Yoga has become the fitness mantra. Most of us are either going to classes learning and/or teaching yoga asanas or at least have heard about yoga in the popular form (Based on a 2016 “Yoga in America” study by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, there are 36.7 million practitioners in US alone) . Why is yoga thriving? Well, it’s most obvious benefits at physical, mental, and emotional level are increased flexibility, fitness, and overall health and well-being. However, yoga goes beyond that and the health benefits are only side effects of the authentic practice. Though asana practice may also be used as a stepping stool into better understanding of authentic practice if the seeking is genuine. Patanjali describes the eight-fold path through yoga sutras:
To see yoga in any other form than in its wholeness or entirety is a mere part and not the whole. To quote from Swami Jnaneshwar Bharti’s article “Modern Yoga versus Traditional Yoga”:
“The word "yoga" has become a homonym, with a traditional meaning having to do with the realization through direct experience of the preexisting union between Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, and Shiva and Shakti, or the realization of Purusha standing alone as separate from Prakriti, and the modern meaning of yoga as any of a wide variety of physical fitness or exercise routines.”
When one experiences this authentic yoga or union, and through practice, enter voluntarily into this state of union, anything that individual does or does not do, transforms lives. That is to say, their being is a blessing and to come into contact and learn from that one, sets one onto their own journey towards yoga.
When all the eight-limbs of Patanjali’s yoga sutras are incorporated into such practice of asanas with genuine heart, it encompasses and involves the whole life and being and propels one towards this union.
Each one of us is unique in terms of how we learn:
• Some are visual, i.e. sight, so printed exercises are beneficial or demonstration works well for these individuals.
• Some learn from listening i.e. sound, so instructions on how to exercise verbally and being motivated by listening to success stories.
• Yet some learn through touch i.e. sensory facilitation and manual therapy is key to serve as a reminder of ideal movement patterns.
While there may be predominance of one, the other methods contribute to some extent and most of us are mixed learners.
The long term goal is the highest goal one may achieve and the amazing thing is all of us are moving towards this- our own ideal. The truth is all fields and every path taken in this world -healthcare, engineering, aeronautics, marine biology, and agriculture (you name it!) – leads to this one goal only.
The whole basis of physical therapy is to alleviate pain and re-learn a good movement pattern, till we encounter the ideal. What next? Once one experiences this ideal pattern, it is so effortless and exhilarating, it easily becomes the “long term goal.” This “long term” (as a function of time) varies for each one of us, based on where we are on the “learning curve.” In my view learning never ends, however one may begin on the lowest rung of a ladder and climb all the way to the top and master one type of learning. At this point two paths open up- demonstrating this path to others along the way and the opportunity to climb with a rope or a pole or even the stairs! And so on and on. When a physical therapist works with a client from this perspective, he/she is open to both learning from and teaching the client on a day to day basis. It also explains why some are faster learners (being on varying rungs of the ladder).
Since the body is an amazing instrument (portable, movable, and evolving- a wonder of wonders!) we all learn through the body (involution and pure consciousness). One of the pet goals we physical therapists have is to “rehabilitate the (client) individual back into a contributing member of the community.” Herein comes physical therapy as facilitator to achieving this ideal movement pattern. Another view changer- our problems recur, just so we may learn and learn the truth well and see it from various perspectives and include all. Steadily we must move towards this highest goal.
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.