健身球之道

林钰堂

 


当我接送小儿安昌去哈定小学时,一边走路,我两手同时各玩一对健身球。许多过往的行人以及哈定小学的老师、家长及小朋友们都为之侧目。许多人问我这是干什么的,或者要我教他们如何玩法。第十一教室及第十三教室的两位老师还特地安排了一场聚会,让我在二十分钟内为小朋友们讲解及示范。这两班的小朋友是从幼稚园到二年级的。七年前我曾作〈健身球念佛〉一文,以提倡此种运动,并将之译成英文,赠阅大众。经过十余年的修习,我对此道已有更多的体验及心得可以提供大家参考,因此将旧作加以增益,而成此篇。

手、脚及耳朵这三个部位都与全身其他各部有反射作用的关连,因此有以按摩或针灸这些部位来治病或保健的。我并不通达这些学问,只想利用这方面的基本常识来保健。一般人大约也和我一样,虽无能深入了解,却希望能得些实用的好处,因此我把自己摸索所得公开,献给非专家的大众。

在拙作「一曲十弹」书中,有一篇「石头路上好经行」。这篇文章并不涉及专门而复杂的脚底按摩法,只介绍藉步行石路而自然得按摩效果,还建议边走边念佛,使调身与修心合一,效果更佳。本文也是不提手部按摩,只推荐健身球运动,以期大家「不知亦能行」,自然得按摩之效果。当然,健身球与念佛同时进行,也易达到身心专一的境地。

健身球的操练原先是由明朝的一位功夫师傅所传授的。至今依然是知名的保健运动,并且已经流传到了西洋。在中国有些地区这可是盛行的玩艺儿。特别是在河北的保定,走在街上,到处可见手中玩球的人们。这也难怪,因为此地便是健身球的发源地。

健身球运动是将两个等大、等重的圆球放在一手中,然后以五指将两球旋转,不停地移动位置。有的人会觉得顺时钟方向转球是自然的,有的人则觉得逆时钟方向才顺手。就这一点而言,人的手似乎可以区分为两类。这种天生的分别是因人而异的;每个人要自己试试才知道。最好先练习顺手方向的转球,等到有些熟练了,才再加练逆向的转球。初学者最好只练单手玩球,而交替练习使用左、右手。等到两种转向都熟练了,就要将球顺、逆时钟方向交替旋转。如此互补运用可以充分发展手掌的潜在功能。经由这样柔和的运动,十指渐渐练得十分灵巧,而全身松驰有若感受一波波的轻抚。

在旧金山的中国城可以找到健身球,依质地分为金属、景泰蓝及玉石三种。球的大小有四、五种。金属及景泰蓝球都是中空而含藏音板,并且一对球分藏两种音板,互相调和。据说练球听音可以调心。《愣严经》里提倡的「观音圆通」法门,也可以用上。

开始练习时我用小号的金属球,因为不灵活的手指玩不来大球;又因为时而掉球,用金属的比较不会摔坏。我是两手各玩一对球,同时练。双手自然地都是将球由姆指经中间三指,向小指方向转动,也就是说,右手逆时钟,左手顺时钟。反其道而行,则十分笨拙,原来双手从未如此使用过。我发现玩健身球令我在双手的使用上,开扩了一个新的领域。

在飞机上或其他公共场所玩健身球,恐怕声音吵到邻座的人,我便买了一对实心的玉石球。到底还是天然的质地好些,玉石球在手中更觉舒服。有时玩金属球会有静电的感觉。景泰蓝球摸起来并不舒服,所以我没试用。

练了一些时日后,就觉得小球浑如无物,得改用较重的大号球才舒适。运球时,除了手部可以觉受有那些地方不顺畅,玩久了,有时身体其他部位也同时感觉其影响。每当读书、写作累了,我就起来走走,手中玩着球,很快就使身体恢复了松软的状况。有时我还一边手中玩球,一边赤足走在石头路上。(被太阳晒暖的石路,赤足走起来真舒服。)

在浸淫此道十余年间,我逐渐察觉:玩健身球时,下臂、上臂,甚至连同后背与前胸也都微妙地配合着在动。起初是在练习了好几个月之后,才感觉到下臂也在运动,因为那时下臂已经不如以往的僵硬了。久久之后,才渐渐感觉上臂也在运动。长年的练习之后,才感觉到背部也在运动。现在则是能感觉连胸部也有微动。当然,最显着的感觉是两手皆整体在动着。正在转球时,我觉得石球是柔软的,而十指灵巧,运转不息,犹如自动。

