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.

 

Mind-Body Workout #10: Strengthening Your Roots

Welcome back mind-body students! We have had a lot of posts about research and special events on the blog lately! These are all great, and I am so happy to share the amazing work we are doing with all of you. However, I also like to have action on my blog too!

So let's dive into a great mind-body workout this week, and get back into the groove of our mind-body routine!


Mind-Body Workout #10: Strengthening Your Roots

Let's begin with some stretching of the key muscles that support stability and balance. Stretching these muscles is not only important for flexibility and avoiding falls, but it is also a key part to releasing our skeleton from being a prisoner of the soft tissue. This improves blood flow, which allows oxygen to reach all of our cells more effectively, and energizes our whole mind-body system!

The first stretch will be the Flamingo Stretch for our hips. Our hips are the core of our body, and they are responsible for directing the strength that we generate from our legs. Having strong roots is not much help if you cannot use your hips correctly! Do the stretch to each side (each leg) for 2-3 minutes, using whatever support you need.

Next we will stretch our lower back out in each of its major directions using the Five Musketeers Stretch. Just like with the hips, the lower back is responsible for directing a lot of the strength of our root system (our legs). If your lower back is tight, you will not be able to properly strengthen your legs! Do this stretch like I show in the video, for about 1-2 minutes at each angle. Use blocks or books and pillows to properly support yourself so that you are doing 80% effort.

For our last stretch, we will be working on the tightest muscles in our body: our hamstrings! This technique is an old favorite I call "Vitamin H." While we do this stretch, we will also be focusing on performing "water breath." This will begin to really engage our mind and breath into the workout. This stretch you can hold for 3-4 minutes, but make sure you are doing 80% effort, just like before!

For our first of three strengthening exercises, we will be moving Up and Down Like the Moon and the Sun. Remember to do the two sets, legs apart and legs together. Up to 15 (in each set!) is beginner level, 15-30 repetitions is intermediate, and 30-50 repetitions is the advanced level of leg strength. Do the amount that you are able to with 80% effort. 

From working our quadriceps and other thigh muscles, we are moving down to the calves! This exercise has you go up onto your toes, and then roll back onto your heals. It works your calf muscles as well as massages the bottom of your feet. The feet are so important for generating the strength and force from the ground that everyone needs. Whether you are a martial artists who wants to throw a powerful kick, or just a person who needs to run up and down a flight of stairs, strong and flexible feet are so important. Do this 20-30 times, and be sure to pay attention to your breathing like I mention in the video.

Finally, we are going to practice moving up and down from the floor safely. This may seem like it contradicts what our workout is about. Why would we practice this if the goal is to have strong roots and not to fall over? The answer is pretty simple! Everyone falls over sometime. When you practice this movement, not only are you getting a good workout in for your whole body (especially your legs), but you will also be teaching your body how to react when it loses balance: bend the knees, move down low in a straight down way so your body can "collapse" instead of "fall". Do this 10 times to each side, practicing getting down and up from one side and then the other.

And that's all for this week! I hope you enjoy the workout!

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

Isolating the Joints: During Your Tai Chi and Qi Gong Movements

Hello mind-body students!

If you haven't read last week's blog about isolating the joints, you can read that here.

We are back to isolating the joints this week, with another short video. In this one, I show you how to think about isolating the joints while you are doing the techniques of your Tai Chi and Qi Gong practice.

Specifically, I explain how to think about joint isolation: alternating between expansion, or gentle pulsing or pumping, to contraction, or relaxation.

I even explain how this can be used to practice your rooting! But you will have to watch the video to hear that part :)

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

Isolating the Joints with Flexibility and Strength Essential for Health, Martial Arts, and Various Sports

Isolating the joints is a great eastern way to warm up, starting from the energetic system!

(Speaking of sports and warming up: checkout the links in this blog to my martial arts tips for sport on YouTube!)

In my class at Dana Farber and in my research class at Tufts Medical Center, I use isolating the joints as the first warm up to ignite and start-up the energetic system. Then, I continue with a three to five minute walk to also gain the benefits of the typical “western” style exercise warm up. This walk gets the heart pumping faster which then increases blood flow to the muscles and the rest of the body. I find that doing the best of both worlds for a warm up before any physical activity is the best.

Since warming up before any physical activity is a must, make sure that when you are about to take a walk, ride a bike, hike, swim, run, or do any kind of physical activity, spend three to five minutes isolating the joint first. Spend about ten seconds on each one. Then run in place or walk for three to five minutes and that should be a great warm-up for whatever activity you are about to do.

Of course, then spending five to ten minutes for some stretches, before and after, is very important as well. Once you have done that, then you are really ready!

