It is no secret that our modern relationship to our bodies is not particularly healthy. The great majority of people seem to be stuck in a dichotomy between being completely sedentary, ignoring the body and letting it slowly fall into atrophy and disuse; or a maniacal thrashing of an already tired system, a slavery of the body with modern workouts designed for high performance, quick results and to make you feel bad about resting. Either way, the body eventually breaks down.
I teach people to develop a daily habit of balanced practices designed to bring you a stable and healthy relationship with your body, through the lens of a Daoist tradition with more than 1,500 years experience.
It is possible for anyone willing to put in a little effort to reconnect with the forgotten parts of their body, to feel this inner landscape in extraordinary detail, to find and resolve the hidden tensions and weak links so we become unified and strong, and to forge a relationship with our physical side that will continue to grow into old age.
I am a student and instructor of the Da Xuan Daoist tradition, taught directly by the guardian of the tradition, Master Serge Augier, since 2014. Prior to this I studied many varied arts of physical development. I specialize in using Daoist exercises to help people awaken their body by restoring the relationship to the hidden parts and confronting and resolving tensions and weak links.
The value of experience that comes from a long tradition can not be over stated. Although not popular or very well known in the west, these methods have been used for thousands of years in the east with great success, with many of the lineage masters having positions as advisors to government or other important roles in society. They have been tried and tested in many different time periods, across many different generations, on many different types of people and anything that did not work effectively in all contexts was discarded.
In this approach, we have the idea that we want to embody certain qualities. The exercises and techniques are not the qualities themselves, but the repetition of the technique acts as a catalyst to ignite the qualities within us. Once the quality is embodied, then we can do away with the technique and express the quality in a more natural way, having it infuse into the ordinary parts of our life. It is for this reason that we stick to apparently simple methods – lying, standing, shifting weight or walking, with basic motions of the arms and legs. If exercises are too ritualized and disconnected from our daily lives, it becomes difficult to bridge the moments of practice with the moments of mundane activity.
We start with the idea that we want to deeply relax the system. At this stage it is counter productive to engage in heavy resistance training such as weight lifting. Relaxation in our system is directly linked to the possibility of feeling what is going on inside the body, starting from our fundamental position and direction of travel in space, knowing the entire surface of the skin, then slowly going deeper revealing the relationship to the muscles, tendons, bones and even organs. By extension it also allows the possibility of true coordination – the ability to direct the entire body consciously.
As we begin to relax deeply, many aspects of the body that have fallen into atrophy from disuse will be revealed. These weak links will be confronted, and slowly strengthened and reunited with the rest of the system. As this happens we go towards a more united strength, and a more robust body that distributes and uses force effectively, thereby allowing us to relax even more. This way of strengthening the body is a much slower approach but also is much longer lasting and continues to improve into old age rather than relying on the vigor of our youth.
The more we relax, the more we reveal and resolve the weak links, the more aligned and grounded we will become. Grounding means that forces (either from gravity which is always present, or from an external source such as another person or object) are able to pass cleanly through us, not getting stuck in our body at points of pathological tension and therefore giving us many more possibilities of interacting with these forces.
After enough repetition of a given movement, it will become assimilated by the unconscious, meaning we can do the motion properly and accurately without paying attention. This frees us to be able to focus our intention on the breath, bringing it into harmony with the movement we have already externally assimilated. The focus on the breath creates an internal movement that brings incredible levels of vitality and transformation, and the possibility of resolving deeper blockages than the external training alone is capable of.