I can still remember when I was 5 or less, on a family get together, we (the kids) got ‘put upstairs’ while the adults cracked open the Tenants lager and the Cutty Sark whisky in the living room. My cousin Jacqueline (8) made me and her younger sister play doctors and nurses, nothing untoward happened, but I was surprised that day to discover that belly buttons came in two different shapes. This is a blog about yoga though, and like many blogs, it could be considered self indulgent - so let’s do a bit of navel gazing….
There are two ways you can experience your body in space, the one that you operate from will determine how you practise yoga.
When you look at other people, you see a certain external shape and size, - from the outside. If you regard your own body from this perspective then seeing you body is like looking at a mannequin. From this perspective, you consider your body as a controllable object (like a machine) that can be made; faster, or stronger, lighter, more mobile or even trained to contort in to strange shapes. If you regard your body in this way your’e an ‘outie’
Contrary to this, if you perceive your body from the inside, you are more aware of its sensations, feelings and motivations e.t.c. This view isn't visually driven and there’s less of trying to make the body be something else. Self sensing and internal perception rule, rather than how the body looks. You move and act as a living body in the moment - sensing what’s happening.So, if your’e operating from this perspective, your’e an ‘innie’.
So, let’s take this idea of these views of the body to the practise of physical yoga:-
(A)ttitude - yoga practise is to develop strength and flexibility to master each posture, the aim is to make your body in to each particular shape (asana), stretching and strengthening are important, keep trying, and work on your body to make it go in to the shape
(B)enefits -Through practise you become more able to conform to the sequence and attain the shapes demonstrated by the style / teacher You learn to copy the specific shapes (asana) better (like in the photos and drawings) You build the muscle tone and flexibility necessary to stay in those shapes longer
(A)ttitude - yoga practise is to notice and understand your self, awareness and curiosity of what you feel matter most, postures are a way to notice how you use your body… they’re not the end in themselves
(B)enefits - You discover your movement habits and find held tightness in your body and learn to let go or work around these As you learn to feel and inhabit your body more fully, you become more conscious generally, movement becomes mindful As self awareness develops, you become more responsible for your body and gentle with it. Through the yoga, you learn how to move better in your everyday routine movements.
Outie yoga or innie yoga?….which way is best?
Well, there is no right way, only different ones - so I’m not going to answer that. However, extreme ‘outies’ can lose touch with feeling their body for the glory of the pose. Large scale studies in the U.S.A are indicating shockingly high injury rates from yoga classes generally, (check Matthew Remski’s current research ‘WAWADIA’ online). I know many yoga teachers and it was a shock to me that so many of them have seriously hurt themselves in their practise.
Most yoga is taught as a sequence of mobility and strength exercises, a kind of keep fit - but with hindu exotica served on the side, so ‘outie’ yoga is what you’ll find in most classes
‘Innie’ yoga is less common and could be argued to be more interesting if not totally fascinating, exploring the physical structure from the inside and discovering the infinite connections within is fresh and new each time you practise - and a lifetime of exploration. The posture starts to express what’s felt from inside the body (instead of using and shaping the body in to the posture).But its much more slow, spontaneous and, as there’s no pushing and pulling your body, it doesn’t give you a hard workout.
This then leads to the personal question in your yoga, - why are you making these shapes?…. what is your personal intention for the asana you do?
Outie - to demonstrate physical prowess? to conform to a shape?, to get fit?, bendiness? stamina?
or could it be …
Innie - to explore how your body moves?, to let go of tension, to be alert and present? or even, to have fun?
I used to be an outie but now I’m innie, inside yoga is what I practise. My realisation as a 5 year old that there are two different types of belly button was only the beginning, a torrent of realisations and connections followed from there - and they haven’t ended, in fact, they’re growing as I age.
You might think that the two sided view I’ve taken here is simplistic or even controversial - but it’s just a blog….. isn’t it?
So, where do you want to take your yoga from - out or in?