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What is in shape? – Three Vital Phases

What is in shape?

It all begins with the self-talk, “I want to get in shape” or “I need to work out”.  Then we look out into the world and see the media definition of what “in shape” is.  Have you ever really stopped for a moment and asked yourself what is “in shape”?  You know…. “Fit”.  What is that?  Better yet, have you ever wondered why we call it a “work-out”?  Is it necessary?  What is the objective?  Walking – Running – Weight lifting – Pilates – Rock climbing – Yoga – Swimming – Dance Class – couch potato – beer curler, why do we do that; is there more to it?

Here is the progression.  Somewhere around age 14 to 17 we get this idea, this image in our mind of whom we want to be, what we want look like.  Then somewhere around age 27 to 29, we fulfill that image (or at least come pretty damned close).  Then we go into our 30’s with the same image, only to realize at 40 that we cannot be 29 anymore (though many keep trying).

Have you ever seen the “kung fu” movie where the old guy beats up five young guys?  I know it is only the movies, but there is a lesson there.  The old guy does not fight like the young guys.  He is more efficient.  He beats them not because he is faster or stronger, but because he knows his limitations; how to utilize his strengths toward his benefit.

Somewhere around age seven, our bodies begin to metamorphize into the shape they will most probably retain for the remainder of adult life.  Breathing patterns, our sense of awareness, balance and confidence, at this time in our lives, is either enhanced or diminished by what we consume and the activities in which we involve ourselves.  Then somewhere around age 14, the bones in the body begin to change; the marrow changes from red to yellow.  By age 25, (I’m being generous), the only large bones that retain red marrow are the femurs and the clavicles.  What that means is that the red Blood cell production in the body is reduced.  So part of our responsibility, as an adult is to clean the Blood and call it to where it is needed.  It also means that we have to take a look at the activities in which we involve ourselves that may create unnecessary hardship on the overall soma.

Thinking back to when I first met Master Lin, an old Chinese martial arts instructor in New York City.  He said, in his broken Chinese English, “if you have knife – and you sharpen knife on stone – after one year, stone has almost no indentation – after three year, small indentation – right?”

I nodded and agreed.  He continued, “After five year, big indentation – and after seven year, maybe break?”
Again, I nodded and agreed, but still not sure of what his point was.

Then he smiled and said, “The body is not made of stone”.

He went on to say, “you see, up to 25, you can do anything, 25 to 35 – you can still do – 35 to 45 – you better not – if you do, you go down.”

So the question is how do you want to look at yourself, as a Timex or a Movado? Both tell time, but one is a museum piece.

Contrary to popular belief, cardiovascular exercise does not insure cardiovascular health.  The popular belief is that cardiac tissue is similar to muscle tissue, therefore the heart and cardiovascular system should be exercised like a muscle.  Isn’t it fascinating that the AMA continues to encourage “cardiovascular health” by means of raising the heart rate?  Yet the USA has the highest rate of heart failure in the world; meanwhile the FDA pushes forth the idea that, it is in fact, the American diets that are responsible.

There is an Ayurvedic concept that puts forth an idea that the human body is allotted only so many heartbeats within a lifetime.  About 40,000 a year for the average human – if living a very peaceful serene life – like that of a monk, meditating regularly and consciously slowing the heart rate daily; 40,000 beats might last 18 months maybe even two years.  Conversely, if living a very hectic lifestyle – one in which the heart was on a constant roller coaster ride – those 40,000 beats might only last six months.  In the animal kingdom, the animals with the fastest heart rates that have the shortest life span.

According to Gary Null:

If your heart is always beating very quickly, that crucial muscle is aging prematurely. All tissue in the body has only a finite length of time that it can live. Anything that speeds up that process is, unfortunately, accelerating the death process. The further along your body is in this death process, the less integrity your cells will have. For example, an eighteen-year-old has greater strength and resiliency in the legs than a thirty-eight-year-old has. Similarly, heart rate can vary with age. The hearts of a fifty-year-old, a forty-year-old and a seventy-year-old are all different. However, the common needs at any age are to slow down the heartbeat, improve circulation, and clean the arteries, veins and capillaries.

Running is a very popular exercise these days.  Many choose running because it keeps them independent; not requiring any type of facility, it can be done anywhere, anytime.  However, if one were to examine the overall effects on the body and the organs beyond age 25 or so, they may reconsider; or at least consider ways to compensate for the overall effects.

