Continued from Hara and the Core Part 1
As I explained in Part one, all movements are done VERY slowly, without hurry or stress, starting from the core and with total attention to have the desired effect. These exercises to reinforce the core are isometric
An isometric exercise is a kind of static contraction of one or more muscles.
The word isometric combines the Greek word isos, which means equal, and metria, which means measure.
Isometric exercises are done by antagonistic muscles.
Antagonistic muscles are those muscles in the body that oppose each other, where one muscles functions as a ‘break’ for the other, to prevent the action of the other.
In this contraction the antagonistic or opposing muscles ‘work’ in equal measure: the length of the muscle and the particular angle of the joint that the muscle covers changes little or not at all, or gradually. This is because one muscle ‘breaks’ the action of its antagonist.
For example: the biceps of the arm, which bends (flexes) the arm, is the antagonist of the triceps of the arm, which stretches (extends) the arm, and vice versa. Or the biceps of the thigh, which bends (flexes) the leg, is the antagonist of the quadriceps, which stretches (extends) the leg. The glutei are the antagonists of the abdominal muscles, and vice versa.
The antagonist ‘breaks’ or blocks the movement of the muscle which is the opposite. This happens anyway. The elbow does not close suddenly and abruptly when the biceps is shortened, but closes with a certain control. That control comes from the triceps.
In the isometric exercises this control, this breaking of the movement of one muscle by another, is accentuated. The triceps ‘break’ the movement of the biceps in an exaggerated way, it seems it does not want that the biceps does its job. Here the biceps ‘wins’, even though with little margin.
You can, however, at any point in the exercise, make the two antagonists equal, that means that both ‘win’. As a consequence there is no movement whatsoever, only a strong contraction of the two antagonistic muscles, or of a single muscle.
Isometric exercises, in contrast to isotonic exercises where the muscles are in constant movement, is much more precise.
For this kind of work you need to do four things:
- Do the movements very slowly
- Do the movements on an exhalation
- Do the movements with peripheral vision
- Do the movements with total attention
As human beings we are part of the kingdom of the animals, in particular of the kingdom of the mammals. What is a mammal? It is that animal that gives live birth and gives milk to its young ( mammal means breast).
Within the group of the mammals you can distinguish two groups, those who eat meat: (the carnivores or predators) and those who eat grass (the grass eaters or prey animals). Between these two there is a third category, the monkeys and primates, who eat leaves and fruit, so they too are prey animals.
The human being belongs in the group of the primates (the chimpanzee is our nearest cousin)
But with the development of the brain we occupy a situation in the middle: our body is a prey animal (a famous phrase in English says: The Naked Ape), but our brain has turned into a predator due to lack of teeth, claws, hooves etc. The history of the human being is signed by blood and violence. The ancient Romans said: homo homini lupus est (the human being is a wolf for the human being)
That the body is a prey animal you can see from many things: We sweat (dogs do not sweat but put the tongue out to freshen up), we can cry (predators do not cry), we ‘suck’ liquids while predators lap the liquids up with the tongue, and so forth.
But, as we said before, our brain is a predator. This we can see from the history of human beings which is soaked in blood.
If we look at the eyes of a predator and at those of a prey animal, you can see that the predator has the eyes on the front of the face, (concentric), while the prey animals has them on the side of the face (peripheral).
The predator ‘chooses’ his prey, concentrates on the prey, while the prey animal has to see 360 degrees around to see where the predator is in order to be able to escape. There is a famous quote which I like very much:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
The human being, being ‘double’, both prey and predator, can look in two ways:
- With ‘concentric vision’ or the vision of the predator
- With ‘peripheral vision’ or the vision of the prey
Concentric vision ‘concentrates’, calculates, thinks, programs, uses the programming, thinking brain that can talk and is in contact with the physical body or the annamaya kosha, is in contact with the front of the body and can examine the body in pieces, (shoulders, knees etc).
Peripheral vision ‘feels’, is intuitive, in contact with the pranamaya kosha, in particular with the back side of the body, does not think, does not talk or make programs. It is instinctive. When the horse feels ‘threatened’ it runs away as fast as possible without analysing the situation, without thinking, programming. It just runs. The peripheral vision feels the pranamaya kosha, while the concentric vision sees the annamaya kosha.
We humans can see the world in both ways.
The eyes have an oval form, with an inner corner (close to the bridge of the nose) and an outer corner (towards the sides of the face).
With concentric vision the energy of looking goes through the inner corners of the eyes; the eyes are close to the bridge of the nose and concentrate, choosing, can see the body in separate pieces. A modern example is someone who works at the computer or cell phone.
With peripheral vision the energy of looking goes through the outer corners of the eyes, on the side of the face, with the feeling that they
widen. They do not choose, but ‘feel’ the subtle body or pranamaya kosha, the body is not divided in pieces to examine detail. There is no talking, and one feels the back side of the physical body. These are the type of eyes we can see on the Buddha statues and paintings, and on the ancient Egyptian statues and paintings, where the eyes are almond shaped towards the sides.
To learn the technique of an exercise you have to first use concentric vision: you need to learn all the ‘pieces’ of the exercise separately with the physical body or annamaya kosha.
When you have learned the details you need to make a quality jump. You need to use peripheralvision to feel t
From ‘Discussions with Epo-Na’
‘You can use your peripheral vision’, she said, ‘ to pick up the disturbances.’ ‘How’, I asked.
‘My eyes are on the side of my face and they look at the nothingness, and so whatever pops up is a disturbance in the nothingness I am looking at, therefore I notice it immediately. I notice everything, because my eyes have a panoramic view of the world, and the field of the world is the nothingness. Therefore any new element that comes into this nothingness, is noticed by my panoramic eyes. Just try it.
It was amazing. I saw everything, and at the same time nothing, and then a fly flew right by, and made a little trail in the nothingness that my retina immediately picked up.
‘Did you get it’, she asked.
‘Yes’, I said.
She laughed, pushed me over backwards and galloped away,
From ‘Discussions with Epo-Na’
‘You can do the same thing with your ears’, she said.
‘Human animals got it all backward. You listen to noises.’
‘Of course we do’, I said, ‘don’t you?
‘No, we listen to silence.’
I was puzzled. ‘How can you listen to silence?’, I asked.
‘If you listen to a noise,’ Epo-Na said, ‘all the other noises disappear in the background and you just have a lot of confusion. On the other hand, if you listen to silence, than any noise from any direction is picked up immediately by your ears, because it disturbs silence’.
Silence is like a still lake, and noises are like pebbles being thrown into the lake. If you look at one pebble, then you don’t see all the others. But if, on the other hand, you look at the lake, you see all the pebbles at once. Because they disturb the lake, they make ripples.’
We walked along in silence. And suddenly I understood. As I was listening to silence, I could hear a skylark singing somewhere up in the air, and then the faint sound of the waves washing onto the shore, and between one sound and the other there was silence, deep and unfathomable. The sounds were only pebbles on the lake of silence, and they had no life of their own. They were just disturbances.
I also understood that it is up to each individual to label any sound nice or not nice, but this labelling is entirely arbitrary. A sound, whether beautiful or ugly, is after all, just a disturbance of the unfathomable silence, a ripple on the lake.