The Simple Steps To Let-Go Yoga
by David Scott Lynn.
[I might have missed some of the hyphenation carried over from the book, but I’m a one man operation so I hope you’ll excuse a few excess hyphens!]
Health versus Fitness:
Different Focuses of Yoga
The Health↔Fitness Spectrum
This publication is for people wanting to use Physical/Mental Yoga for HEALTH reasons rather than FITNESS. Although health and fitness are closely related with a certain amount of overlap, we refer here to FITNESS as focused on primarily Strength, Endurance, Cardio & gross motor Coordination (SECC).
Health, as defined in the context of this manual, refers to building and maintenance (and recovery, if necessary) of all physiologic processes of the human bodymind. Physiologic processes refer here to those functions activated and controlled by the parasympathetic branch of the auto-nomic nervous system including metabolic, immune, self-healing, rest and tissue regenerative functions.
On the one hand, parasympathetic processes require a very different, nearly opposite style and degree of stimulation to the nervous system than does fitness (as, again, we are using the terms in this manual). The focus of our work with Let-Go Yoga then, as opposed to SECC, is on Tension & Stress Reduction Strategies (or TSRS), which supports the parasympathetic function more directly and fully.
On the other hand, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is more associated with overt, strength based-actions and fitness related activities. It also controls what I call the 4-F System: Fright, Freeze, Fight or Flight. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to work effecticiently (effective plus efficient) with both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems at the same time. They require very different inputs to optimize their functions, and require significantly different forms of exercise and, in more extreme cases, therapies.
We’ll not much deal directly with the sympathetic system in this manual, except to reduce it’s often excess functions, although the benefits of that can for some people be vast, even profound. We’ll be focusing mostly on activating and enhancing the parasympathetic system and therefore the health end of the Health↔Fitness Spectrum.
CLARIFICATION on Health versus Fitness
Ironically, in my 30 plus years in Private Practice as a yoga/bodywork therapist, it is my most “fit” clients who’ve had the most neuromuscular, myofascial & musculoskeletal problems. They very often have many more than the usual aches, pains & dysfunction stemming from Chronic, Excess Muscle & Nerve Tension developed from their physical activities, including many forms of exercise. (Please see Preliminaries in the Introduction for more on C.E.M.&.N.T.)
Yes, increased fitness improves your metabolic and structural health up to a point. But the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in if you do not perform enough Tension & Stress Reduction Strategies (TSRS) to balance out the inevitable stresses, strains and tensions that WILL eventually accumulate from strength oriented exercise.
Even many yoga teachers around the world have ended up with debilitating pain and/or dysfunction, sometimes resulting in hip, knee or disc surgeries … or other areas of their bodies are in trouble. It is my view that much of this is the result of too aggressive an approach to yoga — too much SECC (even in yoga) — and not enough TSRS. Their C.E.M.&.N.T. is further compounded by the aggressive forcing of the body into so-called “Proper Alignments” that I consider to be, in many cases, counter-productive at best, dangerous or even debilitating at worst.
If one aggressively pursues SECC without TSRS, even while doing what might loosely be called “yoga,” the only question is the degree and how soon the negative results will manifest in your life. Yes, just as there are those few who can eat and drink junk and smoke all their lives with no apparent health problems, there are a few of us who do not seem too much affected by accumulating muscle tension and stress. Question Is: are you one of them? How would you know? And do you want to take that risk? Or do your prefer prevention?
Sometimes, an Ounce of Prevention is worth TEN TONS of Cure!
DEEP Relaxation &
There are many fitness (SECC) focused yoga classes and systems available today throughout the world, and they are activating the 4-F system, the sympathetic system, far too much. Many, if not most, of these classes are not nearly as focused on truly Deep Relaxation & Lengthening with Structural DE-Compression of the Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial-Skeletal system, which would lead to much increased parasympathetic function and resulting health.
Yet deep relaxation and significant levels of decompression are quite necessary to achieve the kinds of health objectives described in this manual, and for what yoga is more widely known to be about. And yes, in case you’re wondering, this approach will, paradoxically, provide an excellent foundation on which to build your SECC capacities, too. But it is far better and healthier to build your parasympathetic foundation first before you build your sympathetic structure on top of too much tension & stress.
Two Very Different Kinds of
Flexibility & Relaxation
Many are misled by the fact that even within the fitness approach, they are, or might be, getting more overtly flexible. Unfortunately, there is a kind of flexibility gained by a more external, higher intensity approach to muscles (which tends to trigger the sympathetic, 4-F system), and a very different kind of flexibility gained by a more internal, lower-intensity approach to the psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial system (which tends to activate and restore the parasympathetic system). It is this second approach to flexibility we focus on in this manual and the Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga.
