70% Rule a New Concept for Yoga Practitioners

eng_yoga_gbs_bm_bay_706703gBy Ellen Pucciarelli

Source: Energy Arts

When teaching Longevity Breathing Yoga, I’ll occasionally notice a few students, especially hatha yoga students, experiencing difficulty in the initial stages of the practice. As a practitioner and teacher of hatha yoga myself, I’ve started to investigate where and why this is happening. First I’ll acknowledge that not all hatha yoga practices and practitioners are the same; there are many branches of yoga available with students of varying levels of expertise and commitment. The experiences mentioned in this blog are just that; my own personal experiences that I’ve recently encountered.

One Longevity Breathing Yoga concept that I see yogis/yoginis struggle with is the 70% rule. A Taoist Water Tradition guideline that states you should only do a Longevity Breathing Yoga movement, or any chi technique, to approximately 70% of you capacity. Basically that striving for 100% produces tension and stress in your practice, and therefore should be avoided. As yoga students, we sometimes become so preoccupied with the end result of a posture that we completely tune out what’s happening inside ourselves, including our effort levels. Struggling in a posture past 70% may bring more stress and tension into our lives and we definitely don’t need more of that. When we overly exert ourselves to get “somewhere” in a posture, where does that really take us? Rarely are we taught to stop and check in with what’s occurring on the inside (actually we have been taught, but usually only after something occurs, like pain or worse, an injury). And even more rare is receiving permission to back off from the 100% effort level, but if we are able to incorporate the 70% rule when practicing Longevity Breathing Yoga (especially when we’re new), we can begin to fully realize the potential of the practice. We can begin to cultivate an internal awareness, and just as importantly, we can bring this awareness into other activities and aspects of our lives.

I recently taught a Longevity Breathing Yoga workshop to a group of hatha yoga teachers and long-time hatha yoga practitioners where I noticed a few of them struggling during the set. At the end of class I had a number of students privately confess that they had a hard time understanding that it was okay to not push themselves through the postures. They had never been asked to feel what was happening on the inside and move accordingly. Once students are able to realize and accept the 70% rule, something clicks. As one student remarked, “When I realized I didn’t have to try so hard to maintain 100% effort, I was able to relax into the posture and feel what was happening”.

In that same class, one of the more accomplished teachers in the group experienced obvious difficulty at the beginning of class. When the class was asked to use their awareness to stretch forward in a posture moving only until they noticed something change and/or encountered resistance, she didn’t stop moving. She stretched all the way to the ground and back up again, then impatiently waited for the next posture, all the while appearing very frustrated towards what I was asking of the class. But then a couple of postures into the set, something shifted. She stopped moving so much. Her expression softened. Her big stretching motions became micro-movements. She listened to and followed the alignment cues. At the end of the workshop, she spoke in front of the class, “I didn’t believe you at first and was resistant to do what you were saying,” she started to explain, “but because of your background, I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt, and I was surprised. This practice brought me home, back to the origin of myself. I’ve been getting so caught up in the physical movement of my practice that I had forgotten about that.”

Let’s not forget about staying connected to what’s happening on the inside. We can remind ourselves of the 70% rule the next time we find ourselves struggling in a posture; and relax into an open, healthy and more aware reality.

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