Weightlessness

Overview

As a child, author Ray Rizzo suffered a head injury that left him with severe headaches and occasional visionary states. At seventeen, he began to study yoga and to practice fasting, meditation, and shamanism, which alleviated his chronic symptoms. In his own recovery, he discovered an ability to assist others in their healing processes-a quest that would culminate in a traditional shamanic apprenticeship deep in the Amazon jungle. There, after nearly a month of isolation and using more than ten years of ...

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Overview

As a child, author Ray Rizzo suffered a head injury that left him with severe headaches and occasional visionary states. At seventeen, he began to study yoga and to practice fasting, meditation, and shamanism, which alleviated his chronic symptoms. In his own recovery, he discovered an ability to assist others in their healing processes-a quest that would culminate in a traditional shamanic apprenticeship deep in the Amazon jungle. There, after nearly a month of isolation and using more than ten years of experience in the healing arts, he developed his unique synthesis.

The style is no style.

The goal is to practice

what is most efficient and effective.

Weightlessness includes guidance on a number of techniques and topics, including

the Sun Salute;

the Swimming Dragon;

hatha yoga;

essential Pilates;

secret chi kung forms;

therapeutic exercises;

optimal nutrition;

breathing;

metaphysics.

Whether you are an athlete, yoga practitioner, dancer, or martial artist-or even if you are new to movement-this guide can help you, in as little as fifteen minutes a day, to transform your body-mind, deepen your practice, increase energy, overcome injuries, and discover the feeling of Weightlessness.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781462041633
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/11/2012
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Weightlessness

Integrated Exercise: Yoga, Pilates, and Chi Kung
By Ray Rizzo

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Ray Rizzo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-4163-3


Chapter One

The Weightless Zone

After you read the following paragraph, please take a moment to stand up. Now feel the weight on your two feet. Do you lean more to one side? What about your hips and pelvis? Is your back relaxed? Your shoulders? Your neck? What if you close your eyes and rock forward and back slightly. Imagine that gravity is a hand pushing down on your head. What happens?

If you are aligned, that hand will push directly through you and down to the earth, but when you are out of alignment, it begins to throw the body out of whack. Maybe it pushes the head forward like a hunchback? Or makes the neck bend? Now try to find the point where you are just in balance, where you feel perfectly centered, as if you're not falling forward or back. Imagine you are a scale; seek the zero point.

This is the weightless zone. And it has little to do with gaining or losing a few pounds. It is about the experience of being. About opening the spiritual heart. When you move from this center—which I will also refer to as the circle of ease—all movements will be graceful. Why? Because you are removing the friction and drag from the body. Essentially, you are learning to float. To be in the moment with presence and awareness. This is what it means to be in center.

This chapter will outline some of the universal myths and symbols that relate to the concept of centering. But first, let's take a moment to review the human form.

ANATOMY OF BEING

After birth, we are equipped with locomotion, digestion, elimination, and basic kinesthetic awareness. That's the start-up package. The other software has to be downloaded. When it comes to learning the language of the body, the basics can be learned in a few sessions, but you can spend a lifetime mastering the subtleties.

The purpose of this chapter is not to teach the specifics of anatomy and physiology. It is more important that you understand on a deeper level simply how to move with ease. The world offers a wealth of information on muscles, bones, Latin names, and exact functions. What we are focused on is how to free the body and awaken internal energy. Understanding this comes naturally when you begin to observe your way of interacting with space. The trick is to engage with your body's intelligence and process what it tells you—listen to your joints. In other words, explore, understand, and feel.

Many of us have problems with slouching, atrophy, and asymmetry. We have muscle groups that overwork and those that underwork. Coming to alignment—or centering—means that you start really paying attention. From this awareness, you can begin to intelligently distribute your energy. How do you know when you're off-center? Perhaps there will be pain or discomfort; joints may click and pop. When this happens, stop! Return to the weightless zone and start to move again, slowly and carefully, until you find the circle of ease.

It helps to find a guru or teacher—guidance speeds things up in any learning process—but the most important thing is that you learn to listen to your body, to become sensitive and able to discriminate between the real and the false intuitions. Whether you have a teacher or not, the most important voice to listen to is within. As you reconnect with your body, you must be aware of all habitual movement. For example, how are you sitting right now? The challenge is to develop new patterns and bring mindfulness to each action. Beginning with the spine ...

CHI AND THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM

At the center of it all is the vertebral column, housing the brain and central nervous system. The spine consists of roughly thirty-three vertebrae and is broken down into five regions: the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and lumbar (lower back) regions, plus the sacrum (pelvic region) and coccyx (base of the spine or tailbone).

