INVIGORATE with FULL METAL YOGA: Part 2

Dynamic Dog Pose to Invigorate your Autumn

Following on from Part 1 of Full Metal Yoga, let’s see what “INVIGORATE” can really mean. Building strength & energy through the Metal meridians drives better elimination that, in turn, creates space for new vitality, ideas and possibilities.

VERY IMPORTANT: Some of this body work is quite demanding so please take it gently and work to your level.
You don’t need to work super hard to feel invigorated!

ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: In all these dynamic yoga exercises remember to use strong, structured breathing to support you as you activate & maintain your lower belly (core) strength**.
With each breath cycle:
> Inhale
> Contract up through the pelvic floor at peak inhalation,
> Hold that contraction and compress front to back as you exhale and expel all the air
> Allow your body to fully inhale – invigorate through the Lung, the Large Intestine and, from there, your whole system.

… use breathing to power your effort so that your effort is as easy as breathing

Pumping up the level

I have proposed “Starter” and “Challenging” variations for the two leg pump exercises where your lower back should be anchored to the mat (i.e. not be moving) with your core / lower belly strength. Feel your way through and only go into repetitions – and then leg-widening repetitions – when you feel confident that your core strength** is working for you.
Note also, all these dynamic yoga poses will build both strength and vitality. You can, however, vary your tempo to shift emphasis: move faster to invigorate & slower to strengthen.

“Strong Man” leg pumps to invigorate the Large Intestine for better elimination

  1. Start lying on your back, with the legs straight, feet strongly flexed (pulling back with the toes) and together
    Lengthen your neck and draw your chin in
    Take the arms directly out to the sides with a right-angle bend at the elbows bringing the hands to the level of the ears (thumbs tucked into firm fists)
  2. Focus throughout on the strengthening effort in the lower belly muscles and how that effort shifts slightly with the outward / inward movement of the legs
  3. Exhale > raise legs 15cm from floor
  4. Inhale > hold
  5. Exhale > lower legs to 5cm from floor
  6. Starter Version: simply go up and down with the legs – doing only as many repetitions as you feel confident about
  7. Challenging Version: widening feet slightly each time you raise/lower them, until your limit is reached, then bring them in slightly each time
  8. Exhale > lower the legs gently to the floor
  9. Recover with your knees drawn up towards your chest > rotate them in circles to release the lower back

Press & Pump for Lung Strength

This exercise is in two parts. The first is very accessible & the second more demanding – and more invigorating – but please remember to use your core strength** throughout both parts.

Part 1: Opening the wrists and upper chest – Preparation

  1. Start on all fours with your hands rotated (taking the fingers out & back so that they point towards your knees)
    Press down firmly with the whole palm – particularly the thumb & index.
  2. Exhale > pull back with the buttocks, keeping back flat: feel the wrists stretching open
    Be mindful to also stay open across the upper chest (where you had been tapping beforehand)
  3. Inhale > expand into your open chest and return to your start position
  4. Repeat over (x5 minimum)

Part 2: Power Breathing

Stronger lungs mean better breathing means greater vitality:
> focus strongly on the effort up the Lung meridian (from the thumb, up the arm & into the chest) and the opening across the front chest (maximum air-space = maximum invigoration).
> be aware also of the anchoring contractive movement in the lower abdomen
> use your breathing to power your action

  1. With your hands rotated “backwards” (as for Part 1) adopt a plank position (on your toes) OR a ½ plank (on your knees)
  2. Inhale deeply then establish your core contraction
  3. Exhale > lower your body plank – as best you can – to 5cm from floor
    Be careful to keep your upper chest open
  4. Inhale > expand into your open chest
  5. Exhale > press firmly into your hands (thumb & index) raise your body
  6. Repeat over (x5 to start)
  7. Recover in Child’s Pose

“Reverse Strong Man” leg pumps combining Large Intestine and Lung

Connecting the upper and lower heaters to invigorate the entire system:

