Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Learn to be a Polymath

Here is an ARTICLE by Robert Twigger (who wrote 'Angry White Pyjamas', which was once a toilet book for me) that I read just the other day about taking the path of the polymath in a world of increasing specialization.  Anyone who read my 'Expert Generalism' post will know I am a big fan of this. I really liked the article and it made me (once again) assess where I have been designating my time-energy for personal skill development. 

Recently I have realized my own slipping into too much intellectual reading, and have up the sessions of movement-play; and added in the much neglected (for me) sphere of music - dusting off the acoustic guitar I own. I need a drum.  I am on the look-out.  In the meantime, look out neighbours - some terrible renditions of Stairway to Heaven are in your not too distant future!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Practical Guide of Physical Education - Georges Hébert (1912 - translation)

HERE is a translated copy of the great Georges Hébert's work on Natural Movement (la method naturalle). With an influence of the development of le Parkour and other Natural Movement exercise methods around at the moment, it's cool to see a historical training manual like this. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Psoas-Nasal Connection..?

Just a short post on an odd and interesting occurrence I have noted twice now..  Often when I find myself up at 1am, and not sleepy, I will have a movement exploration session (with lights off).  Twice now, I have decided to explore stretching of the deep hip flexor (psoas) muscle, via a number of methods.

Getting a stretch directly in the psoas is no small feat, and as I have mentioned in another blog, people often put themselves into poses/postures that should stretch the psoas, theoretically; but in actuality they have little stretch in it and no sensory awareness of it.  This was what I was doing for a very long time, too.  A true psoas stretch is an odd and somewhat confronting sensation (and it can be a very strong sensation).  It feels fantastic after it has been carefully stretched (passive, or better yet, PNF style).

Besides the wide-ranging postural, movement and gait benefits that are felt after this (or I should say, that I personally feel after I do it), I noticed a strange connection.  On the first night I really 'got into' psoas, and felt it tangibly relax (PNF style), I had a moderately strong head cold and blockages in both nasal passages.  After the post-isometric contraction relaxation of the deep hip flexor had happened, and I was in the 'relax and re-pattern' phase of the stretch, my nasal passage on the side of the hip flexor being stretched dramatically cleared.  Hmmm..  interesting.  I stretched the second side and, sure enough, the other nostril cleared.

Two nights ago, I was up at 1am again.  I decided to do some late night deep hip flexor exploration and stretching-with-awareness.  This time I had no cold.  What I did notice was a very large, tangible increase in my awareness of the breath going in and out of the my nostril, nose and nasopharynx!

Two attempts does not make anything conclusive, but it is interesting enough for me to continue to play around with.  If it turns out to be something, the method of its working is an interesting thing to contemplate.. does it work via freeing the movement of lumbar spine (thus whole spine) up; is it somehow linked to the nerves of the lumbar plexus being freed.. or something more reflexive.  First I need to continue to observe if it works every time. 

No nasal sensory enhancement from rectus femoris dominant hip flexor stretches, no matter how good a stretch I get from them (and they are great stretches for other reasons).  Simon Thakur's (Ancestral Movement) comment's from facebook were:

" ..could be some sort of stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. Either the sympathetic trunk in the deep abdomen, or the sacral branches of the parasympathetic system. Either way, there's a reasonable amount of evidence linking breath flow in each nostril to relative dominance of the opposite cerebral hemisphere..."

Do, please, let me know if you try it and get similar (or different) results.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Great Free Mindfulness Resource

Check out this free Mindfulness pdf HERE.  Shinzen also has a lot of great videos up on his 'Expand Contract' Youtube channel, if you're into that type of thing..which I am.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Freestylin' with Fascial Lat Suppleness and 'Tissue-wringing' Exercises - a Montage.

A few people commented on the lack of ability to see the 'lines of pull' in the soft tissues of my arms and back during my pervious fascial lat stretching videos - See HERE.  Tucking the t-shirt in was suggested, but I dislike the feeling of restricting this creates - so I just ditched the tee altogether. 

Some of these variants require a fair amount of flexibility and body awareness to start; indeed, they are actually really nice for people who are 'hypermobile' already - as is the tissue wringing style of soft tissue remodeling.  I am demonstrating the moves much faster than I do them normally.  This is to showcase the versatility of the humble hanging latissimus dorsi stretch.   Pick a variant that feels good to you in your body - and play around with it at a slow and exploratory pace. 

All of the moves shown have specific breathing enhancers (directed breathing techniques) that go along with them, but would have taken a long time to explain.  I'll break down some of the moves shown in later posts, with breathing; micro-movements; body awareness cues.  If you're a dabbler like me, you can always just play around with what is up and create your own versions.  If you come up with something good, email me or create your own clip.  I'm sure there are more great variants I haven't explored yet, and I'd love to see/feel them. 

OK, here's the Video:  Freestyle Hanging Fascial Lat Spirals

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Amazing 90 Day Lucid Dream [Dream Recall] Challenge

So, Simon Thakur has challenged me to a '90 Day Lucid Dreaming and Dream Recall Challenge'.  Which I have accepted.  We've also invited anyone else who's interested to join in, via the facebook group with the same name as this blog title ( I'd say no crazies, but more accurate is only people who are 'our kind of crazy' please. 

This should be a fun and interesting challenge! (Much more fun that the getting up at 5am one I set myself, and which I have failed the last 3 mornings in a row).

I played around with lucid dreaming before in high school (circa 1999), and have had maybe 25 - 30 lucid dreams in my life, of varying qualities (from more real than 'real life'; to waking up a few seconds after becoming aware I was dreaming).  Come on flying! 

This excerpt from facebook give an idea of what my dreams are like:

"Well, I'm back from my nights adventures gaining a white tiger as a pet; crash landing a flying car with Harrison Ford and Van Damme and seeing Tupac do a backflip out of a five story window, onto a swissball sized basketball (he got knocked out, but woke up and was all good.). Yep, my dreams are pretty awesome." 

One of the books pictured above Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming - Stephen La Berge is a pretty good introduction to lucid dreaming and the basics of how to go about attaining lucidity in the dreamworld.  There are also numerous boards and forums on the internet with much more information.

I will be interested to see how many lucid dreams (and how much control over the dream environment) I and the other challengee's get throughout the 90 days. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fascial Lat Stretching and 'Opening Up and Awakening the Sides'

The flavor of the month (last month now) seems to be stretching, un-locking and re-modelling the tissues of the lateral aspect of the body..

I have recently uploaded 5 videos onto Youtube, of various stretches I have been playing around with for the lats and their associated soft tissues and investing fascia, and of the Lateral Line (and the 'Deep Lateral Line' connection of the QL --> Diaphragm --> Mediastinum --> Scalenes; if you are sufficiently body aware and supple already); Back Functional Line and Spiral Lines (using the myofascial meridians terminology of Anatomy Trains - see 2nd edition of the book for the fascinating details).

I had started to play around with different vectors of stretching the lats (and 'sides' more generally) when I had access to ladders bars for training (I think a lot of people stuff around hanging off ladders bars when they are available..there's something natural and human about it).

I was talking with Simon Thakur, a while back, about 'Opening up, strengthening and becoming more aware of the 'sides' of the body - and lateral movement, especially lateral spinal waves and undulation' which led me to explore this fascial and neuromuscular stretching (soft tissue remodeling) aspect some more.

Here are the videos:
Basic 3 Lateral Line and Fasical Lat Stretches
Video 1 (Basic Hanging Fascial Lat Stretch)
Video 2 (Spiral Lat and Hip Stretch from Modified Pigeon Pose)
Video 3 (Hanging Fascial Lat Stretch with Spinal Wave and Spiral Movement Enhancers)

[+1] Here's a great basic side stretch video by Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym Senior Instructor Olivia
Video 4 - Liv teaches the kneeling side bend
The 'basic' side stretch can still work wonders on more advanced practitioners, if they have the body awareness and micro-movement control of the spine - aiming at as pure a lateral flexion as possible. 

