Why Exercise, , Exercise and Your Body, You Are What You Eat, Common Complaints and Their Treatment, Dynamic and Static Exercise, Static Exercise Programme, Yoga and Tai Chi, Popular Sports Today, Injuries During Exercise
Here we look at some of the damage that can occur to joints and muscles during exercise, and how you can best treat such complaints.
LigamentsLigaments are tough fibrous bands that hold your bones together at the joints and stop them from extending beyond their normal range of movement. Most joints are supported by several bands of ligaments that take the strain from all directions.
Sprains and tears are the most common forms of injury to ligaments that lack elasticity.
This is usually caused by sudden extension of the joint, such as when you twist an ankle or knee. If such an injury occurs you can usually tell how bad it is by the size of the swelling; with a mild sprain the swelling is slight, but a severe strain can cause considerable swelling and is very painful.
Method of treatmentA mild sprain can just be bandaged, and a return to normal activity can be expected within a few days.
With a more severe sprain, crush some ice into a plastic bag, wrap the bag in a thin towel and place it over the injury for about 15 minutes. This will control the swelling and aid the healing process –and it feels good.
After this, bandage the injury firmly, using a crepe bandage and making sure that you cover the area well. Try to keep the affected part (leg or arm) raised when resting, and repeat the treatment every three hours for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the extent of the injury.
With a severe sprain do not try to move the joint until the pain, swelling, discolouration, heat or numbness have lessened. Once this has happened, slowly move the joint and then gently try out the relevant static exercise or manipulation, combining this with self-massage until full movement has been restored.
Do not return to full activity until the damage to the joint has fully healed.
If the ligament is ruptured or severed, prompt medical treatment is necessary and effective, but immediate first aid can be given while awaiting treatment.
MusclesMuscles pass across the joints, which they move and help to support. They consist of long bundles of fibres enclosed within sheaths and are attached to the bones by tendons.
Sprains and strainsSprains and strains mostly occur when a stiff muscle tightens too strongly or too quickly and is suddenly overstretched. This causes a sharp pain, followed by swelling, stiffness, tenderness and aching. The muscle is weakened and the condition is aggravated by use.
Bruising occurs as a result of a direct blow or knock against the muscle, or a fracture.
Both cause damage inside the muscle and bleeding into the surrounding tissues, and bruising shows when the blood flow reaches the surface, although sometimes it is contained within the muscle.
Method of treatmentThe immediate application of an ice pack and, where possible, a firm crepe bandage will help reduce the flow of blood and fluid into the muscle. This should be repeated every two to three hours while the injury subsides. Keep the affected part raised and, as the pain gets less, tighten and relax the muscle without movement.
As soon as the symptoms of injury have gone, gently stretch the muscle by applying the appropriate static exercise or manipulation and self-massage.
Do not return to dynamic exercise until pain and stiffness have gone and the muscle is functioning well.
Cramps and spasmsCramps and spasms arise in the muscles as a result of physical injury, over-use (how many footballers have you seen convulsed with cramp?) and acute mental stress. They are spontaneous reflexes that reduce movement in order to impose rest and prevent further injury.
Spasms in the limbs and lower back are most common as a result of misuse, over-use and injury, while spasms in the neck and abdomen are usually due to emotional stress.
During pain or acute stress, muscles do not tighten and relax in the normal way but remain in a constant state of semi-contraction.
Because the muscle fibres cannot relax, the blood cannot flow freely through them and remove chemical waste products or bring oxygen and nutrients to them to allow the muscles to work normally. This state of tension wrecks the muscles and gives rise to pain, which in turn produces more tension, and so on.
Sometimes if the cramp or spasm is acute the muscle fibres tighten to such a degree that they form tiny knots that feel very tender when you press the muscle.
Method of treatmentRest, heat and massage are the most immediate forms of treatment. A hot bath or a hot water bottle encourages the muscle to relax and then a gentle massage should begin to restore movement.
When relaxation and movement has been restored, gentle stretching exercises will help the muscle restore its proper state of relaxation.
InflammationInflammations of the muscles, tendons and joints are mostly caused by over-use and misuse. These conditions are usually extremely painful, swelling develops and the affected part often feels 'hot'.
It is best not to try to exercise any muscles or joints that are badly swollen, inflamed, discoloured, locked or extremely painful. Under these conditions consult a recommended osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist.
RecoveryIf you rest for too long or don't treat the injury, resistance to movement increases and, because of this, trying to get the muscle or joint to work again can take far longer and be more painful.
Consequently the prompt use of appropriate exercises when the symptoms of injury have gone will increase your chances of a rapid and complete recovery.
The exercises must be performed regularly and carefully in order to extend the boundaries of movement and endurance gradually.
However, take care not to over-stretch or over-contract the muscles or joint during recovery as this will actually slow down your progress.
It is good to remember that after the appropriate period of rest, determined usually by reduced pain and swelling and bruising, only movement can restore movement however you should not resume normal exercise with an injury, do this gradually and progressively.
The earliest records of tennis are mediaeval woodcuts depicting a French indoor game played by hand, called Jen de Paume. In I 874 Major Walter Wingfield devised and patented an outdoor court and this was to become the beginning of lawn tennis as it is known today.
Although some significant changes were made in 1888, the basis of today’s game was formulated by Henry Jones in 1887 for the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.
Nowadays court surfaces vary, but the general rules, scoring and playing procedures remain the same throughout the world. Tennis is a great family game enjoyed by the young and the old alike.