Most Postural (physical) Yoga
Is NOT from Ancient India
The more aggressive, high-intensity approach to yoga (both in India and America) is today far more common and well known in part because more superficial muscular fitness (more in the realm of brute strength) was the primary focus and purpose of the more “modern” or recent hatha (physical) yogis in India (as supported and encouraged by the government of India). Surprisingly to some is from where the Yogis of India imported the vast majority of ideas for most modern physical yoga. That was the European exercise & gymnastics routines popular in the 1800s, and refined by Hindu Wrestling & Martial Arts and the Indian Military. Not much about so-called “traditional” or hatha yoga of the last 200 years was for deep, meditative, relaxing introspection such as taught by Joel Kramer. Far from it.
There are actually very few references to physical postures in the ancient, classical texts of Indian Yoga, and of the few that are (one estimate is about fifteen as opposed to the many hundreds of postures acknowledged in modern yogic literature) eight are sitting postures for meditation. Many people are surprised to find what they thought were “spiritually-based” exercises developed by the “wise sages” of Ancient India are actually from European gymnasiums of fairly recent origins. It seems that when it comes to modern posture practice, so-called “spirituality” was an after-thought and secondary factor adapted after being imported from Europe to India.
All this is the topic of the excellent book Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton, at Amazon.
Introspective Hatha Yoga
It seems to me that, from reading J. Krishnamurti, as ground breaking was his thinking and insights into life in some areas, he never made the connections between physical & mental yoga the way some people in — Surprise, Surprise! — the West did. So, those who claim that “Real Yoga” as done by the “Ancient Yogis” in India was not nearly as aggressive as is commonly taught today here in the United States, actually have it backwards. With a very few exceptions (such as Pundit Acharya of India, discussed later in this manual), the more introspective, meditative approach to hatha (or physical) yoga was more developed here in America, especially by people like Joel Kramer, whom we’ll be discussing later.
For example, Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Bikram yogas (just to name a few) are all very aggressive and very potentially C.E.M.&.N.T. inducing. And while they appear to originate in Ancient India, and go out of their way to perpetuate the illusion they are very old traditions, they actually go back only to modern Europe. Nothing gentle or meditative at all about it, and they’re far less introspective than what was taught by innovators along the lines of Joel Kramer and Pundit Archarya.
Now, some modern yogis from India will talk about meditation, and they’ll also talk about hatha yoga. But, for example, you can read the first part of Iyengar’s book, Light On Yoga, and will see little about the ideas and approaches you’ll read about in Joel Kramer’s articles in Yoga Journal a couple of decades ago or currently on his website. (Joel’s article on the Yoga as Self-Transformation, A New Look At Yoga and The Third Perspective was ground breaking at the time. Also the interview Mind in Asana with Jeanne Cameron.)
Yet the more aggressive approach to yoga plays well among many modern Americans, many of whom are prone to prefer a more aggressive approach to exercise anyway, even if it’s supposed to be “relaxing.” But then, some people get “relaxed” by going out for a five mile run, where all they’re doing is blowing off neuromuscular steam. So, there’s a superficial “relaxation” from “warming up” the muscles that does not really transform the core of your being, nor affect nerves and muscles in a truly letting-go, relaxing or meditative way. And then there’s a DEEP Letting Go of Tension & Stress by turning OFF the nerve charge to the muscles. … Two very different things.
Flexible but NOT Relaxed
The key is to recognize that, paradoxically, just because muscles are more able to lengthen out, leading to more apparent or superficial flexibility, this does NOT mean one is necessarily more “relaxed” nor resilient.
The clue here is how many long-time yoga practitioners, including well-trained and respected teachers, though very flexible with apparently fluid movement, have very “tight” muscles. Yes, they can bend their joints a LOT (superficial bend-ability of their joints), but press into their muscles with your fingers, and many of them have hardened wires, cables, rocks & knots in their muscles. Many of them have aches and pains or outright dysfunction, too. Some of them cannot even demonstrate a pose any longer without pain. They’re not usually too happy to find it was the way they’ve been doing yoga for so many years or decades causing their problems. … C.E.M.&.N.T. can take a lot of time to develop.
One System to Cover Them Both?
Many people seek one kind of practice covering both ends of the Health ↔ Fitness Spectrum. For example, some might think Power Yoga gives the best of both worlds. Personally, I don’t believe there’s any one system that fully fits the bill, or even partially. I’ve know quite a few Power Yogis who ended up needing muscle therapy, or worse, to recover from their aches, pains & dysfunctions, if they did at all.
I believe you need at least two kinds of activity for sound structural health:
1.) something that works with developing your SECC (strength, endurance, cardio, gross coordination), and
2.) something that’s focused on your TSRS (tension & stress reduction strategies) in a balanced way.
However, the more C.E.M.&.N.T. (Chronic, Excess Muscle & Nerve Tension) or therapeutic challenges and injuries you have, the more TSRS you need, with less SECC — sometimes MUCH less, or none at all — for a while, anyway.
