Saturday, October 01, 2022

Yoga, Isometrics, Dynamic Tension, Posturing

Getting big and lifting heavy is what a lot of people think is desirable and necessary to optimize their health -- especially in the gyms where they think they are doing it for other people's benefit and validation.  But far more valuable are the exercises one can do when obvious movement in the conventional ways are not desirable, or even possible.  That of course is when one is restricted from doing so by pain and other injuries -- when it hurts to move anything.  What most never learn or realize is that the far more important aspect of exercise is what goes on inside the muscles (body) and not from the obvious measures of "work," which requires movement to measure.  

However, the beneficial aspect of exercise is that it causes movement of blood and other fluids with the tissues -- and that movement is what causes the optimal functioning which is health, strength, and balance -- or the total package one is aiming to achieve -- and not merely one measure while sacrificing all the others.  Not only would that be pointless but it often results in destructiveness and self-inflicted injuries.

So it is important to learn while doing all one's activities, that proper balance that results in harmony and well-being -- rather than simply cultivating an endless need for more of one thing while undermining and destroying every other thing -- and that wholeness (completeness) is the objective -- and not any one thing to the detriment of all the others.  Thus even exercise, nutrition, "rightness," can be overdone and undone -- as happens when one is merely focused on one thing despite the destruction of all the others.

The wisest people know this -- and that is what makes them wise -- this understanding of the big picture, and not just one cog in the great wheel of life.  Unfortunately, in a world of increasingly narrow and bureaucratic specialization, most are not taught the importance of the big picture upfront, but are merely instructed on the minute and even petty, and so never get to the next level -- and the next -- because they are fixated on what doesn't matter -- thinking it is the only thing that matters.  One hears it especially in sports and athletic competitions -- that winning is the only thing that matters -- and not how one gets there.  Thus, many are ruthless and cheat at getting there, and think that is all that matters -- and then learn later in life when their health and good relations are spent, that they've moved permanently to the back of the line, and now have no idea how to reverse those alarming trends.

Those are the lessons one hopes to learn along the way in getting there -- and not simply burning all the bridges as soon as one has crossed them so no other (competitor) can get there.  That's why sportsmanship is also prized -- and may be the greater distinction among the truly knowing.  How many others has one helped to get there?  That's when the competitor becomes the master (teacher) and transcends that activity.  And that transcendence is what one is working to achieve -- and not merely being one more cog in the great wheel of life, signifying very little of real importance.

Those are the prizes nobody gives to any other -- but the greatest reward each give to themselves -- when they feel truly worthy of that accomplishment.  And that is also what one hopes to achieve from their activity -- this greater sense of doing all the right things, living the right life, and being right with the world.  The psychologists describe it as the "peak experience" -- and if one is not working to achieve that, their activities and exercise will seem pointless, and they will fall out of it at the first possible excuse and opportunity -- rather than cultivate a personal tradition of betterment in everything they do.  

So this one thing transfers to all the other things one does -- and become one's personal compass -- particularly during the worst of times when all the others have become unreliable measures of which way the winds are blowing.  But one should know at least, which way the winds are blowing -- and all the other forces one has to account for, or one will find themselves far off course -- and even without a paddle, and other necessary equipment to get back in the game.

Even many formerly great athletes find themselves there -- especially as time and age become a greater factor in their lives, and what they thought they knew about getting to the top, no longer works -- and increasingly despair that anything does anymore.  That is merely an obvious signal that one has to shift gears -- and emphasize different aspects to get going again.  Then one discovers that there are many ways, and not just the one way they thought would see them through life totally unscathed, and remain perpetually at the top of their game.

Increasingly, that would indicate looking inward rather than outward -- in the world of exercise to gentler forms, rather than thinking it is enough to still be running a marathon at age 100, or deadlifting their bodyweight, as the only way they know how.  Often, those things are no longer possible, but is that the end-all, be-all of meaningful and productive activities -- or is there vastly more beyond, and better?

At this point, exercise as well as any other practice, becomes a transcendental experience -- taking them to a higher level.  But that does not mean that is the unmeasurable and unfathomable.  It is just more subtle, requiring a higher understanding to perceive.  It is the contraction of the muscle that causes a weight to move -- and not the movement of the weight that causes the contraction -- which is obvious to reflect upon, but many do not understand which is the cause and which is the effect -- and think they are merely coincidental.  Thus they arrive at the "victory" party not understanding they have to first play the game -- or do the work.  Correlation is not causation -- and one must understand that, yet this is the most misunderstood aspect of doing anything -- including and especially athletic activities, which one would think is the most obvious and self-evident.

Yoga, isometrics, dynamic tension, and merely posturing, are examples that one is achieving something impressive without requiring movement and the conventional metrics of work -- and so is difficult to distinguish a person doing nothing, from one who is achieving a high level of proficiency -- until one tries it themselves.  "Isometric" means no or little visible movement, and so many will question how that can be exercise -- if they have been conditioned to believe it is the greatest expenditure of calories, effort and pain that produces a virtuous and desirable result.  But on closer examination, does the lifting of the weight account for most of their movement, or is the movement produced by the falling of the weight -- until rebounded off the body or floor -- or the extent of one's ligament and tendon integrity?

In fact, such a performance style has even been elevated to the highest form of "resistance" training -- that is resisting a weight for up to 90% of the time, and so actually very little of the time is spent actually "lifting" a weight or in a contracting position, but most of the time effort is expended preventing the weight from falling to the ground unimpeded.  That manner of performance is exonerated as the "eccentric" muscle contraction -- over the "concentric" which is the weight being lifted by a muscle contraction.  The problem with this is that there is no need to exercise the relaxation phase over the contractile phase -- because that is the muscular state that one will invariably default to -- just as the effort should be expended on the exhalation of the breath (residual air) rather than the inhalation into an already full or even partially full lung -- because of the peculiar and distinctive structure of lung tissue -- which means branching into smaller and smaller vessels to optimize the surface contact -- as also happens in the blood vessels.

That is not well understood by most practitioners -- or they would be a lot more successful at achieving their objectives of becoming stronger, healthier, and obviously looking so.  In fact, this latter trait is often dismissed as merely cosmetic when actually, it implies all the rest.  The most robust and dominant looking individual in that collective, is obviously the most fit in that group -- as can first be observed in their posture, or body language.  It's not the juveniles constantly engaged in fights to prove their place in the pecking order.  Even the casual observer or newcomer, can observe that difference.  Another term for that heightened condition is "muscle tone," which all exercisers do not exhibit equally -- for the obvious reason that despite their activity, indicates little mastery of this voluntary muscle control -- that enables its greatest practitioners to transform themselves instantly from one state of total muscular relaxation to total muscular contraction -- as they desire or is needed.

That would be a true measure of fitness -- adapting fully to the conditions and challenges of the present moment -- and not simply being an inappropriate caricature of one who never changes and adapts to those requirements no matter what -- as one conditioned only to resist change, but never to initiate it even in the smallest ways -- that over time and persistence, change the world.


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