It is also an international, highly-competitive sport and one of the leaders in terms of entertainment. It is a game of skill, requiring physical fitness and concentration, balance, good footwork and racket control.
A balanced stance is vital; it precedes every effective stroke and maintains
an economy of effort. Balance means control of the body's weight so that it can
be used in the most effective way.
The champions of tennis use their body-weight to create power and speed when driving or returning shots. This means the knees are kept flexed, with the body pitched on to the balls of the feet, ready to spring into action and able to rotate to the left or the right, to sprint and to run sideways and backwards.
A balanced stance is essential if you are not to be overwhelmed by your
opponent's forceful shots or services, if you are to get your body-weight behind
your shots and keep the ball in contact with your racket until the last possible
Good footwork for attacking, for advancing, for playing the net and for
returning to the best court position after every stroke is essential, while
forehand and backhand strokes and the snap of the wrist that often precedes a
successful shot means that the hands and wrists must be both strong and
The most important stroke in tennis is the service. To achieve the maximum effect the whole body must lift and the arm stretch straight to contact the ball at the highest point, while the wrist must be ready to snap forward.
A strenuous game of tennis burns some 100 calories every I0 minutes. Not only does it strengthen and quicken respiration and circulation and demand endurance, strength and flexibility, but the body must also be able to stretch, bend, twist, jump and sprint.
Because of this, warm-up exercises should always be practised prior to play in order to relax and prepare the body, while after the game warm-down exercises will help prevent stiffness in the muscles and joints.
It would obviously be unwise to engage in this kind of exercise with a stiff body, as it will increase the tension and stiffness in the active muscles and increase the wear and tear on their related joints.
The body must also be fit and prepared for fast reactions, otherwise strains and sprains are likely.
Warming up and down with static exercises for the legs, spine, arms and shoulders will help to keep the muscles supple and their joints flexible, while the regular practice of the whole programme will be a great aid to your agility, coordination and your ability to relax more in action.
For those who take the sport more seriously, mental training techniques should also be practised as these will make your play that bit more controlled. The consistent use of relaxation techniques will greatly improve your ability to both relax more in action and concentrate.
Also, if you have a particular aspect of play that you are trying to perfect, try visualising the movements before practising the relaxation technique. Repeat it a few times and you will probably find that you are far better able to concentrate on this feature of your game when you come to practise it.
Squash is thought to have originated at Harrow School, although the first
recorded squash court was in Oxford in 1883. In the 1920s standard court
measurements were agreed and the first men's and women's British Championships
However it was not until the 1960s that squash became truly popular, with millions of people playing it throughout the country.
The need for fitness
Squash is an extremely energetic game demanding speed, agility, balance, stamina and muscular endurance. Because of this it can only be played by those who are already fit.
Playing squash solo gives you the advantage of finding your own rhythm and technique and improving your fitness for the game in your own time. Playing squash with a partner, however, demands mental as well as physical agility as you have to assess, out-think and outmanoeuvre your opponent.
Squash makes large demands on the heart and lungs; they have to transport large amounts of oxygen to the active muscles and prevent a build up of their waste products. It also demands local muscle endurance; the muscles of the legs, stomach, back, arms and shoulders have to be able to work for long periods without tiring.
Squash demands strength and flexibility of the legs and back, so that you can drop, bend and twist for shots, and speed and agility of the legs and feet, with good footwork so that you can maintain balance, and a high degree of concentration.
Unlike tennis, squash doesn't allow you time to change grips for different strokes, so the right grip must be maintained all the time and the wrist must be strong and flexible, to lift and allow the racket to strike the ball on centre from different angles.
In squash the key to winning is skilful volleying, and to do this you need concentration, stamina and speed, an ability to keep control of the bail and apply pressure on your opponent by quickening the game.
Relaxation in action is also necessary in order to allow the arm and shoulder to make the smooth swing that precedes all well-played strokes.
Warming up and training
Squash demands that you are able to stretch, bend, twist, jump and turn more rapidly forwards, backwards and sideways.
To avoid strains and injuries during the game and stiff muscles and joints after the game, warm-up and warm-down exercises are essential, and should always include static exercises for your legs, back, arms and shoulders.
If you want to be professional you should develop your own training programme, including exercises for endurance, agility and strength as well as static exercises for all-over flexibility and relaxation in action.
Whatever your aspirations as a player, as squash is played indoors it is recommended that outdoor activities like jogging, running, sprinting and swimming also be included in your training programme.
Additionally, because squash is intense and competitive, it is recommended that other activities are enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.
Although the words cricket, wicket and bat originate from the Anglo-Saxon, the earliest record of a game called 'Clykett' is from the mid-sixteenth century. Early writings show that, through the aristocracy and gentry, eighteenth-century cricket evolved from local village contests to organised games that were highly popular among all classes.
During this period the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) was formed, and by the 1800s Lords had been established. The first All-England Eleven was raised in 1850 and cricket rose further in popularity in the 1860s.
This was partly due to the emergence of a magnificent player, W. G. Grace, a living legend and an original sporting hero.
Nowadays professional cricket is highly competitive, requiring a high degree of skill and physical fitness. International events such as test matches rank among sporting entertainments.
Fundamentally the game consists of batting, bowling, fielding and wicket-keeping.
The skilful batsman can play a variety of different strokes, either defensive or attacking. However all strokes require the right grip, backlift and stance. The proper grip requires strength and flexibility of the wrists and hands. The hands should be properly aligned with each other, the top hand gripping firmly, with the right amount of bat exposed.
