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

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