Thursday, 30 June 2011

What "Internal" Exercise Can Do for You

Internal exercise is much different than what most Westerners think of when they talk about going to the gym or getting in shape.  

Internal exercises are different because they've been designed with the whole person in mind, because they reintegrate mind and body and because they are sustainable - in other words, they lead to long-term health and, unlike some forms of exercise, they're not prepared to sacrifice that for the sake of short-term gains.  

                            Hatha Yoga

What's the opposite? Have you ever seen someone running on a treadmill and watching TV at the same time, with their body doing one thing and their mind another?  There you have it - a recipe for limited results, where you're treating your physical life and your emotional / spiritual life as unrelated.  

                                          Tai Chi

What are the classic internal exercise forms available to you today?  Chinese Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Bagua Zhang, Xing Yi Chuan, and Indian Hatha Yoga are all viable options if they're taught properly.  Granted, Bagua and Xing Yi are the least common; however I thought we should list them in case you come across them!  

                            Bagua's circle walking exercise

The Short List of What Internal Exercise Can Do for You

  1. Helps Your Heart: improves your aerobic conditioning, oxygen uptake and endurance, while lowering resting heart rate.

  2. Improves Your Flexibility: May not seem that way at first, but you'll become much more physically flexible doing internal exercises like Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Hatha Yoga.  This will reduce your stress, release trapped tensions and help you become more flexible emotionally.

  3. Banishes Your Worries: Chronic worry and anxiety can increase your cortisol levels, which unfortunately correlate with elevated blood pressure, depression, weight gain and increased insulin resistance.
  4. Improves Muscle Tone: Contrary to popular belief, these exercises build muscle like crazy.  This superior muscle tone helps protect you from injury, back pain and even arthritis.  Moreover, these exercises target deep core muscle groups vital to many aspects of your health and promote the flow of blood, oxygen and energy (qi or prana) throughout your system.

  5. Takes Off the Pounds: Internal exercises burn far more calories than most people think and, even better, as a practitioner you're more likely to improve your nutrition.  This will help you drop even more weight, if that's your goal, or at least arrive at your optimum weight sooner.

  6. Lubricates Your Joints:  To keep your joints healthy, internal exercises take them through their complete range of motion.  This bathes the joints in nutrients they might not otherwise get, keeping them healthy, pliable and resistant to injury.

  7. Balances Your Blood Sugar:  Internal exercises promote better sugar metabolic function, improve cholesterol balance and decrease risk of diabetes and its related complications, such as kidney failure, heart attack, blindness and limb amputation.

  8. Kicks in the "Relaxation Response":  That's an expression coined by Dr. Herbert Benson.  Internal exercise brings your breath, movement and mental attention together, calming you automatically and shifting your nervous system over to the restorative parasympathetic circuit.
  9. Builds Those Bones:  Because they favor weight-bearing exercise, internal systems tend to build up bone density and stave off osteoporosis.  Moreover, some systems have special methods for keeping the bone marrow healthy and the bones resilient.

  10. Improves Balance and Coordination: This is a function of mind-body integration and translates into fewer injuries and accidents as well as enhanced mobility. 

  11. Circulates Your Blood Better: Vitality is partly dependent on efficient blood circulation.  Internal exercises wring the venous blood out of your nooks 'n crannies, reduce the workload on your heart and also thin your blood naturally, reducing the likelihood of clot-induced heart attacks or strokes.

  12. Builds Mind-Body Awareness: As you practice, you become more and more sensitive to how you use your body - your balance, weight distribution, the places you habitually hold tension and the psychological resistances you've built to life that translate into physical manifestations of stress.  And once you're aware of these things, you can change them consciously!

  13. Immunizes and Detoxes You:  Internal exercise postures move your lymph fluid quite efficiently, boosting your immune system, destroying pathogens (including cancer cells) and promoting a natural detoxification of internal organs in general and the lower digestive tract in particular.  This release of toxins and improved immune system functioning provides a solid basis for long-term health and longevity.

  14. Deepens Your Sleep: By circulating blood, energy and oxygen more efficiently, reducing your stress and inducing a never-before experienced level of control over your own organism, how could you help but sleep better?

