Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole. My mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.

 

Leg Workouts for Health and Martial Arts: Part 1

Hello and welcome back, mind-body students!

Summer is quickly winding down, but that doesn't mean you can't still get lots of exercise in (and look good for however many beach days we have left)! So this week, we are starting a big series on leg workouts on the blog.

Each week I will give you a stretch, a mind-body exercise, and a meditation to do. By focusing all five building blocks while you workout every week, you will see the best results you can. At the end, I will also give you some other great resources I have found for leg exercises!

Before we jump into today's leg workout, please consider checking out my Tai Chi books, DVDs, and online courses which contain all the exercises you are about to see, and more. Here are some brief excerpts from the Sunrise and Sunset DVDs, which cover much of the same content you will find in the books.


Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts, #1

Remembering my "Rule of 80%," begin this workout with your choice of a hamstring stretch. The hamstrings are often the tightest muscles in the body, and learning how to release tension from them is incredibly important to having a good and balanced leg workout. There are a few different ways to stretch the hamstrings, and each of those ways has different levels of stretching you can achieve.

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!

Continuing the workout, we will move into the Tai Chi Walk technique. This technique is great to do after stretching the hamstrings because you will be able to really see and feel that stress that was relieved from those muscles as you do the movement.

In this exercise, 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. For this one, some of my students find it helpful to evoke the spirit of "the immortal walking man/woman". But what is important for evoking the spirit is to do whatever works for you!

Finally, the meditation for this week's 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 if it pairs well with one of the exercises you are doing (you will see what I mean later).

To practice, sit on the floor or on the edge of a chair, and begin breathing very deeply, softly, and silently for 3 minutes, gradually building up to 10 minutes, then 20, and maybe even 30 minutes! 10 or 20 minute sessions is often good enough for your entire first year of meditation practice. Keep that monkey mind at bay as much as possible! End each time you do this workout with a session of water breath meditation.

Once you have experience doing the water breath meditation on its own, you can combine the hamstring stretch and the meditation into one exercise: Vitamin-H with Water Breath. This will allow you to begin the meditation part of the workout right from the very beginning. See if you can train yourself up to the point where you are doing water breath for the entire workout!

That is a great way to integrate your mind and body into a workout for health and martial arts!


As a bonus, I found this excellent page of the "30 Best Butt Workouts" on www.jenreviews.com, and it has lots of great exercises for your hips, quads, hamstrings, and more! If you are looking for a creative new exercise to throw in to one of these leg workouts, I am sure you can find one you like in that article!

As always, happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Freeing the Skeleton with the Body Markers: Starting From the Ground

Hello mind-body students! We have just completed our series on finding a qualified mind-body teacher, and now we are moving on to a series about freeing the skeleton from being a prisoner of the soft tissue, which will probably carry us through the rest of 2017!

The 12 Body Markers are a system that I have used for years to help teach my students both online and in my classes. They are designed to measure a person's range of motion through all of their joints, using a scale of 1 (least flexible) to 10 (most flexible). In western health an wellness traditions, everyone seems to be able to measure strength, but very few people have a good grasp of flexibility. Even professional athletes often don't know what the proper range of motion for each of their joints are. Many people are even unsure about what their personal level of flexibility is: usually under or over estimating it until they test it out.

To help address these issues, my wife (Ilana Rosenberg) and I are putting a book together that will feature an extensive guide to the 12 Body Markers to help everyone from average Joe to professional athletes avoid injury, recover from injury more effectively, and recuperate from training faster. 

We've covered some of these Body Markers in the past on varies blog posts and our mini Office Exercise series. For this blog series, we will be focusing on the 9 Body Markers that measure a person's flexibility, starting this week from the ground and moving up!

Body Marker #1: Ankles

How to stretch your ankle joint, and what angle your foot should (eventually) achieve:


Body Marker #2: Quads

How to stretch your quads, which I show if two ways. First is the Heron stretch that you do standing up and one leg at a time. Second is 'seiza,' which you do sitting down.


