Monday, October 22, 2012

Working the Lower Back: Journal Notes #105

Notes from my August 2012 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Note: I haven't done any Wujifa zhan zhuang training since April 3rd. I've only been doing some of the Wujifa adjunctive exercises and my Tai-chi form making this five straight months of not doing any core zhan zhuang training.
(In a recent Wujifa class, we were talking about the "miss one day puts you back ten" saying. I had always interpreted this as a scary admonition to practice and as a matter-of-fact that you can't recoup days you didn't train. One of my school brothers who is going through Rolfing school explained that this saying also has a physiological basis whereby zhan zhuang training converts fast-twitch muscles into slow-twitch muscles. Tense muscles are fast-twitch and consume 30% more metabolic energy than slow-twitch which supports the 'you increase available energy through relaxing'. And the slow-twitch muscles are a pre-requisite for.. (more on this in another post). Point being, by my not practicing the core Wujifa zhan zhuang training, I am not only not making progress, I am allowing any progress I had made in the conversion of my muscle fiber to return to its former habitual status.)

* Question: Why so much focus on the lower back?
Answer: The reason for focusing on the lower back is to get openness for the kua to move.

* Question: I've been working on playing in the pain of stretching my lower back. How does this look?
Answer:If the lower back muscles are tight, then you can't drop. If and when you can achieve drop, then this creates space for the hip to move. Then you can begin working on loosening the hip rotators to get movement in the hip without moving the femurs.
(This following drawing refers to my demonstrating how I can drop my lower back. However, what I wasn't noticing, and what my teacher noticed was that in my dropping my lower back, my knees also splayed out. And so the instruction to not move the femurs - most easily noticed in knee movement - and allow the pelvis to turn.)

knee alignment when drop pelvis

* Question: What is more useful, scientific knowledge or kinesthetic feeling?
Answer: Both, but knowledge alone cannot help you get there. You need feeling.

* When shifting side-to-side or front-to-back, the pelvis may move one inch in space. The majority of movement takes place in the kua and femur heads.

* The more relaxed you are, the closer to the center of the hips you can move from. The biggest mistake people make is believing or imagining that they are moving from "the center" when they haven't yet achieved the level of relaxation to be able to do so.

* Some muscles may be tight and others may be flaccid. As I drop my back, I roll my knees in. Don't do this. Put a stick between your knees so you don't push your knees together.
(Here's another note on the same topic. In fact, I think the suggestion was to gently hold a double-tipped arrow between my knees so that I would be instantly reminded if I exerted any inward pressure. Gotta love some of those "old school" methods....)

* In Wujifa we say, "Once you get the feeling then get rid of the method." My pattern and chief problem from the beginning has been that once I get the feeling, I then abandon the feeling and go back to the method. I go to class. I do the instructor led exercises. I experience intense, overwhelming feelings that for lack of an accurate description I call "presence"; a kind of hyper-awareness and new sense of embodied connectedness. And after class, I am either not capable of maintaining this level of feeling or I allow it to slip away and I go back to my old habits. Why would I allow it to slip? This may be due to my fearing to experiment with living with this new level of feeling-connection and addressing my daily life from this new awareness. And too, my environment could contribute to this; I get sucked back into the patterns of the people around me. As a result, my practice cycles between a heightened, intense feeling and a kind of routine emotional numbness...

(You might think that I'd be happy to have had this pointed out to me but in fact I'm not. Why? Because it shows me clearly that I'm not incorporating advances in class training into daily life where I thought I was. I'm really good at lying to myself and fooling myself, hiding from myself, stuffing stuff, etc. None of which fits my notion of myself!)

* We practiced the "Reaching for fruit and eating it" exercise. I couldn't let go and get into the exercise. My behavior remained very mechanical and controlled. One of my school brother's commented: "That's his problem. He's afraid to grab life. Not hungry for life."
(As I've posted before, in practicing internal gongfu, there's no compartmentalizing practice and daily life. Each shows up in the other.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Holding To Routines: Journal Notes #104
Next article in this series: - What I'm Not Doing: Journal Notes #106

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