  1. Start lying on your back, with the legs straight, feet to be hip width apart and strongly flexed (pulling back with the toes).
  2. Take the arms directly out to the sides with a right-angle bend at the elbows so that the forearms / hands point down the body bringing the hands to the level of the waist (thumbs tucked into firm fists)
  3. Lengthen the neck (so that the chin draws in slightly) and press the upper back towards the mat
  4. Triple Focus throughout:
    > Opening through the upper thoracic (Lung zone)
    > Compressive strength through the Lung meridian (stemming from the shoulder rotation)
    > Strengthening effort in the deepest lower belly muscles
  5. Exhale > raise legs 15cm from floor
  6. Inhale > hold
  7. Exhale > lower legs to 5cm from floor
  8. Starter Version: simply go up and down with the legs – doing only as many repetitions as you feel confident about
  9. Challenging Version: widening feet slightly each time you raise/lower them, until your limit is reached, then bring them in slightly each time.
  10. Exhale > lower the legs gently to the floor
  11. Recover with your knees drawn up towards your chest > rotate them in circles to release the lower back

Core Strengthening – a Complementary Move

This is an excellent complementary follow up to the leg pumps.
Focus on the eliminating & strengthening compression through the Large Intestine (meridian & organ).
Be aware, that it is the focused effort that is important (NOT actually “sitting up”).
Remember, to use breathing to power your core strength**
> invigorate to the maximum as you minimize your effort.

  1. Start lying on your back with knees bent up and feet close to the buttocks
  2. Drop the knees out to LHS (keep the knees & ankles together so that the R foot lifts from the mat)
  3. Place your R hand on the R hip and then press the L thumb firmly into the Large Intestine Point #4 (between the thumb & index)
  4. Inhale > expand fully into the lower back and the lower belly and relax the upper chest & shoulders
  5. Exhale > compress through the ascending colon (RHS of abdomen) to sit up – as best you can. Work to keep:
    > the upper chest/shoulders relaxed &
    >
    the knees & feet fixed in the base position
  6. Inhale > lower the torso
  7. Repeat over (x5 to start)
  8. Repeat steps 1 – 7 for the other side
    > Knees drop to the RHS, L hand on L hip, compress through the descending colon.
  9. Recover, lying on your back with your knees bent up and leaning in towards each other (feet hip width apart)
    > breathe softly and slowly into the lower abdomen
    > visualize the incoming air and the energy (KI) that it carries
    > exhale and retain the KI … watch it build and feel the glow as your entire system is invigorated

Up/Down – Dynamic Dog Pose

This is a powerful exercise that can be done quite slowly – to feel your way through it – but has greater impact if done relatively quickly and rhythmically. It is great for building vitality: strength and flexibility in the Lung meridian & upper body.

Focus:

  • Maintaining the core / Large Intestine contractive strength throughout
  • Energizing up the inside arm (thumb/index through to shoulder joint) and across the chest
  • Lengthening through the spine/neck – particularly the upper thoracic

Prep:

Start in a classic Downward Facing Dog Pose – almost as pictured (above) with hands & feet shoulder width apart, back (& neck) long, heels down to stretch the Zen Lung meridian in the legs
> Rotate the shoulders out & down to open the chest and the key Lung Points
> Press firmly into the whole of the underside surface of the hands – particularly the index/thumb triangle – (unlike the yogi pictured)

Invigorate:

  1. Inhale fully to expand the lower abdomen and lower back
    > at peak inhalation, contract up through the pelvic floor
    > retain this core contraction throughout the exercise to support and protect the spine
  2. Exhale > compress front to back through the lower abdomen as you lengthen the spine and take the buttocks a little higher
    > keep pressing down into the mat with hands and feet
  3. Inhale > drop your hips towards floor and – maintaining your hand-press into the mat to lift right through the spine / neck & rotate the shoulders back & down so that the chest opens further but the upper thoracic remains unconstrained. Look forward & slightly up in an Upward Facing Dog Pose
    > NOTES:
    >> keep the underside of your toes pressing into the mat and push out through the balls of the feet (unlike the yogi pictured below)
    >> check your pelvic floor contraction
  4. Exhale > compress through the abdomen & push up with hips/buttocks allowing spine (& neck) to lengthen diagonally down & in (keep arms firmly extended and the hands pressing into the mat)
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 (x5 to start)
Classic Upward-facing Dog pose

Once again, I suggest that – both before and after doing this dynamic yoga – you run yourself through Masunaga’s Zen Energy Exercise for Metal. I’m sure there will be a marked difference in how you feel.

Next up, let’s “Consolidate”: wrapping up the Metal meridians – Eliminate (LI) & Invigorate (LU) – to take us through the seasonal transition and look at some different moves that are more Winter-appropriate.

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