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Anusara Intrigue

Well tonight I went to another yoga class, same studio, different teacher. I had not been to this teacher before and she immediately checked me for all the same pet peeves that the other teachers from this school focus on. Are my knees hyperextended? I made sure that they were not. Are my hips level? Yes they are. I passed the first 10 tests or so before we made it to the crux of the matter. At TYE I was taught to use the rhomboids to pull the shoulder blades onto the back to toward each other in the middle of the back. At Amrita the staff is in rebellion against John Friend regarding this teaching, and they are not teaching it. Rather than saying "melt your heart" they say to keep your back "broad" and not allow the pinching between the shoulderblades. Tonight I had a social work nurse and a physical therapist, both yoga teachers, try to authoritize me into believing that they way is right. I don't believe anything just because somebody said so! And I told them this. I tried to open the conversation about the anatomy involved. The main teacher of the class said that she thinks Americans overuse their rhomboids and in such is the essence of our postural problems. I so disagree with her. We did this partner stretch that involved having one person hold another person's wrists behind their backs and lean forward to open the chest. I was instructed to do this without my shoulderblades coming together. When I resisted the stretch and exerted my pecs to hold my shoulders forward, she was satisfied. When I allowed the pose to open my heart, my shoulderblades were too close and she was dissatisfied. I am so far not impressed with the level of awareness of this school. There is too much pedantry, too much authoritarian zeal. I will do what I choose based on what I decide based on the assimilation of teachings, studies and body knowledge. This is my yoga. One rebel school can disagree with one brand new master about the ultimate truth, and I will synthesize my own truth.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
kellamaste
Dec. 12th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
How exactly is it that one can open one's chest without bringing the shoulder blades together? When I try it, my pecs do contract, which makes me feel more like my chest is caving a bit, not opening. Really, that puts you in a relatively neutral position with both sets of muscles straining (especially when the arms are back).

Everyone always seems to fight over what is "right" in everyhing. Maybe nothing is right at all!!
(Anonymous)
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
anusara shoulders and pecs
Dear Kellamaste,

i'm writing you from the amrita studio, as the owner and head teacher. i agree with you that contracting your pecs will make your chest feel caved in. i'm confident that my teaching staff does not suggest engaging the pecs in this way; though i am also confident that they are on the look-out for students with hyper-mobile joints finding stability in their joints so as to stretch the main body of the muscles, as opposed to the joint capsules.

shoulder stability is a balance of strength and flexibility. we want the pecs and deltoids to be supple and strong, we don't want to over work the rhomboids without balancing them with the serratus anterior. sometimes when students "melt their hearts" their physical structure loses integrity, especially in the shoulder joint.

in terms of fighting over what is right, i, too, find that to be a shame. historically, debating was part of the yoga tradition - people debated the true nature of the universe, for example. however, they did it in person, not via e-mail, nor anonymously.

the sorrow for me is that this student wasn't able to be in dialogue with the teacher in a more curious way. both the teacher and the student, and the other students, miss out when open, explorative dialogue doesn't occur.

one final thing to consider, while anatomy and kinesiology aren't really debatable (the biceps do what they do, the infranspinatus does it's job, etc), how each person's unique form fits into yoga is an art and an investigation. and ultimately that's what my teachers and i are committed to.

you can reach me at sarahjoy@yogajoy.net if you wish to.


Namaste,

Sarahjoy






liveonearth
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)
curious
I strive and will continue to strive to be open to all teachers, whether invited or accidental. I hope that we can continue to talk about shoulders. We have barely touched the surface and we're still not really getting there, but there is time.

I agree with you on this point:
***sometimes when students "melt their hearts" their physical structure loses integrity, especially in the shoulder joint***
(Anonymous)
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
I agree! There is no "right" way except the way that brings you closer to your true essence. But there are plenty of ways to hurt yourself out of ignorance. I've tried quite a few of them. =-/ So I can appreciate teachers wanting to protect themselves from the injuries that come from pushing your body without full consciousness of it.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
oops
...I meant, protect their students, not themselves....
(Anonymous)
Dec. 13th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
broadening the back
I can understand your frustration at what seemed to have been expressed as zeal and dogma. I too have been in yoga classes and felt like I wasn't being given a chance to find what was true for my body. Given that, consider that you might not need to use your pecs to broaden the back. There are other ways to melt the heart and still keep an openness in the back of the heart that are incredibly powerful and enhance so many other asanas as well as breath capacity. I hope you do try this. It doesn't inherently contradict Anusara or the importance of keeping the shoulderblades firmly and fearlessly on the back.

liveonearth
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
firmly and fearlessly
Well said. I am sure that I will learn something from the attempt to balance a new instruction with an old one, and the gradual increase in my own awareness that comes with practice. Even though I do not understand all the teachings I receive, I do try all of them. Some are assimilated years after the first teaching.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
amrita and shoulderblades
Dear Live on Earth,

i'm writing to you as the owner and head teacher at amrita, the studio you mentioned in your blog.

i can hear the frustration in your message, perhaps arising out of some element of confusion between what it means to "melt the heart" and "keeping your back broad". i would be most happy to discuss this with you in person. i have a strong background in anatomy and i think i can clear up the confusion.

Namaste,

sarahjoy
liveonearth
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
confused
I'd love to hear your thoughts on it next time I make it to your class! I wonder if you would have any open-ness toward hearing my thoughts on it?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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