Without the right backlift, the batsman has little hope of either defending or attacking. From the backlift a defensive stroke is played but not followed through, the face of the bat being brought in line with the ball and angled to deflect it.
In contrast an attacking stroke needs a full follow through for a really hard hit; a long high backlift gives the momentum to hit the ball harder. To develop a good backlift and stroke demands strength and flexibility in the arms and shoulders, and the easy rotation of the upper spine.
For the batsman, posture is all important in order to make full use of the body and to allow you to strike the ball squarely with your body-weight behind each stroke. The knees must remain slightly flexed, the spine straight, the head turned to see the ball and the shoulders in line with the bowler.
Matches are often won by snatching quick runs between the wickets; if you are not to be run out, speed and agility are therefore vital.
Sound judgment, rhythm and coordination on the part of the bowler enables him to deliver the ball with the desired effect. Remember that only about 20 per cent of the speed of the ball comes from the speed of the delivery stride.
Strength and flexibility of the arms and shoulders enables you to use a wide overarm swing with a strong high delivery, while dexterity of the hands and wrists improves the variety and speed of the various spins placed upon the ball while it is being delivered.
Fielding demands speed and precision and the ability to run fast, to catch or intercept and to throw with strength and accuracy. Catching, for example, requires balance, concentration and relaxation in action, especially in the arms and hands; often the fielder must catch a ball at speed, stretching and leaping for the ball, which takes coordination and agility.
Throwing, too, requires strength and accuracy; often extreme speed and coordination are needed to pick up a ball and throw it in one movement. For fielding at its best, each player must really specialise in a specific fielding position and must work in close coordination with the bowler.
And last but by no means least, the wicket-keeper requires an even higher level of mobility and concentration. To be able to catch, often at great speed, from the left or the right, to maintain a squatting position for long periods of time and to be able to move from this position with agility demands strength, flexibility and relaxation in action.
To maintain the skills and techniques and ensure that they do not break down under sustained pressure, every player needs to cultivate fitness. Warm-up exercises, including static exercises for the legs, spine, shoulders and hands, will do much to improve your game and help to prevent strains and injuries, while warm-down exercises must also be practised if you wish to avoid stiff muscles and joints.
To play your best, other sports like running and swimming, and a complete static exercise routine, should all be included in your regular training programme.
Dr James Naismith, a PE instructor from Springfield School, Massachusetts, developed basketball for his students in 1891. The game was an instant success and spread to Mexico before the end of that year. By 1897 a national college championship had started in the States and in 1898 the first professional league, the National Basketball League, was formed there.
In 1936 basketball became an Olympic sport and in the same year the Amateur Basketball Association was founded in England. However, the United States are world leaders in the game, having won more Olympic events than any other country. They were only beaten for the first time, by Russia, in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Basketball involves an offensive game, played by the attacking team in possession of the ball, and the defensive game, played to defend the goal and recover the ball. Accurate passing and skilful dribbling are vital to good offensive play, and this calls for agility and flexibility.
The body's stance must be kept low and the ball must be kept between the knees and the waist in order to retain control and prevent a steal — in this position the player should be able to bounce the ball through and around the legs.
The ball should be bounced like a yo-yo, maintaining contact with the whole hand. The flat of the fingers and the outside of the palm should be used and a fluid wrist movement should follow the ball through.
When moving forward, the ball should be kept a step and a half in front of the body, and both hands should be used equally. The stance of the body is higher for this movement and the ball is bounced higher.
Passing the ball at precisely the right moment, at the right speed and at the right height takes coordination and concentration. Passes are made from the chest, overhead —just in front of the head to prevent a steal from behind —and on the bounce.
Passing from the chest is made at close quarters, passing overhead is a high pass, and passing on the bounce is made to bypass an opponent. Other passes, made by really skilful players, include passes through the legs, from behind the back, a one-handed hook pass and a javelin pass.
Within scoring distance, control is crucial. The stance must be low in order to be able to move quickly to the left or right, and the body must be positioned between the ball and an opponent.
For shooting, the body should be facing the basket squarely with the feet, knees, hips, shoulders and head in line. The shoot requires the body-weight to be on the balls of the feet, crouched and ready to spring. With the head up and the eyes on the basket, the action itself launches the ball from around the forehead and the hands follow through for accuracy.
The lay-up shot is a relaxed movement made from under the basket, and requiring agility for a good jump; the body is stretched and you lay the ball in the net off the backboard. The jump shot is a distance shot requiring the player to jump high in the air and aim for the ring itself.
The free throw is made from a crouch-to-tiptoe movement, while the hook shot is a specialised movement requiring flexibility in the hand, hooking the ball over the head into the basket.
Basketball involves running and sprinting, bending, jumping, twisting and stretching. To be good at the game you have to be agile and flexible; relaxation in action is important and speed, coordination and accuracy all add to the potential of a good player.
And you must always remember that basketball is a team game; using other members of the team to beat an opponent contributes to your team's success and is a far better tactic than striving for personal achievement.
Warming up and training
Warm-up exercises for the legs, arms and spine will help avoid strains and injury while warm-down exercises should be practised if you want to avoid stiff muscles and joints after the game.
For a training programme, running, including sprints, and swimming can be combined with the regular practice of a static routine.
Clyckett and stool ball were popular in medieval England and from these two games it seems that rounders was developed. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries rounders was taken to America by British immigrants and was then played as baseball and goalball.
In 1875 Alexander Cartwright brought order to the game and formalised some rules and field dimensions thereby laying the foundations for baseball as it is played today.
