I am pleased to share this review. It got a 5 out of 5 stars. It is great how they used terms like mind-blowing and eye-opening to describe the techniques I wrote about. Especially coming from someone with no knowledge or experience with Chi or the arts I wrote about. I know that anyone who reads it will feel the same. And anyone with background in a Chi art, Yoga or the Healing arts will be equally of not more pleased to see what I have written and created. Thank you.
Below is the review by Chiwelite Obioma Mgbeoji from Onlinebookclub.org
The world and our daily way of life have a way of inputting stress, tension, and negativity into our lives. There are situations we have limited control over that affect how we go about our daily programs. As humans, it is safe to say we are walking balls of energy and sometimes need guidance on how to dispense or channel this energy. We have so much pent-up energy that negatively affects our balance in life.
Qiyoda, an insightful book written by Jace Lee, talks about this energy, attaining self-help, and mastery in life. The book starts with the author noting four approaches to achieving this mastery. He talks about Chi and how it complements these approaches. He talks about techniques like yoga, tai chi, and many more and how they help in self-improvement. He explains the basic day-to-day activities that affect our energy negatively and positively as humans. He takes us through mind-blowing techniques that we can input into our daily programs to achieve mastery. The author shows us eye-opening concepts and discoveries that make you see your body in a new light. Jace Lee emphasizes the importance of Chi and how it is essential in our lives in healing. He takes us on an eye-opening journey teaching us how much our body can do if we channel into our Chi, using the right techniques and approaches.
I loved a lot of things about this book. Jace Lee talks about his experiences in learning, cultivating, and channeling this energy through Chi. He talks about setting goals to achieve this mastery. He explains topics like healing, tension, alignment, and many more. He discusses their effects on our lives, why we should let some of these things go, and why we should embrace others. He also talks about how it helps us, the readers, in achieving our goals. I love how the author painstakingly explains each of the four approaches to the extent of adding events from his life and giving pictorial representations. This shows that he has the growth of his readers at heart.
Although I found the book very educational and helpful, I would not say it was enjoyable. The book had a lot of explanations which at some point seemed confusing and complex. However, these explanations were helpful to me in understanding Chi and what it entails for someone who had no idea of what Chi was prior to reading the book.
Notwithstanding, I rate the book five out of five stars. It would be unfair to deduct any stars because of the negative aspect I noted above since the author was able to convey his message to his readers. The book was very enlightening and well-detailed. It was also professionally edited.
I will recommend this book to people seeking self-help and wanting to achieve mastery in all aspects of their life. This book is for people willing to get insights into how the body works and how to enhance it.
It seems there is a real lack of a true understanding of Chi and what it actually is. There is the general description that everyone touts, that it is a spiritual energy in all things. But it is much more. I think that because Chi has a programming about it that promotes growth and healing it can be used and cultivated passively. By just hold a certain state of mind while healing someone or while practicing a movement, Chi seems to promote wellness.
Cultivating and using Chi directly seems to be lost knowledge. Fourteen years ago, I discovered I could move Chi and have been practicing it as well as experimenting and exploring it as well. I did this while abstaining from any outside influence and have recently been exploring where Chi is at in the world. I am surprised to see that how I understand Chi is not that different, it is just that my experience of it is a more intimate. See for yourself.
Understanding Chi is one thing, communicating it is another. It is a tough concept to put into words. I have thought long and hard about it, and with every practice it becomes clearer. Below is an excerpt from my book Qiyoda, I try to give as detailed a description as possible. It is hard to talk about it without showing you how to feel and move it. You can see that in the video on my website home page, www.Innerverse.world.
“So far in my experience, I find there are three types of Chi. There is the Chi that runs your body. If you had no brain or were brain dead and your body remained alive, that is your life sustaining Chi. Then there is the Chi that you will learn to feel and use, I call this mind energy. I call it this because it gives a clearer idea of what it is but I will still refer to it as Chi. And then there is the Chi that is related to sexual creative energy that has an emotional texture to it, this is a deeper more powerful spiritual energy. This Chi comes from practice; strength training, strengthening the will and opening the body (physically and energetically) through spiritual and creative practices and meditation. I would consider this more as a “life force” energy than mind energy. I like to use this description because it feels powerful, like a driving force. I will talk more about this at the end of the chapter.
Mind Energy. For the moment it makes sense to call it that. When I feel an area of my body and then move that awareness around my body it feels and acts like an energy. When I take that awareness and shape it or spin it or move it fast, I feel the difference and it feels like energy. What I think and imagine in my body, I feel. Therefore, I concluded that these sensations are Chi and that Chi is linked to the mind. I would not say it is mind, although it can be seen that way, because Chi has other aspects of its own. I see Chi as an interface between mind and body. It is a way for the mind to move awareness around the body and affect the body. This simple ability that we have to feel and use the body has so much potential that lay hidden behind the obvious all these years.
