Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Most Important Lesson I Learned From My Father

My father devoted his whole life to the study and teaching of exercise (tai-chi, chi-gung, yoga), and so when I returned home to see him in his last years, I was very much shaken that despite his dedication to exercise and health practices (Chinese folk medicine), that he was not immune from the contemporary ravage of our times -- which are the dementias (Alzheimer's, etc.), characterized by decreasing brain function in otherwise healthy individuals.

And in fact, therapists sent over would remark and marvel at the fact that my father seemed remarkably vital and youthful -- even that his skin seemed as "soft as a baby's." So it was very disturbing that despite the years of attention to maintaining his health in his personal quest for immortality (the objective of Taoists), he had failed in this peculiar way by which the body remained quite functional -- but seemed to be disconnected entirely from the mind (brain), and so there was no recognizable sense of responsiveness any more, with no hope for improvement and recovery.

That is a very profound realization to come to -- that all one's efforts are futile, and all the therapists and experts, merely concur that there is no possibility for change in any positive fashion anymore.

And so I thought about it -- that maybe even exercise didn't work -- or at least exercise as it was practiced for even thousands of years, didn't address the one thing it had to do -- and that was retain, maintain and strengthen the connection of the mind (brain) with the body, in making head movement integral to all movement. That had never been done -- because the peculiarly of thinking of exercise for the mind/brain, was that it was not subject to the rules that governed all other parts of the body -- and that is, in order to improve the health and functioning of a particular region, one has to actually move that pat of the body -- and that it wouldn't just happen by wishing/thinking it so.

And then when focusing on the movement of the head as paramount, I then realized that the movement of the head, was critical to the muscular state of every other muscle in the body -- because that was the essential function of the human body -- head movement and facial expression above all else. And really, nothing is more meaningful and sensible.

Most of the exercises people still do, treat this is as an unnecessary attention and focus, preferring to focus on what they call the core muscles at the center of their body -- while presuming that any increase in heart rate must produce a corresponding increase in circulation to every part of the body, as though that effect was random, instead of following fixed pathways of increasing resistance to the extremities. First because it has to travel a greater distance, and through much narrower pathways, often where the resident pressure, is even higher than the propelling pressures such as the heart. The vessels closest to the heart, are larger and so any stimulus in them, will be at the expense of the smaller capillaries a greater distance away. The greatest increase, will be observed to the body's own coronary arteries -- or to the heart itself, rather than the more distance brain -- if a deliberate attempt is not made to change predisposition.

It is after all, the brain that regulates the heart, and not simply the heart that ensures optimal brain functioning -- obviously. The more I observed highly functioning individuals in every activity, the more apparent and obvious it became to me, that those who were the best in their activity, were those with the greatest retained muscular development of the neck and facial muscles -- which are basically ignored in most exercise strategies. And in fact, the usual regard, is to regard them as simply stumps, or stubs -- attached to the important core of the heart and larger muscles.

But even in performing an obvious movement for the development of the core muscles of the abdominals, one will note that head movement necessarily precedes any torso movement -- and in fact, it is the head movement alone, that can effect the fullest range of contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles, without any torso movement taking place at all. That is the effect the movements at the extremities have in activating the supportive (core), that is not true vice-versa, and in fact, is mostly irrelevant to accessing the fullest range of muscular states which are in fact, meaningless as well as counterproductive to ensuring the optimal circulatory effect to the extremities of the head, hands and feet -- which implies all else, but not vice-versa.

And so I learned definitively from my father, what did not work.


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