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Exercise Daily – In the modern world of today, where we use high-tech machines and smart devices to exercise, there are those that still recognize the simplicity and effectiveness of ancient physical arts and work tirelessly to preserve and share their benefits and ancient way of life. One such team of individuals represents Persian Yoga.
This traditional lineage is known as Pahlavani. It is a martial arts strength conditioning system being continually practiced to this day since the time of the ancient Persians. Pahlavani has made it to the UNESCO list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” as the world’s longest-running form of such practice.
It is a source of national pride in Iran. Moreover, it is a strange experience since there is no true counterpart to it in the western world. There are obvious parallels to wrestling and martial arts, but there are also elements and similarities to other arts. These include strength training, gymnastics, calisthenics, and even yoga.
What is Pahlavani & Where Did it Come From?
The word “Pahlavani” originated from the Persian word ”Pahlavan.” It is a title given to great knights and warriors. By Pahlavani, we mean “the way of the warrior.”
It is a complete strength and skill conditioning system consisting of seven physical and seven spiritual arts. All of them are practiced as an integrated, dynamic, and spontaneously choreographed dance that is symbolically reenacting the stages of ancient battles. Persian Yoga focuses on the first five of the physical arts.
The first art: Sang – Shields
The ceremonious performance starts with Sang. It is symbolic of the first stage in a battle in which the soldiers line up against each other in shield formations to show strength.
Persian Sang Shield Practise
In a typical dumbbell, the weight concentrates on the hands or the barbell chest press in a straight line.
Pressing the Sang is much more challenging and dynamic. This is because of its sheer size which requires greater neuromuscular activation of stabilizer muscles and hand eye coordination to balance and control the Sang shields during pressing.
Pressing the Sang develops great grip and core strength. Meanwhile, it helps improve the ability to coordinate, position, and align the body. At the same time, it provides the pressing which is particularly useful for martial artists, wrestlers, and MMA practitioners alike.
According to Persian Yoga, “The ancient Persian Shield, Sang, increases stability, core and grip strength and is a powerful meditative tool for greater alignment and synchronicity.”
You can purchase the Persian Sang Shield from persianyoga.com, and even purchase their lessons for proper training!
The second art: Shena – pushup board
The Shena board is primarily for doing pushups but with a twist. This is because the Shena acts as a balanced symmetrical platform. It enables a greater range of motions and variability as a series of dynamic yoga postures can simultaneously be done with pushups.
Symbollically the Shena is analogous to the stage of the battle when the scrum, on the clash of the armies, occurs. At this stage, the ability to push and get up from any direction is crucial for survival. Similarly, the ability to get up to attack again is also important.
Unlike most western strength exercises which tend to be linear and isolate specific muscles to strengthen them, the Shena, and Persian Yoga in general, centers on developing strong and skilled movement rather than just strong muscles. The Shena primarily targets pushing movements and hip strength mobility while integrating agility, flexibility
The Shena is great because it, aside from a greater range of motion, is much gentler on the wrists and helps to do pushups with correct posture and joint alignment with every push-up.
Shena is the Persian word for swimming, and it conjures up images of fluid, wave-like, circular movements. In answer to one question, the Persian Yoga team told EDM that they are proudly made in Iran, in the traditional way!
“These Shena are not machine made or mass produced. Each Shena is completely unique and handcrafted by a master artisan from walnut timber. It’s an ancient art-form and traditional way of life.”
Third art: Meel – Persian clubs
Meel or Persian mace clubs is the third art of Pahlavani, and represents the melee stage of the battle when combatants use various hand-held weapons to fight.
Persian Meel is the grandfather of the Cubbell, which is popular in the unconventional fitness scene, and the precursor to the old but increasingly popular Indian Clubs.
The Meel swings in circular patterns and develops tremendous grip strength. Moreover, it helps in core to hand and hand to eye coordination as each swing is essentially a balancing act.
