Much to my delight there is a growing awareness of the benefits of Meel swinging and rising interest in its use as a functional strength tool.
As with any sort of exercise, in particular when handling an external weight that is swung in circular axis about the body, it is very important to pay attention to certain basic principles which will not only help prevent injury but also facilitate the learning and development process.
The most important principle, IMHO, is to adhere to the principal of a unified rhythm. As you may know we all have an internal rhythm set by our regular breathing pattern. We may not pay attention to it; and often not even act in sync with it, but it is there and it becomes most noticeable when we run or jog. Soon a breathing pattern emerges; which if you fall into it it will make you a more efficient runner.
The same concept applies to Meel swinging, however you are now also moving, and moving with, an external object. When your breathing becomes more in tune with the movement, you achieve a kind of resonance phenomena, which can be very invigorating.
I will discuss the basic 4 count Meel swing breathing pattern, you will have to subtly adjust your breathing pattern to the specific exercise you are doing but the basics remain the same.
As you swing the Meel back (the backward swing phase) your thoracic cage expands, this is an excellent opportunity to take a deep breath in and vice-versa as you swing the Meel back to it's original position (the forward swing phase) you are contracting the same structures, so you naturally exhale.
In the initial (backward) swing phase I am arching through the spine so I need to engage my core abdominal muscles to maintain control and avoid hyper-extension. And in the second (forward) swing phase I am completely firing on the abdominal muscles while exhaling.
If you are not breathing in tune with your Meel swinging and notice that the majority of your effort is in balancing and handling the weight then be sure that the Meels your are swinging are too heavy for you! It is best advised to take a step back and progressively work your way up to the desired weight with a more tactical approach.
This rhythmical breathing are part of the reasons why you see guys like Pahlavan Farzaneh and Pahlavan Yousefi being able to swing those great Meels with seemingly effortless ease.
Moving your head & Rotating through your spine
The great majority of beginners tend to over emphasize their focus on the arm movement. This is completely understandable since they are learning to handle and coordinate their bodies with a new instrument. And with time as their skills becomes more 'baked', as we say in Pahlavani (Persian Yoga), they will naturally develop a more integrated movement of the body with the Meel swing...but let's get there sooner.
Meel swinging is done with a set of Meels, and although there are various variations which involves the simultaneous swinging of both Meels, I will again focus on the basic 4 count Meel swing and to be consistent I will always start swinging with my left arm.
As you commence to swing the left Meel in the backward, as mentioned above, you are opening up and you can open up even further by turning your head and torso towards the right. Turn your gaze towards and look at the stripes/grooves on the Meel you are holding upright in-front of you. Persian Meels have these grooves on them for this very reason (as well as to serve as a decoration). Similarly as you swing the right Meel you turn and look to the left Meel which you would by now be holding in-front of you.
It is worthwhile to add that I am moving alternatively to the right or left during the Meel's backward swing phase and I am moving my body back to the center during the Meel forward swing phase. So I am effectively creating a 120-135 degree movement from side to side (left to right etc). In doing this you are creating a much more effective movement and stimulating the spine in flexion and extension as well as rotation as an added benefit.
Moving your feet & Creating a pelvic rhythm
The final piece is to add footwork into the Meel swing to create a truly rhythmical, almost dance like, experience and to acquire the coordination needed for the more advanced variations, like stepping Meel swings. This technique also has the benefit of clearing the path for the Meel to swing behind you without hitting your leg.
In the starting position I am standing with my feet parallel, distanced almost shoulder width apart. As I am starting on the backward phase of the swing with my LEFT arm I will take a small step forward (instep) with my RIGHT foot as I am rotating my right foot almost 90 degrees to the right side, i.e. by the end of the backward swing phase the toes of my right foot are turned pointing to the right and my left foot stays where it was supporting my weight. The instep is small, I'm only moving my right foot forward to be leveled approximately to the midpoint of my left foot. However the turning of the foot is quite large in comparison, as I wish to completely open up towards the right and externally rotate my right thigh/leg. You will notice that this will prompt you to further externally rotate your right shoulder, especially if you are holding the Meel at waist level (as you should be doing).
Now in the forward swing phase I will again bring my feet to be parallel to each other and support my weight on both feet and prepare for the right Meel swing cycle; which means that now I will be stepping and turning with and shifting my weight to my left foot. This will complete the 120-135 degree side to side movement.
These concepts are much easier grasped, in fact there is often no direct emphasis on them but it is something that is intrinsically adopted, from the Zurkhaneh ambiance as everything is done to the beat of the Zarb (drum) and the chanting of the Morshed (Guru). This is why rhythm, be it music or simply your own breath, is complementary with and in my view necessary for Meel swinging.
I hope that this will add value to your practice. Feel free to share and subscribe to Persian Yoga to receive news about my upcoming instructional videos and/or if you're in Sydney look me up to learn more about Meel swinging and Persian Yoga.
One more for the road as they say, remember to keep your knees unlocked i.e. soft jointed, this will be of great importance as you start swinging heavier Meels.