Can You Do This? - A Simple Health Check
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Can You Do This?   -   A Simple Health Check

It constantly amazes me how much the ancient philosophies and healing arts knew about the body. Their immense understanding of the connection between the body and soul, the knowledge of our body to its smallest part, the interaction between our organs and the Eastern philosophies' thorough knowledge on the usage of herbs and food to heal ourselves brings us back to the Earth and forces us to return to the ancient wisdom.

I am a long time devotee of the healing and meditative arts. The benefits of practicing Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation became quite obvious to me. It was almost three decades ago that back in Hungary I joined a group in our Community Arts Center under the guidance of a young man, Andras Sarkozy, to be introduced to the mysterious world of Yoga. I was a convert right after the first session. The rest is history. Wherever I moved around the world I searched for two things. For a good choir to sing with and a yoga group to join. If I had those two in my life, I settled much faster and I felt happy.

I have been living in Australia for many years when I came across a good Tai Chi class close to the place I bought in Melbourne. As a result of that, I practised and enjoyed Tai Chi for years. I even got my certificate. On weekends when the weather was nice I practiced in the local park on my own or at the Yarra River with my Tai Chi group. I found Tai Chi quite challenging and very enjoyable because it is not just physical exercise that you get but mentally challenging as well.

Tai Chi to me is a sequence of circular, bent-knee, one-legged balancing movements accompanied by dance like hand movements while breathing deeply in the stomach. It is done in rhythm. While the flowing sequence of the movements with shift and turns and hand movements is learned, there is an esthetic beauty in the movements that can always be further improved and polished. It is magical to see a good group moving and turning together at the same time doing Tai Chi.

Yoga still plays very important role in my life. Unfortunately, lot depends on the teacher. My present teacher is the least experienced as a teacher and I find difficult that she does not correct us to improve our poses and our posture. This is a restorative class where I go now to gradually get back after my back problem. Her sequencing and the structure of the class is quite inconsistent. However, in the past I was extremely fortunate to work with very experienced yogis both as practitioners and teachers.

Here in Australia, one of the teachers at Bay School of Yoga, Helen Kershaw, who herself is a mature aged yogi, is a fantastic teacher. I practiced Hatha Yoga with her for many years. During those years my body and my shape has improved even further and I enjoyed great health due to her guidance. Helen also introduced us to the philosophical aspect of yoga. At the end of each class she read a few lines from the Tao Te Ching by Laozi (many variations for the spelling) which became the highlight of the week and we all tried to live our lives in the spirit of these teachings.

The best many years of my yoga practice was thanks to Maghie Mills at Yogascentials on Lygon Street, Brunswick. Maghie is the most devoted and exceptional yoga practitioners I have ever met. She has been practicing yoga for 24 years engaged in Iyengar yoga that became my absolute favourite.

Yoga is an active and cohesive system of movements to engage in body-mind integration with breath awareness. Practising Asanas and Pranayamas we open the body structure and increase lung capacity while we draw the attention to the mind and learn to direct our thoughts. Iyengar yoga uses props to enhance precision, details and the performance of the Asanas and Pranayamas. The result is improved stability, mobility and strength.

Both Yoga and Tai Chi puts emphasis on the strengthening of the legs which shows aging first. If you look at people, their walk tells a lot about their energy level, their flexibility and their age. I think this is what we notice first when we walk with friends and relatives, how their walk starts to slow down, they need to rest and they drag their feet.

When you think of Tai Chi, it has been practiced for generations by people of any age in China. You see people cultivating this ancient art out in the parks in the fresh air. Tai Chi helps with strength and flexibility, improves balance and concentration.

Both Yoga and Tai Chi help practitioners to improve balance, strength, flexibility and mobility although they approach it differently. Does not matter which of the healing and meditative arts you practice, the benefits will be similar. While in my life time I played and enjoyed many others sports, including swimming, team ball games, tennis, table tennis and activities in the gym, for me nothing beats yoga. While I am a 'water baby' and enjoy swimming tremendously, especially in open air swimming pools or in the sea, the fuss of changing and drying myself after a good session in the pool sometimes is just too time consuming. Other reasons why I love yoga are the flexibility and the awareness that comes from holding poses and getting in touch with yourself. The quieting of the mind and the relaxation simply invaluable assets of the yoga class.

I became aware of a very simple exercise that has tremendous benefits for anyone. In a way, it is an element in both Tai Chi and Yoga. However, you can practice on its own and will make a huge health improvement. Testing yourself on this simple exercise will give you an excellent feedback about your health and aging.

This is what you need to do. Stand on one leg with closed eyes. If your balance is wobbly and you are unable to stand on one leg for less than ten seconds, your body has degenerated to a level of a sixty-seventy year old.

There is a good news! With daily practice this can be reversed! This simple exercise will help you with a lot of problems, like high blood sugar, hypertension, gout, neck and spinal problems, cold feet and just one minute a day practice is said to be effective to prevent dementia. What is a minute to improve circulation, rebalance your organs and prevent diseases? Better balance and stronger legs would also prevent you from falls.

Of course, if your condition is not the best right now, just lift your leg a little and start with slightly closed eyes. Hold the position for a few seconds. You can rest assured that after a few days practice you will notice improvement both in holding your leg while standing on the other leg and in your balance so you feel more confident closing your eyes!

The Chinese theory behind this simple exercise is the balance of Ying and Yang. That all diseases start with the imbalance in our body, in our organs. Through daily practice the lengthening of the standing time will improve. There will be many other benefits that you will notice. The mind clears, your sleeping will improve and your memory gets betters.

Remember, this simple exercise also said to be helpful with dementia so keep standing on one leg and work on extending this time. According to Chinese medicine, there are six meridians running through our legs with corresponding organs connected to those meridians. By exercising these meridians, the organs get their strengthening work out and improve. When you stand on one leg, the weak meridian gets sore but with time it will disappear and gets stronger. Through this exercise you send the life force energy, chi to the foot.

Just remember, there are a lot of daily activities that you can do by standing on one leg! So have fun and keep practicing! You will be very surprised that soon you can stand on one leg with closed eyes for many long minutes! Have you thought of which birds and animals stand a lot on one leg?

There is a great little book called 'Self help is better than seeking doctors' by Zhong Li Ba Ren if you want to know more.

Cheers, Piroska

Street Talk

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