Protective clothing was introduced by Tim Tyng of Boston in 1875, and by the mid-eighteen-eighties two major American baseball leagues had been established, the first the National League followed by the American League, while in England the British Baseball Federation was established in 1890.
Today baseball is played by some nineteen million Americans, it is highly popular in Canada and throughout South America; it is Japan's national game and South Korea's biggest spectator sport.
Currently, baseball is played in some eighty countries throughout the world and because of its increasing popularity it's thought that it will be included as a full medal sport in the 1992 Olympics.
A baseball field is fan shaped with a 90 foot diamond wedge marked from the apex. At each corner of the diamond, bases are marked counter clockwise as first, second and third base, and the home plate, from where the batsman starts and finishes.
A left and a right foul line drawn from the home plate extends beyond the first and third base and is connected by a semi circle. The area within this fan is known as the infield and the area outside the semi circle is called the outfield.
Baseball is played by two teams, each team consists of nine men and both teams take it in turn to bat and field. Each team has nine innings and there is no break and no set time limit for each game. Substitutes are allowed but no player is allowed back on field once they have left.
The pitcher starts the game and delivers the ball in a variety of skilful ways designed to outmanoeuvre the batter. The batter of the offensive team must then hit the ball and attempt to reach a base before the defending fielders can get the ball to that base. In this way a team advances its runners around the bases and back to home plate scoring runs.
The winner of the game is the team that scores the most runs, each run being a complete circuit of all the bases. The teams reverse roles when the batting team accumulates three outs and if after nine innings the score is even, extra innings are played to decide the winners.
Pitching, batting and fielding all demand their own special skills plus speed, agility and co-ordination. The batter must react with split second timing adjusting his stance as he follows the flight of the ball, some being delivered at over 90mph.
The catcher, like a wicket keeper, remains in a squat position behind the batter, indicating to the pitcher where to place the ball, ready to move in any direction to catch the ball and throw it accurately to a baseman, second base being a throw of some 130 feet.
The fielder must be able to catch and throw accurately, and to sprint and leap for the ball. The pitcher and batter must maintain flexibility in their arms and shoulders and back, as these areas are especially prone to injury.
Runners and fielders must be relaxed during play if the impacts of diving or sliding for a ball or a base are to pass through the body. The successful player cultivates strength, stamina and flexibility through a comprehensive fitness programme as well as using warm up, and warm down, routines plus individual skills and techniques.
For those who play, or wish to play for fun, combined with a static exercise programme, baseball and softball are an enjoyable and effective way to maintain and improve fitness.
For the uninitiated, softball is the easier game and a good way to approach baseball.
American football is said to originate from medieval football, a game that was played in England during the middle ages, by any amount of people in a variety of disorganised ways.
Known as 'new rugby' it was played and developed at Harvard, Princetown and Yale until innovations that changed the game were introduced in the late nineteenth century.
Walter C. Camp, a famous Yale half back, introduced these innovations and as a result the game became highly popular and Camp was acclaimed the father of 'Gridiron' or American football.
In the early twentieth century the present scoring system was accepted and protective clothing made its appearance.
There are many great contributors to the game as it is played today and these include Heisman, a proponent of the forward pass, and Stagg, a remarkable player and coach, who introduced a number of brilliant defensive tactics.
In the nineteen-twenties under the leadership of Joseph Carr, the National Football League was developed and professional football then became organised.
In England there are currently forty-eight teams in the British American Football League and the game is played in most European countries.
In America thirteen million spectators watched the two hundred and twenty-four regular season games throughout 1985, some sixty thousand people a game. The ten playoff games attracted nearly three quarters of a million spectators and the Super Bowl Final a crowd of seventy-four thousand.
An American football field is 120 yards long and 160 feet wide. It is sectioned to give each team 50 yards of territory from the midfield strip to the goal line, with an end zone of ten yards. The goal itself is situated in the end zone behind the goal line and from the goal line to the midfield, striped lines are drawn at intervals of every five yards.
The time period for each game is one hour, which is divided into four I 5-minute periods, with a fifteen-minute interval at half time, and extra time in the event of a draw.
The game requires two teams, each team having eleven players on field with an unlimited number of substitutes that can be made between plays.
This is made primarily by touching the ball down in the opposing team's end zone, kicking the ball over the crossbar between the goal posts and tackling or safety scoring in the end zones.
Progress is made across the yard lines towards the opponents' goal starting from a line of scrimmage by the offensive team, while the defending team try to prevent them from gaining yards. When the opposing team is tackled or goes out of bounds a new line of scrimmage is formed.
There are a number of common team strategies, tactics and techniques but basic play includes running or sprinting, blocking and tackling, catching and passing and kicking and jumping.
American football is not the kind of game you play to get in shape. Serious players maintain a rigorous fitness programme all year round often combining extremes like karate and ballet to sharpen reflexes and maintain agility. For the professional, diet is important and together with a fitness programme mental conditioning also takes place.
Static exercises and relaxation techniques are also included in this programme to balance cultivated strength with suppleness and flexibility. Warm-up and warm-down exercises are used to continue relaxation in action and prevent soreness after a strenuous game.
Running, sprinting, blocking and tackling all require strength, stamina and suppleness while kicking and passing also demands the accuracy and coordination that comes with a balanced body.
This is definitely a game that should not be played with stiff joints, as suppleness and flexibility will not only considerably reduce the risks and effects of injury but they will also greatly increase the skill of the player.
