True to our Roots: External exercise versus Internal exercise!

A garden fence can offer a good support bar to assist in stretching!

When I was a fitness instructor teaching gruelling high and hard impact aerobics, (I was regarded as such a tough teacher that a big guy who was captain of a local rugby team, asked me to give them physical training sessions!), I also started to incorporate the gentle Qi Gong forms into my daily practice and a state of confusion started to arise within my psyche! What was best for me? Western keep fit which gave me a high, or Eastern Qi Gong which made me calm?

A Chinese Qi Gong doctor asked me once why I was still teaching aerobics while in my forties? He pointed to the fish-bellies of my hands, which connect to the lung meridians and said: “Your lungs are depleted, you should just practise Qi Gong and replenish your heart and lungs QI or energy, or you will die prematurely!!

His words stayed engrained with me until now, when I can at long last share them with you with a much deeper understanding. The words which will follow may really rock your belief system, but they come from an internal place of wisdom as I understand my body and energy system so much better.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine based on the 6,000 years old Taoist philosophy of how “we are all moving forward along the path of life, gathering a greater understanding, longevity and spiritual development:
“When you do external exercise
you must do internal exercise
When you do internal exercise
you may forget to do external exercise.”
(Excerpt taken from Dr Stephen Chang’s book “The complete system of self-healing internal exercises”.)

So in Traditional Chinese Medicine we learn that our energy or Qi courses through channels or meridians (like blood does through our veins and arteries), of which the main 12 channels are connected to our internal organs.

When we learn to allow our body to do its own fluid stretches, giving us an instant feel-good factor, and once you know these channels or meridians run along the full length of your body, legs, feet, arms, hands, then you will understand that our natural stretches, which vary from individual to individual are actually clearing blocked energy and helping to re-harmonise our internal organs. Our bodies have such an intelligence which we have forgotten!

How often when we keep fit do we heed our internal organs? Yet without the “background operating system”, or our involuntary Central Nervous System our organs would cease to function and we’d be dead!

We think as we suffer for example, from heart failure or lie in a hospital bed, inactive with a pulse of over 160 beats a minute and poor circulation that it might help to start running? Do you think it would do the heart a favour by punishing it some more rather than teach it to relax and improve the way we breathe? (Dr S. Chang)

Stress today is the major cause of illness and death. It affects the way we breathe as it becomes more shallow, consequently oxygenated blood is not being carried around the body as efficiently or carbon dioxide filtered efficiently from the blood either.
According to Dr Chang, throughout its lifetime the heart is stimulated more by the “sympathetic nervous system, the voluntary nervous system, which originates in the spinal cord, than by the background operating system, or the involuntary nervous system, for example: anger, smoking, ball-games or horror films watching, stair-climbing and stimulating drinks, all accelerate the heart-rate – if exercise is added on to the burdens of the heart its chances of resting and gathering nutrients are greatly diminished.”

True to our Roots or internal exercise is different as their main purpose is to relax the entire body so that the afflicted part can receive nourishment and heal itself.

Stress, anxiety, hypertension can be relieved by meridian stretching which we encourage through activating our fluid system, and enjoying deep and delicious fascial stretches, just like cats, dogs and other animals in nature.

Having been the strictest aerobic advocate for years I now finally begin to understand what the Chinese doctor told me when I was in my forties, at the height of my fitness career, that my cardio-vascular system was depleting itself. That my heart and lungs needed a rest from all their over-activation. He was right, though at the time I didn’t want to admit it as I used to run 400 meters in under two minutes daily, I developed asthma…. I healed myself simply by practising gentle Qi Gong exercises and by stopping the running!!

It is as if we live in an era of the “fire” element. We need to exert ourselves, we have to sweat and get hot, otherwise we haven’t done enough to …”look thinner, fitter, younger…..”

The heart is connected to the fire element in TCM – too much fire causes high blood pressure, heart attacks, congestion in the chest area, which also affects the lungs and the breath. This in turns affects the transportation of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, when rigidity begins to set in. All because we have become stress junkies and thrive on excitable activities to feel alive.

An interesting note from a letter I received from The Finchley Clinic, London:

“Did you know?
Exercise causes gut toxins to enter the blood and may make one feel lousy. Athletes who run for twenty minutes elevate their body temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. This increase in core heat increases gut permeability by 250%.”

While we are young it is evident that we are physically highly active and competitive, however this could be enhanced if children were reminded of good posture and how to use their feet when walking/running, therefore addressing the knee and hip alignment, which will also affect the pelvic and spinal health.

Posture is the basis of this ancient self-healing art, Qi Gong. When we hold ourselves well at all times, our fluid and energy system will flow undisturbed offering us better performance and avoiding possible future injuries.

Competitive sports is not something one should stop, but True’s message is, incorporate the internal fluid work at the end of the sport, instead of forcing the cool-down stretches on already tight muscles. Recovery and flexibility will happen more efficiently while smoothing the accumulated lactic acid away.

Introducing this method into cardio-vascular rehabilitation centres, and schools would be so precious! But then True to our Roots is a precious “tool” of which we only need a gentle reminder, as it is an inherited ability which we as the human race all possess.

How to activate this system?

A little tip! Try stretching your arms above your head, as in our waking up stretch, and instead of putting your arms down to get ready for your day, let your arms guide you into different stretches, and surrender to the lovely sensations. It can trigger off large movements throughout the body, or small internal or facial micro movements.

The trick is to allow your body to show you how well it can move without your mind telling it how to! Therefore, a total letting go and surrendering! Eventually you will understand the feeling which is normal and natural and rarely symmetrical, and you will learn to trust your body’s ability to heal you and make you feel great!

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