RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pulsing In Deep Yoga




ONE OF THE INNOVATIONS IN YOGA METTA ("Kindness Yoga" that can be practiced at all levels: restorative, gentle, Soft Power I and II) is soft movement or "pulsing" within most poses.

In contemporary yoga, it is common practice to statically hold most poses and then push to an “edge” (of tolerance of some degree of discomfort).  The mental question fairly quickly arises of “how much longer do I have to hold this position.”

Kindness Yoga involves deep relaxation in poses.  Rather than pushing to an edge, which has a controlling quality, the poses the body is followed and listened to.  Pushing to an edge tends to contract muscles and ligaments/fascia and offers the development of stability and strength.  This was very appealing to body builders in the early development of yoga in the 1900s in India.  But many people are attracted to yoga for the possibility of increasing flexibility more than stability.  Contracting muscles in poses tends to strengthen but not stretch.  For flexibility to be optimized, muscles need to be relaxed.  Why?  microscopic nerve bundles located in muscles and fascia contract naturally to prevent these tissue from ripping as a sort of safety response of the body.  “Spindle release” in muscles and “Golgi response” in ligaments essentially can release the contraction.  

Muscles do not really stretch much or get longer in this release.  In uttanasana (standing forward fold), we feel this “firing” as irritation or outright pain at some point when we bend forward.  Bending the knees, allows us to feel the lower back stretch and it feels good.  The “Hammies” in the thighs do not fire.  And to develop flexibility in the standing forward fold, we need to relax the lower back, not the “hammies.” The muscles do not get longer.  Rather, the spindles in the muscles do not fire as much.  However, in Kindness Yoga, we only go so far and then relax rather than push. With repetition, the nerves begin to fire less and so a person can bend more.  

The really great thing about this sort of practice is the kindness of the practice.  It turns heretofore negative stretching into a relaxing experience.  It also challenges the belief that muscles get longer.  It brings attention to the fact that “stretching is really not stretching at all, but rather nerve relaxation.  Were we to anesthetize a person (i.e., turn off nerves), we would find that the flexibility is present because the nerves do not fire.

NOW, PULSING.  “Pulsing” is a metaphor for flowing (rather than harsh “pumping”) movement in poses.  For example, in a simple example, on back with knees folded toward the chest, legs are slowly rocked to one side and then to the other.  Lower back muscles contract as the folded legs rock to one side and as the folded legs roll to the other side, the muscles on the previous side are relaxed.  Doing this softly and slowly as if doing tai chi, the muscles and ligaments “learn” to relax  (which is really to say that the nerve spindles fire less).  In tai chi, the body weight shifts from one leg to the other.  The active leg is yang and the inactive--relaxing--leg is yinRather than statically hold a pose and/or adding tension, pulsing movement in a pose ( from yang (strength) into yin (relaxation) may amplify spindle release.  If counting slowly, somewhere between 30 and 120 counts, a person may experience spindle release and sway farther to each side with less sensation of irritation.  By repetition of this style of practice, the point of tissue resistance changes.  This is true flexibility.  The muscles do not get longer.  Rather they fire less intensely.  The practice truly becomes one of releasing and following rather than holding and pressing.

Pulsing through most poses, reaching then relaxing, creates an overall pattern of relaxation.  A particular pulsing pose can be repeated for as long as a person wishes rather than provoke the question of “how much longer do I have to hold this pose.”  

In pulsing, participants can be offered the opportunity to connect mental awareness with areas such as tissue and ligaments in the lower back.  This following of body position is an activity of the right brain, and, with repetition, it may increase an intuitive awareness of parts of the body that tend to be out of awareness.  This may have a positive impact on, for example, balance.  


Slow, “kind” movement also affect body physiology, optimizing a shift from the everyday emphasis of the sympathetic nervous system that produces neuro-endocrine flight-flight chemistries to the para-sympathetic nervous responses that reduce stress. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Awakening

Lance Kinseth, 2016

Does “awakening” in yoga reference “waking up” from everyday routine or is it more? 

In yoga practice, especially by returns across time, practitioners may feel something psychologically and/or spiritually awaken in themselves.  Generally, this tends to involve a sense of discovering a more confident and calmer self in a high-paced modern world, and even a sense of connecting or “yoking” with more than oneself.  Perhaps there is even a sense of everyday life as a “half-awake life,” and more joy or even bliss may be opened.  This level of “awakening” is important for physical and psycho-spiritual health.
It is a range of experience that shared in many experiences beyond yoga, especially in experiences that become regular practices and as an avocation for which a person comes to have great affection: music, art, dance, tai chi, or even gardening.

These experiences are helpful, but they are too facile to be the transformational experience of one’s nature that centuries of yoga sought. The traditional yogic awakening quest might be akin to the capacity, for example, to realize Zen koans that 



YogaIowa, January 2017

appear to be nonsense in everyday rationality, such as Why does a cloud obscure the sun? or “House and elephant, are they same or different?”   A direct experience of awakening allows a clear understanding of such statements, and a clear understanding of such statements reflects a realization of self-nature that is quite different than experiences described above. 

