Monday, October 27, 2014

Notes from the Workshop: Breathing for Health - Flexibility & Mobility

We had our first Breathing for Health workshop on October 22.  The topic was "Flexibility & Mobility".  I would like to share a couple notes from the evening.

We hold unnecessary tension in our joints and muscles, sometimes unconsciously.  By relaxing and letting go the tension, we can gain flexibility without holding a stretch.  At the workshop, we combined breathing and rhythmic, repetitive movements.  Each time the breath changed (inhale to exhale, exhale to inhale), the movement changed as well.  Artificially taking "deep breath" often causes its own type of tension.  Instead, the breathing pattern should be casual.  The breath should not be held and there should be no pause in the movement.   Sometimes, we can tap the tense spots with our fingers, reminding the area to release.

Often when we were taught a stretch, we were given a goal (e.g. touch you toe).  Then we contort the body to achieve the perceived desired shape.  But in order to obtain "the goal", we move multiple parts of the body (e.g.  round the spine, turn the shoulder, crank the neck), reducing the effectiveness of the stretch, or worse, creating new tension or injuring ourselves.  At the workshop, we asked the participants to focus on how they feel internally and try to move one thing at a time.  So, instead of "touching the toe", we want to keep the body square, back straight and just simply "fold at the hip joint".  Also, we tried to isolate each types of movement (e.g. turn first, then extend).  Many were surprised by how much easier it was when they only needed to do one thing at a time.

Towards the end of the workshop, we used conscious, intentional tension to help the body relax further. Lying on the floor, we tensed up the body lightly with inhalation, then relaxed with exhalation.  Then we proceeded to pass the tension from one part of the body to another part, then release the tension from different body parts separately.  Tension as a training tool can heightened body awareness and teach us how to control our own body.

It's difficult to cover everything we did in the workshop but I hope my notes gave a glimpse of our breathing work.  Next workshop is November 19, 6:00 - 7:30 pm.  The focus next time will be "strength & movement".  Speaking as a person who had been physically weak and inactive for most of her life, I found this approach to strength and conditioning to be very effective and surprisingly easy.  So I highly recommend people to come and try it out.