Thursday, August 2, 2012
Grounding: For Optimal Body-Mind Practice
“Fitness” focuses on optimizing strength, aerobic/anaerobic endurance, and flexibility. With no interest in yoga, contortionists and acrobats and gymnasts may be more skilled in terms of flexibility and strength. Popular yoga is often faster paced “fitness” yoga that aims at increasing flexibility, endurance, losing weight or increasing oxygen intake—all of which are either largely false or offering limited gains at best in comparison to other methods.
As a body-mind practice, yoga might be measured differently, and it may be what distinguishes yoga if one gets a sense of a different measure.
Body-mind practices emphasize something deeper, something more foundational that is more important than technique as the measure of effectiveness. In body mind practices that prioritize a goal of “art,” efficacy is likely to be measured almost by the absence of technique. When the technique is less intentional in an optimal practice, many techniques may spontaneously appear. With an artistic bent, the focus in on replacing habits/response that are not effective and, therefore, allowing the body-mind to respond freely rather than apply a specific new technique to control the body. Effort is directed toward freeing rather than controlling.
In martial practice, a person might be very skilled with sword techniques, but not in art (Korean: sul [technique] is not the same as do [art]). Often high skill in technique is strongly associated with ego. While the person may have great technical ability, they are not able to subsume the master’s art. Art or do is open, fresh, and deeply, wisely humane—even soft and simple.
Non-physical qualities as flow, patience, contentment, calmness and quietness are all preparatory for technique to be optimal in body-mind practices—and likely in all physical endeavors, including performance sports. In high-end athletic performance, only about one-third of participants are able to carry over skills in competition that they can do more consistently in practice. In Olympic performance, the one-third of individuals who can carry over skills are likely to be the Olympians, but even then they may find it difficult to consistently carry over skills because the predominant emphasis is on fitness and technique.
High-end mental and even spiritual qualities can become consistent traits. But our approach to such elements tends to be secondary or sporadic or “something for later,” rather than foundational.
If one “flows” more than does a technique, any identifiable “technique” that emerges is likely to be more effective.
Restorative-Yin Yoga is foundational in the sense of making yoga optimal in the sense of emphasizing "art." It concentrates on high-end mental and spiritual qualities. It is not simply either “beginner yoga” or yoga for those who must compensate due to health issues. If made a foundational, consistent element of yoga practice, restorative-yin yoga deeply colors all subsequent yoga practice. And yet, its practice tends to be largely absent and very secondary. The result is an orientation toward yoga fitness in the time that practitioners are likely to make available for yoga practice.
As a body-mind-spirit practice, restorative-yin yoga is more akin to martial art mastery than “beginner yoga,” and it fosters almost a disappearance of technique in authentic mastery.
Rather than wait until the “alphabet of yoga poses” is learned, it may be more important to begin one’s body-mind practice with grounding in high-end mental and spiritual practices that then guide techniques. Without it, the practices tend to become mass “training” rather than art. The true “mechanics” of body-mind work are such things, for example, as the deeply grounded flow rather than the technique resulting in flow. And it is these deeper artistic “mechanics” that ultimately optimize techniques, flexibility gains and strength.