One solution, for one example, is to learn and do Let-Go Yoga (or Yin style Tai Chi/Chi Kung) for your health practices half the time, and Power Yoga for a more “yogic” fitness exercise the other half. Be aware, though, there are a few things Tai Chi does not accomplish well, and vice versa for yoga. Or, if you want a more overtly aggressive fitness practice bal-ancing out your Let-Go Yoga, go with Matt Furey’s Hindu Fitness series combined with Doctor Al Sear’s PACE program. I also recommend read-ing up on Dr. Mercola’s website about fitness, where he has some further research and refinements. … You can learn more about my perspectives on all this at the Let-Go Yoga website.
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How Yoga Helps the BodyMind
Let-Go Yoga, therefore, is overtly about, for those so afflicted, significant reductions of tension & stress, aches & pains, and various kinds of dysfunction. It’s for effortless, great posture, improved fine motor coordination & balance and effortless, energetic, fluid movement & action, just to name a few of the many benefits.
To be honest, I am always amazed — yet no longer surprised — by how many conditions and symptoms clear up with the simple process of yoga, or what I call yoga-based, hands-on bodywork for more extreme situations. Even the very aggressive approaches to yoga I’ve been cautioning against have cleared up many health problems, both physical and mental, for many people. Not because yoga directly cures specific conditions (although it sometimes does), but because yoga, the more relaxing kind, in general …
A.) tends to reduce general and specific stresses & tensions, including an over-active sympathetic (4-F) system, that in turn cause so many other structural and metabolic problems and at the extreme, Cascading, Sympathetic Overload or CSO. (* Please See description of CSO on next page.)
B.) increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, in charge of most healing and regeneration in the bodymind.
C.) directly increases and improves many metabolic functions such as breathing, cardiovascular activity, and blood & lymphatic circulation. Improvement of these systems helps everything else.
D.) And, if you’re interested, greater self-awareness, self-knowledge and responsivity of your Self spontaneously emerges in your life in the course of your practice.
This comes especially when you practice physical yoga with a more meditative (mental) element. This leads to a greater sense of bodymind integration internally and with life in general. This in turn leads to reduction of conflicts in the body, and in some cases spontaneously reduces psycho-emotional conflicts, improving one’s sense of well-being. For those who need therapy, greater Self-Awareness can greatly enhance nearly any therapeutic process.
But you have to do it fairly regularly to get the major benefits. That would usually mean at least three times per week, probably more; 20 to 30 minutes per day, probably more. All that depends, of course, on just how much you’re dealing with in your life and body.
* Cascading Sympathetic Overload (CSO): After a lot of study and observation over the years, I’m convinced of some theories that used to be taught in medical schools (back in the early 20th Century) called Pfluger’s Laws (which I would now call Principles rather than laws). Briefly, these principles were guidelines for understanding certain phenomena of the central nervous system.
One principle, the Principle of Generalization, tells us that when a person has sufficient over-stimulation of enough nerve pathways in the body, one portion of the lower brain eventually goes into an emergency state, and sets off protective, sympathetic (4-F: fright, freeze, fight or flight) reactions throughout the body. The lower brain is literally cascading many generalized, outgoing sympathetic impulses to many or all muscles and organs, putting them in a sort of hyper-over-drive.
This stresses and taxes the body and it’s systems, draining nutrients and energy, eventually “burning out” the tissues. This can explain why some people, in a more extreme example, wake up one day and feel like they’ve been hit by a truck, and can barely get out of bed.For people who’ve been quietly accumulating C.E.M.&.N.T. in the background, all it takes is a Straw-That-Broke-The-Camel’s-Back event. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue are, I believe, examples of this cascading sympathetic system in action in at least some cases, if not many.
The four factors listed above (A thru D) plus reducing CSO are probably enough good results for most people. But you have to do Let-Go Yoga (or Restorative Yoga, or something similar in effect) fairly regularly to get the major benefits. Not to be too redundant, but that would usually mean at least three times per week for at least twenty to thirty minutes per session. More if you are in a really stressed or traumatized state.
Self-Awareness and the Yoga of Relationship
Now, if you’re interested — and truly paying attention when doing your physical yoga — greater self-awareness, knowledge and responsivity of your bodymind spontaneously emerge in the course of your physical/mental yoga practice. You learn to be far more in touch with what’s happening inside your bodymind, and become far more responsive to what you feel. A more effective and efficient Feedback/Response Loop between sensory and motor activities of your nervous system emerges over time. You become increasingly clear on the messages your body-mind is sending you about what’s really going on.
For some people, this Internal Self-Awareness improves their ability to become more aware of and relate to other human beings, as in the Yoga of Relationship. … In many cases, Romantic & Sexual Relations improve as well due to being more “tuned in” and responsive to your partner’s (or even your own) wants and needs as well as their current, overall physical/mental condition. Yoga can positively affect meta-bolic and tension issues influencing sexual performance, as well. …
A Different Take on “Competition” in Yoga & Life
Although when it comes to intimate relationships, if your partner is not doing yoga too, sometimes it’s all too easy to get on different tracks in life, potentially leading to discord. So both partners doing yoga is highly recommended, especially doing it together, at least on hopefully frequent occasion. And definitely sharing their experiences with each other along the way.
