Exercise with proper body alignment is included in one of the 8 fundamental pillars of healing in the Traditional Taoist Chinese Medicine model. Chi Kung, Nei Kung, Tai Chi Chuan and cultivation of energy in sensual/sexual practices were created to tune the body in order to maximize the flow of Chi. Why? Because, when health is vital, life is lived with happiness.
Health from the Taoist perspective meant equipping the body mind spirit with tools to adapt to the adverse influences of life. These ever-changing life circumstances were always described by the complementary and inseparable opposite polarities named Yin and Yang. From this perspective, like two sides of a coin, one is best served by taking into account the polarities in any situation. All exercises circulate Chi. Some tighten the body, others make our physical structure more flexible. Some breathing methods are cooling, some warming. A seemingly fast exercise might be classified as Yang while the overall effect of that exercise may create exhaustion(Yin) . Slow moving exercises like Tai Chi Chuan may seem Yin(slow) but their overall effect is to create deeply rooted stamina and smoothness that lead to great speed in a martial arts application(yang). Each person is best served when he/she finds the unique balance of any lifestyle activity that creates a harmony suited to his/her evolution of Body Mind Spirit. An important practice in our continual healthy evolution is to challenge ourselves. Laziness is a doorway to degeneration… and being too hard on ourselves to improve is equally detrimental (deter mental). BALANCE is the KEY
BE the architect of your body-
the temple that houses your soul
BE the Tree of Life-
both flexible and persevering
that weathers the contrasts inherent to all seasons
BE a finely tuned instrument –
echoing your unique vibrant melody
through all ages
Conditioning the body to conduct the Chi necessary to power our journey takes discipline. In today’s fast paced world, exercise often takes a backseat to other seemingly more important(?) activities. While altering our priorities is very important, there are some fundamental body positioning practices that when adhered to, can turn many daily activities like Standing, Walking, Sitting, Climbing Stairs and even going to the toilet into a very efficient daily workout that will enhance health and quality of life.
Standing in a way that is relaxed and maintains alignment of the body where Chi flow is maximized is an essential first step to optimizing health
A ) Suspend Head- refers to a simple standing posture that assures the optimal circulation of Chi while minimizing any wear that comes from bearing the weight of the body.
Position the head as if being pulled up by a string from the highest point on the head. The chin is tucked slightly downward.
This suspended head position lengthens the neck and creates space between the cervical vertebrae. Eyes are directed slightly downward past the bridge of the nose at about a 45-degree angle.
The tongue is resting on the roof of the mouth. The mouth is closed.
Shoulders are relaxed loosely hanging-this posture is similar to picking up a shirt from the collar. Everything below the neck drops in a relaxed fashion. Legs are straight without locking the knees. Knees are angled outward slightly to put the bodyweight slightly towards the outside of the foot. This slight knee out position keeps the weight supported by the most stable part of the foot-the outside. (In contrast to putting weight on the arches of the foot). The head goes up towards heaven and the feet go down to the earth allowing us to maintain a suspended between Heaven and Earth feeling- light and solidly connected to the Heavens above and the Earth below. When this position is done correctly, one will fee and grounded and light at the same time and the breath will more easily stimulate the diaphragm making the belly rise and fall on the inhale and exhale respectively.
Above, is an example of a man standing with an overly arched lower back which that compromises the Lower Back, Kidneys and Intestines. The toes out also risks misalignment of the knees which will be discussed later.
Walking: When walking it is important to keep the standing posture as mentioned above. Take small steps leading with the Tan Tien 1-2 inches below the navel. Providing the head is suspended moving from the lower abdomen as if someone is pushing you or pulling you forward will make walking completely effortless. Your feet will follow instead of leading you.
When sitting all the above principles are adhered to. There is one important difference. When sitting there is no arch or curve in the lower back/ Lumbar vertebrae area. When standing is natural to have a slight curve in the lower back. This curve naturally puts some strain on the lower back and that is why we are drawn to sit or lie down after long periods of standing.
A natural sitting position also occurs any time we bend our legs to crouch. Whenever we bend our knees it is essential to assume the “Tucked in” position of the pelvis.
This is a very natural posture assumed by all children and animals that for some reason has been commonly forgotten especially in weightlifting.
These “seemingly” healthy positions oppose the natural tendency of the body to protect the lower back instead of harm it. As an occasional stretch, these postures may be okay for some. Over an extended time without balancing them with tucked in pelvic positions creates more harm than benefit.
