-_sometimes

Books or guides on stretching?

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I was advised in a previous post that I needed to stop energy work and get grounded, and wait an extended period before I begin energy work of any kind. I've been looking into physical exercise that might prove helpful, and it seems my options are bodyweight and/or stretching. After browsing many posts here, I've come to the conclusion that stretching combined with internal work is best overall, because eventually energy work develops bodily strength and acts as a form of resistance training. Since I plan to get back into the internal arts, I might as well just stretch for now, and let the resistance training come later.

 

Does anyone have any book recommendations that teach full body stretching carried out in a safe manner? It seems there is much discussion around the best kind of stretching, what causes damage and so on, but ultimately I wish to be in good health, have enough flexibility to sit in full lotus whilst at a desk, and prepare my body physically for when I take up the internal arts. Is this feasible? 

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Have you participated in sports where body conditioning was required? Taken a yoga class?

 

Earl Grey has a PPD which he discusses physical exercise which I recommend that you read and follow up on doing the exercises.

 

How old are you? Think for yourself, be curious and read!

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1 hour ago, ralis said:

Have you participated in sports where body conditioning was required? Taken a yoga class?

How old are you? Think for yourself, be curious and read!

I'm 20, and the only sort of exercise I've ever done was calisthenics for about a year. I can't really afford classes or pay for courses, so I was hoping I could find a book of some sort. 

1 hour ago, ralis said:

Earl Grey has a PPD which he discusses physical exercise which I recommend that you read and follow up on doing the exercises.

I'm fairly new to the forums, what is PPD?

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3 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

 

I'm 20, and the only sort of exercise I've ever done was calisthenics for about a year. I can't really afford classes or pay for courses, so I was hoping I could find a book of some sort. 

I'm fairly new to the forums, what is PPD?

 

Are there public libraries in your area? Plenty of videos and books can be checked out there. Also YouTube is a great resource. Earl knows his stuff and highly recommend his PPD.

 

I grew up in a small town in central Ohio and I found this wonderful book along with Lilias Folans yoga classes on PBS. This was in the 1960's!

 

https://www.amazon.com/Yoga-youth-reincarnation-Jess-Stearn/dp/B0006BMRQ8/ref=sr_1_1?crid=7O07LH4JG1HP&keywords=yoga+youth+and+reincarnation+by+jess+stern&qid=1577466816&s=books&sprefix=Yoga+Youth%2Caps%2C268&sr=1-1

 

 

Edited by ralis
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9 minutes ago, ralis said:

 

Are there public libraries in your area? Plenty of videos and books can be checked out there. Also YouTube is a great resource. Earl knows his stuff and highly recommend his PPD.

 

 

A magnificent guide thank you! There is not much detail on stretching, particularly when it comes to opening the hips to enable full lotus posture, but I can find that information myself :)

Given that I wish to refrain from internal arts, which includes zhan zhuang, as it seems I have some level of qi deviation according to the advise given by forum members, I presume that is not too problematic? I can work through the physical whilst confidently ignoring the qigong?

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Just now, -_sometimes said:

A magnificent guide thank you! There is not much detail on stretching, particularly when it comes to opening the hips to enable full lotus posture, but I can find that information myself :)

Given that I wish to refrain from internal arts, which includes zhan zhuang, as it seems I have some level of qi deviation according to the advise given by forum members, I presume that is not too problematic? I can work through the physical whilst confidently ignoring the qigong?

 

I wouldn't worry about full lotus at the moment. Learn to breathe and relax which stretching will help!

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3 hours ago, -_sometimes said:

I was advised in a previous post that I needed to stop energy work and get grounded, and wait an extended period before I begin energy work of any kind. I've been looking into physical exercise that might prove helpful, and it seems my options are bodyweight and/or stretching. After browsing many posts here, I've come to the conclusion that stretching combined with internal work is best overall, because eventually energy work develops bodily strength and acts as a form of resistance training. Since I plan to get back into the internal arts, I might as well just stretch for now, and let the resistance training come later.

