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      Liv and Kit need your collective help!   10/24/2017

      We are about to make the Absolute Beginner's Stretching series. These will be follow-along, solo exercise programs (no partner work). How do make all those people who need these programs aware of them? I have started a new thread on this topic today: https://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/1355-absolute-beginners-stretching-series/  

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I've been thinking a lot in the past 12 months about muscle tension and flexibility, the idea that a person can be pretty flexible but at the same time very tense: good or bad or indifferent?

I've found that stretching has helped me get more flexible --- even as an adult who now spends way too much time in front of a computer! --- and of course there's the 'learning how to relax/release tension during the stretching' that is necessary to move deeper into a pose.

But, what about being less tense in daily life? I'm not sure there's been much carryover, however, the mobility work seems to be filling that gap in my body. Kit will possibly jump in and argue for lying relaxation as being what I need to do --- I seem to recall him saying that once or twice over the years --- but for whatever reason I don't do it/don't feel drawn to that practise, whereas I do mobility work many times during the day.

Thoughts?

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"I've been thinking a lot in the past 12 months about muscle tension and flexibility, the idea that a person can be pretty flexible but at the same time very tense: good or bad or indifferent?"

Fascinating! I have been playing with this concept for the whole time since being up in Sydney.

It is highly undesirable to be very flexible but tense, IMHO. And further, I will go into this in the second part of the 3 phase video entitled 'Alchemical Stretching' very soon! Flexibility (for me) is a observable range of movement. Suppleness is a palpable softness and juiciness to the soft tissues. Not the same thing.

You want both... I am coming around to actually thinking training suppleness is the higher order skill because it affect-effects emotional and psychic 'flexibility' - it carries over to higher goals more (shoshin, wu wei, Deep Physical relaxation, embodied presence, etc) and because it dissolves character armour more thoroughly. Suppleness seems to also involve more a way of being, a state - flexibility is a quality of the neuromuscular system having been trained. At any rate, why not aim for both?

So, my "Alchemical stretching" is aimed primarily at dissolving character Armour, and secondarily at becoming more flexibility. This is because the intention of Physical Alchemy is different from Stretch Therapy (the above qualities in brackets are desired above being radically flexible, but range of movement is still important and trained).

Lying relaxation is fantastic, Sitting Practice better (deeper) - yoga nidra-esque practices, Sitting Practice, Alchemical stretching, percussion and tissue bouncing exercises, soft body skill work with balls/sticks/etc., and rhythmic oscillation movement work all at the same time is way of the sly man/woman.

This is part of my Re-Enchantment of the Bodymind aspect of Physical Alchemy syllabus. I am also playing with certain new protocols that may allow for stretches to deepen their effect and hit at the more psychic, emotional and deeper structural support tension - I am getting good results. This is the 're-patterning effect' I write about. I am triangulating in on the necessary ingredients to bring this about more easily.

One of my (many) projects at the moment is that I am writing a 'Physical Alchemy Manual' in which I will elaborated on this at length.

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I was thinking somewhat along similar lines this morning (edit re flexibility vs tension). The concept I worked with in a limbering session was to completely avoid any stretch reflex while maintaining a happy state with nice steady breathing.

1. Light shoulder band sequence, ROM only 5min

2. Floor flow, super easy and comfortable 5-10min

3. ROM exploration using the avoidance of stretch concept above - using exercises from how to sit for meditation as the guide. ~30min

On a 0-10 stretch scale, always trying to stay at 0 while moving through the natural and free range. Accepting the completely free range for what it is, not trying to change anything.

4. Also being quiet.

It was very interesting to go for absolutely no stretch/ minimal tension.

I have played with stretch intensity prior to lying/seated meditation and the previous activity has pretty much 1:1 carryover in terms of mental activity in the early minutes of the relaxation.

Edited by AndrewL

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Interesting subject!

I've been arranging it in my mind into yin and yang aspects.

Yang flexibility would be the capacity to create tension at the end range of motion, to deal with movement and loads in both a slow way, and a fast violent way (eg ballistic stretching). This aspect is useful for movement capacity and joint protection. It can also remove a lot of fear associated with certain positions, as the joint becomes stronger and more protected, there is less worry about injury. I'm using 4 methods to deal with this:

- ISO holds (unsupported). EG: standing splits with slippery socks, holding for sets of 30 - 60s, or stance work like ma bu/pu bu/whatever

- Pressing in and out of deep positions with load, either create by body weight, a partner, or holding extra weight

- Ballistic stretching

- Using tissue under load and stretch to balance the body (eg diagonal stretch)

I find that the better I am at this, and the more protected the joint is, the better I can address the yin aspect (which I'll explain in a second), as I have removed one level of emotions (fear of injury) from the equation, and that allows me to concentrate more completely on all of the other things going on.

Yin flexibility. This is the capacity to soften the tissue, "melt" if you will. This is everything Dave was talking about above. This is where the stretch therapy and physical alchemy syllabus both shine considerably, and are actually addressing things that are not available elsewhere. However, addressing this side of things without addressing the Yang side of things can cause considerable problems, mainly from a perspective of joint safety. Flexibility itself is not necessarily a good indicator of yin flexibility, and it appears that in super bendy people, the character armour simply retreats in to deeper areas of tension. Im addressing this topic in my own practice from several angles:

- Stretch Therapy & Physical alchemy stretches, particularly those methods that support the body with deformable objects (or partners/objects that jam you in a position you can relax in). This really is key I think, and we need to start emphasising this more. It allows all of the tension to leave the body (using the going limp cue), but isn't nearly as effective if you have to invite tension into the body to support yourself. However, this isn't the only piece of the puzzle, as I think softness *while moving or holding a structure* is part of this element, and this is not addressed by stretching or lying meditation (lying meditation in this case simply being another full supported position).