[+1] Also, Check out Simon's Lateral Spinal Wave VIDEO

2 Advanced Fascial Lat Stretching Variants (Get comfortable with the easier versions before attempting)  
Video 5 (Advanced 'Spiral' Fascial Lat and 'Opening up the Sides' montage)
Video 6 ('High Hang' Fascial Lat Stretching)

Besides opening up the often restricted coronal/frontal plane of movement, these techniques remodel the soft tissues over, around, between and inside of the ribcage - thus freeing the breath*.

Along with specific breathing pattern and diaphragm work (pranayama; qi gong; butyeko; etc) this can tangibly increase, not only the movement capacity of the body, but the sensations of being alive and offers numerous health benefits, too.

Hanging is *awesome*! Whether it's from some ladder bars; a tree; a door-frame; a bus stop, or bar - it feels great and has a simultaneous strengthening of the deep grip muscles (if you actually grip the bar actively) and stretching/re-modeling effect on the lats and other pulling muscles, and on the various chains of fascia and connective tissue in the arms.

You can also get into the 'poplar tree' of the various 4th layer(? - iliocostalis group; etc) back muscles via adding different spiral vectors and directed breathing techniques - which is great, as these muscles are notoriously difficult to isolate in stretch.

Once you get a feel for how the greater tissues of the latissimus dorsi can be wound-up, you can create numerous variants which can be done off just about anything upright that is stable (pole; doorway; tree; etc), to varying degrees of success.

Spiral vectors from the legs, trunk and arms work very well.  Multiple spiral vectors works even better. You can 'play them off against each other' and wring the adhesions out of your soft tissues.  Interestingly, the latissimus dorsi (and pectoralis major; among others) has a twist (spiral) in the morphology the muscle.. perhaps this is why they feel so good to twist like a wet towel? 

For me personally, the feeling and observation of how the lats, pecs and traps get involved in the straight arm gymnastics holds (especially when you are strict with keeping the sternum up; so, not holding for maximal strength, which uses the hollow shape, but training for max strength-control from a position of postural alignment), I have wondered if what was happening was that I was learning to use the lats, pecs and traps, in essence, as a 'secondary rotator cuff' - by training them to stabilize and control a straight arm in various positions.. not sure how accurate this is, but a tangible re-patterning of the muscles occurs when you learn to do straight arm work ala gymnastics, and various other holds, in combination with traditional concentric/eccentric work -  or at least this is how I experienced it feeling in my own shoulders and arms.

This alignment (upper thoracic extension/sternal lifting with scapulas allowed to move down the rib cage) is often not possible for a person to maintain on the rings or paralettes for very long, or at all (or even in daily life, for some).

This is often related to daily postural and movement habits.  Sitting in a chair, and having the usually things happen (tighter hip flexors; collapsed ribcage and diaphragm; hyperkyphosis; scapula coming forward and around the rib-cage; etc.) tightens the latissimus dorsi in a specific way; and predisposes you to use only a discrete sector of this massive and variable muscle when you do you strength training exercises.

This discrete sector is usually the over-facilitated sector anyway, and leads to thick ropey strands appearing in the lats as vectors of force have connective tissue laid down in their paths. I have observed this a number of times with people into strength and conditioning work; boxing and other sports involving repetitive pulling.  Certain fibers of the latissimus dorsi are heavily preferences due to scapula position; rib-cage angle and spinal curves (obviously, and especially, thoracic). I am sure it is not everybody, but it is an interesting pattern. 

Finally, on stretching longer chains of fascia and connective tissue more generally, I have found that these long chain stretches respond well to a number of different methods - other than just standard contract-relax (PNF), as emphasized in the beginning and intermediate stages of Stretch Therapy classes.

Some of the 'enhancers' I use are:

• Mirco-movement exploration (lots of different easy to more difficult vectors - simple sagital plane work; rotations; figure 8's, spirals and waves)

• Directed Breathing (especially for muscles/tissues attaching to the trunk and ribs/abdominal area). 

• Outside Support (Tractioning & Bracing via partner assist).  This often uses a belt (judo belt or fabric sash for comforts sake) or manual assistences.

* The name of a blog post I am writing about a core fundamental of the Physical Alchemy system. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Check out Cher's New Blog - Elegance Embodied

Yesterday morning (whilst having an *amazing* breakfast #CafeMoMo) I helped Cherie (Great friend, Stretch Therapy Senoir Instructor and fellow body explorer :) ) set up a blog of her very own - Elegance Embodied.  Not sure if this will lead to another 90 day challenge (*gulp*), but follow along for her mobility and stretching tips; 'Cherie-isms' and interesting takes of life!

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Wave of Natural Movement training (in Canberra)

Check it out - HERE! Simon and Craig got published in a prestegious journal (Canberra CityNews), with a great pragmatic article about all things Natural Movement, play and un-patterning from socio-cultural conditioned movement patterns. 

Join the 'Natural Movement Canberra' facebook group and/or go along to the classes to join in the fun!  Your bodymind will thank you! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Methode Naturelle circa ~1930's

Check out this awesome VIDEO!!  Thanks to Craig Mallet of ARCtraining for posting the link in the Natural Movement Canberra facebook group.  Awesome archival footage of pre-Parkour era Natural Movement style training and shenanigans.  I won't spoil it, but there are some even-more-than-standard-awesome bits in this.. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Great Interview with MovNat Founder Erwan Le Corre

See HERE.  I love the idea (also talked about in a parkour interview I posted months ago) of increasing environmental complexity to test fundamental human movement skills (physical competency). 

It's fascinating and fantastic to see this type of training becoming more popular (certainly other types are still valid), and interesting from a point of mechanstic --> systems theory paradigm shift reflected in changing exercise trends, perhaps? (or Perhaps not..).

Anyway, great article and this style of Natural Movement training certainly has something to offer, would mix well with, barbell; kettlebell or martial arts training. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mythology and Life

Here's another great CLIP on Joseph Campbell - it clocks in at around 25 minutes but is well worth watching. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 90!!

Today marks the final day of Kit and my 'Amazing 90 Day Blogging Challenge' with, it seems, both participants completing the challenge!  Congratulations and many thanks to Kit Laughlin for being my 'Accountability Partner' - many great posts of his have been useful and interesting to people from all over the world.

For me, blogging will continue; but perhaps not every day...and not after 11pm without a damn good reason! Focus will be on expanding themes that appeared during my 90 days of blogging, in greater detail (and more pictures!).  I will definitely be doing more practical posts and videos, that will be added here.

My next 90 day Challenge has started (yesterday). This one has a number of different aspects to it, but the main part is waking up at 5am every morning for 90 days.  So.. let the '90 day Early Bird Catches the Worm' challenge begin!  I will update this challenge here regular.

To any body who dropped by here during the challenge: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  I truly hope you got something (at least (especially) a laugh).


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Full Spectrum Movement Exploration

I re-viewed this Feldenkrais clip HERE a few days ago (having seen it a while ago. There other parts, such as HERE, too).  Some great movement drills you can practice on your own. 

Feldenkrais 'Awareness Through Movement', and other movement exploration methods, compliment really well in combination with strength work of different types; and especially with more rigorous forms of martial arts.  Moshe himself was a Judoka (who knew the arts' founder, Jigoro Kano). 

The combination of a more yin or introspective, explorative bodymind art with a harder, more yang martial art is something that has great appeal to me - and makes for a much more well rounded and interesting skill-set and person.  Be it Judo and Feldenkrais; Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Yoga; Stretch Therapy & Thai boxing or Wrestling & Qi Gong (Or all of the above). 

