The Realization Process with Judith Blackstone (LBP 068)

Today I’m talking with Judith Blackstone. Judith is the creator of The Realization Process, which is an integrated approach to embodiment for psychological, relational, physical and spiritual healing. 

Judith is a clinical psychologist and a meditation practitioner and student of contemplative traditions with more than 40 years of experience. She is the author of several books including Belonging Here and The Enlightenment Process, and she is also the co-founder of the Nonduality Institute which is dedicated to the science and practice of non-duality.

In today’s conversation we’re talking about “the issues in the tissues”, or how emotional pain gets bound in the body- and also how it can be released, what fundamental consciousness is and why it’s useful to attune to it, how your experience of gravity and your fluidity of movement changes with this embodiment work, what happens when people bypass their stuck emotional pain, and how this work can help what I call the “sensies” of the world- the empaths- to do their work and to live fully without feeling overwhelmed much of the time.




Your Body Is Your Soul with Jaap van der Wal (LBP 057)


Jaap van der Wal is a phenomenological embryologist who is searching for the soul via the embryo. He teaches about this all over the world through his Embryo in Motion project.

In our conversation today we talked about the dualistic time we are living in and how we make the brain and/or the genes the most important “parts” of the body, how we conceptually consider the body a machine that comes in parts, and the way we separate the soul from the body. Jaap discusses how the embryo challenges the notion that we are our brains, says that genes do not cause what happens in a body, that motion is primary and form is secondary- or that we are always a present-tense alive process that is performing, and hence creating, the body, what fascia has to do with all of this, and that the body does not have a soul, it is a soul.




Conversation highlights

  • Jaap van der Wal introduces himself as an embryologist and anatomist who is searching for spirit in the human being. He wants to help people to see and become aware that there is something more at stake than just body dimension. 
  • The embryo is the perfect domain to ask questions like what are we doing? What is a body? Is a body something producing us or that we are producing? Is my consciousness coming from my body? Am I shaped by myself?
  • He is not trying to get people to believe in spirit, but to approach it scientifically
  • Early in his career he started having questions like, w"What is anatomy actually telling me about MY body?"
  • The body that I am, that I experience, is quite different than the body I have learned, studied, and dissected.
  • This led him to phenomenology- where you don’t become an onlooker, you primarily start to experience the reality. The body you live, the body you are is different than what he had to teach the students.
  • From the beginning your body is a performance, a life-long process.
  • The embryo challenges the idea that we are our brain. For more than 8 weeks in the embryonic stage you do not have a brain in the way we do now. How do you exist when you are an embryo?
  • There is so much presence or awareness in your body that is not your brain's behavior.
  • He learned from the embryo that your body is not producing a brain which is producing you. You are producing from day one til your last day- it is the primary thing you do. Every morning you wake up new. You are not a machine
  • Your brain is not moving your arms, you are moving your arms. I need a brain, I need muscles, I need a lot of things to produce that movement.
  • Every day or every moment you have a new body. This is your body being a performance. We are a time body. Every living organism is a process, not a machine built up from particles. The anatomist is wrong. All phases of your life are a part of the whole performance in time which your body is.
  • Genes do not cause anything. The most lifeless molecule is the DNA. It is a molecule of heredity. It is produced by living organisms, and not the reverse.
  • Genes and brains are necessary but not sufficient conditions to give a body its shape.
  • When you change the genes or brain the organism behaves differently, but that does not prove that they cause behavior. His wife’s brain tumor and her personality changed. If you damage a brain you get a damaged personality. Yes, but that does not prove that the brain is primary.
  • Modern science thinks the experiment proves that they are right. Science is not what they want us to believe. They want us to believe that it is a new way to know everything, yet every scientist has in his or her mind the frame of thoughts that is looking for the facts in harmony with the idea.
  • What is making the embryo? The only answer is that apparently in me and all of us there is something else realizing itself in us.
  • Spirit and matter if they exist must be one.
  • Modern materialism has no future. He is worried about the future that will be realized by a society that only believes in brains, genes, and bodies.
  • If you’re alive then you’re alive but we don’t understand what aliveness is or that it’s happening all the time.
  • Learned from the embryo motion is primary, forms come out of motion- the embryo is not past.
  • Motion is the primary dimension and related to time. Bodies appear in time. Time and motion are related.
  • We are motions and processes producing forms.  That’s what we can learn from the embryo
  • Erich Blechschmidt- the German embryologist, "Don’t consider soul or psyche as something added to the body later." The soul is pre-exercised in the body. Your body is behavior. If you want to understand human behavior psychologically you also have to look physiologically. The way we shape our body is what we are capable of psychologically and physiologically.
  • Fascia is about this "producing" our body. It is faithful to actions and emotions
  • Stop talking about “germ layers” ecto, endo, meso. It’s too anatomical. We don’t have 3 layers. We have ecto and endo and then we have an in-between, an innerness.
  • We are addicted to causality. Why? Finding a cause means you can manipulate it. It’s our only motive. Finding the cause of disease means we can manipulate it. It is very helpful, it saved the life of his wife, but it is not the only reality.
  • The body does not have a soul it is a soul. It is one.


