What’s the best way to teach hard things in yoga? Whether it’s right-side-up or up-side-down, on foot or hand, is it all alignment, anatomy, crunches and pushups? Is there a better way?
It’s a good question. And since what we do in yoga is the same as what we do everywhere – probably a good answer is in finding what works well across our whole lives. If we’re not too careful, we carry all our old habits that don’t work so well right into our health and healing practices. Suddenly in the middle of our yoga or tai chi, we’re thinking what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and suffering is just our body’s way of teaching us how to push hard to get more! Maybe not.
We can accomplish far more in peace than war, far more in harmony than aggression. It begins inside each of us, first. This is a big one, so let’s focus on something big. Something more meaningful than how to get into a pose. Since how we move shapes our neurology, our chemistry, and our gene expression on a daily basis, learning how to move well might be a good start.
There’s something important here about alignment. We’re not disregarding it. We’re not saying, just do anything you want! We’re teaching how to be in alignment – in agreement with your whole self – all the time.
Moving well means always being in your own correct alignment, in everything you do. This is quite different from what yoga has long taught – move in a way that brings us out of alignment, and then try to fix this problem in poses. Which is kind of silly when you think about it. We always have to move! So we should probably learn to move well, and stop creating problems to fix. We need to head farther east for this.
Moving in agreement and harmony with your whole self has always been central to East Asian practices, from painting to martial to healing. It’s all the same thing. Learn to move well, and we wire ourselves for optimal health, success, and all-around wellbeing. The movement principles of tai chi, yin and yang together, are a good place to begin.
As for anatomy, it’s good for the textbooks. But the names and function of bones and muscles, tissues and tendons, neurotransmitters and hormones, have no place in doing. Even in medical practice, all this memorization has little to do with providing care. But it has lots to do with weeding people out of medical school.
We don’t want to think about our anatomy when we’re trying to do anything. It’s a kind of thinking that gets us literally stuck. So much flexing, engaging, extending, rotating, and aligning. We immobilize ourselves in this way, and then try to move! It doesn’t work. In all this trying to be smart, we go dumb. We get in our own way. Full of tension, stress, and disconnection, always working so much harder than we need, to do so much less than we can. We need a different practice.
We need to get out of our own way, and clear the path for our nature to reestablish itself. Intuition, creativity, and a breathtaking capacity for navigating through challenge – all flow from here. It’s in our nature, to be amazing. We return to nature by moving well.
So for teaching people anything, including how to go upside down, part of this is teaching how to move well, everywhere. And part is how to apply that in less familiar territory, like when our feet are up in the air.
The upside-down part, or any unusual form of challenge, is just a magnifying glass. A really obvious place where we can see what works, and what doesn’t. It’s just a bit easier to see here the habits we have that don’t work, and begin to replace them with ones that do. We can do this – mechanically, chemically, and neurologically – through how we move.
For more on the science here, Dr. Rudolph Tanzi – Neurology Professor at Harvard and Chair of the Genetics Research and Aging Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital – is a wonderful resource. You can begin reading here.
– by Mike
About Strala Yoga Training
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Yoga Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.