The full spectrum movement arts study does wonders for the embodiment of the individual, if done with 'awareness through the movement'.  It also gives you and physical cultivation practice to work on everyday without frying yourself.  And they're all fun! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

To Become or not to Become..

Just watched THIS Joseph Campbell video.  I quite enjoyed it; hopefully you will too.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Books on The Shelf

[87] Almost there, almost there.  I am sitting at home tonight, getting writer's block at post 87(!), and being cold and sleepy.  This challenge has been quite cool and worthwhile, and I think will have a ripple on effect into other areas of my life.

Come Wednesday I am going shopping for a new belt!  Not just any belt; this one will be a reminder and reward for starting and completing the 90 day blog challenge. 

The one mentioned yesterday (the 5am challenge) feels more and more like a good idea.  I think I will add some extra bonus challenges to this one.. not too many, but enough to make it more difficult that the blog challenge.

I am currently sitting upstairs, in the library - looking at all my books.  I have read a fair amount of the ones I own (~200 non fiction); but not all of them.  I'm contemplating a 'finish reading all un-read books in your library' challenge..might take more than 90 days!

I want to condense the best bits out of the good to very good books (which is why I read with a pencil), then eventually transcribe/condense this into a word document of quote from these books - and just keep the absolute classics; thus having a greatly reduced library and a fucking interesting and useful document of the 'highlights' of the other books, that can be bound and read on the toilet. 

I recently picked one out of the shelf (that has been sitting there for about 3 years un-read) on impulse, and have had some quite interesting revelations from reading it.  What else is sitting right under my nose..  though, I must say, I am having some interesting revelations about reading and knowledge that are making me want to stop, or limit a fair bit, reading for a while.  Hmmm.

Anyhow, I am off to bed.  I have a couple of partially or almost complete blogs that I have held off publishing, as I want to make them of decent quality.  Post 90 day challenge I will be posting less often, perhaps, but longer and more detailed posts.

Good night.  Good luck with lucid dreaming practice in the twilight hours. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Early Bird Catches the Worm - The Next Challenge?

[Blog day 86]  Legs; don't fail me now!  Only four more days of the Blog-challenge left! 

So.. for the next 90 day challenge I am thinking of 'Waking up at 5am for 90 days'.  I tried this week and got 5am four days in a row; then 9:30am. 

I find that IF I get up at 5am (provided I have had adequate quantity and quality of sleep) I often have the most productive days.  It also allows me to get a morning Sitting meditation session in before my anybody is up.

As I wrote about in a previous post; having a challenge (or two) on the go makes life more interesting, and if they are habit changing or habit breaking challenges, all the better.  I have a lot I want to get done in the next 5 years, and I feel strongly that I will need to rise early and manage time more effectively to facilitate these 'hidden' plans.

The moon is extra bright tonight, and almost full.  Perhaps I will start the 5am challenge on a Full Moon's eve..

"For practitioners, the mind set on the Path is primary, health is secondary, knowledge comes last". Chan Master Sheng Yen, Dharma Drum: The Lift and Heart of Chan Practice

Friday, July 19, 2013

'Long Cycle' Bolster External Hip Rotators stretching sequence

HERE it is!  The 'Long Cycle' Bolster External Hip Rotators stretching sequence, perfect for those interested in physical cultivation, movement exploration and soft tissue health.  As mentioned in the video, I have been exploring a medium intensity, long duration protocol for my stretching and physical cultivation practice of late - to great effect.  It's not better than, say, strong partner based stretching or even slower and softer yin yoga style practice - it's just different, and I like it!

It this type of an approach I make liberal use of micro-movements (especially circles; figure 8's and spirals - as well as spine alignment and pelvic movements); Contract-Relax and Hold-Relax PNF variants (at all type of intensities and durations - it's about feeling what is needed/necessary; not some arbitrary duration and intensity protocol for contractions); sequential Contract-relax methods and breathing enhancers (using different breathing methods to affect/effect the stretch and re-patterning). 

In this method, I will often hold the contractions (especially when building up a series of contractions in sequence, such as: 'turn the little toe into the ground' --> sweep the foot through the ground --> press the knee into the bolster --> you can then add some cool stuff with the rotation of the pelvis and spine using the obliques and brace with a counter-spiral from the arms but it is too hard to write down) for significantly longer than in the standard Stretch Therapy approach (but keep intensity medium) and not fully relax the muscle

This is what I call a modulation or oscillation of the tension of the contractions - or contracting a muscle, then over-contracting it; then returning to the first state of contraction.  This method works well (in my body at least) when winding up long chains of fascia and connective tissue and trying to get them to un-wind/melt.   

I have at least a couple of other versions of this particular stretch (which can be done off the bolster, too) and a fair few other positions I utilize this approach in. 

Playing around with the breathing to get the nervous system in a relaxed state, whilst simultaneously keeping the intensity of the stretch 'simmering' has useful emotional and mental training benefits to it, IMHO.

Smooth, graceful and aware movement is used through-out the sequence (when possible) and as much as you may want to have the mind elsewhere, the stretch will work best if you focus on the sensations of stretching and/or the breath. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


As I sit here waiting for my epic(!) new video to load to Youtube (it's ~2GB but only 10 minutes long), I noticed that I have just passed 5000 blog views! Thank you Every Body! That is truly humbling.  Kit and I are closing in on day 90 of the challenge, and I must say that despite some late night posts, it has been an enjoyable and highly useful friendly competition.

The video I am loading up is my new 'Long Cycle' Bolster External Hip Rotator stretching, breathing and re-patterning sequence.  I think some of you are going to really like it..  I will talk more about it when I post it up, but it uses slightly different methods than a standard Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym protocol.  A lot of my explorations of late have been on making my own solo stretching more effective, and this is one of the better experimental results. 

In the meantime, check out THIS article - sent to me by fellow Monkey Gym instructor and RKC Anthony Linard.  It mentions some topics that I have blogged about; namely the need to have movement training/Kinesthetic education for children (and adults).  Great to see so many people writing (and doing something) about this.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Wisdom of the Spiral

Check out this VIDEO of a Feldenkrais practitioner on 'Movement Nature Meant'.   This type of movement work makes great active recovery; goes well with Stretch Therapy, Yoga and/or strength training of various types.. basically you can explore at this low level intensity everyday, and should do a daily movement practice to (among other things) "challenge you nervous system to update your habits" and "you enrich your movement vocabulary with new options".

The last few minutes on using 'the wisdom of the spiral' from lying to sitting should be taught to everyone.  Spiral patterns pop up all over the place in movement arts of different types (and in Nature more generally).  I've been playing with some wave and spiral movement patterns during my stretching practice of late, to great and interesting effect (more later). 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Future Depends on Play

Thanks to Craig Mallet for THIS totally cool clip about the dire need for more play by everybody (kids; adults; older people; etc).  The video mentions the education system in Finland, which worth reading up about.  

We all really need more play.  The other evening, for the rest/active recovery part of my workout at the local park, I swung on the swings - and also on this swing-thing, that is like a 1.5 metre diameter platform made out of woven rope. It supports enough weight/space to allow two parents and a small kid or two on it to swing.  It normally doesn't go very high, but I got it up to about level with the beam that it attached too.  I then lie back in a braced position on it (like the guys/gals in that crazy winter olympics sport down that pipe).  It was profoundly fun, swinging back and forth looking at the crescent moon in the sky and feeling how my body sensations changed during the different phases of the swing.  Cheap thrills!