Jaap van der Wal's website, and the Embryo in Motion project

Article: The Embryo in Us: A Phenomenological Search for the Soul and Consciousness in the Prenatal Body (English version)

If you’re inspired to support the show, you can do that here. You can also leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher  or simply tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Discovering The Line with Will Johnson (LBP 051)

Will Johnson is the founder of the Institute for Embodiment Training and the author of several books including The Posture of Meditation and Balance in Body, Balance in Mind. In today’s conversation we dove into what Dr. Rolf’s original concept of “The Line” was, and discuss its implications for both finding delicious support in our bodies and also for its ability to evoke our evolutionary potential.




Conversation highlights

  • What is “The Line” and how did Dr Rolf define it? It's more like a koan than a thing...
  • The evolutionary implications in Dr. Rolf's teachings and intentions which have to a large degree gone by the wayside since her passing. Rolfing was not just to feel better, but was a practice that would liberate a different quality of consciousness.
  • The idea was that playing with upright balance in this way would liberate evolutionary energies that would manifest as a growth in consciousness.
  • When we get in touch with how we are withholding emotional expression this work [Rolfing] is more akin to something like meditation or spirtiual pactices. Dr Rolf would at times implore and beseech students not to view this work as a form of glorified physiotherapy.
  • The parallels between Buddhist teachings and Rolfing felt remarkable. From the earliest moments of Buddhism there was an understanding that if we can bring the upright spine to a condition of ever greater alignment that will allow the practices to begin.
  • The whole thing about creating the upright in sitting posture is it allows you to let go and relax. Relaxation is nothing more complicated that to surrender the weight of body in gravity. If your body is out of alignment, what happens when you let go is you topple over.
  • The Buddhist dharma is to let go. We have to be able to relax and you cannot relax and let go through a body that is not playing with balance.
  • Dr. Rolf's answer to a student question about how a Rolfed [aligned] body breaths, "In a truly balanced and integrated body as we breath in and out breath cause subtle motion to occur at every single joint in the body." It is a condition of really profound upright balancing where things are so relaxed that as you breath in and out breath can move through the body like a wave moves through water.
  • We talk about alignment in many realms and it’s this imagined perfect locked-in position. in reality, it is an exquisite unfolding of finding movement and ability for things to flow through. For relaxation to continue the entire body has to be subtly moving like an amoeba. If this is not occurring you are going into holding and freezing and relaxation goes out the window.
  • The majority of people somehow have gotten this crazy notion that stillness of mind depends on a still and frozen body. That frozen quality just locks people. Buddhist dharma has painted itself into a corner of frozen stillness which ironically also fuels the unbidden thoughts.
  • Yoda “there is no balance, there is just balancing”. Balance is not a condition to attain and then maintain.
  • Letting go is tricky business. We both stop ourselves from allowing these spontaneous flows, and we also come across people who are “acting out”. It’s about finding that place in the middle.
  • There are traditions where people are moving or rocking constantly like Sufi or the Jewish tradition of davening. The magic is in the allowance of these as spontaneous motions. 
  • Is there an anatomical structure that describes The Line? No- we're each different and it's about the play with balance, or the integrating force as we play with balance.
  • Relaxation is nothing more or less complicated that the willingness to surrender to gravity.
  • In most practices the body is viewed as an obstacle. I think that notion is crazy. We’re here, we’re incarnated, the body is literally going to be our vehicle.


