Illustration by Sharon Ellis from “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
A student in my online Yoga Anatomy Course asked a simple question in reference to a lesson about the muscular action of the diaphragm. My response is a good example of how studying basic kinesiology can help us understand that muscle relationships are always contextual and complex.
The question was: “The fibers of the diaphragm are oriented vertically, do the fibers contract on the inhale or the exhale?”
Here’s my answer:
Well, the simple answer is “on the inhale.”
Problem is, there’s no such thing as “the” inhale. Every inhale (and exhale for that matter) places a unique demand on the body’s musculature – depending on what movement we’re doing, what position we are in relative to gravity, and what our intentions are (among many other factors).
Mechanically, inhaling is the act of increasing volume in the thoracic cavity through muscular action. The key muscle involved in that action is the diaphragm, and a concentric action shortens the distance between its lower and upper attachments, thereby increasing all three dimensions of thoracic volume.
But, the diaphragm can also be actively contracting during an exhale when an eccentric action allows its attachments to move away from each other in a controlled way (think of doing a very slow curling sit-up as you exhale).
Even more confusing is the fact that the diaphragm can be relaxed and relatively passive during both inhaling and exhaling – as in Kapalabhati.
These are just the basics of how complex an answer to that question could be.
Leslie is resting up while I write this note following a wonderful day workshopping for Dhara Yoga in Madrid. The owners, Blanca and Pablo, found a beautiful loft operated by a woman who grew up in Lenox, MA (virtually around the corner from where Leslie raised his kids and keeps his horse!) and brought in a terrific group of yoga professionals, eager to learn more about the Krishnamacharya/Desikachar tradition. We’ve posted some snapshots from our time in this beautiful, vibrant city.
This is one of my favorite stories, and it will be a central chapter in the new book I’m writing.
It’s from the time I was a young swami serving as director of the Los Angeles Sivananda Yoga Community in 1981. The photo below is of the building that housed the community in the early 80’s. The Liquor Locker is on the left, and you can make out its green dumpster just below the windows of what was our main yoga and meditation room. The road in front is Sunset Boulevard. For those of you familiar with L.A., the cross street is Selma, one block west of Laurel Canyon, and slightly east of Chateau Marmont.
One of the first tasks I had when I came on as director was to supervise the construction of the sign pictured below, which covered the chimney and window on the right side of the building. It was our way of getting some visibility on Sunset Boulevard for the community and Swami Vishnu’s best-selling book.
Below is a photo from Dec. 2012, when I re-visited the site of the old Yoga Community. It’s easy to see how close the windows of our meditation room were to the dumpster.
In this video follow-up to my previous post “William Broad is at it again at the NY Times,” you can hear me tell Mr. Broad that every time he opens his mouth, he loses another piece of whatever credibility he may have had as an authority on Yoga.
In the end, I just tell him to shut his mouth until such time as he’s willing to do a modicum of valid research into the actual history of Yoga practice – which did NOT begin with the Tantric sex cults of Medieval India. He actually contradicts himself in the space of two sentences in his interview with Stephen Colbert, when he first asserts that Yoga is 4 to 5 thousand years old, then follows up with “…real yoga started out in a sex cult..”
Someone with as big a platform as William J. Broad has an equally big responsibility to speak accurately about this subject. In this, he has repeatedly and utterly failed.
This time, Mr. Broad is riding the coattails of the John Friend “scandal;” and sharing his expertise about how Yoga’s origins have always been steeped in sexuality.
It’s astounding how this guy thinks that doing sun salutations since the 70’s and book research for a few years makes him an authoritative scholar regarding the history of Yoga. He can’t even keep the science in his book straight, and that’s supposed to be his field.
In this video review, I accuse William J. Broad of launching an ad hominem attack on my friend Larry Payne. Realizing this may need further explanation, I offer the following:
“Ad Hominem” literally means “against the man.” It is the name of an often-employed logical fallacy that seeks to refute a person’s ideas by discrediting their character. For example, “Mr. Smith is known to be a drunkard, therefore his views on the economy should be dismissed.”
As I mentioned in the video, as a longtime friend of Larry Payne and teacher of the anatomy section of his LMU course each year in Los Angeles, I am hardly a neutral observer regarding Larry. This does not reduce my ability to offer objective criticism of Broad’s tactics in this part of his book.
On page 154 of “The Science of Yoga,” Broad lays the cornerstone of his attack: “If the origins of the modern field [yoga therapy] can be traced to a single person, it would be Larry Payne.” Here, Broad is preparing a case of guilt by association in which he will try to discredit the entire field of “modern yoga therapy” by assaulting the character of the person he is identifying as its key founder. He will go on to portray Larry as an opportunistic huckster who, unlike Loren Fishman, M.D., one of Broad’s heroes, took what he considers an easy path to credibility by obtaining a Ph.D. from a questionable school. Broad goes on to point out some commonly-held physiological errors that ended up in Larry’s book “Yoga for Dummies” as a way of further discrediting him.
Broad’s clear goal in the chapter in question (chapter five for those following along) is to cast aspersions on the organization Larry helped to found, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), by drawing a parallel between what he perceives as Larry’s lack of a valid credential and the certificate one obtains upon joining IAYT. Broad observes that the IAYT membership certificate resembles a professional accreditation, but “a quick read shows that the document is in fact quite meaningless…The phony credential does an injustice to the talented yoga therapists who have labored for years and decades to develop their healing expertise and have helped countless people.”
This is a classic example of an ad hominem attack, setting up guilt by association. Forget the fact that Larry Payne is also one of the “talented yoga therapists who have labored for years and decades to develop their healing expertise and have helped countless people.” Forget the fact that IAYT has never represented their membership certificate as anything other than what it clearly states on its face. Forget the fact that never – to my knowledge – has any yoga therapist, whether a member of IAYT or not, expressed outrage over misrepresentation via a “phony credential.” Forget the fact that there is a real, live human being named Larry Payne at the other end of this attack who has been walking around for the past week feeling like he’s been simultaneously kicked in the gut and stabbed in the back by the writer to whom he granted – in good faith – full access and lengthy interviews.
William J. Broad makes a strong case for accurately representing oneself in the professional sphere. Did he do that when he approached my friend Larry for the purpose of writing an authoritative book about the field in which he has faithfully labored for four decades? I’m sure Larry Payne, Ph.D. welcomed Mr. Broad with the same open heart he offers to everyone he encounters. He deserves far better than what he got in “The Science of Yoga.”
As I’ve had to explain many times to curious attendees, I’m not here as a presenter. This has become an annual vacation for me, and a chance to re-connect with old friends, and to make new ones.This year, it is also a working vacation… Continue reading →
Come get your copy of Yoga Anatomy and meet co-authors Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews at The Breathing Project in New York City on Wednesday, July 11 starting at 6PM.
Snacks, drinks and personally signed copies of the book will be available. As a fundraiser for The Breathing Project, two one-of-a-kind prints by the book’s illustrator Sharon Ellis will be raffled off.