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Meditator - Structural Bodyworker - Part 3
POSITION OF THE BODY - Part 2 of 2,
WITH RELAXATION AND ENERGY
Part 1 Part 2 --- Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7
by Lou Gross
School Certified Master Postural Integrator
Founder & Director of The Institute for Enhanced Performance
27 years successful Bodywork experience - Meditator since 1969
For more information & free consultations, call 321-726-9083
Hands and Arms Position: Your arm and hand position will adjust your upper torso into harmony with what you've already established.
Make ovals. Put your hands in your lap, palms up, right on bottom, left on top. The back of the right hand rests on your heels in half or full lotus, and on your thighs in the other positions. The back of the left hand rests in the palm of your right. The back edges of your hands should be flush up against your body, at lower abdomen level, close in. That's important. Otherwise you'll be pulled down forward, your back may begin to hurt, and your concentration won't be as strong. Your arms should be in an oval shape, elbows out but not rigid, with space under your armpits to just about hold an egg without breaking it. (For some people, especially when sitting in a chair, the arms will hang straight down the sides, and there won't be much of an oval. That's OK.)
The knuckles of your hands should overlap and your thumbs should stretch across and just touch. There should be enough space between the tips to slip in a sheet of paper and also hold it. The upward curve of your palms and the touching thumbs should also form an oval, a little one. Remember to keep the palms of the hands upright, not rigid, and gently resting against your lower belly and on your heels or thighs. (Some people may need a support pillow under the hands when in kneeling, Burmese or quarter lotus positions.)
Now, put your attention inside the palm muscles of your hands. That should release tension from your shoulders and focus energy into your hips and lower abdomen. It should also make you aware of your chest and will also support your upper back and set up the position of your head and neck.
This hand position, or "mudra" as it's called, is designed to increase awareness. And it's a position in which you'll be able to let them sit there for long periods of time, without feeling an urge to move. It's very self-supporting.
Positioning your arms with elbows out will lift up your abdomen, open your chest and hopefully spread your shoulder blades apart. And with closed loop of the arm acupuncture meridians, your arm concentration power will settle down, balance out, and then increase.
Stretching Tips for the Arms, and for Deeper Breathing: Everyone's arms get bunched up in their soft connective tissue, even when the arms themselves don't hurt. The interconnections from the arm and hand muscles reach into the chest, upper back, shoulders and neck, and even into the belly and diaphragm. Shoulders and necks, as well as backs, also get bunched up, just on their own.
It helps to regularly stretch the arms by reaching one arm at a time over the head, and very methodically pull it, to spread the soft connective tissue one section at a time. Your feet may be about shoulder width apart.
First, spread the hands and fingers. Then release them and spread the wrist-forearm-and-elbow. Try to get your mind's attention "inside" the specific muscles you are trying to spread longer. Then release the forearm section and focus on the elbow-upper arm-and-shoulder area. Next, tilt the arm and torso to the side and pull to spread the soft tissue under the arm. Release that tension and follow with more tilting and a stretch for the side of the rib cage. Then release and tilt even further for the waist-and-side-of-pelvis. Return upright, drop the arm and rest while taking deep breaths. Then do the other side.
You can also put both arms over the head, clasp the hands together but extend the index fingers up so the hands are in a church-steeple position. Put the legs together, push the feet into the floor, and pull the arms upward (but don't hurt yourself). Then tilt way to the right and feel the stretch in your torso organs and spinal area as well as the sides. Complete with the same kind of stretch to the left. If you know how to do a backward bend "extensor" stretch and a forward bend, with knees bent, you can follow the side to sides with them.
This kind of torso stretching makes sitting vertically easier, deepens the breathing so it feels good, and even gets rid of daily tension. So you can do it often throughout the day. Good times, besides right before meditating, are after riding in the car, when you first get up in the morning, right before eating, and before bed at night.
While you can spend five to ten minutes doing very thorough stretching in this way, you can also get a lot of benefit in just one or two minutes. You can try the "quick tune-up" in between sitting periods you do at home (and even at the office). See if it helps.
An Upper Body "Mid-Course Maneuver" Stretch, while still on the Meditation Cushion: If you've stretched your legs and buttocks (by leaning over), and then stretched the length of your back and neck as I've explained, you shouldn't have to pull your chest up by pinching your shoulder blades together and tightening your back muscles. Now, feeling your arms and hands with your mind, you can stretch them over your head, out to the sides, and even directly in front of you, and in each position, make yourself stretch them from the inside, and from your fingers through to your shoulders, and into your torso.
This should help your breathing become fuller and deeper, too. It isn't as thorough as the standing stretches I just described, but it does help, and you can stay seated while getting rid of a little tension you just accumulated.
Positions of the Head and Neck, Mouth and Eyes: Your head and neck should now rise upward. But to help strengthen your energy and lengthen the back of your neck, drop your chin slightly, into your Adam's apple, and gently push the back of your skull upward. You should be pivoting your head on the very top of your spine. Your jaw will move back over the larynx, or voice box, in your throat. And the very top of your head is pushed forward slightly. Feel this experience carefully, as you do it, and don't stay tense with it. There should now be a straight line down from your ear through your shoulder, elbow and pelvis.
