There’s a problem with “Be here now.” It’s not really possible. In particular, it’s not possible if where we want to be isn’t here. And even more, it’s not possible if we don’t really like here all that much. After all, that’s the whole point of why we’re trying to get someplace else. It’s better there than here. But somehow we’re asked to stop trying to get where we think we should be, and instead get into where we are. It’s complicated.
So, this has to do with a bit more than yoga or tai chi, running or climbing, or whatever our fitness and wellbeing practices might be. It has to do with how you move around always. And it has to do with how you think – about moving, about going where you want to go.
Let’s begin very basic, with very simple everyday movement. It’s easier to be here, to practice here, than to go right for our mindset about achievement, about life. How we move is always the same as this mindset. So we can work from very simple, very small, to change things that are very complex, very big.
Walking, heading up and down stairs, standing and sitting, all of these things are very important. Because usually we spend more time here than in practice. Until we’re just all the time practicing, which is one of the things I love about tai chi, it helps make this a little easier.
Now what happens when we have some pain, some difficulty, when we run up against a challenge? A friend asked recently about pain on the inside of her knees when she’s moving. So I’ll try to walk around this a bit and see where it can go, in a way that’s also a bit broader.
To begin, I’m wondering if pain comes when you’re standing or walking, climbing stairs or getting up and down from the floor? Or does it come along only when you practice?
There’s always a chance that how you do yoga or tai chi is the cause of trouble. There’s also a chance that how you do everything is the cause, in creating what’s happening for you. Often it’s this. And then how you do the yoga or tai chi just carries the same habits you have in the rest of life, both good and bad.
And next, I’m thinking about where you’re experiencing pain, on the insides of your knees.
Difficulty in general often happens when we carry too much tension, too much immobility, into our movement. So this creates some strain and awkwardness, some lack of coordination and grace that has us working too forcefully, which can lead to inflammation and injury.
Pain on the insides of knees can have a few different sources. Often some torsion under tension, some twisting while the knee is carrying too much weight and tension, can lead to difficulty here.
For yoga practicers, awkward poses also play a role. For example, holding a long, low warrior 2, with the back foot perpendicular to the front, puts some unwanted pressure and strain on the inside of your back knee. Over time this can produce some unwelcome lengthening of supporting tendons. From here, the insides of your knees will start hurting when you try to move.
So it might not be the moving right now that’s your problem. It’s longer-term destabilization that creates a difficulty, wherever you are. And of course moving around more will highlight this.
There are many solutions to begin exploring. To start, if something hurts, don’t do it. There’s always a way to move better, using your whole body in harmony, with less tension, less disconnection, less forcefulness. More ease. This can have a profound and rapid healing impact.
Body position can be a good beginning here. Rather than long, unstable yoga poses – where it’s not possible to move well either in or out – you can remake the form you’re practicing to something more stable, and more movable. And from here, you can practice moving well, around a better form.
But, this isn’t the entire solution. Just repositioning our feet so that a stance is wider, or shorter, doesn’t solve all our movement habits. Often there’s a good deal of tension in our habits. We use a lot of force in our bodies to go from one place to the next. This can be the result of our bodies not working as well as they can. Too much disharmony, disconnection.
When our body isn’t working as a whole connected body, efficiently, in harmony, force can become the only option. Everything is difficult when we’re out of harmony. Even things that aren’t difficult are difficult. So we either have enough force to overcome the resistance, or we don’t. Either way, when there’s so much resistance first inside of our own bodies, we get hurt.
Trying to overcome ourselves by force is never really our best strategy.
And maybe worse, we hold onto all this force, all this tension. Even when we have a chance to rest, we don’t. It’s not our habit. Tai chi, qigong, neigong, all can highlight this quite a lot. Rolling your center from side to side while standing, allowing your arms to swing – it’s a very simple way to practice many things. Softness, posture, connection between breath and body, moving from your center, unweighting one leg at a time, learning to use what’s working and rest what’s not.
So if your knees begin to hurt in an exercise like this, there can be a few causes. Overarching in the lower spine is a common habit, which puts too much tension in knees, and makes it impossible to move well from your center. And continuously carrying excess tension and strain – even in the parts of you that are not currently working – this is also so common. It takes some practice, to learn how to give ourselves a rest.
We need a body in some harmony – soft enough to be movable, body and breath connected, moving all together from center. Without this, it’s arms and legs, hands and feet, doing all the work in their own separate corners. Knees go one way, feet and thighs another, upper and lower body not together.
Disconnection, disharmony, makes everything much more difficult. It’s how we wind up using so much force in our movement. We’re moving against ourselves. Which leads to injury and pain. It also leads us to be able to do much less than we can. Everything is harder here, without connection, without harmony.
So now I’m thinking about how to change. How do we practice connection, harmony, ease?
In some ways, it’s not an easy or quick practice. Learning to let go of old habits – like using stress and tension as our strategy to get where we want to go – takes some effort. It takes many times making a choice to move differently, using a different strategy. It’s not easy creating harmony, learning to move with our whole self all together. But, you’ve probably experienced at one time or another that it’s possible to open this door, to feel a very substantial difference, right away. So this is where we want to begin.
Whether you’re practicing in yoga or tai chi, or just walking around in your life, begin where it’s easy for you to begin. Not thinking so much of poses or forms, where you should or should not be, how you should or should not look. These ideas make things hard from the start. They invite old habits back in. So instead, try this
1) Begin where you’re comfortable. Maybe sitting or standing, on hands and knees or lying down.
2) Soften, connecting body and breath together. Let your inhales give a lift to your whole body. Let your exhales give a softness to your whole body, easier to be here, more movable.
3) Move from your center. When you move this way, let your whole body be part of every movement. No part disconnected, no part left behind.
It doesn’t work well to begin in a bad pose, a bad form, and try to fix it. Move the feet a little, adjust the shoulders, repoint the knees. This might fix how things look, sometimes. But it doesn’t fix the nature of where we are. This was created by how we got here. If we’re in a form that’s not good, full of strain and tension, we moved with strain and tension to get here. So it’s not a mechanical adjustment we need. We need a different way of moving.
Always put yourself in a place that it feels easy for you to be. And then move easily from here, in every direction you can move.
There are still goals here. It’s very difficult just to have no goals! This is fine, it’s human to aim for something, especially to aim for progress. So this is good. Just don’t have this aim be a form, a pose, an idea. Don’t have it be a should. Put your focus on
1) Soft enough to be movable
2) Breath and body connected, so breath moves all of you
3) Every part of you moving together, beginning from your center, connected through your center. No parts left behind!
In this way, the form comes out of a practice of moving well, within a certain context. Tai chi has a context, often in connecting with another person. So a practice of moving well within this context leads to the tai chi form. Yoga has a context, moving every part of us in every direction, to get all those parts unblocked and reconnected with each other – often around the confines of a yoga mat. So a practice of moving well within this context leads to the yoga form.
Move in a way that feels good to you. And, make sure it feels completely good. Not just part good. If one part of you hurts, there’s a signal here. Something isn’t right. Maybe too much force, too much tension. In some way you’re moving against yourself, coming out of harmony with your self. So there are some habits to let go, and some better habits to form.
Of course this isn’t about yoga, or tai chi, qigong. But you can practice it here. You can shape your life here.
Go back to where it’s easy, simple. Practice from here.
– by Mike
About Strala Yoga Training
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.