T'ai chi is not quite as old as yoga. It consists of a mixture of static and dynamic exercises, blended together into graceful movements that look almost like a form of ballet.
The emphasis in both yoga and T'ai chi is not only on a healthy and supple body but also on inner peace and tranquillity.
They both look at the person as a whole being.
YogaThe origins of yoga are unknown but from archaeological excavations it is recognised as being at least 6,000 years old and to have been widely practised from India to Egypt. The earliest traces of yoga are those found in the ruins of ancient cities in the Indus valley, known to have seen civilisations flourishing around the year 4,000 BC.
At some of these sites little figures seated in the lotus posture were found, indicating that yoga was being practised at that time.
The word yoga in fact means union and is used to describe various systems for developing physical, mental and spiritual health and uniting each individual with their true potentials.
Various forms of yoga are practised, including karma yoga, raja yoga, mantra yoga, gnana yoga and bhakti yoga, but all of them have the same aim – inner peace and happiness.
Hatha yogaThe yoga most widely practised in the Western world is hatha yoga. This consists of a collection of traditional exercises, postures and positions that lead to mastery of the body.
Ha in fact means sun and tha means moon; hence hatha means the joining of the sun and the moon or the development of both the masculine and feminine aspects of the human being and their union in a well-balanced and healthy individual.
The actual formulation of this system is credited to Patanjali who lived about 300 BC. He was not the creator of the techniques of hatha yoga, but he did write down descriptions of the positions and exercises that had been shown to be beneficial over centuries of experience.
Hatha yoga includes what are called the eight limbs of yoga progress– restraint, observance, postures, breath, withdrawal, concentration, meditation and illumination.
Of these eight, those most practised are postures, breath and meditation.
The posturesThe postures are known as asanas.
They are a series of positions that are skilfully directed towards the development of suppleness and flexibility, through stretching, and strength, developed by remaining in positions for progressive lengths of time.
Certain asanas also develop balance and coordination others relate to specific organs and glands, increasing or reducing their blood circulation and nervous stimulation, influencing and improving their function.
The postures or asanas are practised without haste and are considered perfected when they can be performed effortlessly.
PranayamaBreathing exercises are given great significance in hatha yoga, both for cleansing and healing and for reducing the tension of the mind and body.
You are probably well aware that your respiration fluctuates quite widely, depending on the circumstances. For example, anger and anxiety agitate the respiration, with fear it initially ceases and then becomes fast and shallow while concentration slows the respiration rate and makes it more rhythmic.
Pranayama is a technique that uses this relationship but, rather than letting the state of mind influence the rhythm of respiration, uses the rhythms of respiration to influence the state of mind.
The immediate goal of pranayama is to make respiration first rhythmical and then effortless and unconscious.
It is claimed by those who practise this technique that external pressures no longer disorganise their thinking and that the technique produces an inexpressible sensation of harmony.
MeditationMental exercises are also given great importance as an aid to concentration and understanding. These exercises are called meditations— sustained contemplation or concentration of the mind.
Through the continual practice of meditation a current of unified thought arises, but this is only possible when you have sufficient control of the body (through the practice of asanas) and have learnt how to calm any mental agitation.
The unity of thought is brought about by focusing attention on a given area within the body or on a sound or an object.
The given sound for meditation is known as a mantra and consists of a syllable, a word or a group of words, while a given object is known as a yantra and consists of an image of divinity, a complex design or a given diagram.
Going furtherThere are many different kinds of breathing and meditation techniques and there are numerous yoga institutions and foundations where they are taught and practised.
Most of these foundations are named after the individuals that established them and traditionally these individuals are afforded deep reverence by those who Iive and work in the foundations.
A reputable foundation will give the guidance necessary for taking your knowledge of yoga further.
T’ai chi chuanThe history of the Eastern martial arts is obscure, as most of the ancient techniques were developed through years of dedication and passed on only by word of mouth to a worthy few.
However the Shaolin monastery figures largely in this history, as many martial art forms are said to have originated from Shaolin Ch'uan-fa or Shaolin temple boxing, the martial art that evolved from the Shaolin temple in Wei, China.
Bodhidharma, an Indian Buddhist monk who resided at this monastery in the early sixth century, taught exercises, meditation and breathing techniques on which Shaolin temple boxing is thought to have been based. The teachings of Bodhidharma are also thought to form the basis of Zen meditation and he is widely regarded as the patron saint of many martial arts.
Although fighting arts existed before the arrival of Bodhidharma, he instilled the idea of practising to improve health, fitness and inner harmony and his exercises and breathing techniques, probably based on yoga, caused a re-evaluation of the fighting arts and the way in which they were being practised.
Generally the martial arts are classified as hard and soft, although facets of each are included in both. Put simply, the hard martial arts meet force with force and develop a very fast series of blows as an instantaneous response to an attack, one which leads to the immediate destruction of the attacker.
You may have seen examples of these lightning-quick responses in the many martial-arts movies that were popular not so long ago.
In contrast, the soft arts place emphasis on the necessity for outwitting an opponent, on making use of the incoming force by side-stepping the attack and then turning the force against the attacker, and sometimes adding to it to increase the effect.
The soft arts are said to have evolved from Taoist monks, recluses who embraced Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy first formalised and recorded in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu about 300 BC. T'ai Chi Ch'uan is of this origin and of all the martial arts this is said to be the most popular.
According to the teaching of Lao Tzu, 'one who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable'.
