Understanding the Profit of Bodily Exercise
The enormity of this issue I am going to address is staggering. You could even say it is literally down right mind boggling. Around the time I graduated from High School which was the Class of ’90 there was a paradigm of thought among religious circles which was promoting the idea that there was very little profit in exercise. With my own ears I have actually heard this preached from pulpits. I have met individuals who were in great shape physically until they became associated with those who believed along these lines and they let themselves go. Sometimes it was by a spouse coercing their partner with the help of local ministers or those aligned in accordance with this belief. It was like a movement to hinder every person who exercised hard and tried to eat properly to dissuade them from health in the name of religion. I am only sharing this because I have seen this happen with my own eyes. For a while I was a part of a ministry after I graduated from school. I have mentioned in previous articles that I did play with free weights and do some cardiovascular routines a couple times a week. I was not overly devoted to exercise and at that time I certainly had no idea how to eat proper food that was beneficial to my body. What little I did was behind the scenes privately because I knew that there were people in my group of acquaintances that believed this verse out of the Christian King James bible which reads, “For bodily exercise profits little.” 1 Timothy 4:8. In the NIV bible the translation of the same verse reads, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things.” The original intent of the author becomes sort of irrelevant in the face of presumed interpretation which in this case has become a religious person’s literal excuse to justify being lazy or perhaps too thin or too obese, and even emaciated as though their very health and well-being were a sacrifice for their belief. I am not making this up! Did you know that as of the year 2012 gallop poll there is over 77% of American people, that is averaging 9 in 10, affiliated with a Christian identity of organized religion? Now consider the weight of this statement as the paradigm for untold millions, even billions of people, and we wonder why obesity and health issues are a huge problem in this nation.
I am not saying that all organized religion pushes this frame of mind but in the area where I grew up that was very much the context. All I can say is that if the old patriarchs of the bible believed that bodily exercise had no profit then there is no way in hell that they would have been able to fight on the battle fields. The children of Israel did not waddle around the walls of Jericho because they were too obese. Samson did not slay a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass because he was a couch potato. David did not manage to slay the giant by whipping a marshmallow at his head. That book declares often enough that the holy men would die with their eyesight and all of their faculties intact. They were not decrepit with old age and blurry vision. Their skin was not hanging from bones that were equally frail and susceptible to fracture. They were in great shape full of health right up to the end. They did not get that way without some form of bodily exercise.
So I am telling you that what little profit one does get from bodily exercise is absolutely necessary.
There is another story that deserves sharing which comes from China and it concerns Da Mo Sardili who was also known as the Great Bhodidharma. He was born around the time of 483 A.D. when India was recognized as a great spiritual center in the East. Da Mo was a member of Mahayana Bhuddhism. During this time period many Chinese Emperors sent priests into India to become Bhuddhist students and to bring scriptures back to China. Sometimes priests would be invited to come up from India to preach. This is what happened in Da Mo’s case in 527 A.D. When Emperor Liang Wu Di decided that he did not agree with Da Mo’s philosophy of Bhuddism, the monk made the decision to retreat to the Shaolin Temple. Upon his arrival he was shocked to discover that the monks residing there were very unhealthy and even emaciated. It was at this point that he went into seclusion to ponder the problem and it is said that he did not emerge for almost ten years. When he came forth again he wrote two classic books.
The first book was the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic) and the second was the Xi Sui Jing (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic). I am not going to write a treatise on these at this time but I do want to say that the first book taught the priests how to change their bodies from weak to strong. Their health improved very dramatically with steadfast dedication to the exercises offered and the result was increased strength beyond measure. This training would later be integrated into the martial arts of the Shaolin Temple increasing the effectiveness of their abilities. This change would become a considerable step in the martial arts program of Chinese Qigong.