Another thread in the Natural Movement Canberra facebook group had some cool adult-in-mind playgrounds.  There should be more play areas for adults.  Luckily some of the kids playgrounds are pretty cool.  I took my daughter to Darling Harbour playground (which seems to have popped out of nowhere..), and there is one of those cool giant spider webs there.  The kids were having a great time, and more than a few adults were climbing around on it too! Which is great!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bird Poo Blessing

Yesterday I was getting some washing in, when I heard a flutter and tweeting noise.  I looked up to see an Australian Lorikeet about 8 inches above my head, perched on the washing line - and it promptly shat on me.  It went down my t-shirt onto my arm (and I had just got out of the shower, too).

Now, this is either the 9th or 10th time I have been shat on (by a not that type of bird UK peeps) in my near 30 years of Life.  Talking to others, this is well above average.  Birds seem to like to shite on me for some reason (??). Did one of my Irish ancestors copulate with a Leprechaun?  I wonder why it is considered lucky, seems like an odd thing to come about. 

Lorikeets are an odd and magnificent creature, if you really look at them (instead of just mentally label 'Lorikeet - I know what that is')! Such vibrant colours and tweakerish character.  The other morning I was up early with my daughter and she made a shrieking sound (one of her new skills); I went to check out what it was, and it was a Lorikeet upsidedown on the washing line - I thought 'Fair enough thing to shriek about, actually', as it was quite an interesting sight.

P.s the spell check on Blogger does not recognize 'shite' as a word!  What a load of shite! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Side Splits and the Liver

Fellow blog challenger, Kit, authored a great blog about side splits and his recovery from a flattening mystery virus today; see HERE.  I have written at least twice about side splits training, and it would be fair enough to question why the hell all the fuss about something that doesn't offer too much functional benefit to most humans?

Well, there are a few of reasons I do it.  Firstly; it is the most restricted range of motion in my body, so from a sensory awareness and bodymind re-mapping perspective (gaining a total body map) there is a lot of 'gold' awaiting the work and exploration of this area.

I have also noted that, whilst this location does not give the spectacularly tangible benefits of, say, stretching the hip flexors properly; it does do something beneficial when I do it (it almost feels systemically beneficial).  The day after a good side splits stretching session I have enhanced awareness of my legs; various systemic changes and a greater feeling of lightness and connectedness in my body as a whole.. not really things you can measure, but that does not bother me in the slightest as I walk around feeling awesome.

Third; I've never done it and I want to be able to (and get that photo with gi-pants on, doing the splits between two chairs; beautiful wife sitting on my leg).

Another point, a little bit odd to consider for some, is the possible health and organ linkages of this area via Chinese medicine.  The area affected in side splits is the Spleen; Kidney and Liver channels; depending upon how you rotate the femur and tibia.  If you have awareness of you internal organs, doing stretches becomes a very interesting practice.

The Liver channel is on the wood element meridian, and governs the 'tendons' according to Chinese medicine (among other things, including a relationship to governing blood and possibly viruses in blood, which would be interesting from Kit's perspective), which I find quite interesting too. Again, that bamboo metaphor for wood and suppleness and strength could be applied here.  Maybe this is where my anger goes to, as that is the emotion linked to this channel..?  I sure feel an intense and anger-like sensation when I'm in this position for long enough! Interestingly I get liver fascia and organ sensations often when I do side splits. Maybe it's just my body, you'll have to try and see. 

From a Tom Myer's Anatomy Trains' perspective, this stretch effects the all important Deep Front Line, especially if you know how to add in the bandhas and various deep abdominal and pelvic floor contractions and lumbar spine subtle micro movements. 

It really is fucking cool to keep as full a body awareness as possible and slow down your breathing during stretches (and during daily life!). It's not the type of 'try once or twice' type of deal.  It's a practice.  It's possible that you may need other practices too; to get the interoception and visceroception up to scratch.  I have found many subtle things to be present, if you are silent enough during stretching. You really are filled with wonderment at the body and it's seemingly ever increasing richness of sensation.  All I can say is to practice for thyself and see.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Exploring Gravity

Just a brief post on the training the body's strength-control ability this evening.  Recently I have watched/been sent a number of great practical and theoretical videos on this: HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE

Two are from Emile Conrad's Continuum system, the other are two people who have developed a high degree of body control on there own.  I love this type of strength-control in the sea of gravity.  Check out the skin, rib and spine movements in the 'undulation' clip!  Great body control.

The Continuum post on aging being a starvation process of the tissues is an interesting idea..  I love the 3 dimensional exploratory and play elements to this type of movement; and think that it has profound implications for Kinesthetic Education (rather than PE or Physical Education of the moment, which is sport based and not introspective). 

Anyhow, I have been playing around with some hand-balancing lately - and it is FUN!  Here is a Hand-balancing COURSE for free, from Sandow Plus. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hidden Epidemics

I do not watch the news, read the newspaper or look at news website; but I used to, and even without doing this, you still hear about current events and trends.  One thing that you hear fairly often is about some 'hidden epidemic' - with the usual candidates being: Obesity and Heart disease.

Neither of these strikes me as being particularly 'hidden'. Firstly, the obesity epidemic is hardly 'hidden' as it is plainly obvious to all with sight that there are many people over a weight that is healthy for them. And Heart disease is pretty common knowledge, and common place (sadly).

But I don't really want to talk about either of these, though.  I think there are a number of 'even more hidden epidemics'; being that they are so hidden that hardly anybody talks about them; but they are there, if you look.  

The Hidden Epidemic of Lack of Body-awareness (lack of sensory awareness and kinesthetic sense [KQ]).  I've written a little bit about kinesthetic education (or lack of it and need for it). We, in the West, are a kinesthetically malnourished culture, and it is so far below the public radar that is does not even register.  We are very dis-embodied as a people. Sit on a bench (coffee optional, but suggested) and watch people go by (I have done this many times).  Is it a co-incidence that zombie movies are popular again? 

The Hidden Epidemic of Lack of Palintonic Harmony in the Body.  

"Palintonic" is derived from the Greek word "palintonos" meaning "unity in opposition" (literally, "stretched back and forth"). Palintonic harmony describes the spatial, somatic geometry of order which becomes apparent as a body approaches integration. It expresses the unity of opposition that arises among all structures, spaces, volumes, and planes of an integrated soma as it moves through space." Jeffrey Maitland (

Ok, this one is a bit unfair.  I don't have palintonic harmony in my own body, it's more of an ideal to work towards.  The point is one of dysfunctional tension patterns.  Almost everyone has them, in weird and wonderful (or not) ways.  The epidemic is one of un-balanced tension to the point where injury and dysfunction is almost assured (or already extant) - and that is a lot of people.

I can count on two hands the number of runners I have seen this year who I couldn't see something glaringly 'out' with their gait - and I'm nowhere near a gait specialist.  Not that there is anything wrong with running - just that there is a lot wrong with how a large percentage of people run.  Same goes for walking; standing; sitting.  These should be skills that a taught (properly) during school.  After English, Feldenkrais class - lunch, then Stretch Therapy/Yoga. 

The Hidden Epidemic of Un-fulfilled Potential//Un-happiness/Mediocrity.  
I have already written about this in the Resist Mediocrity post - there are a lot of people 'working jobs they hate to buy shit they don't need'.  A fair number will protest and offer lots of reasons why they ain't, but..  beyond this many people are in a state of 'meh'; having various existential crises, and generally being un-happy.  This is not that hidden, I guess; as there are many books/articles/courses about happiness floating around at the moment.  I even saw a story on the cover of Times magazine this week, when I passed a magazine vendor.

This is a big topic, and related to the epidemics of Heart disease and Obesity too, I suggest.   I will write something larger and better researched on this at some stage, but again - just do the coffee and bench drill.  This time watch peoples faces.  How many smiles?  How many genuine smiles - not the sugar-eating-high-smile of someone scheming something that will get them personal gain, but might take away from someone else.  A smile of the wonderment of existence.  How many? 

