Ashtanga, Rolfing and the science of the esoteric
The latest Rolfing session was the most uneventful.
Not the most compelling way to draw you in, I’ll admit. It was focused around mula and uddiyana bandhas, or, to use the precise scientific and anatomical term, my belly. And I guess because that didn’t seem to be a big problem area, I don’t necessarily have a big, “wow” moment to share.
What did strike me, as I’ve written before, is how critical the Ashtanga practice is toward this being successful. At one point, Russ told me that someone without the Ashtanga practice might need several sessions to figure out what I’ve already got pretty well ingrained when it comes to activating the bandhas.
More generally, the yoga has me more in tune with what’s going on with my body (beyond just “that hurts” or “that’s tight”), although I think I have a long way to go on this front. But I’m probably more integrated — if that’s the right word — than most people.
As I’ve been pondering this, I’ve recognized that it demonstrates one central reason why yoga needs to be put to the scientific test. I know this is an issue that’s open to healthy debate. But I wonder whether people who don’t see why an “ancient” tradition needs to be put through a modern-day lab have forgotten that the changes and improvement and benefits yoga brings are — take your pick on words — minute, incremental, subtle, exoteric, and that the reason yoga’s impact feels big to them is because they have learned to see it, to feel it, to recognize it.
As someone who has a foot in “the west” and one in “the east” (but most of my weight in the former), I would caution that most people won’t “get it.” For most westerners, the ground needs to be well tilled; yes, there are people who might have that “eureka” moment from an initial encounter with yoga, but I wonder how often they have actually been prepared for it by some other experience.
The same, I think, applies to Rolfing and other alternative practices.
An analogy that comes to mind involves seeing — both the basic, physical sight of our eyes but also the subtler (and an analogy itself) seeing as understanding. If you take someone with 20/100 vision to an eye doctor and get them the right pair of glasses, the change will be unmistakable. But put that person through a Sweat Lodge ceremony, let’s say, or a month of Mysore practice, and the change will (most likely) be mistakable. But if they are prepared for these changes — in part by Westernized “proof” to their effect — they might be more open to experiencing these subtler changes to how they see.
Or something like that. I’m sure someone will find a way to unravel that line of thinking. Which is why it’s good that my Rolfing this week is working on the backside of the body, which really translates to: hamstrings.
On the plus side, they may have a little more give to them before a week down in Encinitas and practicing at Tim Miller’s. On the negative side, ouch!
For sure there should be plenty to write about the Rolfing, itself, perhaps from above the beach in Encinitas.
Posted by Steve