What Chi arts today don’t realize is that if we feel sensations of Chi through our nervous system and our mind moves Chi, then the sensations we feel at any time must also be Chi. Also, if Chi is affected by the mind and moved by mind and we all have Chi, then it is safe to say that our thoughts are affecting our Chi all the time. Which in turn is affecting our body. This is an extremely important concept to note. I really can’t emphasize it enough. The mind is the root of our life. Our thoughts not only affect our body, they create our actions, create other’s perception of ourselves and affects our decisions. This is why mind-body arts are so effective, they are cultivating a relaxed and focused mind and then putting their attention on their body. In effect the body follows the mind. There is more to a mind-body practice than this, but this is the main reason that mind-body practices today are so effective. Now if they understood the purpose of a mind-body practice, as a preparatory art, and how to cultivate the mind-body connection, they could be even more effective.
The strangest aspect of mind energy Chi is that it is not bound by the physical parameters of the body. It can be pushed into another person’s body with visible physical results that can be physically experienced by the receiver. It can also be projected at a distance, with the same results. This aspect of the Chi falls into the category of intuition, psychic sense and energy work. This develops naturally as a person strengthens their skill and sensitivity of Chi. It can also be projected out to gain a sense of our environment and the people in it. Which we do all the time. We see it when looking at someone and they feel it and look back at us. Like the saying goes, “Where the mind goes, Chi goes.” And what is on your mind, goes with it. Reiki is an example of an energy art that teaches people how to use energy for psychic distance healing.”
There you have it, there are actually a few different expressions of energy (Chi). Both the mind energy and the “life-force” Chi are moved by the mind. Mind-energy is simple, when you are feeling your body and not just what your body is sensing, this is Chi. It takes concentration to feel your body. How many people really try to feel their body? Or go further and feel every muscle to the bone and be able to move each muscle with a thought. We can have such mental control over our bodies and Chi (mind-energy) is how we connect and move the body. Now with this information, people can feel and move Chi right away, and cultivate it directly.
Today move people are taught to imagine the Chi doing something as they practice and eventually you will feel it. This is actually backwards. In my experience I feel the Chi first and as I use it and move it, the visuals of Chi start to come naturally. In my book I describe step by step how to cultivate Chi, use it to heal, release tension, move the body, and how to incorporate it into other arts like massage, Yoga and any movement practice.
About 14 years ago I discovered Chi for myself and developed it into a complete system of Chi cultivation and healing; Qiyoda. Doing this has given me insight as to how Chi arts actually function and how they may have been invented and developed. When I speak of Chi cultivation and use, I mean I cultivate and use it directly, like a tool I hold in my hand. In my years of practicing Chi and using it to heal I find that using Chi is extremely effective. I just push Chi into an effected area and tension is released and healing promoted. Since this is so effective, I couldn’t understand the use of needles and how it is that they move Chi.
When I first discovered that I could move Chi, I was practicing a meditation where I was trying to move every muscle in my body with my mind. I noticed that some muscles were hard to feel and I couldn’t move them. So, I used my finger to help bring some sensation to the area and it worked. This made me realize that it is not so much the finger that is doing the healing. It is only providing some sensation so I can get my mind into that area. I told this to my Sensei, who can see energy, and he confirmed it. This means that technically we don’t need to touch to create healing in our body, we just need to get our mind there. Unfortunately, it is not that easy and requires different techniques to aid in this. Techniques like massage, stretching and acupuncture. The main point to highlight here is the fact that the finger was only a way to get the mind/Chi to the area so it can release, relax and restore proper function and the body can heal itself. This is how acupuncture needles move Chi, it is a way for areas and points to get stimulated in a way that brings the patients mind/Chi to that area.
Being that 2,000 years ago people did not understand what modern medicine does today, about what needles do to the body. We can rule this out for reasons why acupuncture was invented. One day I asked my Sensei what the difference is between using a needle and a finger. He said in his deep gravelly voice, “You can put the needle in and walk away, ha ha ha!” It took me awhile to understand this. People only have two hands and can only employ the use of a few fingers at a time and they must be in close proximity. Which might create a need for something that can be used in place of a finger, if more points need to be stimulated at the same time. Or if someone was working on themselves, they could use the needles. Perfectly logical. My question would be, could they use something else that could just stick to the skin to provide the physical sensation? Needles are very invasive.
Some points require the use of a finger for long periods of time. Once I was helping my Sensei with some body work. He had me hold pressure on a single point on his arm for 30 minutes while he did other work in his body. This can get tiring and be time consuming. 2 and 3,000 years ago I don’t think they had many good adhesives that could hold up to gravity for a long time. Oils like mint and menthol could work but would get expensive. People needed something that would stay on and be reusable. Like a needle thin enough not to hurt but still provide the sensation that is needed to bring mind/Chi to that area seems to be the logical choice.
To me this makes sense, especially if a person is very good with using meridians and acupoints. Needles can be useful for areas of the body that are hard to reach or awkward to hold for a long period. So, instead of having me hold a point for 30 minutes, my Sensei could have used a needle. But I still think the healing Chi of a person is still more powerful. But that is it, super simple and logical. This is probably the only theory out there right now.
When I looked up these questions all I could find is information about what modern medicine has discovered about the body’s response to the needles and information about its history. When it was invented and the possible evidence. There is no information about how it works, other than “moving Chi.” Which no one can really explain. So here is a very good and logical explanation answering both questions. I truly feel that if people understood Chi, acupressure would be more popular and integrated into acupuncture. I don’t understand why Chinese medicine schools teach massage and acupuncture separately but there are no dual programs integrating the two. I am hoping that with the understanding of Chi that Qiyoda offers, this will change.
