The Truth About Building Strength (PART 6)

Posted on 18. Aug, 2011 by in Injuries / Rehab, Mental Strength & Life, Motivation, Muscle Mass, Physiology, Strength & Power

The Truth About Building Strength (PART 6)

The next plexus we come to as we move up the spine in this series is the cardiac plexus, or the heart chakra.  This is a significant area as it marks a change in the body’s energy and how it relates to us.  The lower chakras are grounded in the earth and therefore deal with the self.  They relate to us in terms of our stability, our sexuality, and our ego or sense of personal power.  The higher chakras deal with spirit and are therefore more ethereal.  The heart chakra in particular deals with love and relationships.  In its full, healthy expression this is the selfless love of giving, not out of a sense of pity or obligation, but from the recognition of our spiritual oneness and connection.

I can understand if this starts to sound all “woo-woo” and can see that I may start to lose some of you at this point.  This is by no means your typical, mainstream fitness advice.  However, in my experience, it is quite valid and if you’re committed to truly becoming the strongest version of yourself I invite you to remain open.  I’ve said this a million times, but it can’t be understated the outward physicality of a person is determined by inner strength.  By only working the outer aspects you can only progress so far.  Treating the yourself as an integrated whole, recognizing that mind, body and spirit are all one unit, allows for growth that any one aspect by itself cannot attain.

Physically the cardiac plexus controls the heart and lungs, therefore circulation and breathing, and the muscles of the chest and upper back.  As strength athletes most of us are very familiar with this area.  We train it catabolically with pushups, bench presses and a mad variety of rows, shrugs and other upper back exercises.  We also train this area when we challenge our cardiovascular system with high intensity interval training (HIIT) or any other exercise that really gets our hearts pounding and leaves us huffing and puffing.

Anabolically we activate this area whenever we try and open our chests.  Many of us have read and heard that we tend to have chronically over developed pecs and that we tend to develop kyphotic postures due to the tightness of our chest muscles which cause a rounding of our backs and shoulders.  We’ve started doing stretches for pec major and minor and other stretches to facilitate thoracic extension to improve our posture.  These are forms of anabolic work.  Other methods are a lot less physical but no less important.  One very important method is the practice of compassion.

I know, I can hear you, “Elliott, how does practicing compassion build my bench?  How does being ‘nice’ have anything to do with becoming ‘lean and mean?’”  In earlier installments I pointed out how posture is related to feeling.  As an example, the bold, upright stance of the archetypal hero is representative of his inner confidence and sense of power.  The hunched back and sunken chest and craven look of his nemesis, the villain, is a reflection of the villain’s self loathing and lack of personal power, things he seeks to soothe and replace through his evil doing.

A lack of compassion, for yourself and for others, results in a tight chest.  Your body is literally trying to surround your weakness and protect it.  Tight muscles don’t function well and that robs your bench of its power.  Compassion leads to understanding, it helps us open up and recognize our connection to the world and those around us.  Understanding that we are the same helps eliminate fear.  Fear is the opposite of love and the absence of fear allows for the full expression of love.  Strong power in this area is seen in the ability to offer unconditional love and to offer forgiveness, both for yourself and for others.  These attributes help pave the way for a powerful mid-back and chest.  It’s also important to note that these changes can move both ways.  Read the interviews and personal stories of strength athletes and you’ll be struck time and again by their compassionate natures and their sense of community and desire to support others.  Coincidence?

Weakness in the heart area is expressed, as you would expect, in cardiovascular issues like heart disease, asthma and high blood pressure.  Incidentally, this community also contains a lot of fear.  Heart and lung issues are serious life threatening issues and mortality and fear go hand in hand.  Researchers find that those patients with well established, loving relationships do better than those who are alone.

I am grateful to all of you who have stuck with me this far.  To allow yourself to move this far outside of the “fitness is only physical” box of mainstream teaching is extremely bold of you.  Despite the ancient nature of these teachings, we in the west are slow to accept them.  They are not quantifiable in a scientific way and are therefore subject to suspicion and ridicule.  Experience however will show you the validity of these teachings and how being open to them can enhance your life, putting you that much closer to becoming the strongest version of yourself.

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