In the practice of T'ai chi the evidence of the kicks, blocks, throws, pushes and strikes are concealed in a series of very slow rhythmic movements coupled with a calmness of the mind.
By continually repeating these movements at a very slow speed, relaxation can be maintained while the body is fully acquainted with every sequence. If necessary these movements or sequences can then be re-enacted very quickly while maintaining a high degree of relaxation in action.
ChiIn the practice of T'ai chi the body is kept slightly rounded, and moves in circles. Emphasis is placed on low abdominal breathing, as the careful control of respiration is thought to cultivate the chi.
Chi is the term given to the life force that flows through the human body along pathways known as meridians. The main purpose of cultivating the chi is to strengthen it and gain the ability to visualise its position as it flows through the body.
Once this becomes possible it can be conserved and in the event of illness it can be directed to any part of the body or, in the event of an external attack, it can be released with an explosive effect.
The existence of the chi meridians and vital pressure points is significant both in T'ai chi and in various forms of ancient Chinese medicine like acupuncture and acupressure. Like T'ai chi, these systems of medicine are used to evoke the free flow of chi throughout the body and to inhibit or improve the flow of chi from vital pressure points, according to the desired effect.
Knowledge of these pressure points is used as a means of improving the body's health and also, if necessary, to neutralise an assailant.
Flexibility and strengthTo be adept in any form of martial art, stamina, strength and flexibility are crucial. These attributes can be developed by the use both of static exercise, and of one or more forms of dynamic exercise, like swimming, that promote all-round strength and endurance.
Harmonised through the practice of a martial art like T'ai chi, health and fitness are greatly improved and the body is well equipped to deal with any internal or external disruptions.
Indian, Chinese and Japanese masters have practised these arts for generations in order to develop and protect themselves both from within and without. Because of this, the ancient martial art systems are just as closely bound to self-healing and a harmonious life as they are to self-defence.
The fitness of your body's joints can be rated according to their degree of flexibility. If underlying stiffness restricts their range of movement, then the functioning of your muscles and joints is inhibited and as such they are not fit and healthy.
They can only function within a limited range of movement, and if left untreated they distort the body's framework and symmetry as their condition becomes more permanent and more chronic with age and self-neglect.
Given time this slow degeneration will have a devastating effect upon your health and daily activities.
Two of life's greatest gifts are sensation and movement— both found in the body's muscles and joints. Muscles and joints that contain stiffness are partially numb to sensation and partially paralysed in movement and this can severely undermine the overall health and fitness of your body.
The brief descriptions and illustrations of the exercises should help you to visualise the relative muscles and joints and, with each position, a description of where you are most likely to experience the strongest sensations has been added for your guidance and reassurance.
Stretch but do not strain, use massage where shown and be consistent — practise for at least an hour or so every other day or once or twice a week.
To make the exercises as comfortable as possible most of them have been graded into a number of steps or phases. Start by practising the first step of each exercise and do not advance to the next step until you can maintain the previous one comfortably for the given period of time.
Like trying to get up a ladder, you can spend a lifetime trying to jump to the top but if you are patient with yourself and persevere one step at a time you will soon get to the top.
The effects of these exercises are cumulative so, providing you practise regularly, you will improve by degrees with every session. Every discomfort that you overcome will be amply rewarded with a new sense of ease and pleasure and the ability to do a whole new range of activities.
AnklesThe ankles consist of a number of joints that are governed by the muscles of the lower legs. Together they bend, straighten and turn the feet inwards and outwards. The entire weight of the body is transferred through the ankle joints on to the sprung arches of the feet and then to the ground through the heels and toes.
Because they form the base of the body, the ankles and feet support more weight than any other part of the body. Stiffness or weakness in the ankles and arches of the feet can therefore cause problems right up through the body and can easily affect its overall structural symmetry.
If you can improve the flexibility of your ankles and the suppleness of your lower leg muscles you will greatly improve your body's balance and its ability to relax while upright and active.
Phase 1Sit upright with your buttocks on the floor, on or between your feet with your weight supported on your buttocks and straight arms. Relax and using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes. You will feel this in your ankles and the front of your legs.
Phase 2When you can sit between your feet with your feet turned inwards, pull your buttocks out and try to sit on the backs of your thighs in front of your buttock bones. Straighten your back and pull your shoulders downwards and your shoulder blades together. Using the proper breathing rhythm, try to maintain this position for one to five minutes.
BenefitsThis is a traditional Eastern sitting position. It tones the muscles of your lower legs and strengthens the muscles of your back. It greatly improves the flexibility of your ankles and, when the posture is comfortable, it encourages a proper sitting position.
The most important point to note however is, whether you sit on the floor or on a chair, always sit on the back of your thighs, not your buttocks. This strengthens your lower back, relaxes your abdomen and encourages the spine to straighten and the chest to open.
The knees are the largest single joints of the body. They consist of the head of the thigh bone and the head of the shin bone, a cartilage cushion to protect them and a bony cup that prevents them from over-extending.
Of all the joints, the knee is the most complex and frequently injured. Compared to other joints the knee is relatively unprotected by surrounding muscles and consequently is prone to injury by blows or sudden stops and turns.
However, if you can improve the strength and flexibility of the knees, you will greatly improve the balance and ease of movement of your body when upright.
Phase 1Sitting between your feet with your knees together, inhale deeply. On the exhalation recline backwards, resting your weight on straight arms.
Using the proper breathing rhythm try to maintain this position for one to three minutes. You will feel this in your ankles, knees, the front of your lower legs and your front thighs.