 

Does anyone have any book recommendations that teach full body stretching carried out in a safe manner? It seems there is much discussion around the best kind of stretching, what causes damage and so on, but ultimately I wish to be in good health, have enough flexibility to sit in full lotus whilst at a desk, and prepare my body physically for when I take up the internal arts. Is this feasible? 

 

Absolutely achievable.  I started late in martial arts and at first, my ankles and hips were so tight and high strung with tension that it was a real challenge.  This stretches shared on this site are quite valuable in my experience to opening up the Kua and lower body. 

 

I fell into a trap for a time though in my early years (decades ago).  As well intentioned as my teachers were, they almost all adhered to the 'no pain, no gain' school of effort and strain equals progress.  This I found through experience to be the slower path to what I was seeking (even though at that time, I didn't know what I wanted clearly).  Strain and force inevitably led me to injury, which required ceasing training to heal and thus slowing me down.

 

Dynamic, soft stretching through the breath is the name of my game now.  Stretching to find the tension, then breathing in and through the tension while backing off slowly and re=investigating the tension again.  Always with the breath and never into the pain territories.

 

And I find i now stretch all throughout my day, as I wake, in bed rotating the extremities, arising sideways not sit-up style.  My wife chides me as every time I rise from a chair, I stretch like a cat before walking about.  Walking across a room, I'll randomly flop over and breath into my hips and lower back, before slowly restacking the spine and continuing on to the task I was headed for.

 

And always the breath, leading the soft exploration of the extent of that moment's current ability to move.

 

Happy stretching mate.

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On 12/27/2019 at 12:21 PM, silent thunder said:

Absolutely achievable.  I started late in martial arts and at first, my ankles and hips were so tight and high strung with tension that it was a real challenge.  This stretches shared on this site are quite valuable in my experience to opening up the Kua and lower body.

Ah, great site...I do many of those same stretches myself. 

 

Opening the kua is no sprint, BTW...but a long marathon.  Because you will find that you will basically have to release every muscle in your legs, down to your feet...not just around your hips.  We're talking calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors...!  Not to mention, you will also have to release all muscles up along your spine in order to maintain good standing or sitting posture, too.

 

So, this is why so few people can sit in full lotus comfortably.  Because that pose is like the capstone of a whole pyramid of release in the body.  Where there is no shortcut or self-delusion here.

 

You can always imagine you've opened your SHO or have filled your LDT...but you can't fake the full lotus!!!

Edited by gendao
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2 hours ago, -_sometimes said:

A magnificent guide thank you! There is not much detail on stretching, particularly when it comes to opening the hips to enable full lotus posture, but I can find that information myself :)

Given that I wish to refrain from internal arts, which includes zhan zhuang, as it seems I have some level of qi deviation according to the advise given by forum members, I presume that is not too problematic? I can work through the physical whilst confidently ignoring the qigong?

 

There's not that much detail because as it says in the beginning, it's a work in progress and isn't meant to put us in full lotus, just for basic fitness. :) 

 

The qigong component here for the program is only Baduanjin and Zhan Zhuang. 

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3 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

 

There's not that much detail because as it says in the beginning, it's a work in progress and isn't meant to put us in full lotus, just for basic fitness. :) 

 

of course! I'm pretty unfit and sedentary myself, perhaps it will be good to follow your guide and see how far it gets me. As you mentioned, the external and internal complement one another, at least up to the level you consider 'basic fitness' xD

4 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

The qigong component here for the program is only Baduanjin and Zhan Zhuang. 

'only' implying doing so shouldn't pose a problem, even for someone who might have qi deviation of sorts?

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9 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

of course! I'm pretty unfit and sedentary myself, perhaps it will be good to follow your guide and see how far it gets me. As you mentioned, the external and internal complement one another, at least up to the level you consider 'basic fitness' xD

'only' implying doing so shouldn't pose a problem, even for someone who might have qi deviation of sorts?

