Follow these rules, as best you can, to make sure that your daily practice is safe, sane, rewarding and rejuvenating. Hopefully, some of this spills over into how you live the rest of your life!
1. You become what you practice.
My teacher’s teacher, Liu Hung Chieh, would always remind him how deeply what you practice shapes who you are. In Western neurophysiology, we are seeing more and more how the brain and the nervous system change through training. Just to be safe, assume this rule applies on all levels.
2. Never move into pain.
If you always practice until it hurts, you’re going to get really good at being hurt. A true movement art will also teach you what to look for to avoid injury, burnout, and strain in the first place. Learn to respect the small signs along the road to pain.
3. Seek stillness in movement and movement in stillness.
Any movement practice designed to make you more aware of your body, mind, and spirit will have this little gem embedded into it. When you find “stillness inside movement”, you look effortless, graceful, and connect on the outside. When you find “movement inside stillness”, you’ve entered a stage where you are actively training your mind and spirit above and beyond your physical training.
4. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
This one is from a poem by Max Ehrmann and it captures a central practice idea. If you want the results of your practice to grow beyond the effort you exert in practice, you have to rest and integrate what you’ve worked on. You have to create a separation between work and rest. Appreciate the contrast between the discipline of your practice and the gentle way you can let it all go. These opposites feed each other, so let them.
5. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.
All healthy movement, the kind that develops the energy of the mind and body, syncs up with one or more natural rhythms. Not only does each movement pattern have a rhythm, but your practice itself should fit into the rhythm of your day and over the course of the year, your practice should fit the rhythm of the seasons.