Additionally, there is the cranium or skull. The hard skull and thick bones of the vertebrae are all designed to protect the brain and spinal cord, which acts as the go-between from the senses to the cerebral cortex. The keystone of the skull, near the top of the spinal column, is a hang-glider shaped bone called the sphenoid, and the pituitary gland sits right in the center of it, like a pilot. The pituitary gland is responsible for the regulation of the rest of the hormonal (endocrine) system. Behind the pituitary sits the pineal gland, which many see as the seat of visualization. To the ancient yogis and seers, optimal health was not the end goal, but just the means to enhanced spiritual awareness and, ultimately, to the attainment of a state of union (with self or God or all of creation). By activating this visionary mechanism of the human brain, the obstacles to full realization of the energy of the universe could be removed. Physical optimization is one way of activating this gland.

Many cultures have believed there is a force that animates us and electrifies the brain and central nervous system; they have sought techniques such as breathing, exercise, and meditation to awaken this force and have it rise up our spines, to purify and strengthen the body so that it can express our inner intelligence and create a feeling of expansion. In many traditions, we see this represented as the second birth, the awakening of internal energy, the cultivation of a conscious human from the automaton (from Homo sapiens to Homo spiritus), and so on. Beyond health, this is the common goal of yoga, Pilates, and chi kung.

Central to all three disciplines is the concept of ITLχITL, or in the Indian tradition, prana. These are two different names for what is essentially the same concept, usually translated as life force energy. If you are adverse to "spiritual terms," then you can think of it as bioelectricity, or the body's electromagnetic field. Basically, we are alive, and then we're dead. Something left? That something is chi.

Though chi is currently difficult to prove or measure, science has been able to identify the electrical transmissions across synapses in our nerves. The rest of the body, including the bones, muscles, respiratory, digestive and circulatory systems are basically just the casing for the central nervous system or neurovegetative entity, which communicates along pathways or meridians.

While the Indian tradition often considers chi or prana to be coiled in the base of the spine, the ancient Taoists believed it was concentrated in the core. In martial arts, this is known as the dan tien, hara, or inner sea. All things radiate from the center out. The strength of the strongest limb is nothing compared to the core. When energy comes from the core, it integrates multiple body and mind zones. This is the difference between strength and power.

Anatomically, a strong core is made up of a "woven" abdomen. We'll call this the snake belt. It is a combination of the iliopsoas muscles, the quadratus lumborum, and the abdominals. The superficial muscles (the six-pack) work together with the muscles on the side and the back to form a postural base—like the four walls of a foundation. This group of muscles is designed to harness the energy of the spine, the central intelligence. And also to hold us up. From there, it branches out to the hips, the shoulders, the arms, the legs, the feet, and the hands. Sound familiar?

Our bodies are organized in symmetry. The limbs are the same on either side, so really, if you understand one, you understand the other, and this provides valuable information. The shoulder girdle (rotator cuff) distributes the energy from the core to the arms. The hip cuff distributes the energy from the core to the legs. The neck flexes forward and laterally, rotates and extends. As you begin to practice, attempt to make the two sides even, generate chi from the core and the spine, position the limbs with the shoulders and hips, and deliver intention through the hands and feet.

The postures and movements are like an electric tuner that gives us information about the state of the human. That's why it is so important to seek maximal efficiency. Archimedes said, "If you give me a lever and a place to stand, I can move the world." Likewise, when we use the right muscles at the right times, our bodies become much more efficient, with far less effort and strain, freeing us up to move the world within.

Traditional yoga and chi kung take the position that anatomy and physiology are informed by our state of mind and our awareness. The process of integration is the process of consciously creating the body, regulating the mind, and finding a state of ease. At the top of the pyramid all sides come together; at the pinnacle of awareness, the body is kept in perfect form.

THE CHAKRA SYSTEM

The ancient rishis (yogic seers) conceptualized the human energy field in terms of two currents and the human being as the magnetic conductor between the cosmos and the earth. When we are fully aligned, we are a conduit, not a shelf. The subjective experience of gravity shifts, leaving us with a feeling of buoyancy; the skin, bones, and organs stay healthy and energized.

Energetically, the spine can be thought of as two interwoven serpents, or a double helix. One current of energy rises up, the other descends. In classical Indian philosophy, this energy is known as kundalini, or the serpent of the spine. This energy is the currency, the electricity, and the force of moving intelligence.

The S-curve of our spines can also be understood as a conduit for the magnetic and electrical energies of the universe. When these two are balanced, there is harmony. If one of the waves is out of balance, it creates dissonance; this is where weight and tension accumulate.

According to this philosophy, the ascending and descending currents enter the body through the nostrils and intersect seven times (some say eight, including one that is outside the body). Each locus, or point, is called a chakra (wheel).

The first chakra (Muladhara) is at the root of the body, between the groin and the anus. This is vital to survival. It relates to our simple essentials—food and shelter. The second chakra (Swadhisthana) is just below the navel and represents sexuality, specifically procreation. The third chakra (Manipura) is located below the diaphragm and is tied to will, activity, and competition.