*****

Yoga is millennia-old.  It is found in the oldest global written records.  In the Upanishads, it is the heart: “not two,”  “yoking,”  This is awakening. But it was not body fitness that attained awakening.  Patanjali is referenced as having described the realized yogi, but only references asana a few times, and references asana as essentially being seated.  Mental regulation is the essential aspect of Patanjali.  

Traditional yogic practice for awakening is essentially meditation, and the body does not necessarily need to be controlled to awaken.  The ability to attain a heretofore unattainable pose, to persist and press forward, while improving persistence and discipline can even thwart awakening.

If the body is in play in awakening, it is the brain and physiological self-regulation.  The more regulation and physiological alteration, the more likely the opportunity of awakening.  But the physiological shift is quite different from the pace of most of modern yoga.  Like the deep meditative push across centuries of traditional yoga, slowing down, freeing or releasing (rather than controlling, following, listening, calming, and stilling can provoke a shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike the dominance of meditative techniques in traditional yoga, the core of modern global yoga is fast, stabilizing/strengthening vs. releasing, and this approach promotes a more sympathetic nervous response that is found in everyday experience.  For centuries, yoga sought to transcend this everyday experience.

Modern health and fitness orientations as yoga are unquestionably helpful for health, but the goals of traditional and modern practices that reference “yoga” are not wrong, but quite different.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Why Is Modern Yoga So Focused On The Physical Practice?

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Why is modern yoga so focused on the physical practice?
Yoga International: 7/20/16

“YOGA” CAN REINFORCE  rather than challenge attention to individual physical health and psychology.  This can lead one astray from a transformative process that has consistently been the authentic direction of yoga and, paradoxically, optimal health. 


NOTE: the following excerpts only reference core global/universal aspects [rather than specific Indian emphases of a variety of pathways that are also discussed in the article as possibilities for developing a best personal pathway]:

...yoga means union between the individual self and universal consciousness,...

Today, however, ...we are stuck at the level of body consciousness....and energy is spent dealing with mental issues, and ...physical complaints....

...physical postures (asanas) and the simple breathing practices....[interest] the greatest number of students.  After practicing for several years and studying yoga texts, some students begin to yearn for deeper dimensions of yogic wisdom....
.
..the supreme goal of yoga--Self-realization.

The point of asana is...so that the body does not become an obstacle in meditation....mastery over your sitting posture.

[study] yourself--your body, breath, mind, and your worldly circumstances,...


Friday, August 12, 2016

Traditional Yoga History

Jaipur Rajasthan Vishnu Vishvarupa, detail

A RECENT POST, “The Secret History of Yoga,” [8/7/16], was a copy of a BBC audio sketching Western influences on Indian yoga especially in the early 20th Century. rather than on a Western co-optation of traditional yoga.  An emphasis on fitness, sequences of poses or asanas, inclusion of standing poses and so forth are described as examples of these Western influences.  As yoga masters came to the West, there was clear pressure to avoid religious overtones, and this pressure did result in a yoga that is predominantly a physical fitness practice as health.

However, a traditional yoga did reach the West in the early 20th Century that was quite different from the dominant modern yoga.  It “emphasized the moral disciplines (yama) of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity, and greedlessness... .meditation and inner stillness and the ideal of enlightenment, or liberation.” [2. Georg Feuerstein, “the Lost Teachings of Yoga,” Yoga International, October 2002. This article sketches several yoga masters emphasizing traditional yoga in the West.  There emphasis was not just on an esoteric or intensely ascetic outcome, but rather an everyday emphasis on livelihood that cared for others, a moral truthfulness in actions, and an attention to events in everyday life as expressing divinity [after 2. Feuerstein].  These qualities are still heard in modern yoga classes as goals but practically, “health” is physical fitness.  

“Health” in traditional yoga results from practice that facilitates movement beyond a finite sense of self because such a sense impairs, divides, and is not whole [after 2. Feuerstein], “attachment to the material world and to the perishable self” [Swami Rama]. While seeming extreme, a sense of calmness and serenity is an optimal health that is practical.  And this idea of wholeness is practical, ecological and an effort to be in harmony with the universe/natural laws/science.  Sometimes practice for a sense of physical health, exposes physical limits or imperfection that create stress.  At best, we stay rational, and do not open shruti or a self-evident intuitive knowledge “heard by the innermost ear of the sages...” [Swami Rama, “Eternal Knowledge: The Wisdom of the Upanishads,” Yoga International, December 20, 2013]

Traditional yoga is millennium+-deep.

The term, “yoga,” references many things, and has been a secondary motif in human activities that range from self-mortification, eroticism, every religion that has either passed through India or originated there, and even militaristic cults prior to and during (and supporting) British rule, and a global health movement.  It provides both a casual practice and an intense practice that can gel groups.

So what is at the core of traditional yoga?

Traditional yoga is an expression of the Rig Veda, perhaps the “oldest literary document in any Indo-European language” [1. George Feuerstein, “What You May Not Realize About Yoga, Yoga International , November 20, 2015] with perhaps their more global appeal in the later Vedic literature of the Upanishads, and especially in the Advaita  (Shankara, selected Upanishads) Vedanta (“end of vedas”).  They are spiritual more than dogmatic religious, challenging “blind faith, superstitions, sectarian beliefs, and dogmas” [Swami Rama] and, because of this neutrality, form the core of not just yoga, but of specific religions that also emerged in India beyond Hinduism such as Jainism and Buddhism, as well as having presence in Islam in India.

