• UNLEARNING
    Unlearning: It’s about dehabituation; returning to a state of internal clarity; being receptive and perceptive. Seeing without looking.
    Education is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself. Albert Einstein
    Unlearning isn’t about forgetting; it’s about releasing yourself from being controlled by your past. It’s about freeing yourself from the tyranny of unconscious habits and your personal history, failing which you are doomed to be forever stuck in the past - regurgitating, repeating and reliving it. And that's what Karma is in reality.
    Unlearning requires awareness, first of the self and then of the external world. But, before we can move on from the past and transcend it, we need to be aware of, acknowledge, integrate and learn from it. Outmoded and inappropriate programs are ruling (and ruining) your life - your behaviour, values, beliefs. In short, how you think and feel, how you act and react. Reclaiming control requires becoming aware of these programs and rescripting your modus operandi.
    What does it mean to learn?
    Education, by and large, is focussed on the development of the analytic or critical faculties at the expense of the intuitive, emotional, social, aesthetic or creative ones. We tend to equate learning with education, and education with data acquisition, ipso facto the more of it we have the better. That's like thinking that the more you eat, the healthier you must be, whereas the reality is that obesity is distinctly unhealthy. And exactly the same applies for intellectual overindulgence - in this age of the info junkie we are all drowning in an ocean of data.
    There is no disputing the importance of education for self development. Unfortunately, modern educational stratagems and institutions have produced a generation or three of people who confuse facts with knowledge, and knowledge with understanding. This has led to a black and white “power point” mentality that neatly reduces things to simplistic bullet points. Reality however is not so tidy or well-behaved.
    According to the adage, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, however a lot can be downright fatal. An excess of learning can strangle creative and original thinking, inhibit the intuitive faculties, and limit the power of imagination. Einstein was right on the money when he said “imagination is more important than knowledge. Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination can take you anywhere".
    What does it mean to unlearn?
    Unlearning enables us to experience, apprehend and comprehend reality directly.
    One of the functions of mind is to discriminate, filter and censor the flow of information. This is a basic survival strategy to ensure that we are not overwhelmed by sensory input. However, primarily using your brain as a processor to filter out whatever you consider irrelevant or contrary to your weltanschauung reduces your perspectives to blinkered myopia. And it’s not just your thought processes that become limited - your attitudes and behaviour quickly follow suit.
    Whilst formal education is concerned with filling the black hole that constitutes the infant mind, unlearning involves replacing the constipated, overactive mind with an open, receptive one. Succinctly, unlearning is about return to a state of pristine awareness; a state of seeing without looking, of hearing without listening, of interacting and responding authentically rather than reacting reflexively and thoughtlessly. As Jesus said, return to a state of natural grace requires becoming as a child once again.
    The evolution of consciousness is described allegorically in the Old Testament in the book of Genesis. According to the myth, once upon a time we lived in the garden of Eden where we cavorted freely and in the non-discriminatory blissful state of the undifferentiated child. However, having then tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge we lost our innocence, causing us to be expelled from paradise.
    And the rest is history. No longer in touch with the world around and within us; out of touch with our instinctual and intuitive faculties; out of touch with the divinity (both within and without) we become lost in a labyrinth of abstraction. Having lost our connection with integrity and common sense we constructed the (wo)man-made edifices of religion, ritual, duty, morality, and law.
    When attunement to the natural way is lost, we turn to education - physical, mental, ethical, moral and spiritual.
    The irony is that the gift of language - which we created in order to facilitate communication between us - too often proves to be a barrier between us and the direct experience of reality.
    How do we unlearn?
    How do we free ourselves from the habits, thoughts, emotions, and rules that constrain, and constrict us, Because all too often the cultivation of academic rigour is a stultifying process that leads to intellectual rigour mortis. The challenges are: firstly to become aware of the conditioning and behavioural programming that keeps us locked in the limited confines of our minds and assumed identities; and secondly to dehabituate and deprogram as a necessary prelude to conscious rescripting.
    How do we go about this? By the (not-so) simple act of letting go - of the illusion of knowledge; of the need to control, dominate and interfere; of preconceived notions; of fear of failure and favour of reward.
    How? By attaining a state of clarity in order that we are not just fully immersed in the moment, but that we are the moment. By emptying the mind and cultivating alert awareness. By the practice of dynamic meditation - not by the nihilistic forms of meditation that seek to remove us from the world at large, but by embracing and becoming one with the flux creation and dissolution.
  • EVOLUTION
    Fate is fickle; it’s beyond your control. Destiny however is not whimsical - it’s in your hands. You can achieve it or thwart it.
    WHO are You? And WTF are you doing here, anyway?
    You’re a survivor, that’s who! And much more – you’re the grand prize winner in the cosmic lottery.
    You probably forgot that you’re the crown of creation – the successful progeny of a long chain of life forms stretching back several billion years. But it doesn’t stop here.
    Evolution is an on-going process. The thing is, evolution is a physical and physiological adaptive process dictated by the drive to survive. Or it was until humankind climbed out of the trees and into the co-driver’s seat. On that level we’ve been spectacularly successful in manipulating and playing dice with mother nature so as to program evolution according to our own wants and whims.
    However, we’ve failed dismally when it comes to imagining and engineering our personal evolution and destiny.
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    Problem is that you weren’t supplied a copy of the Idiot’s Guide to You. You know – the user’s manual on caring for, operating and programming the most complex piece of wetware in the known universe. (That’s you)
    And mind you, we haven’t even mentioned OS upgrades – you know like Homo Sapiens v2.x (but more on that later).
    But there’s a good reason why you weren’t: namely – you’re unique, works quirks and all. That’s the beauty about it (and the bitch), because like it or not, it’s essentially in your own hands. So, despite what your searches on Google and Ebay turn up, nobody dead or alive can give you “The Manual”.
    What’s more (less, actually), nobody can even supply you with an authoritative Map, SatNav or Compass to guide you from the Here & Now to Wherever & Whenever.
    So you see – that’s up to you. However, what we can do for you is expedite your journey, your travails and tribulations
  • BACK IN ACTION
    Crippled by backache? Throw away the painkillers; climb out of your chair and move your ass!
    Overview
    The back, from a structural perspective, is an intricate web of muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves and joints anchored to the spinal column. The spine, in addition to its role as a postural mainstay for supporting the upper body, serves as the transmission conduit for the central nervous system.
    Any instability in, or misalignment of this central pillar not only makes sitting, standing and movement painful, but also restricts the proper use of the arms. According to statistics, back pain is inevitable at some stage of your life; is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost work time; and is the third most common reason for surgery. In short, back pain can be costly.
    Why does my back ache?
    Pain is the body’s way of saying “stop it – you’re hurting me!”, but the general response is to ignore it and hope it will go away. Desensitisation, analgesics and the attitude of “no pain, no gain” have become a characteristic of modern life styles.
    Many things can cause back and neck pain, directly or indirectly.
    • Physical injury to, or degeneration of the spine is the most common cause of chronic back pain. Damage to the intervertebral discs frequently results in disc protrusion or herniation impinging on the spinal nerves.
    • Pain felt in the back can also be referred pain from problems in the abdomen, pelvis, or chest. Abdominal disorders such as digestive problems, kidney and urinary tract infections, constipation, and ovarian disorders can cause backache.
    • Changes in the alignment of the bones and complex ligamentous structure that form the pelvic basin often cause chronic back pain. Pregnancy and the ageing process are examples of such.
    • Myofascial stresses produced by musculoskeletal or physiological issues can cause spinal misalignment and pain, a common example being hamstring contracture.
    • Scar tissue from accidents to the spine can restrict movement and cause intermittent pain.
