I read this article by Tom Myers of Anatomy Trains fame tonight.
“approaching a new ‘yoga’ for the 21st century electronic world. It may or may not look like the yoga that developed for the Brahmin class of the agricultural world.”
There is so much here that resonates with me that it’s hard to know where to start.
I’ve come across many yoga die hards, “If Swami said this 50 years ago it must be right”, denying the richness of discovery that science brings us, almost as if there is a fear of subjecting their understanding to scrutiny.
So, if warm up is what was always done, what we were taught, then we must continue, says tradition. Yet as the article says, animals don’t stretch and warm up, builders don’t, we don’t stretch or warm up if we are running for a bus. And animals probably make less use of massage, osteopathic, chiropractic and similar therapies than humans, suggesting they are no worse for their reckless instant on. Something to muse during your next stretch.
That’s not to say there isn’t a benefit in a pre exercise warm up, there may be – or indeed may not be as science is starting to suggest pre exercise stretch may hinder performance in some instances, probably not yoga though – but we owe it to ourselves to think clearly about why we may warm up and what we wish to achieve.
Maybe the warm up is more of a psychosomatic process of stimulating the link between body and mind? Maybe it’s freeing up the physical body rather than a stretch?
The language of “stretch” isn’t always helpful. Muscle is contractile, to work it shortens, can we really make it longer than its resting length and hope to make a semi permanent change? Again, science is telling us not; we don’t change our muscles length, we change the body’s understanding of safe range of motion; stiffness can be understood as a protective response, and releasing it requires resetting that understanding.
Yoga has much richness and heritage to it, unlike many exercise regimes, it addresses soul and mind as as body, and that richness and heritage, the wisdom of the Sutras, Upanishads, Gita, isn’t negated by embracing new discoveries from science.