Man has the first three chakras in common with the rest of the animal world—survival, sex, and hierarchy. The fourth chakra (Anahata), which relates to compassion, is where it becomes interesting. Animals feel fear, love, and other emotions, but arguably none has this truly human quality of compassion, which means "to suffer with." If you transpose a cross over the chakra diagram, it intersects at the fourth chakra—what is known in many traditions as the spiritual heart. Mythically, the virgin birth in Christian tradition can be thought of as the awakening of what is truly human out of the animal. This is because our animal-self gives birth to the higher self or divine being; the act of lifting the spine against the hand of time is an immaculate conception, a metaphor for resurrection. In this brutal world, the act of self-actualization and transcendence is a lightning bolt of beauty that can add personal meaning to an otherwise hostile existence. It all hinges at the fourth chakra. From there, the two currents can unite heaven and earth.

The fifth chakra (Vishuddha) relates to communication and belongs to the realm of art and poetry; it is found in the throat area. The sixth chakra (Ajna) relates to the third eye, and represents vision, reason, and inspiration. The seventh (Sahasrara), at the crown of the head, opens to the cosmos and connects us to the infinite wisdom of the universe.

Each chakra relates to emotions, colors, organs, glands, and planets. The more we stand upright and unlock the power of the spine, the more we float through life, and the less the hand of gravity pushes us down. When aligned correctly, the two currents of energy can connect with each other, plugging us in to the energy of the universe. Ultimately, the chakras are not just "spiritual centers," but tools in helping us to understand the different motivations in the human being. The upper chakras are dependent on the lower ones to function. While some of the ancients insisted on an extremely austere lifestyle—minimizing the pull of the lower chakras—the point of view of Weightlessness is not to exclude the lower chakras in order to become only spiritual, but rather to align and tune the entire being in order to become fully human.

ALCHEMY AND ASTROLOGY

In our own Western tradition, the ancient seers spent endless hours observing the stars. Astrology was once an essential part of interpreting the significance of events. Man had his place within the universe. He wasn't separate from it, and it wasn't something he could control. The trick was to find a way of submitting to and aligning with the energy of the universe. Music, poetry, and the healing arts sought to reflect and emulate this mystery. As above, so below. The ancients believed that if you were silent and conscious enough you could hear the sounds that were emitted from the seven visible orbs (planets), and these sounds—the music of the spheres—became the basis for the seven octaves. There are seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, roughly the same in the sacrum (which means sacred). When the musculoskeletal system is properly tuned—capable of holding the subtle rhythms of tension and relaxation that bring about a quality of grace—it literally resonates with the music of the spheres, bringing about radiant health, improved mental clarity and even psychic abilities. When this occurs, a human can know his purpose, if nothing else, as an instrument in the terrific and fascinating orchestra of the cosmos.

THE WINGED SPINE

Many cultures have used a tree-of-life motif to represent our innate intelligence. It can be found in certain Kabalistic (Hebrew mysticism) diagrams as well as in Egypt, Greece, Africa, and the Near East. The caduceus and Asclepius's staff have even been adopted as the symbols of Western medicine, as a kind of fusion between the tree of life and the double helix. The caduceus, or staff of Hermes, is depicted as two snakes wrapping themselves around a staff. Four sevenths of the way up—at the crux of the cross and the compassion center—these snakes sprout wings. It is a paradox, a flying serpent. The bridge between heaven and earth. Why would the East and the West both choose the serpents as the symbol of medicine?

Throughout mythology, the serpent is a symbol of immortality. The serpent possesses the ability to shed skins, which to primitive man was the same as being reborn. These symbols far predate our understanding of the genetic code and the structure of DNA, but perhaps this discovery was anticipated. Both DNA and the two interwoven serpents share the same structural identity. Is this merely a coincidence? Or does it relate to the structure and power of the human central intelligence system?

These symbols were originally associated with Hermes, and later with medieval alchemists. But the alchemists weren't just looking to turn lead into gold. In reality, they were attempting to turn the base, innate behaviors in man—the lusting, craving animal—into the spiritually ascended being. Indeed, if you consider what separates us from all the other animals on the planet, it is the fact that we stand upright—hence the name of one of our hominid ancestors, Homo erectus—and therefore we have the capacity to unite the ascending and descending currents. The plumed, or winged, serpent is a universal symbol of the alchemized being. When you connect to the energy of your spine, and learn to push the hand of gravity, it is as if the snake (spinal column) sprouts wings, allowing the base elements of the human being to soar to transcendent heights. And it simultaneously charges the organism with subtle energy.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Weightlessness by Ray Rizzo Copyright © 2011 by Ray Rizzo. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments....................X
Preface....................XI
Introduction....................13
1. The Weightless Zone....................22
2. The Breath....................32
3. The Basic Warm Up....................40
4. The Eight Brocades....................64
5. The Sun Salute....................78
6. The Swimming Dragon....................90
7. Postures of Rest and Rejuvenation: Healing the System....................111
8. Nutrition....................132
9. Advanced Integral Yoga....................140
10. Pilates Style Exercises....................164
11. Mixed Martial Arts....................194
12. Self-Observation....................227
Afterword: Shamanic Yoga....................231
Illustrations/References....................240
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