Tag Archives: work out

Get up and …

All people are born with a natural delight in movement. Music is in everybody’s blood. Whether the present moment finds you slender, strong, in the prime of life, athletic and a gifted dancer, or a pear-shaped clumsy bear, or a stiff framework of skin and bone – living or rediscovering this inborn joy is a solid foundation for staying healthy through your own efforts. The reason for this is in thousands of books; but a single sentence would suffice to explain it: What does not move falls into decay.

There are numerous influences from childhood onwards that mar the happiness of this activity, so essential for life, and literally close down parts of our body – from signs that say “No ball games” and constant admonitions to “Sit quietly!”, to the school desk, to the office chair and the compulsion to achieve. To be sure the greatest obstacles later in life are thoughts such as: “I can’t do it; I won’t make it; I’m no athlete; what if someone sees me like this!” – all of which start out from the conviction that movement, dance or sporting performance must always satisfy certain standards or external forms and alien requirements. Why is that there are so many books on physical training, all of them utterly useless and uninspiring?

 This is because the real meaning of movement does not consist in doing something ‘correctly’. So many teachers and therapists in this field convey the message, consciously or more often unconsciously, that with movement some sort of measurable goal has to be reached. “Bring your head between your knees; lift your arm above your head; keep your legs straight; no that’s not right; oh well, you’ll get it right in time…” – that, more or less, is the way the nonsense goes, making us forget what healthy movement and above all physical exercises for the sick are really about.

The sole aim of movement should be joy and flowing energy. If your arms can only move so far and no further – well and good! If you can only run so far, bend over so far, jump so far, dance for so long – that’s excellent! You should never take another person, let alone a sport or PE instructor or a book, as a model for what you wish to, or even have to attain. And if anyone smiles at your ‘style’ then that means only one thing: pride goes before a fall.

Once again the only criterion for the success of your intention is your personal instinct. When you sense how even with the slightest movements a force is gradually beginning to flow, just feel this force. Straighten and stretch yourself for a minute (maybe right now!), just as you might in the morning after getting out of bed, and feel what is happening. Feel how the force is flowing and what pleasure that brings and how the pleasure and energy from the smallest movement and stretching spreads out over the whole body. And then only remember the joy and force – not how far, how high, how fast. Whether this joy then spurs you on to some kind of sport – to gymnastics, dancing, chopping wood, or aikido – is completely unimportant. It is not the method that makes the force flow, but your instinct and self-confidence. You should always bear this in mind.

What counts in sport and movement is never the external form. You should never overstep your limits and above all never overstep the ‘pain threshold’. Each morning stretch what can be stretched, but stop short of ‘breaking point’ , whatever that may be. And never compare yourself with anyone in the world. You are unique from the word go.

Every day doctors express thousands of admonitions that we should move more, do more sport – physical training, swimming, table tennis, hiking, running. We don’t want to repeat them, because admonitions and proofs are worthless. The only thing that helps is understanding. One old and valid rule of health runs as follows:

Once a day work up a sweat.

Once a day feel really hungry.

Once a day get really tired.

Unnecessary maybe, but certainly of interest to the ‘proof-hungry’ or simply as an anecdote: the above rule recently received confirmation in a comprehensive study of more than 5000 people in the USA, who had reached their hundredth birthday in good health. The researchers had originally made it their aim to track down the secret of these people’s longevity. What common factors could be observed? Did it depend on diet, lifestyle, attitude to life, abstinence, mega-garlic-ginseng, mysterious herbal elixirs? The result astonished the scientists: apart from one thing there was no common factor! Some of them smoked like chimneys, some drank half a litre of red wine every day; some were vegetarians, others got up at one in the morning to polish off a mighty chunk of bacon; some had fifteen children and seventy grandchildren, others lived like monks – and so it went on. In other words there was absolutely nothing that pointed to a universally valid recipe for health and long life. There was just this one exception: all of those questioned stated that they worked up a good sweat every day – by running, chopping wood, dancing, lovemaking, or whatever.

Movement makes energy start to flow. Flowing energy loosens blockages in the body, head and heart. Loosened blockages release joy and strength. Released joy helps us to stay healthy or get healthy – throughout body, mind and soul. Stiffening is the basis of death, movement the basis of life.