- zhan zhuang (standing meditation) - absolutely critical. I was talking to Dave about this being the core practise for anyone really interested in this stuff. The character armour is addressed significantly, as elements of extreme discomfort and boredom both affect this practice considerably, and you either end up having to address this or quit the practice. Also, at some point, an endurance game of 40+ minutes becomes impossible, so it starts to allow the systematic tension to release from the body, and you learn how to relax into your structure. There are other things going on as well, although not easily explained.

- qi gong is also part of the picture. Like the set I showed you guys at the retreat, these repetitive movements do all the same things that zhuang does, but while moving instead of static.

- soft tissue therapy/myofascial release/rollers/etc - all of this acts and great supplements to the above practices, and can rapidly progress some areas that may take many years to address in other ways.

- various seated meditation and internal alchemy practices.

I wouldn't place one at higher importance than another, instead I would say that the most important thing is to find appropriate balance of the two, and between the particular practices within each section. Daily practise is necessary to make any kind of real progress, but not every element needs to be addressed daily. My current routine looks like:

- daily ballistic stretching

- daily seated meditation/internal alchemy practise

- every 3 days doing a series of ISO holds

- every 5 - 7 days doing a few partner stretches with all of the supports and cushions (even been introducing a head rest!)

- a mish mash of intermittent other things like movement, qi gong, ma bu, any classes I attend or teach or whatever. This stuff tends to make a daily appearance, but not always.

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I concur with Craig on the Yang and Yin aspects. Yang is 'Tiger Body' in my system, Yin 'Re-Enchantment of the Bodymind'. I am more interested in the Yin, but still highly interested in the Yang. I am going to re-format my program soon to include more dynamic elements, the likes of which Craig, Emmet and others on the board are playing with.

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Craig wrote:

Quote
I wouldn't place one at higher importance than another,

I would make this distinction, if the person asking the question was already flexible, in a ROM sense, but was not relaxed during normal daily life, and wanted to be.

Olivia's original question was:

Quote
...the idea that a person can be pretty flexible but at the same time very tense: good or bad or indifferent?"

It all depends on what you want. Being aware that one is tense is great if it impels you to do something about it; bad if endured, IMO, because it kills us from the inside. I believe this tension is what Reich described as "character armor" (sic) and it is the genesis of all illness (and of all unhappiness). Reich also wrote that "muscular tension is functionally identical to neurosis" in Function of the Orgasm; he is considered the 'father of bodywork' in the West by many historians; this insight is the foundation. And it must be mentioned here that when we talk about "tension" we mean tension we can't let go of; what physiologists call tonus. This is Latin for tension! We speak of necessary vs. unnecessry tension: if you want to do a pull-up, you'll need necessary tension. It is what I talk about when discussing the real differences between cats and dogs: the speed of, and the extent, to which necessary tension can be let go.

And the great BKS Iyengar wrote (in Light on Yoga) that many gymnasts and dancers are flexible but very few possess the quality that yoga is designed to bestow, that of equanimity.

Right now, as you read what I write here, when you drop your awareness into your tummy—is it relaxed? The state of tension in key body parts internally (the abdomen is the most important one) is isomorphic with one's physical tension I believe and I further believe that this state is what Dave is calling suppleness in his PA work. Personally I feel the cultivation of this internal state of relaxation is more important than range of movement of the limbs. Further I believe there is a low correlation between one's functional range of movement and one's internal state of relaxation. Having said this, if one has cultivated one's physical flexibility as an adult there is a greater carryover, but it may not be a large one.

I can only speak about my own experiences. For me a long period of cultivation of lying relaxation as my primary practice was absolutely necessary to have the direct experience of what it feels like to be totally, fully relaxed. This is why we run lying relaxation sessions on every Into the stretch workshop because the vast majority of our attendees have exactly the same dysfunctional relationship between their internal and external selves. I believe that an internal state of relaxation can be learned; and I find it to be an extremely rare quality in human beings in the modern culture.

When I was on that long retreat in Taos New Mexico I spent most hours of most days cultivating the most deeply relaxed state I could manifest. I've tried many practices but for me the lying relaxation one turned out to be the key. And as an aside I want to mention that the vast majority of Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga practices are done in the Delta state (according to Tibetan teachers I have worked with) and Western science is silent on this fourth mental state, describing it as deep, dreamless sleep or unconsciousness. Here is a typical quote:

Quote
Delta

Once the sleep cycle reaches Delta, the RAS area of the brainstem releases the constraints on the communication between the brain and the body's muscles. However, the body still remains completely still and non-moving through the whole period of Delta sleep. This is not because the body is paralyzed by the RAS, but because the body is now in its most quiescent, relaxed and stress-reduced state. As the brainwaves sink deeper into slower and slower Delta brainwave patterns, the body goes into the lowest blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, metabolism and body temperature it experiences. This is the time at night in which the body recuperates, heals and re-tunes itself for the next day. There are no mental processes, no emotional processes and no sense of time. This is the most difficult time to try to awaken a person sleeping. (my emphasis)

Once again this is not my experience. I recall vividly being fully awake and present doing are lying breath counting practice, and stopping the practice after exactly 120 breaths and when I checked the time, I had been practising for exactly 60 minutes. This means that I was breathing twice a minute and I was fully present while doing so. I need to emphasise that cultivation of the deepest relaxation was the explicit goal of this practise; the intention of any practise is THE most important aspect (in Sk.: sankalpa).