I say “together … on …. occasion” in case one or the other is highly competitive. Few things get in the way of real, self-aware yoga, or become the cause of injury, than trying to show off or out-do whomever you’re doing yoga with. If one or the other is incapable of putting their competitiveness aside, then it might be better, though not ideal, to do yoga separately most of the time.
This is also one reason some people are better off doing yoga on their own, rather than in groups or classes, where their competitive nature tends to take over when other people are around. But in the context of a relationship, especially romantic, if competitiveness is not an issue, the more you do together, the better.
We can also re-contextualize the word competition to it’s etymological roots. Com- means together, petition is to seek from. Competition means, in it’s higher sense, to seek together.
When people, such as couples, use yoga to seek a higher ground together, the usual ideas of cut-throat or “I’m better than you” style competition tends to fade away. This is illustrated in one approach to competitive sports, in which the goal is NOT to destroy each other, but to help each other improve and excel.
Purpose of this Manual & Future Publications
And the LetGoYoga.com Website
Here are the reasons I’ve written this manual (and much other material soon to be available via the Let-GoYoga website) for You:
• To help people Maximize their Results from practicing physical/mental yoga.
• To help prevent further injuries in Yoga, and do so based on scientific principles & insights from a range of health care modalities: yoga, bodywork, medicine, neurology, chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy.
• To help establish a more sound and integrated experiential & scientific basis for anyone beginning a Yoga practice or a career in Yoga Teaching/Education or Yoga Therapy.
• To help long-time practitioners and teachers establish a renewed basis for practice, and assist in clearing up long-term injuries many of them have acquired.
• To provide a scientifically and rationally sound basis for principles of Yoga Therapy, yet fully integrated with the feeling, intuitive, meditative dimensions of Being Human.
• To recognize Yoga as a fundamentally human practice, not restrictively “Eastern,” then begin a conversation about establishing a Western psycho-philosophical & spiritual foundation for a complete physical/mental & relational yoga practice.
• Developing the “Western Option” without pressing people to adopt an Eastern, mystical or supernatural mindset or perspective — unless they want to (but those are not my interest at all. I am into the here and now consciousness, not the mystical or supernatural. I shall leave those possibilities to others).
• To provide more in-depth ideas on The DSL Method of Let-Go Yoga™ and what it’s all about, and why you might find it useful.
• Finally, to establish a Foundation for DSL EdgeWork™: Yoga/Bodywork/Whole Health Principles, Therapeutics & Sciences, DSL’s structurally oriented health care system developed over the last forty years via many experiences and studies in personal and professional life.
Making the Complex Simple … As Possible
Most of the time, in in-person trainings, I’ve taught the DSL Method of Let-Go Yoga to yoga therapists and teachers, as well as bodywork, massage and physical therapists. We of course got into a lot of complexities. Here, however, I am presenting a more simplified way of doing Let-Go Yoga and Physical/Mental Yoga in general. Yet even so, it could be overwhelming for some people to integrate everything all at once. There is a LOT going on in the human bodymind to account for, especially when doing things like yoga, which is why I suggest you not try to do or figure it all out all at once.
You will, however, find that most elements are very simple and, for most people, easy. You can take one element at a time and practice and integrate it at your own pace. You can add elements as you go, at your own level of need or desire.
In light of all that, I therefore decided to put certain elements in separate manuals to avoid anyone getting overwhelmed with thinking they have to do everything all at once, and am charging much less per publication.
There is, for example, available in a separate manual, the 12 Principles: How To Maximize Results while Minimizing Injury in Physical/Mental & Let-Go Yoga. This manual, Simple Steps, starts you on that process of doing safe yoga. But if you wish to go even deeper into your yoga practice, or have more chronic issues to deal with, the additional elements are what you will, over time, be doing within your bodymind in parallel or in concert with your Let-Go Yoga Process (or any approach to yoga you choose or have already been doing, for that matter).
The additional Principles will further enhance your ability to get the most out of Yoga. So when you perceive you’ve got the feel for how to use the basic Simple Steps of the Let-Go Yoga process, you can move on, expanding into the 12 Principles, at your own pace. But many people will find what’s here in Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga all they need for a very long time. I have, however, included two of the 12 Principles in this manual, because they are so important. They are in Chapter Two.
On Yoga Injuries
Over recent months, I’ve been in contact with more people in different countries, and seen various articles and forum posts on, the topic of yoga injuries. I’ve been talking about this kind of stuff for many years, mostly falling on deaf ears, but it is now coming to a head in that more articles, and even a recent book, The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad, talk about the possibilities of injury.
Much fear and confusion, many misconceptions — and jumping to conclusions based on partial information — emerge when this topic comes up. So … some clarity is necessary.
