Sunday, January 08, 2012


Recently NYT published an article to do with yoga: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.
Paul Ingraham, at, linked the article on Facebook as did several other people, but somehow Paul's threads always seem to end up being a well-attended party, so here is a link to it: Paul's thread about the yoga article

The very first blogpost I ever wrote here was about this very topic: Mourning yoga, October 2005. The tide would seem to not yet have turned, if the New York Times is now feeling obliged to write about yoga injury..

Maybe this will help - a piece from the Guardian sent to me this morning by Ian Stevens, an old online friend who lives in Scotland: Prepare the mind.

It contains five useful preparations:

1. Intention:

"Physical exercise begins before you start moving – with intention. Understanding the function of the exercise, preparing the body, being confident in the required breathing, timing and form, and then committing yourself. After all, if you're not sure where you're going, and how you're going to get there, then you're unlikely to reach your destination. So train smart. Take the time to prepare mentally before each and every exercise. It will ensure a safe, enjoyable, effective workout – maximum benefit, minimum time."
Oh my gosh. Yes. If it's yoga, know that there is no goal at all. None. Just easy expansion, or contraction, in any and all positions, like a sea creature. Working ever so gently toward being able to do that effortlessly. Being able to feel as though gravity is canceled out of your humanantigravitysuit and you are weightless, floating in the universe, physically part of it (you are anyway, whether you acknowledge it or not).

2. Breathing:
"During exercise, the muscles in the body require oxygen to create energy. The breath is crucial in exercising efficiently and effectively. A lack of oxygen will lead to tiredness, tension and even nausea; sufficient oxygen means peak performance and that feeling of being energised. So, take a deep breath at the start of each exercise, then focus on steadily exhaling as you complete the more strenuous phase, and steadily inhaling as you complete the less strenuous phase of the exercise. Whenever possible, avoid holding the breath while exercising. "
I would propose that deep breathing does a LOT more than just "provide the muscles with oxygen." Sure, it does that, but it provides the brain with oxygen too: Furthermore, it expands and contracts the entire trunk, raises and lowers the diaphragm. For sure it will "slide&floss" phrenic nerve roots in the neck, the thoracic spinal nerves within the meat around the ribs, and all the long cutaneous lumbar nerves flowing between and through body wall layers of the low back, pelvis, abdomen, and inguinal fold. Furthermore, deep breathing will change the chemistry of the body a little, which will affect how brainstem nuclei E-ffect E-verything E-lse. Including any sense of anxiety one might start out with. Never ever hold your breath.
3. Timing: 
"Timing in exercise means being fully aware of your rhythm. Each type of exercise has its own natural tempo – some are best performed fast, some slow, steady and deliberate. Timing is often related to the amount of effort we put into the exercise. Try to leave behind robotic, tense movements, and develop a natural, flowing style, like a top tennis player in action. An exercise performed with the right timing will always be more effective than one that is rushed. So focus on the rhythm of each exercise, using the breath to help you."
... And some "exercise", like yoga for example, is best done with no speed whatsoever. It should be done as though you had all the time in the world. It should be done completely outside of mere time.
 4. Form: 
"Good form ensures exercise is done through the entire range of movement, targeting every part of the muscle, in the most efficient way. But good form is rare, because it requires focus, which most of us struggle with, so we forget to check our posture or alignment. For safe and effective exercise, give these your full attention. Think less about getting to the end of the exercise, and instead focus on the moment, bringing your awareness to each and every muscle movement. This is what it means to be mindful of form."
In yoga, people get sidetracked by "form" -  form is gradually accumulated by paying attention over a long period of time to one's own proprioceptive input, and interoceptive input. It doesn't really spring forth fully formed. It's important in yoga to build it oneself, not be externally focused, or let a teacher handle your body for you, or push you into "correct pose" or "proper posture" - if that happens, protest! If you layer in the feeling of improved "form" over time, it will instead become an emergent (inside-out) phenomenon, and not an artificially-imposed-from-without, possibly even nociceptive, externally-corrected constraint on your humanantigravitysuit. Which is, after all, the only place you have to exist. Never let anyone outside you push you around.
5. Recovery:
"Recovery is important between strenuous activity and between different exercises. It requires an awareness of your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. In the pause between exercises, remain alert and focus on your breath and other sensations. Remember your breath is a barometer to your level of effort. Are you hunching your shoulders, limiting your body's capacity to take in more oxygen? Or even holding your breath? Both will create physical tension and slow your recovery. Good recovery is essential to remain injury-free."
Yoga has a wonderful "pose" called the "corpse pose" (a name that sounds a lot more attractive in its original language). It's my favorite. Basically, it's supine on the floor. On one's back. Flat. Arms and legs full out and relaxed. Still breathing. Deliberately. Fully. Fully inhaling, then exhaling. Not very frequently. It's incredibly relaxing to just lay there, and not do anything except breathe once in awhile, and feel your whole body flatten down onto the floor like the unconstrained water puddle it yearns to become some day, let it practice doing that, even as you're still alive in there and will be for a good long time to come.

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