Integrating body and mind is one of the most difficult things to do.
Many spend hours playing music, dancing, doing yoga or sitting in meditation. There are many practices in Chinese culture that do many things at once, including body-mind integration, with breath and movement.
But why is it necessary to integrate your body and mind?
Your mind is a powerful tool. And when you are able to master it, not only can you experience deeper levels of awareness, but you can also experience healing of the body. Skeptical? Brain scans of people who stopped their pain using mindfulness meditation actually showed they were able to activate brain regions associated with pain relief.
One way to begin learning body-mind integration is by practicing exercises that engage the mind and body. As an added bonus, the exercises can strengthen your body and improve balance.
One reason I prefer this kind of exercise is because you become focused on your movements, and that helps quiet “monkey mind,” something that can be hard to do during meditation, especially for people who don’t like to sit still.
In today’s video, Dr. Luke Jih, director of the Golden Light Institute of Body Mind Advancement, shares with you three exercises from Tai Chi that help body-mind integration, improve balance and develop strength. These ancient, yet simple, exercises coordinate breath, movement and intention. Let’s have a look.
1 – Wave hands like clouds – stationary
Stand with feet double shoulder’s width apart. With bend elbow, raise your right hand to shoulder height, palm facing outward. The left hand will raise to sternum level and cross the body, as shown on the video.
You will slowly turn from left to right while alternating the position of the hands. When you turn left, your right arm will lower and your left arm will raise, finishing in the opposite starting position. Repeat by rotating to the left and alternating the hands again.
Breathe in while turning left and breathe out while turning right for 10-12 repetitions, then reverse the process.
In all, you want your feet to remain in place and your upper body slowly pivots and the hands slowly move from side to side.
2 – Wave hands like clouds – with side step
Once you have this motion pretty good you can make it more advanced by stepping side to side while doing the arm movements. When you go to the left side your right leg will cross behind the left. When you go to the right side, your left leg will cross behind the right. Do 6 repetitions or more if you like.
3 – Lift hands to play the guitar
From the last exercise, you will step forward with your right foot and maintain the right hand above left positioning. In this case the palms both face inward, and the left hand it at the height of right elbow.
As you step the right leg forward you will inhale and assume the position. The you will step back into a left foot lead, and reverse the hands so the left is on top, as you exhale.
Do about 6 repetitions and then turn 90-degrees to the right and reposition yourself accordingly.
Then turn 180-degrees and repeat, stepping forward or backward. Repeat as you like.
The main point here is coordinating body movement with breath timing and relaxation.