It was not until I had multiple experiences of the same order that the state of muscular tension internally and externally in my body changed forever. My key point here is the same as when I'm teaching a stretching workshop: unless the mind is fully present to the experience the experience may not change the person at all. Recall the experiments that Robert Schleip told us about, where three of his colleagues Rolfed a fourth one under anaesthetic and before and after measurement of range of movement and other metrics showed no change? The key point here is that the mind must be involved in the experience for change to have happened. My argument here is that deep relaxation can be learned and can be reproduced at will if desired once learned. Deep relaxation is a habit that few have.

For someone like myself for whom anger has always been a problem (tension is always involved) and internal and external muscular tension was always high, these experiences were a revelation.

From personal experience I cannot say whether the standing practices will have a similar effect. When I return from Taos I was cultivating a standing practice and I recall doing 60 minutes in the recommended posture on my deck in Hughes many times, the most interesting being in the winter (I did not feel the cold). But because the transformations in my internal body had already happened by that point I cannot attribute that to the standing practices. For someone who has not done the lying practices, the standing ones as described may well be equally effective. In my personal experience it is possible to cultivate a much deeper experience of relaxation in the lying rather than sitting practices, too. But just like in stretch therapy though, each person is going to be subtly and grossly different and I feel that we must try all of these potential paths to find one that works.

I must get back to my practice now but I feel at what I written here is one of the most important things we have been discussing since we all met. I would very much like to continue this discussion.

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Something came to me while I was sitting: the missing piece from the story above is something called dissociation. Used in this context it means when the mind is actually dissociated from the physical body. This happens in lying meditation or yoga nidra practices if one practices for long enough. What happens is that the body relaxes completely (and in my case usually begins to snore; this is now a marker for me) while the mind stays completely awake and clear/aware. The first time this happened to me I was practising alone in a 3 1/2 mat room in Berkeley California. I became aware of the sound of someone snoring near me. When I realise that I was listening to myself I woke up immediately.

What I did not mention in the brief note above is the cause of muscular tension. Our thoughts are the cause of muscular attention. The dissociation I refer to the above is the first step in a process where the body learns to dissociate (at least partly) from what's going on in the mind. And we all know that when the mind is disconnected from the body (as for example when anaesthetised or when we're unconscious) there is extremely low to no muscular tension. The mind creates tension; the same mind wakes us up early in the morning, spinning around ideas, concerns, worries.

So what I am proposing here are a series practices whereby the body can learn to be relaxed and, eventually, no matter what's actually going on in the mind. And this relationship can work the other way as well: when one is agitated or worrying about something or depressed one can tune into the state of the body and the state of the mind will change if the body state itself is sufficiently different (as in relaxed). Now I would be the first to admit that none of this is normal in the sense that very few people in the modern world demonstrate these characteristics. But I do believe there can be learned. And that dissociation I mentioned above is the first step in a much larger process which is what meditation is at least partly about—and that is to realise one day that the field in which thinking is happening itself is a much larger space and is also a very deeply relaxed one. When one can see the activities of the mind in a much larger space, everything changes, yet the appearance stays the same.

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I haven't posted in some time, been busy with... life I suppose.

I'm not an angry person, and it's never been a problem for me. But I am deeply aware of psychological tension generating physiological tension, I see it with patients all the time. 'Deep relaxation' is something I've only experienced in lying meditation, but letting tension go with breathing cues during daily life is working very well for me.

This conversation reminds me of a quote: 'The fist has a form; but hitting has no form'. Tools and practises all have a form, but the greater phenomenon does not. It's great to see the development and discussion of practices to enable what I would call 'The Unfettered body'.

But being able to address the generation of unnecessary tension, rather than addressing results would be the ideal right?

Kit, I'm reminded deeply of Takuan Soho's writings from 'The Unfettered Mind', where he describes 'putting' of the mind (what I suppose I'd call attention or even intention). The description of being 'exceptionally unfree' is my favourite description of 'putting' the mind in the wrong place. 'The right mind is like water, the wrong mind is like ice'.

Personally been working on developing 'right mind' while freestyle wrestling or doing BJJ and letting my body do what it needs to do. It's very interesting to experience. Significant.

I frequently suggest poetry, painting or any other creative practice for people to begin to change the way they think and feel, as they start delving into meditative pathways (One way, many paths?). I can't put my finger on exactly *why* I suggest this though... other than poetry has been powerful for me.

Enough rambling. Just some thoughts. Been silent a long time.

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I frequently suggest poetry, painting or any other creative practice for people to begin to change the way they think and feel, as they start delving into meditative pathways (One way, many paths?). I can't put my finger on exactly *why* I suggest this though... other than poetry has been powerful for me.

This is great. There is something extremely meditative about the creative process, whether it be performance or craft. The letting go of trying to force it a particular way, and just letting it happen I think is one of the most important elements in this. Possibly related to letting go of tension in the body also. Certainly in the Chinese practises, it was well recognised that one could make great progress in self cultivation through the arts of music, calligraphy and tea pouring. I'm sure the same perspective could easily be adapted to other traditions.

Reminds me of this:

There is an old story often told in traditional , . training halls about a confrontation between a master of the Japanese tea ceremony and a ronin, a rogue samurai. It seems the ronin was passing through the village and while in the crowded square, turned abruptly; banging his scabbard against the tea master's hip.