 

Baduanjin is safe (seated and standing versions). Zhan Zhuang as we do it is only for health, the martial variant I teach is only for students who pass not just the health and fitness test, but the character test. :) 

 

The stretches by the way are more than you will find in Charles Atlas or Harry Wong's books, and aside from no pictures, a lot more detailed than Atlas...

Edited by Earl Grey
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Just now, Earl Grey said:

 

Baduanjin is safe (seated and standing versions). Zhan Zhuang as we do it is only for health, the martial variant I teach is only for students who pass not just the health and fitness test, but the character test. :) 

To double check, so I am certain :) 

 

It is okay to practice baduanjin and zhan zhuang, even if I seem to have problem with qi deviation, appears to cause pressure in head, etc. and it is safe without a teacher to correct such aspects like spinal alignment etc?

 

A post I made a few days ago outlined the issue I am facing. several people suggested stopping all kinds of internal work, including zhan zhuang. When I tried zhan zhuang in the past, after 10-20 minutes I often felt light headed, weak and really tired. 

 

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Just now, -_sometimes said:

To double check, so I am certain :) 

 

It is okay to practice baduanjin and zhan zhuang, even if I seem to have problem with qi deviation, appears to cause pressure in head, etc. and it is safe without a teacher to correct such aspects like spinal alignment etc?

 

A post I made a few days ago outlined the issue I am facing. several people suggested stopping all kinds of internal work, including zhan zhuang. When I tried zhan zhuang in the past, after 10-20 minutes I often felt light headed, weak and really tired. 

 

 

If you have qi deviation, don't do ZZ without getting an okay from someone like Eric Isen. 

 

In fact, go consult him now before doing anything--the only safe practices for you are Baduanjin as I'd see it and physical fitness. 

 

Also, how you do ZZ is going to make a difference, as most people here I have spoken with do not know even the basic practice correctly, and this isn't just me as an elitist or from a Yi Quan background, but seeing multiple mistakes and assumptions some people make about ZZ that show they actually at worst aren't even doing ZZ, they're harming themselves by creating more tension rather than relaxing. 

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4 hours ago, themiddleway said:

https://stretchtherapy.net/

Yes -as @themiddleway says: Kit & Olivia at Stretch Therapy have some extraordinarily reasonably-priced video courses on stretching. Long, deep, experience made very accessible. 

  
 

 

 

 

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On 12/28/2019 at 3:04 AM, gendao said:

So, this is why so few people can sit in full lotus comfortably.  Because that pose is like the capstone of a whole pyramid of release in the body.  Where there is no shortcut or self-delusion here.

 

You can always imagine you've opened your SHO or have filled your LDT...but you can't fake the full lotus!!!

 

Unfortunately this is not the case. To their great detriment and harm, a great many people do "fake" the full lotus. 

 

This is because it is possible to "cheat" to cross the legs into the full-lotus position, and the part of the body that is "cheating" is totally out of one's sight while one does this. One is easily fooled, however, because looking down the legs seem to be folded up nicely. 

 

The place where the cheating I am talking about takes place is in the lumbar region. When a person's mingmen (and associated regions, including the kua) is not open in such a way that truly allows the legs to be folded into full-lotus, one can pop the lower back out, creating the illusion of increased flexibility on the front of the body. 

 

When a person does this, it is unlikely he or she will even realize what he or she has done to "compensate." The practitioner may, therefore, proceed to try to partake in lengthy seated meditation sessions (or sit in "fake" full-lotus while watching TV, playing on the internet, what have you), thereby causing damage to the lumbar disks,¬†jin tissues around the lumbar, the organs (which get squished in poor posture), and overall spinal posture. This will then cause the area at the base of the skull to become blocked because rounding out the lumbar forces the neck and chin forwards, which means that the entire "jade pillow" region and the points around ťĘ®śĪ†/fengchi¬†and ťĘ®Śļú/fengfu¬†get slammed shut.¬†

 

What I am trying to describe is discussed in lucid detail and brilliantly illustrated in Ester Gokhale's Eight Steps to a Pain-free Back. I recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the full-lotus posture as well as the common (but far from universal) Chinese martial arts teaching to round out the lumbar. I will paste a small number of samples from Gokhale's book below. Hopefully they are enough to show why this book is worth buying/getting from a library. 

