A while back I came across a yoga article talking about Yoga not being 'masculine' and that there was an 'anti-alpha-male' attitude to yoga in general. I believe the author hadn't really done their research or been to many yoga studios in the wider geography of the global fitness realm, but it did raise a few interesting points for me as to the usefulness of types of exercise and what we sometimes view as 'not being appropriate' for us.
In the article one of the statements really 'fired me up'.
Yoga isn't a decent workout; it's too touchy-feely; you have to be flexible to do it; men's bodies just aren't built for pretzel-like poses.
What a load of bullshit! 'touchy-feely' - really? After getting over my vociferous expletives uttered much like a footy fan at a Swans game, I reflected on how inappropriate it was to believe that just to be healthy and fit, you need to be a CrossFit/rugby forward person. True fitness and power comes not from pure strength but from the ability to utlise that strength and the inherent power in a co-ordinated and focussed combination, utilising all your systems and not just one.
This led me on to look at other ways to compliment our physical being whether it be via supplementing a rigorous training regimen, or simply just being more balanced with our physical selves. When I talk about balance, I talk about understanding how to reclaim lost energy, vigour and motivation for staying healthy and well.
My own genetic make up would probably list me as a bit of a 'gung-ho' physical nut. I am best when I am active, dancing, cycling, training, sports etc. But that was also my job for many years, being active. It was kind of a byproduct of my identity. However with the more recent incarnation of my working life, I have noticed that my 'regenerative exercise' has slipped somewhat, and that the residual energy and vigour may have been lost a little.
Regnerative Exercise is an interesting topic in itself, exercise that doesn't deplete your energy but contributes to it. A lot of fitness freaks argue that all exercise is regenerative as it promotes rebuilding of cells and fibres and keeping organs in condition. But here I am talking more about exercise that looks after that internal energy, the well spring of 'power' that comes from within.
In my realm, I like to call this my Qi Pool. The inner source of power and the 'pool' from which my body derives it's completeness and ability to generate the bounce in my walk and the demeanour of my manner. This isn't a biological thing, it's more an intangible centre - my own 'fountain of youth' if you like that must be cared for and nurtured to enable me to stay bouncy and active until I am 90.
This 'Qi Pool' is stimulated by taking care of the quiet self. The restorative and inner source of calm and powerful resilience and good health. When you watch a martial artist moving through their warm up, there is that sense of power, inherent in their movements. The gymnast as they begin their daily routines of warming up, the yoga instructor as they wake in the morning and emerge almost 'elf like' from their slumber. These people hold that quiet inner 'power' of this pool as the actions and concepts with which they are in touch with via their daily routines is restorative and regenerative exercise.
Qi Gong is a fantastic example. The long held ancient art of fighting movements, broken down into soft, flowing movements that focus on the inner centre, the heart of your energy (hara) and the complimentary practice of combining this with breath and meditative practice. Yoga as well uses breath and flowing movements to combine a similar response in the body. Even basic dynamic stretching can contribute to this dynamic meditative state as you focus on your body being prepared for what is it about to endure.
The common element I find here is the focus on breath. On lowering and focussing the breath to reflect your focussed state of mind and being, you are slowing your body systems down to a level where great efficiency is being promoted and 'healing' is occuring. Resting heart rates and blood pressure are all important to ensuring that when you do 'rest' you are in a quiet and regenerative state. These practices of Yoga, Qi Gong and meditative practice promote these states and actively encourage the body to take advantage of quiet preparation for what lies ahead.
Being actively involved in such practices does wonders for your active state. Whilst 'clinical studies' are still inconclusive in regards to the physical benefits of these exercises, what studies are able to show is a conclusive reduction in cortisol levels, inflammation, metabolism rates and blood pressure when involved in regular ongoing programs of these quieter exercise regimes.
My own Chinese Medicine Practitioner is constantly giving me reminders about how to address these imbalances in myself. Even my business coach tells me that I am more productive and better focussed when I am taking part in a regular, weekly yoga regime. The proof is in the pudding. We can't keep continually pushing, thrusting, lifting, running and maintaining a frenetic pace of activity in an attempt to deny our physical limits and cheat the ageing process. There has to be a balance of conscious and focussed restorative meditative practice that helps us to create and nurture that 'inner well spring' of energy from which our entire body derives it's ability to 'power on'.
Its as simple as a pendulum, if we don't swing back the other direction as equally as we swing towards one extreme, the clock just won't keep ticking!