“The mind–body problem is really two problems. The item problem concerns the nature of mental items: are they or are they not physical? The essence problem concerns the nature of the defining essences of mental phenomena – consciousness and intentionality: can they or can they not be explained in physical terms. With regard to the item problem consensus gradually seems to be coalescing on a combination of (1) mental–physical identity at the level of tokens, (2) mental–physical supervenience at the level of types, where this supervenience is underwritten by (3) a functionalist account of the nature of mental properties.”
“the hard problem.” For dualists, the mind-body problem manifests itself as “the interaction problem”—the problem of explaining how nonphysical mental phenomena relate to or interact with physical phenomena, such as brain processes.”
Solving the mind body problem and how it relates to Chi
This mind-body relationship view has long posed a problem for many scholars as it dictates that the mind and the body are separate and not responsible for the other. Thus, the lack of a clearly identifiable meeting point between the intangible mind and the physical body has shown to be challenging to dualism. No longer is this a Challenge.
This is a very plausible solution based on years of research, practice and direct experience. When I think about the mind-body problem it seems to be a matter of the separation of mind and body, the relationship between the two and what is the mind made of if it is not physical. Also, when there is no brain function, the mind does not seem to exist.
In my experience working with the mind to affect my body I find that there is a clear separation of the two. Even though the mind is continuously aware of the whole body, the conscious awareness of it really only falls to a small area of the body. The matter of how integrated the mind is into the body, is a matter of the individual. This can be a natural full integration or it can take work. And when it comes to what the mind is made of, I can only offer the concept of Chi. But what is Chi, exactly? This is where it gets complex because I can only describe my experience of it. I can however get others to experience Chi themselves and to experience my Chi as well.
To give Chi a name that might elicit a better idea of what it is, I would call it mind energy. This is why. When I focus on a part of my body, the size of awareness being the size of my palm, I can feel a difference in awareness from my normal awareness. I call this connected awareness because I feel much more connected to my body, where my mind is focused. In turn that area becomes more responsive to my thoughts. Where this feeling starts to feel like energy is when I move it -the awareness- around my body. Also, when I imagine that feeling moving like water or wind through an arm, I feel what I am imagining. This certainly gives the impression of energy and how energy, in a non-solid form, moves.
The real question; is Chi and mind one thing or are they separate? The Mind-energy problem? This has been the tough question for me. For one, Chi seems to be more than just mind energy. Chi is also in all things living. It has its own program to promote growth, life and healing. One explanation, from Taoism, describes the mind energy as an energy body or Chi body. Technically speaking this makes sense, if this mind energy feels like energy and it is related to my awareness, then it must be in the shape of my body because my body is filled with Chi. But by force of will I can visualize Chi to do any number of things to affect my body and others. Which technically would take it out of the body shape. So therefore, there must be some measure of Chi, or lifeforce energy that remains in the body where the direct awareness is not. Which begs the question, what Chi is mind using to feel the body and manipulate it on a physical level? This is what mind energy is. It is an energy in the body that the mind interacts with directly to affect the body. There are also other forms of Chi that can be cultivated and used. In a way Chi is a general term for spiritual energy because Chi has many aspects. When considering the mind body problem, there is a clear separation between mind and body.
The question still remains, if Chi and mind are separate then what is mind made out of?
In my experience, there is us, the root consciousness, the observer. Then there is the mind, and then there is Chi (mind energy) and the body, which has its own energy. The consciousness can observe the mind and control it. I can have two distinct thought patterns between the two. My mind can be thinking of something and I can also be thinking of something else. But I can only really focus on one or the other. Focusing on two things at once is doable but not easy. Like chanting two different mantras in my head at once. I get one going and then start the other one.
Unfortunately, the mind can also control the observer. But by what means does the consciousness observe the body. We know that we have our senses but we need a way to interact with it and move it. The nervous system. Through chemical and electrical impulses, we can feel and move the body via awareness and however our consciousness desires. These impulses can be voluntarily manipulated because our body is wired to reflect the will of the observer.
Here is the thing, when we merge mind and observer, this is described as focused and can be classified as meditation. Then when these are merged with the body, not necessarily as a whole, this can be considered the melding of mind, body and spirit. This is the very noticeable feeling I described as connected awareness.
There is the question, if a person is brain dead, there is no evidence of mind. I think of it like this, let’s say you are driving your car. As you are driving the cars computer stops working. Suddenly the car is no longer responsive to the driver’s input. The driver is fine but the car can no longer function. You manage to stop and get out but the car can still keep running because it still has fuel but it won’t shut down because the computer is broken. Since the brain is broken, it can no longer function and the conscious observer’s input no longer works. The scary question is, when the brain can no longer respond to the consciousness, did the observer manage to get out?
