I have spent many years physically debilitated and disabled by myofascial pain syndrome. Yet things changed dramatically when I opened my mind and awareness to the subtle flows of energy within my body. What I found was profoundly healing and also enlightening, a paradigm shift in my consciousness. I am continually marvelled by what is revealed by this energy during physical training and in life. And that starts with directing the mind.
Exercise gives us an opportunity to come into contact with body energy and discover its mysteries – such as what body energy reveals to your mind through your body. Exercise also provides you with a chance to play an active role using your mind to direct body energy and to promote health in your body by doing so. Its a game that alternates – sometimes the mind can lead and the body follow, other times the body leads and the mind needs to be receptive to the messages of the body. I invite you to play this game and treat exercise as a discovery process – to play with body energy, allow its mysteries to be revealed … and more!
In this post below I delve into an explanation of what that body energy may actually be and how exercise can help us come into contact with it. I’ll be adding to and updating this post to give guidance about energetic techniques I mentioned in my post Coronavirus – self-care in a time of stress. So pop back for these updates!
First, the key scientifically measured benefits of exercise are
- Hormone management – makes cells more sensitive to insulin and uses and reduces stress hormones
- Musculoskeletal system – increases muscle strength, muscle mass, muscle flexibility, bone strength and lessens the chance of injury and osteoporosis
- Heart and blood vessels – strengthens heart, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers the risk of heart disease
- Body processes – improves immune function, aids digestion and elimination, increases endurance and energy levels, promotes lean body mass and fat metabolism, improves sexual function
- Mental Processes – provides release to pent-up / negative feelings, reduces tension and anxiety, improves mental outlook and esteem, improves stress management, induces relaxation and improves sleep
Other key benefits are that exercise increases metabolic rate for many hours after the training session – leading to enhanced energy and vitality as well as enhanced burning of fat. In essence, exercise helps us to radiate health from the inside out.
At the core of this is the mystery of body energy – Chi, Qi or Prana. It is this underlying mystery of body energy that I find fascinating.
Body energy – a discovery process
It is when we relax into the body that we feel the energy within it. Another way of putting this is losing the mind to awaken to your senses. In my surf stories tune out, turn on, drop in I go further into what has been shown to me when this happens. So try yourself – let your mind go and be aware of what your body is telling you. What is revealed to you?
Also check out my post “Let THE body … BE a body”. Try repeating this phrase like a mantra – repeat the following: “let my body BE a body”. Can you sense the subtle energy of Qi flowing in your body?
I also encourage you to play with being centered – focusing awareness from just below the navel at all times. This is a key martial arts technique about managing energy from the center of the body – just below the navel. From there energy can be manifested with explosive and extraordinary results. That is what can happen when we harness the power with us – the extraordinary becomes possible.
Experiment with the following technique – focusing your breathing and awareness to just below the navel at all times. What do you notice?
Qi, Chi and the mind
Body energy, Qi or Chi may be directed by the mind. Dr Yang, a Tai Chi Grand Master, likens Qi to soldiers and the mind to the general. Qi is thus led by the mind with the aid of breathing and visualisation techniques. The results and experiences are profound: enhancing vitality, healing and transformative. I advise approaching this gently – let your mind direct your energy and notice what happens. Its subtle … yet profound.
Qi itself is body energy that can be felt and may form part of the body mind link that scientists use to explain psycho-somatic immune mediation or PsychoNeuroImmunology (PNI). Essentially messenger molecules mediate in the conversation going between brain and the body as well as between the body and the brain. And PNI is the study of how our thoughts and emotional states can enhance our immune system via these messenger molecules. In other words, how we direct our thoughts and emotions can have a direct impact on our health. Put another way, where your thoughts go, energy flows and everything grows.
What do you want to nurture with your thoughts today?
Resources used in this post:
- Murray, M. (2003). How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes. New York, Riverhead Books
- Pert, C. (1997). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. New York: Scribner
- Sapolsky, R. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. New York: Times Books
I’ll be forever grateful to Dr Yang Jwing Ming for the martial training he gave me in Qi Gong and Tai Chi at his retreat in Northern California. Dr Yang Jwing Ming’s website: http://ymaa-retreatcenter.org/about/dr_yang
I will also be forever grateful to Shifu Yan Lei who who personally trained me with understanding this energy. Shifu is a Shaolin Monk who teaches using traditional methods, which include 30 minutes or more of cardio-vascular training to warm the body before doing energy training with Qi. Shifu Yan Lei’s blog: http://shifuyanlei.blogspot.com/
My most sincere gratitude to the late Hiroyasu Inoki Sensei who I studied Karate under during 3 intensive years of training in Rio de Janeiro. Inoki Sensei brought body energy training into the Karate he taught and this launched me into an awareness and understanding of it that will live with me forever.