  15. Instills Happiness "Software" in Your Mind: If your practice goes beyond just doing the routine to "get some exercise", you're in for a treat.  Internal exercise systems are holistic tools for cultivating mind-body harmony and happiness at levels you've probably not felt before.  And these systems often have or are connected with meditative systems that can revolutionize your life (in fact, that's what they've been designed to do).

  16. Ramps Up Your Relationships: As you become calmer, more flexible and more connected with the core of your own being, other people will more often crave connection with you.  Internal exercise helps you become more compassionate, more approachable and more balanced - secrets you can share with your loved ones and anyone else who will listen.

  17. Spiritualizes Your Romance: Internal systems are indeed holistic - they have or are connected with repositories of expertise on conjugal relations that can show you how to deepen your emotional connection with your spouse, master your sexuality and spiritualize sexual union. 
Needless to say, there's lots more!  Of course, none of these benefits come without regular and consistent practice.  The deeper benefits only come if you make the effort to build your lifestyle on these practices and the principles that underlie them.  

If you'd like to learn more about one form of internal exercise, Chinese Qi Gong, and its origins in the world's most successful tradition for cultivating health and longevity, just go here.

 ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Monday, 27 June 2011

What About the PLANET'S Resilience???

Resilience... the word's Latin root means "to bounce back".  And what do you bounce back from?  You bounce back from an event that knocks you off your feet, interrupts "business as usual" and leaves you head spinning.  We often refer to these events as "disasters".

I was privileged to spend much of the past week at the annual World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM) in Toronto, a high profile event bringing together some of the top people in the fields of emergency management, business continuity and disaster recovery worldwide. 

And disasters appear to be getting more frequent and more severe.  In 2010, some 373 natural disasters killed 270,000 people in 131 countries, severely testing the structural resilience of nations and the personal resilience of over 200 million human beings.  But what if some of those disasters weren't really "natural" disasters at all, as we tend to assume?

World on the Edge...

Enter Lester Brown, world renowned environmentalist, author of World on the Edge and head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, DC.  Lester's address to hundreds of conference delegates blew everyone away...

What if last summer's devastating heatwave in Russia, that killed 56 thousand people and destroyed 40% of the Russian grain harvest, had been centered on Chicago instead of Moscow?  Easy, world grain reserves would have dropped to 52 days of consumption from 79 (the lowest reserve we've experienced), grain demand would have wildly outstripped supply, we would have seen food riots in many places throughout the world and more failing states as governments proved unable to cope with the internal pressures.  

With the world demand for food rising as population increases by about 219,000 per day, grain production goes down, fish stocks are depleted and fuel prices rise, the natural support systems that underlie the global economy are fast unraveling, said Lester.  

As we continue to pour carbon emissions into the atmosphere, climate change accelerates, cutting into grain production (a 1 degree Celsius rise in average temperature means a 10% drop in harvest), melting polar ice sheets and advancing the spread of desert lands.  

If we lose the Greenland ice sheet, ocean levels worldwide will rise by 7 meters.  Aside from inundating many coastal cities, this would be catastrophic for global rice production, further endangering the food supply and showing just how interconnected the factors of food, water, population and climate change really are.

When massive floods hit Pakistan in 2010, as the Indus river and its tributaries overflowed during heavy rainfall, 2 million homes were destroyed, 2 thousand people died and one fifth of the country was inundated.  But was it really a "natural" disaster?  Global warming had already driven the ambient temperature to record levels, accelerating glacial melting in the Western Himalayas, where the Indus begins.  Combine that with practically no investment in the kind of reforestation and soil conservation that could have mitigated the flooding and you have the greatest "natural" disaster in the region's history.   

Plan B - Digging Our Way Out of This Mess

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it?  Good thing Lester came with a plan to save us!  And saving us is where it's at, according to him.  Although we often hear talk about "saving the planet", the real point is to save civilization.  After all the planet will still be spinning merrily through space.  Question is... will we still be on it?

The truth is, we don't know exactly where the tipping points are, the points at which human actions will have so severely crippled the ecosystems that these ecosystems are no longer recoverable on a time scale that means anything to us.

In 2009, John Beddington, chief scientific advisor to the British government, said that the world was facing a "perfect storm" of food shortages, water scarcity and rising oil prices by 2030.  

Soon after, Jonathan Porritt, former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, said he agreed, except that the date would be more like 2020.

