Archive for August 2010

Silence and the Self

Silence

That which in meditation one comes to naturally as the mind awareness ceases is called silence.  In this inward process of discovering who we are, we find this silence.  Another way is that there is not anything left in the mind’s awareness.  This quietness exist beyond our normal noise.  We usually go into a wandering state of the mind.  This quietness or silence is beyond even the normal sleeping mind.  As the great sage Patanjali (of the Yoga Sutras) states that sleep is an operation of the mind.  This silence is yet beyond that quietness.  That silence is a an experience of noticing it after sometimes having had such.  It isn’t a deep experience of it.  This experience is just a transition into the silence that exist even beyond this existence.

Eckart Tolle in the following video has a nice presentation.  Please see below.

The Deepest Truth of Human Existence – www.eckharttolle.com

Practice and Training

Practice and Training

Climbing to our goals is a short definition of practice.  Training implies there is something we are training for, ie a goal.  In Yoga, they use the Sanskrit word Abhyasa.  There are many translations of it.  The grammatical reduction of the term we will use here.  Abhi is to face towards something (a goal).  As or as-a here is to sit, apply oneself, to sit here in the body, in the mind, etc.  So we are practicing only when we are sitting (not necessarily physically) or focusing our selves, our bodies, our breath, our minds, our attention towards that which is the object of our goal, our focus, that which we are doing or sensing.

As soon as our focus comes away from the point at which we were holding it, then no longer are we practicing!

10,000 hours of practice = Mastery

You know I’ve been practicing yoga (fill in your practice here) for ten years.  Well whoever said that may not have closely examined what they were doing.  You know, I sit for meditation for one hour.  During that practice, I am not meditating for one hour.  My mind has slipped from it’s focus and is no longer facing towards that point of concentration.  So when do we practice.  Really our practices could be strengthened by strengthening our capacity to focus the mind.  This means being able to concentrate.

This practice could be as simple as our workouts physically.  If we wander around the weight room or track, our practice is diminished.  If the activities that we are doing get interrupted by a constantly changing focus, we lose valuable time and effectiveness of our work.

The grosser our practice is the easier it is to maintain focus.  The more subtle the practice is, especially if only using the mind, the more difficult is it for many.  This is not always true for everyone.  Some find unfamiliar activities to be difficult to keep a focus, whether they are mental or physical.

Romantic Practices

Choose any goal and look at your practice.  Look at the above definition of practicing.  It is not easy to train in such a way.  It takes effort and perspiration to keep oneself doing the mundane, day in and day routine of practicing.  (Remember, mindlessly doing is not training–it’s just goofing off–which is certainly easier, I know this well)

Also look if we are practicing when in reality we need to be doing our real tasks in life first.  We all have duties and responsibilities.  Well maybe not everyone.  But look to see whether we are using our practices to avoid our living of life.  Are we following a workout because some imaginary polishing of our ego or beliefs.  Do spend an inordinate amount of time in the gym because we are working on our physical health.  (Maybe we spend a lot of time not in the gym–not talking about this problem here).

Often people go through stages in training.  (This includes this author)  At the beginning, we end up reaching for some lofty goal.  Our minds are focused not on our goal but on what we create in our imagination as this wonderful thing.  Soon withing weeks, months (and possible years), our enamored infatuation with our thoughts and feelings begins to dwindle.  We no longer are able to maintain this pin point focus.  Our attention wanders and we often loose interest.  We then stop the practice and say that it (IT) doesn’t really work.  It never really provided that feeling I first had.  I’m changing my mind.  It just doesn’t work.

EGADS

Sorry for shouting.  This pattern is historically memorable of the past.  Maybe some of you have not noticed this lack of skillful practice.  But it is is worth shouting about just to clear out the ole pipes (pipe dreams).

Now Yoga has a pretty nifty take on this concept of training.  Not only does it focus on defining practice, but it talks about the attributes that will make ones practice bear the fruit of ones effort.