I think all of these hidden epidemics are related - and re-embodiment is a large part of the process of healing this.  Just my personal opinion (it is a blog after all). 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Coming Back Around The Circle

Of late I have been feeling like I am growing younger, not necessarily in body (though that is happening as my health improves), but in the growing sense of (return to) child-like wonderment, and some glimpses, if that is the correct word, of certain states I have not experienced in well over a decade.. there's a sense of joy and anticipation, but it's not related to a specific thing.  

It is a state of Shoshin-like state.  At any rate, I feel a lot of things coming around full circle, and a need start at the beginning of a number of different movement/bodymind training systems- whilst concurrently continuing to work, journeyman style, on what I am already practicing. I am very happy with what I have studied, digested and assimilated so far; but I do not yet have all the tools I need in the toolbox for what I want to accomplish.

This 90 day Blog Challenge has been very helpful in pointing the way, as to what to study next; and also to what I want to do with what I am studying/practicing/teaching.. 

I have a big blog post half finished on some of this, but don't want to rush it at 11:42pm (!) - so will release it when it's ready. 

IF any of you are looking for an interesting challenge, do try to blog continuously for 90 days - it's epic! (hopefully wifey won't read this post..)  I am going to buy myself a belt as a prize!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Static-Active Flexibility

Static Active Flexibility (stretching) is defined by Thomas Kurz, (in Stretching Scientifically) as:

"The ability to assume and maintain extended positions using only the tension of agonists and synergists while antagonists are being stretched

Not a type of movement I do too often (other than, perhaps, a few gymnastics holds that count in this category), but today Cherie decided to put the Advanced Stretching class through a series of hamstring and sciatic pathway Static-Active Stretches and mobilizations that she stuffs around with whilst watching TV at night.  

Why I am writing this, besides the novelty of this somewhat obscure stretching method and it being 11pm, is that my legs feel fucking awesome from it! Super light feeling; relaxed and springy.  

To be fair, I did some standard Stretch Therapy style PNF stretching too, including front splits that was only 4 inches away from the ground (so I'll have to see if I can replicate this feeling again), but it was refreshing to try some of the static active methods).  

I'm sure Cher and I will film these at some stage soon.  The book Stretching Scientifically is worth reading, if you can pick it up somewhere, as is Thomas' other book 'Science of Sports Training' (the lesser known but better one, IMHO). 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki chilling..image from facebook group, hopefully Zen master is cool with me using it..he looks like he is.

"It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness." - Shunryu Suzuki

Following on from Kit and my recent blogging (See HERE and HERE) about lying relaxation practices (which are great) and their importance, I thought I would write briefly about the higher art; relaxed awareness and serenity (calmness) in activity. 

Bringing the states that you cultivate on the cushion, chair, standing or ground in a quiet space, into your daily life is quite the challenge.  Still, it's a great way to see if your practice is actually working (or not), and for those of you who have deeper experiences of this, there really is no giving up or going back. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Odd Forward Bend

This odd forward bend is actually a lot more comfortable than it looks; and felt great.  It's also a nice wind-up for the sciatic nerve (and the Central Nervous System).  The contract-relax moves that worked well were: toe flexion; plantar flexion; knee flexion and hip extension, by themselves; in a sequence and/or with spinal extension.  

Post contraction can involve standard relaxation phase, and/or spinal wave of thoracic and cervical spine (brain flossing).  

Obviously the contractions in this position were of low intensity, and mainly about contraction precision. 

Nature-deficit Disorder

Check out this great ARTICLE about the health and creativity benefits (and just plain awesomeness) of getting out in Nature. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friendly Challenges [73]

Starting the 90 day blog challenge on Friday the 26th of April 2013 would put it at day 73 of the Challenge today (!).  It has been a fun and interesting (for me at least) little game we've been playing. 

Having various challenges on the boil makes life more interesting, I would say.. My wife and I started doing challenges a fair while ago.  I don't remember the specific details of the first one, or how it started; but one of our earlier challenges involved each of us picking an unconscious habit the other one did a lot - then seeing if we could catch the other one out.  First person to be picked up doing the habit 10 times lost, and had to do a set 'task' decided by the other person at the beginning of the challenge. 

My first unconscious habit (picked by my lovely wife) was saying the word 'epic' too much.  I lost this challenge so quickly we created another round of the challenge where I had to watch my use (abuse) of the word 'epic' again.. I lost that one too, but not as quickly or by as much! My use of this word is now down to bordeline normal levels again, but I still laugh when I see the word in a business name or ad. 

The challenges are a fun (as long as they are kept friendly) way to work on breaking habits of various sorts.  Having someone to keep you honest in the challenge makes adherence better than if you were left to your own devices... having some type of reward worth something for the winner is also another motivating factor worth considering. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Wanderer

I found this image the other day (HERE), and there's just something about it - so I decided to post it.  It's a portrait of a wandering ascetic.  Obviously packing lightly, but effectively (only the essentials), in his search for moksha.  A picture really does, on occasion, say a thousand or more words. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sleep, Relaxation and Yoga Nidra

Other 90 day Blog Challenge participant, Kit, has posted two great posts on relaxation, sleeping and the yoga nidra practice - HERE and HERE.

I am very grateful to Kit for teaching me these skills and techniques, as they have had a profound effect upon a number of things in my life; not the least of which has been sleep quality. These practices are simple and deep, and pretty much free - but so powerful. They should seriously be taught to all children as a life skill. 

I used to wake up about 10 to 15 times per night. Also, as a teenager, it would take me between 30 minutes and 3 hours to actually fall asleep (ponder deep existential questions about Life and Death - especially death). Now it takes between 20 seconds and 2 minutes; and, if I do wake up, I can drop right back into sleep at will.  

As Kit mentions, the experience of deep physical relaxation (I think Swami Satyananda says it this way too.. what a great three word phrase!) and the “how to experience sounds moving through you and leaving not a trace” were the two keys for me.

Rotating the awareness from sound to sound during a deeply relaxed state totally changed my relationship to ‘noise’ and the environment. There is no noise – just sound. Even during the day, loud sounds that drive other people crazy do not bother me so much, now.

I have seen physical training/exercise broken up into a simple diagram of three interlocking circles of influence (will have to remember which book) of exercise, diet/nutrition and sleep/restoration.  I mainly focus on the exercise/movement and sleep/restoration circles in my work. The relaxation and sleep practices were/are key to working with the restoration/sleep circle (which  exerts a powerful influence upon how the other two interact). 

One interesting thing in relation to sleep that I have had work for me of late, has actually been herbal sleeping tablets.  I got these on heavily reduced sale, and decided to see if they did anything (they were quite inexpensive; I liked the combination of herbs and I am curious and like to test these things out on my bodymind). Tablets consist of: 

Passiflora incarnata [Passion Flower]
Valeriana officinalis [Valerian Root]
Humulus lupulus [Hops]
Scutellaria lateriflora [Skullcap]
Matricaria Recutita [Chamomile]

Interestingly,  I have found these to work really well. Beyond the upper end of my expectations.   Deep, restful and dream-enhanced (vividness and number and duration of dreams) sleep.  Obviously the sample size of one is inconclusive for other people, but from a personal body watching perspective I am very interested by this. 

I might try the 'erbs in isolation to and smaller combinations to see if I can hone in on the one(s) that are working so well for me.  Not something I would do regularly, but useful knowledge to intermittently cycle in and out of.  My guess is that hops and skullcap are involved.. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Today's Impromptu Soft Tissue Re-modelling Play Session

This morning (after my morning CLASS), I decided to play around on the super soft carpet of the Sydney Stretch Therapy studio. 

