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 Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 7

Welcome back mind-body students!

This is our 7th and final part of the leg workout series, the previous installments of which you can find here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Next week we will consolidate all of the leg series into one post so that you can have all the links in one place.

We’ll begin this week with an advanced version of the outer hip stretch. Once you’ve practiced enough on the chair, you can work on stretching your hips while sitting on the floor. You can still use some kind of object, 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 today, 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 meditation for this week 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!

See you next week! Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 5

Welcome back students! We have another leg mind-body workout for you this week.

This is Part 5 of our leg workout series! You can find previous blogs in this series here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 5

The stretch for this week is the groin stretch. The groin is the complementary group of muscles to the hip muscles that we stretched last week. Both of these groups of muscles are of the utmost importance for health and martial arts. They are key to proper leg strength, and most importantly for this stretch: flexibility.

Proper groin flexibility is so important for avoiding injuries from athletic activities and martial arts techniques. 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 week is the Face Dissolving Relaxation. This meditation can be done with any of the breathing techniques we’ve reviewed so far. What you are trying to do here is release all of the tension in the many many layers of muscles and facia that the face has. Most people don’t realize how much stress they hold in their faces.

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. You can sit for even longer as you get more experience. You will know when you have successfully completed the meditation, because you will have released all of the tension in the face, and it will feel like your head is just a skull.

That’s all for this week! Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 4

Glad to have you back mind-body students. It has been a rainy week here in Massachusetts, but this weekend is supposed to be beautiful. It is a perfect time to get in a nice leg workout!

So, here is Part 4 of our leg workout series! You can find previous installments here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3.

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 4

To begin this workout, we’re going to stretch the outer hips on a chair. Many many people forget to stretch this area, especially people who have back problems, or athletes and martial artists. The outer hips are such an important area of muscle, ligaments, fascia, and bone. They definitely deserve attention!

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. This stretch takes a lot of focus to relax into, so once you have watched the video and learned how to do it, focus the mind on the breathing and really make this a mind-body exercise!

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. This technique improves strength, flexibility, balance, and even stretches all of your groin and inner thigh muscles too.

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 for this week. 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.

As you begin to relax, your heartbeat should slow down a little bit, which means you will be holding breath a little longer each time. It is like your heart and lungs’ way of “stretching” and warming up. This is good! 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. Good luck!

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

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 3

The summer has come and gone, but the blog keeps going! Welcome back mind-body students! I hope our US-based readers all had an excellent holiday weekend.

We continue with Part 3 of our leg workout series this week! For previous installments, see here: Part 1, Part 2.

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts, #3

This week, it is all about the feet! Feet are more important to the function of the legs than just about any body part, because they are the first part of us that transfers energy from the ground and through our body, and the part of us that lets us transfer energy from our body into the ground. 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.

The mind-body exercise this week is simple, but not easy! We will be standing on one leg to improve our stability and balance. This is such a great exercise, because it requires that you not only engage all the tiny and powerful muscles in the feet, but also all of the leg muscles, and the core muscles. It even forces you to 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 this week is actually whatever breathing technique you would like to use, but you will be doing it while you are 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." Sit until the water has cooled off, and then you can practice some self-massage of the feet, or (if you are very lucky) you can have someone else massage your feet for you!

But because I want you to also work your mind this week, I am challenging you to go watch people walk this weekend, and see if you can spot things like incorrect alignment, flat feet, toes pointing outward, and so on. There are a million different ways that people walk without correct alignment. Looking at how other people walk is a good way to learn correct alignment for yourself.

That's all for this week, come back next week for more!

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

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts: Part 2

Another week has gone by! Good to have my mind-body students back again reading the blog.

We continue with our leg workout series this week with Part 2! For previous installments, see here: Part 1

Leg Workout for Health and Martial Arts, #2

The body was designed to be able to extend the hip such that the knee can sit right within the small space beneath the collar done. This stretch, called the Hip Extension, is one of my 12 "Body Markers" which I use to get a sense of how much someone is a prisoner of their soft tissue. This 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. It's often helpful to put something in the area where you watch TV. Each commercial break, go stretch one of your hips! That will get you a two or three minute stretch without even needing to keep track of time!

A more advanced technique for developing all the stabilizing muscles and tissues in the leg is called Leg Rotations. These movements are helpful for both health and martial arts, because stability, particularly on one leg, if vital to avoiding dangerous falls whether you are simply walking around at home, or competing in a martial arts tournament!

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. But don't worry, these go fast! Even when you do them slowly, you will fly through your sets.

And finally, for this week's meditation section of the workout, 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.

This is a great meditation to take with you as you walk during the day, maybe to the subway, or along the street to your house or the store. Picture the surface of the earth as a big sheet of see-through glass that you can look into and place your mind there, beneath the surface. See how long you can keep your mind and your energy grounded!

That's all for this week, come back next week for more!

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

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!