First of all, when someone says “yoga causes injury,” what approach to or system of yoga are they talking about? Certain ways of doing yoga — even if within the same system — are far more prone to injure people than others. And a few of them tend to be among the most popular in the world. Ironically, they also promote themselves as the most “structurally sound” practices available.
Second, each individual will do yoga very differently, even if they study with the same teacher, in the same classes. Because yoga is such an internal personal process, it shows up in a wide variety of ways, different for each practitioner.
Third, people come to yoga with a wide-ranging background of events making them more, or less, prone to injury in the very same postures others have not trouble with. Much of what’s lying in the background is invisible to outside observers, and the person their self is often unaware of what they’ve got going on.
Fourth, did yoga actually cause the injury, or is it just what they happened to be doing when the right input to the system occurred? Would the same thing have happened if they had been doing a different form of exercise, such as Pilates, or just carrying too many groceries up a staircase?
Fifth, is the question of the teacher of a particular system. Are they teaching the way it was intended, or have they incorporated, intentionally or not, changes to the way it was originally intended? (And here, I am not referring to some ancient wisdom. As said earlier, modern posture practice is at most only 200 years old.)
Sixth, and this is medically speaking, when someone says, for inst-ance, that their spinal stenosis was caused by doing deep backbends for many years, what’s the mechanism? How does back-bending actually cause stenosis? I’m not saying it can’t, but a lot of people who are very sedentary develop stenosis too. So, when it comes to diagnosis, ambiguities abound and assumptions mislead, if you’re not careful.
The questions could go on and on. Yet there are so many variables it is unwise to even attempt to make blanket statements about “yoga.” You can make wide-ranging statements about very specific elements of doing yoga, but not “yoga” itself.
While this book is in part an attempt to help reduce or eliminate so-called “yoga injuries,” it is only a start. Some people will definitely be protected. Others will get injured just stepping off a curb the wrong way on the wrong day, so if they happen to be doing yoga the day they have their “Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back” moment, then it is possible that no amount of preparation or avoidance is going to help.
Quite a bit of this book is about preventing yoga injuries.
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LEFT BRAIN/RIGHT BRAIN:
Left Brain Thinking & Analyzing Integrated with
Right Brain Feeling, Meditation & Action
This manual is for the Thinking, Feeling, Intuitively Acting Individual. It is not an intellectually passive, follow-the-leader approach. It is for those wanting to know more deeply and widely what’s going on in their body while doing yoga (and health in general), and how to integrate it into the daily process of life. It’s based on my experience that some people, maybe many, can feel and move their body more effectively and efficiently if they have a relatively strong, relevant feedback loop between their Linear, Rational Left Brain & Feeling, Intuitive Right Brain.
My hope is this manual explains things to your left brain at a deeper level than what you can find elsewhere, while expanding your right brain abilities in the process. You’ll also be guided through a few right brain activities to get you going down the road to Let-Go Yoga.
SIDE NOTE: In the end, I’m hoping to make some significant contributions to bringing more balance and reality to the sometimes aggressive stance of those in the anti-intellectual movement and some in the “New Age” community that’s become so prevalent in certain circles, yoga being one of them. Of course, many intellectuals make fun of or even disdain the more intuitive, sensitive types, so I believe both sides could benefit from a wider and deeper perspective here.
The process of Let-Go Yoga, although quite different than what most yoga people are used to, truly is simple. But sometimes, simple isn’t always easy. And sometimes, people are expecting complexity when there is little or none, so they read more into things than necessary. They end up making it more complicated than it really is. This is where Left Brainers need to sink more into their right brain, which of course makes some Left Brainers afraid they’ll join the ranks of the NO-brainers! Right Brainers, of course, might discover places where their left brain will become more useful to them, actually taking them deeper into their sense of their bodies, rather than thinking of it as a distraction or, in some cases, dangerous territory.
After all, both left and right brain use the very same hardware — the neuromuscular and neuro-visceral systems — to communicate with and activate the functions of the body. Yet other very important hardware (nerve pathways) do not get sufficiently used nor exercised if you are not using both systems to their fullest.
Ironically, many of those promoting a so-called “wholistic” approach to life also advocate the suppression, or even repression, of a major part of the human system — the linear, analytical, left brain system. How “wholistic” can suppression of a major component of the human bodymind and being human be?
Hopefully my explanations will facilitate a more integrative process and perspective.
Follow the Leader Yoga:
Are You on Automatic?
If you’re used to just switching on to an automatic, follow-the-leader approach to yoga or exercise — or anything else, for that matter — putting your body through the moves you’re instructed to do, or see in a book — or just sitting on the couch “auto-thinking” about either (while watching TeeVee) — this is a little different approach. One of the things Joel Kramer often said was:
“Yoga is a Process of Going OFF of Automatic.”
