Balanced body, balanced mind
I was told by one of my teachers that weight-lifting was a terrible thing to do, that it made you hard and top-heavy. Some teachers say not to use muscles, but how do you move without muscles? Muscular contraction is the vehicle of internal energy. Its not that you don't use muscles, its that, if you do the technique right, you don't have to use a lot of strength. But how can you say that strength is not an asset?
Through the process of weight-lifting, learning about how to isolate and strengthen different muscles groups, I've become more intuitive about the way my body works, heightening my overall awareness of mind-body connection.
I have scoliosis, and as a result I have muscles that are in permenant contraction, and others that are completely atrophied. This unbalanced state of the muscles contorts the posture, and blocks the flow of chi through the body. Innapropriately contracted muscles, or muscles which remain tense even when not in use, makes balanced movement more difficult, creates chronic pain and unhealthy mind and emotions. Lifting weights has helped to restore the balance of my muscle groups.
Another interesting point, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, is that emotional trauma can be stored in the body, in the form of permenantly and painfully contracted muscles. Profound emotional release can be obtained simply by putting awareness into these chronically tense areas, and learning how to relax.
When my wife returned from a particularly stressful trip to California, she did yoga postures to help herself relax, but found that, at first, she had flash backs of the tension, stress, and anxiety of the trip every time she began to breath and relax into the posture. By continuing to breath through these disturbing feelings, she allowed her body to release that stored up tension. Soon she found peace again in the yoga movements and meditation.
One of my students got a cranial sacral treatment, and after a particular adjustment, broke out into spontaneous tears over feelings of abandonment. The feelings flooded like a wave and receded, followed by relief and greater relaxation.
Muscular development and strength are considered taboo by some who practice internal martial arts, but the mind and body cannot be separated. An unbalanced body creates an unbalanced mind, and vice versa. Spiritual development is enhanced by physical training.