The naturally efficient tucked in pelvis position is common in skiers, snowboarders skaters and almost any proficient athlete who bends their knees. These sports help Kidney Chi and support lower back health.
FROG: Balances and enhance the “Jing” essence energy stored below the navel in the “kidney”/Tan Tien” energy Center. The “Jing” is the foundation for all body structures and change. Eventually, the Jing will build and overflow to any part of the body that requires healing. and/or regeneration.
Keeping the knees out aligned over the 2nd and 3rd toes, feeling the weight slightly towards the outside of the feet, heels flat on the ground, bend your upper torso from below the navel with the pelvis tucked to take the arch out of the lower back.
Keep your hands off or slightly touching the ground. If you feel knee pain, stop. Realign your knee position so the outside of the foot carries the weight, tuck your pelvis or bend the knees less maintaining the posture at a higher level until the tendons that keep the knees in alignment have strengthened. Bend the knees at a maximum of 90 degrees to assure the weight of the body is felt in the thighs. One minute of the frog is probably the healthiest way to use a minute of your time. Eventually, you can work up to 2-5 minutes. Take your time. One minute is great.
I recommend doing the frog for one minute daily. No time to exercise? Everybody has a minute. Many of my colleagues and clients do the frog before they sit on the toilet. If you go to the toilet daily, you have the perfect opportunity to exercise for one minute. It will get everything moving efficiently, cultivate and circulate a lot of Chi. This weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and builds and circulates “Jing essence Chi”. Done daily it will benefit and most of the time completely relieve any lower back malady. especially when down with some of the following exercises.
Yoga “Child” position below helps the lower back chi, especially after Yoga, arched back positions.
The bending sitting posture above helps the lower back chi. More benefit will come when connecting the posture to the legs as described in the frog above.
NOTE: In the tucked pelvis positions, we lean forward from below the navel NOT from the solar plexus. Bending forward from the solar plexus creates what is called thoracic vertebrae kyphosis. This posture puts pressure on the organs under the solar plexus. Liver, Gallbladder on the right, Pancreas through the mid to left side as well as the spleen on the left side. The kidneys and adrenal glands on both right and left sides are also compressed in this position.
In the above posture called Riding the Wild Horse, the torso is bent forward from below the navel and the chest is rounded without bending from the solar plexus. Knees out to get the weight on the outside of the feet. The pelvis is tilted/tucked under and the head is suspended to make sure there is no bending at the solar plexus. Note: When leaning forward the shoulders are in a close line to the knees. This keeps the heels flat supporting the lower back the weight of the upper body with the weight being felt in the thighs and on the ground.
Here is a related exercise you can do at the office. This tucked pelvis squat is a variation of the Nei Kung (Internal Training) exercise “Ride the Wild Horse “where we squat as far as we can to the floor while maintaining the alignment principles: Suspend Head, Tuck Pelvis, Knees out, toes in and weight slightly on the outside of the feet with heels flat on the ground (to avoid weight on the knee).
Moving up and down like this is also the correct way to lift-with our legs (not our backs or arms).
From lifting to gardening, squatting correctly is another everyday exercise that when done correctly will enhance our health.
Sitting photos courtesy of skimble.com. Make sure there is a space between your back and the back of the chair and that there is no arch in your lumbar area. i.e The back, from your sacrum to mid-back is completely flat. Twisting the UPPER torso both ways while keeping the hips stationary exercises/twists the lumbar vertebrae enhancing circulation and creating strength and flexibility in this very important lower back body area.
For greater Chi development and circulation, the twist can be done in a standing tucked Pelvis posture called Horse stance:
Leaning forward from below the navel (never bend forward from solar plexus) allows the breath to move more easily through the diagram to expand the belly on the inhale and collapse on the exhale. Keep the chest slightly rounded to maintain a solid wall like back
with twisting the Upper torso- hips are stable facing forward.
Another great exercise is the Bent leg squat below.
The bent leg squat stretches the Gallbladder meridian(I.T.band, piriformis muscle) through the side of the leg and through the gluteus muscles freeing energy and blood flow to circulate to the lower back. (Also helpful for sciatica). Make sure the pelvis is tucked. Below the woman has an arched back.