Awareness versus Habit
Rather than establishing a habit of doing yoga, which implies a strong element of automaticity, Joel suggested always approaching every moment of yoga as a new thing, never really getting into too much of a “groove” about what you’re doing, even if they are the same postures every day. You do it because you have an Awareness it’s something you want to do today, that energizes you, makes you feel better — not something on your To Do List to check off or because you’re “supposed to” because it’s “good for you” (although it probably is).
That way, yoga is a continually renewing exploration of a deepening experience of what it is, how it works, and what you’ll get out of it. It will in that case keep regenerating your higher levels of interest in it, and results from it.
The Let-Go Yoga approach is in part about learning to feel and respond to things in new ways, and trusting your own internal awareness about what you should be feeling or doing, or where your body or mind is going in a posture. This is NOT about conforming to someone else’s “Good Ideas” about what you’re supposed to be doing, including so-called “Proper Alignments.” As you’ll see, some of those alignments are not so proper for everyone.
Extemporaneous: spoken or done without preparation.
This more free-flowing, less controlled approach (more extemporaneous within certain parameters) can take some time to develop and become comfortable with. Yes, it’s much easier to just go on automatic and do what some “expert” tells you to do. But like many things, truly worthwhile endeavors are seldom accomplished in an hour or a day, or even a year, nor without a certain amount of challenge. But once you get into it, Yoga really does become a lifelong, introspective learning process, not some routine you have to remember or make yourself do.
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OBJECTIVES & BASIC PROCESSES
Yoga Can Be Simple
On the one hand, doing yoga can appear pretty simple. You place your body in a position called a “stretch.” You sink in till you feel the muscles pulling, then you wait (and maybe hope) until your muscles relax. Or maybe you try and force it a little … or a LOT? You might even add in a little focused breathing to assist the process … or maybe a lot of that too.
Then, if you do relax some, you might sink even deeper into the stretch, or back out altogether and get on with something else, be it another stretch or another activity to get on with your day.
For some people, this process hurts a little … or a lot. For others it does not hurt at all, and can be pleasurable or, for some, even “blissful.” Others get bored and wish they were doing something else. For even others … well, nothing much happens at all, and they don’t feel or get much of anything. They usually give up way too soon.
Why NO Pain, Means MORE Gain
One solution to this issue of pleasure versus pain versus bliss — or nothing at all — is learning about The Edge and the NO Pain, MORE Gain philosophy, and why experiencing pain is usually, if not always, counterproductive when it comes to yoga-type things. The so-called Bliss experience has a lot to do with chemical neurotransmitters, and might not be much in your control, if at all. Not everyone has the same flows of neurotransmitters, nor feels the same sensations or degrees of such.
Too many people who teach or practice yoga, or anything else, for that matter, have some level of expectation (probably sub-conscious) that other people are feeling the same things they are. … Not Always True. Some people, no matter how small the stretch, feel discomfort, at least for quite a while. The range of sensory experience from person to person is vast, and cannot be second guessed.
Feeling What You Don’t Feel
On the other hand, feeling nothing is very often about being DE-Sensitized, and is at least as big a problem as anything else. Except that much of the time, you cannot feel that you cannot feel. So you don’t even know there’s a problem. But, it is very difficult to change something you cannot feel, or are not truly or accurately aware of. Ironically, some of the most accomplished yogis are very DE-sensitized, and they don’t even know it. Yet some of them are in a lot of pain … and they know THAT!
This is another of the great paradoxes of conscious forms of exercise and therapies. The sensory nerves informing you of certain phenomena in your body are not the same as the pain sensitive nerves. Therefore, you can often feel pain, but not what’s causing it, or what had been building up in the background that suddenly raises it’s head one day.
From here, we could go off endlessly discussing how people do or don’t do yoga, what they feel or don’t feel, the results they get, or not, and so on. … Yet it is all so very different for each individual.
So on the other hand, I admit … yoga might not be so simple after all. At least not for everyone. But with 15 million people doing it, at recent estimates, hopefully there are some things we can learn and do to make it a more enjoyable, productive and beneficial process.
Many people find — fortunately or not — that once they get into it, there are many nuances or complexities in doing yoga one might never have considered if observing from afar, assuming you’ve observed or thought about it at all. For example, just using the word stretch has potential negative implications for some people that work against them in any kind of fitness, yoga or … stretching! We’ll get into all that, but if you don’t know about this very important phenomena, you could have some trouble in getting significant benefits, or even injure yourself.
HINT: Muscles do NOT really stretch in the ordinary sense of the word. Why? Because for the most part, they are not elastic the same way a rubber band or spandex is. Muscles and fascia are extremely flexible, bendable and resilient, but not length-able or extensible. So you can NOT pull on the ends of muscles and expect them to lengthen the way rubber bands do without tearing. Therefore, the more you try to “restore lost elasticity,” the more damage you might incur. Some or much of this damage is at the micro-trauma level, however, so it can be a VERY long time before you know you’ve been over-doing it — like YEARS or DECADES!