Fortunately, the measures we need to save civilization are within our grasp.  The Earth Policy Institute's Plan B has four pillars:

  1. Cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2020.
  2. Stabilize the world population at no more than 8 billion.
  3. Eradicate poverty worldwide.
  4. Restore the natural support systems of the world economy.
Can it be done within the limited window of opportunity open to us?  Easily, but only if we're willing to make the tough decisions right now.  Otherwise it's the usual "too little, too late" and we'll all be in line for a collective Darwin Award.

Doing this will require us to redefine national security and realize the greatest threats we all face are no longer armed aggression, according to Lester.  If we restructure the tax system, use our industrial capacity properly and move to the sustainable fuel sources of wind, sun and geothermal energy, we can accomplish all four priorities for a mere $250 billion per year - peanuts in the great scheme of things.  

What Do YOU Think?

Resilience and Sustainability are fast becoming the watchwords of our time, and with good reason - you can't have one without the other.  An unsustainable world economy based on consumption, environmental destruction and resource depletion will never produce a resilient world.  

Weight lifting and distance running have proven to be non-sustainable forms of exercise for so many, leading to long term physical damage that actually undermines our resilience.  If we're running our entire civilization based on this same kind of short term thinking, then it's obvious we're undermining our collective resilience.  

So what do YOU think of all this?  What will YOU do to help reverse the trends before we reach the point of no return?  Use the comment function below and share your views with all of us - we would love to hear from you! 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Documentary "Openings" and How to "Open" Your Own Heart and Mind

You can read the text below OR listen to this post on audio here:

Last week I spent a couple of days in beautiful Denver, Colorado, filming my segments in the upcoming docudrama "Openings" (You can watch the trailer here).

The producers spent hours before the actual filming going through the "brutal" creative process of "teasing" out of me what they considered the golden nuggets they wanted to capture on digital celluloid.  One of our discussions revolved around the whole question of how we human beings can become open enough to experience a significant shift in our lives....

The Space of Freedom

As a human being, you're only free to the extent that you can free yourself from your previous programming.  And the only place you can do that is in the "space" between stimulus and response.  The only way to become a truly free and therefore truly functional and happy person is to expand that space.

For example, if you have no psychological "distance" between the two, your responses will be distressingly predictable and egocentric - someone insults you and you retaliate, someone compliments you and it goes to your head, etc.  At this level, you're basically a lower animal, fleeing pain, seeking pleasure and incapable of amassing enough personal integrity to follow higher principles when the going gets tough.

So, needless to say, you'll never experience personal growth of any kind without expanding the distance between stimulus and response.   

The 3 Keys to Expanding the Space

The good news is there are only three things you need to do in order to cultivate and build up true internal freedom.

The first is simply that you need to make a decision to do so - you have to decide you want to grow beyond your own programming, free yourself from the emotional chains imposed on you by other people, their emotions, ideologies and delusions.  And, while a simple decision on your part won't achieve deep transformation on its own, it's a step that everyone of us must take.

The second step is that we have to be willing to humble ourselves.  When some jerk cuts us off in traffic, we have the opportunity to stifle that string of four-letter words, for example.  And that takes guts.

The third step is simply to practice over and over again.  Good thing life presents us with unending opportunities to do just that!

If you look at the three keys carefully, you'll notice that all of them have one thing in common - they contradict your ego.  So opening yourself to a larger universe takes a decision to work against your ego, as well as determination and work.  

The Magical Results

As you expand the distance between stimulus and response, you'll find that you become more open to and accepting of other people.  Your responses to life's situations become more flexible, appropriate and successful.  Your old programming no longer determines your words or actions.  And, perhaps for the first time, you sense a real change in your world as you let go of old baggage.  

This means your capacity to be aware of, to accept and to deal with your own emotional content will expand.  So, naturally, your compassion for and empathy with other people will go way up.  After all, if I can't feel my own heart, I sure can't feel yours.  And all deep human communication is, in reality, a heart to heart connection between us. 

This means the quality of your relationships will improve and, in fact, the quantity likely will as well, since people will be increasingly drawn to you.  Another way to say this is that your interpersonal skills will improve even though, paradoxically, these aren't "skills" or "techniques" that can be taught at all.

