Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's all about letting go

I went to a Yoga Seminar on Saturday, given by a teacher called John Stirk and it's given me quite a few things to think about.

John is my teachers, teacher he's been studying Yoga for over 30 years. He worked for a time with a woman called Vanda Scaravelli (I love that name) and a lot of his Yoga is inspired from her teachings. I say inspired because Vanda was apparently very against the idea of the way she worked becoming a style. In her opinion as soon as something starts to become a style it begins to stagnate, it becomes a set of ridged rules as opposed to a free way of working.

The theme of the seminar was simplicity, going back to basics. One of the things he said that really stuck with me was that all we really had to do in Yoga was 'give up to gravity', the freedom to move in postures comes from this sacrifice and our holding on to ingrained muscle tension is what restricts us both on the mat and off.

Of course the simplest things are often the hardest to achieve. This surrender is not just the letting go of outer tension but moving inwards, focusing your attention like a spotlight and releasing habitual muscle patterns that have become ingrained, like knots in a tree trunk, over many years.

This idea of surrender or sacrifice to something greater is also integral to the philosophy of Yoga. Most of the main yogic texts teach that we have to let go of our ego and sense of 'I' to move past it towards something greater, it's our clinging to a fixed idea or outcome (whether it's a head stand or a higher salary) that brings us pain and suffering. I think that fluidity of mind and body is something that is missing from some yoga today, we are to attached to the end result and not the process of getting there. The focus on physical posture has meant that a persons yoga is measured more on their ability to twist themselves into complex organic origami instead of on what attitude they have to their practice.

The other thing that he said that struck a cord was that body chemistry is indistinguishable from brain chemistry. The same hormones and chemicals that affect the brain also affect the body and vise-versa, a body full of adrenaline is a mind full of adrenaline.

This is one of those simple and obvious statements that we often overlook in everyday life, we often find ourselves saying that the body is tired or the body is stressed but we pay little attention on how that effects the way we think. It's that simple trap of a mind body dichotomy that people always to fall into (myself included), the body is not just a carriage for the mind and the mind is not limited to just the grey play dough contained inside evolutions own crash helmet.

Just a Ying and Yang are really just the two aspects of one thing (the Tai Chi), our body and mind are the same and any subdivision is merely an intellectual construction.


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12:58 am, October 12, 2005  

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