"You banged my sword, the ronin said 'coldly.

"That is a grave insult, and I will kill you for it."

The tea master knew immediately the ronin really meant to kill him, and he was gripped with fear. "I meant you no insult, Noble Sir. Please ' excuse my clumsiness and let me live. As you can see, I'm not a warrior and have no sword." ,

The ronin could smell the man's fear, and it excited him. "Then get a sword and meet me on the road tomorrow at noon. There, I'll let you die like a man. But if you don't show up, I'll find you wherever you are and cut you down like a dog." He turned his back on the stunned tea master and walked away.

The tea master was beside himself with fear. What can I do, he thought. I'm a dead man. Then he remembered hearing that another ronin, a famous master swordsman, was also in the village. Perhaps he will help me, he thought. So he sought out the swordsman and told him his story. He explained that he had money to pay for his services and offered to hire him for protection.

"I don't hire to commoners", the swordsman said coolly. "Use your money to buy a sword and fight your own battles."

"Then will you teach me swordsmanship? I can pay you handsomely.

" I don't teach martial arts to commoners, either.Besides, what do you think you can learn in a day?", the swordsman asked.

"What have I to lose?

" Indeed, thought the swordsman. Even though the man was a commoner, the samurai realized he was an innocent victim needing help. He finally agreed to teach the tea master what little swordsmanship he could in a day. The tea master bought a sword, and the two men began their practice that afternoon. But alas, the tea master struggled through hundreds of awkward practIce cuts, he shook his head and sighed.

"Tomorrow, you are going to die," the swords- man said with calm conviction; The tea master was crushed. He was physically and emotionally exhausted., He dropped his sword to his side and stood there staring at the ground, shoulders sagging and sword hanging loosely from his hand. The samurai pondered him f9r a moment then said, "Let's have tea." The tea master looked up in puzzlement, but carefully sheathed his sword and began unpacking his tea set

The two men settled beneath a tree, and the tea master gracefully poured water into the bowl con- , stirring the bitter, green powder. As he artfully whisked the mixture into a frothy brew, the swordsman saw a remarkable transformation occur. Gone was the tired, broken man who stood before him only moments ago. Now the tea master's back was straight, his shoulders square, and his head erect.

Before the swordsman now sat the solemn, dignified master of an ancient ritual. The master poured ,the tea into a cup and, turning it in the ritual manner, offered it to the swordsman. His face was the picture of calmness, and looking into his eyes, the swordsman knew immediately the man was in mushin."Stop!", the swordsman said finally. "Do you want to kill your enemy tomorrow?"

"You said I am going to die."

"You are, but do you want to die like a warrior?

Do you want to kill you enemy?"

"Yes," the tea master said calmly.

"Then do what you are doing right now.

'Exactly! Your mind is empty. You neither desire life nor fear death. Tomorrow when you meet your enemy, I want you to empty your mind as you have now and raise your sword above your head. When .

he attacks, do nothing but cut and die.

" The tea master, being a master, understood.

The next day the ronin was surprised to find the tea master standing in the road, waiting for him.

When he approached and the man raised the sword above his head, the ronin chuckled to himself. But as he got closer, he began to feel uneasy. He expected to see the man shaking in fear, but the tea master's sword was still, and his face was grimly calm. He stopped a few paces away and searched the tea master's eyes. He saw nothing...only death.

The ronin's mouth went dry. After a moment he said, "I cannot defeat you." He turned and walked away.

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And by a great author (and citing another great author):

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/apr/23/general-feeling-disorder/?utm_source=The+Shortlist+Daily&utm_campaign=dd84690977-The_Shortlist_Daily_02_April_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7870ce0889-dd84690977-300497617

Antonio Damasio writes more perceptively on interoception that any author I have encountered. He talk of "core consciousness", the basic feeling of how we are. Definitely worth a read, and relevant in this thread.

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Back on topic:

So Liv mentioned being soft *while moving*, i.e. in day to day life. In my experience, there is only one way to achieve this, and that is through proper coordination and harmony of all of the body and mind. This concept is called "six harmonies" in the tradition that I am from. The feet are in harmony with the hands, knees with elbows, hips with shoulders, and then the emotions are in harmony with the intentions, the intentions with the breath, and the breath with the movement.

What this does is allows a distribution of load through a wider part of the body. One thing moves, all things move, and many hands make light work (think of how a spider's web is used to distribute load. you touch any part of it and the whole thing distributes the load quite harmoniously). Of course, the trick is to making sure that they move enough, but not too much. Sticking points (my teacher called these blockages) arise when excessive tension is exerted and then needs to be countered by antagonistic tension to stop you throwing yourself all over the place, or if a particular part of the body is not pulling its weight so other parts have to take more load to compensate. To learn to coordinate this properly requires man thousands of hours of doing extremely slow movement work combined with breath work (what some might call moving meditation). Lying meditation, while allowing you to drop into a state of deep relaxation while lying, does not really carry over to this (although it does allow you to have the experience of being deeply relaxed, which makes it easier to look for whilst moving, so it gives a hint as to what the experience will be like, but does not grant the capacity to actually do it. It does have a host of other benefits that should not be overlooked; Kit has already touched on these). Once a full body harmony is approached, energy requirements for all actions are significantly reduced (as is tension). How much you can reduce it, I have no idea. Certainly I have seen some people who have achieved a great level of this, but it takes a lifetime of practise, and does not appear to have an upper limit, although my teacher has talked of a tipping point after which it changes from a physical practise to a pure breath/energetic practise, and the physical form becomes irrelevant. I witnessed my martial arts teacher demonstrating this beautifully one day - he held a single legged position with the supporting leg's thigh parallel to the ground for well over 20 minutes with no apparent effort (similar to this posture: http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2008/10/20/908884/yellowmt100275.jpg). There was no trembling, no balancing, and his body appeared soft. He did not visibly shift for the entire period, he looked quite comfortable.