This leads to the question, is the mind relegated to only existing in the brain? Spiritual practice and experience say no. In meditation while concentrating on connecting to an area in my body in order to release tension, I had the experience of my mind/awareness moving. Suddenly, as I focused, I felt as if I was much closer to area of my focus. Now, was my mind still inside my head? Technically yes, but it seemed as if I had moved to a realm past the physical. It was kind of like being in a room then turning the lights off, there was no more sensory input to tell me where the walls ended. In the Yoga tradition, meditation is meant to lead to samadhi, this is when observer and observed become one. This can give the experience that the individual’s consciousness has moved into the object or person of their focus. Then there is the matter of out of body experience. I have met a few people with this ability. So, it seems that the conscious observer can move out of the head and out of the body. This certainly raises a couple of questions. Does the mind come with the observer? Or is the mind separate of the observer? Well, we know that when the individual is focused, mind and observer are one, and going out of body takes focus. So, in theory, mind and observer are one. They can become detached in the same manner as people from their body.
I think it boils down to voluntary and involuntary functions of the body. Our bodies can function without the mind. But with the mind these functions can be taken over. This ability that we have to be aware of and control the body is the key. The body is built to respond to the mind and the mind to the observer. I see Chi as a bridge between mind and body, like an interface. Like the saying goes, “mind moves Chi and Chi moves the body.”
This is a good explanation but does it solve the mind-body problem? We have a clear separation of observer, mind, Chi and the body. But at the same time, we can merge them all into one experience. But the question that remains is what are Chi and mind made of? I can only posit that mind is made of Chi. If we can move that awareness around the body and observe it somehow by mechanical means then this could be a breakthrough. But even if we could identify what is happening in the body chemically when Chi is moved, this is just the observation of an effect the Chi is having and not the Chi itself.
Electricity is still an unknown substance. We know how it exists and how to cultivate it and harness it, we can experience it but yet it is different from the particles that exist with it. At least with Chi/mind-energy, we can do the same.
Mind, body and Chi can function on their own, it is the observer that can control them. Maybe we should be asking, what is the observer made out of? That is another article, but there is one thing about Chi that is going to probably create more questions. My next question is, if it is an immaterial substance, how is it that I can move it into another person and they can sense it physically and there are visible physical effects in the body? This means that my mind can affect anything that has Chi.
There we are, the mind and body are separate or at least appear to be. It just takes a lot of concentration to move it from the head center of the body. The reality is that we can postulate all we want but as we can see Chi is a substance that is experienced by everyone physically through our awareness of ourselves and our ability to manipulate our body on a conscious willful level. What we need to be aware of most of all is the existence of and relationship between the three. In a way this proves the connection between mind and Chi and how the conscious observer affects all three. It is funny, the saying of connecting mind, body and spirit. Mind and spirit are already connected, it is mostly about melding mind, body and observer. This is part of the path to mastery. Becoming aware of all three, integrating them with total awareness and with only a thought, they all react as one.
The question of what consciousness is and what is it made of can only be answered by the turning off of the senses and thought. What is consciousness without the internal dialogue and imagery and physical/sensory awareness? Is there still awareness and if there is what is it like?
When it comes to training, not just in the martial arts but with any art or sport involving movement, practicing movements slowly is crucial to refining movement and creating indelible strength and coordination through the movement. By moving slowly and relaxed, all the muscles involved have an easier time coordinating and remaining balanced. This also programs the entire movement into the brain, so when it is performed fast, it is perfect. Being relaxed through movement makes sure that muscles that aren’t involved in the movement remain relaxed. In a martial arts situation, when punching, the arm is completely relaxed until contact is made. This is so that there is no interference in the movement, tension will slow down the punch and power will be lost.
Relaxation, a very underrated practice, is crucial to everything, not just Tai Chi and martial arts. To remain relaxed through movements means increased stamina, less effort exerted, faster movement and more joy moving through life in general. There is a Tai Chi term called Sung, it means sinking. When it is experienced, it literally feels as if your body is sinking or melting. This is accompanied by a feeling of stillness and relief. Once you experience it you can use it to reach stillness. Experiencing Shung is not difficult, but it can be tricky. You have to imagine and try to feel what you imagine, your body sinking. Also, through practicing relaxation, it can just happen. Once you have it, then stillness must be cultivated. Through Shung you should work to be able to call stillness up whenever you want. Just to note, this alone can be life changing. Relaxation doesn’t have to stop here, it can get down right euphoric. Relaxation is also a crucial part of feeling and moving Chi and releasing tension.
Once you find stillness it is time to stand. It is through standing that we start to meld mind and body. At first standing is practiced to strengthen our foundation but mostly to scan the body, release tension and find proper alignment. This scanning the body is the same as the technique I use to get people to feel their Chi, increase the feeling and increase the mind-body connection. Once you can feel stillness while standing and you start to feel as if you are floating and it seems effortless to hold up your arms; this is where you start to see how Chi moves the body.
You see, being relaxed cultivates Chi by increasing sensitivity to it and allowing a greater flow. But when it comes to cultivating Chi and making it stronger, we must use it. When cultivating Chi through movement, first the Chi must be felt and some level of movement must be achieved because one must be able to move Chi before being able to move the body with Chi. This is one of the reasons why Tai Chi is performed slowly, it takes a lot of though, visualization and concentration to move an entire body using only Chi. So, at first, the mind moves very slow. But most people never really make it to this point. I really can’t think of anyone else teaching how to move the body using Chi. I think I may be one of the few. I also teach how to use Chi as strength. This adds great power to any physical activity and cultivates Chi majorly. Tai Chi also cultivates Chi by coordinating movement with the breath. Then eventually that breath will drive the Chi and move the body.
