The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 28, 2007

On Yoga

In terms of jumping rope and yoga in the same day…when I said yoga, I specifically meant Hatha, the yoga of postures. The eight arms of yoga also admit meditation, breathing, service and other categories to the “Union of the divine” category.

All well and good. But the holding of static postures with very specific attentions and muscle locks and breathing patterns has an effect on the body unlike anything else. And while one can take breathing and attention and make almost anything a ‘yoga” I’m specifically looking at its ability to improve health in some ways that are unnervingly like rejuvenation. “Fitness” activities (how many reps, how much, how long) aren’t health activities except almost by accident. I have to be careful to avoid the lure of exercises that make me “sizzle” or give me a good “pump” but don’t actually help my body recover from another day’s work. The body grows and changes while resting, rather than while working. And the ego will try to head towards the “sizzle.” Yoga is a lot quieter than that. Often, you can’t even feel the effects. Just…your body feels great. Then you stop, and the fitness stays the same, but aches and pains accumulate, and one day you have the same complaints common to others your age and…oops! Time to head back to yoga again…
But aside from that, here’s a fast and dirty explanation (one of man, no doubt) for how yoga works as a spiritual discipline. Hatha, that is.

1) Learn proper breathing technique.
2) Learn basic postures, which align, stretch, and stress.
3) Take the postures to the limit that can be reached WITHOUT disrupting breathing.
4) Practice these breathing patterns for sixty seconds, five times a day, at every hour divisible by 3 (Five Minute Miracle).
5) When you are in high-stress situations, remember to breathe. After a couple of years or ordinary practice, this will begin to become habitual.
6) Live your life in balance (body, mind, spirit).
7) As you encounter stresses trying to live up to your goal, you will start to switch into resourceful breathing states, allowing you to access more of your skills.
8) As you resolve problems on one level of your life, you automatically ‘rise up” and encounter new problems on the next level.
9) If you maintain breathing practice, focus, and living in balance, you start marching “up” Maslow’s Hierarchy toward more integrated, stress-less, peaceful living.
10) My belief is that human beings are designed to evolve. Remove the blockages, resolve the fear, and keep moving…and the spiritual questions and challenges will automatically present themselves. You need not be a part of an organized faith at all…but if you are you are likely to improve your capacity to see through dogma to the underlying truths.


Anonymous said...


Have a happy New Year Steve.


B the II said...

On being thickheaded about breathing. . . my cousin owns a Gym in NC and is "in shape" (but inflexible). We were having a discussion about proper breathing technique while doing exercise and he just wouldn't listen! Not that that's new, but he was so stuck in his own view of an imposed breathing technique instead of doing what the movement demands that he would try to bottleneck my points and examples such that i couldn't disagree with him.

And i got Casanegra from the library. I only got through three pages, but i like how it reads like a detective novel, which is different for you (and your kin/friend).

Steven Barnes said...

What does "bottleneck" mean, dude? And your cousin sounds like he's found something that works for him. It's hard to change someone's mind when they like the results. Best answer? Take REALLY good care of yourself, and people will ask you what you're doing. Then you can share.

B the II said...

He and i were talking about the 'natural' (agreed word/be breathed) versus 'optimal' (his word/forced) way to breathe. In his teaching and practice he would force an inhale on the downstroke of a squat and then have a forced exhale on the upstroke, which he called optimal breathing.

He wouldn't acknowledge that the forced inhale on the downstroke was imposed and not natural according to the movement, saying it was 'optimal' (oxygenating therefore energizing for the next movement), which thereby would give a natural/forced exhale on the upstroke. In his analysis this forced breath was right as the inhale was in preparation for exertion.

He started to get the point when we started talking about a punch. We agreed that the appropriate breath would be an exhale. But he thought the exhale because it was exertion, and i thought exhale based on the twisting of the abdomen/ribcage. I had to give him a counter-example of when someone would inhale on a punch (escaping a hold where the person was scrunched was my example). We has the same 'difference of opinion' when he started talking about the bench press, which played into my counter-example and allowed him to start to think outside of what he knew.

He finally acknowledged that the 'natural' breath on the downstroke is an exhale and the natural breath on the upstroke was an inhale.

So when i said 'bottlneck' i was saying that he would only allow limited new information to the argument as long as it in someway supported his contentions/viewpoint.


This whole thought was a result of me starting to understand how Sonnon would encounter sooo much resistance to his ideas from the existing sports performance and body-builder paradigm.

Steven Barnes said...

Remember that Scott is talking about health and the weightlifting world is talking about performance. Pavel talks about various pressure breaths that increase strength...but can hurt you. Achilles' Choice, dude. A long dull life, or a short glorious one. Scott's trying to have it both ways.

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