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A Framework For Better Body Balance and Movement Longevity

Uncategorized Apr 13, 2015

We’ve all had moments where we feel out of balance, whether it be physically, mentally, or both.

Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that tips the scales of balance out of our favour.

When you need more body balance it's common to experience challenges like:

  • Irregular sleeping patterns,
  • Weight fluctuations,
  • Poor recovery,
  • Low energy,
  • Low sex drive,
  • Pain and injury,

Yada, yada, yada… you get the picture.

So how do you create a foundation to allow your body (and mind) to re-balance faster with greater ease, and age gracefully to be one of those inspiring old folks?

Like this old lady ...

That’s what you’re about to learn with the 5 x S framework to a better balanced body and mind, that ages more gracefully.

 

The Essence of Balance

A powerful lesson I learned when practicing Shaolin Qigong was the importance of honouring the Yin and Yang and applying it to physical and mental well-being.

There’s a Yin and Yang to everything in life, especially your body & mind and the way you take care of them.

Too much Yin or Yang and falling out of balance can happen as fast as a child running toward fairy bread.

When it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing, the broader your foundations of balance between Yin and Yang, the better you’re able to adapt in any given moment.

Bringing the essence of Yin and Yang into your physical and mental training doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s just something to remind you that everything is deeply connected, and that all things have a natural tendency to seek balance - if you allow them.

For example: too much working out (Yang), can over tax your internal organs, leading to fatigue, or potentially injury. This can be seen as your body’s natural way to help you re-gain balance through saying it needs more (or forcing you to) rest, or working in (Yin).

Big challenges can arise from not listening to the signals your body is telling you. Sometimes you have to get out of your head and become more conscious of your body.

The more you’re consciously aware of when you’re in Yin or Yang in your training and life, the broader foundation you'll build and you'll be less likely you’ll fall way out of balance.

 

Balance Requires a Broad Foundation

Maybe you want to be strong, get flexible fast, build muscle, lose fat, improve your handstand, or have the physical freedom to play with your pets, friends or family without getting injured?

Whatever tickles your fancy, the problem arises when too much focus is placed on one thing.

This can leave you with a flat tyre in imbalance city. I call this narrow focus a ‘linear practice.’

This can lead you to become really great at one thing, with neglect to other important elements of moving your body.

Have you ever had a moment where you lose your pen…?

You focus so hard on where you think it is, and forget to notice it was behind your ear all along.

Developing a balanced movement and well-being practice is a bit like this example; sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and look at the bigger picture around you.

 

The Bigger Picture of Balanced Training

Before we get hung up on how to find 'perfect' balance in your training, it’s important to understand that balance isn’t a static state, like Yin and Yang it’s dynamic and ever changing.

The bigger picture to a more balanced body is about understanding the relationship between the Yin and the Yang and how they dance and interact together, to strike a relative balance that is suitable to you as an individual.

Without understanding the importance of these elements, you may find you have a less than harmonious relationship with your body.

Now you understand the bigger picture, let’s go through five principles I teach my students in to experience deeper levels of balance in both body and mind.

 

Five Powerful Principles to Re-Balance Your Body (and Mind)

Your body is unique and formed by all the experiences you’ve put it through, up until this moment. In understanding this everyone will have different levels of ability with the five principles (called the 5 S’s) I’m about to share with you.

To best apply the 5 S's approach I teach; while you’re reading imagine each of these elements as a piece of a pie (this is a metaphor for your body)…

Then ask yourself these questions:

What proportion of each element has made up my movement practice until today?

Based on this, are there any elements heavily out of proportion?

If yes, then ask…

What elements do I need to do more, or less of, to bring more balance to my self?

 

Introducing the 5 x S Framework.

Identifying and combining these elements was born from my intent to create a holistic approach to train the body and mind together.

Simple on the surface, yet infinitely complex as you dive deeper - this approach is a result of many years of learning, practicing and making mistakes.

When these elements are focused on with the intention of balance, I’ve witnessed some amazing things happen.

Let’s get into it...

 

1. Still (The Mind)

When the waters are torrent it’s difficult to see your reflection.

