Gongfu: Stretching the Legs

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Everyone should stretch and loosen the ligaments, tendons and muscles in a manner suitable to their particular style of martial arts, and in accordance with the current needs of their body (and mind).  There are multitudinous variations of stretching that differ in shape, form and execution.  For instance, many Daoist arts stretch with the mind – unfurling waves of awareness and relaxation through the entire body – that loosen the joints (and surrounding tissue) in the body through an act of will, originating in the mind.  Often these Daoist exercise are performed whilst in seated meditation, or whilst holding various static positions or stances – but tend to avoid the literal stretching of the limbs as found within certain aspects of Indian yoga (as preserved within the Chinese Shaolin tradition described). In fact, simply by standing in a relaxed manner, the entire musculature (and supportive tissue) can be profoundly relaxed. The other – much more common method of stretching – is that of mechanically stretching the limbs and torso through the holding of various exercises that relax unnecessary tension in the muscle fibre (and psychic fabric), and which generate a recuperative ‘torque’ in the muscle structures.  These exercises warm, loosen and strengthen the muscle fibre – which eventually allows a greater mobility in the joints.  A particular area that requires loosening are the legs, pelvic-girdle and lower back muscle-mass.  The method for loosening the legs lies not in the legs themselves, but rather in the muscle-mass of the lower back.  If the muscle-mass of the lower back retains unnecessary (or habitual) muscle tension, this tension spreads down through the pelvic-girdle and runs through the back of the legs.  This tension ‘stiffens’ the leg muscles and makes them very difficult to stretch or loosen.  To remedy this situation, spend time loosening the lower back muscles.  As soon as this tension is released, the leg muscles will relax and be rendered much more pliable.  Before doing this, however, focus the mind’s attention on the lower-back, and generate the idea of a definite course of action, that culminates in a clear objective.

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