The Institute for Embodiment Training

The Posture of Meditation

Balance of Body, Balance of Mind

Retreats with Will Johnson

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful. If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

The Spark in the Machine with Daniel Keown (LBP 046)

Dr. Daniel Keown, who is both a Western medical doctor and a Chinese medicine doctor joins me for a conversation about his book The Spark in the Machine

We discuss many of the crucial things that Western medicine ignores- things like fascia, extracellular fluid, how an embryo knows how to organize around a seeming blueprint, and how your spirit affects your health. We talk about how fascia explains Qi, how and why jing and shen are better predictors of lifespan and health than a person’s genetics, what cancer has to do with fascia and Qi, how we are all built like crystals, what that has to do with piezoelectricity, and so much more. 




Conversation highlights

  • Why do you begin your book with the question "Why can’t humans regenerate?"
  • It gets to the core of what healing is. The question isn’t how does it occur by why can’t we? In primitive animals they can regenerate limbs.
  • There is this myth in western medicine that somehow doctors heal you. What they really do it allow the healing to occur.
  • Chinese medicine knows and has always known that the space between the cells is as important as the cells themselves. The spaces in the cells taken up by extracellular fluid- it makes up about 40% of the body- so it's a huge amount of fluid. If you imagine your skin as a membrane that keeps everything in, and this is the fluid that bathes all of our cells, it’s also a communication medium. Yet there is no real concept of this fluid as being living and important in Western medicine.
  • Western medicine does not really have a philosophy of health.
  • Qi is the energetic blueprint from which matter is made manifest.
  • We are one cell that develops into trillions and trillions of cells in our perfect complex organisms- there is an energetic blueprint on how that forms, and that’s Qi.
  • Jing and shen are more real than genetics in terms of predictors of health and longevity. The big problem with genetics is that it is too complex. People think you have “a code” but that’s not how it works. You have multiple different codes- this is the science of epigenetics. If you are in a stressful situation you will tap into that "code" to get you through the stressful situation.
  • That’s an example of your shen, your spirit, affecting your jing, your matter. This plugs into why meditation is so important and why living a good life is so important- it resonates through your material body. The science of genetics is not going to go much farther, it is going to go into epigenetics.
  • Fascia explains Qi because fascia is like the skeleton that your body is built around. It is a web and then the cells grow into this web or are knitted into it.
  • Doctors and scientists will talk about how they can grow a heart, but they can't actually do it. They will take the heart of a pig, strip away everything but the fascia, then inject heart stem cells- they’re kind of cheating. The Qi is like the skeleton of fascia.
  • Chinese medicine devotes two organs to fascia- triple burner and pericardium.
  • When getting the degree in Chinese medicine a lot of questions that couldn’t be answered. He couldn't get a straight answer about the Triple Burner. so looked through an old book- Giovanni Maciocia Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine and saw the pelvis, abdomen, and chest-the triple burner described the fascia which separates it and keeps these compartments behaving like they should.
  • Acupuncture points are what surgeons use everyday. Google keyhole surgery and you'll see loads of videos, the hole they are putting it into is this space within the body- they blow it up with gas so they can navigate the body. Surgeons don’t want to cause damage in the body so they go along the pathways that are already there, which are the acupuncture points.
  • When bad things happen in surgery it’s always because they have broken the rule of never crossing fascial planes.
  • Cancer spreads through fascia- Cancer is just a break down of Qi. Qi is the force that keeps everything doing its right thing, and cancer is just a group of cells who decide damn you and they are going to go their own way.
  • There are mechanisms in the immune system that are designed to mop that up, and immunotherapy is one of the most interesting fields of cancer therapy, but you also have to address the underlying Qi disturbance.
  • How does the body self organize? People say it’s genes, but Qi is a more accurate description. Google frog electric face to watch it in action (in resources).
  • What is piezoelectricity? We’re all effectively crystals. Electrical current is happening all the time within our bodies- the collagen itself appears to be piezoelectric. This is why astronauts lose bone strength. They lay down calcium and phospohorus and this creates hardness. In space there is no more gravitational stress on bones- so bone cells, the osteoblasts, feel there is no need to do anymore building and so bones get slowly reabsorbed.
  • Within Western medicine there is a slight crisis among doctors- we have completely removed the concept of spirit or shen. As a result doctors are literally becoming dispirited.
  • The miracle of antibiotics is 50 yrs old- chronic diseases now are about looking deeper into society
  • We live in turbulent times but there are a lot of good people out there. 1% of bad eggs who are now at the top of society, and we need to reclaim society and part of that is going to be making medicine simple and about people again.