Traditional yoga, in its quest for enlightenment, or liberation, aspires to the Vedic/Upanishad goal of direct experience of Brahmavihara.  In Upanishadist orientation, somewhat like Chinese tao, Brahman is that which alone exists, to be experienced in the most concrete experience, and “no different from oneself.” [Swami Rama].  The quieting and inner stillness is crucial for this experience, to get beyond reasoning, scripture, teachers, and other practices.  The modernist “workout” only touches the fringe of the intuitive (but it is tasted vaguely there).  Yoga has been vilified in the West by religious fundamentalists, but, paradoxically due to its popularity, has been adapted, initially by fundamentalists, into “Yahweh Yoga.”  Modernist yoga has generally become diffused into hyphenated-yoga, such as power-, nude-, dog-, bro-, etc.  When Swami Vivekananda spoke at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, he quoted a hymn from childhood: 
As the different streams having their different sources in different 
places all mingle their waters in the sea, sources in different tendencies, 
various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee” 
[2. George Feuerstein].


NOTE: It would be a mistake to try to encapsulate the myriad years of traditional yoga into a small post.  Traditional yoga reached the West but has been largely stripped of its spiritual orientation, but it is essentially very neutral and morally disciplined.  The idea of enlightenment and meditation, remains largely an outlandish idea, and yet it is the very heart of yoga, vedanta yoga/jnana yoga.   

The intent of this post, “Traditional Yoga History” is to say that we tend to dismiss the very heart of yoga that aspires toward the highest goal of human existence--a freedom from suffering due to an illusion of separation.   In “a huge evolutionary experiment” it is hoped that we might override our more facile use of yoga for merely physical health reasons and contribute, as George Feuerstein admonishes us, to “produce really good Western masters who will breathe new life into our ailing civilization.”  It is not about creating or recreating a religion or a preserving stodgy tradition.  

Getting extremely simplistic, stillness and breath are blessed contributions of SE Asia to the world that science continues to validate. 

When we do dip into the spiritual aspects, we might, for example, practice a series of poses that we imagine to relate to the seven chakras.  Well there may be hundreds of qualities that are chakras, and why do we relate to seven--proposed by a Westerner but accessible in an English book--so therefore reality?   When we look at much of our modernist yoga reality, we find it paper-thin, facile, if not wrong (even from our Western science).

Perhaps review a book such as Debra Diamond (Ed.),Yoga: The Art of Transformation for an undeniable visual sense of the presence of stillness over manifold poses/asanas through centuries, as well as the interpenetration of yoga into all varieties of spiritual as well as profane activities, and, of course, yoga as deep transformation at its enduring heart.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

July Post Views

I don''t think you see this page view table that I do.  I do not know who you are as your identities are protected, and certainly have no sense of or what your interest is in restorative-yin as an overall strategy.

My last post was on the "secret history of yoga,"  a BBC audio on the Western influences on pop-yoga.  Now I am looking at the Eastern gift through the millennia with regard to the deep history of this inclusive term "yoga" in India and Asia revolving around the vedic/upanishad gifts to the West--not yet posted.

Feel free to contact me at lkinseth@yahoo.com.

This is what I see in July, with many other "1" views not listed.

Pageviews by Countries 

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
EntryPageviews
Russia
483
United States
111
Germany
35
France
26
Australia
8
United Arab Emirates
6
Canada
6
United Kingdom
6
Mauritius
6
Sweden
6

Friday, July 8, 2016

Yoga Metta Strategy



YOGA METTA {kindness} is expressed in (1) restorative-yin, (2) gentle metta and (3) soft power I and (4) soft power II involves three strategies:
flexibility/suppleness emphasis
comprehensive physiological shift to parasympathetic nervous system
core spirit: kindness/calmness/harmony

YOGA METTA AS DEEP YOGA:
flexibility vs. stability emphasis
sets of related poses vs. repetitive vinyasa or power
slower, holding poses, listening to body, allowing the pose to continue to open
calmness/relaxing nerves [spindles/golgi]
releasing vs. pushing, freeing rather than controlling
comprehensive: restorative-yin, gentle metta, Level 1 soft power & optional Level 2

THE FIRST EXCELLENCE OF YOGA [COMING TO THE MAT]: Setting A Strategy
There is always a strategy that guides the practice.

In Yoga Metta: crossing a threshold into body-mind, calming, turning off everyday chatter, de-stressing, major physiology shift when releasing vs. pushing, freeing/listening to and following the body vs. control or pushing to an edge, no pain--gain, letting the pose open to you, washing the body-mind with breath [soft breath] vs. breath to reduce discomfort of pose, holding pose for spindle release and fascia release, relaxing nerves, flexibility vs. stability emphasis, poses as “islands of grace,” softness/total body suppleness, slowing/listening for the areas of stretch, intuitive practice, thriving/optimizing health goal, yoga as kindness