All great performers, athletes, workers and craftsmen have followed that same sage advice and training protocol:

  • Practice for a long time
  • Practice without interruption
  • Practice in the right way
  • Practice thoroughly and completely

Then no longer will you be disturbed by all these other distractions.  Your mind, breath and actions will all lead you towards that which you have focused your mind onto.  Your practice will then take you directly to your goal.

Do It

OK, now just go do it.  Easy to say and as we all know–not so easy to do.  Practice-Practice-Practice.

Strengthening Your Pull

Pulling

One of the major functional divisions in movement is pulling.  The pullup is one of the great bench marks of this activity.  Many cannot do even one–been there and done that.  Well there is a lot of help to work on this simple and very effective movement.

Pullups

There are lots of intructional videos and information out there.  Just wanted to post on two places to acquire simple gear to help you in accomplishing a pullup.

Check out:

  1. PerformBetter.com for their Superbands a low tech offering that gets the job done.  They can be used for many other things and they are on sale as of August 19th, 2010.
  2. LifelineUSA.com for their Pullup Revolution a recently released new product–looks interesting.

Follow up

In today’s world of complexity and high tech gadgetry–it’s nice just to have something so simple yet so effective as pulling.  Of course horizontal pulling is a great way to start for many.  Also the other complimentary movements of pushing, squatting, lifting, etc are to be considered.

Now go out and pull your weight around (vs push your weight around–pun intended–in many ways)

Connections

Mudra

Mudra is a Sanskrit word denoting connection and direction of subtle energies.  This discussion is not a detailed presentation of one of the main divisions of Hatha Yoga called Mudras.  Just using this idea to talk about how important connections are in yoga.

Yoga Connections

Sometimes yoga can be viewed as a pre-eminent method for coming into ones true nature.  Now the popular view of yoga is mainly from asanas.  How many times have you heard how hard or wonderful yoga class was on a particular day.  Meaning that we are only emphasizing the physical part of using asanas (sadly just for exercise).

The richness of yoga is developed through these subtle connections.  Starting with our own energy systems and pranic flows and moving into connections through initiation.

Mantra

When one develops a deep relationship there is an actually felt connection.  Take when you in love with someone.  You can feel without words or actions how the other person is doing.  Sometimes there is a tandem of thoughts and small movements that are not rehearsed or overtly noted.  There is just this strong connection on the inside that is shared both from within and without.

This is how a mantra works that is given in initiation of a tradition.  This connection of the mantra is internal and subtle.  This relationship is to that which is eternal and true.  This is love.  Without this connection it becomes very difficult to find your way in this journey of the revealing Self.

Get connected

Having a guide is immensely helpful.  In this case a mantra given by a master acts exactly like a guide.  It helps in this subtle differentiation between what is real and what is not.  This knowing only comes about through practice and grace of this connection.  For some this connection is a deep knowing and experience which continues to shine within like a beacon.  There is always something of great and often subtle importance that takes place within ones experience that leads one inwards.

Trying to do yoga from the mind or body is incomplete.  The ego of ourselves often confuses the direction of what is truth.  So many things get in the way that we easily can be come distracted.  It is important to consider giving up ones egoistic self.  To consider coming with open hands and heart into this deeper connection within.  This connection is made through initiation.

Initiation is only being introduced here.  It is a much larger topic.  Many people have an aversion to the concept of it as it appears to resemble a cult like behavior for some.  Here initiation is compared to finding a lover that takes us to sublime places and spaces that we otherwise would miss and avoid.  This lover is love itself.  The path is not always pleasant.  The richness of yoga through this connection of love .  Great effort, focus and practice is the work of preparation for this journey.

Physical Therapy

Movement and Posture

Therapy is a method of helping to bring one to a place of balance.  This place is not always a singular location.  In therapy, one may just come to a better understanding.  This understanding allows one to hopefully function at a better level.  Much of “Physical Therapy” is helping one come to better movement and posture.  It is usually focused on the physical aspect of our being and it does fit well with the preparations that are taught in many other sciences like yoga.