This is a topic that moves far away from the stretch therapy curriculum, and into areas such as taiji, qi gong, and other "internal" arts. Good external arts will also swing back into this area and achieve the same thing in the more advanced levels. Where stretch therapy has been useful in this practise for me, is using the deep partner stretches to "shine a light" on parts of the body that were still somewhat dark for me. however, this was just the beginning, i was still required to go back to my original practice and actually do more practise to reintegrate the newly found area of the body into the whole.

Kit's going to hate me for this, but Simon and I have developed a system of introducing this concept without the martial aspects, the system of practise we call "flappy arms", as well as the push/pull concept. This subject is *specifically* what this practise addresses, and it's the reason I'm going on and on and on about it, because it is extremely valuable, and has helped me (and those who I have taught who have exerted effort in this direction) to make leaps and bounds in my capacity to do what I'm talking about above. Of course, my capacity is still primitive at best. Unfortunately it is also leagues beyond what most other people I meet are doing, and also most people see flappy arms or other practises that help achieve this and thing "that's stupid" and totally neglect it, probably because it can't get them heaps of youtube views. It's a practice where the initial experience is not obvious; it requires extended effort, but the results are somewhat exponential. As soon as you "get it", it takes off, and you won't look back.

The number of people who I have encountered who are actually understand and have experienced what I mean are few. DW is on the precipice, and his alchemical practise has put him in a position where he can pick it up quicker than basically anyone else. He has other capacities that are much more developed than myself and others that will mean that as soon as he puts energy in this direction he will very quickly surpass most people. Ido is well trained at this, he made more progress in his year of investigating chinese systems than I made in a decade - a testament of his excellent practise. Most internal teachers aren't actually that great (still better than me!), I actually think guys like DW and Ido have a better grasp given their broader background. There are a few I would recommend who have skillsets similar to that of my teacher (or better):

- He Jing Han: http://www.baguaquanlessons.com/about-he-jinghan.html

- Serge Augier: http://www.sergeaugier.com/accueil-en/

- Bruce Kumar Francis: http://www.energyarts.com/

- Su Dong Chen: http://www.essenceofevolution.com/11aenglishmenu.htm

- Akuzawa Minoru: http://www.aunkai.net/eng/

- Strider Clark: http://tongbei.homestead.com/strider.html

- Tetsuzan Kuroda: http://www.shinbukantexas.org/biography.html

There are others out there I'm sure, but they are difficult to find, and to develop an eye to see this kind of quality actually requires you to be somewhat familiar with the subject, which is a bit of a catch 22 for beginners. Im sure there are more people from other arts as well, but I simply don't have the knowledge of these fields. Interestingly, my teacher said the best taiji person he ever met wasn't actually a taiji person, he was a qi gong person who was so well developed, he was shown a taiji form once and instantly performed it better than the person who showed it to him because he understood these underlying principles of full body harmony.

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I've been thinking a lot in the past 12 months about muscle tension and flexibility, the idea that a person can be pretty flexible but at the same time very tense: good or bad or indifferent?

I've found that stretching has helped me get more flexible --- even as an adult who now spends way too much time in front of a computer! --- and of course there's the 'learning how to relax/release tension during the stretching' that is necessary to move deeper into a pose.

But, what about being less tense in daily life? I'm not sure there's been much carryover, however, the mobility work seems to be filling that gap in my body. Kit will possibly jump in and argue for lying relaxation as being what I need to do --- I seem to recall him saying that once or twice over the years --- but for whatever reason I don't do it/don't feel drawn to that practise, whereas I do mobility work many times during the day.

Thoughts?

this kind of reminds me of a thought that came to me while studying the Wu xing and trying to...see life less Algorithmically and more Heuristically or when to use which methodology for problem solving / living in general. i've never "wanted" to meditate, it simply is a part of Gong fu / Nei Gong if you want to reach a proficient level. so it's kind of more like I want to know about mechanisms. if I know about mechanisms, I can decide when to do things like the whole "feel what is tightest today" instead of ALWAYS stretching a particular muscle group every single time. anyway, back to the thought that came to me: when we observe, we can interact. when we can interact, we can have experiences. when we have experiences, we can collect them in a particular way that can lend us the possibility of then being able to see patterns emerging. when we see patterns emerge, we can now engage in the highest level of interaction, which is to learn to choose outcomes. this made much more sense to me with the relation of elements to each other, metal insulting fire, fire doesn't want any of that and melts it away. but fire can't do that to water. so i guess i can ask, flexibility may be your strength or perhaps, you simply already have a grasp of how the grind is, so you dont suffer for results the same way other people do "man this is intense, this sucks, im pulling out" vs. your reaction of "okay, now i must relax and sink into the stretch, find the tightest line, re-square, etc." you know, what you do.

perhaps you are simply in different stages in flexibility that affect the POV or cultimination of a POV that can allow you a breakthrough of applying ST concepts or that of relax instead of contract, when in the topic of some Psychological nature. I find that fascinating. ST gave me the propioception element I was missing from meditation and stretching. it helped me zero in on the "the struggle of the stretch is learning to not struggle but to accept it and explore the most jungle without getting eaten by tigers" as Dave puts it so well in his Physical Alchemy video. we're all like diamonds, carbon based life forms that have been created and have a particular shape. in my mind, what you are simply saying is "why my particular shape not helpful for for this application, while it is helpful for this application?"

