Wednesday, August 8, 2012

23) Yoga or Movement Science ?

Recently I had an old yoga friend of mine who visited me and he was stunned to see the many books related toAnatomy , Kinesiology , Movement therapy along with the regular  books on Yoga in my book shelf and he surprisingly asked pointing to other books ( i.e Kinesiology , Movement therapy etc ) "What are they for ?" . I told him they are there to make me a better Yoga practitioner and better Yoga teacher . He asked me aren't the regular Yoga books/Yoga DVD  that I  have more than enough to give me   a solid knowledge to be a better Yoga practitioner and Yoga teacher and I told him that no doubt those books,DVDs  are very excellent but they have lot of gaps and those gaps are not the fault of the authors of those books but fault by the way Yoga is being taught .He could not understand by what I said .
I told him that when we learn a language say English , did we start reading the English Classic books  from the very beginning ? No . What we did was we first learnt to read the alphabets , then learnt to read   simple words  from the alphabets , then started reading simple sentences from those words and went on to read complex sentences , paras , then a single page , then a chapter , then simple books and slowly built ourselves to read Rich English Classics .Once we have learnt the fundamentals of reading a word , sentance , para , page ,chapter etc we do not require a teacher and we can read any book on our own .
But in Yoga how is the learning done ?
All Yoga are based on a particular style - Sivananda , Iyengar , Ashtanga , Bikram , Anusara etc and these have a set pattern and we start learning them from scratch directly and we need the guidance of a teacher for the same .Nothing wrong in this approach as long as the student has solid knowledge of the fundamentals of anatomy and kinesiology ,so that he is able to intelligently execute the postures without injuring himself  .But how many students have knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology to do this ? They are very much dependent on the instructions of the teacher and it is not possible for the teacher to give complete comprehensive instructions to each and every posture ( the Iyengar System follows the methodology ) and even if the teacher gives the student cant really follow all those instructions in real time ,with the result he gets injured while doing the posture and gets demoralized and stops coming to the class or moves to another teacher or another style .
But what if the student is taught the basics of Movement itself without referring to any particular style . This is what the Science of Kinesiology or Movement Science is . Start first by teaching the student how to lubricate his joints , how to move his spine , how to work on his core , how to unwind all the tense muscles ,how to strengthen the muscles , how to understand the limits of his body and limits of his movements, what are the dangerous movements  etc etc . These are the fundamental knowledge a student must be taught irrespective of which Movement he is going to practice i.e Dance , Yoga , Tai Chi , Pilates etc .Once this knowledge is there then the student will really enjoy his practice and which every yoga style he chooses to practice it does not matter as he has his fundamentals very clear and not only will he do a practice that is safe but there will also be lot of grace in his practice as he now practices listening to his body and there is lot of mindfullness and intelligence in the way he practices .
Most of senior Yoga  teachers advice their students to "listen to their bodies" while practicing in order not to injure themselves but then they forget  to mention the fact that "listening to the body" is not as simple a skill as it sounds and that it is "an art in itself" and while some people have the natural skills to listen to their bodies but for the vast majority this skill needs to be taught from the beginning .
I have watched the videos of many seasoned Yoga practitioners and I found that those who had lot of grace , elegance in their practice were those who really understood their own body inside out and those who came from a dance background had this quality in extra .
So in conclusion : If you have the natural instinct of understanding how your body works and moves then you are very blessed and can easily pick up your yoga practice and will have a fairly injury free practice but if you do not have this natural instinct then better acquire the knowledge of your body and its various movements through the serious study of Anatomy and Kinesiology or work with a teacher who has this knowledge, otherwise you will end up injuring yourself and will either keep jumping to various other yoga styles or yoga teachers without any success and finally drop everything in frustration . This applies not just to Yoga but any movement related science like Tai Chi , Pilates ,Dance ,Aerobics etc .So when it comes to teaching Yoga ,I would suggest that first students are taught the basics of Movement Science and then Yogic postures are introduced step by step .
As for myself ,I have no natural instinct to understand my body and hence started to seriously study the Science of Anatomy and Kinesiology to educate myself as to how best I can safely do my own practice as well as teach my students the safe way of doing . This is one of the reasons why I have cut off from most of my Yoga teaching assignments to invest time in my own self study and practice of   the Science of Anatomy and Kinesiology and related Movement therapies like Fieldenkaris Method , Heller Work , Pilates ,Tai Chi etc to equip me with the right tools and techniques that can help me understand my own body much better and also teach me the art of doing the postures safely and in a very efficient manner .
This is quite a tough and long journey and I am willing to go through it slowly and steadily .I will keep sharing my insights from time to time in this journey in this blog plus my another blog related to Movement therapy itself .

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