Besides all this, your overall level of psychological and physical resistance to life's challenges (which I discussed in a previous post) will drop, thereby reducing your stress levels and improving your health.  

And, by the way, don't ever think that you can grow spiritually if you haven't grown emotionally first.  That's a common delusion in our culture and is plain wrong.

That then is what it means to open your heart and your mind, to expand your consciousness and acquire true inner freedom and spontaneous happiness.   Sound good to you?  Then you're probably asking yourself how you can do this even faster and more effectively...

Accelerating the Process

If your body is significantly uptight and inflexible, if you're storing emotional tensions throughout your body's energy system and muscular structure, then any attempts you make to become more open psychologically will likely hit the wall pretty fast.  So yes... open yourself emotionally, you have to open yourself physically as well.  The most effective way to do this is to use some form of what I call "internal exercise", such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Hatha Yoga, for example.  

The great emotional benefit of these exercises is that they put your mental attention inside your body and help you process emotions and traumas locked in your bodily tissues in a gentle and natural way.  For instance, you cannot possibly do Hatha Yoga's sun salutation properly and stay in a bad mood, nor can you do Qi Gong's organ meditation and feel like a victim.  Not going to happen! 

As every teacher of any of these three methods knows from experience, the more physcially flexible you become, the more emotionally calm you become.  

So if you would like to become more open to divine guidance (one of the main themes of Openings), enjoy far better relationships and improve your health on every level, then just start doing what's outlined here and enjoy the process!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Thursday, 16 June 2011

One of the greatest problems we all face is finding time to "get everything done".  And that's a challenge that I had been struggling with over the last few months in the race to get a new segment of business up and running - just when the heck was I supposed to find the time??

Well, turns out that I had been making the single most elementary mistake in life-management.  Yes, it's a mistake I know all about, teach to my clients and I've even shared it with you before. 

Did that stop me from falling right into it?  Hell no!  To see this mistake in what NBC used to call "living color", just have a look at Stephen Covey's demonstration right here:

How to Identify YOUR "Big Rocks" and Avoid My Mistake

Here's a devastatingly effective planning procedure for you.  Try it next week and you're sure to see the difference:

  • Ask "What?" - what's your goal? Can you define it exactly?  Are there time parameters?  Can you measure it?  The purpose here is be as exact as you can and as clear as possible.
  • Ask "Why?" - then do it again.  Get someone else to quiz you on this until THEY are satisfied with your answer.  Their job is to keep asking "why?" until YOU begin to make sense.  This will frustrate the hell out of you, but it's more than worth the pain.  This will help you to connect to your deep inner motivation, your wiring, your "passion".  And if you can't, maybe you should rethink the goal.  If you can't connect with it on a deep level, is it because you feel you "should" do it because  of social pressure or guilt?  Or is the importance and urgency you're attaching to it built on some unexamined assumptions that won't help you in the long run?
  • Ask "How?" - Get someone else to do this to - they can sense when you're underestimating the time and effort, over-committing, being unrealistic, etc.

Part of the lesson here is to ask yourself if you're really living up to the principles you know.  I was truthfully a little shocked to find I was falling into the trap of scheduling the minutiae of life first and then struggling to find room for the things that really matter in the long run.  But it can happen to any of us.

So when you get ready to plan the upcoming week, take just a little extra time to make sure you put in your "big rocks" first and use these simple questions to get the clarity you need.  You won't be sorry you did!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

You're Nowhere Near DEEP Relaxation Yet, Grasshopper....

Following last week's encounter with the Russian martial art of Systema, I've spent much of my time focused on the value of inner surrender and non-resistance.

When I was training with some special forces people earlier this year, one of the surprising things I was able to share with them was the fact that several classic martial arts holds and locks only work IF your opponent is resisting you - if he relaxes, the technique doesn't work at all!

How Tension Enters Your Life

Here's a really tough truth for you: most of the tension you experience, whether physical or emotional, is produced by YOU and no one else.  It's not the jerk who cut you off in traffic and it's not your circumstances.  Rather, the tension is caused by your resistance to all this.  

And every time you resist psychologically, you produce stress and tension we could measure physically if you were hooked up to the right equipment.  Your blood pressure and possibly your heart rate will elevate, the electrical resistance of your skin may change, some muscles may tighten and your metabolism and energy circulation will suffer.  

