You may be putting yourself into new positions, so make sure you relax yourself. Don’t allow tension to build up. Keep a calm mind and relaxed body as you roll around.


STEP BY STEP

1. Log Roll: Lay on your back, put your arms and legs in the air and move them around slowly to explore how subtle changes in limb position affects movement. With the arms and legs in the air, roll onto side, stomach, side, and back.

2. Back Roll: Do a leg lift, and if you can extend the legs all the way behind your head. From here, turn your head to side and roll over your shoulder, either to your knees or stretching your legs out so you go onto your stomach.

3. Forward Roll: If you were able to complete a back roll, you can literally reverse the movement to understand a basic forward roll. Otherwise, from your knees, reach out with arm, twisting it forward until your palm is flat on the ground and get the back of the same shoulder on the ground. From there, slowly roll over to the opposite shoulder and down the side of the back.

4. Challenge: Combine three types of rolls into one movement.

NOTES

a. Use very slow rolling to explore balance, control, and relaxation if various positions. See if you can stop and reverse the roll at any point.

b. If your feel you’re stuck and that in order to continue you will have throw yourself forward, some kind of tension is stopping you, often in the lower back. It could be structural and something you have to work with/on. Or it could just be fear — the body doesn’t understand the position and reacts by tensing up. Try breath into the tension, then release and relax as much your can on exhale. See if that allows you to continue the roll.

c. There are more roll variations but practicing these three provide a solid foundation for further exploration.

d. I’ve done my best with the written instructions, and they will serve well as a reminder, but seeing the teaching segment video is really necessary here.


GOING DEEPER

If you ever feel discouraged your practice, that is a good opportunity to examine yourself — your expectations, your hopes, your fears. It all goes very deep into the ideas we have about ourselves and our life.

Why are you doing this practice? What do you expect will happen? What do you expect to get out of it? Why have you sought out this training? In even attempting this, what are you trying to tell yourself. The truth is: we don’t know. We have to persevere in practice to find out.

At times we may get excited about sudden insights and where they might lead. At time we may feel we’re your hopeless and dejected. Whatever happens, don’t get too caught up in emotions. Just see them for what they are and continue to practice with patience and resolve.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, crawling, and push-ups; then spend 5 minutes working on your rolls and rolling around on the ground. If you want more, do 10 minutes, or even 20 minutes of continuous rolls.

OBJECTIVES

Roll comfortably and smoothly on a variety of surfaces while increasing relaxation, range of motion, and coordination of movement.


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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Push-ups

INTRO TALK

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. :)


STEP BY STEP

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

NOTES

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.


GOING DEEPER

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.


ROUTINES

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.

OBJECTIVES

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


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