健身球是很好的运动,动作柔和,久玩不累,使人灵活,促进全身血气顺畅。又不需要昂贵或占地方的装备,随时随地可以操练,男女老少都可把玩。对于老人及有些局部残障的人更是适宜。各种行业的人因为长期使用一种姿势与某些部位,而易形成职业病,如果利用健身球不时调节,应该是经济而又实惠的抒困之道。常玩健身球,保持血气的顺畅运行,应可预防关节炎,又使手脑皆较灵敏,应可防止老年之痴呆。也有好动的小孩在练习健身球后转为沉静。好处说不完,大家最好试试。

现在我双手同时各玩一对球,可以随意改变方向,使两对球同方向或逆方向旋转。据说练习久了,还可以加到一手三、四球。玩熟了,还可以配合其他运动,例如韵律体操或者踏着太极拳的步法。我还将之与背向行走配合。背向而行使我运用到一些平生罕用的肌肉。并且,由于需要转头向背后看路,便可顺带轮流向左后及右后转头而运动脖子。这样看路,变成向所有方向都看,颇有开展视野之效。遇到长途坐车或飞行,我都带着健身球,随时用来运动调节。家人亲友,不分老幼,我都告诉他们练健身球的好处,还为家人买了球。

任何运动都忌心中杂乱。心中纯一,万事好办。练健身球时,心中不断念佛,则易达到身心的纯一、和谐及灵活。已经念佛多年,有志常念直到往生净土的佛友,也许可以不用念珠计数,而改用更圆满、灵活的健身球运动,来促成身心的一致。至于基督教徒,则可以配合持念耶稣的祷文:「主耶稣,神之子,恩光降临带罪的我」。

当健身球正在旋转时,旋转不停是「常」,移动不住是「无常」,正好可以用来说明佛法所谓「不落两边」的意思。事物本身并非一偏之见所能局限;我们不要被自己的成见所缚,而远离了真实。

愿有缘见闻此篇者都感兴趣而练习之。我深觉此法裨益身心,愿修习者同享此种觉受,而有过之。如果在坊间一时找不到健身球,可以用任何两个等大、等重的圆球,或者两个胡桃来代替,而开始练习。

一九九九年六月七日 养和斋   于加州

相关文章:黑檀球

照片:(2014-05-21补入)


Playing with Health Balls

Yutang Lin

As I walk my son Andrew to and from Harding Elementary School on weekdays, I play in both hands a pair of health balls. This has attracted much attention from many passers-by along the way and parents, teachers and students at Harding. Many have asked me to explain about this exercise or show them how to do it. I was even invited by teachers in room 11 and room 13 to give their students (from kindergartners to second graders) a short talk and demonstration on this exercise. Previously, I wrote an article in Chinese and English on this practice; it was entitled "Chanting with Health Balls." Now that I have had more experiences with this exercise and more related ideas to offer, I am writing this new article based on the old one.

Human hands are sensitively connected to the rest of the whole body. Hence, by massaging different parts of the hands, various parts of the body can be stimulated. Feet and ears are similarly related to the whole body. Chinese medicine teaches healing techniques that involve massage or acupuncture applied to these sensitive parts. However, to promote one's general well-being no professional knowledge is needed; all one needs is to adopt some simple exercises on a daily basis. For example, one may adopt the habit of massaging ears whenever one is waiting for a green traffic signal, or one may walk barefoot on pebble paths for fifteen to thirty minutes daily. This article talks about a traditional Chinese hand exercise called health balls.

This exercise originally was taught by a martial art master in the Ming dynasty of China. To this day it has remained a well-know exercise for the promotion of good health. It is a popular exercise in some parts of China, especially in Bao Ding of He Bei province, the place where it originated.

To play with health balls, one holds two balls of equal size and weight in one hand and, using the fingers, rotates them constantly. Depending on the individual, some would find the clockwise rotation natural, while others would find the counterclockwise rotation natural. It seems that there are two types of hands as far as this rotating movement is concerned. First practice rotating in the direction that is natural to you, and later practice rotating in the opposite direction only after you have already become familiar with the natural rotation of balls. A beginner should practice with only one hand at a time, and alternately practice with either hands. Eventually, it is better to practice rotating the balls both clockwise and counterclockwise alternately because they are complementary exercises, and in this way the full potential of the usage of hands will be realized. Through this gentle exercise the fingers become dexterous and the whole body experiences constant waves of soothing massages.