Phase 2Tighten your buttocks to prevent lower back pain. Take a deep inhalation, push your pelvis forward and recline back on to your elbows. Try to relax and, using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one to three minutes.
Phase 3Tighten your buttocks, take a deep inhalation, push your pelvis forward and, on the exhalation, recline with your back against the floor. If there is no pain in your lower back relax your buttocks and try to keep your knees to the floor, together or at least close together. If your lower back hurts when you relax your buttocks, open your knees.
Relax and using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to three minutes.
You will feel this throughout the front of your legs, especially your thighs and your lower abdomen. Do not tolerate back pain in this position.
BenefitsThis exercise vastly improves the flexibility of your knees and ankles. It also tones the muscles of the lower belly, thighs and front legs and strengthens your lower back.
HipsThe hip joints are the central joints of your skeleton, situated a hands-span apart on the front of the lower pelvis. They are large ball-and-socket joints and, like a gear lever or a joystick, they allow movement in all directions.
It is from these joints that your body bends forward and balances upright when sitting; because of this, their flexibility is crucial to the health and integrity of your spine. If the hip joints are inflexible, the body bends forward from the spine.
Similarly, when sitting, if the hip joints are inflexible, the body sits on the base of the back or buttocks and not on the backs of the legs; consequently the spine bends or rounds forward in order to maintain balance.
The flexibility of your hip joints is therefore vital to the strength of your back and in maintaining a relaxed upright posture.
Phase IStand with your feet about 4 feet apart. Turn your toes inwards and bend your knees, lean forward and rest your hands on your lower back.
Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation straighten your legs. You will feel this in your inside thighs.
Try to maintain the position, using the proper breathing rhythm, for one to five minutes.
BenefitsThis exercise tones the inside and back thigh muscles and greatly improves the flexibility of your hip joints. It also improves circulation, especially to the head and trunk.
Phase 2Open your legs wider, bend your knees and bring the palms of your hands to the floor, and now straighten both your legs. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation push your trunk back as far as you can, keeping your heels and toes firmly on the floor.
Now using the proper breathing rhythm rock slowly backwards and forwards for one or two minutes. You will feel this in your inside thighs and back legs or hamstrings.
Phase 3Maintaining the position, open your legs wider, keeping your feet turned inwards. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation lower your trunk on to your elbows. If you experience any difficulty in making this movement relax your hands on your lower back and gently rock up and down until the position is comfortable. You will feel this in your inside thighs and hamstrings (the back of your thighs).
VariationIf you are unable to attain this position, lie on your side with your buttocks against a wall and your knees drawn up to your chest. Roll on to your back and straighten your legs up the wall, take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation open your legs as wide as you can.
Try to keep your knees straight and, using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one to five minutes.
Phase 1Standing with your feet about 6 inches apart, bend your knees and lean forward, joining your hands together and resting them on your lower back.
Relax your neck and shoulders and take a deep inhalation. On the exhalation straighten one leg. You will feel this in the back of your thigh. Now repeat the exercise for the other leg.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, try to maintain this position, slowly straightening one leg at a time, for one to five minutes.
Phase 2Bend both knees and take hold of your ankles. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation straighten both legs. Keeping your heels on the ground, lean your weight as far forward as you can and lift your buttocks.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes.
Phase 3Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation place the palms of your hands on the floor and, keeping both legs straight, push your weight back as far as you can and lift your buttocks.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes.
VariationIf you experience difficulty in practising any of the phases, lie on your side with your buttocks against the wall and your knees drawn up to your chest. Place a cushion behind your head and roll on to your back.
Now straighten your legs up the wall and, using the proper breathing rhythm and keeping your knees straight, extend your heels and try to maintain this position for one to five minutes.
Phase ITake a step forward, bend your front knee and place your hands on the floor.
Now semi-straighten your front leg and slide your back knee backwards to the floor.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, gently rock backwards and forwards in this position for one or two minutes. Change legs and repeat.
You will feel this through the back of your front leg, and in the front thigh of your back leg.
Phase 2Repeat the exercise slowly until you can straighten both legs and then, using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for a minute or two. Change legs and repeat.
BenefitsThis exercise greatly improves the flexibility of your hips and the relaxation of the front thigh and hamstring muscles.
Phase ISit with your lower back firmly against the wall. Open your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation gently press one knee to the floor and massage the inside thigh muscle.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one or two minutes, now repeat for the other leg.
You will feel this in your hips, knees and inside thighs.
BenefitsThis position tones the inside thigh and pelvic floor muscles and improves the flexibility of your hips and knees. It increases the circulation to your back and abdomen and improves the functioning of the kidneys and bladder. It also regulates menstruation and benefits the ovaries.
Phase 2Holding your ankles push your knees open with your forearms. Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes.
Phase 3Keeping the same position with your knees open, take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation lean your trunk forward and rock gently further forwards until you can rest comfortably on your elbows.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes, intermittently tightening and relaxing your anal and pelvic floor muscles.
Phase IOpen your feet about 2 feet and squat, resting your weight on your hands with your elbows inside your knees and your heels raised. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation gently push your knees open with your elbows. You will feel this in your hips, knees, ankles, inside thighs and lower legs.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes.
Phase 2Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation push your knees open with your elbows and take your heels to the floor. Keep both feet firmly on the floor.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to five minutes, intermittently tightening and relaxing your anal and pelvic floor muscles.
BenefitsThis position improves the flexibility of your hips and knees and strengthens your ankles, lower legs and lower back. It tones the pelvic floor and is highly recommended for constipation.