Isolating the joints has two outcomes that you can focus on: one is better health, while the other is better martial arts.

For health, isolating the joints leads to better flow. It is like a gentle massage to both the joints and to the soft tissues around the joints. You can think of the gentle movements of the joints like “oiling the joints,” and at the same time reigniting and charging the energetic system. The gentle movements of the ligaments stimulate the energetic system.

Remember, when it comes to health purposes, move the joints with 40% to 60% effort. Move gently, like your hands are in warm water. You will get better, with time and practice, on both isolation of the joints as well as with the movement. Practice makes perfect!

You will also find that moving the joints gently helps tremendously with Arthritis and other chronic pains around the joint areas, and elsewhere. Many of my students were able to reduce inflammation in the joint or in the tendons around the joints with the gentle joint movements.

Also, over time, breathing deep and emptying the mind while practicing the joint will allow you to experience a nice form of moving meditation.

Many times, when doing the movements correctly, I experience a nice warm feeling in the joint area which then spreads into the rest of the body.

For martial arts, and for various sports, moving the joints is done slowly at first, for correct isolation. Over time, the speed increases to improve performance.

The hands joints are important for both individuals that are interested in martial arts, and for those interested in improving their performance in sports activities. In martial arts, the hands are used for blocking, grabbing, and striking.

While the lower body joints are essential for both martial arts and sport activities, in martial arts, the legs are used for kicking and taking down your opponent.

Over time, you will develop both strength and speed in the joints, which will upgrade both your martial arts and sports abilities.

If flexibility is important, both leg and upper body strength are essential.

Use this exercise to improve both leg strength and speed.

Remember the art of 40%, 60%, and 80% movements too! Each one has different purposes and goals.

That’s all for this week! Come back next week for another video about isolating the joints while doing Tai Chi and Qi Gong!

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

Complete Office Exercise Series + Forearm Office Stretch

Welcome back mind-body students!

This week's blog is a collection of all the Office Exercise Series, as well as one new office exercise, the forearm stretch.

So, without further ado, let's look back over those office techniques!


Complete Office Exercise Series

The first office exercise we showed you was the office meditation series, including candle watching, breath counting, water breath, and fire breath. There are so many ways to take a quick, 5 minute meditation while at the office. You are sure to find one that works for you!

Next, we focused on the parts of the body that are most stressed when working on a computer and in a chair all day: the neck and the upper back. For that, I showed you what I call the "emergency posture for the neck". Obviously, this isn't just a stretch that you do when you are in a severe pain emergency: dull achy necks get benefits from this stretch too!

Really feeling that mid-afternoon slump? 2-3 o'clock seem like it drags on forever? Most people will drink some coffee or each a bar of chocolate to turn their brain back on. But we all know that can cause you to crash later on. Instead, I suggested doing Up and Down in the office to get the blood flowing, the heart rate up, and reactivating the mind in the natural way.

What's in between the upper back and the legs? The lower back of course! Many people who work in office environments can develop stiff lower backs from constant sitting. The Three Musketeers Stretch I showed you relieves a lot of lumbar pressure and eases that lower back ache.

The next technique might seem kind of funny to some people (and many people already do it without even knowing about it!). It's a technique that relieves stress by using sigh sounds. You might not be able to do a full, loud sigh in your office, so I explain a few ways to do this technique with less noise, but while still letting that physical and mental stress go.

The first of the newer techniques is the chair twist, which is a great stretch for helping the body to regulate itself properly (particularly the internal organs and digestion). When your internal functions are well regulated, it reduces stress and improves mood, energy, and immune function. That's a great way to improve performance at the office!

The second of the new installments showed you how to stretch your arms overhead, and behind the back. This is another great stress reliever for the upper body, particularly the shoulders. You can even get a good face and jaw relaxation going while doing this stress. I find this stretch, when combined with deep breathing, to be a great way to relax from a hard day's work.

And last but not least, this newest installment in the series: the forearm stretch. Obviously, typing on the computer and using a mouse all day can cause not only tension and pain the in forearm, but also chronic inflammation (called carpal tunnel). This stretch helps to relieve those symptoms, and prevent chronic issues from arising.

P.S. The audio for the video cut out for the last 30 seconds, but we added subtitles so you don't miss my summary of the stretches benefits!

That's it! Happy Stretching!

Office Exercise Series: Elbows Over and Behind

Hello again, mind-body students!

We continue with our second new installment in the Office Exercise Series this week, moving on two a two-part stretch that you can call "Elbows Over and Behind."

This stretch is great for relaxing the whole upper body, as well as beating that regular 2-3pm slump that many people who work in offices get. Rejuvenate your energy stores and focus your mind by doing these two exercises and you'll see results in no time!