I think in spatial awareness, so this is actually a very natural thing for me but now that im actively learning about it and experiencing it myself, its opening up a new sense of self-awareness / self-discovery that I think is very cool. I walk differently now, I express myself differently now, I feel different, I don't suffer the same way, I process things entirely different because of this new discovery.

have you tried to "stretch" a way of thinking? what kind of dogma do you adhere to? how do you feel about meditation? what are your chokeholds that you see in your life / practice that you can tangibly point out? lack of affection, lack of social interaction, wanting to express a POV, what is it? asking yourself these questions can give you a point of reference and work around it to gain the response you'd like to change.

one thing that i think holds true to psychology just as much as physical preparation is that too much too soon is detrimental to recovery / adaptation. knowing how to interact with the psychological aspect is much more trickier since we've evolved to not only be territorial of our space, our belongings and loved ones, we are also very territorial over concepts, ideologies, etc.

/my 2c

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also, now having read all of Craigs posts (that tea master / ronin story, i'm going to remember that one for a long time. thank you for sharing that wisdom) I absolutely agree that its a harmony of the body with the mind. much like posture, never perfect, yet somehow perfect once a equilibrium is found. equilibrium can be found in many advantages or not so advantageous positions. it's all about knowing where you are, having some options and committing.....do nothing, but cut and die. man, that gave me the chills. thanks again, Craig ^_^

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Thanks for your comments Keilani. It's quite auspicious that these topics are presenting themselves to me regularly over the past few weeks, and I feel more inclined than ever to dive into the "non-movement" sides of daoism. Would love to chat some time about your experience with five elements theory!

[[[

for those interested, daoism, at least the branch I am studying, is arranged something like this:

Mountain (practises divided into body [wai gong], body + breath [nei gong], breath [nei dan], breath + mind [emotional work called xin yi dao yin fa], mind [shen gong])

Destiny (five elements theory [wu xing] and some other things, enneagram type stuff [ba zi])

Divination (book of changes [yi jing] and some other things)

Medicine (self explanatory)

Observation (feng shui and other topics)

]]]

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"Lying meditation, while allowing you to drop into a state of deep relaxation while lying, does not really carry over to this"

I actually found lying practise transferred over to walking and moving for me.. not sure if this is an anomaly, but it is interesting to note, not as a counter-point, just as a 'not one size fits all'.. like I said, I know all of these methods work, and work well, so it is not about this or that but how do I sequence them most effectively and efficiently for me. And, then, how do I sequence them most appropriately for the human in front of me (if you train people) - and it may be a completely different sequential pathway for them.

This is my favorite thread on this forum, so far.

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That was probably presented poorly by me. The lying meditation helps to soften the body yes; but does not help to coordinate and harmonize the body. Agree with your not one size fits all sentiment, and I should mention I've seen the quality across multiple arts outside of the chinese realm (BJJ, systema, capoeira, I mentioned a few japanese guys already, and various people from shamanic or meditative traditions of all colours). I still don't think it's possible without doing some variety of moving meditation that address the coordination of the body as a whole unit, as I've also seen plenty of moving meditation that does not address this aspect (although they also aren't trying to, they have different purposes, i think it's important to recognise this). The other condition that presents itself regularly is the soft and relaxed but disconnected body, I like to call this floppy body. This is where the softness is achieved, but the capacity to use the softness in any meaningful way besides being a soft spaghetti noodle is not available due to a lack of structure and harmonization. Not a bad state, and certainly extremely useful in the modern life of stress and anxiety, but also not the end goal for me (I can currently turn the noodle body on to a degree with concentrated effort, i would like to be turn it on to a deeper degree, but I have no desire for this to be my unconscious state, much prefer the structured softness for that). I'm of the opinion that you are not like this simply due to your previous martial practises and various other things that you pursue which have influenced your capacity to move with some degree of harmonization. Still, more practise required, we are both just scratching the surface. Must go deeper! TO THE PRACTISE MOBILE!

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In my experience, there is only one way to achieve this, and that is through proper coordination and harmony of all of the body and mind.

... he was shown a taiji form once and instantly performed it better than the person who showed it to him because he understood these underlying principles of full body harmony.

Ahhh yes, such a simple and succinct sentence. I like it.

Actually great examples in Osteopathy of people practising for many, many years who achieve something resembling the connectivity of the internal masters while they are treating. It's fascinating to watch, really. The dynamics of working with a patient in pain, and influencing them so deeply with touch is something I'm seeing more and more wonder in. We talk about intention a lot, at more advanced levels of technique.

My old teacher who was very into Qigong who says he can always tell first time he meets a student if they are a master of something already - I said, 'Like Karate?' He replied 'Like anything'.

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Ahhh yes, such a simple and succinct sentence. I like it.

Actually great examples in Osteopathy of people practising for many, many years who achieve something resembling the connectivity of the internal masters while they are treating. It's fascinating to watch, really. The dynamics of working with a patient in pain, and influencing them so deeply with touch is something I'm seeing more and more wonder in. We talk about intention a lot, at more advanced levels of technique.

