TIBETAN MOVEMENT PRACTICES
Lu Jong, Tog Chod & Tsa Lung are exercises with immediate health benefits. They are also preparations for higher spiritual studies in Tibetan Buddhism.
All place a focus on working with energies that come from ‘within’ – this is why they are also called ‘Inner Body Meditations’.
What does that mean? It means they work with our physical and subtle energies (body and mind) through movement, breath, meditation, visualization and concentration.
For Dzogchen and Mahamudra practitioners, these are ways of going beyond contrived and conceptual mind.
For other Tantrayana Buddhists, they offer a superb way to energize and loosen up the body prior to a long seated session of meditation or other practice.
And, for people simply in pursuit of age-friendly (i.e. all ages) vitality and stress-reducing activities — or the medical healing aspects of yoga — they are a safe way to improve health that can be practiced anywhere.
However, simplified versions of each can be taught and practiced by everyone, independent of their views, ideals, aspirations, and capacities.
These practices are most effective when approached with gentle precision. Huh?
Meaning the highest benefits are not measured in a manner visible to the naked eye, such six-pack abs or acrobatic flexibility; they are the softer and less obvious effects that come from turning your attention inward to a place of ‘feeling’ and visualizing the connections within.
Every student’s practice is uniquely their own, an ever changing expression of working with ‘what’ they have, and from ‘where’ they are. Every time.
“Simply let experience take place very freely, so that your open heart is suffused with the tenderness of true compassion”
~ Tsoknyi Rinpoche
MOVEMENT IS LIFE
One of the key aspects of these profound Tibetan practices is that they are about movement. Movement within and movement without.
Movement is very much related to our energy levels and the mind is dependent upon energy for awareness.
The additional mind tools of meditation, visualization and mantras are sometimes included to support our concentration, such as when we stomp our feet in Tog Chod.
Today, many practitioners do not work with the goal of enlightenment but rather with more mundane health benefits in mind.
Beginning with the most accessible practice, Lu Jong, the foundation for subsequent movement practices, you will experience the results of working with your inner energy, or ‘Lung’ in Tibetan, quite rapidly in your body. ‘Lu’ means ‘body’ and ‘Jong’ means ‘transformation’ in Tibetan. In loose terms, we are training our bodies.
Using movements that are slow, careful and meditative — much like Tai Chi — a host of physical benefits are activated such as good health, flexibility, muscle strength, balance and control.
The Lu Jong movements place particular attention on the mobility of the spine because it is the energy box of our bodies. The use of coordinated breathing is unparalleled for stress-reduction.
With Tog Chod we advance to a more active style of movement and meditation aimed at reducing fears, expectations and overcoming negative emotions. ‘Tog’ means ‘head or thoughts’, and ‘Chod’ means ‘to cut’ in Tibetan. In loose terms, we are stopping our thoughts.
By using a precise set of forms, and introducing additional tools, we continue to deeply work the opening and alignment of our energetic pathways, joints and chakras for the most optimal flow of Lung. To this we add practicing the disciplines of mindfulness and awareness.
Tulku Lobsang developed Tog Chod based on the traditional Yaman monk dances and Kalachakra movements from Tibetan Buddhism. The sword represents our ‘innate wisdom’, we dance with it to go beyond the state of thinking and to enter into the present moment where we abide in a state of a calm mind.
Wait … What?
Basically, we foster the ability to calmly and clearly focus in ‘real time’ to the exclusion of inner and outer distractions. We balance being present for ourselves with the ability to remain aware of and present for others.
Awareness is like our eyes, we can see everything with one glance. Mindfulness is like our brain that can only process things one at a time.
It is in this state of stillness that we ‘cut’ through the stories we tell ourselves, release stress and stand with confidence in our power.
Hand in hand with movement is the importance of ‘how’ we make use of our breath.
The coordination of movements with specific breathing patterns creates flexibility and harmony by releasing stagnant energy and promoting a vibrant and balanced circulation throughout the body.
Tsa Lung is an advanced form of Tibetan breath work which is a stand alone practice. However, there are some fundamental exercises that can be judiciously used to support and enhance inner body meditations.
‘Tsa’ means ‘channels’ and Lung means ‘wind, breath or inner vitality’. Hence the primary focus of this intense internal practice is the stretching and ‘polishing’, so to speak, of our energetic pathways (channels), the opening of chakras, and the movement of Lung through them.
When we combine breath retention with precise movements and visualizations, we learn ‘how’ to move our energy through the body. The energy can reach the deepest and most super-subtle channels to instigate the greatest levels of self-healing and stillness of mind. This is very different from a cardio or meditation program.
The mind is said to ‘ride the winds’ or breath of our body with the goal of attaining enlightenment. The metaphor most often used for this is the wind-horse (in Tibetan Lung-ta).
In this esoteric visualization, the wind-horse is identified with Lung (our life force or positive personal energy ) and the mind (subtle consciousness) is the rider as represented by the wish fulfilling jewels in the saddle.
Together they travel the channels, meridians and chakras throughout our body.
In Tantra, when we speak of ‘increasing wind-horse’ it means to increase our vital inner energy. ‘Decline of wind-horse’ means the opposite.
Who isn’t familiar with the concept of ‘Where the mind goes, the body follows,’ which is well founded and proven in various meditation and pain studies? Physiologically, the vagus nerve is a factor: when the mind focuses on calmness, the body calms too (and vice versa.)
When the breath flows, the mind flows. When we work with the breath, we completely change our thoughts. And when we hold the breath, we come into the deep stillness of the mind.
“Breath is the vehicle of consciousness and so, by its slow measured observation and distribution, we learn to tug our attention away from external desires toward a judicious, intelligent awareness.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
Everything is interconnected. Where you focus your energy is what you create in your life. The quality of your energy will become manifest in your body. How you think is reflected by how you live your life.
By working with breath and movement — both vital aspects of most styles of meditation — to revitalize your energy, these practices have the potential to supercharge your days with heightened focus and feelings of happiness and well being.
This is the fundamental idea of living your life with energetic awareness.
CHAKRAS, CHANNELS & WINDS
~ A Tibetan Movement Workshop ~
Lu Jong New York is offering a special workshop to study Tibetan movement practices, in the lineage of Tulku Lobsang, in New York City this coming June.
Experience for yourself authentic Tibetan methods of working with the subtle body deeply rooted in traditional Tantrayana practices and ancient Tibetan medicine.
Limited dates and spots remain available. Click HERE for information and registration!