The Spark in the Machine- Dr. Keown's book

Space: 21st Century acupuncture- Dr. Keown's private practice and blog

Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia

frog electric face video

If you liked this video, you might also like

How We Form and Move with Joanne Avison

Mapping the Anatomy of Connection with Thomas Myers

The Bliss of Your Biology with Ged Sumner

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

How We Form and Move with Joanne Avison (LBP 045)

Joanne Avison, author of Yoga, Fascia, Anatomy, and Movement, talks with me about fascia and why it has been overlooked historically (which includes a fascinating tour through the history of anatomy and its relationship to the Catholic church), how we form embryologically and what implications that has for biomechanics vs. biotensegrity (or biomechanics vs. biomotion). We also discuss what that changes when we have to reconfigure the language we use about movement and the body.




Conversation highlights

  • Why has fascia been so ignored historically?
  • Andrew Taylor Still and John Godmen before him first mentioned the fascia as highly significant
  • Back in history- Rene Descartes did a "turf deal" with the Pope. Human dissection was not allowed. The Pope sanctioned it except the church held jurisdiction under the mind, spirit, soul, and emotions- the physical body only could be taken to science.
  • Candance Pert points out in Molecules of Emotion that this took us down a road where we thought about the human body functioning like a clock, or like any other automaton. It was divorced from its surroundings.
  • Anatomy then progressed by scraping away anything that wasn't a "thing".
  • John Godmen was the first to have students to open the body and see what they see without their ideas from their anatomy texts. What they saw was fascia everywhere.
  • Andrew Taylor Still is the father of Osteopathy, Thomas Findley has done a lot of beautiful pieces on Still and his story of fascia [in resources].
  • Fascia is continuous and ubiquitous.
  • No one is saying throw out the old and in with the new- we're inviting an evolution of perspective. We have to include this highly inclusive tissue.
  • Biotensegrity- one of the big difficulties about understanding the fascia is that if we take the fascia out on its own- is that the architecture of the body is under tension. It is pre-tensioned. It's under a kind of stretch already.
  • The visual metaphor of a circus marquee- this is not a biotensegrity structure because it is attached to the ground- but it is easy to imagine tension-compression architecture.
  • We are a closed structure but we are formed under this tension. It's the appropriate tensioning of the tissue that gives it its characteristics
  • When a muscle contracts it has got something to pull on in order to move. You can't separate one from the other.
  • This is why levers give us a tough time- because they are open chain mechanisms.
  • According to the naming of the different types of fascia, it has to be continuous to be called fascia, but the bone has to be discontinuous in order for us to move as we do. Bones are omitted because they are considered discontinuous, yet in a tensegrity structure we need those discontinuous structures.
  • If the elbow is a lever, where is the pin? (!!!)
  • We are formed in the round- how do we work if we are formed in the round?
  • Jaap van der Wal did his PhD on fascia. What he found was a whole and complete architecture full of proprioceptive nerve endings. His work wasn't published because it was so controversial. [in resources]
  • He also said there are only 6 true ligaments connecting bone-to-bone, the rest are continuous with the joint structure, and in essence accused anatomists of carving ligaments.
  • Jaap van der Wal says "ask the embryo" because the embryo forms in the round.
  • Joanne does an amazing job of taking you on a gorgeous tour through how an embryo forms- don't miss it.
  • It's like bio-organic origami.
  • No one really knows how an embryo "knows"how to specialize. We've grown up in a culture where we have inherited a foundation in fact, and science has come to mean that the spiritual side of things- or accounting for anything that can't be seen by data- gets lost.
  • John Sharkey facilitated the first human dissection program looking through the lens of biotensegrity. It was a Thiel dissection- meaning the body was treated for 5 months in a different way than the standard formaldehyde cadaver- and therefore they behaved like anesthetized bodies in the operating theater.
  • Joanne could look for membranes instead of which bone is which and which muscle is which. She was allowed to look through a different lens.
  • The second you put the knife to them you have destroyed their wholeness, but they found the membranes. They were so fine.
  • So-called "muscles" are continuities.
  • Anatomists "designing" anatomy.
  • What was so amazing was the folds- you don't get to see this in a typical dissection. If we learned movement in terms of folds I don't think we would make so mamy mistakes or have so many injuries.
  • Muscles are turn-buckles- they tension the whole matrix. People can tighten them in uneven ways with movement patterns and repetitive fitness habits.
  • If we follow the laws of fascial fitness we bring in diversity.
  • We have to be stiff enough to hold ourselves up- yet we use the word "stiff" to describe pathology. We need to think differently about the words we use- particularly "tight" and "stiff"
  • The idea of the plumb line and how it is a faulty view of how gravity works.