I started off rolling my skull around on the carpet with knee and arm supports.  Besides mobilizing the neck (which is great), rolling the skull feels amazing on the muscles and tissues of the scalp.  There's a fair few different vectors of rotation/flexion/lateral flexion you can use for this.. but possibly too tricky to explain here (video later).  Trying to roll all over the scalp fascia and muscles, whilst maintaining slow, natural breathing into the belly. Put some of your awareness into what is happening inside the cranial bones (not inside you 'head'). I did a 2 minutes headstand at the end; just because.

Next on the menu was some hanging latissimus dorsi stretching with a heavy fascial emphasis on the angulation and the contraction type, duration and intensity.  Nice wind-up of some of the arm lines, from Tom Myer's myofascial meridians.  Deep reverse breathing to flare the ribs into the lines of the tension; and ringing the tissues out from the inside, too.  I came back to this with an additional element later - which was so good I am going to film it next Wednesday. All in all, I gave my poor lats a about 6 massive stretches each.  What a difference in posture and movement of the trunk and arms!  In my squirming, I also uncovered some tight sheets of fascia quite close to the ribs that I have never felt before...should be fun un-winding them.

Final thing I will talk about, was a passive backward bend over a hard foam roller - but with the foam roller balanced on a small step. *Don't do this unless you know you can*  I had to do this to get into the angle of extension I wanted.  Besides gravity working on the pose, I also used directed breathing to the sternum with double and triple inhales (inhale - pause - inhale more - pause - inhale more).  I got some really nice mobilization of my first three ribs and associated verterbae.  Combined with the lat stretch and I was in pretty close to ideal posture - without tension and with ease

Oh yeah, and did some awesome side splits practice for the first time in a while!  At 10:20pm, I am being hit by the post good neuromuscular stretching session feeling of sleepiness and body relaxation.  Time for bed.  Zzzzz...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last nights circuit

At the local park, on a brisk July evening: 

Circuit 1 x 3
Chin-ups w 20kg: 5
One-leg Squats (bodyweight): 3;3 [L;R]
Bent Press w 20kg: 3;3  [L;R]
Swings w 20kg: 30 reps
Hanging knee raises: 5-8 reps

Circuit 2 x 3
Chin-ups (bodyweight): 10 reps
One-leg Squats (bodyweight): 3;3 [L;R]
Windmills w 20kg: 8;8 [L;R]
Swings w 20kg: 30 reps
Hanging knee raises:5 - 8 reps

I was no longer cold after about 4 minutes into the workout.  Recently, my other workouts have been indoors, and consist of a lot of lizard crawling up and down stairs; handstands; push-up variations and various glute strengthening exercises. 

Ukrainian Scrap Metal Gym


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Viscera and Breathing Restrictions

Recently I have had a number of very interesting experiences in regards to release of deep tensions in and around the visceral organs (intestines; spleen, liver and stomach in particular); and restrictions in lungs and associated fascia sheaths and layers (especially the pleura and tissue around the esophagus).  I am still playing around with this, so won't go into too much detail now. 

What is interesting (possibly most interesting) about this, is that I feel fucking awesome (that's a technical definition) from this!  Really, really profoundly happy and joyous.  It also brings back to me to depth of a goal like a 'total body map', and how, after years of refining my body awareness - how much I still have to discover.. which is fantastic! 

A lot of the techniques I am studying, developing or creating at the moment are aimed at just these very tensions in the organs and restriction of the breathing and it's associated muscles and soft tissues.   

Monday, July 1, 2013

Liquid Food

This 80kg challenge is getting me excited!  I felt the need to make a 'shake' and am considering watch Pumping Iron again.  Ah sweet liquid food; my friend. I welcome you into my diet once again. You have been missed. 

Here's my current shake ingredient list. 


Vitasoy 'Soy Milky' regular soy milk
Coconut milk
Vital protein pead protein isolate
Organic vanilla essence
2 x Bananas
Lariese Pure Organic Hemp Seed Oil
Cane Sugar 

Sure, it's not milk with chia seeds, but it was damn tasty! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 80kg challenge and food habits

The 80kg-by-end-of-year-challenge™ (with milk and chia seed drinkin' Simon) has brought to my
attention my need to curb my wayward meal and eating habits - and just plain exercise discipline with eating.  Which is why, at 10:43pm on a Sunday night I am roasting pumpkin and cooking black bean pasta for tomorrow. My cooking is on the improve; I can even cook cinnamon and date buckwheat pancakes to a passable quality!

I've stocked up on my cans of coconut cream and milk, but alas, have no milk (of any type) - so no post workout shake for me this evening. I am eating heaps of vegetables at the moment, and there's a grocer/market at Ashfield that is dirt cheap.  I know it's been said (because I keep overhearing people talking about it on the bus and train), but we get bent over in terms of price for food in this country. 

Doing a 'bulk up' phase of training is actually quite fun!  I can't remember the last time I did one. I recently came across this nice general muscle building ARTICLE. I am using all three of the muscle growth methods mentioned in the article, currently: tension, metabolic stress and damage.

Here's me tipping the scales and a throwing-the-Earth-of-its-axis 72kg this evening.  On my sweet 'new' 5 dollar scales I picked up from Vinnies.  Hmmm; maybe I should weight in here (blog) every Sunday or fortnight Sunday..

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Baby Capoeira

Earlier this evening my daughter (14 months) spontaneously started doing Capoeria type balancing moves on our kitchen floor.  She knew this was fun/funny and started laughing whilst is a downward dog style position with one leg off the ground, and sweeping over the other. 

Speaking of Capoeira, not sure if this CLIP lives up to the title 'The Best Capoeira video ever' - but those cats in it are smooth.  I am totally going to get into some Capoeira play this year, most likely in the spring. I love the movement patterns and playfulness.  It's one of those arts I've admired for years, but have not done yet; no problem, starting at the beginning of a physical art is something I love to do - great shoshin practice and great fun! 

Simon T did a nice little intro article on capoeira HERE, whilst for Canberra peeps Simon L runs his great classes HERE

Friday, June 28, 2013

RollStretch Levator Scapulae and Upper Fibres of Trapezius

Hi Every Body, a practical post for this evening - then I am going to go watch the new Star Trek movie.  See HERE.

Explanation is in the video.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bolster Psoas-emphasis Hip Flexor Exercise

Today I filmed THIS video of a psoas awareness variant of the bolster hip flexor stretch, from the Stretch Therapy syllabus.  As I mentioned in the clip, for me I can get right onto the deep hip flexor (psoas) using this position and sequentially contracting different bits of my leg.

The sequence of contractions I found worked for me was: shin into the bolster (knee extension); tail tucking then finally hip flexion with a straight-ish leg.  You can also do stuff up in the spine and torso (and with the opposite leg), but it's a little bit hard to explain in writing.  If you have high level body awareness you'll figure it out pretty easily. 

Also, the methodology for the exercise is different than the standard contract-relax method used in a large number of Stretch Therapy™ stretches.  In this, I use the contractions to get a sensory awareness of psoas contracting - and then I hold it.  I might contract it, then over-contract it (modulate the tension from medium to high, then back to medium) - but I never full relax the muscle. You add other movements to increase the stretch on the deep hip flexor (lateral flexion; rotation; rotation and extension (if no back pain or dysfunction prevents this)).

There are other complex things (like adding in additional spiral contraction vectors) you can do to enhance this stretch, but as I said above, until I figure out a way to accurately describe what I'm doing, you'll just have to explore yourself. 

A few people who tested this stretch reported just a standard hip flexor stretch, so I am musing about whether you need to have relaxed the rectus femoris muscle sufficiently before this stretch actually works for psoas..

