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 thow 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

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Crawling

INTRO TALK

Crawling is a rich area of practice, and in some ways our first two lessons can be seen as preparatory for crawling. They help the body form a proper foundation for further ground movement.

The term crawling here refers not to a specific repetitive movement, but for all low movement across the ground. It is a kind “walking” across the ground using any and all body parts, including the spine, shoulders, hips, forearms, legs, et cetera. Because crawling activates all the different body parts independently and within the whole, this is fundamental work for developing all further movements. A lot of time can be spent developing soft, smooth, free, joyful movement on the ground.

Most types of movement training focus on giving you specific sequences of moves or even sequences of muscle activation, while paying no attention to the internal state from which the movement arises. Our practices here are not about teaching you specific movements or sequences, so much as helping you find internal states optimized for discovering freedom. It’s important to plant this seed and recognize that whatever your current range of motion or physical ability, you are able to engage in this practices. Each person’s crawling may look different, but the important work is happening inside, and is gauged more in terms of contrast and quality than form.


STEP BY STEP

1. Start slowly by lifting up different parts of the body, stretching them out or drawing them it, and then move the whole body by bringing these parts back to more neutral positions. Vary your crawling by changes in direction, orientation, and amplitude.

2. Initiate movement on inhale, then extend or complete movement on exhale. Pay particular attention to comfort (no bones banging against hard surfaces) and relaxation (no tension buildup).

3. Work toward continuous, sustained, non-broken movement with steady breathing that adjusts to maintain even tone. That means breathing rate or intensity increases if the crawling becomes more vigorous.

NOTES

a. As with previous drills it is good to practice on a variety of surfaces. Crawling comfortably on hard wood will require slightly different movement than crawling comfortably on carpet, and again when crawling on a pile of rocks.

b. Work toward coordinating breath and movement, so they support each other. To start, engage the breath just before the movement of the body, and make make sure the breathing is not interrupted by movement.

c. When we first begin crawling, we think about and perform one movement, then another, then the next, and so on. Work toward continuous movement by eliminating the separations between thoughts and movements, so it’s all just one movement. We’ll go deeper into this topic in Level 2.

d. To ground yourself, get on the ground and crawl around a little every day!


GOING DEEPER

If you gradually lower the amplitude of your crawling while looking inward, and keep going until there is no outward movement at all, you may notice there is still continuous movement inside the body. You may detect myriad sensations shooting through the body, like electrical impulses prompting potential movements in various direction.

Additionally, as you inhale the the body expands; as you exhale it contracts. And parts of the body are also expanding and contracting independently. The heart is beating and blood is pulsing. The stomach and intestines are digesting and so on.

With breathing, if the body expands or contracts with perfect symmetry, we stay in one place and feel no direction. But if this fundamental movement breaks symmetry, expanding more on the right than the left, for example, suddenly we may feel a direction for movement.

Usually we think we are the origin of our movement. But we are only looking on the surface, content to reassure our egos that we are in control. Look deeper. What is beyond the electrical impulses? What is beyond the breath? See if you can find the source and origin of all movement.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks and turnovers; Then spend 10 minutes on the ground working on crawling. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even to 40 minutes of continuous crawling.

OBJECTIVES

Understand and maintain comfortable, continuous, fluid movement on the ground, without tension buildup or injury.


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 / Turnovers

INTRO TALK

Today we’re going to work on turning over. As I said in the introduction, the basics will seem very simple at first. To see the fruits of these practices, it’s important to commit to doing them with regularity, and to engaging in an active inquiry into the task at hand with a genuine interest in discovery.

Here are some examples of the kind of questions you can ask yourself: How can I make my movement smoother? Am I relaxed? What resistance do I feel to moving on a hard surface? Is my breathing continuous or are there interruptions? How much residual tension am I holding from one movement to the next? Why do I feel bored or anxious?

We’re just getting started, but these basic exercises and the attitude of inquiry that goes with them are fundamental to the process as we go forward. Eventually, within these very simple activities, it’s possible to find infinite depth and great insight.


STEP BY STEP

1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable.

2. On the inhale or exhale, turn over, front to back, side to side, by leading with different parts of the body. For example start the movement with a hand, elbow, shoulder, foot, knee, hip, or the head, chest, back, and so on. The rest of the body follows, like links in a chain being pulled by the part that initiates the movement.

3. Check yourself to make sure that small amounts of residual tension aren’t being held between movements, or building up over a series of movements. If necessary, slow down and take a few breaths at each stop to ensure maximum relaxation.

