A New Paradigm For Traditional Stretching

In conventional logic in the west, it is often thought that when muscles are “tight”, they need to be stretched through traditional stretching. Based on my experience, and the experience of qi gong practitioners with whom I have talked, this is not an effective approach. I have not seen any genuine transformation from stretching.

Muscles become tight in the first place because something else is not fully functional. Instead of traditional stretching, which focuses on the symptoms, one should focus on treating the root of the issue, i.e. what is not fully activated.

For instance, if the gluteal muscles are not fully functional, which is very common in modern western culture and shows itself while standing and in movement, often the iliotibial band it very taut. Instead of working to release the IT band itself, by balancing the body’s energetics, which could be done numerous ways, the gluteal muscles will be activated progressively over time, and the IT band will soften naturally on its own accord.

Why Getting Fit Isn’t About Getting Fit

Many people view fitness in terms of “measurements”, whether personal or cultural, such as speed, strength, looking good, et cetera. Although this approach works to a certain extent, in general it is ineffective. Many people never achieve the results that they would like, because, I posit, fitness is often approached from a misguided perspective. Instead of focusing on the visible aspects, the “invisible” aspects should have our attention, namely the energetics, which I call being.

I propose that all activities to create physical health and wellness are actually about creating a desired state of being. The being /energetics of someone include, but not limited to, chakras, auric fields, and the meridian system as taught in Chinese medicine. Health was seen in these types of terms globally, with local inflections, for millennia before the advent of modern medicine.

Traditionally, for instance, the martial arts require a tremendous degree of physical wellbeing. In order to create that degree of physical prowess, martial artists practiced qi gong, which cultivated one’s energetics. In this approach, one must become more conscious, and in doing so, one is able to transform one’s being, and thus one’s physical form is transformed.

Such an approach to physical wellness – emphasizing certain thresholds of consciousness, being, and form – is not recognized or practiced by most approaches for physical health in our modern culture. A focus on process, mindfulness, honesty, integrity, energetics, and tools that transform energetics, to name a few, are all essential elements. Until this type of methodology is understood and incorporated into modern paradigms of physical wellbeing, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts will continue to be dissatisfied with their results.

Bone Shape Can Be Realigned

The structure of bones can easily become misaligned. Many people have bowed shines, knocked knees, or a flat or high arch in their foot. These types of misalignments often profoundly affect someone’s energetics, namely the flow of energy throughout the body. As far as I know, western medicine and most physical practices, such as qi gong and yoga as they are currently taught in the west, are not able to change bone shape. However, High Energy Yoga is able to treat such conditions and many people often see dramatic improvements in the shape of their skeletal structure. Unlike traditional stretching, the internal actions of the bones profoundly affect energetics, most of the time with immediate, tangible results.

Often Overlooked Aspects of Hatha Yoga

As Gregory Bateson points out in Mind And Nature: A Necessary Unity, the context always provides the content.  One could also say, in other words, the environment always determines the outcome.

In the world of hatha yoga, I posit that there are several fundamental principles that are generally overlooked.  Here are the ones that I’m most concerned with in this entry, written as questions:  1)  What is structural alignment?  2)  What are the tools that enable structural transformation?  3)  What is the actual result of the asana just performed?  I will briefly discuss these topics below.

1)  What is structural alignment?  In a sentence, structural alignment could be characterized by the degree of integrity of the physical body.  A structurally sound body is stable, strong,  and interconnected with a healthy range of movement for the particular constitution.  Without writing an essay, generally speaking in most schools of thought for hatha yoga there is no scientific approach to creating and understanding structural alignment.

2)  What are the tools that enable structural transformation? Traditional stretching is not effective.  If people were honest, they would notice that one often stretches for years and the degree of flexibility doesn’t improve much, if at all. If it does miraculously improve, odds are one is probably cheating to create the illusion of further movement.  Just notice how many dancers walk around with distinctive penguin gaits on the Upper West Side – in order to create more movement (when practicing tools that don’t truly work, such as standard stretching), the body adapts, creating distinctive structural and movement patterns to compensate.  Structurally speaking, the most important aspect of the alignment is the shape of the bones.  Bowed shins, for instance, create tight hamstrings.  If the bone shape doesn’t change – which can be done with the appropriate techniques and frequent practice – the degree to which range of motion and structural integrity can be improved is greatly limited.

3)  What is the actual result of the asana just performed?   A balanced body can perform many types of movement and some body types, e.g. some variations of vatta constitution, oftentimes can more easily perform many movements taught in the average yoga class.  However, many body types/doshas do not have much leeway in the types of movements that they can perform.  Structural misalignment, such as a flat foot or high arch in the foot, will greatly affect the degree to which one can perform many movements.  With this in mind, if people muscle tested or looked at their posture after an asansa or sequence, to be honest, often it would be noted that the movements just performed did not improve or deactivated the neuromusculoskelelal system.  Methods for analyzing structural alignment will be discussed in forthcoming entries.  If any pose is done with integrity, there will be immediate, tangible results in the mind, body, and spirit.  Feeling better does not necessarily signify that transformation just occurred.    Genuine transformation entails an immediate and significant positive change in energetics.

An Emphasis on Being

In today’s culture, many techniques and programs focus on doing, such as practicing “special methods” in order to achieve the desired goal. This approach, although effective to a limited extent, in general is not productive. Without understanding the nature of being, without emphasizing the importance of being, without practices to create being, without first obtaining a certain threshold of being, no amount of doing will ever yield the desired result. The being always creates the space for the having and doing to occur.