My old teacher who was very into Qigong who says he can always tell first time he meets a student if they are a master of something already - I said, 'Like Karate?' He replied 'Like anything'.

im by no stretch of the imagination a master in Qigong but as an Empath, it definitely is trippy to "see" peoples thoughts / feelings floating around whatever they say, do or move, its kind of like subtitles. makes putting people at ease nice when they welcome openness, some people get freaked out and dislike being engaged like that.

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This is a deep thread, and I offer my sincere thanks to all the contributors. 


The reason I prefaced my remarks with "in my experience" is that that's what it was, just mine. I love Craig's idea of "structured softness"; that's my goal, too. The point is that I had way too much structure (and largely dysfunctional structure at that); and even my stretching did little to change that. So the key for me (and perhaps only for me) was the lying meditation, just because it unlocked that overly structured state. But that's not all I did/do: I do walking meditation which is not like any I have seen (though Craig tells me it's like 'rooster walking' in one of his traditions); the second point is that this movement form emerged spontaneously as I practised, 'no-mindedly' with no thought of outcome—just went with what was happening. I imagine all traditions started out like this; then they were taught and systematised, then (in many cases) reified, then, possibly, ossified. I also have sat for many thousands of hours, too, as many of you know.


@MH, who wrote:

Kit's going to hate me for this, but Simon and I have developed a system of introducing this concept without the martial aspects, the system of practise we call "flappy arms", as well as the push/pull concept.

Not at all, dear friend—only that my single experience of it did not create any kind of attraction to the practise—no doubt because I have not done enough! In a similar vein, Liv has strong resistance to doing lying meditation and, during our last conversation, I noted that, often, the practise that one needs to do is the one that one has the most resistance to. Two things emerge from this: one, I need to take my own medicine, so that's an invitation to you, Craig, when next we meet, and two, this perspective notwithstanding, there is a right time for everything. I am sure as sure can be that lying meditation is the solution to the dilemma she experiences and wrote about above—but what can a teacher do if the student simply does not want to take your advice? Nothing, I believe, is the best response.


(***the imp in me wants to pose the question: "So—how's that working for you?"); I know; I know.


I want to pick up on threads that are explicit in DW's and MH's comments, so far (but also present in Keilani's and Danny's): that no one size fits all; or to put it another way, 'many roads lead to Rome'. It seems to me that we are all looking to a state that we want to fully embody. I believe that it does not matter which road you take (but from an efficiency POV, repairing one's deficits is likely to yield faster, deeper benefits). But is this so, and what's the rush? And this plays into DW’s comment:

how do I sequence them most appropriately for the human in front of me (if you train people) - and it may be a completely different sequential pathway for them.

Yes, complete agreement.


DannyG wrote:
My old teacher who was very into Qigong who says he can always tell first time he meets a student if they are a master of something already - I said, 'Like Karate?' He replied 'Like anything'.

For Liv, my intuition says "lying meditation is her key" but, equally, it could be ballroom dancing which she is strongly attracted to.


Baba Ram Das, on noticing an elderly woman in the front row of one of his talks nodding at all of his key points, and from his perspective, clearly getting what he was talking about, spoke to her at the break. "So, he said, what's your practise? One of the schools of Yoga?" 


"No," she replied. 


"Zen Buddhism?"


"No, not that, either."


"One of the oriental arts?"


"No to that, too."


The story goes that he ran though the names of about 30 schools he know of personally, and then he asked her, 


"So what, then?"

"Knitting," she replied.

Mastery is the key.
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Great response, thanks Kit! I also have the same problem of "too much structure" in the wrong places, especially around my hips, although this is something that is shifting rapidly right now. Exciting times ahead!

In relation to the other comments, I'm quite interested to find out what the underlying mechanism is that helps people achieve what I'm talking about. There's a conundrum here, where there are examples of people achieving this skillset through multiple channels, but each of those channels don't necessarily guarantee the result. There are the channels such as the internal martial arts which explicitly pursue this quality, but most don't ever find it. Then there are other arts (such as music, art etc) that *don't* specifically pursue it, but end up with the result anyways, at least to some degree. What is the common denominator? It's got to be something to do with the mindset and *how* something is practised (rather than what), and some kind of attention to detail that allows one to notice the things that need changing.

This is why I believe DW is really onto something with his physical alchemy, while he hasn't done much practise in his body of the soft structure I talked about, he has done a metric shit tonne of practise that has enabled him to notice the most minute changes in his system. I can basically just show him the movement and explain the qualities, and he will be able to work the rest out for himself, but this is not the case for most, who will need guidance and constant reminders to look and notice. I've seen many people practise things like qi gong and tai ji for 20 or 30 years with no substantial progress, as they have simply not noticed the things they need to notice. The same thing happens in meditation (Kit will back me up on this one, he's mentioned this kind of person before).

I wonder if it's a quality that can actually be taught to everyone, or if it requires a certain type of person to be able to engage. I shall ponder this further, would very much like to hear other's opinions on this subject. If it can be taught to everyone, I feel some people would require such a steep learning curve that it would basically be impossible anyways, short of kidnapping + forced training (I have heard stories of this method being employed in daoist traditions though!).

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PS: Interesting comment about doing the things we avoid like the plague. This is what my current flexibility routine is based around, all of the movements that feel horrible in my body and are the worst of my stretches. Interesting progress so far!

