Concentration and self-mastery
Have you ever watched a person of a strong reputation or character?
If you have a chance, observe them closely. Look how they sit, walk and talk.
You will notice that men of force and women of wisdom exert a great control over their bodies. The posture is strong, the body is well grounded, the eyes are focused yet radiant and their movements are optimized. All parts of the body are in a total harmony. They align to a purpose.
Their speech is well rounded, thoughtful and inspirational. There are hardly any stop words, such as ‘yeah’ ,’uhm’ and so on. Their speech and their body are in resonance, They are slow to preach but fast to listen.
They are calm and well poised, in control of their bodies. They radiate assurance, wisdom and respect.
Now, watch an ordinary person on a street or on TV. You will see how seemingly different parts of the body have their own lives. Wiggly gestures, scratching head, pulling hair, biting lips, looking down or off, tapping fingers, moving constantly on a chair or while standing.
Their speech is erratic, repeatable and lacks focus. They allow emotions to take over. They are fast to talk but slow to listen.
Mind is associated with muscles and nerves. Once the muscles and nerves are moving without control, your mind becomes scattered. The energy needed to support these movements diminishes your power of concentration. In addition, when the heart beats irregularly, the circulation is uneven. Consequently, the mind goes over all places and lacks the power of focus. As simple as that.
Controlling your mind and your body goes hand in hand. Any practice that teaches you to strengthen and control your muscles and nerves will steady your mind, as a result. You will become more focused. And the power of focus is the foundation of self-mastery.
There are, of course, many practices you can choose. The basic one, however, starts with breathing.
So….controlling your breath is a way to maintain your health. The slower breath, the better. Ideally, you breath in the same pattern as your heart beats. Out-breath, pause and an in-breath.
Breathing and the crane
Many diseases, including acute and chronic problems, are related to the weakness in one or more parts of the digestive tract. Digestion is controlled by the autonomic muscles and the regular exercise will not reach them. Many suggest that poor breathing habits are a major cause of weakness in the body by not using diaphragm to massage the internal organs.
Oftentimes, when we breathe, the lungs tend to expand outward toward the chest as we use the upper part half of the lungs only. The stale air that remains in the lower part and the moisture which accompanies the stale air provides the conditions necessary for germs to have a party 😉 Therefore, we need to find a way to breathe the lower part of the lungs as well and force the stomach, intestines and colon to move, to work so they may be strengthened.
The Crane Exercise comes as a solution.
Crane is a Chinese and Japanese symbol of longevity, wisdom and nobility. Not surprisingly, as they live long, pair for life, look elegant and perhaps make smart choices 😉
When it stands, the crane folds one leg into its belly and exerts pressure on its abdominal muscles. This is done to strengthen its digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. A similar thing happens when we adapt this position for humans. Since intestines are not easily reachable by external exercise, emulating the crane will benefit the digestive system greatly. Humans emulate the crane by practicing standing on one leg and then by learning to use the diaphragm to massage the digestive organs.
The Crane Exercise forces the lungs downward. This is beneficial because the intestines have no place to go, they are pressed out against the abdominal muscles. Such a motion breaks up constipation, encourages absorption of nutrients. and strengthens the entire digestive tract while stimulating the lungs. The Crane posture also increases the circulation to the abdominal organs and muscles. Hence, it can reduce fat accumulation (great news, isn’t it? ;)). The pose also helps asthma through its effects on the lungs.
Slow diaphragmatic breathing, as taught in the Crane, allows for full expansion of the lungs and full absorption of energy from the air, while exercising the lungs and gently massaging the internal organs. The Crane posture also encourages us to improve our circulation. Even though these organs are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the Crane Exercise enables us to balance the energy between top and down of the body.
This may be practiced while standing, sitting, or while lying down.
Caution: Avoid in pregnancy or when there is an abdominal pain.
- Start by rubbing the palms of your hands together to generate some heat in your hands.
- Place your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen on the sides of your navel.
- Inhale through nose, while keeping your mouth close.
- Begin to exhale slowly, while pressing your hands down lightly so that the abdomen forms a hollow cavity . Since the hands act as the leg of the crane, this gently forces the air out of the lower lungs. If you like, keep imagining unwanted microorganisms to leave your body as well.
- After you have exhaled completely, pause briefly and slowly inhale again. Extend your abdomen outward so that it becomes like a balloon. Do your best to use your muscles in the lower abdomen – let the chest stay flat.
Begin with 2-3 rounds (exhalation followed by inhalation is one round) and slowly increase to 12. Please practiced daily, ideally in the morning or evening. Your goal is to do it as slowly as possible, say one round for about 30-50s.
Eric Cobb from Z-Health shows a breathing exercise which is in fact the laying down Crane Exercise.
Standing Crane Exercise
This is more advanced than the sitting/lying down exercise but worth learning. In addition, it helps to develop balance and increases the flexibility of the knees, ankles and hip joints. It also increases the circulation in the legs and feet.
- Stand with your feet touching.
- Take one foot and rub the sole of that foot on the opposite calf. Slowly work your foot up the leg, stopping to rub it until your foot rests on the outside thigh of your opposite leg. The heel should lie toward the pelvis, and the toes should be past the thigh near the hip joint.
- Use your hands to massage the sole of your foot, including toes.
- Raise your arms over your head sideways as you inhale, and bring your palms as close together as possible.
- Breathing as usual, balance in this position for as long as you can.
- While exhaling, lower your arms and foot and repeat the exercise with your other foot.
And here is a demonstration of the standing crane:
Concentration and breathing
When your breath becomes regular, your circulation follows. A steady mind begins with an even breath. A healthy body begins with diaphragmatic breath. Enjoy it!