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.

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]: 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 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

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
United States
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Not Seeking

Namas/te--”Bow”(“salutations,” “greetings”)/[to]You”

RATHER THAN SIMPLY “Hello,” namaste aspires to acknowledge a deeper reality of inseparability:
The light in me bows to the light in you, 
and when we come together in that light we are one.

BECAUSE WE ACKNOWLEDGE this oneness, our bows can activate “not seeking” as our forward moving action.  Since we are one, the need to seek something is challenged.  “Not seeking” deeply expresses and actualizes the niyama of santosha or “contentment.”  We are deeply content right now in this moment with no need or fundamental benefit to seek more.  Psycho-spiritually, not seeking generates the foundational experience of calmness that can flower into deeper experiences of tranquility and harmony and grace.

When we physically or mentally bow to each other or to the flower or to the water, the action can express even more than insight of oneness and be an action step: We are not seeking.  This is deep yoga of insight and action that is quite different from a more facile yoga as sequences of poses with a bow as hello or respect.  And this is not exclusive to yoga, but rather is a more universal deep body-mind-spirit practice.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Breath & Kindness

YOGA CAN BE fitness-oriented, which tends to imply a workout and favor a strength-orientation.  Poses are isometric contractions, and the main benefit of isometric contraction is strength.  Yoga can become a way to increase strength without weights or gym equipment.  Poses may be dominated by postures that work muscles and ligaments to the point of discomfort that provokes the thought of getting out of the pose.  In this approach, breath is engaged to press through the discomfort--sort of pain equals gain, and specific breath techniques are utilized as a way to press though the “edge.”  In everyday life, strength is posited to offer a functional sense of both physical and psychological/emotional stability.  Psychologically, this approach is posited to bolster up coping skills to overcome mental stress and obstacles.

The strength/stability-oriented approach is likely the most widespread strategy and tends to be some form of “vinyasa flow.”  And yet, people commonly report being drawn to yoga initially to deal with “stiffness,” which is typically defined as inflexibility, often to the point of aches and pains when moving.  A strength-oriented approach tends to exaggerate aches and pains.  Its isometric contraction emphasis brings the poses to the point of discomfort, and this discomfort when “stiff” is more intense.  It is “push” more than “release.”  And fitness in general can increase inflexibility.  The typical facilitator response is to suggest that repeated practice will be easier and, at best and, for the moment, the pose can be modified to reduce discomfort.  Discomfort is posited to be a given and necessary for strength.  The other option is to find a more “gentle” class where the same approach is likely to continue at a slower pace, but still with a strength-orientation in repeated poses such as warrior variations and forward fold variations.  This leads to many “newbies” dropping out of yoga practice.

A flexibility-oriented practice in modern practice is still fitness-oriented, but may be more wellness oriented in that it places a strong emphasis on cognitive awareness rather than upon physical exercise.  Whether gentle or more challenging, poses are slowed down with the idea of producing little discomfort.  And breath is not used to push through discomfort.  The primary work in the pose is one of releasing rather than pushing.  Since the goal is flexibility, nerves need to relax--i.e., spindles in muscle and fascia need to release--because nerves drive tissue to either contract or release.  Breath tends to be natural rather than intensified or metered into a pace.  Breath expands for both support and massage of not only muscles and ligaments but also organs, nerves, lymphatic tissue and so forth.  Breath washes awareness. When “yoga-quitting” poses such as standing and seated forward folds are utilized, knees are bent, not simply to make the pose gentler, but primarily to stretch areas such as the lumbar and “lats,” and to allow comfortable slow holding of the poses.  As the nerve spindles release and the current pose is comfortable, legs might be gradually straightened by gradually unbending knees, further stretching the tissue.  This slow process gradually releases facia that may be the last to release (and which s missed when going faster or when pushing the pose and increasing discomfort).  “Softness” and suppleness of the total body-mind become emphases.

A flexibility-oriented practice can emphasize more than fitness.  It can emphasize stillness and slow movement as a means of provoking experiences such as calmness that can, in turn, deepen into experiences such as tranquility, harmony, and grace.  Calmness and these more complex emotional states are commonly described as qualities of spiritual persons.  In human life, these states of being can become more regular characteristics or “attributes.”   Here the practice becomes neither simply body fitness nor body-mind wellness, but rather body-mind-spirit.  Breath here and listening to body experience and the passing thought-stream become quite different.  Breath here is relaxed and “kind.”    Poses can be gentle, gentle restorative, gentle, or even Level 1 and Level 2 and still be kind and painless.   Poses can then become “islands of grace”  that are not rigid but that softly open.  A sense of thriving and optimizing and even positive “dis-identification with ego” (i.e., transpersonality or self-Identity expanded beyond ego) can occur.  Such an emphasis begins to actualize that which yoga aspired for millennia to experience, having almost nothing to do with poses (excepting a few meditative postures).