My anatomy lessons went like this: my yoga teacher Heinz Grill would ask a student to demonstrate a pose, say the half-moon (photo), in front of the whole class. Then we would have to work out where the movement started and how it developed through the body. What muscles came into play and when? Where did the contractions start? What muscles helped lift the spine? Stretch the legs? Heinz is Austrian, most of his students German, so this discussion did not end in 20 minutes. We would spend hours and hours -- students taking turns in the pose, afternoons turning into evenings -- scrutinizing and trying to work out the kinesiology.
It was impossible. No one could explain a clear, linear line of movement from top to tail. At the end of each lesson, we were no further along in our understanding than when we started. But we knew what the body is not. It is not a machine. The body is not mechanical. It's not a question of levers, lifts and pulleys. There is a larger force at play within these bodies, an intelligence within. 'Intelligence' is a word usually used in context with the mind, rarely the body. We are a mind-centric society and 'being smart' in that logical, strategic way is almost an obsession. But the body, too, has its own intelligence and it is beyond the grasp of these logical minds of ours.
Again, we have it backwards in society, with the emphasis solely on the mechanical, the physical. Even in the Spiritual Industrial Complex (SIC), so many yoga classes are purely body-bound. Look at the language of modern medicine, at how the heart alone is spoken of: valves, pumps, pressure, stents. Yet, for instance, what about the heart's rhythm? What about the delicate balancing act the heart must do to maintain a rhythm? Instead of willing the body to do our bidding, in this yoga we tap into ways that allow our bodies to actually release physical grips and become lighter, receptive.