Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lifting Your Own Weight

All my life, I've pondered the question, "What is the most essential movement (exercise) to do?"  Obviously, that would probably be a movement one takes entirely for granted -- but shouldn't.  That is the key to their entire well-being, and differentiates those thriving, from those retreating and withdrawing from life.

The question can also be rephrased, "What is the most efficient way to lift one's own bodyweight?" -- which many offhand will dismiss as impossible, only for world-class athletes, rather than something everyone needs to do daily -- as many times as possible, and doing so, will ensure their good health.  It defines their good health -- and capabilities, all things being equal.  That is the simple act of raising one's (own) bodyweight from a chair or bed, and also lowering one's bodyweight with grace, ease and safety.  

This is particularly important, the older and weaker one gets -- to do this very well, and those who lose this ability and faculty, lose their mobility and basic competency that makes all other movements possible and practical.  Those who lose this facility, are called "incapacitated," or "disabled," even if the capabilities exist, but are never exercised anymore -- at some point in life.

One simply decides at that point, that one can no longer do it -- for one reason or another.  Often, it is for a concern of safety -- that one is too weak to stand up any longer, or one has feet, knee, hip or back pain that makes any movement (change) painful and difficult -- which obviously won't get any better if it is never articulated and exercised anymore.

Yet if there is only one thing a person does, that is the movement that will make the greatest difference in one's health and well-being, and so if a person does nothing else, that would be the movement to master -- and the key to their health, well-being and fundamental strength.  Not coincidentally, the best form for lifting one's bodyweight off of a chair, is the identical movement employed in Olympic weightlifting-- to lift the heaviest weights humanly possible.  That is the movement of greatest economy and efficiency -- and as such, is the fundamental movement that should be mastered by everyone -- whether it is their intention to do a little or a lot.

Learning the proper mechanics and dynamics, also solves most of the back pains and problems of alignment resulting in the abuse and misuse that results in destructive wear and injury.  By using the major (largest) muscles of the legs and back, ensures the proper priority of strength and development, and all else can then be done from this position of underlying, fundamental, "core" strength -- much more so than merely developing six-pack (ornamental) abs.

That (latter) is not an essential development in any practical or useful movement or activity.  The only function is for "show," or display.  Otherwise, it has no useful function -- and may even be counterproductive in producing a development without a usefulness -- as the actual ability to get in and out of a chair or bed easily, competently and gracefully, conveys.  Before one is completely bedridden, they may spend many years being helped into a chair in which they never leave all day.  That is the condition known as infirmity -- or the weakness and inability to do normal things without assistance.

But way before we get to that point, what can one do about it?  That answer is simple and obvious: that is the strength and ability we must cultivate as a priority -- and doing so, will prevent most of the problems of increasing immobility -- from the comfort, familiarity and safety of one's favorite chair.

The beginning position is exactly like that taken to lift the heaviest weights possible -- leaning forward with arms hanging to one's side until one is basically falling out of the chair onto one's legs, and then standing up and completing the movement with a shoulder shrug -- rather than stopping the movement at the lower back, allowing the upper back to remain rounded.  The completion of the lift is achieved when the force generated by the legs is allowed to traverse through the spinal column -- rather than stopped at the lower back, absorbing that force -- causing many people to walk around painfully all day with rounded backs, rather than exhibit a healthy, pain-free arched back as their basic posture.

That is obviously the difference in the healthy posture and a poor one.  That has been the observation, study and practice of yoga -- primarily to develop that flexibility in the spine that allows them to move into an arched position.  The problem is that that is achieved by only using half of one's body -- either from the waist up, or the waist down -- and not wholly and integrally, from the feet on through the neck that restores the fundamental integrity of the body structure to always move completely in that manner.

That's why most "back" movements are ineffective -- for relieving pain and building strength -- because back strength cannot be developed only from the lower back up, or the lower back down -- which are all the exercises we traditionally think of as "back exercises."  The back has to be exercised completely -- from the feet on through the neck -- to revitalize and restore that fundamental strength and functionality of the human design.

That is the quintessential weight-lifting movement of the human body -- just to lift its own bodyweight into the position it can do the most good and be the most effective.  One doesn't have to buy and lift any additional weight -- besides one's own, in the most efficient, economical and effective manner that ensures their mobility and fundamental capacity to recruit the muscles of the entire body -- all at once, every time.  That is the fundamental dance of movement -- to get up and down tirelessly, effortlessly, gracefully -- as long as one lives.