Tai Chi is relatively simple in theory and principle. Relaxation, slow coordinated movements alone can have a huge impact on a person. By strengthening balance and coordination, moving through life becomes much easier. Tension and pain is also released. All this gives the practitioner a sense of peace and tranquility. It is this state of mind that truly is the main cause of these benefits are. The mind is the root of our lives, if negative thoughts can destroy our bodies and our lives then positive thoughts can have a reverse effect. The practice of Tai Chi and also Qigong and meditation, is that they are cultivating a relaxed and peaceful mind, the body and your life are reflections of your mind.
There you have it! These are the core foundational principles that make Tai Chi such an effective and beneficial art form. With relaxation, slow refined movement and fast, Chi cultivation and mind-body connection cultivation, how can you go wrong. Well, it depends on the goal. Now, I want you to look at those principle’s and forget you know Tai Chi. These principles can be any movement, that is, any properly aligned movement. My point is, it is not so much Tai Chi that is so beneficial, it is the way it is practiced. I am not trying to get people to forget about Tai Chi, I am trying to get people to see how Tai Chi, Qigong, etc., doesn’t end when your form does. Every step and every move become Tai Chi or Qigong. These principles can also be applied to any sport or physical art or dance. When it comes to mastery one must strive for perfection in every millimeter of movement.
To feel centered is what my Sensei called absolute joy. Even though that may be a bit overstated, it is a joy. When you can feel relaxed and comfortable in your body and as if you can move in any direction at any time, it gives you a feeling of strength and power, like you are a kung fu master that can take on 10 men or dance with a man or woman like they never knew possible. For me, that puts a smile on my face. Also, there are times when I find the right alignment and centering, and it just clicks. When this happens, there is a feeling of emptiness and stillness, my body becomes totally relaxed and I don’t ever want to move. This is certainly a cause for joy.
Well, that is not the only benefit to being centered. It’s about moving through life comfortably, feeling like you can take on anything and not having to worry about injury. When it comes to the mind and how it affects the body feeling centered is definitely a symbiotic relationship between mind and body. When they are both centered the outward expression of each is increased 10-fold.
Now combine that with being strong and flexible within proper alignment of the body and you have a recipe for a cocktail I like to call, the Jackie Chan. Being able to move through life overcoming and accomplishing anything with light-hearted humor. Every martial artist needs to be centered, strong and flexible in order to be fast, move through any position and not worry about injury. For me I want to be like this in life, without the fighting. Sometimes life is enough of a fight. Or it’s good for keeping up with your kids.
Either way, being centered and strong in alignment and add being relaxed and you have yourself a recipe for a long awesome life. And when you are in a place like that, the body uses less energy because when all your muscles are working together, they work less, and this also gives you more power to your movements. Your whole body will feel more relaxed and pain free because you won’t be putting any unnecessary stress on any part of the body. Now if you incorporate some Chi work and connecting mind to the body, then you will be able to move with the lightness of a mere thought.
Just know this, you don’t have to get to that perfection of centered and aligned to feel centered like a kung fu master. Once you find your center and feel it, then it becomes an evolving journey of deepening that sense of centeredness. Meaning that you can have that feeling while working to perfect it. Awesome! So, keep practicing and get to that center and alignment, enjoy your joy and kick ass everyday!
In order to evolve towards something you need a goal. There are many goals when it comes to Yoga, you can work towards health and well-being, total flexibility or self-mastery. Even trying to achieve success in life can be a yogic pursuit. The first two can be goals in themselves or what happens naturally through the practice of Yoga towards self-mastery. But self-mastery is a very subjective term and can have many sides and possibilities.
At least we know that there is at least one constant; you, the self. But you have to ask yourself, what do I want, what am I working towards? Then you have something to work towards and evolve with. More specifically the teachings presented in this blog and in Living Yoga are working towards getting you healed and working towards mastery. When it comes to these two things there is an evolution and a progression of practice that ensues. This may come naturally through just practicing but if you are working towards something then your practice becomes deeper and more dynamic.
For example, theoretically, you take classes at your local or favorite Yoga studio and you learn new movements and possibly some of their principles and you read about Yoga and it’s good. But do you gain a true understanding of it, are you working towards something? The point here is that when you work towards something you are more engaged, more motivated and progress much faster.
Your goal is getting healed, this means opening the body, finding your center, becoming strong and flexible in both. This also entails work on an emotional level and a mental level and possibly on a spiritual level. This is where your body and life becomes your guide. Now before you get over whelmed by how long this might take just know that it won’t. Mostly it depends on what you need to work on and how much time you put in. The beauty of it is that when you are in it and making great progress, you aren’t thinking about the goal and soon you end up there and more. Whatever you do don’t get a big head and think you are enlightened because we all always have more to learn no matter how far on our journey we are and there is always something to be learned from anyone.
The strange thing about the evolution of the self is that anyone can come across your path and bring something out of you that you need to face; if you can see it, understand it and overcome it, you will make it to the next level. If not that same issue is going to keep coming up until you face it. That is part of your evolutionary journey to self-mastery. Seeing what is impeding your progress in your yoga and your pursuit of happiness and success.
