Lie, sit, stand, walk and run: “internal” in steps…

9 Aug

Generalizations and/or stereo types are ugly things, but often they have some truth to them! Western minds tend to want things categorized. The Chinese mind often seems syncretic. So, in theory, Buddhism and Daoism should be two separate, distinct traditions. Yet, in China, things are never so easily defined.

In Indian traditions, such as Yoga (but certainly NOT limited to “yoga”), you see “stillness” in essentially three stages; lying on the ground, sitting and standing. In Indian Yoga, it has been said that of the two most difficult Asana (positions) to master on is the corpse (lying on the floor).

“Savasana” or the corpse posture

The corpse position, to lie on the floor, appears so simple. It is an excellent example of how hard “stillness” is, how true stillness is probably impossible and probably not even what we really want. If you have done “Savasana” (usually at the end of a Yoga class) then you probably realized that you didn’t really stay perfectly still. Your body “settles,” readjusting which is probably an ideal thing for it to do. As long as you stay “in the moment” and focus on that settling, you should feel your entire body. You should learn awareness of the entire body.

In this asana, the object is to imitate a corpse. Once life has departed, the body remains still and no movements are possible. By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But – it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.
– The Illustrated Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar

It is often said that the Chinese dislike being on the ground. This is to suggest the plethora of standing practices and the relative scarcity of practices sitting and lying upon the ground. If we follow the initial suggestion that Chinese nature is to avoid being on the ground, we might wonder if those practices came from the “outside”, particularly from Buddhism that originated in India. Certainly, several versions of “18 Lo Han” exercises include lying, sitting and standing. Yet things often understood and labelled “Daoist” also have these exercises. The Chinese mind is syncretic, and the culture defies easy categorization.

By comparison the lying practices, there is certainly no shortage of moving practices. You might even argue that some “martial arts” such as Taiji Quan are no longer even martial arts anymore, but just moving internal practices? At this point, for this article, we mostly want to focus on two things; balance and perhaps sequence?

There certainly must be a balance; you must practice lying, sitting, standing (“stillness”) and moving. It does NOT appear any particular grouping or order is really necessary. Rather, in Daoist fashion, you must “feel” your way to the correct practice for yourself and that practice inevitably MUST change as you change.

Finally, there must be balances between “soft” and “hard”, or, in another consideration, their must be “flexibility” in these practices.

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