Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One Size Fits All?

The notion of one-size-fits-all can be captivating. There's something appealing about erasing our differences, and we'll frequently turn to our physical form to express this desire.

Many years ago I worked as a bicycle mechanic. The early 90's weren't such a robust time for budding Yoga teachers, and the day-job provided a modicum of financial stability. (As day jobs go, you could do worse than wrenching bikes.) While fixing another rusty hybrid bicycle, Jason observed that in the bicycle's attempt to do everything, it ended up not doing anything well. It didn't readily go off-road, nor did the hybrid bicycle offer much in terms of on-road performance. The negation of excellence in the pursuit of homogeneity has left us the poorer in more arenas than bicycling.

It used to be that clothes billed themselves as one-size-fits-all. In the age of rampant obesity, only the muumuu can now make good on that claim. In response, we're finding clothing that bills itself as one-size-fits-most. While this is more honest, it's still far from ensuring a good fit. If we're aiming for mere survival, there's an element of truth to one-size-fits-most; if our goal is to thrive, then we may want a better fit!

The same hold true with yoga practice: one-size-fits-all routines are easily packaged and readily transmitted. There's something comforting about all the beginners practicing one routine, before everyone graduates to the intermediate routine, and so forth. While it's comforting, it doesn't take into account all the variability of the human experience.

The varieties of the human experience include: age, injury history, current season, work stresses, emotional strain, constitution and gender. These are all factors that may weigh into developing an optimal practice routine. Rather than shoehorning each individual into a given routine, the maturing practice asks practitioners to self-reflect and develop practices that are geared toward the individual.

At the other extreme of the one-size-fits-all approach is the sink-or-swim approach. We'll often find beginning yoga students are interested in practicing at home, though are unclear what to do and when to do it. Yes, with years of training the student will one-day/someday develop an understanding of practice sequencing, though most students will have long since abandoned their practice before acquiring this level of understanding.

The Practice Recipe is an integral part of the Alignment Yoga path. The Practice Recipe provides a container for constructing a dynamic and vital yoga practice that provides the beginning practitioner the comfort of a roadmap, while granting the more experienced practitioner the latitude to explore their creative understanding of the yogic practices.

For the beginning student, there a handful of routines available, and practice is largely sculpted by balancing the available time with the intended benefit of the practice. As practitioners develop deeper levels of understanding, the options expand proportionally to their level of understanding.

I'm currently working on a practice manual for beginning students (now finished - see it here) that outlines the Alignment Yoga Recipe, and my goal is to have this resource available by mid-summer. I look forward to hearing about how you sequence your home practices, and what resources you've found useful.



Sarah said...

very interesting idea--i look forward to hearing more!! is this a resource that you will make available?

Robin Chapman said...

This will be great to see!
cheers, Robin

Singing Bowl said...

I just found your blog. Great articles and well written. Namaste!

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