Everyone’s path is different, for some reason I have to learn everything the hard way. For me I have a natural inclination towards impatience and worry and has been a tough road, especially since my life can be very complicated and uncertain. But these have also been great learning tools for me and what I want to do in my life. Sometimes hardship is there to teach us something. As I want to be a healer, it seems that I must endure and over come every manner of ailment and learn from the experience so that I may be better equipped to help others in the same way.
You on the other hand may just want to work your career and progress in your practice and live a great life. As you evolve in your practice you will find new things that need your attention. This is where your life and body becomes your guide.
With your body, as you get more in touch with it you will see more and more what needs to be done to get you to that place of feeling centered, aligned and moving with relaxed effortlessness. You may also find emotional traumas or stress trapped in your body and muscles. Literally the chemicals and hormones associated with emotion get stuck in your body. As you release them you may experience them again. Just breathe, relax and let go.
With life there may be certain behaviors and thought patterns that are impeding your success in relationships with others and in life or your career. The key here is too be aware of your thoughts and actions and how they affect others and your life. Your life is literally a reflection of who you are just like your body is a reflection or expression of your mind.
Thigs in your life may be going very well, it is when you take on a pursuit of bettering yourself to succeed at being the best human possible that life will start throwing everything you need to overcome to gain that success. So if something bad happens don’t get down, see it as an opportunity for improvement. Even if it seems like someone else’s fault, still look to yourself and see if maybe your actions caused any reactions in others.
The brighter side of learning from your body and life is that when you are in a good place and progressing in your practice you may be gifted a technique or movement or pose that can help you reach the next phase of your journey. For this just stay positive, be spontaneous and open to possibility. Or when you are ready a person will come into your life and teach you exactly what you needed to know or were looking for. Remember teachings and healings can take many forms, so be open and aware.
Even if you come to a place of feeling healed, centered, aligned, relaxed, focused and pain free the same principles apply to further healing and mastery in your arts and life. So find a goal, work towards healing and self-mastery to find happiness and success in your life. Because when we are happy everything is awesome. Figure out what is blocking you or what you need to learn to get there.
The power of the mind is truly incredible once you research and really find out what people have achieved through training the mind. There is everything from total body control, body temperature control like Wim Hof (The Ice Man) who hiked Mount Everest in Shorts (link), there are also psychic abilities that can be awakened, healings and other crazy things that seem completely miraculous and unbelievable. Especially if you read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. My favorite miracle is people who are paralyzed regaining movement in their bodies by thinking about walking and moving. (link) and (link)
I’m not going to sell you on the miraculous stuff but truly even the little stuff is quite miraculous. The fact that we are here on a planet living, thinking and conscious is a miracle. But we have yet to truly explore that miracle; science still has barely a clue. There have been those before us that have attained great mastery by exploring consciousness and performed miracles and shared this wisdom but sometimes it gets lost in time, shrouded in culture and mystery or held to be of the gods and unattainable by mere humans. They are sometimes miracles beyond what we experience in everyday life. What I want to show you is the miracle of everyday life. Once you understand the power of the mind, what it is, how it affects your body and your life you will be able to take control of the mind and use it to affect your life positively and explore it to discover greater miracles or what I like to call, the magic of life.
We have all heard stories of clairvoyance, telepathy, extrasensory perception and spontaneous healings. In martial arts the development of a sixth sense is common. Yogis are well known for miracles and among the last chapters of the Patanjali sutras he talks about psychic powers. They do happen, they do exist, but western science still doesn’t understand why or how. I am surprised about this myself. Even though modern psychology has a vast understanding of the human mind and how life and the body effects it, they still only see it in a material realist way; chemical processes in the mind and body. I don’t think they have really explored the opposite, mind over matter, the mind affecting the body and life. Of course stress releases chemicals in the brain and creates emotions and can wreak havoc on the body and mind but this can be controlled by thought. It just seems that psychiatry today only treats the brain and illness with more chemicals to solve things like depression, anxiety, stress and mental illness. I do believe that in some cases mental illness comes from a chemical imbalance in the brain but I do believe that by understanding and controlling the mind that a person can use the mind to affect the brain and the body to create balance.
We as a humanity need to reengineer our way of thinking to realize our own power. How? By understanding the mind, its relationship to your body, life and spiritual energy; Chi. The first step is to realize that you the observer are separate from the mind. I am sure you have experienced observing your thoughts. Simply put, those thoughts create emotion and action which in turn affect your body and your life. This is a big reason why Buddha created the 8 fold path and taught meditation. Meditation strengthens the mind giving you control but sitting meditation won’t always do the trick. One must willfully choose to create positive thoughts and actions in life in order to help strengthen the mind and create a good life. By strengthening the mind you are able to control it and not let it control you.
The next step is to practice breathing and relaxation. This practice alone can change your life vastly. Once you can learn to breathe deeply and fully you will be more relaxed and alert. Once you practice relaxation you will find yourself with a lot less stress and anxiety. A lot of people take drugs, prescription or otherwise in order to feel relaxed. If they just practice to be relaxed they will feel relaxed and they will feel life on a deeper level and more joyfully.