So when you worry about a situation, react impatiently with someone or dread going to that family picnic, your inner resistance will manifest physically even if it does so in a way that's too subtle for you to notice. 

The Two Doors to DEEP Relaxation

Deep relaxation is a state all of us can enter into - we're actually built for it.  And the way to get there, the only way, is by passing through the two doors of Non-Resistance.

The first door, as the world's authentic ancient traditions have long since proven, is your breath.  If you can stay gently focused on your breathing as if it is the only thing that matters (warning: if you're new at this, don't do it while driving or doing anything similar), you'll quickly discover two things:

1. You'll become much more relaxed.

2. You'll notice inner tensions and disturbances much faster.

The second door builds on the first.  This is when you spend most of your time focused on your inner world because you've finally understood your inner world is not only more important than those "external circumstances", but also that by practicing non-resistance internally, your outer world changes for the better with very little effort on your part.

In fact, as long as we see our problems as "external" and as circumstances we have to change by force and manipulation, we remain stuck in "resistance mode" and experience unending tension in our lives.  As soon as we realize that our outer world or at least how we experience it is based on our own mind and that changing our mind will cause a corresponding change externally, we begin to relax and start working on the "one thing needful" - ourselves.  

Here's a great video with Bob Proctor's take on "non-resistance".  Enjoy!

A Challenge For You

How do you reach non-resistance?  Well, first you have to become aware of all your resistance!  So try this and see what happens....

For one full day at least, track your perceived levels of emotional and physical resistance on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is negligible and 10 is very severe.  Make a point of taking a reading of your condition at least every two hours.  Between those times, try to be aware of and note down all the resistance you find within.  Don't try to resist the resistance; just notice it and let it go. 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Dynamic "System" to Return You to Your Natural State

These days we're all on the lookout for tools that can help us relax, discharge the tensions of mind and body, and eliminate the traumas that hold us hostage physically and emotionally.  After all, if we can't do this, we'll never become truly resilient, functional and happy people.

I've just found what may be an incredible set of tools in the most unlikely place...

Some months ago I began investigating the Russian martial art of Systema.  Pronounced seess-TYEM-ah and simply meaning "the system", this is the martial art taught to the Russian Army's elite special forces or "Spetsnaz".  So naturally I expected it to be completely brutal and vicious.  I couldn't have been more wrong...

Systema's Principles

Systema is a breathing-based art.  Everything it does revolves around breathing and teaching you to breath properly.  Naturally, this allows you to switch to your parasympathetic nervous system and cultivate deep relaxation even in the midst of physical movement.

Systema is holistic.  It has been developed with the total you in mind and is not interested in making you tough or fit at the expense of your joints, nervous system or consciousness, like some other approaches.  Its basic principal is "do no harm" to yourself or your training partners, so all the movements and techniques are designed with that in mind.  

The real point here is that Systema is about returning you to your natural state of innocence and spontaneity.  To do that it has developed specific training methods to help you let go of all the fears and tensions that stand in your way.  And yes, some drills are specifically designed to bring up old traumas and allow you to breathe through them until they no longer affect you.


This is more than physical, though, because as the practitioners train, they become more humble and open to the power of unconditional love.  Systema is said to be based on the spiritual principles of Orthodox Christianity, so imagine my surprise when a practitioner told me that in all his years studying various martial arts, Systema was the first one that taught him to feel something deeply spiritual.  It reminded me of the words of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido: 

"Aikido does not rely on weapons or brute force to succeed; instead we put ourselves in tune with the universe, maintain peace in our own realms, nurture life, and prevent death and destruction. The true meaning of the term "samurai"  is one who serves and adheres to the power of love. "

You may be thinking that "returning to your natural state" sounds great, but it sounds more like Yoga than martial arts.  And you're right.  However, the underlying idea is that people in their natural state knows how to protect themselves, heal themselves, heal others and care for others, and this is what Ueshiba was hinting at as well.  Once you understand your own body mechanics by experience, you'll instantly understand the opponent's as well and you'll be able to control him quite effortlessly.

After the workout I did feel unusually relaxed and "pliable" and I'm pretty sure I've found a resilience tool set that's worth further exploration!

Till next time...

~Dr. Symeon Rodger