Spiral BoundMay 12, 2020
Talking about spirals in asana is nothing new. Many hatha yoga educators (past and present) instruct movement using verb forms related to the spiral.
Across movement disciplines, what unites us is a zeitgeist of yearning for a greater understanding, not only of the anatomy, but how it moves. Why? From where I’m standing, it looks like we’re all really tired of suffering. Since moving in harmony with the lay of the land feels good, it follows that our literature base is building a core of new ideas for how and why our bodies might move the way they do.
Can it really be that simple? Objectively, simply feeling good, by which I mean empowered and sustainably pain-free, is a sound justification for guiding how we practice movement. But does feeling good now equate to feeling good in ten years’ time? What about in twenty-five years? Just because something feels good doesn’t mean more is better. Research is showing that connective tissue takes time to reveal symptoms, so that the "feel good" yoga of today may well be part of our undoing down the line.
Conversely, measured discomfort can yield considerable dividends. Calibrating these parameters can be a life’s work, both on the mat and in the form of rigourous academic research. An obsessive investigation of anatomy on both fronts has helped unlock the confidence I needed to make informed decisions about how I practice and teach yoga.
As my personal practice of yoga matures, my appetite for asana changes. Instead of a ravenous hunger for achieving kudos, I am hungry for ease. I can feel that things are a whole lot more comfortable in my body when I practice and teach within my body’s natural constraints. As I’ve learned and hope to share with you on my blog, these constraints are quite literally spiral bound. Drinking deeply of their wisdom to me represents our best chance of longevity in practice.
Constraints offer rhythm, balance, and space. These qualities come from the body’s tendency to rotate in spiral patterns that appear in a chicken-and-egg kind of story. From the tiniest particles of organic chemistry and during processes that precipitate embryonic development, all the way through the narrative showing up in our present adult tissues, anatomy curls.
At its heart, my message is to let your own body be your teacher. It is first an approach to anatomy and then a method of curating movement that harmonizes with the story of our tissues. Our bodies are indeed repositories of wisdom that might reveal itself as part of a lifelong tango, if we are lucky.
How do we coax out this inner wisdom? It can be as simple and innate as breathing. The innovative forms of vinyasa have given us cues centered on drawing in, expanding out, rotating internally or externally. These cues don’t just make for an excellent yoga class, they actually form the language of the body.
It took me a long time to learn to trust this language and let it take the helm of my movement. When I did, this connecting pattern of breath-centered, in-and-out movement coupled with a sense of spiraling offered powerful kinaesthetic confidence that I could experience in my own body. A deep curiosity about its structure led me to the study of anatomy in academic and experiential ways, and later to a book contract with Handspring Publishing.
Two babies and a pandemic later, my publishing date is now something of an unknown and we don't know when my book will be in print. With the support of my publisher, I offer excerpts of my manuscript in this blog. I'll keep the offering light yet thoroughly steeped in research around spirality, anatomy, yoga, and personal insights.
I invite you to follow my blog, comment, question and engage with me on the topics. Above all, I'm passionate about raising the anatomy conversation as a means of transcending the trappings of lineage yoga, ultimately reframing yoga pedagogy within reasonable evidence-based guidelines. Anatomy, far from just the nuts and bolts of bodily experience, forms a common language that offers each of us a microcosm for integrated, lifelong study of the Self.
Registration for my Anatomy Core Concepts Level One Online Course is now open!
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