Joanne Avison

book: Yoga, Fascia, Anatomy, and Movement

Thomas Findley: The Fascia Research Congress From the 100 Year Old Perspective of Andrew Taylor Still

Carla Stecco: Fascia Redefined: Anatomical Features and Technical Relevance in Fascial Flap Surgery

John Sharkey and Joanne Avison: Terra Rosa magazine: Biotensegrity, Powering the Fabric of Human Anatomy

Jaap van der Wal: The Architecture of the Connective Tissue in the Musculoskeletal System- An Often Overlooked Functional Parameter as to Proprioception in the Locomotor Apparatus

John Sharkey anatomy events

About the Thiel embalming method

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Biotensegrity with Dr. Steven Levin

Exploring Inner Space with Gil Hedley

Mapping the Anatomy of Connection with Tom Myers

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

The Bliss of Your Biology with Ged Sumner (LBP 038)

Today's conversation is with Ged Sumner, the director of Body Intelligence Training, about his book Body Intelligence Meditation. This book posed so many fascinating questions about the current state of mindfulness education. For example: Is traditional meditation treating the body like a machine to be broken, and is it therefore anti-body ? And: Are we bliss-phobic as a culture and is that a part of the reason why we engage with mindfulness in the disembodied way that we (typically) do? This has certainly shifted my perspective on my own practice in a much more delicious direction!



Conversation highlights

  • Meditation can be, in trying to escape or "rise above" the body, anti-body and can lead to dissociation.
  • What does it mean to "go into the cell" in meditation?
  • "The way to the formless is through form"
  • Is meditation treating the body like a machine?
  • What is the human drive to make things painful or filled with suffering? The body responds well to ease and success can spring from doing something with ease.
  • Is ease a radical concept?
  • "The body will readjust itself." Profound shifts in physiology can happen when we invite our own deep [somatic] intelligence to arise.
  • Proper meditation is like a body therapy.
  • Why does it sound ludicrous to people that we can shift our own physiology with mindfulness?
  • The way we learn biology can give the sense that all the cells are dead.
  • My "one thing"- when people ask me [Brooke] what the one thing is that I think most people don't realize about their bodies I say it is that we forget that we are alive.
  • The greatest miracle of all is that we seem solid when really we're 80% water- we are jellyfish essentially.
  • Most of us are just coping. Our nervous systems are cracking up all over the world.
  • How we're seeing more and more neuro-endocrine issues from this nervous system overwhelm.
  • The idea that thoughts need to stop [as in conventional meditation forms] is erroneous.
  • How does the vagus tie into our inner life?
  • What are some of the ways technology might be changing how we are embodied?
  • We have become too obsessed with pathology and not connected enough to what feels good.
  • "Biology is just another subject taught in school, but when you take away our beliefs, all we are is our biology."
  • The body is full of bliss, yet somehow we remove ourselves from it.
  • Have we become bliss-phobic as a culture?

Home play!

Let's do some somatic meditation shall we!?

First, do check out Ged Sumner's generous free downloads of some of the meditations included in his book. You can do that here:

Second, I put together this micro e-book with a somatic meditation (and meditation set up) together recently for a giveaway my friend Kate Hanley of Ms. Mindbody put together. That giveaway has since passed, so I wanted to share the goodies with all of you here. There are 3 files- the ebook Letting Go of the Busy by Saying Hello to the Body (which chronicles much of what was on my mind during the hiatus between season `1 and 2 of the podcast), and then 2 audios- one is for the meditation set up, the second is a guided somatic meditation.

P.S. I'd love to hear how it goes with your somatic meditations in the comments!