The concept of letting the spirit grow but deny the body has not been very effective. Let us go back for a moment to take note that the Apostle Paul often stated that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and should not be defiled. Why would the any aspect of some all-powerful creator of the universe and all life within it want to dwell inside of a body that is sick, weak, and emaciated beyond being useful? A body that is frail is going to make a poor vessel to be used much for anything. Even if one does not pollute themselves with alcoholism and street drugs there is still the dangers of processed foods, Genetically Engineered Foods or GMO’s, processed sugar, gluten, and the petrochemicals and pesticides that are deliberately lacing so much of the produce available for consumption which promote sickness, emaciation, and obesity. I am not trying to preach here but that old Apostle was obviously trying to encourage people to maintain healthy bodies for the Holy Ghost to dwell in; bodies with eyesight and all their faculties intact.
Now to reinforce this from a slightly different angle without losing the scope of what I am trying to say.
I want to take a moment here to assure that I am not picking on Christianity for promoting this lack of consideration for bodily improvement. There are some aspects of Bhuddism today that totally ignore the Yin Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing Classics altogether. They believe that all their devotion should be to their spiritual nature and that the body is the least of their concerns.
I admit that no matter what your religion may be I personally do not agree with this. I respect those who are content to follow this but for myself there must be a harmonizing between the body and the spirit that makes sense. When I lived a life of denying my body I was in too much discomfort and pain from physical ailments to employ any kind of strategy toward a spiritual growth. To add insult to my physical injuries my diet consisted of all the foods that promoted sickness. When I changed all of that with the decision to study martial arts in the effort to improve my condition I realized a number of things. The healthier and stronger my body felt, the more powerful my sense of awareness of spirit became. I have always been a student of enlightenment seeking after gnostic truths. If anyone has followed my blog you may recall that my spiritual journey started in the spring of 1989 which led into the deliverance ministry in Northern Alberta which involved an intense introduction to dealing with paranormal events, negative entities of a poltergeist nature and the laying on of hands to heal. I continued to seek out knowledge of spiritual affairs after these events but the sicker my body became the more difficult it was to feel attuned to matters of the inner truths. When I started tai chi chuan and baguazhang in the January of 2003 my teacher soon placed me on a special rehabilitation program. I am paraphrasing his words but I remember them going something like this, “If you remain my student for two years I will rebuild your legs from the ground up.”
During the first year of kung fu my body went through some of the most painful but necessary transformations that I have ever experienced. I had fallen arches in my feet so getting orthopedic arch supports was the first step. Being introduced to the nutritionist and learning about the dangers of gluten and lactose and sugar was the second step. That alone almost killed me when I realized all the food I loved to eat was causing most of my digestive and bowel problems. Then I started my spinal therapy for the damage that had been done nine years earlier. An X-ray revealed that my spine was actually border line between a stage 2 and stage 3 deterioration. There are only 4 stages and the final one is basically an infirm invalid. The therapist commended me for coming in saying that if this damage had been left unchecked I could well be in a wheel chair by the time I was 40 years old. To make matters even worse my right knee developed a fluid sack about the size of an egg which was enflamed all the time, especially when I walked the circle training in baguazhang. The slightest pressure on the knee made it worse. I ended up having to wrap it each time I wanted to just stand in the combat position. I did the rehabilitation program over and above the actual lessons. After about a year my sifu admitted that he had never known anyone endure the level of pain that I had and yet I continued to stick with it. Encouraged and inspired by those words I pushed myself even harder. It actually got to the point where he told me to not train physically between classes because my body just had to rest. I was burning out. It was difficult to take that advice but I found a way. Even though I could not physically train I started doing it all mentally. I would envision the tai chi form my mind and imagine the baguazhang combat applications as vividly as I could articulate. Finally, about eighteen months into the program it suddenly dawned on me that the fluid in my knee was almost gone. The tenderness was not really there and I did not feel like I had to wrap it anymore. My spine was feeling great. My digestive system was improved significantly. My connection to spiritual matters during my meditations was more productive. I had improved my vessel and would continue to do so. You need to understand that I was not just doing kung fu, I was making it a lifestyle.
