Two Physical Exercises for Flexibility and Strength with Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual Benefits

Since I stumbled upon The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx and Stretching by Bob Anderson when I was still a freshman in the university, I've been running and stretching regularly on weekdays with a couple of intermittent breaks. Just as my running was fundamentally changed by ChiRunning several years ago, I feel my stretching is being revolutionized by "resistance stretching" called Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training, which I found this week while looking for more ways to integrate body, heart, mind, and spirit into my life and have already started trying by consulting The Genius of Stretching by Bob Cooley.

What has totally taken me by surprise is the first of the seven principles of resistance stretching he has found through his experience with himself and others who asked for his help - "You need to contract and lengthen your muscles while stretching" or "True flexibility occurs only when a muscle can contract maximally throughout its entire stretch length." Until I read this eye-opening book, I was very careful not to avoid any resistance of the body parts I was stretching. It's still early to see the physical benefits of this method.

Even more astounding is the author's explanations that resistance stretching has also emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits as the sixteen different stretches he has devised are connected to sixteen muscle groups, sixteen energy meridians, and sixteen personalities, which are grouped into physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual groups. I don't understand yet how this resistance stretching, but not non-resistance stretching, can benefit not only our body but also our emotion, mind, and even spirit, but here again I'm ready to continue trying it.

This chance encounter has rekindled my interest in yoga, which is actually the first physical exercise I've practiced regularly in my life. When I was still a junior high school student, I stumbled upon a textbook of what came to be known later as Oki Yoga. I was so fascinated by not only the physical benefits of what I started to practice daily by myself but also its integral approach to life to encompass emotion, mind, and spirit as well.

Actually, I resumed my yoga practice several years ago by attending a course in a derivative of the so-called Iyengar Yoga for two years, but for some purely technical reason I had to stop attending it. In retrospect I can tell now that after I stopped practicing yoga, I started to become emotionally less stable. Last summer right after our wedding my wife and I took a trial lesson in the authentic Iyengar Yoga at Iyengar Yoga Jerusalem, hoping to attend their course for beginners in this academic year. Unfortunately, we had to give up this idea, but we are planning to participate in such a course in the next academic year. In the meanwhile we are practicing this yoga, if not daily, using what I consider the best textbook of Iyengar Yoga written by its initiator himself - Iyengar Yoga.

I can understand better and even more intuitively how yoga can contribute to our emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being than how resistance stretching can. I'm also wondering what are the most fundamental differences between Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training and Iyengar Yoga, both of which are supposed to benefit not only our body but also our heart, mind, and spirit, and improve both our flexibility and strength.

PS: I also practice regularly the so-called bodyweight strength training for my strengh as well as ChiRunning and Total Immersion Swimming for my endurance.