Reading Time: 5 mins
“People are born supple and soft. When dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant, at death they are brittle and dry. Whoever is stiff and inflexible is a student of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a student of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will endure.”
Where there is life, there are rhythms and waves. There is a pulsatile wave as blood moves through your body. There is rhythm to the waves of your cerebrospinal fluid which are bathing your brain and allowing you to read these words. Your brain moves and is shaped with every beat of your heart. Your cells have a rhythmic plasticity. By waves you swallow food. By waves, it travels through your intestines. You are now breathing in cycles of steady and rhythmic breaths and the vibrations in your larynx give you voice. Maintaining the flow of the forces in your body is the key to moving well.
Your body is constantly suffering shock. That’s a good thing. It’s an important part of life and these forces can help you. By using relaxation and breathing, you can smooth out the edges caused by life’s changes. It’s the difference from being brushed by someone passing you on a busy street and slamming directly into them. By keeping your body loose, you allow the forces that travel through you with every step to slide off of you rather than stopping in your joints and internal organs.
Having smooth and even breathing allows you to move gracefully. It gives you additional circles to round out the forces that are constantly spiraling through your body. As you breathe, the whole body undulates and circles. If you hold your arm straight in front of you and breathe, you can notice that it rises and falls with your breath. As you study it further, you will notice that the movement isn’t linear, but elliptical. Breathing allows your motion to become smoother and helps you to find circles in every motion.
It can be mysterious why a drunk person can sustain a vicious car crash with minimal injury while another person can trip and die. The difference is largely due to whether the forces move through the body or stop inside of it. Falling down is really not a big deal. The fall only introduces force to the body. If the force goes around or through you then it minimizes the amount of shock you absorb. What injures people is their own fear and tension. It locks forces inside the body. If instead of holding tension, you relax and smoothly exhale, it can help to reduce injury and make your landing smooth and round. With practice, it can even become comfortable to fall down and serve as a massage.
The exploration of structure, movement and breathing is as the core of physical endeavors ranging from walking to triathlons. The best way to move well is to coordinate your actions with breathing. If you push a heavy object you naturally exhale with the force. You can apply this same principle to every motion.
If you are moving into alignment or drawing your hands and feet toward your center, then inhale. If you are extending outward or sitting down, then exhale softly and smoothly.
As an experiment, hold your breath and grab a glass of water and bring it to your lips. Then repeat the same motion while exhaling as your hand extends toward the glass and inhaling as it comes in. You can inhale as you stand up and exhale as you sit down. Experiment with breathing and motion to find what is comfortable for you. You can make this moving meditation part of daily life. With a hectic schedule and no time, you can still change your perspective and breathing to make use of the postures and movements that are already essential to your daily life.
As you move, you will find postures and activities which are less comfortable. If there is discomfort, then there is undue tension. You then have two choices. You can either avoid the activity or learn to use the postures to recognize and release undue tension. If you are in the back seat of a small car or twisted in a yoga posture, the challenge is the same. It is learning to adjust your posture, breathing and mental state to make even uncomfortable situations pleasant. If you are adverse to movement, learning to adapt in this way is the first step. By combining breath and movement you can begin to move with the fluidity and grace of a wild animal. If you need inspiration, then look at how oceanic animals swim, birds fly and how running animals seem to ripple over the landscape. There is an effortless relaxation in even their most determined motions. This is what you can reclaim by combining breath and movement.
Relaxation and breathing are the foundations of posture and movement. Many martial arts use standing posture holding and standing meditation as a way to perfect posture. They will stand in one place for up to an hour using as little muscular tension as possible to hold their posture. In the long run, this saves time and energy. by taking the time to release the emergency breaks in the body, it gives them the alignment to move quickly, issue power and sustain crushing blows without injury. Without relaxation and breathing, even daily activities become dangerous. Muscular tension pulls the body out of alignment. People often undergo surgery to align vertebrae that are only held out of alignment by their own muscular tension. In many cases, removing the tension is enough to allow the spine to find its natural alignment. Most people are stronger than they know, they are just living with tension.
When you sit down, feel whether your posture is impeding your breathing and use your breathing to open up and align you sitting position. As you inhale, straighten up; as you exhale, release excess tension. Use your breath to make your position as comfortable as possible. Your life is made up of ordinary moments. Make use of them to restore yourself, explore the mysteries of motion and make your journey though life as pleasant as possible.
 Bone spurs, tumors and shrapnel aside.Photo Credits: Ben Seese – “Shockwave” Danny- “Wave” Nathan Siemers- “I know Kung Fu”
Mastering Movement With Waves by Andrew Miles & Xuelan Qiu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at enlightenweight.com.