The mind is the foundation of all practice in my perspective. Without addressing this first all other elements of training your body will ultimately be limited.

Imagine for a moment, you experience pain in your body...

How do you respond to this pain? Do you react to it and move away from it, or move towards it, with some sort of emotion attached? Or do you observe it to discover its source, beyond emotional attachment?

How you respond to the signals of your body often determines how you will ultimately experience your body.

The more still you can be with your mind and thoughts, the less obstacles will be in your way.

  • Stillness is a practice to train the mind and clear away limiting beliefs and perceptions. These limiting thought patterns can run deep and you may not yet be fully aware of them.
  • Stillness is about bringing clarity, like a clear mountain lake to your life and the way you interact with your body. A still mind helps you see more clearly what is and what is not, and can help you make better decisions for yourself.
  • Stillness isn’t just about standing still or mediating in a cave. It’s about being mindful and observant in each moment of how your five senses (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic / touch, olfactory / smell, gustatory / taste), interact with your present environment.
  • The practice of inner stillness helps you to respond more wisely, rather than react irrationally in a given situation.
  • Stillness grows in time, and is not something that you need to strive for.

A great way to create more stillness in your practice is simply to be present with your breath and your heart beat. You’ll be surprised how much this can help in those moments of challenge, whether you're deep in a stretch or having troubles with your handstand.

The approach I teach is about allowing stillness to flow through all the elements of your movement and well-being practice.

Once you understand the importance of stillness, you can begin to practice and allow it to flow into the next elements.

 

2. Stabilise (The Body)

After you feel as still as you can in a given moment, it’s time to stabilise your body.

Building a stable base from which to move your body is often neglected. I can understand why this can be ignored, as it’s not the most sexy thing to practice. It’s small and requires you to slow down.

However, stability is a small massive thing that will ultimately determine your long term success with the big stuff.

So if you're striving for something big, don’t forget the small stability work, or you may throw yourself further off balance.

This scenario may seem familiar:

  1. You realise you have ‘x’ problem (overweight, tight muscles, sore body, feel weak, don’t feel confident in your self, etc),
  2. The pain becomes enough to drive you to act - often boldly,
  3. You get on a fitness kick to solve ‘x’ problem, like the 1,000 squats a day challenge, only drink water challenge, latest insanity workout, etc,
  4. You hurt yourself, or become too tired to do the things you love,
  5. You realise it’s all to hard, you give up,
  6. Rinse and repeat, for as long as you realise...

...Perhaps something's missing, and a different, more holistic approach might be needed.

I’ve found the best success happens when you step out of the jumble of thoughts bouncing around your mind and come back to a point of stability in your body.

Here’s what I mean by stability:

  • Stability is about developing a point of balance you know you can always come back to during challenging times.
  • Stability is about being connected to and aware of your body, so it can move as one integrated unit in any given movement and moment.
  • It’s about having joints that move like they’re supposed to, with the appropriate support of your connective tissue and skeleton.
  • It’s not just about how much you can lift on said movement, it’s about the quality in which you do it.

  • It’s about small movements like standing on one leg, or circling your arms, to big movements like deadlifting all the weights in the gym, or performing a muscle up on the rings.
  • Stability is your foundation from which other movement can be built.

The shoulder is a great place to test your stability. Stand up and circle your arms. Listen and feel… Any clicks or grinding? If yes, you may need some more stability (or an MRI to check the structure), even if you see yourself as strong.

Stability is supported by a balance of strength and flexibility, which is what we’ll talk about next...

 

3. Strengthen

If your body were a car - strength would be born in the spark plugs (the small little things that get the engine started).

Depending on who you talk to, physical strength can mean something completely different; from being able to handle heavy weights to performing feats on the gymnastic rings.

It may be just semantics, but I’ve found the wide variety of definitions about strength can get a bit confusing to most people.

My intention is to clean the slate, settle the confusion and bring more balance to the term strength.