As awesome as the tai chi and the baguazhang has been and it will always be an integrated aspect of my daily life I also realized in August of 2012 that there is always someplace else to go. My wife, Amy, had started talking about yoga. She wanted to go to classes at the hospital. I did not know a whole lot about it but I always encourage her in everything she has ever wanted to do. Around the same time my kung fu instructor shared the video of Arthur Borman on facebook. As amazing as Arthur’s story was I was surprised to see one of my favorite wrestling superstars of all time behind the program that made all the difference in this man’s world; Diamond Dallas Page. I shook my head a bit and watched the video over again three or four times. Then I wrote my sifu and asked him what he thought of the yoga. Again I am paraphrasing but his words were encouraging. He basically summed up that kung fu is great conditioning but it just does not open the joints, hips, or elongate the spine the way that yoga does. He encouraged that it would improve my martial arts ability immensely. He himself did yoga. I remember that the warm ups at the beginning of our classes seemed to involve yoga postures once in a while. I just had no idea the benefits of incorporating it into a daily routine alongside the study of tai chi chuan and baguazhang. For about a month or so I did everything that Amy brought home to show me. However, those classes were on a trial basis and soon came to an end. I would go to the DDPYoga website to check prices and think about it. Finally I just said that I wanted the full package deal of the DDPYoga program. I actually started about the middle of October 2012. The rest is history.
I am 41 years old this year and I feel tremendous. I want you to understand something and I want to speak honest and plain here so do not be offended with my colorful adjective, but what got me here today was ten solid years of hard fucking work.
Sifu always cautioned that we students should maintain an external exercise regimen such as some weight lifting, push-ups, leg strengthening. This was because the relaxed explosive strikes of the palms while maintain a meditative breathing state encouraged the practitioner to rely on energy or chi rather than muscular effort. Muscular effort is limited and finite but energy knows no such boundary. When we students pressed him on this issue for understanding he would explain with such examples of an external martial artist with uncontrolled breathing backed by rigid physical strength building and endurance training often find themselves exhausted after less than five minutes of real combat. However, internal martial artists maintaining the fluidity of redirection through controlled breath could remain in combat for thirty minutes before breaking a bead of sweat. Relying too much on energy had a tendency to reduce the effectiveness of the physical health of the body and that the vessel needed to remain strong enough to properly contain the chi life force effectively. Sifu’s own instructor, Sigung, became very sick because of too much reliance on sheer energy with no physical exertion at all. When it came to opened palm strikes, Sifu would acknowledge that he could think of no other man on the planet with palms as deadly powerful as Sigung’s. Yet there had to be a balance between the two. The last I had heard about the outcome of Sigung was that he was doing much better after a several months of adding some physical activity to his daily regimen.
At this point in my yoga development I believe that there is a combination of both external and internal progress happening here. DDPYoga is zero impact as it should be but it also includes the benefits of dynamic resistance throughout the postures which increases the cardiovascular output for short periods of time before resting again with softer movements. High intensity interval cardio programs are realized to be most optimal as it does not put unnecessary strain on the heart through prolonged durations. Even Dr. Mercola concurs that a few moments of activity followed by intermittent intense exercise done over a period of twenty to thirty minutes has proven to be most optimal to your health more-so than a straight hour of cardio with no rest. I personally believe that DDPYoga utilizes this concept nicely. I feel my heart rate jacking for a few moments and then I can feel it leveling out again. Using a heart rate monitor I can actually keep an eye on what is going on and remain in my fat burning zone or I can slow it down if it goes too high. My fat burning zone is between 120 and 140 beats per minute.
In conclusion I am saying that in order for your mind and your spirit to be strong you require a healthy body to house it. There needs to be a balance between internal and external development. Exercise is not just about the outer musculature, but your fascia tissue and organs need to be worked through movement in order to remain healthy. These internal benefits are experienced throughout the yoga postures as well as tai chi chuan and baguazhang where the focus of energy is empowered by controlling the breath. Few people realize that how you breathe really determines everything that you do or accomplish. So what profit there is from bodily exercise is certainly necessary for you to be who you were created to be so that you can do the things you were created to do.