Master Yang Mian is descended from the bodyguards of the Chinese Emperor and holds the Taoist secrets of longevity, so when he was in Brisbane a few months ago I went along to his workshop. I should have checked his website first. It seems that for most of the past thirty years Master Yang has been teaching martial arts, things like breaking stones with your fingers and killing moves to soliders. He’s toned down a bit since then and has moved into a combination of Chi gong and yoga he calls Calligraphy Yoga.
Over the weekend workshop we learned a few basic moves and a great ten minute morning program that I highly recommend. I don’t however, recommend how I went about practising it.
I tend to go at things like a bull at a gate, and Master Yang’s routine was no exception. It didn’t help that when we asked how many times we should do particular moves he’d say things like, “Hundred times! Two hundred!” One move that he promised me would trim the excess from my belly he told me to do for fifteen minutes a day – at least. This involved standing in a squat and revolving both arms backwards as fast as I could. Try it! See how long you last. Me, being me, fought through all sensible instincts to stop until I just about buggered myself.
In fact, over-practising what I’d been learning did bugger me! My old yoga knees just weren’t up to that much squatting and for the rest of the term I was hobbling around unable to bend my left knee at all. SIGH.
Master Yang also had a very harsh teaching method, probably the way he’d been taught. He seemed to delight in getting students to answer questions wrongly. “What is the most important of all?” he would ask ─ shooting down anyone who tried to answer. “No no no!” The answer he was looking for was – bone marrow! Apparently it’s all about your blood cells, and the space between them, and that all springs from your bone marrow.
It took me a couple of months to recover from Master Yang’s workshop – or rather, my own over-zealous interpretation of it – but then, it all clicked into place.
Number one – take it easy. Be gentle with yourself – especially when starting something new. Less is always more! No pushing – go with the flow.
Number two – Bone Marrow is, in fact, the answer!
Remember how old folk used to sip on bone broths and eat jelly? It’s because they’re both made of bones. Gelatine made from good quality bones helps your body build collagen and repair cartilage damage. I’ve been taking a spoonful of gelatine every night for a while now and my knee is bending again and pain free. I’m also sleeping better. It’s a great general tonic.
I’m still learning to take things a little easier, not to push myself so hard. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve learnt my Master Yang lesson.