  • Physical strength, in my perspective is simply about connection. It’s about connection between your brain and your body. The better they can communicate and co-ordinate, at the right rate and time, in any given movement; the more efficient strength can be generated.
  • Strength is like the saying, 'many hands make light work.’ Consider each area of your body as a hand to help you. In order to recruit this ‘hand,’ your brain has to be able to communicate with it.
  • Strength is as much about clearing the blockages that limit signals to be sent from brain (or nervous system), as it is about building it.
  • When strength and stretching are combined, they form a more balanced foundation from which to move your body.

 

4. Stretch

To stretch is to create space, to move beyond your current limits into new found territory, into freedom.

If you imagine a long piece of healthy bamboo for a moment, you get a visual about the quality in your body stretching can create.

The result of a wise approach to stretching should be should be suppleness and full body flexibility and strength.

  • Stretching is about having all the range of movement you need for the things you love to do in your life, from high kicks in martial arts, to rock climbing, to playing with your pets and kids.
  • Stretching should create a quality where your tissues have a springiness to them, both strong and flexible.
  • Stretching can be used to open your meridian lines (energy channels) and allow more chi / energy / blood to flow to all areas of your body; including your joints, organs and connective tissue.
  • Stretching should never compromise stability at end ranges of movement, and should be about the balance between contraction and relaxation in each movement you perform.
  • Stretching is as much of a mind, as it is a body game.
  • To experience the full benefits of stretching you must balance internal and external practices. A saying I like to use is supple muscles are a result of supple organs.
  • When specific ways of stretching, internal training (like qigong) and self massage techniques are combined, the quality of suppleness can be created.

If you feel limited or tight in any of your movement, it would be wise to prioritise practicing your stretching.

Upon a base of stillness, stability, strength and stretching and consistent practice a solid physical and mental foundation can be developed, which brings us to the next ’S.'

 

5. Solidify

The process to solidify is to practice the development of specific physical or mental attributes, to a point where they take minimal effort to maintain.

This is what I see as a state of new normal. This state is a reflection that your body and mind fully understand a specific type of stimulus.

Sounds simple right? Not exactly, the process to solidify can be a windy road.

During the process of developing new qualities in your body (like getting more flexible), your body can fluctuate in many ways as you give it stimulus to adapt to a new point of normal and solidify your progress.

Let’s look at how physical adaptation can happen when aiming to develop a new normal point for a quality like flexibility:

  1. You train your body with a specific stimulus to encourage greater range (hopefully you do this wisely),
  2. Your body senses the stimulus and begins to adapt, by giving you more range to move,
  3. Depending on the intensity of the stimulus you gave it, your body then needs to recover, to allow itself to heal from the stimulus,
  4. You train again. The next time you train your body, your body may actually feel less flexible, or the gains are not very noticeable...

This is where many people can give up, but if you keep going consistently with a wise approach to flexibility, here’s what can happen,

  • You continue steps 1-4 for a consistent period,
  • Your level of adaptation fluctuates up and down, over the weeks / months / years,
  • Your average range hits a point of new normal, that requires less stimulus to maintain.

You may not necessarily be in the splits after several weeks, but you’re definitely more flexible than you were before. Imagine how far you could go if you continued to humbly practice the above process.

This in essence is what the 5th ’S' (Solidify) is all about; to move beyond fluctuation, to a new normal.

To solidify your physical progress can be as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.

  1. Build a stable, strong and flexible physical foundation,
  2. Explore this foundation with appropriate skills,
  3. Re-evaluate,
  4. Begin again with deeper understanding.

This is the essence I’ve found occurs. Perhaps in reality it’s not quite that simple, but the more you still your mind, the more simple it can get.

 

To Conclude

You’ve now learned some potentially powerful info to bring a greater sense of balance to your body and mind.

The concepts of a balanced body (and mind) we've covered and I recommend you understand is:

  1. The essence of a balanced body
  2. Balance requires a broad base
  3. The bigger picture of balanced training

Here’s the 5 S’s to re-cap:


 

To get the full power you must read between the words and put it into practice. With consistent practice the side effects of being way out of balance can be a thing of the past.

 

Get Support to Re-Balance Your Body and Mind

If you’d like to be guided through the process of re-balancing your body, the first step we'd recommend is to assess where your body's currently at and identify your highest areas of need to focus on.

You can do that with our Physical Freedom Challenge

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