    • Or, it can be the consequence of lifestyle, diet, obesity, occupation, sport, posture, genetics, socioeconomic status, environmental factors, job dissatisfaction, emotional stress, and psychological issues.
    Damage and pain can be caused by a single traumatic incident, but that is rare. It is generally the result of repeated and accumulated stress – i.e. the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
    Many factors can cause or provoke pain, but at the end of the day, back and neck pain is predominantly a lifestyle sequela. You probably consider “lifestyle” as being a description of what you do during your day, but in reality that is only half of the story. Style actually means how you do, not what you do, and in that regard it refers to the quality of your activities in daily life.
    Posture
    Central to all physical activity is posture, so it should come as no surprise that poor posture is the precursor of a host of physical problems, especially back pain. Compounding matters, postural problems and pain are mutually reinforcing – poor posture generates pain, pain distorts posture, and so on ad infinitum ad nauseum. Eventually, chronic poor posture changes the shape of individual vertebrae as well as the entire spine, resulting in misalignment issues that adversely affect the whole body.
    Posture is the foundation on which movement is built. Faulty biomechanics means that one’s movement patterns are unhealthy, in which event even seemingly innocuous activities like walking and running can have painful or debilitating long-term consequences for the spine. You can also damage your spine by poor work habits such as overuse, overloading or faulty weight-bearing techniques.
    What’s the fix?
    In many cases, symptoms will improve within two months no matter what treatment is used, even if no treatment is given. However, it is important to stay active! Prolonged reduction of physical activity leads to loss of muscle strength, joint mobility, and cardiovascular fitness. Over time this deconditioning syndrome becomes self-sustaining and exacerbates both pain and disability.
    The range of conventional treatments is broad. These include passive therapies such as tea & sympathy, orthopaedic aids, and massage; active conditioning routines such as yoga, Pilates and strength training; and, medical interventions by way of medication, electrical stimulation and surgery.
    Ultimately though, successful resolution of back pain issues requires Identifying and addressing the underlying biomechanical causes and physiological factors. Treating the symptoms or adopting pain-avoidance strategies are short-term solutions but they will not prevent recurrence or further deterioration. In such regard, Kinergetix has proven itself as the most effective rehabilitation and prevention modality available, and has enabled many people to return to a pain-free, active and productive lifestyle.
    Kinergetix
    Why has Kinergetix been so successful where other therapies have not?
    1. Postural training: Often the root cause of back and neck pain is poor posture. Correcting posture however is not simply addressed by the admonition to sit up or stand straight. Posture is more than spinal alignment – it is the result of a complex neuromuscular control strategy that cannot be rectified by forceful or short-term measures.
    2. Stability training: Stability is a central consideration in dealing with back pain. Instability in the structures that support the trunk manifests as painful and inefficient movement which leads to further deterioration.
      The issue of stabilisation has been oversimplified, and this is largely due to limited understanding of the factors that determine spinal and postural stability. The in-vogue assumption that core stabilisation is key to spinal therapy, and that it can be achieved via focussing on a few “deep stabilisers” by way of phasic conditioning techniques is not only misguided, it is counterproductive.
    3. Ergonomic training: Efficiency and safety at home, at play and in the workplace. Working smarter – not harder. Practical biomechanical instruction in lifting, carrying, and moving objects, and the proper use of your prime tools, your hands. Environmental ergonomics and the workstation.
    4. Integrative therapy: Multimodal combination of the most effective therapeutic approaches to rehabilitation and health conditioning. This unique integration of Eastern and Western modalities works to optimise health from the aspects of physical, physiologic and bioenergetic functionality.
    5. Mindfulness training: Regardless of how fit and healthy you may be, if you’re unaware, desensitised, inattentive or controlled by the emotional “monkey mind”, then you will be unfocussed, disturbed and accident-prone. Cultivating awareness and mindfulness to avoid further injury.
    6. Health education: is an essential ingredient to equip the individual to understand the complexities and idiosyncrasies of their back pain.
  • EAST MEETS WEST: TOWARDS A GRAND UNIFIED THERAPY (GUT)
    The times they are a changing (rapidly of late). And this calls for changes in our understanding of and approach to health.
    Preamble
    We’ve got a problem - an enormous one that affects every last one of us, rich and poor, young and old alike. I would like to believe that we all, irrespective of our fields of endeavour and expertise, share a common concern, namely that of healing a sick planet. If we're serious about this, then we have to address the causative factors and not merely alleviate or excise the symptoms.
    Succinctly, the root of the problem is people. Sick people, that is. By sick, I don’t mean just in body, but also in psyche and spirit.The reality is that disease, disability and disharmony equate with dysfunctionality, ergo the sick contribute the least, consume the most resources, and are the greatest waste makers. And the outcome is terra infirma.
    There’s an elephant in the room (and it has diarrhoea)
    Chronic diseases / disabilities are pandemic and on the increase, and their attendant socioeconomic sequelae are crippling both the individual and society at large. Interventions to contain or reverse this trend have been largely unsuccessful.
    So, what’s the fix?
    Legislation is not the answer (you can't enforce awareness or integrity). Likewise for preaching, praying, bullying, or bribing. Real and enduring change of the global status quo is contingent upon changing the individual's perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. However, awareness and consciousness are not just cerebral processes: psyche recapitulates soma, hence attitudinal change requires meaningful address of health in the broadest terms.
    Mens sana in corpore sano. Accordingly, my approach to therapy is the restoration of health and functionality, and most importantly sanity.
    The quest for a panacea
    It is universally acknowledged that physical exercise plays a vital role in managing and preventing many chronic health issues. The research shows that every exercise system - ranging from strenuous physical workouts to static meditation - has therapeutic merit, however each also has limitations and contraindications.
    The challenge has been to devise an exercise regimen that satisfies a number of criteria, viz.: relieve symptoms; address underlying impairments; inhibit regression; prevent initial occurrence; restore functionality (physical and cognitive); require minimal supervision, resources and time; and is safe. Moreover, and most importantly, such an exercise program needs to be enjoyable, stimulating, challenging and stress-free (for lack of which, participants lose interest or motivation, and won’t put in the time and effort to improve their health). A final consideration is that the component exercises need to be relevant to modern lifestyles.
    Kinergetix Movement Therapy
    With all these considerations in mind, I have spent forty-five years investigating and trialling numerous rehabilitation, disease prevention and fitness-conditioning methods, both mainstream and alternative. Drawing on these, I have developed an innovative and eclectic exercise modality, Kinergetix Movement Therapy (KMT), which integrates Western exercise, physical therapy, and human movement sciences with Eastern mind-body therapies and martial arts.
    KMT is comprised of modules to develop the cognitive faculties, install clarity, firm the will, strengthen and invigorate the body, and cultivate character. However, KMT is not an ad hoc mélange or wholistic pizza with the lot - it builds on a foundation of tried-and-true practices and understandings, but it develops these further into a genuinely new approach to health, vitality and self-development. In essence, this is much more than a physical fixer-upper - it’s a tool for self-mastery.
    I have extensively employed KMT in clinic over the years, during which time it has been productive of significant and enduring outcomes in the management of a wide spectrum of chronic health issues across a broad demographic. Further considerations of cost-effectiveness of group sessions, outstanding compliance and program adherence of participants, safety of implementation, ease of learning, minimal requirement for specialised facilities or ancillary aids, and ease of scalability signify the importance of wider implementation and dissemination.
    21st Century Schizoid Man
    We live in bipolar times, an era in which we define and divide our attitudes into the opposing camps of subjective-objective, rational-irrational, physical-spiritual, heaven-hell, me-you, us-them, etc.
    In similar fashion, the attitudes of science, philosophy, religion and medicine are polarised along the lines of Eastern mysticism and Western materialism. The author Rudyard Kipling wrote that East is east, West is west, and never the twain shall meet, however such an understanding is facile and divisive.
