The rewiring of a human body can happen very slowly. It probably has to do with talent, but coming from an IT and cerebrally intensive career, the switch-over to yoga practice can be a very different kind of challenge. Right now, I am confronting my past -- how I had amassed problems inside my body over the years, without even noticing it. The issue here is that the human body is not a linear collection, that can be broken down into parts. Rather, it is a continuum, and always functions as an integrated whole. I have pitted myself against that simple truth, again and again for a week now, with each iteration of the “Downward Facing Dog Pose”. My hope right now is that this early stage is just a transit point, which will open up to something more pleasant.
For the Downward Dog Pose, you stand like a dog on all fours, and stretch out in a way reminiscent of a dog that is yawning. Dogs can do this without thinking about it, but people can go through a devil of an ordeal, just trying to get all the parts right. Wherever it is in your body that is tight, that is where the pose will fail. Right now, my back is too rounded, and my knees don’t stretch all the way out.
On the first day, I had assumed that this was a matter of getting the details right; meaning, that if my knees would stretch so I could make my legs straight, I would be getting that much closer to a real “dog” pose. But after five or six lessons, I came to the frustrating realization that this “linear” approach won’t help me. This is an “all or nothing” pose.
The back muscles, at least my back muscles, are made up of overlapping and interconnected segments, none of which are independent. The muscles underneath my shoulder blades connect to the neck above, and the small of my back below. My shoulders are the tightest locus, and it turns out that the rest of my back muscles, which are the muscles that make up my posture, had compensated for the shortfalls of my shoulder muscles. Everything is co-dependent, and so it will not work to just smooth out one section.
What is needed is an overall re-alignment. My posture is a result of a long period of adaptation. It can’t change too quickly, and it can’t change one piece at a time. I want to shift the entire balance towards a “higher state” or harmony. This is going to involve working with each separate locality of my back, probably down to the cellular level. And it has to be gradual. If reform is too drastic, it could end up being a deferral of pain into the future.
Traversing the ordeal of the “dog” again and again, I keep thinking about how President Bush mismanaged his policies in Iraq. I believe the reasoning went something like:
“The Middle East lacks democracy. The US will remove the axis of evil, and free the local population. Democracy will spring up from among the liberated masses.”
The approach turned out to be over-simplified. Without going into details, I would like to remark that the administration ignored the interdependence of the various parts and groups within the Middle East. Simply removing an undesirable regime or “bad elements” will not “fix” or “democratize” the region. It seems like the administration is now trying to apply one fix after another, to a campaign that was ill-conceived from the start.
Fortunately, my body is more compliant than Iraq. But like Iraq, it is a “non-linear system”. I have to be humble and patient in my attempts at persuading all the localities to change together. I must win over the “hearts and minds” of my body’s infrastructure. I want to redistribute the stress of upholding against gravity, as evenly and justly as possible along my back. Both the local muscles and the integrated whole will have to be worked on at the same time. The goal is to reach a harmonious “coalition force” of musculature.
At least, that’s the plan. And without a plan, the pain of repeating the dog pose can become an upward climb, which is too steep for an IT kind of guy.