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Cor! There’s so much deep and interesting stuff in this thread that I will need to read it several times (and not at 11.30 pm at night) to take it in. I'd just like to offer one experience on this theme - relating to “the missing piece from the story above is something called dissociation. Used in this context it means when the mind is actually dissociated from the physical body” (from Kit – though everyone made important points).”

Teaching something like a yoga triangle which can be a strain in many ways – you are stretching to your limit, holding balance, and holding yourself in an awkward position against gravity - its all a bit of a struggle, and the body usually tenses up all over to hold the position. I then say “now try to hold tension only in the muscles that actually need to do the work” – and an amazing thing happens. While just a few muscles continue to work (hard), the rest of the body relaxes, and you get that feeling of dissociation – somehow “stranding outside” our own body and observing it from outside. Even though some muscles may continue to work hard, the position turns from something that is a struggle to something that is relaxing. It is so obvious – and has such a powerful effect, once I started doing this - that I think it must be part of normal yoga practice, but I’d never heard it (or maybe never taken it in if I had). I guess it may be one of the reasons why yoga positions are used in the first place, to produce that dissociation from (and hence control over) the body. The stuff one discovers 20 years too late (but better late than never). If anyone hasn’t tried it, I suggest they do, and see if it has this effect on you too.

Jim.

Added after posting: Just sitting in my chair checking the posting, I tried the same thing in this sitting position - I got the same effect (though less powerfully, because sitting is so easy). So I think with practice one can probably do it anywhere, possibly any time, and achieve that dissociation at all times in every day life if one wishes. Part of it is due to directing the body's attention only to those sensations that are needed - the gravity pressure points, the muscles that need to work, etc, and detaching from the rest.

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Great response, thanks Kit! I also have the same problem of "too much structure" in the wrong places, especially around my hips, although this is something that is shifting rapidly right now. Exciting times ahead!

In relation to the other comments, I'm quite interested to find out what the underlying mechanism is that helps people achieve what I'm talking about. There's a conundrum here, where there are examples of people achieving this skillset through multiple channels, but each of those channels don't necessarily guarantee the result. There are the channels such as the internal martial arts which explicitly pursue this quality, but most don't ever find it. Then there are other arts (such as music, art etc) that *don't* specifically pursue it, but end up with the result anyways, at least to some degree. What is the common denominator? It's got to be something to do with the mindset and *how* something is practised (rather than what), and some kind of attention to detail that allows one to notice the things that need changing.

This is why I believe DW is really onto something with his physical alchemy, while he hasn't done much practise in his body of the soft structure I talked about, he has done a metric shit tonne of practise that has enabled him to notice the most minute changes in his system. I can basically just show him the movement and explain the qualities, and he will be able to work the rest out for himself, but this is not the case for most, who will need guidance and constant reminders to look and notice. I've seen many people practise things like qi gong and tai ji for 20 or 30 years with no substantial progress, as they have simply not noticed the things they need to notice. The same thing happens in meditation (Kit will back me up on this one, he's mentioned this kind of person before).

I wonder if it's a quality that can actually be taught to everyone, or if it requires a certain type of person to be able to engage. I shall ponder this further, would very much like to hear other's opinions on this subject. If it can be taught to everyone, I feel some people would require such a steep learning curve that it would basically be impossible anyways, short of kidnapping + forced training (I have heard stories of this method being employed in daoist traditions though!).

hmm....I've thought of this a few times and have had trouble transmitting the idea, so I'll do my best to see if I can get it across. do you remember what ST felt like at first? "well, this is obviously the....exact same poses i've always used for flexibility, aside from these other ones I haven't seen or used before." then at a certain point, you started getting the hang of it, learning about C-R, finding the tightest band, then it became a process of being honest when you get into a stretch, doing the cues, relaxing, etc. then a moment later, you had a MEGA EPIPHANY and it's to apply C-R, finding the tightest band, etc to ANY stretch or position you had a deficit in to turn it into a stretch.....and then it came back full circle to being a stretch again.

I guess the way we all need food because we need energy + exposure to beneficial chemicals, we all need a practice that takes us through the whole "wow, this is so mystical" to "it wasn't that hard at all." to then coming back to "wow, thats so crazy." which is why the ronin / tea master story resonated so strongly with me. we can do things physically, like learn to protract, but I guess what we're trying to teach the body is when to do a movement intuitively.

I keep coming back to math in terms of explaining this because I guess it seems what we should be learning is first how to reach the understanding around 1+1=2 to learn what A+B=C so we never have to memorize an entire library of numbers to know what 2+3 is because we "never practiced with that". learning when to be algorithmic and when to be Heuristic, etc.

you're flexible but you aren't graceful, well it could just be that what you learn at "flexibility class" you leave it in the "flexibility class" instead of wearing many hats at once or when a concept can be transfered to a different practice....kind of like how I like to touch see how I can do Fa Jing in all my plyometrics or standing/sitting/whatever meditation in stretches. I wish there were a better way to convey what we're trying to point at inside of us inside someone else without using too many names or things that can adulterate the message. like how Qi is kind of all over the place theoretically and people think it's a Hadouken or a Kamehameha from DBZ. my thoughts are, sure, it can be but there's this thing called abdominal breathing, let's start from there and move our way up.

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I so want to comment on the last few posts, but can't today: I am in a meditation hall, the Abbot is a student, and we start day three in a short while—so am occupied—but what we are talking about here is the central core of what ST (and many other disciplines) are grappling with. Inside and outside (internal and external); appearance and perception; intent and outcome: all are inextricably tied. Thank you everyone; more later. Everyone has made fundamental contributions here.

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