I started this essay this morning and thought I would share it with all of you. It doesn't actually give an exercise routine, but theory and personal interpretations. I hope you enjoy. It has very basic explanations of Yin-Yang, Shiva/ Shakti and the Wiccan Cycle that most of you probably know, but it helps to define them for the fitness benefits. Basics, always return to the basics.
Yin and Yang
Chinese Qigong Theory has a symbol and an entire philosophy about polarity called Yin-Yang. Yin is soft and yielding related to Water or Air. Yang is hard and pressing related to Fire and Earth. Within Yin there is Yang and within Yang there is Yin.
In fitness this teaches us about breath and tension.
Breathe naturally to relax the body before and after your workout (Earth and Water). As you increase in breathing your heart rate rises to give you more energy and sends oxygen to your blood stream (Air and Fire).
As you can see by the related elements to the breathing example there is Yin within the Yang and the Yang within the Yin.
Let us apply this theory deeper to fitness.
As already mentioned, use Yin to breathe and Yang for the actual movement. Begin your exercise, let's say push ups. In starting position (arms and back straight holding you up, feet together and hands directly under shoulders- this is called the Plank)- breathe into your belly through your nose gently and evenly. Let's call this the Earth Breath because you are in a tense and motionless position- you are becoming stable by the posture (Yang/Earth) and maintaining energy by the breath (Yin/Air).
As time increses in the Plank position you begin to breathe rapidly to fight the urge to topple from exhaustion and sore muscles (Yang/Fire) and you begin to sweat profusely the longer you hold the position (Yin/Water). These elements of the exercise work for all static postures. You are completely stabalized by the four elements and the polarity of Yin and Yang.
For the actual push up, inhale to summon strength (Air/Fire), exhale and press yourself down (as if pressing the Earth down) and feel your muscles tense (Earth/Water), inhale once again and push your self up and feel your body relax a little from the stress (Water). Repeat as many as you can with perfect posture.
Shiva and Shakti
Shiva is a Hindu God that represents the All Pervading Consciousness- we'll just stick to consciousness for ease of this essay. Shakti represents the coiled feminine energy that starts at the base of our coccyx and uncoils itself upward as we go through life- what the Hindus and Yogis call kundalini (Sanskrit for coiled serpent)- we'll refer to Shakti as simply 'energy'.
Being conscious of our breath, posture and movements during exercise is of the utmost importance for overall health benefits. If you just lacksadaisically perform a fitness routine, meaning you are not entirely present for the workout, you have a higher risk of injury from improper posture and movement which destablizes your joints and body structure. If you're lucky and do not injury yourself from lack of self consciousness your workout will just be a waste of energy and you will not receive the full benefits of the exercise.
Besides just being conscious of your body and breathe, you must have the energy to actually go through with the exercise program. This doesn't just mean taking a few deep breaths to summon the oxygen to workout but to also be well rested, well fed and well hydrated, not to mention in a positive mental state. Working when one is angry has its benefits, because exercises can often reduce stress and anger, but sometimes it builds more fire and causes one emotional outbursts- which may lead to improper training and injury- not to mention anybody that may be around that may get offended.
Shiva and Shakti, or consciousness and energy, are just as important as Yin and Yang and the four elements.
The Cycle is from the Wiccan perspective of Life-Death-Rebirth. How is this important to a fitness program? Life-Death-Rebirth is a bit extreme for the avenue of fitness, so let us change the trinity to Exercise-Rest-Rehabilitation.
The Cycle also has to do with the Death and Rebirth of the God- or the changing of the seasons from harvest to no harvest- Exercise-Rest-Rehabilitation and the Death and the Rebirth of the God are too intimately connected, we will just refer to the Cycle as Exercise-Rest-Rehabilitaion.
While regular exercise with a well rounded diet and lifestyle is very important (another aspect of the Cycle), so is rest. After rest comes rehabilitation so we can get back to exercising again. Why is this Cycle important?
Exercise is important to build strength, stamina and relieve stress, tension and lazyness- or to build energy and body confidence.
Rest is important so all the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and your brain can take a break and just relax.
Rehabilitation means to start back onto your program slowly so as not to burn yourself out the first week in to the program.
To micromanage the trinity of the Cycle, or to make it specific to the actual routine of exercise, let us call it Posture-Breath-Movement.
Posture keeps the body aligned, being skelatal, muscle, tendon and ligament structure, so as you exercise you are getting the full benefits.
Breath helps oxygen go through the blood stream and fills you with energy- this is why it is also important to exercise outside often. Inside houses and gyms the air is stale and dusty- even with a fan on or windows open (at least dusty, not so much stale from the air current). You also need to find the proper outdoor training area- like in a park in the early morning or late evening when few or no people are around and the air is fresh, in a forested area away from the public eye and hustle and bustle of traffic, exhaust, streets and other modern structures. You want to breathe in clean oxygen for the best benefits- physical and other wise.
Movement is the exercise itself. The push up, pull up, squat, leg raise, crunch, punch, kick, etc. It is a combination with Breath and Posture, or using breath to influence posture- like exhaling on the descent of the exercise to inhaling on the ascent. You can also use posture to influence breath- hold yourself ina static posture, let's say Plank, and utilize this time for deep abdominal breathing, buildin not only core, back, and arms, but also build a higher resevoir for oxygen withing the body.
We have seven major Chakras (Sanskrit for wheel) on the human body- these are said to be energy portals that hold specific physical, mental, energetic and overall spiritual qualities. That's too complicated for this essay, so we will just concentrate on the bodily position of the Chakras and how they relate to physical fitness.
The Muladhara (Base Root) is located at the coccyx or pereneum, in between the genitals and anus. This Chakra relates to the legs, a strong root and movement of the lower joints (knees and ankles).
The Svadisthana (Seat of Power) is held in the abdomen, three fingers width below the belly button. This Chakra is the center of power. In martial arts all movements originate from this area- it is also where internal martial artists breathe to fill themselves with vital energy (qi). It relates to the abdomen and lower back and exercises to strengthen the core.
The Manipura (Brilliant House) is held in the solar plexus, the little cave just under your front ribs- a very vulnerable spot. This is related to strengtheining the abdomen also, as well as the obliques and seratus anterior (the 'side abs' and 'rib muscles').
The Anahata (Undefeated) is held in the chest area. It is said to govern the heart and respitory system. It concentrates on the chest, latismus dorsi ('wings'- pull up muscles) and upper back.
The Vishuddha (the Purification) is held in the throat. It concentrates on the neck and arms- including hands and fingers.
The Ajna (Command) is located in between the eyebrows. This relates to the scalp and face, partcularly the jaw- not many exercises can be done here (except for tensing the face).
The Sahasrara (Thousand Petal Lotus) the middle of the top of the head. Not many exercises can be performed here as well because of the lack of muscle, but head stands can be equated- it builds not only a strong neck but also helps build density in the skull.