 

image.png.21632c70d7834f6575814ed33eb90439.png

 

image.png.3f901a47f2247b08b42897cb3d7c78e4.png

 

image.png.4f0c30bbb2592adc061ed61f932f68e3.png

 

image.png.abef84ed9ea446ec8e674e2f493c514f.png

 

image.png.7a6c0e33cc9462e2df10c5e9558efe37.png

 

In Figure 3-18 above, the two women are not seated in full-lotus, but they are "cheating" in a way that is exceedingly common among seated meditation practitioners. I cannot tell what leg position the woman in Figure 3-19 is using, but she displays the kind of back that one should have in order to qualify as doing "proper" full-lotus. 

 

One can easily tell is one is cheating or not simply by running one's hand along one's lower back while standing in good posture, and then seeing if the back feels structurally different while seated for meditation. In proper standing posture you should feel your erector spinae muscles that surround both sides of your lumbar spine sticking out further than your spine itself. In other words, the two long muscles on either side of the spine should feel a bit like two rounded hills surrounding the valley where the spine is. This arrangement occurs because the lumbar spine has a natural, forward-facing curve ("lordosis"), as pictured below:

 

180px-Lumbar_vertebrae_animation4.gif

 

If you're "cheating" in full-lotus by rounding the lower spine, you become hypolordotic. When that happens, when you rub your hand along your lower back the erector spinae musecles will be nowhere to be found, and instead you'll feel your spine poking outwards like a bony ridge. 

 

Should you continue to sit like that for long periods of time, you will end up with chronic bad posture, high chance of herniated lumbar disks (not fun), and all of the health problems I listed above. 

 

Having read the above, it should be very obvious which picture below illustrates what I'm talking about (in addition to looking at the woman's lumbar region, pay attention to everything that happens elsewhere in her body, too):

 

image.png.423f2689a45dc3afc856b7bf7535d919.png

 

The long term damage to the spine and, as a result, qi of the body that can occur due to improper seated meditation is even said to lead to certain types of delusion and madness. Make of that what you will--it is enough to say that there are a variety of serious warning out there about improper seated posture and it is indeed very easy to sit in full-lotus the "fake" way without even knowing it!

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@Walker Thank you.  We're on the same 4 out of 5 pages here. :)  

 

My training involves opening and closing the "gate of life" -- the mingmen -- depending on whether you're going to move or settle.  (The "settle" position being part and parcel of every taiji posture, taiji means yin-yang and it's the yin part of the deal, which eludes many students who move-move-move instead of move-settle-move-settle, and many meditators too who settle in a position that is not really settled and is only suitable for moving -- and only briefly at that!)  This used to be "secret" teachings, and the secret apparently hasn't been revealed widely yet -- to this day there's much confusion out there because teachers in the know probably kept the how-to of it to themselves, and those who did give instructions instructed their students either this one way or that one way but not the real way, not the yin-yang dynamics of opening-closing.  I keep encountering the fallout -- incessant debates about "tucking" or "not tucking" the tailbone, "rounding" or "not rounding" the back...  often vehement because "the Sifu taught us this way!"     

 

Knowing when/how to open and when/how to close it might, in the absence of live hands-on corrections, at least begin with understanding that the rounded lower back and tucked tailbone open the mingmen, qi gets going for movement -- and if you let it keep going when you're not moving, it simply leaks out.  You want to open it for movement, close it to settle.  To close it you straighten out the lower back and turn the tailbone slightly out.  Closed = qi can circulate inside without leakage.  This is also the "defense" position in every move in MA -- but not the "offense" position, for which you need to open the mingmen.  If you're stuck in the "defense" position, you are too yin and can't move fast enough or efficiently enough, and your skill will basically suck.  If you're stuck in the "offense" position, you are too yang, can't settle and restore and conserve, have no stability and your skill will basically suck.  