My current physical cultivation explorations with stretching and stretching related body-mindfulness practice, have lead me to some interesting sequential contraction stretching techniques (which I will continue to post up for people to try).  Hope it works for you!  Go easy on the intensity, this is a 'introspective' stretch. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We're gonna need a montage...*montage*

Writing is reading 2.0.  The act of writing is a creative act.. even if it all it creates is shite writing.  For me, the blog challenge has been great, in that it has forced me to have to discipline to create at least a little bit of shite, each day. Also, writing quality seems to be inversely proportional to the time of writings' closeness to midnight.

One of the other goals I had from this 90 day blog-challenge, was to try to crystallize some of the ideas I have floating around in my mind about what I want to do with this thing called Physical Alchemy (the system/art/method I am creating) - and, I must say, I have been pleasantly surprised by what has turned up in this regards!

So, I thought I would do a running review/montage of what has come up for me from this writing process..kind of like those montage Simpson episodes, where there was like 3 minutes of original footage in the 20 minute episode.

Some of the themes I have found that have resonated deeply with me are:

Physical Cultivation
Expert Generalism
Body-mindfulness and bodymind training methods
Shoshin (Beginner's Mind)
'Tiger Body' - agility, fascial fitness/supplness, relaxed awarness, etc
The Re-enchantment the Physical Body (sensory-motor enhancement and increase aliveness)
Resisting Mediocrity (tied in with Themes from the 'Ishmael' review about 'captivity' and undoing various types of socio-cultural conditioning)
Learning, Creativity and Digesting Information
Ecological and Systems Theory viewing of Exercise and Natural Movement
Kinesthetic Education [KQ]
Movement Exploration and Patterning 
Deep Physical Relaxation

For me, it is very cool to see the above list written out like that.  When the 90 day challenge is over, I am going to take the main themes from the blogs and write more detailed theory articles on them.  Then, matching the theory with the practical things I've been studying and creating; I will hopefully have the beginning of Physical Alchemy the Art-method-system. 

There are a lot of other bodymind systems I want to study to augment this, so (as with Stretch Therapy/Stretching Mindfully/Monkey Gym stuff) the method will very much be a constantly evolving art. 

And so, how do I put together these puzzle pieces?  I don't know...but it's sure going to be fun finding out!  :) 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agility Deficiency

I went for another run in the forest today. It was raining most of the day, and when I was running, so the trees gave off that freshness and smell they do when it rains. Dodging the puddles (as best I could) along the path, at speed (as well as rocks and ditches and trees) felt smooth - and the whole run felt great. 

As I was walking back along the traing, an idea that I had a while back return - the idea of Agility Deficiency.  What I mean by this is, people talk about strength imbalances and deficiencies; reduced range of motion of joints, or movement dysfunctions but what of the lack of agility? How does reduced nimbleness effect day to day life?

This came about many months ago as I was vaulting over the mini-couch we use as a barricade to stop my daughter getting into the front portion of our lounge-room. I made it over, but it was far from graceful and I was stuck by the fact that although my strength and flexibility are much greater than when I was younger, my agility was reduced.  This, and a few other events, prompted me to re-focus on movement and agility in my training.  I remember a time when I felt very light in my movements - I want that back. 

Related to this is a topic I will blog about this week; which is my re-writing of the Strength & Flexibility [Monkey Gym] course I teach to have a tripartite focus of Strength; Flexibility and Movement. 

Matrix Dance [mad body skillz]

Check out THIS for some mad matrix body control skillz.. it almost looks like it's staged.. Anyhow, enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Skater and Cossack Squat Tutorial

HERE'S a tutorial from the recent Monkey Gym Workshop, in Canberra.  I missed this day, so it was great to see this put up.  Clocking in at around ~13 minutes, it's quite detailed - and the exercises do not require any equipment.  Thank you to Kit for presenting, editing and posting the clip on Youtube (and Paul for filming)!

I did some isometric Speed Skater Squat holds in my workout last night; 75 seconds x 2 sets for each leg.  Plus some one-legged deadlifts with my 28kg kettlebell.  I can definitely feel my glutes today.  I have a suspicion I will feel them more tomorrow..

I'm going to play around with the SSS some more, then possibly write about it.  The Canberra Monkey Gym crew have been playing with it longer than I have, so I want to give it time to adapt into my system.  I had been holding my trunk at a different angle for my isometric squat holds, and found that to be great, too.  I think a number of good positions for holds are possible, each with there own benefits. 

If anyone out there does regular barbell lifting (especially deadlifting and/or Olympic lifting) as part of your training; I'd very much be interested to see what you found from implementing the Speed Skater for a while as an ancillary exercise. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Train Them Bones

A while ago I was leafing through The Shambala Guide to Taoism - Eva Wong, which is a general type introduction and history of Taoism book (I know a number of people who do authentic Daoist practices, so maybe they can comment on whether the book is accurate, or not); and found a chapter 'Cultivating the Body' - which had obvious appeal to me!

Authentic or not, this chapter talks about all types of cool things: softening and strengthening 'tendons' (soft tissues; muscles; tendons; nerves; etc); gaining full range of motion in odd movement patterns; freeing the spine; freeing the breath; massaging the viscera - so the "..tissues will regain their dynamic buoyancy". Things that I am interesting in doing via the methods I have studied or made up (and am currently learning). People have obviously been fascinated by all things physical cultivation, since time immemorial. 

I have always been attracted to, and fascinated by, various Daoist practices and philosophies (too much Monkey Magic and Kung Fu movies as a lad, perhaps..), so it is possibly surprising that I am only this year investigating qi gong/dao yin and other such things - and having a great time with them! I think they will blend very well with what I already know and practice, and it's great fun to have new methods to explore.

I've been having a great time playing with percussive style techniques on my ribcage and abdominal cavity; as well as trying to mobilize/relax/gain awareness of my viscera view bouncing up and down with different degrees of abdominal vacuum on (this I did not get taught by any one in particular; just figured it out by stuffing around - you could potential fuck something up if you do not have the body-awareness, so only try it if you take responsibility for your own body).

Training the viscera is something that is not mentioned too much is the western style training literature I have read; but, to me, is obviously an essential part of physical cultivation. Based on what I have figured out so far in my playing (and reading), I would say (IMHO) a decent amount of pain, dysfunction and ill health comes from mal-positioned, hypertonic and constricted organs.  

One other aspect in the chapter that stood out to me was the part on 'marrow washing', which it described as a way of strengthening the bones via cleansing, regulating and then changing the bones shape.  This piqued my interest.. I'll have to ask some of my Daoist lineage buddies about this sometime.. 

Anyhow, what I started to think about after this was what I knew that would strengthen bones.  The most obvious being strength training (muscles and fascia contracting to stimulate bone growth and density via Wolfs Law - now 'Utah Paradigm of Bone Physiology!') and dynamic loading of them (jumping and impact absorption).

A less obvious one I want to run with a bit here, is putting spiral contract-relax/hold-relax (PNF) contractions through bones as a way of strengthening them - and effecting the fascia (periosteum) around them.  What I feel when I get a good solid spiral contraction through, say my forearm, definitely feels like it's doing something positive (not very testable, I know). 

Some of the Stretch Therapy wrist stretches are perfect for this set-up, and I have been using the stretch position to hold long and reasonably strong spiral contractions from them. These are not beginner/intermediate level contractions; I am talking about wringing out to those tissues (within parameter of no pain and/or wrist compression; just high level stretch sensation and muscular contraction); similar to wringing out a wet towel.  It's not held for overly long, but over time you can get used to a high contraction stretch (be patient!). 

I like the idea mentioned in the book about having strong but pliable/bendable bones (again with the bamboo analogy), rather than brittle or rigid. Just take a look at the statistics for life expectency post hip fracture..