    This dichotomy has contributed significantly to the predicament in which we now find ourselves, i.e., in a state of disharmony, misunderstanding and ill-health, both globally and personally. As such, the important question is how to reconcile this opposition so that we may return to our natural state of harmony and health. Accordingly, in this article we will focus primarily on how to effectively combine the very different approaches to the maintenance and restoration of health and wellbeing as practiced in Eastern and Western medicine.
    The Cultural Divide
    We can broadly divide the world in terms of geography, culture, science, philosophy and religion into East and West. In certain important respects the cultural differences between the two are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable, or as Rudyard Kipling put it so succinctly, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”.
    The intent of this article however, is not to attempt a wide-ranging discourse on the essential or manifold differences between East and West. Rather, it will be constrained to discussing and comparing the relative benefits and limitations of their respective exercise strategies, whether as therapeutic tools or physical conditioning regimens for the cultivation of health and wellbeing.
    The first and probably most fundamental difference between Western and Eastern approaches to health conditioning revolves around the concept of “spirit”. In the world of Western medicine there is a rigid dichotomy between science and mysticism; between physical and metaphysical. From a mechanist perspective, spirit is regarded as illusory; or tolerated as an (hopefully) innocuous myth; or is acknowledged superficially as a nebulous concept that is paid lip service to. Conversely, from the perspective of Eastern medicine, the concept of spirit is foundational and plays a central role in therapy. As such, spirit cannot be expunged from traditional Oriental therapies without compromising or negating their effectiveness.
    Carl Jung, the forefather of analytical psychology, had a deep interest in and high regard for Oriental religions and philosophies. Nevertheless, he believed that the tenets and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism are so alien to the inherent psychic processes of the Occidental mind that he cautioned against their adoption by Westerners. In effect, he declared that Eastern doctrines and their praxis are not only irrelevant or misleading in regard to the healing and growth of the Western psyche, but are potentially dangerous. The following extract encapsulates Jung’s views on the subject, albeit with particular reference to the practice of Yoga.
    The usual mistake of a Western man when faced with this problem of grasping the ideas of the East is … he contemptuously turns his back on science and, carried away by Eastern occultism, takes over yoga practices word for word and becomes a pitiable imitator. Thus he abandons the one sure foundation of the Western mind and loses himself in a mist of words and ideas that could never have originated in European brains and can never be profitably grafted upon them.’ 
    CG Jung – Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower.
    The schism between East and West may be considered as both the reflection and projection of a bipolar psyche. Moreover, this schizophrenic state of being at war with oneself (and by extension the world at large) is a condition of dis-ease that plays a significant role in the evolution of much chronic disease and disability.
    The restoration and maintenance of health is in many respects contingent upon establishing internal harmony, i.e. a state of homeostasis in which body, mind and spirit are unified and act in concert with each other. Therein lies the conundrum and challenge in the sphere of exercise therapy, namely how to reconcile and integrate such radically different practices and their associated ideologies.
    Prior to formulating such an integrative schema, viz. a Grand Unified Therapy (GUT), a discussion is warranted on the characteristics and relative merits of the major schools of exercise therapy that are utilised in Eastern and Western clinical practices.
    Western Exercise Science
    It is universally acknowledged that physical exercise plays a vital role in managing and preventing many chronic health issues. In the words of Booth et al. “
    We know of no single intervention with greater promise than physical exercise to reduce the risk of virtually all chronic diseases simultaneously” (Journal of Applied Physiology, 2000).
    The documented research shows that every exercise system - ranging from strenuous physical workouts to static meditation - has therapeutic merit; however, each also has limitations and contraindications. Accordingly, what follows is a brief overview of the most common Western exercise modalities together with a discussion of the practices, principles, applications and relative merits of each.
    Broadly speaking, traditional gym-based physical workouts may be differentiated according to 1) aerobic conditioning exercises for promoting cardiopulmonary fitness; 2) resistance training for building strength and endurance, and; 3) flexibility / agility enhancement routines for extending articular range-of-motion (RoM). In addition to these, there is a plethora of therapeutic and conditioning modalities that may be employed in complementary or adjunctive roles (e.g., Pilates, Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique to name but a few).
    There is a common misconception of the gym environment (and it's associated practices) as being primarily the domain of sweaty, testosterone-drenched body builders and fitness junkies, whereas in fact muscle bulking (hypertrophy) is only one aspect of the various goals that gym clientele have. Medical professionals will often advise their patients to enrol in a gym program in order to proactively address health concerns such as stress / hypertension, weight management, physical injury, postural deficits, cardiovascular issues, mobility limitation, general fitness, coordination, balance, and flexibility issues.
    Aerobic Training
    Aerobic exercises are designed to promote cardiovascular (CV) fitness, their priorities being to strengthen the cardiac muscles, enhance respiration, elevate body-core temperature, stimulate circulation, develop endurance, and burn fat. Additional benefits accruing from aerobic workouts include lowered resting heart rate, normalisation of blood pressure, and attaining a state of general wellbeing.
    The exercises grouped into this category range from brisk walking (a much underrated, widely applicable and highly beneficial exercise), to high-intensity cardio circuit workouts and quasi martial-art group routines such as Taebox. Regardless of the level that the above-mentioned are performed at, the same basic training principle applies; namely, in order to maximise gains, the exercises need to be performed at a sufficient level of intensity and appropriate duration so as to maintain a specified heartbeat rate. The prescribed level varies with each person, and is determined by the individual's age, weight, gender, state of health, prescribed medications, and medical history.
    It is necessary however to take into consideration the possible adverse effects of improperly performing or prescribing aerobic exercises. Prior to embarking on a CV training program at even moderate levels of intensity, an individual who is unfit, disabled, medicated, or has a medical condition that may be adversely affected by exercise requires appropriate assessment and clearance.
    Of particular concern, aerobic exercises are frequently performed with great initial enthusiasm and a somewhat gung-ho attitude, and this can lead to over-exertion, strain and a host of attendant physical repercussions. The oft-heard catchcry in this area is "no pain, no gain".
    Aerobic workouts may also incorporate an impact component. Dedicated impact routines (plyometrics) have been clinically validated as excellent for the development of a solid skeletal framework and bone re-mineralisation; however, the potential for self-inflicted injury is considerable, hence these routines need to be performed with due care and proper supervision.
    A further consideration is that high-intensity aerobic workouts are pro-inflammatory, in which regard they accelerate the aging processes and contribute to physical degeneration. Contrary to the obsession and associated mythology associated with “fat burning” routines, there is certainly little or no justification for prescribing aerobic exercises as a weight control measure, as the research indicates that they are not only counter-productive, but are debilitating and occasionally lethal.
    Resistance Training
    Resistance exercises are designed to develop muscle and tendon, and to enhance neuromuscular functioning. Resistance programs are customised to focus on the development of strength, power and/or endurance in accordance with the practitioner's needs and preferences.
    Within these programs, exercises may be undertaken as compound sets (in order to develop the large muscle groups), or targeted to isolated muscles through the desired RoM. Resistance routines find wide application in physical rehabilitation, sports training, work conditioning, and weight control (primarily weight gain).
    Resistance training is generally performed using a combination of body weight, free weights, weight and cable machines (which offer the benefits of partial support as well as the facility to tailor the resistance through the various stages of a muscle's contraction), and/or spring and elastic devices. Body weight exercises have the advantage of their suitability to being performed in confined spaces and without the need of specialised equipment, thus they may be incorporated at work, home or in transit.
    It is important to recognise that skeletal muscles are not just concerned with the exertion of force, but also play a foundational role in stability (both of individual joints and the body as a whole). Muscles act in concert in different ways to achieve a co-ordinated, efficient, and stable action - the performance of work or execution of a movement recruits sets of complementary but opposing muscles (agonists and antagonists) together with the relevant controller and stabilising muscles (synergists).
