DSL’s #2 Primary Teacher In Life:
Joel Kramer …
and His Life Partner, Diana Alstad
As one of my Three Primary Influences in Life, it would be difficult to quantify the impact of Joel Kramer’s teachings on my Life and Work. Suffice it to say, most of what you see on this and many other of my websites either would not exist, OR, they would be radically different. I also cannot estimate how much his Life Partner, Diana Alstad, was a part of that influence on me.
PLEASE NOTE: Any mentions of Joel Kramer or Diana Alstad, on this or any other of my websites, nor any other of my publications, do NOT constitute any endorsement nor recommendation, implicit or explicit, by Joel or Diana of my work. We have not been in any significant communication for many years, and they are not familiar with developments of my work. I include information about them to acknowledge their early contributions to my understandings of Physical/Mental & Relational Yoga, and the innovations Joel brought to the world of yoga. ~David Scott Lynn
Then there are all the people whom I’ve helped by way of my therapy practice and my own trainings. A large handful of them had life- and career-changing experiences. Some of them suffered, literally, decades of pain and dysfunction, and had nearly given up hope of ever having a normal life again. Yet with the insights I learned from Joel & Diana way back in 1976, and applications of Joel Kramer Yoga to what I do, I was able to help most of those people — A LOT. … I guess they should all send Joel & Diana a Thank You card. And most of them know who Joel & Diana are, because I let them know.
While I try to specify where I’ve written something that emanates mostly from Joel, after 35 plus years, I sometimes lose track of what was directly from him, what was of my own insight, what was from other sources, what was a blend, and to what degree. Even with my hands-on bodywork system*, although Joel was not a bodyworker nor physically oriented therapist, his early affects on me, and my eventual development of my therapy system, were equally profound. Suffice it to say his early contributions to my development I shall ever be thankful for.
* DSL Edgework: Yoga-based, Hands-on, BIO-Structural Bodywork
There are many references to Joel & Diana throughout this website and my other publications. You could do an on-site search and find them all. However, the FOLLOWING PAGE (the next link) is about my A.) First Experiences of Joel in 1974, at an evening talk and demonstration he gave, that was a major turning point in my life. I also talk about B.) my participating in the 1-month Intensive they taught at Cold Mountain Institute in Canada in Spring of 1976:
Pioneering Articles on Yoga: The Joel Kramer Yoga System
I also recommend you read Joel’s pioneering articles, available as FREE downloads from their website. They were originally published by Yoga Journal many years ago. But, if you like the many centuries old writings of Patanjali, the articles by Joel, only a few decades old, are completely relevant and profound in their impact today.
If I may suggest, I would start with the short article titled Joel Kramer & Modern Yoga. This will give you a brief introduction to Joel and Diana, and an overview of their writings.
If you are into Modern Postural Yoga, then the next article in line would be Yoga As Self-Transformation. Here, you’ll find the most concise yet complete, in-depth description of what physical/mental yoga is, how it works, and how to do it. It’s only ten pages long, but I have read many dozens of books on yoga, and probably hundreds of articles. With the possible exception of Eric Schiffman’s book Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, no other writing I am aware of gives such a complete overview, with an amazing amount of depth, as this article by Joel. Many Teacher Trainings of Yoga have this article — what we can call Joel Kramer Yoga — as Required Reading for their trainees. But you absolutely do not need to be a teacher to benefit from this writing.
Yoga brings opening and movement deep within the very fiber of your being, and expands consciousness, enlarging your capacity for depth of communication. This self-transformation opens you to a more profound relationship with life, and also to an aware participation in the evolutionary process. In the last analysis, these two things are one. ~Joel Kramer
Then there’s the article overviewing what Yoga is, in the Big Picture, transcending both Eastern and Western ideas of what yoga is or is not. That article is Playing the Edge of Mind & Body: A New Look at Yoga. Here, Joel well-describes the spiritual, the mental and the physical aspects of what yoga is and how it works. He describes one of his Key Concepts, Playing the Edge of body and mind. While body and mind are indeed aspects of one complete whole, there are significant differences in how they work, and how to work with them. Awareness of your own conditioning process, and how to work with such, is an important topic here, as well as how awareness of both mind and body while doing hatha yoga is so important. In fact, it becomes clear that you really can’t go very far in hatha (the physical) yoga unless you are integrating jnana (the mental) yoga.
