Yoga is “[the process of starting with the gross and outer, and going ever subtler and inner.]”
Since we are considering the body as an instrument in the path of yoga, the last post was dedicated to the unsung heroes of our body the involuntary muscles that keep life going. The postural or support muscles are skeletal muscles with the ability to work automatically or involuntarily, and yet strengthen voluntarily. Their function is to work beyond our conscious mind (i.e. within the active unconscious mind) with us being unaware of these without focused attention. These are kind of like the sun and moon which are always present in the sky. Though the sun is very stable, it is the movement of the earth that gives the appearance of sunrise- sunset. The heart and lung muscles and other smooth muscles are like the sun and the supporting postural muscles like the moon, which reflects light from the sun and illumines the night sky. In other words, in the scheme of things, they are in micro-cosm, much as in the macro-cosm. This phenomenon is going on around us in many different levels, like the multiple planets all revolving around the sun in their respective orbits.
Here let us keep our attention to our bodies and its being an instrument. Though physical therapy mainly is concerned by effecting change through the body, it is not body in physical sense alone. It includes the whole being, including mind and intellect for this purpose. Once these dysfunctional patterns are identified, brought into awareness and practices incorporated to change these to functional patterns consciously, these patterns may be “transcended” so to speak. Transcendence is defined as “existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level.”
The individual mind is influenced by the sense (sensory) perceptions (visual, proprioception through joint, muscle and skin receptors, and positional receptors in the inner ear or vestibular canals in medical terminology). However the thought patterns which manifest as movement patterns of the body may be regulated or controlled through higher intelligence (cerebral cortex), thus adding a voluntary component to movement. Once a movement pattern is mastered, with practice, it must be transcended or “witnessed” as in observing the process take place within yourself. Once completely absorbed in this movement pattern, one comes to a realization “I never thought this was possible” or into the realm of impossible or “not the doer.” So to attain this state of mastery over a movement pattern, requires tremendous concentration, (since dysfunctional patterns are habitual and occur without conscious knowledge), to bring it to conscious awareness and then controlling the latent tendency to go into the dysfunctional pattern, making a conscious effort into functional pattern. When this is repeatedly practiced, it breaks the old pattern with functional pattern employed more frequently, till even this is mastered and the functional pattern displays regularly or consistently. Once you do this with one pattern, now it is easier to apply the process to another pattern. And not only that, now automatically, your observation and discrimination, has become so keen that you notice functional and dysfunctional patterns with ease and may employ the process intuitively, as needed. This results in inherent stability within movement patterns.
Yoga makes it possible to transcend the senses, mind, identity (or ego), and intellect. This should be the goal, not just a change in physical field. Truly, when approached from this perspective, movement patterns may be transcended, so that they are automatic at an intuitive or pure conscious level. Where one need not think and the movement/ action that takes place is nothing but the best and yet at a moments’ notice, the process of transcendence must be clearly available.
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.