    Aquatic Routines
    Mention should be made in passing of pool-based workouts. Aquatic routines can incorporate aerobic, resistance, and/or flexibility exercises, and thus are eminently suitable for incorporation in physical rehabilitation or conditioning programs.
    Hydrotherapy utilises water’s buoyancy, viscosity and turbulence properties to assist (or resist) the performance of exercises. The outstanding feature of hydrotherapy is that the aqueous medium partially (or wholly) supports body and limb weight, thereby enabling the participant to exercise joints and muscles through their RoM without undue strain or loading due to gravity.
    Pilates
    This method was first developed in Europe in the early part of the twentieth century. Joseph Pilates formulated his kinesiological routines as the result of an extensive background in the health sciences and martial arts, having been engaged by the military and police forces to train their personnel. In addition, he was widely consulted by many of the foremost dancers in Europe and the USA for the purposes of rehabilitation, postural correction and technique enhancement. In essence, the focus of his method is on core stability, i.e., the promotion of pelvic, abdominal and lumbar stability via the mechanism of low to medium intensity, dynamic, balance-oriented resistance exercises performed in coordination with the breath.
    Pilates routines have virtually become de rigueur as part of the clinical armamentum in exercise therapy, despite the fact that they have limited application in either rehabilitation or injury prevention. The popularity of Pilates exercises stems from their focus on core stabilisation, however the method is somewhat contentious in that it employs phasic strengthening routines to condition tonic muscles. Furthermore, the programs are expensive, whilst the extensive use of floor routines and/or specialised training aids renders Pilates unsuitable for inflexible or geriatric patients.
    Eastern Exercise Science
    Eastern mind-body therapies are gaining increasing acceptance and application in the fields of rehabilitation and prevention of disease and disability, as well as for general health conditioning. Included in such therapies are the modalities of Qigong, T’ai Chi Ch’uan (TCC) and Yoga, which are designed to promote the health of both soma and psyche. These can be generically described as moving meditation practices, or in more recent and pedantic terminology, movement-based embodied contemplative practices (MECP).
    As a clinical tool, MECP may be utilised to identify and correct pathomechanical movement, whether for physical rehabilitation, injury prevention, or performance enhancement. However, the therapeutic applications extend well beyond the address of pathomechanical issues, as the benefits have been well documented in the treatment and self-management of both psychological and physical symptoms, including chronic musculoskeletal pain, stress, exhaustion, and instability. Furthermore, as movement therapies are generally delivered in group-sessions, participants may benefit from increased social interaction, friendly competition, and support.
    There are also partnership or one-on-one forms of interactive moving meditation that feature in some Eastern movement-based modalities. These dyadic routines have their origin in martial arts wherein they are utilised as combat drills: however, they also have therapeutic utility in the biomechanical sphere for training balance and core stability; and in the bioenergetic domain for tonifying and harmonising the physiological functioning of the neuroendocrine system, immune system and metabolism.
    Meditation
    A central feature of MECP modalities is mindfulness training. The focus of such training is promoting attentiveness of the practitioners to the milieu intérieur (via the interoceptive senses), as well as to their interaction with the environment (via the exteroceptive senses).
    Essentially, the intent of meditation is to induce a state of deep relaxation, tranquillity, clarity of mind, and receptivity. However, static (or quiescent) meditation is generally not appropriate for sedentary or inactive lifestyles. Dynamic meditation, on the other hand, encompasses routines that range from high-intensity workouts featuring whole-body movement through full RoM, to low-intensity, slow, sedate workout drills characterised by minimal, subtle, or even imagined movements.
    According to Edmund Husserl - a philosopher who profoundly influenced twentieth-century and contemporary understandings of consciousness and perception - meditation involves a phenomenological process known as “epoché” (lit. suspension). Epoché is an ancient Greek word used to describe the act of suspending judgment about externalia, to instead focus on the direct experience of a phenomenon. In the context of moving meditation, this process of epoché entails:
    1. Attaining a state of mental clarity by clearing the mind of distractions.
    2. Cultivating awareness by redirecting the attention to the proprioceptive senses and the breath.
    3. Being receptive to physical, physiological and emotional responses emerging from this contemplative activity.
    4. Interfacing and interacting with the external environment in order to be able to initiate action, as well as to respond, both reactively and proactively.
    T’ai Chi Ch’uan (TCC) and Qigong extend the concept of body movement by employing guided affective imagery, subtle movement, and motor-imagery techniques in their exercise routines. Motor imagery utilises the imagination to visualise and rehearse or simulate an action without subsequent execution of overt movement. It has wide application in enhancing motor learning, both in the arena of sports performance and in a clinic setting for improving motor skills, physical strength and neurological rehabilitation.
    An important consideration is that exercise stratagems which are intended to address health concerns, whether from the aspects of therapy, health preservation or disease / disability prevention, need to take into account the reality that many people have little time and energy to spare for intensive physical workouts and/or protracted meditation sessions. Accordingly, amalgamating physical exercise and meditation makes for more efficient and effective usage of time and energy.
    Life Force
    In part, the challenge of bridging the cultural divide between Eastern and Western methodologies has been in translating Oriental esoterica into contemporary Occidental vernacular. In this instance, the challenge lies in translating the fundamental tenets of the biosciences and medical practices of one culture into the language, understandings and practices of another with a very different weltanschaung.
    Oriental therapies are predicated upon the purported existence of an intrinsic élan vitale or ‘life force’, variously rendered as Qi (Chinese), Ki (Japanese), or Prana (Sanskrit). The properties and behaviour of this life force have been exhaustively studied, documented, and codified by Oriental practitioners over the course of several millennia. Congruent with this, Eastern rehabilitation and health-conditioning strategies are primarily concerned with fostering the generation, circulation/distribution (via mapped pathways or meridians), and storage of Qi.
    However, this life force has proved to be elusive and ostensibly undetectable in the laboratory. Attempts to describe it in standard ergometric or metabolic terms, or to detect, isolate, measure and characterise it in biochemical or electrophysiological terms have been unsuccessful. Having said that, the research and theory of Bong-Han Kim on the Primo Vascular System is worth perusal and consideration, as it purportedly describes the association between the vascular network and the acupuncture meridians.
    Despite the lack of an immediate correlate in Western biomedicine, some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices which are immediately concerned with bioenergetics, e.g. acupuncture, have acquired a de facto legitimacy, and been incorporated into the standard clinical armamentum.
    The absence of proof that validates the theory or proves the existence of life force is irrelevant. From the perspectives of both health provider and consumer, the only consideration needs to be whether the associated therapeutic practices are effective or not. In that regard, there is a vast body of empirical evidence that substantiates the use of bioenergy therapies for rehabilitation and prevention of many pathologic conditions.
    Qigong
    Qigong is a Chinese form of health maintenance dating back thousands of years. From its ancient origins in Shamanic lore and occult rituals, Qigong has evolved by absorbing the philosophies and practices of Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, TCM, and the martial arts.
    The word Qigong (pronounced chee goong) contains two concepts: Qi, the vital energy of the body, and gong, the training or cultivation of the Qi. Even though Qi theory is rejected by Western medical institutions and health professionals, it is nevertheless accepted by sceptics that the practice of Qigong incurs health benefits.
    Modern Qigong may be described as a fusion of physical exercise, meditation practices (active and passive), Qi meridian channel routines, and a variety of rhythmic breathing strategies. The practice of Qigong involves the integration of the interoceptive, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, and exteroceptive senses. The exercises are intended to promote a state of deep relaxation, mindfulness and physical wellbeing, i.e. internal harmony, thereby fostering physiological and psychological mechanisms of self-repair, regeneration and health recovery. Workout sessions can incorporate static and dynamic stretching, guided affective imagery, vibration and resonance therapy, self-massage, low-impact plyometrics, and vocalising.
