Alex introduces the key distinction to get the mind and heart change you want by first talking about how his own practice started purely for physical reasons. Later, he noticed yoga could go much deeper, and here’s what the first step on the deeper path entailed:
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This talk continues with reference to the human nervous system…
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Since the day before you took your first yoga class, you have probably learned a lot more anatomy that you ever thought you would. Whether it was the first time you realized that you knew what the yoga teacher was talking about when she mentioned your sacrum, or suddenly found that you felt better breathing a certain way from “oxygenating your blood” , you may have come to realize that Anatomy doesn’t have to be the boring subject it was in school. It is, in fact, connected to our very vitality and happiness when its taught right. And yoga has been that for all of us. Learning about our bodies in ways that deeply affect our lives. Although this writing is partially a promotional piece (at the end we’ll mention a workshop weekend), we think you’ll find the education you get from it extremely helpful in of itself.
Have you ever wondered about some of the things you hear around the yoga studio? There are certainly things you hear that your bookworm friends would scoff at (of course they’ll never try yoga), and it is absolutely true that yoga revolutionizes how we can see the human body. The mechanistic, partitioned view of the body we were given as “science” growing up was severely limited and yoga’s (as well as bodywork’s and natural medicine’s) more whole view actually helps us see much of the mythology we’ve been under here in the mainstream West.
But the culture of Yoga (starting from India), while remarkable and eye opening, is not without its myths either. And some of the things from your yoga classes don’t hold up. Alex argues that Yoga’s growing edge is not romanticizing by replacing one mixed paradigm for another (or what is often the case, taking the worst of each). Its edge is integral – favoring truth over paradigm. Katy argues that understanding your body is the first step to empowering your health because when you know how to use it, what you learn is yours forever. Myths get in the way of your raw aliveness and vitality.
Myth 1 : Stiffness, Aches, Pains, and getting shorter are a result of Aging.
If you’ve been practicing yoga very long, you’re not falling for this one. How many times have you heard yoga being a “fountain of youth”? … and then experienced it? But Wait. Older folks do get more stiff, aches, etc. than younger folks. Isn’t there some truth in this?
But it is not aging itself. Aging just slows down your body’s ability to rejuvenate itself. You can still rejuvenate when you’re older, but it will take a little longer. The stiffness, aches, and pains typically associated with aging are usually the result of poor patterns in your structural tissues. We all have patterns and the longer you’re alive, the stronger those patterns get. The poor ones show up as aches and pains. The really bad ones show up as bulging or ruptured vertebral discs. While pill and surgery pushers of mainstream western medicine scoff at the idea that something like yoga can heal these problems, these problems are, in fact, a symptom of patterning. (As is getting shorter the effect of gravity on a poorly patterned body over time) Address the patterning and the symptom goes away.
Myth 2 : Yoga Poses, Done Enough, Will Reverse Stiffness, Aches, and Pains.
Yoga poses are like the invitation. They are not the party. They are simply positions you put your body in. Without connected, integrated, and expansive action that protects the joints, your yoga poses may only give you some new bad patterns (which given enough time, pop up as pain) to distract your current bad patterns for a while. To truly reverse your body’s patterning and restore yourself to your vibrant blueprint, you must align.
Myth 3 : Yoga Alignment is About Body Position
Your body, despite what it looks like in a textbook, is not a static entity. True Alignment, that which drastically affects your core vitality, is not static either. It is about balanced action. If the action of every muscle fiber creates a myofascial network that fully integrates and expands, (active – tensegrity) then you are aligning.
Yup, like that weird thing in the video.
Myth 4 : Yogic breathing increases oxygen in your bloodstream.
There are many health benefits from pranayam such as breath of fire and kapalbhati but if it increased oxygen in your bloodstream, you would die! Your body automatically, through homeostatic mechanisms, keeps the oxygen level in the bloodstream balanced. What yogic breathing offers is the increased availability of oxygen for uptake into the lungs and tissues which improves functioning in a number of body systems.
Your body is holistic like that. Just how it likes to roll.
Myth 5 : A raw vegan diet is the healthiest in the yogic tradition.
Many health issues improve from raw and vegan approaches to eating. However, without any animal products long term, an individual may become severely deficient in multiple areas including B12, iron, minerals and protein that can lead to reproductive, cognitive and digestive disorders.
Myth 6 : One daily bowel movement is an indicator of a balanced elimination
in case you were eating at your keyboard
One typically needs to have 2-3 thorough bowel movements daily to avoid the build-up of toxins and residues in the digestive tract. The Right Yoga offers many tools for regulating this self-cleansing mechanism.
Myth 7 : Your Skeleton Mainly Holding You Up. The rest of your Structural Anatomy is basically like a series of levers and pulleys.