One doesn't have to run, swim or lift a marathon -- until one can't, and then never gets in and out of a chair or bed anymore.  That is their mantra -- what they must become good at.  Getting in and out of a chair as the most fundamental weight-lifting movement -- and doing so, will ensure one perfects that skill all one's life.

In Memoriam,
Tommy Kono, 2016.

From a seated position, feet flat on the floor, head up looking forward, arms hanging alongside the legs, shift the weight forward until it is in front of the toes, raising the hips and straightening the back with a full shoulder shrug -- in a smooth, continuous motion. 

Slowly lower the hips until one is seated again. Repeat ten times.

Repeat throughout the day as often as one is mindful -- but at least ten times to begin each each day, and ten times before retiring at night.  One has just lifted their entire bodyweight in the most useful manner possible.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

All of Life is a Preparation for Whatever Happens

Everything in life doesn't happen by accident.  They happen because we prepare for them to happen.  In that way, the life we prepare for, is invariably the life we live.  That is the meaning behind education, diet, exercise, and caring -- both for ourselves, as well as for others, which is the world we live in.  That is why we must care for the world as much as we do ourselves -- because it is ourselves.

That is a fundamental understanding many people miss -- thinking what they do with and in their own lives, has nothing to do with anybody else's.  They may even think that they are against everybody else -- and are always prepared to be so, as the whole object of their lives, which of course, makes it hard and difficult for themselves -- and everybody else.

That is how they see life and all that is happening in it -- as a struggle against everything and everybody else -- rather than the cooperative effort to make life the best for anyone, which is themselves and the world they live in.  This way of thinking, is often regarded as the highest form of understanding achieved by only a few, after a lifetime of arduous study -- often in separation and seclusion from the world "outside," in a worldview that seeks to separate one thing from every other.

For such persons, life is predictably hard and difficult, full of self-denial as well as the denial of things as they are -- preferring their self-indulgence as how things ought to be.  But no matter how grand their schemes for self-aggrandisement, it is only about themselves -- and not the world they share with anybody else.  That is the anti-social and criminal mind, and to a lesser extent, the dysfunctional personalities we all hope not to become -- who invariably perish prematurely through some misunderstanding of how life could be otherwise -- with or without them.

Assuredly, life will go on -- whether one makes the best of it, or the worst of it.  The wise choice is obvious and preferable -- but an aberrant few, will never figure that out until their dying day -- and all the days before then.  Those are the few who disproportionately "make the news" -- because they are so spectacularly wrong.

There is that tendency in each one of us -- and not that there are the self-righteous "intelligent," and the rest deserving to be manipulated and exploited for their own self-interests.  The problem is in this cultivation of this self -- in opposition to all others apart from the living without the cultivation of the self.  That's where all their energy and thoughts are going -- and so there is none left for the being and doing that actually matters and makes a difference.

That is to be in the reality that matters -- where all things are possible and is constantly evolving towards the greater.  That is the meaning of a better life -- that one becomes increasingly aware of -- and not that it doesn't exist, until one personally discovers it.  It is out there already -- just for the taking.  That is the world we live in.  It already has been created -- it is just what we haven't discovered for ourselves yet -- in the great collective intelligence.  Knowing and learning that -- is what real intelligence is -- and not what one thinks they alone possess, that all the others don't.

That is the flawed understanding of every person living below their potential and actualization -- finding out and knowing the way that works, usually while stubbornly clinging to the way that doesn't for them -- which is their reality -- but not necessarily the greater, and desired one.  That is the conclusion they have to come to -- that it is not working, and not that that is the best that anyone can hope for.

Such a better life, requires decisions that result in different outcomes -- and not merely continuing to do the same things, even while calling it different names.  That is not progress -- or can make a difference.  The word is not the thing itself.  One has to see that distinction.  Wrong effort, is not the same as right effort -- and calling them the same, will not produce the desired outcome.  In this case, it is that any effort is preferable to none -- when all one's efforts are creating and perpetuating the problem -- and are not the solution that one is "too busy" to discover -- first.

And not only is their solution not working for them, but they also feel greatly compelled to see it not work for many others as well -- as their great mission in life, because they just don't know any better, and refuse to learn anything different -- until eventually, they couldn't if they wanted to. But by then, it is usually too late to make a difference, and too late to care.

So while one can, the truly inquiring mind is interested in not what merely confirms their present understanding and limitations as all that can be known, but of determining what they don't know that they think they do.  Therein lies the solution -- and the greater (better) life beyond.