Going Deeper Into Yoga Processes
This particular manual is for those who’ve noticed there’s more to yoga; or suspect there is and want to figure some of that out ahead of time, before they get discouraged or into trouble. If for no other reason, because some people get hurt by doing yoga postures too much, too fast, too soon, or with a counter-productive mindset. Or their results are diminished from what they could have achieved if they had gotten off to a better start.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to shorten your process of exploring yoga and getting the results you’re looking for. I consider the points raised in this manual to be the most important elements to a productive yet safe practice.
This manual — The Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga — shows you a basic approach to helping maximize your results from yoga, while minimizing potential injury. Although you can’t even cross the street without some kind of risk, I believe the simple Let-Go Yoga Process — working with your Minimum to Moderate Edges, along with activating Lines of Energy for Joint DE-Compression and activation of healing internal forces — will reduce most if not all of the risks occasionally experienced with physical yoga.
This manual might be all you need to get started. Others might find here the Missing Key to what they need to make their yoga work for them on a life-long basis. Yet if you find this manual useful and want to go deeper or expand your perspectives on yoga and what it can do for you, your next steps are described at the end of this manual in WHAT’S NEXT?
GET CONTROL by LETTING GO
of Tension, Stress & Habit Patterns
If you look at most little children (before they start spending a lot of time sitting in chairs, school desks or couches, or slouched over a computer), or adults in certain cultures, like some African tribal people, they sit and stand VERY straight without effort. They move quite fluidly and gracefully, with little apparent effort. Yet they’ve never been to a posture, Pilates or Yoga class, or even Tai Chi or ballet. Probably, they’ve never even heard of them. In fact, they are not thinking about their posture or movement skills at all. They don’t have to remember to stand or sit up straight. This just happens quite naturally.
… So how come they can do it and you can’t?
Well, the forces holding your (and their) posture upright, or creating “fluid movement” — and both with little or no effort — are built into the human body by nature before birth. But those natural forces are usually interfered with by activity of our thinking mind, plus the increasing storehouse of Chronic, Excess Muscle & Nerve Tension (C.E.M.&.N.T.) in our body, which we’ll be describing in Chapter One of this manual.
The “trick,” then, is for your mind to Let-Go of some or all of it’s willpower and memory tending to over-ride in-the-moment awareness and functions, releasing and allowing those natural forces to do their job. Now, for that to work, another necessary “trick” is to Let-Go of your excess muscle tension and stress that’s pulling your body down and into an imbalanced relationship with the force of gravity, in turn causing your muscles to chronically contract even further, adding even more tension and stress to your bodymind.
The “Secret” To Effortless, Great Posture
The (not so) “Secret Keys” to success here are to QUIET your thinking mind, RELAX your nerves & muscles, to LENGTHEN over-shortened muscles, and BALANCE your over-short and over-long muscles to neutral yet dynamic & fluid relationships, all relative to the field of gravity and current conditions.
One result is COORDINATION & CONTROL of your entire system. That’s a lot to do. But I believe many, if not most, people will be able to achieve much of this with the five stretches at the end of this manual, and within a few weeks or months of a few times per week.
Therapeutically challenged people will most likely need more time, but it is amazing how quickly some people respond to this approach.
As you get increasingly better at this Letting-Go idea, your muscles need only exert decreasing amounts of contraction & relaxation to manage the relationships between the various parts of your body and the natural forces involved. You no longer have to hold yourself up with overly strengthened and eventually exhausted or even painful muscles, but you let go into the Natural Forces doing most of the work for you.
This is, in great part, what Let-Go Yoga is all about: Letting Go of C.E.M.&.N.T., of Tension, Stress & Habit Patterns, usually interfering with your otherwise naturally and effortlessly balanced posture and fluid movement. As you do this, you’ll feel yourself spontaneously getting more control over your entire system.
As you do your regular yogic activities, eventually, natural, fluid, balanced posture & movement spontaneously emerge with less and less effort. It’s about bringing attentiveness of your mind (a quieting of excess mental activity) into your nerves and muscles, dissolving historical tension and stress patterns that otherwise continually interfere with your daily life. … More accurately, meditation takes some or much of the excess activity OUT of your nerves and muscles.
At the same time, you can make Great Gains with No Pains without being able to “meditate” in the usual sense of the word. There are nerve endings in your nervous system that, properly stimulated, will do much of the relaxation and stilling of your mind for you, if you let it. This does not in itself fully replace meditation, but it can make things easier for you. Yoga, especially the less aggressive versions, can help you access these nerve structures better than most other exercise.
You will, over time and with practice, feel your body returning to it’s more natural, normal, fluid abilities. Your mind will be less cluttered with excess or irrelevant thoughts and feelings. Your muscles will be less tense and stressed, less achy or painful. Your attention will be more on what you’re actually doing, not trying to “remember” to stand or sit straight or work around your “glitches,” stiffness or pain in your muscles and joints. And far more often than not, you’ll discover that most of your so-called joint problems, if you have any, are really coming from the muscles and C.E.M.&.N.T. In many cases, even those with visible (via X-ray or MRI) “bone spurs” or “degeneration” on their joint surfaces have NO pain, even though the “degeneration” is still there. The pain and loss of mobility was in the soft tissues, not the hard.