Shoulders and SpineThe spine is the central pillar of support for the central nervous system, the heart, the lungs and the digestive organs. It consists of a flexible cushioned pillar of 33 graduated bones or vertebrae that make up four equally opposing shallow curves.
The curves balance and counterbalance the weight of the head, chest and pelvis, and add to the versatility of the spine's movements.
The spine is held erect by the strength of the back muscles. When standing, the upper back muscles should always retain enough strength to keep the spine upright with the chest and shoulders open and relaxed.
The spine's joints are extremely flexible and are designed to allow twisting, side-bending, slight forward-bending and a wide range of back-bending. However, because the spine allows very little forward bending, this movement should always come from the hips and knees.
The spine exerts strength to maintain its inverted arch as the buttocks extend back and lift. This backward lifting movement lowers the front of the spinal column and maintains the strength and integrity of the lower back when bending forward.
Back bending is the true test of a healthy, flexible spine but this is only possible if the muscles of the belly, chest and shoulders are supple enough to allow the posture. Side-bending and twisting movements similarly test the suppleness of the belly.
Phase IStand nearly an arm's length from the wall and straighten your arms above your head in line with your shoulders. Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation push firmly from the base of your hands, arch your upper back, and rest your forehead against the wall. You will feel this through the front of your arms and trunk and should feel it in your upper back.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one or two minutes.
Phase 2Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation push firmly from the base of your hands, lift your head and arch your upper back, taking your breast bone to the wall. Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one or two minutes.
If you experience any sensation in your lower spine you are overextending
your lower back and under-extending your upper back.
You can change this by pushing your chest forward. Do not tolerate lower back pain, especially in this position.
Phase 3Standing with your back towards the wall tighten your buttocks and arch backwards and place the palms of your hands against the wall.
Now keeping your buttocks tensed walk away from the wall and straighten your arms. Pull your shoulder blades together and hold for three or four breaths. Do not tolerate lower back pain in this position.
BenefitsThis position improves the tone of your abdominal, chest and shoulder muscles. It strengthens your wrists, arms and back and greatly increases the flexibility of your spinal column.
It also opens the rib cage, increasing its flexibility and your breathing capacity. It is highly recommended for keeping your body alert and improving your strength, vitality and nervous system.
Phase IStand with your feet 4 feet apart. Point your right foot with the heel in line with the arch of your left foot. Turn your left foot half a turn inwards. Bend your right knee and reach out with your right hand and place it on your ankle.
Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation straighten both your legs. Rest your left hand on your left hip and, pushing from your back foot, twist your left shoulder towards the ceiling.
Using the proper breathing rhythm maintain this position for one to two minutes, then repeat the other side. You should feel this in your inside thigh and side abdominal muscles.
Phase 2Repeat the previous exercise, but take your hand from your hip and stretch your hand and arm upwards, trying to keep both shoulders in line with each other.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one or two minutes.
BenefitsThis exercise tones the inside thigh and side-abdominal muscles, improves the flexibility of your upper spine and hip joints, strengthens the ankles and opens the rib cage and shoulders. It also improves breathing capacity and is recommended for relieving backache.
Lie on your back, bend your knees and, keeping both knees and feet together, rotate to the right from your hips and take your legs to the floor. Keep both feet together and hold your knees to the ground with your right hand.
Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation extend your left arm below your shoulder line and, using the weight of your arm, rotate your shoulders and try to hold the back of both shoulders against the floor.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one or two minutes, then repeat the other side. You will feel this in your buttocks and shoulders.
BenefitsThis position improves the flexibility of your upper spine, it opens your chest and shoulders and tones the buttocks and side-abdominal muscles. It is also recommended for relieving backache.
Head and neckThe head is balanced on the top of the spinal column. It is due to the equal pull from the muscles on all sides of the neck that the head is kept 'elevated'. Together the muscles and joints of the neck allow the head to rotate in line with each shoulder, bend sideways so that the ear rests on the shoulder, and bend forward and backwards.
Stiff neck muscles compress the vertebrae and pull the head off balance.
Their tensions are also transmitted across the top of the head and they are thus the main cause of headaches.
Phase 1Lie on your back and lift your legs and feet towards the ceiling, supporting your back with your hands.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one to five minutes: you will feel this in your upper spine and neck.
Phase 2Now do splits and drop one leg backwards and the other forwards.
Now take one foot over your head to the floor and try to keep your other leg pointing towards the ceiling. Maintain this position for two or three deep breaths and repeat for the other side.
Phase 3Take both feet over your head to the floor keeping your legs straight. Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for a minute or two. You will feel this in your neck and the backs of your legs.
Phase 4Now bend your knees to the floor one each side of each ear and straighten your arms behind your back. Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one to three minutes. You will feel this in your upper back and neck.
BenefitsThese postures improve the flexibility of the neck. They relieve backache, strengthen the lower back, and improve circulation to the spine, thyroid, parathyroid, neck and chest part.
Phase 1Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation lean your head and trunk to your left, keeping your chin tucked in. Try to get your left ear to touch your shoulder. You will feel this on the right side of your neck and shoulder.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, maintain this position for one to two minutes. Now repeat the other side.
Phase 2Lift your head, straighten your back, relax your shoulders and pull your shoulder blades together.
Take a deep inhalation and on the exhalation take your head as far back as you can, projecting your jaw. You will feel this in your throat.
Using the proper breathing rhythm, try to maintain this position for a minute or two.