Letting Go of the Busy by Saying Hello to the Body- ebook


Body Intelligence Meditation by Ged Sumner

Audio downloads of Ged's somatic meditations

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Embodied Mindfulness with Jamie McHugh

Body Maps and Interoception with Steve Haines

Mindfulness Expressed in the Body with Bo Forbes

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! It helps more body nerds to find their way to the show and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Embodied Mindfulness with Jamie McHugh (LBP 037)

Today we're kicking off season 2 of the podcast with a conversation with Jamie McHugh of Somatic Expression about embodied mindfulness. Somatic Expression helps people to research and resource their own bodies through the 5 essential somatic technologies: breath, vocalization, contact, movement, and stillness. In our conversation today we hone in on what embodied mindfulness means. Jamie says his work is really about changing people's perception of what it means to be a body. He asks, "How can we invest ourselves in curiousity? How can our bodies be places of inquiry and exploration?".



Conversation highlights

  • What are the 5 essential somatic technologies and why does Jamie use the word "technology" to describe them?
  • We spend plenty of time talking about teaching critical thinking skills to children,  but where are we teaching critical sensing skills to both children and adults?
  • What is physical education really?
  • How can working with the body in an educational setting be subversive?
  • Are classical meditation forms such as vipassana incompatible with the modern mind and with modern life?
  • Can sitting in this way (classical meditation forms) cause a person to go into  more of a fight-or-flight pattern?
  • Because of that does it pose some risk to those who aren't connected to the body?
  • Why sit in meditation at all?
  • What is a somatic mantra and how can we use one?
  • How technology is changing our perception of time and removing our fallow time where we aren't stimulated by input.
  • How do we re-calibrate this constant input to the neocortex?
  • The indigenous practices- especially Jamie's experience with the Pomo Indians- of using the expressive capacity of the body to connect the whole community.
  • Reviving the tradition of community dance and song in a non-stylized way (and how not to give your authority over to Beyonce).

Home play!

In the spirit of reviving spontaneous dance we're having a home dance party today! So turn on your favorite music and dance like no one's watching. What do you discover when it's just for you?


Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum Movement

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen Body Mind Centering

Marjorie Barstow, one of Alexander's first students

Fritz Smith and Zero Balancing

Richard Davidson University of Wisconsin Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Daniel Siegel UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development

Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Judith Aston: Our Relationship to Our Bodies and Their Relationship to the World

Bo Forbes: Mindfulness Expressed in the Body

Steve Haines: Body Maps and Interoception

If you're inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! It helps more body nerds to find their way to the show and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Matthew Remski: What Are We Actually Doing In Asana?

Matthew Remski discusses his WAWADIA (What Are We Actually Doing In Asana?) Project. We get into whether yoga asana was ever really intended as a physically therapeutic practice, how the more extreme examples of an austere relationship to the body are no longer practiced by have still been internalized as values in other ways, the bias towards openness (or flexibility), how any physical practice that one undertakes with passion is going to bump up against their own limitations, and that pushing this edge is not necessarily a bad thing.

He also discusses how yoga has been the most consistently transformative and grounding practice that he has been engaged in, and how the project is not only uncovering the shadows of modern postural practice, but is also looking at what some  of the smart pathways forward are, and who in the field is doing the work to illuminate that right now.




Show notes

Matthew talks about the decade of work and inquiry that led up to this project.

This practice is marketed as therapeutic to the nth degree, but it is contradicted.

In January, conversations with his partner, set the WAWADIA project into motion. She is also a teacher of yoga asana, and had had about 6 or 7 months when she wasn't teaching due to her pregnancy with their son. It put into perspective some of the injury situations that she had been in. Sitting at the kitchen table they just looked at each other one day and said "Well what are we doing in asana?"

Matthew talks about his many self-discovery and self-regulating paths that he's followed and how asana has been the most consistently transformative and grounding practice that he has engaged in. He values it highly, and because of that he believes that the inconsistencies in training and some of the strange, almost masochistic ideals that come into play should be inquired about. He wants to shed some light on these things.

It's not entirely clear that asana has ever been intended as a physically therapeutic practice. The hatha yoga literature is pretty clear in its transcendental goals.

It has an almost sacrificial attitude toward the body to produce immediate, dramatic psychic experiences.

The extreme practices like slicing the frenulum of the tongue and inserting it in the lower sinuses- in teacher training you'll look at those, but disregard them without calling it what it is- which is a severe bodily manipulation in order to stimulate a nervous system experience that is novel.

And if you take that description and apply it to a rigorous vinyasa series that is strong, and many biomechanists would say unsafe, you can see that maybe stimulating the nervous system is actually the point of that.