The health balls found in the stores in San Francisco's Chinatown are made of metal, cloisonn?or stone. There are four or five sizes. One needs to choose the size that suits ones hands by trying them out. It is advisable for beginners to start with metal balls because at the beginning it is inevitable that the balls would slip and fall frequently. The metal and cloisonn?balls are hollow with sounding boards inside. Each pair of balls contains sounding boards of different pitches so that the chorus is harmonious. It is said that listening to this sound while rotating the health balls may pacify the mind. For Buddhist practitioners who are interested in practicing the meditation on listening as taught by the great Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the Surangama Sutra, this would be a good source of sound to listen to. The stone balls do not come with the sound effects, but it is a blessing when you want to practice in public without disturbing others nearby. Besides, it feels much more comfortable than the metal balls which sometimes would produce static. Cloisonn?balls do not feel comfortable; therefore, I have never practiced with them.

I began my practice with small metal balls because my fingers could not rotate the bigger ones with ease and even then, the small balls would fall through my fingers. After becoming accustomed to rotating one pair of balls at a time, I practiced rotating one pair of balls in each hand simultaneously. It soon became apparent that rotating the balls counterclockwise in the right hand and clockwise in the left hand are easier to do, because in that way, the thumb pushes the balls toward the pinkie. When I tried to rotate the balls in the reverse direction it became very awkward. In fact, I had never used my fingers in that way. Practicing health balls opened up a new horizon for my dexterity.

After using the small health balls for a few days, I could hardly feel their presence in my hands. I then switched to the larger balls and felt comfortable with them. While practicing the health balls, I become more aware of the areas on my hands that are tense or sore and, gradually, also other parts of my body that are not at ease. Doing this exercise does help release tension. Whenever I become tired of reading or writing, I walk around and play the health balls. In this way, my body soon returns to a relaxed and supple condition. Sometimes I walk barefoot on pebbles in my yard while simultaneously playing the health balls. (It is so comfortable to walk barefoot on pebbles warmed by the sun.)

Now I have practiced health balls for more than a decade. During this time I gradually became aware that, while rotating the balls in my hands, my lower arms, my upper arms, and then even the back and front of my torso are also involved in very subtle ways. After months of practice, I first became aware of the involvement of my lower arms because they were no longer as stiff as before. Then, gradually I sensed the upper arms are also moving, and much later even the back of my body. Now I sense all the above mentioned parts are involved in the exercise, especially the whole arms. When I play the health balls I feel the balls are soft and the fingers move so smoothly that it would seem automatic.

Playing health balls would be an ideal exercise for people of all ages because it is gentle, and helps improve one's dexterity and circulation of blood and inner air (Qi). It is an exercise that one can do almost anywhere, without clumsy and expensive equipment. Health balls are suitable especially for the old or disabled. This exercise can promote the circulation of blood and inner air; consequently, it could prevent arthritis. It keeps one alert, and hence is a good preventive measure for Alzheimer. It is known to have helped calm down children with hyperactivity. It is well known that occupational stress and the lack of ergonomic awareness have caused many serious health problems. The practice of health balls may turn out to be an effective and economic solution to such occupational problems.

After months of practice I can rotate simultaneously one pair of health balls in each hand in any direction I want; both clockwise, both counterclockwise, or one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. Experienced practitioners can even play with three or four balls in each hand simultaneously. In fact, one can even combine this exercise with activities such as Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi) or dances, etc. I have also combined this exercise with walking backwards. Walking backwards helps me to develop some muscles that I have seldom used, and the need to look backwards provides an opportunity to turn my neck to the right rear and left rear alternately as an exercise. I carry a pair of health balls with me on long trips to help adjust my physical condition. To all kinds of people I spread the message of the benefits of this exercise, and I bought health balls for members of my family.

Any physical exercise should be free from mental distractions to be beneficial. With concentration all activities are neatly accomplished. While practicing the health balls it would help induce harmony of body and mind by chanting the name of a Buddha or a mantra. Christians may chant a short prayer such as the prayer of Jesus: Lord, Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Buddhist practitioners, who are well versed in the chanting practice and are determined to continue their chanting practice until their rebirth in Buddha's Pureland, may use health balls instead of prayer beads and do without the counting of numbers of repetitions. As physical exercise the rotation of health balls is more beneficial than the monotonous movement of prayer beads by the thumb.

While the health balls are rotating, the rotation is constant and yet the positions are impermanent. This observation serves well to illustrate the significance of a fundamental Buddhist teaching that one should not be confined by either side of the dualistic views. The reality as such cannot be encompassed by one-sided views; we had better not be limited by our own prejudices and lose touch of reality.

May all who come across this article become interested in this practice and benefit from adopting this practice. If health balls are not readily available in your surroundings, you can still begin the practice with any round object such as two large marbles or walnuts.

March 31, 1999
El Cerrito, California


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