The Complete Leg Workout Series for Health and Martial Arts
Week 1: Hamstring Stretch + Tai Chi Walk + Water Breath
Remembering my "Rule of 80%," begin this workout with your choice of a hamstring stretch from the video. Do each stretch (to each side, if applicable) for 3 minutes. Begin incorporating deep breathing now, so that when we reach the meditation you will already be in the mindset of breathing deep!
Continue the workout with the tai chi walk. Do a total of 50 steps (25 on each leg), and as you do be sure to focus your visualization on the lower energy center, and also try evoking your spirit.
Finally, the meditation for this workout is Water Breath! This is a tough meditation, but that is okay! It is good to try difficult meditations every once in a while, especially because it pairs well with the hamstring stretch.
Week 2: Hip Extension + Leg Rotations + Grounding and Rooting
The hip extension stretch is very simple to do, all you need is a wall, a chair, and perhaps some yoga blocks or books depending on how flexible you are to begin with. Stretch each hip for two to three minutes each time.
The stretch for this workout is the leg rotations. Do a session of leg rotations every other day, 20-30 repetitions in each direction (clockwise and counter clockwise) for each leg. That comes out to between 80 and 120 repetitions, 40-60 on each leg, half in one direction an half in the other.
And finally, we are going to be practicing our grounding and rooting! Once you have an idea of the Light and Heavy Forces, you can move into the techniques of grounding and rooting by standing on two blocks and putting your mind below you, into the ground.
Week 3: Calf Stretch + Standing on One Leg + Foot Bath (and watching people walk)
Our stretch for this week is a standing foot and calf stretch using a special tool. You can get these for cheap online, or you can use the lowest step in your house, or do this with your foot up against a wall instead. Your choice! This stretch is one of my 12 Body Markers, and it has an exact angle of flexibility that you will see in the video.
Next we will be standing on one leg to improve our stability and balance. This is such a great exercise, because it requires that you focus your mind and "capture the monkey", or you will lose your balance! Doing this for 1 minute on each side means you are in good shape!
Lastly, our meditation for this workout is… taking a foot bath for health! As you sit and enjoy the relaxing foot soak, you can practice your deep breathing and achieve a very high level of mental stillness, "thoughts of no thoughts."
Week 4: Outer Hip Stretch (on chair) + Tompu + Diving for Pearls
To begin this workout, we’re going to stretch the outer hips on a chair. Do this stretch for 2-3 minutes on each side (each leg). The goal is to have your stretching leg rotated such that your lower leg is parallel to the floor.
Now that our hips are stretched, we are going to give the whole legs a workout with a movement called Tompu from side to side. This technique can be done at many different levels of difficulty, depending on how low you want to go on each side. Start with the heigh that fits your “80% effort” rule, and then work to deepen the movement from there. Begin with 10 to each side, and then work your way up to 20, 30, and even 50.
Last but not least, we will do one of my favorite breathing techniques as our meditation. This breathing technique is called Diving for Pearls, and it is very simple, but everyone has lots of room for improvement. All you need to do is find your pulse, inhale, and hold your breath for ten heartbeats. Then exhale, inhale, and repeat.
Practice doing this for 5 inhalations in a row. Eventually, you should work your way up to 10, 20, and even 30 heartbeats in a row. 30 in a row is very difficult, but if you can do it, you will feel totally focused and relaxed by the end of it.
Week 5: Groin Stretch + Windmill Challenge or Walk Like a Warrior + Face Dissolving
The stretch for this workout is the groin stretch. The groin is the complementary group of muscles to the hip muscles that we stretched in the last workout. Both of these groups of muscles are of the utmost importance for health and martial arts. Groin injuries can prevent you from performing for several weeks, so stretch stretch stretch!
Once you have stretched your groin, you can move on to the technique I call “The Windmill Challenge.” It is mostly for the “young and restless” I like to say, but it is very good for increasing the flexibility and range of motion of your groin and hips. The goal is to practice until you can do ten in a row on each leg, without the spinning leg touching the ground. If you have issues with stability, definitely consider replacing this technique with a different one, such as “Walk Like a Warrior.”
Lastly, the meditation this workout is the Face Dissolving Relaxation. This meditation can be done with any of the breathing techniques we’ve reviewed so far. Relax the face, layer by layer, for five to ten minutes to start. As you practice this meditation more and more, you should be able to do it for even longer. If you can do it for 15 minutes, that is usually how long it takes to fully “dissolve” the layers of the face.
Week 6: Heron Quad Stretch + Kick Backs + Whole Body Dissolving (on two blocks)
Our stretch for this workout is a quad stretch called the “heron” stretch. This was one of the very first videos I posted on the blog! Stretching the quads is incredibly important for improving mobility and performance, in both your daily life as well as sports and martial arts. In the video, I show you how to do the stretch with a chair and a wall, or on the floor in “seza”, a sitting position. Sit for 2-3 minutes at first, and then see if you can stretch comfortably for 4-5 minutes.
Next, we have “kick-backs", which is a great way to further stretch the quads and increase flexibility, but with a little more intensity than the heron stretch. You can get a good cardio exercise going as you practice this technique by doing it while running. See if you can do 15, 30, or 50 kick-backs on each leg.
And finally, we have the dissolving relaxation for this week’s finale. This exercise, which I show here on two blocks, is a follow-up to the light and heavy forces, and the grounding and rooting technique. After you are in an aligned and comfortable position, you focus on scanning the various “plateaus” of your body. When you reach a place of negative sensation or energy in your body, you dissolve it by using the metaphor or meditative mantra “Sold to liquid, liquid to gas.”
I have spent very long periods of time doing this meditation, and you should try to build up to 15, 30, or even 45 minutes if you really want to explore the depths of this technique. But to start off, just try to scan the whole body in 5 or 10 minutes.
Week 7: Outer Hip Stretch (on floor) + Common Walking Issues + Taoist Meditation
We’ll begin this workout with an advanced version of the outer hip stretch. You can still use some kind of object you did on the chair, like a pillow or blankets, to support your knees and stay between 60% and 80% effort. Once you get comfortable and your body feels safe relaxing in these very tense muscles, you can gradually remove the supports that you use so that your legs can lie parallel to the floor.
Instead of a technique for this workout, we’ve got my video about common walking issues. You should use this video to examine your own walking and see if you have any of the common issues I demonstrate. These include walking with one or both feet flaring outward, collapsed arches, lack of smooth rolling from heel to toe, etc. Once you have seen the ways that your walking might be causing misalignment and pain, you can begin working to correct them!
Finally, our last meditation is meditation the taoist way. In this video I review the way that taoist meditation uses visualizations of the energetic system to have purposeful effects on the body. The first step to building up the energetic system is to focus on the lower energy center. The easiest way to help you practice this visualization is to hold a small object in the front of the lower energy center (two inches below the navel). Once you can hold your focus on the energy center, and then visualize the energy center, you should be working toward “residing” in the energy center. Over time, as you’re able to reside in the energy center longer, and the visualization grows, you can replace the small object with a larger one, and an even larger one. Good luck!