    Qigong also employs guided imagery techniques that consist of the practitioner focusing and directing the attention through the body with the intention of creating a sensation of a current of energy. The exercise routines incorporate overt movement (both large and subtle) as well as internal or imagined movement.
    There is a vast repertoire of Qigong exercises, many of which have been designed to address particular diseases and disorders, and which are attracting interest from a growing number of outpatient clinics worldwide. The exercises are generally not overly complex or challenging, nor are they strenuous, hence they may be easily learned and performed by almost anyone of any age or physical condition.
    Yoga
    Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “to join, yoke together, or concentrate”, which is an apt description as it seeks to harmonise and unify the workings of body, breath and mind. The practice of Yoga originated in ancient India several millennia ago (although there is no consensus on its chronology). In the mid 19th century it attracted the attention of a select group of spiritually inclined Europeans, but only came into the public eye in the West in the 1960’s. Yoga’s initial appeal to the youth culture was as a method of transcendental meditation and physical tonification, however it soon gained acceptance as a therapeutic tool for improving health and wellbeing.
    The three pillars of Yoga are meditation, breathing and exercise. The physical body is regarded as the vessel or primary instrument of personal evolution, and hence needs to be cared for diligently and with due respect. The aspiring yogi works towards self-mastery by cultivating the body, controlling the breath, and concentrating the mind via the process of meditation.
    There are hundreds of different schools of Yoga, with approaches ranging from the extremes of populist bendy-stretchy physical agility (e.g. Hatha and Iyengar) to esoteric navel-gazing (Raja yoga). Generally however, they are all intrinsically concerned with the promotion of peace-of-mind and physical well-being through a series of exercises aimed at: a) tonification of the internal organs; b) conditioning of tendons and sinews; c) stimulation of the body's vascular and lymphatic circulatory systems; d) regulation of the endocrine glands; and; e) harmonisation of breath and movement.
    When performed with due sensibility and sensitivity, yogic meditation, breathing and stretching routines make for an invaluable adjunct to physical conditioning and internal purification regimens.
    The benefits of traditional Yoga are well documented, however as an exercise modality it is limited in that it is incapable of promoting hypertrophy, effectively stimulating cardiopulmonary functioning, or burning fat. A further important consideration is that increasing RoM without strengthening and tonifying the muscles and ligaments responsible for stabilising the joints predisposes to sprains, strains and dislocation. Modern Yoga practices are largely based on Hatha yoga, but in recent times a range of more intense and physically challenging Yoga styles such as Ashtanga, Bikram and Yogalates have evolved. These variants seek to provide a more comprehensive workout and physical development system.
    Tai Chi Ch’uan
    T’ai Chi Ch’uan (TCC) has been slowly gaining popularity amongst Western physical therapists, health / wellness practitioners and health-conscious individuals as a low-intensity mode of exercise therapy.
    TCC has a documented history of some three centuries (although according to folklore it is considerably older), and its origins are partially attributable to a variety of military conditioning exercises that emulate animal movements. Until recent times TCC was primarily a martial art, however over the course of the last few decades, the form has been adapted as a therapeutic modality by modifying the movement patterns, tempo, performance intensity, and duration.
    Currently there are a handful of major TCC styles (or schools), each of which may be further subdivided into an array of movement sequences (katas), but what they all have in common are their martial art origins. Consequently, the movement bias is frontal and guarded (protecting the head and lower abdomen), whilst the legwork emphasises kicks, military stance, and combat oriented stepping patterns. As such, the movements and kinematics / kinetics have limited relevance to activities of daily living (ADLs), and furthermore are not particularly suited for functional movement retraining for people with disabilities.
    T’ai Chi translates from the Chinese as the “supreme ultimate”. As a form of dynamic meditation it has no equal, whilst in both the external arena of the martial arts as well as the internal realm of the healing arts it is superlative. However, TCC is far from comprehensive - irrespective of whether it is considered from the perspectives of therapy, spiritual development or martial arts - and in that respect fails to adequately address certain important aspects of training for health, strength, fitness, agility, and acuity.
    Accordingly, TCC requires adaptation and/or augmentation with supplementary exercises.
    It is reassuring to observe that the directions in which TCC have been channelled over recent decades is being questioned. In the West, the new abbreviated kata forms have turned a powerful therapeutic-cum-transformational tool into a pleasant recreational activity with limited application or relevance to the biomechanics of daily living. The original TCC “ultimate fist" katas have been reduced to insubstantial “flower-fist” forms that may be best described as low-intensity callisthenics or dance forms that ultimately are more soporific than therapeutic.
    Meanwhile, on the other side of the great cultural divide, TCC has devolved into a competition event in which strict adherence to choreographed form is sacrosanct. What's more (in actuality, less), the doctrine of materialism that underpins both communist Chinese and Western medical science has been instrumental in removing life force, Qi, élan vital, prana, etc. from the biosciences. In other words, the concept of spirit has been dismissed as an irrelevant and inconvenient myth.
    A further consideration is that TCC is a complex movement form requiring many hours of concentrated instruction and practice for the practitioner to master, even at a basic level. Whilst the research literature attests to TCC’s effectiveness in dealing with a number of health issues, it fails to mention the steep learning curve associated with it.
    Part of the challenge with TCC is that the health gains attributed to it depend on the individual correctly performing the movement sequence—that is to say, s/he needs to not only be familiar with the choreography, but also to be comfortable in performing it, failing which the movements are executed in robotic, unnatural, and rigid form. In order to realise the benefits of TCC, the practitioner needs to be relaxed, fluid, focused, in balance, and natural.
    Where these considerations assume particular importance is in the area of program adherence. Many neophytes become discouraged by the rigor associated with learning TCC, and generally discontinue the practice feeling inadequate and confused, or dismiss TCC with a “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” attitude.
    There are TCC practitioners (and self-declared masters) who will doubtless take umbrage at my remarks and audacity in daring to alter something they may regard as ancient, established and sacred. My response to such is that the world we live in, our lifestyles, and medical science have all changed dramatically over the millennium since the legendary Chang San Feng first formulated TCC, and that TCC needs to adapt accordingly in order to maintain its relevance to modern times.
    Comparative Summary of TCC and Western Physical Conditioning Sciences
    TCC differs from Western physical conditioning sciences in a number of important respects as per:
    • TCC’s focus is more on wholistic, over-all tonification. In musculoskeletal terms, the benefits include tension relief, development of muscular endurance (particularly of the lower limbs), promoting elasticity of tendons and ligaments, and increasing RoM of the joints.
    • Gym style programs usually target specific muscles, muscle groups, and joints. In addition, there tends to be greater emphasis on muscular hypertrophy, cardiovascular conditioning, and upper body development than in the Oriental routines.
    • TCC schools essentially prescribe identical, group oriented, generic routines for all students, and as such their approach may be described as "one size fits all".
    • The gym facility, in contradistinction, lays more emphasis on personally tailored “solo” routines. The constituent exercises are generally individually prescribed on the basis of a client’s needs and preferences. Programs—in the case of the more responsible fitness organisations at least—are presaged by fairly comprehensive fitness, strength and agility evaluation tests in conjunction with a medical, lifestyle, and activity questionnaire.
    • TCC routines are generally performed in unvarying sequence (referred to as a kata), and at a uniform pace and intensity. Whilst the martial katas may employ a more dynamic cadence and extended RoM than the internally-focused, slow, therapy-oriented katas, the underlying training principles are essentially the same.
