Muscular Tensions as the Chains of the Soul
In discussions with colleagues who regularly practice yoga, I came to realize that for them every chronic muscular tension is experienced as a chain that binds them to their passions and to those close to them They assume that a chronic muscular tension that makes up the daily structure of the body is associated to affects that have become rigidly habitual. Hate directed at one’s parents becomes, for them, a tension maintained toward others, and consequently, a tie that the person tends to perpetuate. A person cannot relax his muscles without first having accepted to renounce an affective link to someone in his life. For the yogis, to relax the muscles is to liberate oneself from the emotional chains that bind a person to this earthly life and to others who hold him in a network of dependence and mutual demands. It is also to liberate his postural repertoire, and consequently to become capable of exploring all the postures a skeleton can adopt. To have access to all the postural repertoire of one’s skeleton is required to disinhibit all of the dimensions of the organism11 This idea is taken up in almost all schools of body psychotherapy in the twentieth century.18 However, this notion has a different theoretical framework, because in psychotherapy, emotional ties are often valued. To paraphrase a famous distinction between Corneille and Racine, taught in most French schools: the yoga talks about man such as he ought to be; the psychotherapist talks of man such as he is. For Iyengar,19 a yogi renounces all that distances him from God or from the spirit of the universe. He renounces everything personal, especially his desires. Only the universe should animate an organism The emotions create activations that block the influence of the Great Allâ by linking the dynamics of the organism to interests that are mostly tied to human and social aims. While the yogi seeks a regular respiration, the emotions upset this equilibrium20
Vignette on the turtle posture (kurmasana). The posture can be taken only by someone who has a highly flexible body. When a person gains the ability to hold this posture with comfort, and can maintain it for some time while breathing comfortably, the spirit calms itself and distances itself from all manner of sadness or joy. A person frees himself of anxieties caused by the fear and anger that controls his thoughts. The turtle posture creates an organismic context incompatible with emotional dynamics. The idea here is not that the yogis cut themselves off from their emotions, but that the emotions become useless, that they lose their relevance.
To be able to take a posture like that of the turtle requires having gone beyond those thoughts that activate passions. This notion implies that the yogi no longer has thoughts and affects repressed into the Freudian unconscious. This point is often important for the psychotherapist who has a patient in front of him who has used hatha yoga to repress certain impulses more effectively.