Sunday, November 01, 2020

Floor Exercises: The Key to Lifelong Health

 The obvious advantage of floor exercises is that one doesn't have to get up to do them -- and for that reason, are the most beneficial when one most needs to exercise -- when one can't get up.  Then, just getting up, is a monumental and life-saving achievement.  Most people take that ability for granted -- when that eventually, will be the difference between life and death -- that one no longer has to be bedridden, but from that basic skill, determines their freedom of all other movements.  Conversely, when one is so weak that they are not even capable of turning themselves while lying down, they will eventually develop bed sores and resultant infections, and not be long for this world.

So this ability to change from the most immobile condition to regain full functionality, is really fundamental to lifelong mobility and health.  One can always begin small and minimally, and progress on up -- rather than maintaining a futile notion that popping immediately up and onward, is the only way to be.  It is the ability to change, that characterizes movement and its value.  People are not born running, or born unmoving -- but change from one position to another, as evidence of their viability and robustness, and their dynamism in doing so, impresses others.

Much less impressive, is just holding a steady state -- as that does not indicate any other possibility, nor potential for anything else.  That is all one does, and there is no indication that they can do anything else -- until they actually do.  Usually what one does, is all they can do -- and one should not assume they can do anything else but what they exhibit -- despite claims and promises to do otherwise.  Very simply, what you see is what you get -- with very rare exceptions and surprises.

So, far more indicative of their abilities, is the range of their movements -- rather than just the one movement repeated countless times, or with greater resistance.  In athletic exhibitions, those who can demonstrate many different movements, are far more impressive than those who do only one thing flawlessly -- because it is the change that creates the impact.

To go from lying to standing, is a much greater change than to go from standing to walking.  In fact, there is no greater engagement of all the muscles than in going from lying to standing -- which is the characteristically great advantage of choosing yoga as one's bedrock movement activity, since it specifically cultivates that change, as integral and fundamental to its conditioning program -- which is not duplicated in any other activity -- and particularly, among its oldest participants.

It is very impressive to see a group of 100 year olds getting up and down off the floor -- which is generally their cohorts' greatest fears.  So when these oldsters are able to rise gracefully from the ground, there is few things more striking in contemporary society.  They don't have to put on makeup or wear flashy gym attire to look young and with it.  Just the fact that they get up and down off the floor easily, gracefully and uncomplainingly -- is a lot more than most contemporary younger people are prepared to do.

But that is the real meaning of push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups -- to lift oneself from a lower state to a higher one.  It's not even necessary to do 100 consecutively without rest -- because 100 done nonconsecutively, with as much rest as one desires, is even more valuable, especially when performed in the normal course of one's day.  That is a meaningfully active life -- and not one that is arbitrarily active for just a brief period -- usually under only one proscribed set of circumstances -- and is sedentary and poorly positioned otherwise throughout most of their day.  That latter, causes most of the aches and pains of a poorly aligned posture.

Most of those specializing in back pain will tell you that those misalignments and malfunctions don't just spontaneously happen -- but are invariably caused by poorly designed furniture. shoes and postures.  So their job is to observe and detect such misalignments and misuse, and reprogram them on the proper mechanical advantages of such movements.

That mechanical advantage is finding the easiest and most economical way to perform that movement -- and not to make it harder and more difficult until it eventually becomes painful and impossible.  Yet that is the path many take -- thinking it is the shortcut to quick gains.  That will always result in a premature cessation of such movements and activities -- if not crippling them outright.  That is simply the truth of the matter -- and why most former top trainees, no longer can do what they did as younger and indestructible people.  Many even die prematurely of heart failures -- from pushing their hearts too hard, too many times -- thinking that all that is necessary, is to push their hearts as hard as possible -- until it fails.  That's not a good plan.

The heart will always be the last organ to fail -- and once it does, that is death as we usually define it.  Meanwhile, many other organs may have long failed to function -- but we don't know that, because we have not tested for that failure.  If we have 600-800 muscles, we only know definitively that a dozen or so still work -- because the rest we don't think to test, or even recognize they exist.  So if one can perform a movement that requires all the muscles to be activated whether we recognize them or not, that would be the perfect exercise -- and especially important and useful to cultivate throughout one's life --as the measure far more meaningful than any other.

I've never encountered a healthy person who could not easily get up and down off the ground.  I've met a lot of unhealthy people who could not get up from a lying or seated position -- much less walk, or stand.  That to me is the difference between a fit person -- and those incapable of independent living.  That threshold seems unduly low -- but seems to be fairly consistent for every individual.  Most get to that point -- no matter whether they once were world champions, or the average working person.

Cultures, societies and individuals are impressive to the extent that they retain that upward and downward mobility -- more so than by running, jumping and throwing -- which are much less necessary activities, and being the source of injurious wear and tear that are best avoided.  At that point in life, it is usually all pain and no gain -- and will often set one back weeks and months for recovery.  Many never fully recover, but merely adds to their load of future handicaps and limitations -- until the disadvantages outweigh the advantages that they never try again.

That's a bad place to be.  Usually they got there thinking they could not be any other way -- when the truth of the matter, is that there are many ways to be -- even if one has to create it for themselves.  Far from being the most daunting prospect, that is the way of truth for every individual that has ever lived and prevailed.  That is their singular mission and purpose in life -- to find out what works for them -- if nobody else.  It doesn't have to work for anybody else -- as long as it works for them, and that is proof enough.

It's great if it works for anybody -- or everybody else -- but the only truth that matters is that it works for you -- perfectly.  That's why there is diversity -- and not just arbitrarily mandated by the political correctness of the day -- for they don't know what good reason.  Diversity is not a value in itself.  The greater purpose is in achieving the best result -- by entertaining the various different plausible possibilities and their paths, and preparing for them.  But diversity in itself is merely randomness without that higher criterion.  That has to be results.

What is the difference between a healthy young baby and a dying old person?  The newborn gets on its feet as soon as possible because they realize their very lives depend on it -- while the dying old are simply left behind.  Nobody has to force them to leave the herd.  In that way, the story of life and death is played out in each life -- in its own unique tale.  That's what life is.  The ups and downs -- and how we manage those transitions.

Death is no longer wanting things to change -- but to stay the way they are permanently -- and that is not possible.  So that requires dying to everything, and the body is not far behind.  The fundamental question in yoga, is not how much can one lift or how far one can run, but simply, can you still get up -- and show me.  That is as basic as it needs to get.  And if you're still doing it at 100, you've won.