    • Gym-based workouts utilise programmed variability in exercise pace, intensity, frequency, and prescribed routines (periodisation and progression) to maximise physical fitness gains and rehabilitation outcomes. Variability has been clinically demonstrated to expedite the learning and retention of new motor skills—as such, it is an important feature of neuromotor re-training strategies.
    • Work conditioning is an aspect of Western ergonomic-training routines, wherein exercises are prescribed specifically to prevent work-related injuries arising from overuse, overload, and contraindicated or deleterious biomechanical practices.
    Towards an Integrative Grand Unified Therapy (GUT)
    It is widely acknowledged that the stresses and demands of modern lifestyles play a central role in the evolution of complex and debilitating (or even deadly) health issues. Mindful of such, the medical profession and the media exhort people to reduce their stress levels, improve their diets and lead more active lifestyles. Unfortunately, merely proffering advice, regardless of how well informed it may be, has made little difference in alleviating the situation; likewise, interventions to contain or reverse this trend have been largely unsuccessful.
    Addressing this scenario requires a very different approach to management and prevention - one that goes beyond the provision of therapy. Such an approach would of necessity involve educating, training and motivating people to effectively change their health behaviour, thereby empowering them towards proactive self-management.
    Anything less than this shifts the locus of control for health back to the government and the health authorities, and this status quo has proved to be an untenable situation. Ultimately, the individual is (or needs to be) mindful of and largely responsible for the management of his/her own health.
    An action plan to successfully deal with chronic health issues entails a program that incorporates modules for physical fitness and conditioning, mindfulness, stress reduction / management, health awareness, home and workplace ergonomics, and nutrition.
    The focus of the following section of this paper is a discussion about the proposed exercise component of an effective chronic disease management / prevention (CDM) program. As previously mentioned herein, it is universally acknowledged that physical exercise plays a vital role in managing and preventing many chronic health issues, and that every exercise system has therapeutic merit as well as limitations.
    As it stands, the range of exercise routines utilised in Western clinics and fitness centres for physical conditioning is somewhat limited, being largely biased towards traditional gym-style exercises for rehabilitation, viz., hypertrophy, stretching, and aerobic routines. These are eminently useful for addressing musculoskeletal disability, particularly at a sub-acute stage, however their utility is limited in regard to resolving chronic and/or complex conditions.
    Accordingly, there is a need for a more comprehensive and forward-looking approach to exercise prescription. The challenge is to devise an exercise regimen that ideally satisfies a number of criteria, viz.: relieves symptoms; addresses underlying impairments; inhibits regression and recurrence; prevents initial onset; restores functionality (physical and cognitive); requires minimal supervision and resources; and is safe in regard to injury potential.
    A further consideration is that modern lifestyles leave us with little time or energy for fitness activities, hence routines need to be sparing, efficient and relevant to ADLs.
    Finally, and very importantly, regardless of how good any program or modality may be, its effectiveness will be compromised by a lack of participant compliance. This issue of program concordance is a major stumbling block for many therapeutic regimens - to be effective, a program needs to be personally engaging, appropriately challenging, safe, rewarding and fun, failing which, motivation flags and the health goals are not attained.
    With all these considerations in mind, I have spent forty-five years investigating and trialling numerous rehabilitation, disease prevention and fitness-conditioning methods, both Eastern and Western, mainstream and alternative. Drawing on these, I have developed an innovative and eclectic exercise modality, Kinergetix Movement Therapies (KMT). I have extensively employed KMT in clinic over a seventeen-year period, during which time KMT has been productive of significant and enduring outcomes in the management of a broad range of chronic issues.
    Kinergetix Movement Therapy (KMT)
    KMT embodies a wholistic approach to therapy, integrating clinically validated exercises compounded from Western exercise, human movement and fitness conditioning sciences with Eastern mind-body therapies and martial arts.
    However, KMT is not merely a patchwork of discrete routines garnered from these various sources—rather, it has evolved from the consideration, analysis and deconstruction of the associated approaches together with their constituent elements from the perspectives of biomechanics, bioenergetics, ergonomics, life-style considerations, and user-friendliness. On the basis of these, routines have been evolved that are pertinent to modern lifestyles and compatible with the individual’s ADLs, recreational pursuits, and vocational demands.
    KMT workouts are generally performed at low to moderate intensity, synchronously with breathing exercises. The sessions are supplemented with compact, high-intensity training (HIT) routines adapted from military style, body-weight resistance drills and aerobic conditioning exercises. Breathing routines are essentially based on diaphragmatic breathing techniques; however this component extends beyond traditional physiotherapeutic “deep breathing” exercises, and incorporates advanced mind-body-breath training. Notably, routines may be performed at home or work, and require neither training aids nor specialised equipment.
    In addition to prescribed solo exercises, interactive partnership routines are utilised—these have their origin in Oriental Tuishou training drills that I have modified to incorporate passive- and active-assist / resist techniques, and which are based (in part) on proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) principles. These partnership routines are performed as a direct contact sport, and/or with the aid of cords, inflatable balls, staves, surgical tubing, and body weight. The social interaction afforded by these one-on-one routines has proved to be highly conducive to program participation and adherence. Moreover, group sessions encourage mutual co-operation as well as friendly competition.
    Simply stated—because sessions are fun, challenging but safe, and personally gratifying, KMT participants are motivated to put in the time and effort.
    KMT Objectives and Benefits
    KMT programs are comprised of exercise routines designed to:
    • Create a solid foundation for physical activity by building lower-body strength, endurance and sure-footedness.
    • Improve functional capacity and motor skills performance.
    • Develop lumbopelvic core stability, a supple waist and firm back.
    • Improve upper body mobility, shoulder-girdle stability, and scapulo-humeral rhythm.
    • Enhance balance, flexibility, agility and coordination.
    • Stimulate circulation—systemic, peripheral, lymphatic, synovial, and cerebrospinal.
    • Correct postural deficits and pathologic or dysfunctional movement patterns.
    • Increase vitality, boost libido and optimise metabolic processes.
    • Heighten proprioceptive and equilibrioceptive awareness.
    • Promote healthful homeostasis, self-healing and the regenerative processes.
    • Boost resilience and immune system functioning.
    • Reduce stress and increase wellbeing.
    • Cultivate mindfulness and acuity by developing the cognitive and sensory faculties; promoting clarity of mind; enhancing sensitivity and receptivity; and improving the ability to focus the attention and sustain concentration.
    Whilst including physical conditioning, rehabilitation, and disease/disability prevention strategies, KMT is in essence concerned with assisting clients with improving their quality-of-life, longevity prospects, health status, and independent living cum self-management skills.
    Methods
    KMT programs consist of weekly 90-minute group sessions staged over 4 or 12 weeks (depending on program). Each session comprises a 60-minute workout supplemented with a 30-minute presentation and discussion on relevant health topics including nutrition and diet, ergonomics (home and workplace), lifestyle issues, medication, herbal supplements, and risk-factor identification / reduction. Participants are encouraged to perform the exercises at home for a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
    KMT trials were staged over a twelve-year period with a total of 470 participants aged 18-86 years, median age 52. Program participation was prefaced by, and concluded with an interview, assessment of fitness and physical functionality, medical history review, and pathology reports. These factors along with client self-reports were used to evaluate outcomes.
    Results
    KMT was productive of significant and enduring outcomes in the management of a broad range of chronic issues. These included arthritis, back/neck pain, balance, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, diabetes, breast cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis, thyroiditis, respiratory disorders, and psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and self-efficacy. All participants reported and displayed improvements in mobility, ambulation and functional performance. No adverse events were reported.
    Of particular note, program adherence was exceptional with a remarkably low attrition rate, and furthermore the greater majority of participants were regular and consistent in their practice. Client satisfaction with KMT was such that 85% of participants re-enrolled in advanced courses and were regular attendees for two or more years.
