Planks for the Memories: A Zen Approach To Planking And Exercise
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a new series by Andre Zemnovitsch titled Fit Fusion
Few things in life are as tedious as holding a plank. Time seems to slow down to a halt, the body begins to shake with tremors; each moment that passes by feels like an eon. The human body is a spoiled thing, like an entitled brat, the body needs to get its way otherwise it’ll begin to moan and groan. The human nervous system is unaccustomed to being still; this is why so many of us find it difficult to sit quietly without the mind wandering off to some distant and loud place.
Have you ever done a plank and tried to harness all of that force which the body generates from the exercise? All of those shakes that you experience while planking must be for something, right? Those quivers that come after a few seconds of planking are there for a reason: they mean that you’re pushing your body to its next level; the shaking means that you’re challenging your muscle’s endurance capacity to its limits! What do you think would happen if you were able to utilize all of this heightened energy? Have you ever done a plank and thought to yourself, “Gee, this seems like it could be a perfect time for me to meditate while simultaneously getting my core workout in!” How can we make the best of all of that effort that we’re giving while planking?
So, what’s happening with your hormones while you’re participating in an isometric exercise such as a plank? Doing a plank releases a wonderful neurotransmitter in you called dopamine; dopamine is referred to as the “happy hormone”, so chances are you want it NATURALLY released into your system. Doing a plank also releases, balances and combines endorphins and serotonin within you—which work together to fight depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Now imagine how much more effective it’d be if you can hold a plank AND meditate at the same time!
I’ve been in the fitness industry for almost two decades; I’ve been blessed to learn Zen meditation and breathwork from numerous established teachers. I know how important it is to develop the discipline to focus! I have found that fusing certain elements from cutting edge Western fitness—with the timeless wisdom of Eastern Martial Systems—is an amazing way to incorporate the best of both worlds into one’s fitness regimen.
Next time that you work your core out and go into the good ole forearm plank—try this exercise: Go into a conventional forearm plank (Google/YouTube how to do one if you must but, I recommend asking a certified trainer to show you). The forearm plank is a great way to strengthen the abs/core, as well as one’s legs.
There’s a running joke in the fitness community that “time stops when you’re in a plank!” It’s daunting, for a good reason—it is very, very daunting! A forearm plank is so difficult to hold for an extended period of time not because it requires so much movement but because it involves so little movement!
An undisciplined mind begins to get irritated; the body in-turn becomes irked when the mind starts to complain—internal and external equilibrium is hindered. The hormones start to piece themselves into their appropriate slots. Add in some breathwork and meditation and you have the beginning of an awesome mind-body harmony.
So, get into a forearm plank and lose all notions of time and space! Firstly, realize that you are your own blank canvas.
Just be there—in a textbook forearm plank—clear mind and gentle breath. Breathe slowly yet strongly into your body.
You will develop thoughts as you tend to do—allow them to pass on by like a will-o’-the-wisp dissipating back into the swamp gas. Follow your breath and not your ego. Breathe and power-up; ride the waves of your perpetual power. From the elbow plank (low plank) rise into a high plank (onto your hands/starting push-up position).
Core engaged not allowing the lower back to drop past neutral, booty slightly squeezed, hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees stacked directly under hips. Breathe. That dynamic motion from sedentary into active into sedentary begins to positively “shock” your system—not allowing your ego to control you for the time-being.
You are creating a spark; look at you wizard, you! You begin to accumulate the benefits of both sides of your hormones—mind begins to connect with the body and vice versa. As you begin this up-then-down then down-then-up routine: your body is busy with movement. Your mind is beginning to nag about doing the grunt work. This is where you must turn your mind into a devoted employee; otherwise you’ll become a slave to your mind! As the ancient Zen proverb goes, “The mind is an obedient slave but a sadistic master!”
As you go from low to high plank: your upper body (deltoids, chest, arms) are also getting a nice workout! It’s necessary to be cognizant of all the positive stress that’s happening with your body. While you are stagnant before going back down or up—meditate! Begin painting yourself into the masterpiece that you wish to perceive and be perceived as! Imagine chiseling your body to what you want it to look and feel like; your hormones are there to be utilized as the artist’s tools. Your breath is there to help; utilize the breath as a fulcrum.
The more that you do this, the quicker it is that you will materialize your intentions into fruition! It is scientifically proven!
Have some fun! Before you know it you’ll develop focus and patience that you never believed that you could before. Plank you kindly!
Banner Image: Planking together. Image Credit – bruce mars
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