NOTES

a. This exercise is an extension of Lesson 1 and the two exercises go together. One focuses on finding maximum relaxation in a variety of static positions, and the next focuses on moving smoothly between these positions without any buildup of tension.

b. Just like Ground Checks, it’s good to try this practice on different surfaces: hard wood, tile, concrete, carpet, mats, dirt, rocks, inclines, et cetera, and to add a variety of obstacles.

c. Mold your body to the ground, being careful to move in such a way that soft body part contact hard surfaces and bony parts are not knocked against hard surfaces. Any pain or discomfort is telling you something. Don’t ignore it.

d. Again this can be used as a bit of a warm-up or as the primary focus of practice.


GOING DEEPER

Turning over smoothly is not just a matter of relaxation. Relaxation will help you to feel what’s going on inside yourself. But don’t stop there.

Usually, there are spikes in localized muscle tension throughout our movement. There are also spikes in psychological tension when we decide to move, initiate movement, and if we experience any discomfort or inhibition.

To turn over smoothly, all these various tensions have to be ironed out and redistributed throughout the body, the mind, and the movement. Relax and slow down so you can notice tension spikes and jerky movement. Allow any tensions that arise to spread out over larger and larger areas, even beyond the body and the mind. Eventually this can lead to insight into how to move and live without any tension at all.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 10 minutes working on ground checks and turnovers. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even again to 40 minutes.

OBJECTIVES

Again, maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. Each time you turnover, check yourself to see that no tension is building up during or between movements. Inhale into tension and exhale release, just as in Lesson 1.


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 / Ground Checks

 

INTRO TALK

Our journey begins with getting comfortable on the ground. When I teach movement-based practice, I often have people start on the ground, then progress to standing up, and at the end we often move back to the ground.

The pattern reflects our experience in life. In the morning we wake up lying down, we progress to standing, go about our day, and at night we lie back down again to sleep. Likewise, in the whole of our life, we begin as infants on the ground, we wiggle around, move a little, turn over, crawl, sit up, eventually stand up, walk, run, and so on. We go about all the activities of our life, for days, weeks, months, years, decades … and at the very end of our life, we lay back down on the ground. Again, in each moment, thoughts, emotions, and sensations rise up within awareness, run their course, and subside again.

This is the natural progression of activity and life. So it makes sense — for health, for relaxation, for fitness, for joy, for inquiry, and for spiritual clarity — that our practice reflects this pattern in various ways.

In this first lesson, we’re going to work on just getting comfortable on the ground. This is important as way to calm the mind and prepare the body for movement. It’s a matter of making friends with the earth and our environment, and of beginning the process of letting go our tensions and fears.


 

STEP BY STEP

1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable. Inhale into any tension you have, then exhale and relax. Scan your body for any residual tension and try to release it by inhaling into the tension and releasing on exhale.

2. On the inhale or the exhale, move to a different position and repeat Step 1.

3. Do this with as many different positions as you can. Start with lying on your back, each side, and stomach. Then continue with multiple variations in each of the basic positions. See how many possibilities you can find, and how comfortable you can get.

NOTES

a. You should try this practice on different ground surfaces. A hardwood floor, a tile floor, carpet, grass, rocks, dirt, and so on, all give different feedback. Somewhat hard and uncomfortable surfaces give great feedback.

b. Continue by adding an obstacle or obstacles — a rock, a child’s toy, sticks, whatever — and continue the practice by lying on them in various positions.

c. If you want to focus on the this practice, treat the practice as a meditation exercise. Start by focusing on the relaxation aspect, then move on to more observation and manipulation-based inquiry. What inhibits deeper states of relaxation? How can these obstacles to relaxation be removed?

d. This practice can also serve to just calm down and get ready before more active and intense movement or practice.


 

GOING DEEPER

As you work on these practices, just when you think you’re completely relaxed, you may discover a deeper tension. It’s like a web, sort of holding yourself together. It may feel like if you released that tension, your body would come apart. It may feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, and if you fully relaxed you would fall.

Remember, when doing ground checks your body is safely on the ground, at one with the earth. It will not come apart or fall. This deeper tension is more like an idea of yourself that you’re holding onto. If you wish to let go of it, give yourself permission to come apart or to fall. Inhale into it … and let go.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 5 minutes working on ground checks. For deeper practice double the times to 10 or even to 20 minutes.

OBJECTIVES

Maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. With each inhale, try to identify tensions and patterns of tension in the mind and body. With each exhale, try to let go of those tensions.


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 / Introduction

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to this series of level 1 practice guides. These exercises have an emphasis on relaxation, mobility, insight, and self-inquiry. The practices will seem very simple at first. But each contains the potential for deeper and deeper inquiry into the body, the mind, the world, and the self.

There will be twelve core lessons, and a few supplementary lessons tying things together. Each lesson will have a video introduction, a video teaching segment, and accompanying written materials, including step by step instructions, notes, training routines, and objectives.

To learn more about my background and approach to practice, visit my website (matthewlowes.com) or read the Practices section of my book, That Which is Before You. I hope you enjoy the guides. See you for the first lesson. :)


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