    Conclusion
    KMT has demonstrated that it has substantial potential for delivering significant health benefits to the broad demographic at risk of, or afflicted with chronic health issues. Further considerations of cost-effectiveness of group sessions, outstanding compliance and program adherence of participants, safety of implementation, ease of learning, minimal requirement for specialised facilities or ancillary aids, and ease of scalability signify the importance of wider implementation and dissemination.
    A brief note about the author
    David Labuschagne has established companies in Europe (Ene d.o.o.) and Australia (Kinergetix P/L) specialising in programs for the management and prevention of chronic & aging-related health issues, physical rehabilitation, fitness promotion, cognitive enhancement, and ergonomic training.
    David is an accredited Exercise Physiologist who holds a Master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation.
    In addition to his work as a therapist, he has worked in the sphere of medical journalism and has conducted research in exercise physiology, biomechanics, bioenergetics, and ergonomics on behalf of tertiary and corporate institutions. His background includes active and extensive involvement in the modalities of Complementary and Alternative medicine over four decades, including some forty years as a teacher of Tai Chi / Qigong, and has studied with numerous masters of these arts from Australia, China, the USA and Europe.
    Acknowledgements
    I am indebted to those numerous TCC masters who have patiently instructed me in the intricacies of form and function, but most especially to Simon Lim, who has served as my esteemed mentor, guide and teacher over the years, and from whom I learned the sublime art of transcending form and internal alchemy.
    In addition, I am grateful to Prof. Steve Selig for his encouragement, supervision, support, and for the invaluable research opportunities he has provided in the realm of Exercise Physiology.
  • EYE OF THE CYCLONE
    When you're off-centre you're at the mercy of the storms that rage around you. When you’re centred you can harness those forces.
    You are the centre of the universe. (sorry Galileo, you were wrong.)
    Christ, Buddha and Lao Tzu declared that each of us has a "still-point” within. This point is a centre of calm and serenity comparable to the eye of a cyclone.
    Buddha perceived this eye as "emptiness" or "void", a sanctum within the cyclone of endless suffering and ephemeral manifestation.
    Christ articulated the eye as the "Kingdom of God" or the "quiet voice of the Spirit within", as a place of refuge and salvation.
    Lao Tzu described the centre as the source; as the point of origin and return for all beings.
    For these transcendent souls (and their followers) the way to enlightenment - to being cool, calm and collected - was to find that still-point, and then to become one with it through prayer, meditation, renunciation, or sacrifice.
    This centre point is in actuality a “void”. Lao Tzu describes it in the Dao de ching as follows: We put thirty spokes together to create a wheel; but it's the empty space in the centre that makes it useful. We shape clay to make a vessel; but it's the space within that makes it useful.
    Riding the whirlwind.
    Life is a dynamic process, one in which the only constant is change. At times, despite our best efforts to the contrary, the events and circumstances of our personal lives become tumultuous, plunging us into chaos, confusion or even despair.
    To avoid this - or at the very least to minimise the damage - many people work hard to shield themselves from the storm by building ever thicker walls, both physical and psychological. Failing that, they seek shelter from the storm by battening down their hatches and hiding in the basement. Let’s not forget that there’s always the option to buy an insurance policy - comprehensive of course - against fire, theft, misadventure, and even “Acts of God” (heaven forbid!).
    Frequently though, these bulwarks against the vagaries of fickle fate and fortune prove to be a house of straw. The only real protection from the whirlwind lies not in resisting the elemental forces, but by being fluid, responsive and adaptable; by residing in the eye of the cyclone.
  • PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
    The greatest challenge in most endeavours is usually taking the first step. And so the dance begins - all the rest is choreography.
    Which part of your body works hardest?
    No, you may think it’s your brain, but actually it’s those things on the other end of you - your feet - that cop the greatest abuse. Virtually all day, everyday they struggle to propel and shlep your body around (and if you’re overweight, the abuse is even greater). In the course of your day, on average, you will take several thousand steps, and in your lifetime you will walk around the world four times.
    Your pedal extremities consist of 26 bones and 33 joints. They also contain about a quarter of a million sweat glands (so now you know why your feet smell).
    The various muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons within the feet cannot function without an adequate supply of blood. In that regard, because the feet are the most distal part of the body from the heart, and to add insult to injury, because of the virtually constant pressure on them, their blood supply is compromised, which in turn reduces their ability to function and to heal in the event of injury.
    Structure and function
    The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.     
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Architects and engineers appreciate the role of the arch in supporting heavy loads. The same principles apply to the structure of the human body. The feet are the dynamic foundation on which the body is built, providing it with a firm but fluid footing on which to stand and propel itself. The foot has two major arches which are designed to withstand large loads and distribute the weight of the body (plus any extra load that you may be shouldering) over the feet. However, unlike a static arch, the arches of the foot are dynamic (i.e. they are flexible). As such, they are not only able to adjust to changing terrain and the continual changes in the disposition of the upper body, but they also enable locomotion by exerting powerful propulsive force.
    If these arches collapse, then your shock absorbers can’t work properly and the whole of the upper body is affected. This can have detrimental longterm consequences for the spine, contributing to back pain and disc herniation.
    Keep your feet on the ground, your eyes on the stars
    The moral of the story is that you should acknowledge and respect your feet (and even love them). After all, these over-loaded (how’s your weight and BMI by the way?), long-suffering and downtrodden appendages most probably have to also endure the ignominy of being squeezed into constrictive and unnatural footwear. And let’s not mention high-heels.
    So, stop for a moment, take the load off your feet, and take off your shoes and socks. Hey, stop reading – just do it!
    Like what you see? Probably not. The general attitude is “out of sight, out of mind”, so if you can’t see the problem it doesn’t exist.
    Aesthetics aside, what about their general utility: are your physical foundations strong, flexible and pain free? If not, then over time they can and will lead to accelerated wear and tear on the rest of the body.
    Your feet started out life as soft, flexible and beautiful, so what happened to them on their journey from the cradle to the grave? The load they’ve had to bear and the various demands placed on them by your daily activities take their inevitable toll. As such, your feet are subject to strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures. So, it’s no wonder that your arches have fallen, or that you have bunions, callouses or any one of the hundred or so problems that can afflict the feet.
    Injuries can result from external factors such as wearing the wrong types of shoes - they need to be comfortable, provide good traction, protect the foot, and support the ankle. As a further consideration, if you play sport, then you need to consider the track surface underfoot.
    Then there are the biomechanical factors at play, namely your technique. Muscles and ligaments may be weak, hypertonic or imbalanced, thereby leading to inefficient and overtaxing movement patterns; or to joint problems such as stiffness, hypermobility and instability.
    And let’s not forget the achilles tendon. In essence, this powerful tendon stores and releases elastic energy for walking, running and jumping. Problems with the Achilles are common and debilitating, and are often due to chronically tight calf muscles from over-training or too much running. Another common cause of this is high-heels. You may think they look sexy, but I assure you that being crippled and in pain is not sexy, and definitely not worth the price.
    Sprained ankles are the most common musculoskeletal injury treated by doctors. An unnatural twisting of the ankle joint can happen when the foot is planted awkwardly, when the ground is uneven, or when excessive force is applied to the joint. Ankle sprain prevention can be as simple as wearing the right shoes or as complicated as balance training exercises.
    But just because you’re experiencing issues such as pain or disability with your feet doesn’t mean that the cause is the foot itself. For example, if the knees or hips are not functioning properly, or the spine and posture are misaligned, then the feet are subject to abnormal loads and will suffer the consequences.
    Above and beyond problems within the foot itself, disorders of the foot can also be the root cause of symptoms elsewhere in the body, such as back problems. The feet are often indicators of disease - for instance, ailments like neural, metabolic and circulatory disorders tend to show the first symptoms at the feet.
