I will categorize under headings various videos and blogs I have recently posted on Facebook. It is easier to post videos on facebook, but the posts are organized only chronologically from the last downwards to the first shifting from right to left on the page. On this website I can at least organize the posts under coherent headings, albeit, without the video component for the time being.
4 February 2014
I recently attended Master Zhen Hua Yang's nine day Calligraphy Yoga course (Part One 11-19 Jan 2014). It was an uplifting and positive experience. The techniques I learned continue to give me a feeling of balance, calmness, and capability. It is difficult to explain what I found so valuable without referring to principals that may at first seem somewhat difficult to understand because they represent a "paradigm shift" of sorts regarding how humans can influence their health. For example, early on in the workshop Master Yang mentioned several times that the internal organs, such as the kidneys, liver, spleen, and intestines etc., need to be "serviced" for health and longevity and that conventional Western physical exercise such as running, resistance training, and many interpretations of Yoga practised by Westerners today do not provide this service.
The implication was that those practising the types of exercise common in the West, including many types of postural Yoga, would suffer ill health much earlier in their life than those who had a dedicated internal healing arts practice, such as Calligraphy Yoga. Master Yang also said he could see the effects of either approach in people's eyes and skin. Those who practised servicing their internal organs would have clearer eyes and healthier looking skin. Those that did not would have visibly dryer eyes and skin at a comparable age.
The movements and positions taught in the course were a combination of Chi Gung movements and postural yoga positions. I was reasonably familiar with most of these. What was more novel was the way in which in each movement and position we were instructed to become aware of "energy" points, especially in our hands, feet, and head and to connect them not only with each other, but with movements in our abdomen, specifically in our "Dan Tian". Some of these abdominal movements, or Dan Tian rolls, were subtle. Master Yang was quick to point out that the movements should feel less "muscular" and more "energetic. I found this technique both challenging and rewarding to apply. It feels like it has opened up a whole new world to my personal practice.
To elaborate on this internal circulation approach, as best I could understand, Master Yang said it was important to develop a strong circulating current of blood and lymph centrally in the internal organs and then to extend this circulation peripherally to all parts of the body. To this end, Calligraphy Yoga includes some of the extension, lengthening, and stretching of the spine and limbs (including the hamstrings) with postures reminiscent of those practised in the types of postural yoga I am familiar with, but with the purpose of connecting the interior organ's circulation with the entire body, a purpose I had never heard expressed before.
From what I was able to glean from Master Yang himself and from my brief internet research, he comes from a part of Western China, Mianyang in Sichuan province that borders the Tibetan Plateau. This region has ancient healing, medical, and martial arts traditions that have been highly regarded in China for centuries. In addition, Master Yang himself comes from a familial martial arts tradition that dates back 400 years. The style of Yoga he teaches, Calligraphy Yoga, contains a level of accumulated wisdom and authenticity that in my opinion most postural Yoga traditions I have experienced don’t come close to matching.
Indeed depending on what your current conception of Yoga is, Master Yang’s techniques may be considered more authentic "Yoga" than the Southern Indian Yoga traditions and their Western interpretations that have achieved such market penetration in the West in the last few decades. Kindness, patience, and more than a dollop of good humour are other welcome qualities Master Yang brings to his teaching.
15 July 2013
Tha-Mula-Bandha: An Asana Master Key
In the video I posted on Thursday 4 July 2013 you see me using the pose Navasana
(boat pose) to demonstrate "Tha-Mula Bandha", a technique taught to me
by my teacher Simon Borg-Olivier. It confers both spinal stabil
ity and internal relaxation.
From a Western anatomical perspective tha-mula bandha occurs when the
rectus abdominis (front tummy "six pack" muscle) is activated while
keeping the other abdominal relaxed enough to create space in the
abdominal compartment for the diaphragm to descend during inhalation. It
is a way to maintain the profoundly relaxing sensation of diaphragmatic
/ belly breathing while simultaneously conferring great abdominal
strength and spinal stability.
I personally find Tha-Mula Bandha an incredibly powerful technique for
rehabilitation from back and hip pain to high level function. Not only
has it allowed me to perform many yoga poses I formally had not been
able to perform for several years, but it has allowed me do my sprint
running training without having to stop and massage, stretch certain
muscles after every repetition.
I consider Tha-Mula Bandha a
higher load progression from the low load stability and independent
gluteal exercises I have outlined in previous posts and I do all three
types of exercises in every class and in every personal practice I
Come to classes on Tuesday 7-8 am, Wednesday 9:30 - 10:30 am or
Friday 5:15-6:45 pm to find out more about tha-mula bandha and
what it can do for you.