This posture can also be done while leaning forward on the edge of a chair
Balance: Balance is important for general physical health, coordination of brain hemispheres and healthy cerebral regeneration and development. The following exercise- “Golden Rooster stands on one leg ” will also develop Jing and Chi development. Doing this exercise correctly will also prepare you for climbing stairs -one of the best exercises for stamina, life longevity and balancing Spleen(earth) and Kidney (Water) energies
I like to combine this posture with the bent leg position.
Yes, climbing stairs when done correctly is one of the greatest exercises for stamina, respiratory cardiovascular and overall health. When the knees are aligned over the 2nd and 3 rd toes, weight is slight to the outside of the feet, pelvis tucked with the arch in the lumbar vertebrae flattened so it is in a straight line with the middle and upper back, the body will become very strong. I suggest building up to take two or three stairs at one time. Done daily, years of quality living will be added to your life.
Breathing while climbing is best done and safest when we climb stairs without running out of breath. Go slowly to build stamina to get to this point. Remember the article on breathing- long, deep, smooth and small. The traditional Chinese approach to building stamina is to instead of increasing the heart rate, is to keep the heart calm even when exerting great force and strength with the body.
While a daily exercise routine is highly important to improving our health, as pointed out above there are many daily activities that can keep us in shape. By being fit, the ups and downs of life are far easier to balance because our “Chi” is constantly flowing. “Life is like riding a bicycle-to stay balanced we have to keep on moving”- Albert Einstein
Health is the ultimate Wealth.
Review- AT LEAST, combine deep diaphragm breathing (long, deep, small & smooth) with alignment principles to Stand, Sit Walk, Climb stairs( instead the elevator or escalator ) and yes, do the frog when you go to the toilet. Certainly take up a daily balanced exercise program. Your inner being knows how important this is. Honor your self -You are worth it.
Master, I am puzzled by my value as a man and especially as a person who will one day inspire others on their path to health and happiness?
Others tell me how great my Kung Fu is yet I remain critical and unworthy
Disciple, what is it you most value in Life?
I value Honesty, Discipline and the ability to stay calm amidst the ever-changing tides of unrest in the world. I also value Kindness.
Listen within and answer…Are you always honest? Do you always practice Discipline? Are you always Calm?
The space, the gap …the chasm between what you value and how you perceive and judge yourself are the source of your unworthiness
The frustration, confusion or sadness you feel on the path to personal authenticity is the exact fuel necessary for you follow your personal path more closely
In climbing the steep mountain of the self,
be Patient, Persevere and Persist one step at a time
The KINDNESS you value so much comes by extending it to yourself first.
Health is the bridge that connects the shores of our continually evolving journey of consciousness development. Each person’s evolutionary motion is like a stone dropped into, the waters, rippling influence to others and ultimately the shared evolution of all life everywhere.
When a fear is strong it lives within and like any being, it seeks to survive
Shall the fear grow and weaken the light within or remain as a source of stagnation?
How can we comfortably nourish our soul that lives between the shadow and the light?
Embrace the shadow through feeling and circulating the Chi of our feelings
Inquire and make decisions of integrity
and most importantly forge the Chi through Long, Deep, Small, and Smooth breaths,
deep sleep, appropriate exercise, and balanced food
Roots grow by adapting to every relationship they encounter-
sun, darkness, air, water earth, and rocks, cold, hot, dry or moist-
deeper and deeper nourishing great strength in the growing tree
Be the vessel that receives and expresses the infinite energy of the universe.
A swimmer surrounded by the ocean breathes and maintains her self
Since 1981 Seymour has been an international educator traveling to numerous countries Inspiring the Path of Holistic Health.
Since 1989, Seymour has also participated in founding several schools that are either using or have at one time used his original San Diego, CA name- “school of healing arts”.
In 2014 the 30 years established San Diego state approved “school of healing arts” changed its name to International College Of Holistic Studies/ICOHS. Seymour was the founder of these healing schools and others.
Seymour departed from ICOHS in 2015 and formed a new spiritually based 501c3 non-profit organization called International School of Healing Arts based in San Diego, CA, and Prague, Czech Republic. The Idaho New Leaf, Manchester-UK, Kyiv-Ukraine, and Moscow– Russian schools also use the “school of healing arts” in their name.
These schools and others are separate entities. They have no legal or educational ties to each other. Note: Owning a name that has such broad generic words in the title may lead to ambiguity for some especially on the internet in google, yahoo, bing or other search engines.
If you have any questions about any of these different schools that come up in searches please contact email@example.com.