Clinical Research and Its Inventory
Hatha yoga does not use postures as they are used in everyday life. The yogis select postures that have an orthopedic relevance. These postures, like the gestures proposed today by a physical therapist, have nothing spontaneous about them. They are defined by criteria appropriate to their approach and theoretical principles.
When a researcher attempts to study the postural repertoire of daily life, he is confronted by an immense repertoire.8 The utilization of posture responds to such a varied mix of causes that today’s researcher is rapidly drowned by more data than he can manage. It is possible to propose a list of relatively stable postures observed in a given situation. To define the postural repertoire of a population would require so much work that the task has not yet been undertaken. The yogi’s solution to this dilemma, thousands of years before the invention of the camera and automatic data processing, was to focus on a restricted repertoire of postures. These postures can be held long enough to be observed and analyzed in detail. A practicing yogi can inwardly experience (through introspection) what is going on and can observe what happens when others use the same posture. The research then divides itself between the pupils and the masters. A pupil can learn to observe how he reacts to a posture, and thus form a personal clinical profile of how he functions. He notices that certain postures are more or less comfortable, more or less stimulating, provoke certain types of dreams, help when he has a headache, and so on. Given that a posture is static and that its configuration is consciously and explicitly observable, they can examine what a posture induces during long periods in their life and can find related constants. Pupils are also able to discuss among each other and compare their experiences. They can notice that a detail renders a posture more comfortable for everyone or interacts with respiration in a certain way. Some of these followers are also masters who discuss the results of their observations relative to a posture with their colleagues. Thereby, they attempt to understand general mechanisms that are not necessarily part of their personal experience, and also incorporate other forms of available knowledge into their discussions.
Hardly anyone takes a posture in exactly the same way, even one as simple as the cross-legged positionâ (tailor’s position).9 A person tilts her head or keeps it straight, place hands on knees or on the thighs, may experience pain between the shoulder blades or in the hollow of the lower back, places his bottom more or less on the coccyx, and places the feet more or less near the genitals, and so on. Once we have observed the subtleties of a posture, the enormous number of variations is quickly evident, and the possible combinations reach astronomical numbers. Through the discussions with colleagues who gather the same type of data, the yogis slowly create a precise clinical approach relative to the links that can exist between one posture and the physical and mental dimensions of an organism, and on particular ways of constructing a posture.
Hatha yoga is both inspiring in its simplicity and powerful in its exploratory possibilities. Today, it is common in psychotherapy to build a knowledge base in this way from a practice. It is what we refer to as clinical research. This practical clinical knowledge is often included in theoretical speculations. Like psychotherapists, yogis have always tried to relate their practical knowledge to all the available information about the human organism Yogis accommodate their knowledge to include what science discovers as much as possible; even if the practitioner does not always have the necessary expertise to integrate the most recent discoveries. It often occurs that yogis observe phenomena that the sciences have not yet studied or maintain a position with the assumption that further research will be needed. Scientists themselves know that their present formulations may be
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