 

How does this relate to the full lotus?  You want to close the mingmen.  You want stability, a settled, balanced body that is in the best position for immobility, a physiologically sound one.  Immobility in a geared-for-action position is not only harmful for the body but keeps sending conflicting messages to the subconscious mind and can, indeed, drive it crazy.  It's like applying the brakes and the gas pedal simultaneously -- to your deeper consciousness and your qi, no less.

 

  

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4 hours ago, Taomeow said:

@Walker Thank you.  We're on the same 4 out of 5 pages here. :)  

 

Wait, so we still get to fight about the other 20%, right? :D

 

4 hours ago, Taomeow said:

How does this relate to the full lotus?  You want to close the mingmen.  You want stability, a settled, balanced body that is in the best position for immobility, a physiologically sound one.  Immobility in a geared-for-action position is not only harmful for the body but keeps sending conflicting messages to the subconscious mind and can, indeed, drive it crazy.  It's like applying the brakes and the gas pedal simultaneously -- to your deeper consciousness and your qi, no less.  

 

Very interesting way of putting things!

 

What you say about the mingmen in taijiquan is also very interesting, but barring the chance to talk to you about it in person and see/feel demonstration (as well as see how it lines up with what I've learned), all I can say is that I agree that too much know-how about the mingmen has been kept secret and as a result a lot of instruction has suffered. And yes, arguments about "what shifu said" on this topic tend to be almost as bad as Mopai threads, so thank Laozi we're not gonna have to have one! 

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46 minutes ago, Walker said:

too much know-how about the mingmen has been kept secret


Not only that, but I‚Äôve seen teachers purposely give the wrong instruction - leaving an ‚Äėopening‚Äô in their students just¬†so they could get a bigger, more impressive Fa jin reaction out of them.¬†:rolleyes:

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12 hours ago, Walker said:

Unfortunately this is not the case. To their great detriment and harm, a great many people do "fake" the full lotus. 

 

This is because it is possible to "cheat" to cross the legs into the full-lotus position, and the part of the body that is "cheating" is totally out of one's sight while one does this. One is easily fooled, however, because looking down the legs seem to be folded up nicely. 

 

The long term damage to the spine and, as a result, qi of the body that can occur due to improper seated meditation is even said to lead to certain types of delusion and madness. Make of that what you will--it is enough to say that there are a variety of serious warning out there about improper seated posture and it is indeed very easy to sit in full-lotus the "fake" way without even knowing it!

 

Well yes, thanks for the great clarification.

 

And yes, I guess it can be "faked" to some degree - as opposed to dunking a basketball or benching X00 lbs.

 

Although what I meant was that you can't fake it because if you're not really ready for it...then you will feel extremely strained and probably cheat/compensate with bad form (as shown).  And you certainly won't be able to mindlessly meditate in this condition! Getting into and staying in the pose should be like simply opening and closing a door...not like drawing and torturously holding a bow.

 

Hence, the casual litmus test is being able to assume the position without using your hands.

Which is VERY rare! And can you fake this...NO!  Just in the same way that you can't fake the front or side splits...

Now, the bad "desk jockey syndrome" posture you describe is largely due to a tight posterior chain and found in probably 99% of people in modern colonialist civilizations.  It's the same reason why those same people round and bend down from their lower backs once they've reached their rotational limit at their hips - when attempting toe touches.

 

Anyways, like I said, because it literally sits near the end limits of so many ROM, (proper) full lotus requires a whole overhaul of your musculoskeletal system.  Which is why it's such a worthwhile endeavor to undertake...because you can't get there without fixing up a lot of all your other dysfunctions along the way!

Edited by gendao

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Opening the kua is not easy. And the goal described by the lonemaipai guy of touching the floor with ur knees in the butterfly pose is very interesting, but I guess u have to train quite a lot of time in order to do it.

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