Play and natural movement are largely lost to us and we think we need “serious goal-based” exercise – the goals are also often comparative or competitive – but as I get older I value ‘just keep moving’. On a continuum of discipline and play is where enjoyment emerges.
Founders are often driven and goal fixated but I’d argue movement needs to be an antidote to that obsessive pattern. I’m trying to discover presence and joy in whatever it is. Swimming a lap can done insanely (rehearsing conversations, planning activities, solving problems) or it can be done with presence. A lap or even a few strokes that simply feels the breath’s connections with the cycles of movement is just so much more interesting and deeply enjoyable. Technically you also learn more – it’s now a cliche so say “flow state” but its a swim well swum.
For me the most impactful exercise ever was Ashtanga with a tiny Israeli firebrand by the name of “Meir” in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco – his website is gone and the mix of Yelp reviews illustrate how he polarised students. He was a student of Tim Miller (one of the original US students) and also worked directly with the founder of Ashtanga Pattabhi Jois – he was hard, funny, attention to detail, politically incorrect and incredibly generous and genuine – an endangered species in the fakerie of the tech infested SF.
Meir would call out “breath, bandhas, drishti” which remains a great truth, not to be glossed over. He would shudder at me quoting Jois’ arch-rival Iyengar “Mind is the king of the senses; breath is the king of the mind; and the nerves are king of the breath” but if asana is the “what of yoga”, then this quote is the “how”.
He used to read Rumi during Savasana while I lie there totally shattered. One funny memory is we went to a session together at Stanford with Sharath Jois (the grandson) and afterwards pulling off Sand Hill road (a stoned throw from the Rosewood) to have a joint and grizzling about Sharath cutting a few postures out of the “true” primary series.
I started Yoga in my early-20s, visited dozens of yoga studios (as I travelled for work) and continue to this day but nothing compares with the old school “cruel tutelage (Kill Bill joke) of Meir” – they don’t teach like this anymore and we are all worse off for its absense.
My current practice is only a few times a week and floor stretching at night after dinner. Its a pale shadow of what it should be.
in Newcastle during a high/stormy tide. Sure you might get washed into the tempest but you might as well go this way after experiencing this convict built gem.
I swim in the ocean year-round a couple of times a week usually – the old-timers are at the pool everyday before 7am – hardcore! I don’t wear a wetsuit but find that a cap stops brain freeze. I believe in cold swimming as beneficial for promotion of (– but lets face it, Sydney winter water is not cold (the pool is colder than the ocean by a few degrees)
Compared to the air temperature, the water is looxery.
Hypothermia has visited me a few times primarily because the winter wind-chill afterwards is a bastard. It’s solvable with the genius-titled Cover Me Jules hooded towels. Not swimming before the sun gets over the headland helps too!
Another great thing about swimming is enhancing(or VO2) – if you are meditating and allowing your breath to slow down, then having decent respiratory health is super-helpful.
Esoterically humans are supposed to breath through their nose and out the mouth (don’t ask me why). Freestyle swimming does not allow this – its an unanswered question for me and does irritate my throat.
During COVID-19 the pools were shut and I swam behind the surfers and the break. Ocean swimming is inspiring (fish, rays, the movement of the ocean) but also very uncertain if you don’t trust yourself. I don’t trust myself enough.
Balance is possibly the best measure of neural connectivity and functional strength, its pretty well-known now that gym equipment works in the frontal/sagittal planes and limits capacity for responding tocircumstances.
It’s really easy to tell if you need to do more work if balance is off. In yoga Eagle Pose and Warrior 3 show quickly which side needs work.
Slackline is the more advanced on a bunch of home balance things easily available. This is a 2m invention we played around with. The current 3m version is more challenging.
Kit McLaughlin, Cherie Seeto, Dave Wardman
For a while I did practice at Sydney Stretch Therapy with Cherie who is wonderful and trained in Kit’s method. They taught me a lot about intelligence of the body to protect itself and how to get deeper stretches via reciprocal inhibition, proprioception and a commitment to mindful movement. I also did a semester or two with Dave Wardman, who was constructive a unique practice and philosophy based on systems from Kit, Ida Rolfe, Feldenkrais, natural movement, awareness, re-enchantment and “ideas” systems one of which I recognized as Gurdjieff. His site is https://physicalalchemy.com.au/
Virtual Reality Exercise
COVID-19 lockdown introduced a lot of home based exercise, here is 2 examples.VR Boxing
My body type and age, according to an Inbody analysis suggests I should do 3 reps of 15. I rarely do more than 8 so still skinny.
- Squats with kettle bells/goblet squat
- Single-leg Romanian deadlift
- Deadlift same weight as bodyweight (yeah I know thats not much)
- Pull-ups/downs, Pushups.
I have a few machines for pulldowns and bench press but a pull-up bar, and yoga’s vinyasa give plenty of opportunities for pushups. Just as good as machines for my needs.
I use a variant of TRX called Rip60, this has capability for transverse/rotational exercise which supports functional pattern-like exercise.