Chapter 12- POSTURE AND EMOTION
Origin and Usage of Primary Postures of Hatha Yoga and Body Postures for CREATING EMOTIONAL STATES; A Platonic View
Although most people believe Yoga – at least the physical postures- was originated in India, it is extremely important to realize cultures around the world understood, at one time, the significance of bowing and stretching. Every person gets up in the morning and stretches and moves instinctively. Added to this, all cultures had/have prayer postures or postures of devotion. Sometimes researchers, seeing these in statues call them “Trance Postures” but that assumes their orientation was toward a trance state rather than a particular state of feeling towards an actual living being. It is an important difference since a Trance State is about YOU and there other states of mind which are about SOMEONE OR SOMETHING ELSE. They can overlap. But the difference is an important one. An Atheist can get a feeling of exaltation with themselves as the center. A person who believes in a higher power will reference their feeling in light of another, higher living being. So the point of view is very important and has effects on the behavior of the person doing the activity as well as society as a whole.
I believe these postures and movements came out of devotion to particular beings, totems or archetypes, rather than devotion to particular states. But specific mental states did result from them. In other words the perceived beings inspired the postures rather than visa versa. And then the postures themselves created states which allowed greater perception of the being. If you don’t believe in extra-dimensional beings then classify these experiences as posture induced phenomena.
These “beings”, because they were related to the position of the body could be elemental, animal or angelic. The elemental beings are directly connected to the air, water, fire and earth which make up the physical body. Therefore they can be felt when the body is held or moved in a particular way due to its inherent constitution. Animals are felt largely through mimicry. Angels too can occupy space and so, they too can be felt in the body not so much due to it’s constitution as the fact that they are in the same space and can, if they are willing, participate in that constitution (note: historically speaking Angels can appear or manifest a body or not, as they will).
*Practical Exercises; The three main postures universal to the human body and most traditions are;
1. EXALTATION is coming out of the following position; Bending forward-either sitting, with feet outstretched or standing and touching the toes or knees. The Totems for this include the Bear, Dog and Boar.
The archetypes connected to this, especially in its “coming out of the posture” aspect, are the King (like King Arthur). Example; after holding the posture in a standing position for at least one minute let yourself come up slowly. Note the sense of height and exaltation. That is the emotional correspondent to “The King” or the one who has the big picture, the “Overseer”. Anatomically, much of this sensation is related to the pelvic angle and hamstring release reflex. It’s all about becoming vertical AFTER bowing. The psychology of the ritual bow of the orient takes on more meaning if you study this. Done properly, each person makes themselves a King before proceeding into conversation. Remember, on a chess board the King is the tallest piece but also, not very mobile!
2. WISDOM; Bending backward-either standing or sitting, or laying prone on the ground.
Using the arms to assist in support or balancing roles. The Totems for this include the Snake and Swan and Cat (Sphinx). The Archetype is The Queen. Example; Begin laying on your belly on the ground and get comfortable. First raise your head only and look straight ahead crimping the back of the neck with strength. Notice you are on level with a crawling snake. Wiggle and contract your entire spine keeping your head off the ground but not raising it. Note the emotional feeling of the posture. One could say it gives you a sense of strictly horizontal space; and it is very restricting and vulnerable. The emotional reaction to this emotional quality of vulnerability and restriction is extreme cunning. One looks at the world differently, yet one is, for the most part unseen! One becomes hyper- aware of exits and places to hide! Remember on a chess board the Queen is the most mobile and flexible. Do the same posture bending backward while standing, and get more insight and perspective!
3. COURAGE; Twisting to either side-either standing or sitting or laying down on the back. The Totems for this include the Snake and the Cat. Example; Lay on your side with your head on your arm. Reach up with the top arm and point to the ceiling. Slowly reach behind you til, if possible, you are completely twisted and your upper body is flat –shoulder blades flat-on the ground and hips at 90 degrees. If this is too painful for your top shoulder then put your top hand on your lower ribs and look backward and upward. You will still get the effect. Hold this position until you start to lose your normal body sense of orientation. (Usually, this is over a minute). Breathe as best you can. There will come a point when you forget your body momentarily. Then you “come back” to it consciously. It is very similar to watching a cat twist in the air and land on its feet. The resulting emotion is Courage.
From these three, all other Yoga postures/asanas are derived.
In essence all physical yoga postures have evolved from a baby lifting it’s head up to find it’s mother or father. The lowering of the head is simply the after effect when it is tired. Our life is about searching for meaning. Initially we look for comfort, food and protection. Later we look for status, security and protection. At a certain point in life we find that certainty is a myth and a simple balanced inner security is our friend. But we need to feel this on an emotional level in our body. That is what Yoga is about emotionally. If you wish to go deeply into Yoga theory Patanjali’s Sutras are a good start.