On Language...

It has occurred to me that I have a somewhat odd mixture of terms in my classes. It is not meant to be off-putting for anyone accustomed to other ways of describing the postures that we experience in a yoga class. This mixture has developed slowly over the last few years owing to my practice history with a non-native English speaking Teacher, Tony (pictured here), who was a mechanical engineer before devoting his days to teaching yoga. I work for clarity in all dimensions of practice and teaching, so here is a short glossary of terms I use in class on a regular basis. My intention is not to overwhelm you with words. You will find all of these more readily in EXPERIENCE. See you in class!

Directionality: Picture arrows on a line. These arrows indicate the direction of information flowing through a system, in our case... a human system. Arrows can move in all directions, but the directions I refer to most are the ones that move up or down through the body and the ones that move toward and away from our own center. (Basically up and down, in and out. All described below.)

Downward force: refers to the pathways of weight that travel DOWN through the system... because we have mass inside a gravitational field. These are stabilizing forces. Down is the direction toward the center of the earth.

Verticality: refers to the force of support that rises UP in the system, the oppositional force of gravity. Verticality is the direction away from the center of the earth.

Energies/forces: refers to the flow of information. These energies can be mechanical, chemical, kinetic, psychological or whatever... in combination always. Of course, in class I am typically referring to some aspect of posture and breath.

Thingies: refer to any object (or posture or concept) that could be named and discussed as having distinct properties one from the other. Thingies are always in relationship to other thingies by way of location and their interaction with one another (in communication). They are the medium through which energies travel.

Patterns: are what happen when we start looking at thingies in relationship. Some patterns are more meaningful than others.

Expansion/Absorption: these terms refer to movement away from (expansion) and toward (absorption) one's own center. In a more poetic sense, this is the feeling tone of the inhale and exhale.

Central Axis/Channel or Midline: the imaginary line that cuts your body in half bi-laterally (down the middle to create left/right halves). It is an internal reference or orientation for movement.

Base: refers to the aspects of a structure that are used to create a stable platform for other aspects of the structure. Basically, it includes any point of contact with the ground and any space between these contact points. It includes any part of the structure fundamental to the relationship between our body and the earth.

Zeropoint: a state of focused alertness that is also non-reactive, calm and centered... the bright verticality of the heart. It is the energy of returning... again and again... to a stillpoint.

Map: a representation of some aspect of reality that includes thingies, flows of information, and reference points.

This language is an effort at building a shared map of experience. It makes it possible for you and I to communicate about similarities and differences of experience. It makes it possible to move in a particular direction toward a particular experience together.

Added 5/15/2014

Zig Zag: I use this interchangeably with 'wonky' and 'chicken stuff'. Basically this describes questionable counterbalancing. Questionable because we are prioritizing efficiency or economy of action in this system of techniques. No wasted efforts. We are listening (yes, listening) for a clear pathway through the bones and tissues so that our work becomes increasingly efficient.

See Saw: Just as you would imagine! This is one form of effective counterbalancing. Typcially, I use this term when cueing standing balance poses or arm balances where the key to sukha, 'ease', is finding a balance point over the fulcrum, which is roughly the base of support. Lately, I have also been cueing the action with the term 'tipping'. The key here is balancing the weight on one side of the fulcrum with the other, but unlike a man-made see saw, man humans are organic structures with asymmetry and a certain degree of 'wonkiness' built in.

Spring situation: It helps to keep a slinky in mind. I have one at the studio to play with if you are a tactile learner. The action of a spiral works like a spring, which must be enervated to move in one direction but can be oppositionally released with no additional force. Muscle fibers work by contracting in spiral patterns. In the diaphragm, 'passive recoil' describes when the muscle fibers let go of their action to mechanize the exhale. Gravity and levity travel through our bones in spiral patterns. ETC. There is no where to go but spirals... and more spirals.... :) And when we start playing with springs in movement, the work get exponentially easier... and just plain fun. :)