We're really talking about what the meaning of the body is.

He talks about how the hatha yogis did not really interpret injuries as a necessarily bad thing. A part of that tradition is austerity. Certain forms of bodily mortification, etc are extreme examples of an austere relationship to the body. While we won't see anyone do this in the studios of San Francisco, what we're very good at doing is internalizing these same values so that we can play them out in other ways.

For example, practicing to the point of losing functionality in the rest of your day, or to the point that your eating becomes disordered, or practicing in relationship to any kind of authority that wants to tell you how to be in the world rather than helping you to explore what you are already noticing.

I mention how this translates to any physical practice that people take on with intensity.

He doesn't talk about these extreme practices in order to scare people off, but thinks the truth is that we all have ambivalent relationships to our bodies to begin with,  and the way some people deal with that is to discipline and to punish in a way that helps them to feel released.

Anybody who applies themselves with passion to physical activity, they have to negotiate the moment when the breath gets tight and the teeth clench and we want to push out that little bit more of effort and we have to square that with the rest of our lives. It's not that it's bad.

Everybody is frustrated at being human. Everybody is frustrated at being contained, at being apart from things. Those are natural dissatisfactions.

Matthew's pat response to yoga injuries for years was, "They must have been pushing themselves too hard." or, "they must not have been listening to the teacher." When really the hardest thing for him to do was to realize, "Maybe you're teaching crap and you should learn a little bit more."

The openness bias- of flexibility as the goal- is harmful not only to those who are hypermobile, but also to those who are less mobile as well. He talks about his partner, who is not built in an overly flexible way but rather is more densely knit, getting an injury in a pose that asked for more flexibility and when she described the injury to the teacher he told her it was a good type of pain, that it meant she was getting more open.

The studio culture often tells us that more open is more virtuous. And her body type was being seen as a goal of going from not hyper-flexible to hyper-flexible- that that would have been a good thing.

In his interview he has talked with those who identify as "bendy types" and they were praised for going deep into poses which weren't really hard for them. And as they were being asked to demonstrate and practicing they were injuring themselves.

Women within the hypermobile category are showing the highest rate of lumbar spine injuries.

The other thing about the openness bias is that there is this unspoken connection between joint mobility and emotional openness. Looking at back-bends, when called heart opening, it suggests that a particular thoracic movement will have a particular emotional effect.

Openness in the joints is often associated with an ability to be placid and accepting. First, are these virtues we actually want? And second, is that actually true? I don't have statistics, but I've met plenty of bendy people who are as emotionally closed as anybody else I know.

The beautiful person fallacy- the attribution of certain qualities to someone based on what they can do or how they look.

Matthew right now is playing with not having a desk- moving around from position to position. He finds he needs to keep moving in order for these ideas to strike. He does a little bit of asana and swimming each day.

Also day-by-day he is understanding that it's not enough for this project to uncover the shadows of modern postural practice, it also has to make some proposals. It's easy to be a critic, but we have to ask what are some good pathways forward.

The book has to be able to say, "Here are the things that seem to be really smart and are working right now." Matthew recommends some people to check out who he thinks are doing extraordinary work right now (see all in resources below).

Over the last 3 or 4 years a richer biomechanics discussion, and a materialist discussion of what asana actually means and what it's capable of- that discussion has slowly started to creep in to the center of yoga discourse. The tissue loving message is starting to make serious inroads.


WAWADIA introduction to the project (update #1)

For the scientization of yoga: Joseph Alter and Mark Singleton

People who Matthew feels are doing extraordinary work in the field:

Vanda Scaravelli and her book Awakening the Spine

Esther Myers

Monica Voss

Tama Soble

Maria Cristina Jimenez

Bonnie Bainbrdge Cohen

Amy Matthews

Leslie Kaminoff

Jill Miller

Paul Grilley

Jules Mitchell

Trina Altman

WAWADIA updates (#1 is above at the top of the resources):

#2: Questions, Questions, Questions!

#3: "Wild Thing" Pose: Impossible, Injurious, Poignant

#4: Emerging Psychosocial Themes in Asana-Related Injuries

#5: "First, Do No Harm" An MD on Asana-Related Injuries

#6: I Was Addicted to Practice: A Senior Teacher Changes Her Path

#7: Pain, Performance, and Politics: A Conversation with Mike Hoolboom

#8: Notes On My Hospitalization