Premise

A basic concept we deal with in the science of physical therapy (and even in yoga), is that there is:

  • A complaint or problem which one wishes to change
  • There is a reason for this complaint or problem
  • There is a solution/therapy/or way to manage these problems
  • The solution or management is based on a proper method and practice

Movement Case Study

Take a generic example of someone complaining of knee pain when walking up stairs.  The medical evaluation to look for any disease, in this case, shows some degenerative changes in the left knee joint.  Typical explanation for the symptoms becomes defined by the associated disease state.  This assessment is incomplete for a problem noted with movement.  The medical definition is correctly defining the parameters of the disease.  One cannot jump to saying it is the cause of the pain and movement problem when going up stairs.

Evaluation

Since there is a complaint of knee pain that is aggravated by movement, one needs to do some type of movement evaluation. Physical Therapist properly trained are experts in movement dysfunction.  That means they can assess what is not working and suggest how to correct the dysfunction.  Once again they are not focused on the disease.  It is only noted as appropriate.  Too many people only look for the problem and the solution from a medical/disease model.

Local vs Regional relationships

We need to look at how the knee bone is connected with the hip bone, etc.  Actually movement observation of a person doing a functional task like the stairs is following the flow of forces throughout the whole body.  Really this is a wholistic viewpoint (though an over-worn phrase).  Sometimes we look only at the place causing the pain.  This is a local approach.  It can be “successful” in a limited way, ie reduction of the symptoms.  The cause of the symptoms are not necessarily treated.

Location of symptoms and cause of the complaint are not the same often.  Anytime you have a reoccurring or chronic complaint you definitely need to look elsewhere for what may be contributing.  The knee sits between the hip and ankle joint.  The leg and pelvis are force producers and transducers between the ground and the trunk.  Of course this model just continues through the whole body.  We are functioning system.

System Relationships

As a system, everything is related to everything.  Whew–that’s a lot of things!  But as everything is related, not all relationships are significant.  (hmmm reminds me of a few).   So now we need to skillfully work with all these relationships to quickly find which ones are having a difficult time maintain cordial connections.  This is where a skillful therapist can quickly screen a variety of key movements and determine where they need to look further.

Treatment

What is the best exercise for knee pain?  I have no idea.  So if one approaches a problem with an answer, you have to be a good guesser.  The best approach to a problem is to ask another question.  Once you have arrived at the most significant movement problems, that aren’t acutely painful, you can start helping to restore proper movement. Select  the movements that organize the system to correct itself and restore normalcy.  There should be no elevation of the pain.  In fact it should become less.

Let’s say you’ve evaluated some hip abductor weakness and stiffness in extension and rotation of the lower to middle thoracic spine.  You exercise and other treatments should immediately show some positive change in the systems movement patterns.  They may move farther, easier, faster, smoother, stronger with less symptoms now–something positively must change immediately upon proper/skillful treatment or you have not found the right movement dysfunction or you have not found a proper comparable retest.

Follow up

So evaluation and treatment are linked from a movement perspective.  We are looking not at the medical problem but how is that a person is functioning and yet maintaining their symptoms.  Changes for chronic problems often take time.  Doing something to a person is not the answer.  It is only part of the process.  Learning must be big part of the equation.

Awareness

In learning, one needs to not just do a corrective exercise.  One must develop an ability to sense and feel what needs to be done.  This body awareness needs coaching, both internally and externally.  I don’t know how many times in the past that I’ve shown someone “what to do”.  When they return to the office, I ask them to once again show me their home program.  After that, I wonder who was the idiot who taught them “that”.  Doing without understanding and feeling (proprioceptively and kinesthetically), gets the above result.  So take the time to work on ensuring what  and how they are feeling these movement changes.  This sensory feedback only enhances the motor pathways of changed movement patterns.