You Need a Map.
“The creator is not concerned with disease but with life” Ayn Rand
Our government's response to coronavirus had the unintended side effect of being extremely healthy for a huge portion of the population.
Especially yoga practitioners.
Most medical politicians had no idea they were doing it because they don't focus on creating health.
For example very little has been said about how important it is to get outside into the sun to raise your Vitamin D levels and how people with low Vitamin D were 80% more likely to get an infection 
Canada's health minister actually called that fake news 
They also never mentioned how to use meditation techniques to increase your immunoglobulin A production which strengthens your immune system.
Creating health is not the government's area of expertise which is why I don't listen to them on health matters.
When people do it is an example of an association error known as authority bias
"The tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure (unrelated to its content) and be more influenced by that opinion" - Wikipedia
In this series I will introduce you to some health experts that very few people know about. Ones with actual results.
In my life I've always made health a top priority which is what brought me to yoga in the first place.
After literally decades I have come to the conclusion that there is one thing that you can do for your health outcomes that is more important than anything else.
It’s the 80/20.
The biggest lever with the most power you can pull.
Conveniently it's also the most effective action you can take for your yoga practice.
Create Your Environment
Notice I keep using the work create. It puts us back in control.
When the government forced all the businesses to close and told everybody to work from home I thought to myself
What an opportunity.
Massive amounts of people have just been liberated from one of the most toxic environments in the world.
The modern office.
When it comes to creating health one of the highest impact actions you can take is to remove pollution from the environment you spend the most time in.
When you don't have control over that environment this is much more difficult.
A normal office most likely has you bathing in horrible LED lighting with flicker, massive amounts of non native EMF, drinking polluted water, breathing polluted air but worst of all for us yoga practitioners - sitting in chairs with backrests.
But now none of that matters!
The home office is the new norm and you can do whatever the hell you want in it including getting out of your chair and onto the floor.
This is one step in a series of actions that will ensure you don't get the injuries that a huge amount of yoga practitioners suffer from (including me)
But before any of this will make sense there needs to be some discussion on what these yoga postures are for in the first place.
MAP 1 - The Primary Series
It's not obvious to a beginner but when we practice yoga postures we are actually going somewhere.
Unfortunately many teachers are unaware of this and as a result the quote "when you don't know where you are going any map will get you there" applies to most yoga classes.
When you do know where you are going then a map is very useful.
I’ve found a couple of maps in my life so far
- one for yoga
- another for yoga that I was attacked for using
- one for discovering your life’s purpose
- one for achieving optimal health.
All of which I will share with you in this series.
The first map I will discuss that relates to yoga postures was the Primary Series.
It looks like this.
The person demonstrating the the postures in the map is Sharath Jois, my teacher in India for 5 years.
He is the master of this map.
When you first see this picture you might think "that doesn’t look like a map".
Let me explain how to read it.
Each position is one destination in a sequence of destinations.
Think of it like when you are a child and first you learn about your room. Next you learn about your house, then your yard, your street, your town etc.
Your circle starts small and keeps getting bigger as you move outwards.
This journey is similar except these circles get smaller and move inwards.
To understand this concept of making smaller circles is crucial.
It is a concept that I learned from Josh Waitzken in his book The Art of Learning.
The learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick. Our obstacle is that we live in an attention-deficit culture. We are bombarded with more and more information on television, radio, cell phones, video games, the Internet. The constant supply of stimulus has the potential to turn us into addicts, always hungering for something new and prefabricated to keep us entertained. When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment. So we look for new entertainment, surf channels, flip through magazines.
If caught in these rhythms, we are like tiny current-bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below.
When these societally induced tendencies translate into the learning process, they have devastating effect.
Depth Beats Breadth
That phrase would become my mantra.
Let me explain how this applies to the yoga map with an example.
While ekam (means 1 in sanskrit) inhale, raise your hands look at your thumbs maybe the most important action you ever decide to take ,dve (2) exhale fold forward is definitely second.
Here's what it should look like once you get there
And not like this.
These two people are both doing a forward bend with straight legs but they physically aren't in the same place.
The top picture is Krishnmacharya who is referred to as the father of modern yoga the teacher of teachers and is the person who taught the author of the Primary Series map.
The bottom pic is a common shape made by a western yoga student.
Can you spot the differences between the two shapes?
He's got his hands flat on the floor - she's raised up on her fingertips.
His chest is at his thighs and her chest is a distance away from her thighs
There's also a difference you can't see in the pelvis.
Now this is what would typically happen when a teacher is teaching this position.
In order to get the palms flat on the ground so they can bear weight the teacher would give a modification and say "bend your knees"
The next shape is Chatarunga Dandasana which to get into you have put weight into the hands and step or jump back.
Bending the knees to achieve this seems like no big deal but it is actually a huge mistake.
It breaks the Golden Rule. Another thing I've never heard anyone mention.
In Krishnamacharya's book Yoga Makaranda he says
"While doing Uttanasana (forward bend) (he then lists other asanas) ……do not bend the knees. this is the golden rule.” - Yoga Makaranda
So here we have three conditions that determine whether we have physically reached the same destination as Krishnamacharya in Uttanasana.
1. Legs straight
2. Palms flat
3. Knees on thighs
Very few people living in the west can do this.
But because everyone wants a 90 minute class the teacher gives them more shapes in the series instead of finishing this one.
This leads to the biggest mistake made by beginners also pointed out by Josh.
“I think it is safe to say that many people consciously or unconsciously associate the term martial art with legend and film. We think of ninjas passing invisible through the night, or shrouded heroes running up walls and flying through the air in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. We see wild leaping Van Damme kicks and Jackie Chan flips. We watch completely unrealistic choreography, filmed with sophisticated aerial wires and raucous special effects, and some of us come away wanting to do that stuff too. This leads to the most common error in the learning of martial arts: to take on too much at once.
Many Kung Fu schools fuel this problem by teaching numerous flowery forms, choreographed sets of movement, and students are rated by how many forms they know. Everyone races to learn more and more, but nothing is done deeply. Things look pretty but they are superficial, without a sound body mechanic or principled foundation. Nothing is learned at a high level and what results are form collectors with fancy kicks and twirls that have absolutely no martial value.
This mistake is what resulted in my all my injuries and why I came so close to quitting multiple times.
Instead of giving up I went back to the beginning and figured out what I missed.
Why it matters that I did this is because if you decide to learn from me then you know I'm speaking from experience. I've been there and I can show you the way
Who you choose to listen to in anything you decide to learn is the single most important decision you will make.
In the next post I'll talk about what to look for when choosing your teacher.
I'll also explain how another idea I learned from Josh Waitzken not only allowed me to deepen my yoga practice but to do it with less practice.
I will take the idea of depth beats breadth and make it actionable.
Clint "you need a map" Griffiths
This is Part 2 in a series. To read part 1 Click here. To sign up for the series click here