Learning to Surrender with Forward Bends – Gernot Huber
In many yoga traditions, a typical asana class winds down with forward bends and twists, because both types of poses are calming. In other words, both categories of poses tend to support the down-regulation of the autonomic nervous system that helps ease the mind and body into the full relaxation of Savasana. However, if you approach forward bending postures with the goal-oriented attitude of “gotta touch my toes no matter what”, you are unlikely to derive the benefits that forward bends were designed to bestow upon you. But if you can get away from your default “work hard, play harder” attitude while doing forward bends, you may find yourself finally understanding the power of surrender, the power of NOT doing.
Of course, full surrender in any pose other than a full relaxation pose is not desirable either, because it can collapse the chest to the point of inhibiting the breath and promoting depression, and it can concentrate the force of the pose in the weakest link of the chain that is your body, and thus can increase the risk of injury. (In forward bends, by the way, that weakest link is generally the lower back, which tends to bend too far. The upper back tends to bend too far, too, but this is much less likely to cause injury, though does tend to collapse the chest with its associated negative effects.) The realization that full surrender is not the solution to working too hard once again takes us back to the universal theme that yoga is about creating a greater balance between opposites.
When you understand that something you are doing is extreme and unhelpful, the tendency is strong to embrace its opposite as the obvious solution to the problem. But the opposite is usually just as problematic, while the real solution generally lies in finding a place of balance between the opposites. The problem with the true solution of creating balance is that it is very difficult (and not at ALL ego-gratifying) to find a place of balance. Nothing extreme happens at the place of balance to tell you that you have arrived. There are no world records to be set at the place of balance, no championships won, no competitors (or former selves) bested. The only thing you may find there is better health, greater serenity, and greater joy.
About Gernot Huber
Drawing on a broad spectrum of life experiences that range from working in Silicon Valley and investigating the evolution of migration, to living on five continents and teaching wildlife monitoring to inner city youth, Gernot relates with natural ease to students from every walk of life. Gernot has been practicing and studying yoga since 1996, when a co-worker at his Silicon Valley startup offered to teach him Ashtanga vinyasa and pranayama during lunch breaks. When he quit high tech two years later and took a career counseling class to figure out what to do with the rest of his life, he clearly remembers thinking “Perhaps I should be a yoga teacher”, only to immediately dismiss the idea as preposterous: “You are too lazy and not athletic enough to teach yoga!” It took another 10 years, a traumatic breakup, and the stress of being in graduate school at Cornell University to make him realize that yoga was no longer optional in his life. He defended his thesis on the correlation between wing shape and migration distance in swallows in April 2009, and in June 2009 completed his yoga teacher training. He has been teaching yoga full time ever since.
His yoga background includes Anusara, Iyengar, Forrest, Kripalu, and Ashtanga Yoga. His main influences include Erich Schiffmann, Doug Keller, Roger Cole, Richard Freeman, Ana Forrest, Carlos Pomeda, Loren Fishman, Desiree Rumbaugh, and Richard Miller. Born in South Africa and raised in Germany, Gernot has spent over 20 years in the United States and is now based in Thailand, while teaching workshops and retreats in Asia, Europe, and the US. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and a master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University. Gernot loves cooking, eating, reading, bicycling, and wilderness travel, and practices monkey acro yoga with his two young sons.
Learn more about Gernot: www.yogamindyogabody.com
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