DISCLAIMER: As mentioned at the beginning of this manual in the Medical Disclaimer, if you’re having such problems with joints or whatever, it is important to find a physician who has been trained in making the kinds of distinctions I’m describing here. It must be considered that many leading publications from the orthodox medical and chiropractic community admit they are perplexed by the fact that many people with even severe joint or disc degeneration have NO pain or dysfunction, and others with NO visible sign of degeneration at all have severe pain and /or dysfunction.
Reason and Logic and Koch’s Postulates of the orthodox medical community dictate, then, that structural degeneration is not necessarily the cause of pain and dysfunction. It could be from other sources, such as the soft tissues of overly stressed or traumatized muscle and fascia.
For descriptions of such structural problems and how they’re affected by soft tissue, see the books by Dr. John Sarno, such as Healing Back Pain. In his books, Dr. Sarno has developed the concept of TMS, or Tension Myositis Syndrome. It is similar to my term C.E.M.&.N.T., yet I wanted to have a term that was more descriptive and comprehensive in nature than is TMS. Either term describes Soft Tissue Issues causing many of the problems often mistakenly thought to be joint, disc or hard tissue (bone or cartilage) related.
You’ll not have to learn new ways of sitting, standing, walking or moving. You won’t have to remember to walk with your knees slightly bent, or your tailbone tucked, scooped or dropped, or your shoulders pulled back, or tilting your head or chin a particular way, which are all, in my opinion, bad for you in the long run anyway. You’ll instead UN-learn all the tension, stress & habit patterns you’ve accumulated over your years that interfere with the smooth, natural functions of your bodymind and its already built in functions. …
You’ll Clean Your NeuroMuscular Slate
It is at that point — after you’ve somewhat RE-covered and RE-mastered your natural, inborn abilities to let go of and dissolve excess mental interference and physical tension, stress and habit patterns — you’ll be more ready to learn new skills and techniques that can enhance your life. But if you try to pile new stuff on top of old stuff without first removing the underlying “negative” patterns, you’ll most likely create various conflicts in your body. Especially if you’ve a history of injury and trauma or excess and extreme “exercise.”
Ironically, it’s more often my most “physically fit” and most mentally driven Clients, including some long-time yoga teachers, who’ve had the most Soft Tissue Issues with their bodies. They did not know how to first clean their psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial slate, then open their “internal doors” to new possibilities. They just piled new actions and habit patterns on top of their pre-existing C.E.M.&.N.T. and structural compressions and postural misalignments, setting themselves up for further breakdowns later on in life, in the near or distant future.
Your underlying mental, physical & emotional foundations will be more unstable and susceptible to various kinds of “damage” if you don’t deal with these challenges first. Yet paradoxically, strength is FAR more available to those who focus on tension RELEASE before working on tension INCREASE. And excess strength and endurance conditioning — SECC without TSRS — always increases your tension and C.E.M.&.N.T.
Although more subtle and elusive, the same applies for your mind and emotions, too. When your muscles cannot move in frictionless response to your mind’s intentions, you develop a backlog of mental residue that slowly burdens the sub-, un- and non-conscious levels of the brain and mind, and eventually the conscious mind, too.
So let’s see if we can save you some trouble.
A Brief Description of
The Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga
As I wrote this manual, the Simple Steps kept getting pushed further back toward the middle of the book. Although the Steps themselves are truly Simple, as you do yoga, whole worlds of experience and insight open up. Many doorways and subtleties — as well as Tips & Tricks (but not trivial or “cheating”) — emerge, enhancing your yoga practice, regardless of whether your approach is more physical, or mental, or spiritual in nature; or all three combined.
You might discover them on your own, but it took me many years to figure some of this stuff out on my own. This manual is an attempt to open as many of those doors as possible for you, sooner rather than later. And that’s Human Evolution from a Yoga for the WEST of US perspective. How do we move evolution ahead within a generation, and consciously, rather than waiting for nature to do it on it’s own time? (That’s the idea of, among other theories, Time-Binding from the philosopher Alfred Korzybski, whom I discuss on the websites in the philosophy as well as physiology sections.) So there is a fair amount of preliminary information included in this manual.
So, since they got pushed so far back, I thought I’d give you the Brief Version of them here at the beginning. (My name and the word “brief” really do not belong in the same book, or even sentence, so that’s not so easy for me.) I removed some of the details but here it is.
Please Remember This: Let-Go Yoga is about RELAXING & LENGTHENING as deeply as possible. It is NOT about building strength and endurance. You can do that at other times, even if you’re using the same body movements.
The Simple Steps to Let-Go Yoga
[END OF EXCERPT]
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Thanks for Reading,
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net
Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System
Yoga for the WEST of US