Friday, May 15, 2009

Win-Win Alignment

I sometimes wonder whether some of the old cars running around Madison support their bumper stickers, or whether the bumper stickers offer a sort of exoskeletal support structure for the cars? Regardless the nature of this symbiotic relationship, there is occasionally wisdom to be found in unlikely places.

A decade or so ago, we saw the bumper-sticker no one is free when others are oppressed on many of Madison’s aging Volvos. In this simple statement, we saw a fundamental tenet of yoga revealed. By gently invoking the Yama of Ahimsa (non-violence) this bumper-sticker reminded us of our essential connectedness. As the Yogis understood eons ago – we are interconnected in ways that often elude our perceptions.

For the aspiring Yogi(ni), the starting point of yoga practice is an understanding of Ahimsa (non-violence). While many interpret Ahimsa as an imperative toward vegetarianism, violence comes in many forms besides hitting people or eating animals. If we parse violence to its essence, we find an undertow of separation – the creation of us/them. When we hold somebody (or something) down to create our personal gain, we’ve practiced a form of violence. The philosophy of Yoga repeatedly reminds us that the goal is win-win.

Virtually every week I encounter practitioners with a solid understanding of the Yogic philosophy. They’ve studied the Sutras, and perhaps even acquainted themselves with the Bhagavad Gita. As I watch them practice the postures, however, their bodies demonstrate a reluctance to release old ways of being. The tendency to create us/them situations and snatch a short-term benefit without consideration of long-term fallout is the dominant paradigm of modern Hatha Yoga practice. It’s a shame, as there are opportunities missed on all fronts.

No one is free when others are oppressed applies to our bodies, just as it does to our society. To congest one part of the body in striving to liberate another part of the body is a zero net gain. Why do so many practitioners compress and tense their neck to open their throat? Or congest their upper back in the effort to open the chest? It’s an expression of the faulty beliefs we unconsciously act out, and if we can see these habits in our body, we have a much better chance of ferreting them out of our mind. All it takes is awareness and regular practice.

As we deepen our commitment to the Yogic path and embrace Ahimsa, it’s imperative to study how old habits and beliefs can be pernicious. Through our physical practice, we can observe how we hang onto outmoded ideas; and with this awareness, the practice of Hatha Yoga can create lasting change from the inside out. Without this awareness, the potential benefits of the ongoing yoga boom may go the way of rear-wheel-drive Volvos.

In Alignment Yoga, we practice Win-Win alignment in the yogic postures and breathing. With Win-Win alignment, we do not sacrifice one part of the body for the short-term benefit in another region. Creating space in one region can simultaneously foster deeper levels of awareness everywhere else, which has powerful health-giving benefits. Win-Win alignment also reveals the abundance of benefit-for-all, which reveals the inner state of Ahimsa. The balanced practice of yoga reveals infinite possibility, and Win-Win alignment is the physical expression of this ideal.

Best wishes on your yogic journeys, and have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!
~ Scott


Shannel said...

Thank you for this reminder and practical understanding of Ahisma; such an important reminder as we embark on the yoga and life journies.

wickedmama said...

best post yet- go scott!

Brian Schmarje said...

wow i found your blog very interesting

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Adit said...
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