This is a primary Western Myth. That our body is built like a building or a car, with interchangeable, separate parts working like a machine in mechanistic order. In fact, your skeleton is not like the steel frame of a building that holds the rest of the pieces “up.” It is more like the center pole of a tent or pillar on a suspension bridge. It gives your soft tissues something to “push into” so that the soft tissues hold you up. Yes. The crazy yoga teacher (in the case of this part, Alex) is telling you that the idea you were given in grade school that your skeleton holds up your soft tissues is exactly backwards. Jon Burras Article
And this can drastically affect how you do your yoga. As do all of these because when you are orienting to your own body based on a myth, it shows in your patterns, actions, and decisions. So the next time you’re in a yoga pose, imagine, not that your bones stacking are holding you up, but that you are suspended up like a tent. Seek out teachers who understand Anatomy because that is the source of quality yoga action.
It is the difference between having a yoga practice that is good for you and having one that is twice as good for you as the one you’re doing now.
Hopefully this article was helpful. If you’re interested not only in diving deeper into these myths (and many more), but in finding out what it means to your yoga practice (and diet) and how some simple tweaks can help you create even more vitality, Katy and Alex will be co-hosting a yoga teacher training caliber Anatomy Weekend on Feb 17 – 19 at Kaivalya. The workshop is open to everyone! (not just yoga teachers) and will feature years of experience and expertise packed into one weekend. Alex with his multiple yoga and bodywork certifications will bring his expertise on structural anatomy, and team up with Katy Wallace’s remarkable expertise as a Kundalini Yoga Teacher and Doctor of Naturopathy. Alex will cover structure and Katy everything else.
Don’t get me wrong here. Fast Moving Asana Practices such as varying Power Yogas can be a great cardio workout and also build a warrior type discipline & confidence since when you’re moving fast, there is often not time to align the pose perfectly, you must align quickly to get the most of each pose. It is great for warmup in any class and even good for peaking right before a slowdown. I use fast moving asana for these reasons in many, many of my own classes. I am not anti-cardio.
Fast Moving Asana (with holds of 10 seconds or less) is great at working muscle.
But Yoga, even from a pure physical point of view, can work more. “Like What?” you might ask, “Muscle stretch, Muscle engage, muscle align… sounds good to me.” Yes, that is good, but there is the issue of the fuzz.
Specifically, your fuzz….
Holding poses for 10 seconds does little to completely melt the fuzz. That fuzz grows every night of your life. If it didn’t, your knuckles would drag on the ground by your 18th birthday. To clean out the fuzz like Gil’s hand in the video, you’ll often need a sustained stretch of at least 15 – 20 seconds, and for the really tough spots (2 weeks, 1 months, or years of fuzz) longer.
Many times a good 30 second pose for each major part of the body will do the trick, but to clear out the thick fuzz that’s turned to chunks of white tissue, it takes sustained holds of 1 minute, 2 minutes… of 5 minutes.
There’s are entire styles of yoga dedicated to these long, slow holds: Yin, Kripalu, and Restorative to name a few. The philosophy goes like this: The more stable the tissue the longer the hold and the lower the amount of pressure needs to be. Imagine trying to change your teeth. (Very thick/stable tissue: bone mounted in bone). You would not try to pull each tooth real hard for 10 seconds. You would end up pulling all your teeth out! To change your teeth, you would apply for less pressure over a longer period of time (braces)… and to work into the fuzz that has turned to slabs of fascia, gentler poses for sustained periods of time.
This is Sam Harris speaking to a conference of atheists. Sam Harris is a neuro-scientist generally regarded as one of the “New Atheists” along with Chris Hitchens and Richard Dawkins who often speak out against religion. Here, Sam speaks some uncomfortable truths for some in his own movement to the benefit of honoring spiritual experience.
This is one of the videos I have all my teacher trainees watch before their opening weekend. Part of our yoga practice especially as teachers (but even overall for dedicated practitioners) is to honor all paths, including atheism. To say we honor all paths sounds nice, but it also helpful to contextualize how we honor all paths. Yoga is not out to change anyone’s beliefs, just to provide tools to become more ourselves and more alive and more deeply ourselves.
Simple enough question, right? How many times per week do we mention our “yoga practice”. Here is how I address the question with new teacher trainees….
There are 3 pieces to this yoga teacher training:
1) Deepening your own yoga practice.
2) Learning to help others deepen their yoga practice (teaching)
3) Applying yogic principles, particularly the deep resonance of your personal yoga practice, to your broader life in order to live truer to yourself.
That is the training in a nutshell. If you imagine these 3 items in 3 intersecting circles (venn diagram), you’ll note the intersecting piece is that these all contain “yoga practice.” Therefore this is how the training launches – everything in the training ties back to this moment… a moment of being fully human.
Free Teacher Training Q&A Sessions:
This Sunday May 22nd, 3pm at Kaivalya
This Tuesday, May 24th, at Perfect Knot, 9:10pm