A human’s most natural response to danger is to run.  When running, the heart rate almost immediately rises.  After about 20 minutes or so, the body sends a message to the brain that there’s an emergency; evidenced by the repetitive running motion.  The adrenal glands release adrenaline into the bloodstream, which is what creates the “runners high”.  Now the body has the ability to continue running as long and as far as the will directs.  When the run is over and the runner feels elated.  There’s no experience like it!  The blood is surging with adrenaline while the brain has the body ready for anything, superhuman activity if necessary.  Meanwhile the liver is working overtime to clean up this “toxin” – yes, that’s right toxin!  The liver treats the adrenaline in the bloodstream as a toxin, and immediately goes to work removing it to restore the blood’s pH balance.  If you take a look at the various roles the liver plays in our over all health and wellness it’s quite fascinating.  At times the liver holds as much as a third of the entire blood supply.  It is kind of like a big sponge that filters out the toxins.  The toxins stay in the liver until the blood’s pH balance is on the alkaline side.  Then it releases trace amounts of its toxins into the bloodstream to be eliminated either through urine or through perspiration.  This is all fine and well so long as there is a sufficient supply of fresh red blood cells.  However, beyond the age 25 the production of red blood cells has been significantly diminished.

So what happens if you run everyday and never really allow the pH balance to go to the alkaline side?  The liver retains the toxins and its functions become impaired; eventually the blood becomes acidic which creates a multitude of symptoms and autoimmune responses; the spiral toward “old age” begins.  Initial symptoms could include sinusitis, lethargy, mania, depression and irregular menstrual cycle, to name a few.  When the joints begin to breakdown on the runner, its not just the because of the constant jarring, rather it’s a result of the body moving more to the acid side of the pH balance.  Interestingly enough, the liver is also responsible for converting tryptophan, from the proteins we ingest, into a necessary building block for neurotransmitters.  What that means is that on a long-term basis running can indirectly affect the quantity and quality of neurotransmitter production in the brain, specifically serotonin and melatonin levels.

Weight lifting is another misunderstood practice.  The theory is – weight bearing exercises increase bone density.  Ok, that is probably true however; the lactic acid produced by performing useless movement will quite probably send the pH balance of the blood to the acid side creating a host of other concerns.  If a muscle has a great ability to contract, but no stretch, it is a weak muscle.  Conversely, if a muscle has a great stretch, but not the ability to contract, it is a weak muscle.  Strength therefore, is the muscles ability to stretch and contract.

When a human body dies, the pH balance almost immediately moves to the acid side of the balance.  When rigormortis sets in, it’s an indication that the body is now completely acidic.  If you think about it, that kind of sheds a different light on muscle aches.

I am fascinated with the flocks in the “health clubs” these days – what is that?  The air is re-circulated – the lights are fluorescent – between the computers, televisions, ellipticals, stair-masters, treadmills etc, the electromagnetic energy gives me a jolt just looking in from the outside.  That club has nothing to do with health.  I call them human aquariums.  Why do these people choose to squander their life force in these boxes?  Ok, call me crazy, but from what I see, the movement is most times without any consideration.  Almost as if to disconnect is the objective.  I often wonder how many “workout” to disconnect from their self?

There is so much that we as human beings all share in common.  Each of us in this diverse world has the same common denominator; we are all made of the Elements and share the same three aspects to our existence, the internal, the energetic and the external.  Our world is made of various manifestations of the Elements.  We are all made of and surrounded by the same oneness that bonds all humankind together into one big collective, whether we call it the Elements, Mother Nature or divine consciousness does not matter; we all seek harmony, balance, clarity and self-understanding.  Not withstanding how circumstance and surroundings have influenced perceptions and perspectives, we define, refine and clarify self and self-perspective; beyond that, we look outside ourselves, adjusting self in relation to someone or something else.  It takes two to see one; individuality can only exist if there is more than one.  To the extent that we find harmony, balance and clarity within our own internal universe, an understanding of self so to speak (or, at the least an angle of repose), is the same extent to which we are in harmony with our external universe.  Through examining the collective, the external universe, we gain perspective on the microcosm, the internal universe; likewise, by examining the internal universe, the macrocosm is made clearer.

All mankind’s inner feelings eventually manifest themselves as an outer reality.

Stuart Wilde

The reality is “in shape” has nothing to do with how many miles one can run how many boards they can break or how many mountains they can climb.  A toned body is a result of will, flexibility, coordination and balance whose product is longevity; and that has more to do with facilitating a harmony of mind and body through the methods one practices to find peace within their essence. Awareness of past and current habits of carrying tension, and productive self-expression are all essential in restoring and maintaining well-being; if emotions get out of hand or are bottled up deep inside, they can create illness.  Maybe that is the “workout”; working out what is inside with what is outside and vice verse.  Perhaps being “fit” or “in shape” has to do with ones ability to cultivate, refine, define and represent what’s inside and/or outside.  Perhaps instead of pursuing disconnected, useless movement to be “fit” or “in shape”, we might endeavor to pursue harmony of mind and body and seek out methods to find peace within our essence and ask our selves, “how can I bring sacredness into my life through movement?”

… health is a balanced, sensitive and complete interaction between the various facets of our existence and our environment.  The natural connection or unity of all these factors should be experienced… otherwise health is lost and so are the sensitivity and Vitality involved in Cultivating the Way.

The purpose of health therefore, is not to support personal longevity in some narrow, self-serving sense.  Health permits a full open-ended participation in the illuminating process of the living universe.

Dragon’s play


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