If yesterday is any indication, and the day before is a sampling, today is going to be a hard day of working out and sitting there wrung out from working out. I woke up sore, and more than a little cranky with the state of my body. I felt drastically changed, and not necessarily for the better.
Then I did tai chi. I want you to understand that I didn’t do an elaborate working-through of the form. This was not a deliberate, twenty-minute practice. This was a fast-and-dirty seven-minute tai chi form, no qi gong to start, no deep breath exercises, no formal preparation. Hmph. I shouldn’t have gotten any benefit from it at all.
Shows you what I know. I’m no longer stiff and sore. I’m no longer tired. I’m no longer cranky. Rather, I feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Energized. Ready to go. At the end of the day yesterday I was wrung out, strung out and done. This morning, I woke up only a third of the way back from that. And post-tai chi, I’m 7/8s of the way back from that.
A lot of it, for me, comes down to this diagram I made this morning, that comes out of yesterday’s discussions and insight. Your body is the thing that makes you work in the world: you have flesh that unites you with the energies of the world, and means that sooner or later you’re going to die and rot; you also have a spirit which longs for spiritual connection, and which is eternal and immortal, and which will never die.
But at that intersection point between spirit and matter is this amazing, interesting, capable body. And it has four powers: flexibility, balance, strength and endurance. If you don’t train those skills, if you let them diminish… then they will diminish you.
In one of the tai chi classes I took yesterday, they talked about rubbing your kidneys and lower back at the end of a practice. One instructor called it “closing the back doors of the temple,” the counter to rubbing the belly at the end which is closing the front doors of the temple. These movements are about sealing off the energy work that you’ve done from those who are hungry for your energy, and hungry for your good will and power and suchlike.
But one form of exercise, be it tai chi or yoga, will not do all four of those training exercises. Flexibility comes from stretching. Strength comes from lifting heavy weights, or yourself. Balance comes from standing on one leg, or learning more advanced yoga or tai chi postures. Endurance comes from walking, running, bicycling, or running stairs. I’ve aligned them with fire, air, water, and earth, but I think you could make a case that just because the wind blows all the time, doesn’t make it strong exactly. Just because the Earth is always there, doesn’t make it enduring. Fire is flexible, but only because you put fuel there to feed it. Water doesn’t balance exactly, it just seeks the lowest point possible, and fills the containers it’s put in.
But I hope my readers take my meaning plainly, which is that one kind of exercise — which I’ve been doing until now — is probably not enough for whole-body fitness.
And on that note, up and at ’em. Back to work.