The next step after that is to understand the mind’s relationship to energy; Chi/Prana. The mind is made of this energy and through your consciousness you can effect it and in turn it will affect your thoughts, body and life. Once you realize this you realize that you are moving Chi/Prana all the time. This is very important because whatever you think and do becomes a practice and what you practice becomes a skill. Is anger and sadness the skills you want in life? I understand that thinking positive is hard in the face of great depression and anxiety, this is why you need to strengthen the mind and use your will to stop it. All we truly want is happiness.
This is why we need to let go of the past, heal our past traumas and think positive. I understand this is no easy task, but practice and effort goes a long way. There was a time that for years I felt that everything was always going wrong for me, and every time I would get back up I would get knocked down. This is very frustrating, especially since I was try to be a truly good person and do good things in the world. And even though I fought depression, anxiety, hurt and anger and it seemed I was going insane I stood up and said not anymore and I continued to get back up and think positive and trust in myself and practice as much as I could and I turned my life around.
I realized that the anger, fear and anxiety were working against me no matter how hard I worked at my job and being a good person. It still manifested and things went wrong. Once I put a stop to it, my life changed. I used a mantra to focus my mind on something positive during the day. I exercised and practiced my yoga. I started writing again and found inspiration in finishing my book. These are all just examples of how it is possible to change your life without drugs.
Meditation is a good way to strengthen the mind. When I say meditation I mean concentrated meditation, purposefully focusing the mind on a single thought, idea or mantra. Meditation is very versatile and can be done anywhere and almost at any time. Focusing on relaxation is the best for beginning. Then I would start practicing Chi.
Practicing Chi is a great mediation because it builds awareness in the body, awareness of energy, teaches you how to affect the body with the mind. And while cultivating it, you get numerous health benefits and healing. This is truly the first step in exploring the mind and your own consciousness and reaching your human potential.
To discover your Chi, I like to use the simple technique of awareness. Put your hand in front of you palm facing in. Try not to look at it and a take a few deep breaths, relax your body and your hand. Then feel the palm of your hand, without using your other hand. You should feel your palm, you may feel a slight tingling or a light static or warmth, this is great. Now feel the inside of each finger, then move to the back of the hand. There you have it, that is Chi and you are now moving Chi. The next step is to move it along your arm to your elbow. Make sure to follow the feeling up your arm. Then move that awareness all over your body and take note to what you feel.
Now that you are moving Chi you are on your way. But literally you have just scratched the surface, by moving chi along your skin. Next would be to start bringing that awareness deeper into the body, muscles then bones. Techniques like condensing breathing and breathing the limbs are extremely helpful for this. Then learn mapping and patterning for moving the Chi around your body.
There you have it, a good summary of the power of the mind and how to start cultivating it and gaining control of your mind, your life and your power.
The goals of Yoga might be an easy question to answer but with the many forms of yoga we have today it might be tougher to answer. Truly it all depends on what you want to achieve. In the pursuit of mastery, personal growth, health and wellness and even enlightenment anything you do can be considered a yogic practice. You may hate me for saying that because it adds so many other arts to the already long list of variations, approaches and pathways that are possible with Yoga. I say this because I want to expand your perspective horizons of what yoga is and can be. By doing this you can add more possibilities to reaching your goals.
You may ask, why not put yoga into any other categories? Well a lot of other arts are very specialized and although somewhat similar, don’t have the wide range of possibilities refined over thousands of years that yoga has. To be straight forward the main goal of yoga is enlightenment and meditation is necessary to achieve that. There are so many aspects of yoga because we are complicated beings and only one approach is not enough especially when dealing with cultivating the body, mind and spirit. Everyone is different, living different lives with different experiences and with different bodies, so the same yoga is not the best for everyone. So how do you know what to practice? Lucky for you that is easy, your body and your life are your guides. You are your own guru, following your heart and intuition to know what to practice next.
Using your body as a guide to practice is a process of getting in touch with your body and figuring out what you need to do to get to a place of centeredness, proper alignment, opening the body, increasing strength and flexibility. These are all goals to work towards on a physical level. Standing is a great way to see what is out of balance in your body and what is impeding you from holding a relaxed, balanced and comfortable stance; this is a form of standing meditation -an important foundation for yoga and internal martial arts. This is the first step of letting your body guide you. Then as you progress into other poses and stretches you find other muscles and areas that either need stretching or strengthening. In order to lengthen muscles and open areas you may need to use alternative methods other than yoga. Massage is very helpful; it increases circulation and expedites the time it takes to stretch a muscle. And there is movement, movement also increases circulation and strengthens on a greater range of motion than yoga. I prefer to use dance for my movements.
As for mental goals for yoga, this is simple. You want to create a strong and focused mind that is clear of chatter; peaceful. This is one of the benefits of mediation and that alone can change your life and your body. A relaxed mind is a relaxed body. Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting meditation. Meditation is simply the practice of concentrating the mind on a task to increase mental strength and focus. I find that the best beginning meditations are focusing on relaxation and the breath, eventually one becomes both. These you can do anytime or while you practice yoga, this is incredibly beneficial, I can’t stress that enough. The more relaxed you are the faster your muscles can release and the faster your progress. Before you start to practice anything you want to be relaxed, breathing, centered, the whatever you do will be easier and you will learn incredibly fast.