I must re-read the 'Bone' chapter from Job's Body again, and go over the theory a bit more rigorously.  Still, it is a fun thing to ponder.  My gist for 'bone-training(™)' is to use high tension strength techniques (heavy weights; medium-high tension gymnastics holds; etc); plus dynamic recoil techniques (agility and jumping); plus impact techniques (heavy bag work); plus spiral 'wringing' long hold, multiple contraction Stretch Therapy style PNF contractions to change the bone make-up towards bamboo-dom.  Cool?

On a side note, Bamboo is fucking awesome and should be planted everywhere (down median strips; in alley ways; etc) - noxious weed or not.  It has many uses and fixes a fair amount of carbon sequestration.  Plus it just looks awesome...(!) you feel like you are in a 70's kung fu movie when you walk passed it (at least I do)! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday night at the movies.. Enter the Dragon

I just finished watching Enter The Dragon, on this rainy Saturday evening.  It's apparently the 40th anniversary of the release of the film, and I haven't watched it for about 7 years - so, this super-moon evening, I thought the timing was right for another watch.  Still great!  I loved this movie as a boy, and watched it many, many times. 

Whilst watching the movie, I was doing some movement practice and self soft tissue work on my hands and forearms and feet.  Nice hot chocolate and I'm one happy chappy.  Seeing as though I am easily/cheaply amused this way, I think I'll watch another 70's kung fu movie (or two) sometime in the next week.  

Following on from yesterday's physical cultivation topic, I have mentioned some of the transformative/body-mindfulness aspects of my Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym training (practice), but have not yet mentioned my earlier martial arts training - which was the first profound bodymind change I experienced through hard practice; and still shapes a lot of how I approach movement (and, indeed how I move) and physical cultivation.  I'll go more into this in a later post.. 

One thing that I find interesting, in this era where you find 'yoga' products everywhere (even in the post office(!), I found out the other day), and people are talking about all things mind-body, health, meditation, etc., - martial arts training (in lots of different styles), for me, still offers great bodymind training opportunities.  Obviously, the 'martial' part is often discussed, but for me, these days I am far more interested in the cool things that martial arts training methods can do for to positively change the bodymind. Plus they are fun!

This is not limited to the more 'internal' or 'meditative' martial arts; a 1000 rounds of hard training on Thai pads will change a person, if done properly (10, 000 even more so). Same for increased body-knowledge from wrestling, or stick fighting or whatever.  Actually, for me (not caring about martial application of martial arts so much), looking at the movement patterning and other physical cultivation aspects, martial arts from the whole spectrum (soft --> medium --> hard) are appealing and offer benefits worth pursuing. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Temple of the Tiger Body

Reminiscing about the closing of the Monkey Gym in Canberra; and the recent, final, Monkey Gym Workshop that I presented at a fortnight or so ago - I am actually quite looking forward to the possibilities of what could be; if a similar 'crucible' (or, hopefully, crucibles) was established in Sydney..  I am going to try to make this happen as much as I can.. though what I want to focus on is physical cultivation and bodymind training methods - fusing Natural movement, flexibility, breath freeing, strength, deep relaxation, body-mindfulness, agility, speed, soft tissue health, etc. - pretty much the 'Tiger Body' from a few posts back. I will elaborate in a future post in much greater length, for now Tiger Body will do fine. [See Craig's recent Cultivation post HERE]

So, at the 'Temple of the Tiger Body(™)' (as I would probably call it), if things went my way, I would love to attract all types of physical cultivation and bodymind dabblers; teachers and serious practitioners - as well as beginner and continuing students.  What Kit has talked about before is having an 'advanced class', which is pretty much a workshop/experimental flavour, where all types of things get trialled and tested - and disseminated if they pass the Saftey, Efficiency and Effectiveness gates

For Dave's ideal workshop-advanced-class-thing (crucible), I would love to have all types of yoga and qi gong practitioners; martial artists (soft and hard styles - and anything in between); strength and conditioning peeps; movers; somatic explorers; all types of bodyworkers and somatic practitioners - as well as just freaks of nature in terms of physical capacity. All with open and curious mindsets, and unique skills to show and tell. What an awesome thing to have on one night each week! 

Not my chosen style of physical training, but worthy of massive respect - I recently read THIS article about (The Great) Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame.  Now THAT is a crucible of amazing physical training!  You can see, too, that through constantly striving for the best in training - and constantly trying anything and everything (and whittling out the stuff that doesn't work), they end up with a high-minded simplicity.  In this case: Max Effort; Dynamic Effort and Explosiveness.  Beautiful.  Of course these can be elaborated on ad infinitum.

For me, the physical cultivation (sensory and motor elements; health and performance; yin and yang; Having deep body-mindfulness and embodied Awareness, whilst having amazing physical skills and capacity) crucible is what I want to have a part in creating and spreading.  This deep reasoning I will omit for now (you could read 'Coming to Our Senses' if you want a sneak peek).

"Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body." Saraha.

p.s how awesome is the tiger picture at the top! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cat Crawl and Push-up Postition Foot Figure 8's

HERE's TWO joint mobility and foot/ankle awareness exercises that get into the posterior compartment and deep posterior compartment of the lower leg nicely.  One is from a cat crawl beginning position, the other from the top position of a push-up. 

You can get some novel contractions of the calf muscles if you focus on the sensory awareness of the muscles (as well as the spatial awareness required for doing the figure 8's). 

Try to keep you've got good spinal alignment during them for bonus points. 

Enjoy! And may the Calf-growing Force be with you! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forest running

I did something way out of character yesterday - I went for a run. I have done this about 3 times in the last decade. 

I chose to do this, not for the usual reasons (cardiovascular fitness; etc.,), but so I could get deeper into the forest near my house, quicker; to practice some Natural surroundings Parkour-style agility running down and up rocky paths, and to do some sprinting along the narrow winding trails (sprinting with jumping and lateral movement). Running on the rocky paths is good ankle proprioception work, btw! The Tiger shoes held up great.    

A bonus ribcage workout from the heavy breathing (and practicing getting my breathing rate back to normal as quickly as I could), too.  Basically, on the way out to where I wanted to go, I would alternate between sprinting for about 15 - 25 seconds then walk for about 100 paces (or until my breathing returned to normal).  The game went: If there were rocks, trees or an embankment on the path, you had to try to bound across them in the coolest way possibly, whilst trying to maintain speed.

Next time I do this (on an 'light' day), I think I'mma going to try to find a tree branch to do some volume work for pull-ups on; some lizard walking and maybe carrying a big rock around.   There's something totally cool about sprinting down a trail; having trees, shrubs and other greenery rush passed - and breathing in the fresh air.. Lucky am I, to live 10 minutes from Lane Cove National Park!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tiger Style

Tigers, or other big, jungle cats, are often used to describe the physical attributes one seeks to get from physical cultivation and training - and it's easy to see why!  The power; the speed and agility; the relaxed awareness (and the ability to go from a deep relaxation to extreme speed and power very quickly, than is exhibited by most members of the feline family).

Physical cultivation for elastic recoil (fascial fitness); Natural movement; relaxed body-mindfulness and power endurance are all the things I am looking very much forward to working on in the coming months, and years.  All bodymind training methods that lead to cat-like movement and sensory awareness are to be explored. 

Tiger Body Workout, as a name, is already taken (by Robert Schleip and his partner Divo - who do great work); but still, I feel like the attributes mentioned in the paragraph above are going to be a large part of where I take my own training and what I teach, in the future..

On a side note, I saw recently that the numbers of actual tigers left in the wild is really low (~2500).  This made me sad; that such a grand creature is, very much, in danger of becoming extinct.  I hope they find a way to increase the numbers..maybe they could release them into outback Australia; to feast upon feral goats and camels; kangaroos and the odd German backpacker who has ignored the warning signs?