Another Yoga Rant

I know there is huge variation and experimentation going on in the yoga world, and I applaud that.  I've seen great yoga, and I've met many people for whom yoga is a superb form of physical and mental training.  Nothing I'm about to write is intended to dissuade those people from practicing, or anyone else from trying a yoga practice.

That said, yoga is not for me.

Dave over at Formosa Neijia has a recent post about Yoga.  In his review of a DVD he says, "It’s for opening up the front of the body, which is what those of us that sit in front of a computer all day need."  He likes Rodney Yee's DVD's and some other Ashtanga teachers too.

Now I haven't done a ton of yoga, but I have done 10,000 hours of stretching.  Also, because I'm not genetically flexible I've had to work for every millimeter of length I've got.  I even took Rodney Yee's class in Berkeley 17 years ago, when I was 24.  The most frustrating thing about that class is that it was full of hot sweaty babes who were so busy drooling over Rodney that I didn't even have a chance to be embarrassed about the out of control boner I was having--nobody even noticed.

In that sense, yoga classes were never easy for me.  But I did manage to date a few kudilini yogini's.  One woman that I dated off and on for about 4 years in my early twenties studied with all the heavies including Pattabhi Jois.  She was doing his third series last I checked; which, for those of you who haven't seen it, begins in an upright standing position with one foot behind your head!

So I have some experience.  I did at least 3 back bend bridges every day from age 18 to 28.  Because of my qigong spine opening practice, by age 27 I was able to do a back walkovers cold, I could go into a bridge from a standing position with out warming up.   If I was just using "stretching based" flexibility I would have had to warm up first.  Qigong allowed me to open my spine without stretching.

Anyway, at age 29, I injured my spine in a fall and it really hurt to do bridges after that, so I stopped.

Now, Back to Dave's comment.  Yes, it is true that many people sit in front of computers or read all day and need to open up the front of their bodies.  If you think of the rib cage as a basket.  These people's baskets have become slumped.  It's like they leaned a heavy object against their basket for like a year and now it's got a funny shape.  Yoga is unlikely to be able to correct this problem.  Stretching the basket won't help, it will just keep going back to it's funny shape after you are done messing with it.

The rib cage basket needs to be returned to it's primordial state.  It needs to be softened up and reworked.  If it were a basket, perhaps we could soak it in warm water for a while and then dry it in the shape we want.  But for the rib cage to change shape, it needs jing and qi.

In the yoga/stretching paradigm the goal is to try and move your body into (or towards) a shape.  Each time you do it you are supposed to get closer to that shape.  Props, aids or modifications of the shape do not changed this basic paradigm.  The problem is that if you are actually stretching further each day you are cutting off whole body integration and closing key qi gates.  So although you might get more flexible, at least in class, and you might develop tight muscles which will in fact change your posture, the end result will be less flexibility, less whole body integration and less mobility.

Obviously, for serious couch potatoes, yoga is a wonderful thing and I'm really happy when one of them gets up off the couch.  I'm not talking about them.  I'm talking about serious martial artist, and other serious movement artists trying to improve their art.

If you start from whole body integration and qi circulation, your range of movement is going to get smaller at first, not bigger.  As whole body integration gets better and qi circulation improves, the desire to internally stretch will arise naturally.  You, like every healthy cat on the face of the earth, will want to stretch.  You will know how to do it thoroughly and spontaneously without needing a class.

(Because I know someone is thinking this question:  Yes, it is possible to teach yoga this way, I just haven't seen it done yet. )

And since I just found my former girlfriend's Yoga Goddess site, check it out!  I'm sure she is cutting her own unique and powerful path of innovation.