It is unique in that it can provide resistance throughout full circumduction of the shoulder.
In other words, because it is providing resistance in rotational movement, it is perfectly suitable for strengthening rotator cuffs and injury-proofing the shoulders.
Authentic Persian Meel comes in various sizes and weights and comes from a single solid piece of Persian walnut or cherry wood.
More than just a training tool, Persian Meel is functional art and instrument used for teaching ancient warriors how to handle battle maces with skill, stamina, and precision force.
Until recently, the cost of conventional equipment has been a deterrent for many individuals who may otherwise be interested. Moreover, teaching has been either sparse or nonexistent.
Persian Yoga offers its own Meels – also known as Persian Mace Clubs. They claim to “proudly manufacture them in Iran by 4th generation craftsmen in a family company.” It has never been simpler or more economical to learn how to swing a club than it is now. Thanks to Persian Yoga’s affordable clubs and in-person and online video tutorials.
The fourth art: Pazadan – Footwork
This part is the 4th art of Pahlavani. It can also be considered the oldest known form of systematic and choreographed aerobic exercise. It is mostly in response to the music of a live drum beat that culminates in whirling.
Whirling is somewhat similar to but older than, Sufi whirling. It helps to develop balance, proprioception, alertness cardiovascular stamina, and agility.
The fifth art: Kabbadeh – Steel bow
The Kabbadeh is perhaps the most exotic of all the instruments that they utilize in Persian Yoga. It is a kind of steel bow but with a hefty chain. It helps in developing strength in the complete overhead range of motion.
This tool prepares warriors for the siege stage of the battle. In this stay, they needed to protect from and hold off against attacks from above as they scale the enemy walls and penetrate their castles.
The Kabbadeh is the most unusual strength tool you’ll ever come across. It has been in use for more than a thousand years.
According to Persian Yoga, “the Kabbadeh is cumbersome, awkward, and unruly and it will kick your butt, in other words, it’s awesome for building strength and taking your skills and power to another level.”
The sixth and seventh arts: Koshti – Wrestling
The sixth art of Pahlavani is wrestling. The seventh and last art is the mastery of a war drum. It helps to set the rhythm and tempo of the practice. Moreover, a bell rings to signify rounds, shifts, and changes.
Together with learning the various mystical and epic poetry relating to deeds of ancient valiant knights, this is considered the seventh and final art of Pahlavani.
These arts are practiced in traditional and old temples in Iran called Zurkhaneh. It literally means House of strength. There the first five arts recounted above serve as the wrestler’s strength conditioning system. It is these five arts that are the primary focus of Persian Yoga.
Where to Learn Pahlavani?
Not being natives of Iran, many people would consider it out of their approach. However, the good news is, that you can learn Pahlavani from professionals now. No matter which part of the world you are currently in, it’s available online too!
Dr. Kashi Azad, founder of Persianyoga.com offers all training and activities – both in-person and online. So, if you are someone who wants to learn Pahlavani, you should immediately reach out to Persian Yoga. You can visit the website and book your class now.
According to Persian Yoga, it’s a comprehensive system that, when implemented properly, not only avoids injuries but also promotes health and wellness. Dr. Kashi Azad puts it forward like this, “Let your first thought be to strengthen your natural vitality.”
It’s certainly the practical and rational approach since vitality highly connects with both general physical and mental health. However, the connection is not straightforward. A majority of things that have a negative impact on physical health or mood also have a bad impact on vitality.
Involved in the growth of inner and exterior strength, Pahlavani is concerned with the promotion of virtues. These virtues include compassion and humility in its practitioners, who are seen as guardians of the community.
On their website, the Persian Yoga team emphasizes:
From strength man attains truth
From weakness stems crookedness and lowliness
In his interview with EDM, the founder of Persian Yoga, stated: “If it gets you ready for work, it gets you ready for everything.”
If we talk in the modern context, Pahlavani saves time while being effective and efficient at the same time.