Spiritual goals, well, usually this means practicing to be a good person. I like to uphold love and truth as my pillars of practicing wisdom to gain wisdom. But when I think of a spiritual practice I think of it in a more literal sense, actually practicing spirit. Once you can feel and practice Chi/Prana and understand its relationship to the mind then you are truly practicing your spirit for they are connected. You the observer use the mind to control Chi with imagination and visualization. It is really that simple, if you can think you are moving spirit. So be careful what you think about and how often. When using it in and on the body or to move the body or to heal the body, then you are practicing mind, body and spirit as one. This is a spiritual goal. To make this into your every move and every moment, is a great achievement of mastery.
Remember this, the mind and spirit are one. They are made of the same material. Your mind whatever you think becomes your meditation, your practice; so be careful what you think about and how often. If you think angry thoughts it will be detrimental. Think good thoughts and feel good. This because the mind affects your body and your life.
Chi can easily be used to expedite your path to your center, proper alignment and the opening of the body. When focusing on using your Chi with visualization to affect change in the body you are meditating. What better meditation than to focus on cultivating spirit and healing yourself.
First goal of yoga, get centered, build awareness in the body, work towards proper alignment and strengthening it until it becomes relaxed and natural. When it comes to mastering anything, there are techniques to practice to proficiency and parfection before moving on. Start simple and build upon and gently pushing the boundaries of your limits.
Today we mostly just practice yoga and sometimes some breathing exercises (pranayamas) are incorporated or a gimmicky concept. There is no real progression, starting simple and working towards more difficult techniques. Take note, just because you learned a difficult technique doesn’t mean it is bringing you closer to mastery. The thing is that there are a lot of techniques and they all have specific purposes, make sure that the techniques you learn are something that you need for your evolving practice. As you progress you may not need certain techniques and new ones will come along.
For example, a lot of yoga schools teach fancy pranayamas that seem cool and make you feel like you are practicing yoga but what is it really doing for you in the moment and the long term. Always start simple and build upon that, like mastering the yogi complete breath and yogi rhythmic breathing before jumping into more advanced breathing techniques. Also working to get the breath to become natural on a simple level will help you greatly in feeling more relaxed and alert throughout your life when you are not on the mat and in everything you practice.
So don’t just practice yoga, work towards your ultimate self, centered and aligned, focused and relaxed, mind body spirit connected. Then you can move on to deepen your yoga practice or practice and master other arts or live a good long healthy life. Get in touch with your body, figure out what it needs, figure out what you want and practice.
Is a pulling in of the muscles and mind to the core centers of the body and an expansion out in all directions. In each pose we should strive to have every muscle activated equally together, all at once, while also relaxed and without effort. Think of the body as one big muscle pulling ourselves into the alignment of the pose. Here we can feel and strengthen the core and inner spirals of the body, connecting our bodies to the mind and breath. Then we expand the mind outward and inward to the infinite universe.
First to keep in mind are the Bandhas. The Mula at the perineum, Uddiyana at the lower belly and the Jalandhara at the front of the neck; these performed together make the Maha Bandha. Bandha; meaning “lock” is a locking of the core and the energy centers. It is mostly considered an energy lock, holding in of Prana (Chi). What we are doing here with the Bandhas is not only strengthening our bodies to the core but using them to guide us into perfect alignment of the pose and ourselves from the core out. We should seek to keep these, more active than locked throughout your whole class or sequence practice; although you can squeeze them intensely to build greater strength, depending on the pose.
The inner spirals are the lines along the body that we can feel activating as we engage all the muscle together in proper alignment. For example, in mountain pose we are pulling up from the arches of the feet rotating the shins in, pushing the thighs outward, bringing the front of the pelvic bones and then moving the energy up through the perineum towards the base of the skull.
When relaxing, don’t collapse out of the pose, continue to hold the pose or depending on the pose continue reaching and relax into it. Once we are able to hold every muscle of the pose strongly and without strain we are able to relax into it even more and hold it longer and/or move deeper into the pose. Then from here we are creating stamina and physical power by connecting every muscle together to the centers of the body. You see as the muscles work together, they all don’t have to work so hard. They work more efficiently. Now that’s team work! An after effect of this would be a more naturally strong and aligned body when relaxed, such as a standing pose or life in general.
As for breathing, the “in” breath is the empty breath, as I like to call it. This is where we bring in energy and hold our position and the energy we have already brought in. Here we draw from all directions or through a single or many limbs to the Bandhas.
The “out” breath is the solid breath, where we push the energy into the body and condense it down using the muscles and mind. So as we exhale we can either: exhale through a single limb, many limbs, expand out in all directions or create strength by squeezing the muscles more; little by little as we breathe. As with any of these we must remain relaxed or use the exhale to relax more, into the stretch and into the strengthen.
On an energetic note, with the Bandhas locked, linking the breath to the expansion and contraction of the body and mind we are able to store Prana (chi). And to help with visualization we can color the Prana.
Whatever pose it is you are in, feel the wholeness and find the balance of the body and then hold onto it. Use your Bandhas and spine as a guide as a guide, locking your Bandhas and hugging the spine. And as you move the breath through the body, seek to feel it. Sometimes we may not be able to engage all the muscles at once or when we do we get shaking, don’t worry, just continue to reach for the center, engage and strengthen.