Parkour and consciousness
Parkour Is more than a physical sport. It encompasses mind body and spirit with facets innumerable to human comprehension. When one says they practice or train in Parkour the first thought someone has is that of physical conditioning; working the body out. While training you realize very quickly you are not only conditioning your external muscles, memory, and instincts but also your mind and spirit.
Walking down the street of a busy metropolis you see people walking half-hazardously in sort of a daze, zombified by the trials and tribulations of modern day societal living. Disconnected from reality and ultimately to nature they fall under the category of what George Carlin would call “sleepers”. Unconscious of what they are putting in their mouths, unconscious of the steps that transport them from place to place, unconscious of the hidden potential and spiritual power within themselves.
Training Parkour can show us a lot about ourselves that we currently have yet to discover. Hidden potentials, weaknesses and strengths are all revelations that may occur once one starts to train. Unlocking the part of yourself that views progress not only physically but spiritually mentally and emotionally was a huge influence to my psyche. Many people play video games today and feel very accomplished at the hours spent trying to “beat” the game or to acquire some new skill or item but transmuted to real life this desire and drive to progress can be a trans-formative tool for a new reality.
Being strong to help others can be interpreted many different ways. When you are strong you are capable of not only lifting heavy objects, but being a foundation for others to emulate. Being strong can be interpreted as having explosive power and being able to do things considered inhuman to others, it could be the way you react to a not so ideal situation in your personal life like a death of a loved one, or a betrayal from a friend. In this way we can embody the spirit of the water. Embodying the spirit of water can allow us to be soft or hard, like ice and snow, fluid and tenacious like rivers or glaciers. Ever adapting and changing to the environment to best suite the situation.
The elements are something I constantly draw from and think about during my parkour practice. I think the most familiar of the elements for most are air and water, the fluid and almost gravity-defying nature of these two elements aids us all the time in our training, allowing us to perform amazing aerial acrobatics and smooth fluid motion.
Parkour in my opinion is a very spiritually fulfilling practice and discipline. Not unlike the shaolin martial arts, Parkour can embody the spirit of elements, animals, and bring us to a state of meditation during our everyday lives. Have you ever been balancing on a rail and found yourself completely focused on what you were doing, not thinking about what you were going to do next or what you did the day before? This is what eckart tolle would call the present moment; something that most artists are very aware of. This is my opinion is one of the goals of parkour. To be ever-aware of the present moment, to stay conscious through our movement and to be able to react and adapt to any certain situation from this state of consciousness. When we open up our soul to the possibility of a moment that is fleeting but at the same time infinite, everything is contained within this present moment, and everything is possible.
This I believe is why so many people are hooked on television, movies, music, sports, you name it. These activities show us what the present moment is, although through movies and television you are in the present moment through vicarious means, you are still fully engaged and giving all your attention to that moment that is happening. Those who play sports are forced into this moment every time they play, during parkour training its usually the times where we break our bond with the present moment is when we get injured, mess up, or become less efficient in our movement. Most religions and philosophies have one thing in common, and that is a meditation practice. Meditation can be viewed as a way to directly connect with ones inner spirit through the present moment. I believe parkour is one of the best active meditative activities out there. Most people have a misconception that in order to meditate you have to be sitting somewhere extremely quiet and passive. But there are hundreds of different styles of meditation. Yoga can be a static or moving meditation. Tai chi is a well known and widely practiced moving meditation. Of course I believe there should be a balance between the static (yin) and active(yang) energies, and that is a large reason why I incorporate a lot of stretching during my training. Finding a balance can be difficult at first, But going back to the element of water, it can appear still but not become stagnant, it can move without seeming to create any motion at all. Be like water my friend. Balanced yet flexible and ever adapting and changing, but strong enough to wear away rock.
A common misconception about parkour is that it is for adrenaline junkies and extreme sports people, who jump off roofs or do extremely fast and explosive runs all the time. I find that slowing down basic parkour movements has tremendously increased my capabilities for adaptation and really helped my form to flow, like tai chi you are cultivating that creative energy (or qi) within yourself so that when you move on to the harder styles or faster, more explosive runs, you’ll have the muscle memory to move through your environment with fluid form and grace. Parkour is more than just a physical discipline. It is inherently about being conscious of the present moment and being aware of yourself every step of the way. Parkour in its essence is consciousness in movement.
Cultivating Consciousness in Movement
One thing that I catch myself doing a lot in my parkour practice is involved with breathing. If you watch someone before they do a huge jump you’ll be able to notice that there is usually one breathe if not a few, this is a common grounding technique found in many eastern traditions. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing has many health benefits.
“Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and the abdomen. When it contracts it is forced downward causing the abdomen to expand. This causes a negative pressure within the chest forcing air into the lungs. The negative pressure also pulls blood into the chest improving the venous return to the heart. This leads to improved stamina in both disease and athletic activity. Like blood, the flow of lymph, which is rich in immune cells, is also improved. By expanding the lung’s air pockets and improving the flow of blood and lymph, abdominal breathing also helps prevent infection of the lung and other tissues. But most of all it is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation response that results in less tension and an overall sense of well being. .
It is thought by many cultures that the process of breathing is the essence of being. A rhythmic process of expansion and contraction, breathing is one example of the consistent polarity we see in nature such as night and day, wake and sleep, seasonal growth and decay and ultimately life and death. In yoga, the breath is known as prana or a universal energy that can be used to find a balance between the body-mind, the conscious-unconscoius, and the sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike other bodily functions, the breath is easily used to communicate between these systems, which gives us an excellent tool to help facilitate positive change. It is the only bodily function that we do both voluntarily and involuntarily. We can consciously use breathing to influence the involuntary (sympathetic nervous system) that regulates blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, digestion and many other bodily functions. Pranayama is a yoga practice that literally means the control of life or energy. It uses breathing techniques to change subtle energies within the body for health and well being. Breathing exercises can act as a bridge into those functions of the body of which we generally do not have conscious control.
This yogic technique can be used to help stimulate energy when needed. It is a good thing to use before reaching for a cup of coffee.
Sit in a comfortable up-right position with your spine straight.
With your mouth gently closed, breath in and out of your nose as fast as possible. To give an idea of how this is done, think of someone using a bicycle pump (a bellows) to quickly pump up a tire. The upstroke is inspiration and the downstroke is exhalation and both are equal in length.
The rate of breathing is rapid with as many as 2-3 cycles of inspiration/expiration per second.
While doing the exercise, you should feel effort at the base of the neck, chest and abdomen. The muscles in these areas will increase in strength the more this technique is practiced. This is truly an exercise.
Do this for no longer than 15 seconds when first starting. With practice, slowly increase the length of the exercise by 5 seconds each time. Do it as long as you are comfortably able, not exceeding one full minute.
There is a risk for hyperventilation that can result in loss of consciousness if this exercise is done too much in the beginning. For this reason, it should be practiced in a safe place such as a bed or chair.
This exercise can be used each morning upon awakening or when needed for an energy boost. “
Now combine owl eyes and fox walking, it truly is a moving meditation.
Slacklining, also called “meditation in movement” is a new sport that is evolving by taking some aspects from other disciplines such as: yoga, meditation, tai chi, martial arts, surfing, etc. Slacklining is great for enhancing concentration and mental calmness as well as strengthening the core body; it is an integral and creative activity!
I almost equate this to the tai chi of parkour.
|—||Parkour and Consciousness- thoughts from a traceurs head (via gandhishield)|