    Dam bones, den bones
    The lyrics of the song “Dem bones, dem bones” are instructive - albeit in a humorous vein - about the interconnectivity of the feet and the rest of the body. In that regard, the wholistic therapy of
    Foot Reflexology is based on the observation that all of the internal organs as well as the musculoskeletal structures, are reflected in and have corresponding points in the foot. Acupuncture is based on a similar understanding. In other words, the feet are a microcosm of the body, so that the body can be tonified and treated via the points in the feet.
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    Viewing the body in electromagnetic terms, we are a complex bioelectric organism, and like any electric circuit, if the earth return line is broken or blocked, then the circuit becomes overloaded and will malfunction. In the body, those malfunctions manifest as disease and disability. From the perspective of Eastern medicine, the foot plays a vital role in the grounding process.
    Positive steps to foot care
    Walking is universally regarded as the best activity for health and fitness - running, on the other hand is not. The loads placed on the ball of the foot and the toes are very high, and can exceed four times that of your body weight. Compounding this is the series of shocks that are transmitted to the spine, so, if you’re experiencing back pain or disc issues, consider how the use of your feet is causing or compounding this.
    Soaking your feet in warm, salty water for ten minutes a day is very relaxing and tonifies the whole body.
    As a final thought, washing and massaging another person’s feet is powerful therapy. As written in the Bible - After Jesus finished washing the feet of his disciples, he said to them: "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
  • THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING
    If your time is worth saving, you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’, (Bob Dylan)
    The old ways aren’t working anymore; to persist with them is inviting disaster. Redoubling your efforts and driving yourself harder won’t improve matters - quite the contrary, that will only exacerbate problems and accelerate untimely disease and demise. It’s up to you. You have a choice - change or come to an untimely, untidy end. So, please wake up, because you, your family and the world desperately need you to be your best.
    Paradise lost
    We live in an age of unparalleled material wealth and luxury; a veritable garden of Eden. Concomitant with this abundance are the pressures of modern lifestyles, and these have given rise to accelerated decrepitude, low levels of personal fitness, a pandemic of chronic diseases and disabilities. and spiritual impoverishment. This scenario is creating widespread suffering and hardship, the crippling costs of which are having to be borne not only by those affected (and their families), but also by governments and the health system. Moreover, rapidly escalating health costs, decreasing productivity and an aging population are creating an untenable situation.
    Looking out the window or in the newspaper we observe the bulk of humanity in a state of internal discord and disease, and external disharmony with nature and at war with each other. The situation is critical, because individually and collectively we cannot keep going on in the same old ways without catastrophic consequences.
    So, who can we turn to for solutions to address the issues of health and wellbeing, on both the personal and social levels? The politicians, priests and academics not only tell us which questions are politically and ethically correct to ask, but also provide the acceptable answers.
    Rather than take responsibility for our own actions, behaviour, health, and spiritual evolution, we appoint intercessors and give them authority to secure our place in heaven as on earth. In giving up and trading our independence for security, we have surrendered the determination of our lives and destinies to the Welfare State and its intermediaries. Thereby we have shed our responsibilities and placed them on the shoulders of people or governments that are all too often inept, misinformed, misguided or corrupt, and who are only too keen to take control of your life.
    Empowering the authorities and experts to make decisions for us and act on our behalf would be understandable if doing such raised the quality of our lives … but it hasn’t.
    The health sciences too have lost their way. In declaring life to be nothing more than a chemical reaction, the medical profession has succumbed to the tyranny of the drug companies who promise quick fixes for complex and chronic health conditions, and who prescribe expensive chemicals to cure the ailments of body, mind and soul. The operation was declared to be successful (according to the published peer-reviewed data), unfortunately the patient was uncooperative and died. And by the way, if you think that role models are important, then have a good look at the Minister of Health (and any number of medical professionals).
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    The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new. (Socrates 470 BC - 399 BC)
    We live in a world where the ground keeps moving under our feet and where nothing seems to be permanent or certain. A world in which the things, values and relationships that we take for granted are in a state of constant flux, so much so that even reality seems to be relative, subjective and transient. But rest assured that you are not alone in navigating your way through this mirror maze of projections and illusions.
    Some of us attempt to deal with this shifting ephemeral reality by the stratagems of building ever thicker prison walls with which to shield ourselves from the outside world, or by endeavouring to tightly control our environment and the people within it. Or, when all else fails, one can resort to the simple but very effective act of denial or blaming someone else. In truth, change is the only constant. On the personal level, and one that affects every organism, the rule is adapt or die. To paraphrase Charles Darwin, only the fit survive.
    CHANGE or DIE: Change is difficult; not changing is fatal
    Before we can formulate a solution and make the necessary changes, we need to better understand the causes of this personal and global crisis. Probably the most significant issue is that we have lost touch with our own internal guidance system. This internal system functions like a GPS for the soul. The coordinates are set by our guiding principles, or in other words, our innate sense of right and wrong. When we ignore or fail to respect such intrinsic values, then we resort to the external imposition of law and order by the mechanisms of force, threat of punishment, or the promise of reward for good behaviour.
    To effectively deal with this crisis requires wide-spread measures to educate and motivate people about their health behaviour, and also to provide effective programs which will assist those in need with managing their disabilities and diseases. In order to address these concerns, I have developed, trialed and implemented a health conditioning program, Kinergetix Movement Therapy, which has proved to be both successful and cost-effective in dealing with a broad spectrum of disorders.
    You have probably spent the better part of your life digging the hole which you currently find yourself in. Thanks to technology, you can dig your hole deeper and quicker. Einstein said that we cannot solve a problem using the same paradigm we used to create that problem. So, in that case, whom can you turn to for help to put things right at home and in the world at large? When things fall apart and society unravels, whom will you blame for the predicament that is engulfing all of us? Or will you adopt the victim mentality, living off the state and other people’s efforts in a retarded state of perpetual infancy? These are not only vital questions, but ones that urgently require your attention.
    SO, WHAT"S THE FIX?
    Ok! Enough questions already – what about the answers? Well, there is no shortage of those! In fact, there is such a plethora of viewpoints about what is real or significant, which gods we should bow down to, and what makes the world go round, how can we possibly determine which weltanschauung or solution is true? Furthermore, what is true and applicable for one soul is not necessarily appropriate for another. Both the Bible and modern physics are right, even though contradictory: yes, you are the centre of the universe (but so is everybody else).
    Let’s assume that you possess the Universal grand-plan, i.e. a map that shows you where you are now; what your ultimate destination is (or should be); and what route to travel to get there. Congratulations! However, if your compass isn’t working properly, then your “reality map” is useless. Nobody can give you their GPS to help you ascertain where you’re at.
    What all this means is that your survival ultimately depends on your internal compass, inner sense, intuition, or whatever you wish to call it. Furthermore, this wisdom is innate – i.e. you were born with it. Unfortunately, we lose that clarity and become confused due to the distractions and demands of modern life. And to replace that innate understanding of right and wrong, we are processed and indoctrinated by an education system that evaluates worth primarily on the hard currency of facts, figures and finance.
    But you’re still waiting for me to give you the answer. OK, but you won’t like it. The answer to fixing not only your life, but the troubles of the world is … (drum roll) … you. It’s in your hands. However, first you have to put your own house in order. Until we as individuals are in harmony within ourselves, our efforts to inflict order, peace and harmony on the outside world is doomed to create further division and disruption.
    There are no short cuts in the path to regaining the state of natural grace. You cannot realistically expect to fix yourself and tidy your nest in 5 minutes when you have spent a lifetime in fouling it. However, with the right guidance and attitude, you can make significant positive changes in a few months.
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Kinergetix -- the best investment you can make in your health and wellbeing, both for now and the future.

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