Phew. Busy, busy day. Some relaxation, some challenges, a lot of good workouts. Some bad news, some good news, a grand feeling of health.
Last part of the day first: I saw a great performance by members of a Shakespeare company, who performed some of the most stirring language from the most popular plays, in the context of ‘how did this guy Bill Shaksberd make a bunch of plays that made the world sit up and take notice. That was pretty awesome. Before that was dinner, when I had a tenderloin steak on a bed of roasted brussels sprouts. Before that, I had a Bindi Shirodhara treatment. I had time and space and cash for one genuinely luxurious spa treatment, and I wound up getting an Ayurvedic treatment that involved a combination of herbs, essential oils, and hot sesame oil all over my body. That was really nice, but it was also a long time on the treatment table. Before that, I went to a session of restorative yoga, which turned out to be a lot of reclining on pillows in such a way that various parts of my body were stretched and supported at the same time. Nice, too.
I think the four real gems of the day, though, were a new Qi Gong form that I was taught just after lunch. It’s just five movements, but it’s been good. For future reference, the postures are called Grand Opening, followed by Movement in Water, followed by Cloud Hands, followed by Paint the Sky, followed by the Wu Chi posture, what I would call Stand Like Tree. Each of these poses has a cognate position in my existing tai chi form.
I also had a one-on-one meeting with a Chinese Traditional Medicine practitioner and acupuncturist. HE had me run through my form with him, and said that my poses looked good. He recommended a few shifts — first, that I tend to keep my stance within a relatively narrow band from side to side, but that widening my posture would give me a more effective stance. I implemented that with good effect at a qi gong workshop later in the day. The second recommendation he made was to point out that each posture has at least two of the five possible energies of directionality going on: there’s the upward force, usually used as a block but not always; there’s downward force, usually for putting an opponent off balance; there’s an inwardly-directed force, usually for an attack; an outwardly directed force, also for attack but sometimes for pushing-away; and finally a splitting force, for dividing and re-directing opponents’ energies. And that the form can be practiced in such a way that these four forces are at play all time time.
I had a shocking moment of realization; I’ve forgotten if I mentioned it here earlier. But someone had cause to go back into the records, and found that I and my parents came here in February of 1997. Among the events of that visit was a “tai chi walk” where I was asked to connect to the energy of all life around me. I began practicing tai chi with my teacher in the fall of 1997, or maybe it was early 1998. In other words, being at this place was the thing that got me started in tai chi. I’ve come back to my source.
The third gem of the day was a workout in the water. If you’d seen me at 3pm this afternoon, you’d have seen me running and jumping in the pool beside a group of women, and to all appearances you’d have thought we were playing around and goofing off while an instructor on the pool deck shouted instructions at us to no avail. But in truth, it was a surprisingly difficult and interesting workout — those pool noodles have buoyancy, and resist being shoved underwater quite well. I got a very good workout from shoving pool noodles around the pool, and from trying to wrangle a workout from them.
I went to two yoga classes, and I also did a burst of cardio workout in the gym on an exercise bike. In the second yoga class, the instructor helped me complete my first inversion — raising my legs into the air. That turned out to feel wonderful, even though it looked scary and impossible. I’d like to find a way to make a yoga practice part of my routine sometime. But again, it’s more strength and flexibility workout, and that’s not really the problem for me.
My torturous class in the cycling fitness studio did not turn me off of cycling. Someday soon, I’d like to start biking to work actually. But I think back to my insight from earlier in the week: tai chi, and now yoga, though they appeal to me greatly, don’t actually build the endurance. Sure: strength and flexibility, balance… yoga and tai chi and qi gong are great ways of improving those. But they don’t work on endurance, which only comes from raising the heart rate, and doing something like interval training or a serious cardio workout. running, or climbing stairs, or biking, or a lot of swimming. I don’t like these sorts of exercise, and probably you don’t either. They also carry a greater risk of injury, because usually you’re working harder and heavier than you would normally, and sometimes you’re using relatively dangerous equipment — they have treadmills here, but the physical therapists and posture experts and medical personnel appear to be more than a little leery of these torture devices, which have a undesirably-high rate of accident and injury, and which don’t appear to do much to help an ordinary runner become a better or more efficient runner.
There will be a poem for Mars in Cazimi soon; there’s an upcoming window of opportunity, and I’ve been thinking about how Mars is an appropriate patron of weight loss, physical fitness, and exercise; and also for the improvement of willpower — especially when in conjunction with the Sun. There was a lecture today on astrology, though, and I decided not to go. One can only do so much in a day.