Treating the Pose & Not the Person?

Traditional Western medicine treats the disease not the person.

Traditional shiatsu prescribes a fixed set of rules and procedures for each problem.

Traditional yoga mandates specific defined poses to put people in.

Who made these rules? As my wife Tara Stiles has mentioned, they're extremely limiting.

Our traditional medicine is great for infections and broken bones. It's not working for most things that are bringing people pain and suffering today, like stress, obesity, and the worst of our associated diseases.

Traditional shiatsu may work sometimes, but often that's by accident.

Traditional yoga - fixing people into "correct" poses - is missing the boat. It's leading people to follow gurus - outside sources of information - rather than themselves.

Why isn't this working?

My friend Sam Berlind is by all accounts a master of shiatsu, and blew our socks off at Strala this past weekend. He's also worked with Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga, all as paths to healing. His work in shiatsu began with 25 years under Wataru Ohashi's direction, from whom I learned as well.

Ohashi's approach to shiatsu broke the rules. He saw that treating people as patients using fixed prescriptions worked sometimes, but he suspected that was very often an accident. The rules-based, master-patient approach lacked fluidity and responsiveness to what existed right there with each unique person, in each unique life.

So he developed his own approach. As Sam describes it, this new approach to shiatsu throws aside the idea of a master attempting to fix a patient. There is no fixing. Instead, there are two people supporting each other, right in that moment. The giver forms a connection with the receiver. We aim to gently push, pull, challenge, and get out of the way so our bodies can heal themselves more effectively.

Sam also said something else that hit us all pretty solidly. The shiatsu giver knows less than the receiver. The yoga teacher knows less than the student.

Could that be right? Of course. The student knows how they feel. The teacher can only guess.

For all of us, whether we're doctors, shiatsu masters, or yoga teachers, that guess is diagnosis. Whether we admit it or not, it's all guessing. Our treatment is a guess, too. Sometimes we get to be right.

This suggests a shift in how we approach each other.

I've always loved the song 'Dueling Banjos.' I've never loved so much dueling yoga teachers. Who can prove who's lineage and guru is right about how to fix people, how to get them into the right place?

There's a problem with that. There is no right place! We're all different from each other. We're even different from ourselves day to day. What did we eat yesterday, did we go for a long run, sit a desk all week, what feels right in my body right now?

We're not here to fix each other. There is a trend in yoga around adjustments - where a teacher approaches the student to change their form, and move them into some idea of a "correct" pose. This is crazy, and goes hand in hand with the trend of aggressive yoga teachers injuring their students.

There is no correct pose. There is just my body and my life right now, and I'm the only one who can directly feel me. The right form for me each day, each moment, has to do with responding to my entire life. The right place and movement for my body is all mine! If a teacher can help me, it's in supporting me to feel me. I can stop pushing and struggling to get into someone else's shape (which means no more injuries!), and find my way into my own.

We're here to support each other. It's the best thing we can do. Just like Ohashi and Sam, Tara broke the rules in creating Strala. She moved away from the common yoga teacher focus of "how can I prove what I know" to a more gentle and useful "how can I help?" Whether you're talking about shiatsu or yoga, helping people is about making a connection. When we help and support each other to connect to ourselves, yoga works. It cures. We get healthy and happy, and lead our best most capable lives.

Michael Taylor

Mike Taylor is the co-founder of Strala along with his wife, Tara Stiles. He studied mind-body medicine at Harvard and complementary medicine at Oxford. Mike has practiced Eastern movement and healing, including tai chi and qigong, for more than 30 years. In his younger years, Mike challenged centuries of reasonable and well-tested martial traditions in hundreds of competitions by applying unruly imagination to a world where rules were unbreakable. His record established the strength of finding your own way in your own body rather than copying the techniques of other people’s traditions. As he got older, Mike continued on to medical applications of the mind-body connection in university. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the United States and England, he left his health care roots for a little while. As the first internet boom was getting started, he joined the startup team of one company, then founded a couple more. Now through Strala, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, enable their lives, and become their own best caregivers.Mike has climbed some of the world’s largest mountains in Alaska, the Alps, and the Himalayas. He’s now a cyclist and runner and spends as much free time as possible exploring the backcountry on foot, skis, and snowboard. He lives in New York with his wife, Tara, and baby, Daisy.

The Complete Guide To Yoga

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Michael Taylor

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