Body Marker #3: Hamstring

How to stretch your hamstrings. Or more specifically, how to do the proper Vitamin H stretch, if that is the one you will be using. 


Remember that the goal here is to free the skeleton from being a prisoner of the soft tissue. Our sedentary lifestyles, western styles of strength training, and the natural process of aging all cause our soft tissues such as muscle, ligaments, and fascia to shrink and tighten over time. This causes extra tension in our joints and restricts our range of motion, which reduces our performance and overall health.

By working on the Body Markers, particularly the 9 flexibility Markers, you can create a balance that will contribute to greater holistic health. When you are both strong and flexible, you become powerful, and that is what the Body Markers, and mind-body health practice, are all about!

Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Tai Chi Tips for Sports: Leg Strength and Balance

Welcome back mind-body students! If you missed last weeks episode of Tai Chi Tips for Sports about improving lower back rotation, you can check that out here.

This week, we talk about the Up and Down strengthening exercise as it relates to sports training and conditioning. You also get to find out the specific Tai Chi form inspiration for the Up and Down move. It's called "Pick Up the Needle from the Sea Bottom."

Hope you enjoy! Happy Stretching! 

Achieving Physical and Mental Balance, Part 3

Last week, we finished up the stretching portion of our Balance-centered mind-body prescription. If you aren't up to date, you can check out part 1 and part 2 here.

This week, we begin the strength portion of the routine with two classic exercises that work your leg and abdominal muscles. In tai chi, there is a key pattern that underlies all of the techniques and movements that we learn, which can be summarized like so:

Force is generated by the legs, directed by the hips, and manifested by the arms.

In the martial arts application of tai chi, a powerful punch is much more about how your legs and hips move than it is about the arm that actually delivers the punch. A truly powerful punch is always delivered from a stable and balanced base. That base is your legs and your hips (and your hips are essentially the point of connection between your leg muscles and your abdominal muscles).

So to develop a balanced, stable base for our body, we must strengthen the legs and the abdominals.

With that in mind, here are the first two exercises you should perform for the strength section of this routine:

  1. Up and Down - The key to this exercise, which helps to build bone density better than just about any other exercise, is to remember that there are two sets that you need to do. First with your legs apart, and then with your legs together. Build up to 30 repetitions of each kind, 3 to 4 times per week.
  2. Sit Ups - Begin with this exercise on a chair if you need to, and then work down to the floor version of the sit ups over time. Build up to 30 repetitions, once every other day.

That's it for this week! Look out next week for the second part of the strength routine.

Happy Stretching!

Achieving Physical and Mental Balance, Part 2

In part 2 of our series on physical and mental balance, we give you the second half of the flexibility routine. If you missed part 1, check that out first.

As we move forward with this series, keep in mind the connection between our physical and mental balance, and how that affects us in our day-to-day lives. For children, balance in both of these areas is key to avoiding chronic physical or emotional issues. For young adults, mental balance helps with focus, whether it is for completing their studies, working hard at a new career, or keeping confident as they move out on their own. And for the older adults, physical balance becomes more and more important as our strength naturally fades, and the chance of harmful falls or accidents increases.

Think about the benefits you receive from this routine centered on balance, and use that mental image as motivation.

Flexibility exercises, set 2:

  1. Outer Hip Stretch - People always forget this one! Do this stretch (either on a chair or on the floor) 2 times per day, for 3 minutes on each side.
  2. Chair Twists - A great movement for releasing tension in your back and taking pressure off your organs. This one should be done 2 times a day for 2 minutes to each side.
  3. The Rainbow Stretch - Try to keep your arm unbent while you do this one. 2 times a day, 2 minutes for each arm.
  4. The 5 Musketeers - This is our new exercise for the week. You may have seen three musketeers in a previous video, but this new one has more information and a better angle to see the correct form. Go through all the positions 2 times a day, for 2 minutes in each. That's a total of 10 minutes, 2 times a day.

Next week we are on to strength!

Happy Stretching!