Yoga then is the exploration of one’s total conditioning, Hatha Yoga using the body as the doorway, and Jnana Yoga using the mind. ~Joel Kramer
For the Record, there have recently been many discourses on yoga in the popular press. In these “conversations,” there are often conflicting ideas between people’s perceptions of Yoga as practiced in India or the East versus Yoga as practiced in the West, especially America. Because Joel focuses on the underlying fundamentals & essentials of yoga, he comes from a truly integrative point-of-view, avoiding what are actually conversations about the religious and cultural overlays most people tend to focus on. If we stick with those Essential Elements, there is no real conflict between the Eastern and Western approaches. Or there does not have to be, anyway.
There are, of course, those whom Ken Wilber calls the “Ascenders,” who believe there is nothing much of value here in the physical world at all. It’s like the only reason to BE here is to figure out a way to get OUT of here! … Ascenders seem to disdain anyone who Wilber would call a “Descender,” those who feel and think this reality right here on Earth is worthy in and of itself. Joel & Diana’s work is overtly about bringing spirituality down-to-earth into the “mundane” here-and-now. I guess that qualifies them as Descenders (like me!). … There is, unfortunately, probably nothing that can be said to those who are adamant about being an ascender. ~DSL
If you are more interested in the philosophical differences and similarities between Eastern & Westerner philosophies, the article The 3rd Perspective and Yoga: Bringing East and West Together, is a major contribution to that area of life. Without getting caught up in comparing the more superficial elements emerging from each philosophy, Joel gets to the roots of each world view, how they work, and their pros and cons. He offers insights into how the two perspectives can be reconciled and integrated into a unified personal philosophy of life.
The East and West in their opposing viewpoints each express fundamental truths that are incomplete in themselves. A synthesis bringing them together into a third point of view is necessary. This “third perspective” sees unity and diversity as two aspects of the same thing, neither being more real, important, or profound than the other. In fact, paradoxically, neither wholeness nor separateness could exist without the other. The one is the many. ~Joel Kramer
The next article, Mind In Asana, gives you a bit more depth on Joel’s development as a philosopher and a yogi. His original entry into physical yoga was through jnana or mental yoga.
I have found that the essence of yoga is not physical flexibility,
but the quality of mind you bring to your practice. ~Joel Kramer
The article speaks primarily to mental yoga and meditation, yet it describes the interaction between physical and mental yoga, as well. Again, ideally, the two aspects — mind and body, mental and physical yoga — are really not separate things.
Now We Come To Relational Yoga
In 1979 Diana Alstad published an article in Yoga Journal titled Exploring Relationships: Interpersonal Yoga. Here, Diana takes the principles of Joel’s physical/mental yoga and applies them to relationships between human beings. Just as we can use yoga to unravel the “knots of tension” in our muscles and nerves, we can unravel “knots of tension” within the ways we relate to other human beings.
An individual is an interrelational energy system in which each part of the body itself is a system in relation to the other parts. The person as a whole is a system in relation to his or her environment. Each part of the body has its own intelligence that can be tuned into and learned from. ~Diana Alstad
The last page of this article is indeed a separate article, Unraveling a Knot: Depolarizing Relationships, actually an exercise, in applying the principles of the main article, Exploring Relationships. In this exercise, two people learn to explore each other’s as well as their own conditionings and issues, examining their mutual “knots of relationship,” more as partners rather than enemies.
In intimacy, WHEN YOU WIN, YOU OFTEN LOSE. Openness, trust and passion don’t last very long in a win/lose framework. ~Diana Alstad
That article & exercise, essentially, made Diana the Founder of a Yoga of Relationship.
Diana’s next article, Moving Past the Knots: The Yoga of Relationship, goes even deeper into the knot dissolution process. She discusses the East & West integrative paradigm Joel initiated in his article on the 3rd Perspective.
Instead of more detachment, humanity needs better forms of attachment. …
She discusses power, communication and social evolution. The tensions between Control and Surrender within and between individuals are a common theme in much of their work.
The Yoga of Relationship provides an evolutionary framework and tools to help people break out of limiting patterns, unravel relational “knots,” and create a true meeting of minds that can allow intimacy and growth to flourish over time. ~Diana Alstad
There are a lot more articles and resources on their website, so I hope you visit their site and read some (or all!) of their works.
And NO, I do not get a commission if you buy any of their books!
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to Your Inner-Net.
Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System