Take a deep breath and exhale all your air out of your mouth. You want to remove all the old "stale" air from deep in your lungs. Do it a second or even a third time and then close your mouth. Swallow your saliva and allow your tongue to rest against the roof of your mouth. This will limit further saliva production so you don't have to be distracted by repeated swallowing during zazen. Let the tip of your tongue rest behind your top teeth. And this will actually help make more of a connection between the left and right hemispheres of your brain. Besides calming your mind and improving your health, this will also increase your creativity.
eyes drop about 45 degrees, half closed. This will quiet your thoughts.
And allow your gaze to go forward about 3-4 feet in front of you on the
floor, unfocused. (If you're up on a chair, it'll be more like 5-6
feet.) Actually, your eyes may either go out to both sides or inward from
Initial Body Relaxation: Once we're in position in this way, we want to get our energies even more focused into our lower abdomens. Here is the first of a good 2-part process to do it.
Allow yourself to feel inside your head, face and jaw, and relax it. Then feel inside and relax, one by one, your: hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, upper back, lower back, sides, buttocks, pelvis, thighs, knees, lower legs, and feet. Do the same for your heart, lungs, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, kidneys and adrenals, liver and gall bladder, spleen and pancreas, bladder and reproductive area. Again, do it one by one. Take 3, 5 or even 10 seconds for each part. Then repeat the process for a second and even a third time, and try to feel and release more thoroughly.
This will relax your muscles, turn off your excess nerve activity, put you into your body, and thus allow you to be more present, with greater energy and a quieter mind.
You can add to this. After you've gotten in touch with your body parts, try smiling into your organs, literally. Put a slight smile into your eyes. (The lips may smile a bit, too.) Bring that eye feeling of warmth and loving kindness into the left side of your brain and head, then slowly bring it down through you cells in the neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, thighs, legs and feet. Include your back, sides, shoulders, arms and hands. And make sure you do inside the organs. Then do the right side, from top to bottom, followed by the front and then the back.
In each area, you are loosening tension further. And you're increasing you attentive mental concentration, too.
I find that the smiling brings blood and energy into all the physical areas, and that makes wider channels for my energy flow paths. Smiling actually brings more blood into the areas. I find this increases my meditation energy. And it allows me to bring that energy, or Chi ("Chee," also known as Ki, "Kee"), into all parts of my body. My concentration power in daily movements gets stronger. I can also remain more emotionally stable. Yet the physiological "loving-ness" I've generated actually makes me more warm hearted and compassionate at the same time.
The next little technique will add even more to what you're just done. Or, you can do it instead.
Initial Energy Centering: This has two processes. First, imagine you have an oozing egg on top of your head. Feel it ooze downward, off the top of your head, slowly, slowly, and thoroughly, down through the cells of your head and face, through your neck all around and inside, down through your shoulders, upper torso and arms, and so on, down through the bones of your feet. You'll have to keep releasing more ooze from the top of your head as you go down further in your body.
As you go from the top down with this, you will not only relax and energize yourself more, but you'll also be bringing your energies down into your lower abdomen and pelvis, to the vertical center of your body.
With the second process, we'll finish our initial centering. You'll be breathing energy through key places, along a vertical line that goes down through the center of your head, neck and torso. These key places, called energy centers, or chakras, lie behind the sensory organs of your face and the physiological organs in your torso. They are a set of circulating energy flows centered along the actual front of your spine, and extending into and above your head, along an imaginary line drawn upward from the top of your spine.
To bring the energy down into your lower abdomen, as well center it in the middle of your body, we will start at the top of this vertical line, energize each chakra, and bring a lot of that energy down into the next lower chakra. This will move the excess mental energy we all start with down into the body, and balance any excessively weak or strong chakras. Make all the breaths in this process long and focused.
To begin, take a breath in through a place along the vertical line where it would extend about 1-2 feet above the crown of your head. Exhale that breath into the top rear part of your head, along that vertical line extending up from the top of your spine. Do this 2-3 times. Then, inhale your next breath through the place on the top of your head, and exhale it a little lower down, inside your head, behind your forehead and eyes. This, again, would be along the imaginary vertical line. Do this one 2-3 times as well.
Inhale your next breath through both of those places in your head, focusing it with your mental attention. Then, exhale the breath into a place about 2-3 inches inside your neck, behind your throat, and onto the actual front of your spine. As before, do this 2-3 times.
For the next step down, inhale another long breath, focusing it through those points inside your forehead and neck, and exhale it into a point deep in your chest, behind your heart, and again, along the front of your spine. Breathe and focus on the same areas 2-3 times.
Follow the same procedure for the following places. Inhale the next 2-3 breaths through the points on your spine behind your neck and heart, and exhale the breaths down along your spine, and into a point behind your solar plexus, which is at the bottom of your rib cage. Then, inhale 2-3 breaths through the places on your spine behind your heart and solar plexus, and exhale them along the front of your spine, into a place behind your lower abdomen, a couple of inches below your navel.
Inhale the following 2-3 breaths through the places on the front of your spine behind your solar plexus and lower abdomen, and breathe that energy down along your spine, and into the base of your pelvis. Make it center in the perineum, at the very bottom point of the torso. Finally, inhale and exhale one or two more breaths through the perineum. This should bring most of your focused energy to a place along the front of your spine, and into your lower abdomen and hip joints.
ready to focus your mind by ongoing concentration on your breathing.
Copyright 2001, 2002
Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved