( Originally Published 1930 )
In the Indian athletic system every movement has been carefully studied and worked out scientifically. Each motion has a definite aim and purpose; not an atom of energy is wasted. To obtain the best results it is therefore important to read the instructions over very care-fully, as the method employed is entirely different from most systems of physical training.
Remember always that the great benefit lies in the way in which an exercise is performed rather than in the number of times it is executed. Speed is an absolute hindrance to right performance until the method is thoroughly mastered. To go through a number of exercises rapidly but incorrectly, will frequently do more harm than good; further, the exercise will fail of its purpose.
The secret of successful body development is in doing the exercises correctly, by bringing the right muscles into play in the right way, and by placing the emphasis of the weight where Nature intended it to be carried.
The Indian has proved that it is far more desirable to develop long flexible muscles than bulky, knotted ones. He carefully avoids any unnecessary tensing or stiffening of his muscles, for he well knows that by so doing the circulation of the blood is impaired, with consequent improper nourishment and devitalization of the body cells. For example, clench your fist hard and observe how the circulation is immediately checked. The fingers and nails soon become blue while the veins in wrist and arm enlarge from pressure! The same thing takes place when exercising with tensed muscles in any part of the body.
It is well known that muscular action is most valuable in forcing poisons and effete matter from the body, but with tensed muscles and restricted circulation, how is it possible for elimination to take place effectively? The most important glandular functions and the vigorous circulation of the blood and nerve currents can only take place when they are not inhibited.
This is particularly true of all mental messages to and from the brain through the nerves. Any tenseness or rigidity of the head or neck muscles restricts those important and delicate nerves which cross at the base of the brain at the back of the neck. Glands of the throat are frequently affected at the same time and become enlarged or injured, due to faulty posture and impaired circulation.
Be careful not to carry the shoulders, arms, head or neck in a rigid or stiff posture while walking or exercising. In fact, never tense or stiffen the body in rigid attitudes. All the joints should be kept free and limber. This may be accomplished by learning to manipulate the ligaments and muscles which control them.
It is of the greatest importance that the spine should be flexible, never rigid or deeply curved in at the small of the back. The spine of an Indian athlete, while absolutely flexible, is as supple and strong as a tiger's. The spine is composed of a column of small bones or vertebrae held together by ligaments and muscles, and so designed as to facilitate movement in any direction with the slightest effort or swaying of the body or its members. The back was never intended to be carried rigidly stiff, had it been, it would have been just one long, straight bone. A rigid spine is extremely unhealthful; tiresome to hold, and makes proper breathing difficult. It uses up energy unnecessarily and causes a prim, awkward gait. The Indians control the muscles that manipulate the spinal vertebrae, always keeping them perfectly limber, ready for instant action or for relaxation at will. With habits of tension the whole life tends toward contraction; no wonder the white race cannot relax ! How can perfect Expression come with CONTRA-action?
Only when the spine is absolutely free of all tension are the small muscles, which connect the many vertebrae that form the spine, capable of being properly developed. Exercises which lengthen and strengthen these powerful little muscles and ligaments, and at the same time pro-duce flexibility, are of tremendous importance. Their movement must be facilitated in all directions—naturally.
It is necessary also that all the other joints of the body should be kept perfectly flexible, limber and thoroughly lubricated. This can only be accomplished through proper exercise and manipulation, preferably self-performed, in a natural way.
An Indian never forces his chest up, for he knows that it will lift to its natural position when his spine, neck, head and shoulders are properly poised. He develops his chest in the natural way, by proper breathing and muscular movement while breathing.
Many of the exercises and instructions given herein are entirely different from the popular methods in vogue today, but the Indian's system has stood the test of centuries and has never been excelled. The outstanding features are flexibility of spine and joints, long, pliable muscles, naturalness with easy relaxation, and, mental coordination and self-control together with tremendous endurance.
The basic principles of the Indian's system may be applied to hundreds of exercises not given in this book and to all forms of labor.
In all corrective work it requires patience to overcome the old habits and persistence to acquire the new. Do the exercises just a few times at first and increase the number of times as your strength and ability improve. If the muscles are sore after exercising, it is merely because they have not been properly used before. Keep right on and the soreness will pass away in a short while. The ultimate results are worth every effort many times over. If you hold on with the tenacity of an Indian, you are bound to win out and realize, too, that success is its own reward. Exercise INSTRUCTIONS
1. Before performing any exercise read the instructions over care-fully at least three times, getting all the particulars thoroughly in mind.
2. Concentrate the mind upon carrying out the instructions correctly, trying to perform the exercise efficiently and endeavoring to improve with each repetition. Correct performance is essential. Do not hurry.
3. Intend the will power upon accomplishing the desired purpose of the exercise. The more thought you put into the work, the more you will get out of it. Action and reaction are equal. Get the full benefit of the work both mentally and physically. When the mind wanders pull it back.
4. Energy follows thought. This is a basic principle of paramount value. Decide what you are going to think with each set of motions and then concentrate the thought and energy upon attaining a definite result.
Think health, strength, grace and beauty.
Feel happiness, rhythm, harmony and joy, poise and balance.
Appreciate life, Nature, God and their blessings.
Enjoy the work in a spirit of play; make it a pleasure.
Know power, ability, health and strength are yours by right. Radiate love, happiness, joy and health.
Imagine yourself improving, growing, becoming what your ideals picture.
Realize that there are limitless possibilities if you persevere; per-severe in physical endeavor, and persevere in holding a constructive mental attitude. We are what we think; we may become what we imagine, desire, and work for mentally. We are our only limitations ; we are the greatest hindrance to ourselves.
5. Stretch and reach for power, strength, or whatever is greatly needed or desired, then pull and draw it toward you and into you with imagination.
6. Music is a tremendous aid in establishing rhythm when exercising, and should accompany all motor work when possible. Music should be carefully selected, however, as the lower emotions are easily aroused through syncopated jazz while the higher emotions are awakened through harmonious rhythms and melodies. Rather than "pep up" and "excite" to impulsive or thoughtless action, strive to acquire that calm and graceful poise so admired by all. Jazz irritates the nerves and disturbs the mind. The mind should be kept cool and balanced, alert but steady, for true efficiency. Indians used to excite themselves with wild dancing and irritating sounds when preparing to kill their enemies ! They used only gentle rhythms in all peaceful pursuits. We sometimes wonder if Twentieth Century morals and crime are an outcome of too much jazz music and living. We should "do anything to end the kind of jazz called hot—that insane thumping and tooting, without tune, reason or melody. The real tom-tom, from which jazz was taken, is wonderful. Through its progressive rhythms, its has almost hypnotic effect. You feel the mountains begin to sway and swing. Our jazz is merely stupid noise."
What a pity to bequeath to an unborn generation such a substitute for music. Our Twentieth Century should not be represented in musical history with anything like jazz, cacophony or any meaningless jumble of sounds for that matter; but such a deplorable reputation is sure to be ours unless changed by the youth of today with their demand for music that is melodious, harmonious and rhythmically fine.
The taste for good music should be cultivated along with the wilful direction of the thoughts accompanying each exercise. From the rhythm of the heart-beat to the harmony of the spheres, all is music. Every-where it is present, as radio has demonstrated. Without good music life is discordant. Its rhythm makes all burdens light, it changes the character and quality of the thoughts and feelings. No one can live healthfully, happily or normally without musical rhythm in his every thought and action. Fear, worry, discouragement and hatred disappear before its magic charm; it soothes pain and heals the sick, as our red brother has long demonstrated. True music stirs that spirit in man that catches inspiration.
7. Do not overstrain or overexert yourself while exercising; take the movements slowly and easily until thoroughly familiar with them. Select those exercises which will develop your body into a more perfect symmetry of form, and do each one four or more times daily. Increase the number of times as you gain strength and aptitude. If the muscles are sore at first, it is because they have not been used; the soreness will wear away if you keep right on, regardless; strength and endurance will increase slowly but surely.
Study yourself, nude, before the mirror and observe which parts of your body are underdeveloped or out of alignment. Be quite severe in your criticism for it is human nature to believe that our bodies are quite satisfactory. It is like standing up for your car or your family. Habits of posture need careful consideration in order to make the body symmetrical.
Choose exercises suited to your own particular needs, selecting movements that will build out the hollows and reduce the humps. Develop and strengthen the small, flabby muscles and increase the flexibility of the joints. Familiarize yourself with the different types of exercises and make a varied selection, choosing movements that will exercise the entire body every day. In your zeal to develop or reduce one part of the body do not entirely neglect the other parts. The purpose of each exercise is given along with the directions.
To insure suppleness, practice getting down on the floor and getting up again, squatting, stooping, bending, etc. Middle-aged people are apt to avoid such movements and allow themselves to become stiff and awkward and thus appear old in their actions. Force yourself into all forms of activity. The ways of modern civilization are not normal; we use less than half our muscles in the ways intended normal labor, walking, running, etc.
Exercise or work until you perspire freely thus forcing out systemic poisons through the pores of the skin. Wash off with warm water or a quick hot shower, to cleanse the pores, then follow with plenty of cold water and a good brisk rub. To slap and rub the body, massaging the sore muscles, is good exercise in itself.
Excessive fat—that bugbear of middle-age! There is no need to have it once you have made up your mind to be rid of it. It is ugly and useless, clumsy and harmful. Excessive fat spells lack of elimination and improper assimilation ; both due to such causes as sluggish glands, insufficient mastication, impure blood, lack of sunshine, improper breathing, lack of exercise, lack of cell salts and wrong mental attitudes. First, get rid of the cause. In nine cases out of ten faulty elimination in one form or another is the cause. Complete elimination of every sort not only reduces excessive fat but is a great factor in promoting health and long life.
Do not imagine for a moment that fat is good for you or that you are the one human in the world who cannot reduce. You can be rid of it if you will. But above all, do not attempt to reduce too rapidly; that is dangerous. It takes time and much energy for the blood to carry off pounds and pounds of waste tissue, and it is a slow process at best. It takes time to accumulate fat and patience to dispose of it again. Safe methods of reduction may be slow but Nature is slow—and safe.
Many exercises are given in Part II that are most helpful in reducing weight and in modifying bulging lines. Select exercises that will lengthen and pull the bulky parts. Much stretching, with twisting and turning, is beneficial, along with punching, squeezing and kneading of the pudgy fat. Soften it and it will dissolve more readily. Working the muscles burns up the flabby tissue. Try fast walking, dancing, swimming ; walking or running on all fours ; rolling on the floor or ground (not a soft surface) ; take vigorous stooping and bending exercises. Sun baths and sweats are splendid as are shower baths of long duration, say ten to twenty minutes over the fatty parts, followed by plenty of cold water and vigorous rubbing.
Then curb the appetite. Diet—that hated word ! "Corrective eating" is a much less irritating term. Proper diet does not mean going without everything you like; it means eating in moderation the things that your body needs instead of being a slave to what you like just because it tastes good. The mental attitude has much to do with it all. Use will power. Lack of space precludes further discourse on this interesting subject.