Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Yoga is not about stretching. The poses seem to be a series
of sophisticated tools to find out all the places one might
be holding tension. (With over 650 muscles in the human
body, there are many places to examine!) The yogi's task is
to release that tension. This is why yoga is not
stretching. For one may stretch in any frame of mind, but
tightness is a symptom of a lack of awareness. To release
tension requires the mind to become consciously aware of the
tension and to struggle to release it. This is primarily an
inner journey, and secondarily a physical one.

In defense of stretching, it clearly has measurable physical
benefits. These are not lost on the yogi. When a yogi
engages in physical exercise, afterwards he physically needs
to stretch the muscles to aid in the removal of waste
products like lactic acid. Clearly the yogi reaps these
benefits. But moreover, the heightened awareness gained by
yoga practice makes releasing the tension in these exercised
muscles easier, deeper and more thorough.

It seems that popular yoga practice of vinyasa is really an
extremely advanced practice, perhaps the height of asana.
Vinyasa seems to take the sophisticated postures of static
yoga and merge them with movement, thus incorporating asana
into everyday action. At a higher form, making movement
itself an art, like dance. But, while it is difficult to
imagine being fully aware of one's body in a particular
asana, how much greater must be one's awareness to be fully
aware while moving between asanas? This is a stage of
advancement unimaginable to me at this time, though is a
noble and beautiful goal.

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