Humans seem to have an inherent tendency towards fragility. If muscles don’t work, they weaken. If you have a limb in a plaster cast after a break, you commonly get muscle weakening or ‘disuse atrophy’. When the plaster cast comes off you do exercises, and with activity the muscles build up again. The ageing process start from around late twenties. Joints start to wear, elasticity starts to lessen. Often movement starts to lessen, and with that blood circulation lessens, range of movement starts to lessen, strength starts to lessen.

The human body is designed and built to move. Normally, health and lots of good movement go together resulting in a body that works well.

Immobility generally leads to stagnation. This is not constructive for health and robustness. Over time this leads towards fragility. This tendency towards fragility is further compounded by a range of factors, typically including:

  • Sedentary living – office-bound jobs, hours spent driving, watching TV.
  • Inadequate awareness and understanding of what our bodies, our physical fabric needs to be healthy.
  • Inadequate awareness of right posture – how we stand, how we sit, including muscles held in unnecessary tension
  • Inadequate awareness of right movement – how we move, including muscles held in unnecessary tension, or muscles working more than necessary to hold poor posture
  • Inadequate awareness of right nutrition – what is good for you or constructive to health, what is bad for you or destructive to health
  • Inadequate awareness of right breathing – typically we only use a relatively narrow band of our overall lung-function. We seldom do a really full in-breath, nor a full out-breath
  • The ageing process – from the mid/late 20’s the fabric of the body starts on the road to degeneration. Elasticity reduces, range-of-movement reduces, strength reduces, joint surfaces start to degenerate. This process is bound to happen, yet we have some say in the rate it happens. Some activities accelerate it, other activities decelerate it.
  • Inadequate awareness of right attitude, and the effect on us and the world around us of our thinking and speaking

The human body is an amazing structure with remarkable capabilities to adapt. However, those adaptive capabilities have limits. Today, those limits are being pushed. Health and well-being is more than just minimising disease symptoms – or at least, it should be.

The body will reflect what you do with it. Sit on a couch all day for 40 years drinking 12 beers and eating 12 pounds of potato chips a day – your body will reflect that. Exercise as well as you can, eat as wisely as you can, live as healthily as you can for 40 years – your body will reflect that too. It will also reflect the mental attitudes behind those actions.

If you want health, there are certain things you need to do and things you need not to do. We act – we face the consequences of our actions. Liking it or not liking it will not excuse you those consequences. AntiFragility practices are all about doing something towards addressing those factors that contribute to fragility and actively working towards robustness.

As important as it is, movement is only one component of health. AntiFragility Yoga is not limited to physical practice. Fragility in humans is not restricted to the physical fabric. There are many factors that contribute to fragility beyond the physical fabric, some personal, some societal. Typically, these might include:

  • Inability to relax, chronic stress
  • Inability to develop and hold one’s own focus of attention – mostly, our focus of attention is held externally by employment, music, advertising, texting, e-mails, social media, reading, entertainment, technology, sensation. Of itself, none of this is wrong. Yet being unable to generate and hold your own focus of attention is indicative of fragility. I fear this is endemic today, and likely to increase as technolgy advances with smartphones. Walk down the street and see how may people have their noses in their phones, or earphones plugged in
  • Inability / unwillingness to change
  • Inability to be alone with your own thinking, alone and content in your own head-space, alone in silence
  • The characteristics of what we value and where we invest our focus of attention and effort
  • Expectation of instant results
  • Giving away personal responsibility – for example, thinking “my health is someone else’s responsibility”
  • Lack of awareness of how our outlook, opinion and behaviour is bounded by our specific belief system – even if we think we have no belief system
  • Lack of education a to what is required for health.

With this in mind, there are a number of components to this AntiFragility Program. These included:

  • Physical practice (Asana: Step-A1 to Step-A3) – a set of practices aimed at developing a safe and progressing asana practice. It is in a number of different steps ranging from the beginner to the beyond-beginner. It builds robustness at a deep level, and contains threads of the other components.
  • Breathing practice (Pranayama: Step-P1 to Step-P5) – a set of practices aimed at developing a safe and progressing pranayama practice, the practice of breathing. It builds robustness at a deep level, develops concentration and leads to deep calmness, contentment and relaxation
  • Meditation practice (Meditation: Step-M1 …) – a set of meditation and concentration techniques aimed at understanding and practising these internal techniques. This also leads to deep calmness, contentment and relaxation. We look at how we can find the silence within ourselves
  • Philosophy (Step-U1 …) – philosophy underpins much of what we do, and much of what we do is done unthinkingly. These sessions are aimed at examining the components of a philosophy or belief system. It allows you to look at the characteristics of your own belief system, and what that might mean. This is not aimed at trying to persuade you to adopt any one philosophy – it is specifically “philosophy agnostic”. Rather, the aim is to enable you to consider who and what you are, to consider your own life purpose, to consider where value and meaning lie – to understand your own philosophy and approach to life.

There is nothing new in this. Anti-Fragility Yoga is not a new style of yoga. Rather it is a set of practices returning to basics, to common-sense, to personal responsibility. If you put the wrong kind of fuel into your car – it won’t go. Not a difficult concept. Yet we seem to think we are exempt from that level of consequence. We think we can do whatever we like with our body and our thinking – and also that we have an automatic right to good health. Fundamentally, the body will reflect what you do with it (of course, allowing for conditions over which we have no control) The ethos of Anti-Fragility Yoga is built on the principles taught by Krishnamacharya, quoted from Mark Singleton’s book, “Yoga Body – The origins of modern posture practice”, Oxford University Press, 2010, p188

“A yoga practice must be adapted to suit the period, location and specific requirements of the individual. The age and the constitution of the students, their vocation, capability and the path to which they feel drawn all dictate the shape of a yoga practice.”

This is not a magic bullet, it will not heal the un-healable. Rather it will contribute to making the best use of the fabric you have, to enable and empower you to be as well as you can be – and as healthy, content and robust. As everywhere else in life, the results will be in proportion to the effort you put into it.

Achieving robustness, as much as you can do, is not necessarily a quick process – it can take years, it can be the work of a lifetime. Actively working towards it, though, is a constructive thing to do. Whether you are working towards it or not, that time will still pass. It does require an active decision to take that step to change – you can make a deliberate choice yourself, or the advancing years will make it for you as you spiral into frailty. Working towards achieving robustness does take effort, but – speaking personally – I don’t like the alternative. I want to hit old age as fit and robust as I can, and I want to be working towards that end right now.

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