Friday, August 21, 2009

162/232 - Isolation in Anatomy

Thursday 8:15 pm with Amy

I made a bit more progress this class with the right knee. The balancing poses were better, and I'm a little less reluctant about falling out of them. I managed to get up out of the third part of Awkward. And I actually balanced on my right leg in Eagle, with the knee bent some. I couldn't hold it the full time, but last class I couldn't even pick the left foot up. I sat out one set of Triangle, because I still can't deal with the lunge position. But that's the only real sitting out that I did.

And I got some compliments -- in Locust, which is no big surprise. But also in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. My head still feels like its about four feet from the floor in this pose (actually, about 6 inches or so, I think). So I know the compliment was not about my depth. And that means that my form must have been good, which is always nice to know.

The day 227 meditation offers some further criticism of the Western medical approach. Gates talks about how Western medical thinking tends to isolate parts. If there is a problem, it tries to locate which part is causing the problem and then tries to fix that part, very often in isolation from the rest of the body.

He uses the Nautilus weight machines as an example of the result of this way of thinking. I did Nautilus routines back when these machines were new. The system claimed a complete approach to fitness by using its series of 12-14 machines. Each machine would exercise one muscle through its full range of motion. You would do one set on this muscle to exhaustion in 8-12 reptitions, and then proceed to the next machine, working from the largest muscles to smaller ones. If I remember correctly, the progression was Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Lats, Lats (pulldown), Pecs, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Abs.

A while later, people started to notice injuries occuring, because a main muscle got developed, but the supporting muscle groups, or supporting joint tissue, didn't get any similar or balanced development. Around that time, free weights started to come back into fashion, precisely because they didn't force an isolation of a particular muscle, and instead tended to work groups of muscles better. Even then, there's still a huge danger in weight training from overdeveloping one set of muscles, and ignoring the balance that should exist between various muscle groups.

Asana practice exists at the other extreme from Nautilus training. When doing the asana correctly, the entire body gets involved. Instead of focusing on isolation, asana practice focuses on integration. In an odd way, this point gets driven home to me more clearly any time I get another minor injury. When some individual part of the body is hurting, there just is a natural tendency to focus on that part during practice. The question comes up: Which poses use that part, and how? The amazing thing is that the answer to the first question is pretty much always the same. No matter what I've hurt, I discover that EVERY pose uses that part of the body, much more than I'd been aware of before. I hope that at least part of that awareness sticks even after the injury disappears. Thus, while Nautilus training focused on treating the parts of the body in isolation; asana practice stresses on learning the complete interconnectedness of the body in each of the poses.


thedancingj said...


You know what this reminded me of? This is kind of random, but... have you ever read any of Michael Pollan's books? He writes about food. He says something really true in one of them (I think it was Eater's Manifesto). He says that our culture has gone from shopping for FOOD to shopping for NUTRIENTS. You know... instead of looking at the store for bread, cheese, apples, wine, we're looking for high fiber, no transfat, extra calcium, fat-free, etc. And it's kind of destroying the way that we eat. He says, just eat REAL FOOD. I think that's so true, and it's a good analogy to the Nautilus training thing (at least in MY mind). Don't worry about lats, triceps, trapezius, obliques. Just use your BODY. :)

Duffy Pratt said...

I agree. It's almost as if food has become a substitute for vitamins.