Explorations of movement

For the past few months I’ve been diving deeply into teaching and training, and taking a bit of a break from writing while the next big project emerges. But I’ve been loving the explorations afforded by the teachers’ practices I run for Nourish.

Every month I supply some reading on a theme, and then we come together and I lead a series of enquiries as we move together. It’s taking everyone deep into new territory, and uncovering the not-so-hidden fact that at heart I am a somatic teacher more than a yoga teacher – feeling my way into concepts through sensation and movement, presence and relationship.

So here’s just a taste from my notes for our very first session. At present I’m leading two cohorts through this year-long exploration, but if it calls to you, let Nourish know. We might find space for a third.

The stonecutter and the baby whisperer

Today, the idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ posture in modern postural yoga can seem universal, but it is in fact tangled with the development of postural yoga imagery, and yoga’s reputation as a health-giving practice. Modern postural yoga carries a moral agenda concerning right and wrong bodies, and what it takes to train the latter into the former. This is part of a much wider, and long-established trend. Upright posture has been associated with moral rectitude in Europe for centuries.

Corrective movement disciplines use side by side images to show correct posture as evidence of the effectiveness of intervention, and ‘bad’ posture as evidence of pain, illness and laziness. Yet the very idea of a universally misaligned posture has, in fact, no sound empirical evidence.

Matthew Remski once described yoga teachers as dividing into two camps: ‘The stone cutter and the baby whisperer’.

These are both ideological positions. Either we instinctively believe that there is a perfect divinity to be uncovered within the individual through discipline and effort, like fine art from raw clay; or that our most primal state is our most perfect, and the work is one of undoing, and unlearning the accretions of civilised life. Both ideologies rely on the idea that there is a right and a wrong way to be a body. Both, in the end, are trying to avoid pain and discomfort through teaching.

In fact the very idea of a ‘natural’ physical state would have been alien to many pre-modern yogins. They often believed suffering is inherent to being a body, and they often practiced to produce a body that was untouched by ‘real’ life, unmoving, uncorrupted, unchanging.

Our question for practice this session was: are you more of a stonecutter or a baby whisperer? What assumptions lie behind the body you are reaching to be?

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