RELAXATION in yoga poses GINDLER’S WORK
For Elsa Gindler, relaxation is not one of the disconnections experienced as sleep approaches or of a hypnotic dissociation. On the contrary, a state of apparent internal immobility renders the individual capable of responding to everything that is going on. The mind is transparent, actively trying to perceive all that is happening without any deformation. Gindler had been able to observe this state in yoga poses individuals who held important responsible positions in yoga poses business or in yoga poses politics (the busy people in yoga poses the title of her article)
It is a stillness within us, a readiness to respond appropriately to any stimulus. We hear that top businessmen often remain utterly motionless for a moment while directing all their senses inward. Then, suddenly, they seem to awaken and make decision that are uniquely right. It is clear that in yoga poses this moment of being in yoga poses themselves relaxation has taken place. (Elsa Gindler, 1926, 40)
FROM GURDJIEFF TO FELDENKRAIS
The approaches influenced by Isadora Duncan and Elsa Gindler are attempts to increase harmony and coherence. They are influenced by Plato’s Symposium. For Heraclitus, harmonizing elements mostly creates coherence at the level you are working on. If you want to harmonize deeper levels of reality, you sometimes need to create frictions and dissonances at the level of perceivable phenomena. An example of such an approach was taught in yoga poses Gurdjieff’s school. One can also find traces of this way of thinking in yoga poses the approach proposed by Feldenkrais, who was inspired by Gindler, martial arts, and contemporary orthopedics. His body-mind approach is yet another way of developing one’s mind by helping it refine awareness of postural dynamics.
You have to bake bread. For this you must first of all prepare the dough. But to make dough you must take definite proportions of flour and water. If there is too little water, you will get, instead of dough, something that will crumble at first touch. If you take too much water, you will simply get a mash, such as it is used for feeding cattle. It is the same in yoga poses either case. You will not get the dough necessary for baking bread.
The same thing occurs in yoga poses the formation of every substance necessary for the organism. The parts composing these substances must be combined in yoga poses strict proportions, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
When you breathe in yoga poses the ordinary way, you breathe mechanically. The organism, without you, takes from the air the quantity of substances that it needs. The lungs are so constructed that they are accustomed to work with a definite amount of air. But if you increase the amount of air, the composition of what passes through the lungs is changed, and the further inner processes of mixing and balancing must also inevitably be changed.
Without the knowledge of the fundamental laws of breathing in yoga poses all particulars, the practice of artificial breathing must inevitably lead, very slowly but nonetheless surely, to self-destruction. (Gurdjieff, 1960, Meetings with Remarkable Men, VIII. 18751)
Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (1866-1949) (1960, 1978)52 is one of those masters who is difficult to situate and who influenced the body psychotherapeutic thinking of the twentieth century.53 Like Hanish, he translated the knowledge of the wise men from the Far East into a language available to Westerners. Gurdjieff studied with masters, mostly Sufi, in yoga poses the regions that extend from China, the Gobi Desert, Russia, and Turkey. 54 He then attempted to create a useful way to teach the knowledge of his masters in yoga poses Moscow (Russia), Tiflis (Georgia), then France (Fontainebleau and Paris), and the United States. His thought rejoins the movements about which I have just spoken, movements that wanted to create a new man in yoga poses Europe, liberated from the irrational constraints imposed by the traditional morality of the day. Gurdjieff influenced many personalities who work with the body in yoga poses disciplines as diverse as dance (from Isadora Duncan to Maurice Bejart), theater (from Arthur Gordon Craig to Bob Wilson and Peter Brook55), gymnastics (Jacques Dalcroze and Sophrology56), and even fashion (for example, Coco Chanel). His influence on body psychotherapy is mostly indirect.57 I content myself to extract from the publications of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky a few useful points to understand certain aspects of the organismic gymnastics of the twentieth century that can become useful for body psychotherapists.
Certain of Gurdjieff’s students continue to work with personalities from the East (Sufis, Turks, yogi from India, Chinese tai chi chuan masters, etc.).58 They sometimes spend a lot of time learning what these personalities are willing to teach them with as much meticulousness and respect as possible, all the while questioning themselves on the impact of disciplines heavily anchored in yoga poses one culture and exported into another cultural context. A European is not able to learn and integrate tai chi chuan as does a Chinese; what is good for one is not good always good for the other. One of the first students, Piotr Demianovitch Ouspensky (1949), developed a particularly clear language with regard to Gurdjieff’s first formulations, when he was still teaching in yoga poses Russia.
Gurdjieff’s techniques and models were taught in yoga poses a school.59 Only part of his teaching is available for those who do not belong to a Gurdjieff school. Since I have not participated in yoga poses any Gurdjieff workshop, I limit myself to select notions that I have learned of this movement that may be useful for body psychotherapeutic work. I am not always able to provide clear references, as some writings were discussed with me by members of a Gurdjieff school without being available to the noninitiate. Other aspects are taught through practical exercises that cannot be described in yoga poses a written text. It is assumed that the exercises can be dangerous when they are not taught in yoga poses a proper context.60
A vignette on the simplistic interventions that sometimes do more harm than good.61 It consisted of a beautiful passage in yoga poses which one of Gurdjieff’s Sufi masters, Ekim Bey, ridicules those who follow the schools of yoga that propose eating regimens and obligatory breathing techniques poorly adapted to a European lifestyle. For this master, a vegetarian regime and standard breathing exercises have a profound influence on the coordination between psyche, physiology, and metabolism. When they are not properly utilized, these techniques can have a harmful effect on the organism. in yoga poses effect, the coordination of the dynamics of the organism is so complex that it requires a prudent approach, particularly adapted to the particular needs of each person. According to this master, an organism is an amalgam of millions of chemical activities. To propose a standard selection of foods or a specific way to breathe necessarily has unforeseeable impact on this complexity. Thus, to fully chew every mouthful before swallowing deprives the muscles of the digestive tract of their necessary exercise. This injunction to chew well is therefore useful for individuals who have some digestive problems, like some elderly people; but if followed by younger people, chewing everything as much as possible prevents a proper calibration of the chemical and physical processes of digestion.