The Art of Staircase Climbing

Question: How do you explain the fact that elderly mountain farmers climb up steep hillsides effortlessly every day without experiencing knee problems, or that Sherpas carry heavy loads to base camps without any prior physical training? Why do so many young people have knee problems and lack endurance?

Little by little we will provide answers to these and other questions. Today, however, we would like to disclose a secret that, at first glance, seems hardly to be headline material. Still, you will understand its significance immediately. In the long term it will have a positive effect on your daily life. The secret that mountain farmers and Sherpas know, next to healthy living, is the correct way of climbing!

Whether it is mountains or stairs, over the years we observed just how little is known about this technique. Even in mountain regions today, the “art of climbing” is frequently unknown among young people. When we are young, there are no serious consequences. Our body is strong and can tolerate bad posture and unnatural moves. Only in the evening we may notice that we have overexerted ourselves. Discs, muscles, tendons, bones and cartilage may have been overtaxed, but the true long-term effect is often not felt until our thirtieth birthday has passed. By then, the old habits are so ingrained that correct climbing must be learned anew.

Let’s put it in a different way: If you were to know how to climb correctly, you could climb the endless stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower without aching knees, without breaking into a sweat, and with no risk of a heart attack. And you could do that at any age. That is a promise. We could, of course, better show you this miracle technique with photos or in a video, but let’s try it here anyway. Its most important element is a “mental trick”, a feeling that you should take a look at.

Let’s start with an exercise in sensing. We are asking for your personal body awareness. Stand totally relaxed – knees slightly bent. Keep your body from your hips up balanced and straight in such a way that you do not need to tense any muscles above your hips in order to remain upright. Slightly move your upper body back and forth in order to find this center. You found it? Wonderful!

Keep reminding yourself that you never need to leave this center, whether you are climbing steep or shallow steps, gently sloping roads or steep terrain. If you climb without this technique, you can still do it, but you will need strength and lots of it!

So you are now focusing on the center. Combine the feeling of the center with the movement of climbing. Here, too, you need to learn only a feeling. It does not require a special performance or physical effort. This is how it is best done:

You are standing at the bottom of a staircase. You are standing straight and centered. Raise the leg with which you would normally begin climbing stairs and put it on the first step. Remain upright and relaxed. Do not bend forward, not even slightly. Remain centered and balanced – mentally and physically. And here is the “trick” that for centuries has allowed mountain dwellers, young and old, to climb the highest heights. Instruct the leg that is resting on the first step and therefore slightly bent to “straighten slowly”. Don’t tell it “lift me” – only tell it “straighten”.

Now, straighten the leg and remain centered. You have already conquered the first step. Put the other leg on the next step and repeat the thought “straighten slowly”. The second step is reached. You are essentially using natural hydraulics to steer your knee joint. Please continue slowly until you feel “I am centered and my legs must only straighten in order to lift me.”

There is no effort involved, no exertion, no burden, no groaning. Simply put, it is not difficult for your leg to straighten from a slightly bent position to lift your weight, even if it is a lot of weight. Meanwhile, your other leg can relax, since it must only lift its own weight to the next step.

Practice this for a little while – straighten your slightly bent legs. Your upper body need not do anything other than to feel balanced (and keep the balance) and to pick the spot for the next step or to enjoy the view. Practice and enjoy what you are experiencing. For many people this is an eye opener.

Experiment also to see what happens when you don’t tell your leg to straighten. Instead tell it to lift your entire body. Feel the difference that these two thoughts bring about, even though your leg    appears to be doing the same thing. It is important that you never take two steps at once even if you can do so effortlessly. We tend to do this when we are young, often as a sign of exuberance and strength. However, this creates unnecessary stress on muscles and tendons, and is a waste of energy. In the long run, this practice leads to overexertion.

Some time ago a 92-year old participant in Johanna’s wellness week mentioned that he had been feeling great since he started following our recommendation not to eat animal protein. The only problem he had was climbing the stairs in the hotel, since there was no elevator. Johanna showed him how to climb properly. He was so excited that he was not out of breath that he climbed the stairs of the four-story hotel twice – from cellar to attic.

Some things are so simple that they are very difficult to grasp. We think too much and observe to little. Once correct climbing has become second nature to you (and your body will see to that), then you most likely will take a closer look when you see in old movies how a Sherpa or a true mountain farmer moves and works.