has your understanding of yoga lost its flexibility

Has Your Understanding of Yoga Lost Its Flexibility?

In my new book, Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain, I titled the first chapter, “Yoga Isn’t What You Think It Is,” which sets the tone for the entire book. All of my life I’ve been reserved and overly polite. Something shifted though during 2016 as I watched society lurch madly in a direction I could only describe as a “bad movie” script.

Did you feel it as well?

I believe the combination of stepping into my new career chapter as a writer and full-time teacher coupled with a sense of urgency over the type of world I am leaving for my three grown children ignited a change in me. No more time for dancing around the awkward issues or hoping not to offend someone (always an anonymous entity I now realize). So let’s check our flexibility about yoga, shall we, and see if we are supple enough to bend into and make a change in the “B” movie we call “now”?

It all starts with this simple-yet-complex idea: yoga isn’t what you think it is.

Interested in learning more about my new book? Download a free chapter here.

How Dare He Imply…

You don’t understand yoga? How dare I don’t, and equally, how dare you don’t ask the same of yourself? If we yoga professionals are so all-fired up and enlightened, how do you explain the lack of unity evidenced by :

  • The polarization in society around power, race, gender, income, etc?
  • The perilously fractured relationship with the biosphere and environmental crises?
  • The exponential increase in pain globally and the same time the opioid epidemic in the US?
  • The inequality and abuse within yoga communities even?

If the fruit of our collective practices is a reasonable measure of our true understanding of yoga, I’m thinking we’re scoring a low “D.” Ouch right? But how else do we explain ourselves? And what should we do about it?

Tear It Down

That is, tear down what you think you know about yoga, no matter who you are. The deconstruction/destruction is the first step in creativity. Why is this the important first step? Consider the following points:

  • We are creatures of habit and limited capacity: habits of mind are hard to see and block new understanding and creativity from emerging.
  • If we adopt humility (humus = earth) around # 1, then surrendering our habits of certainty and surety break up the hard-packed rigidity that is created over time if left un-tended.
  • If “it” is true, it can survive a good deconstructing.
  • Much of what we “know” to be true today won’t be in the future, so why not get a head start by softening your grip on certainty?

So by breaking down our patterns and certainties of “What yoga is,” we are cultivating new growth and new possibles… that’s right, “possibles”…you’ll learn about “new possibles” in Chapter 5 on Creativity. What we’re doing now isn’t sufficient, so let’s prepare for something very new.

What’s the Recipe, Then?

That’s the bad news. There is no recipe or formula for responding to pain. Anyone selling you a recipe doesn’t understand pain or is just selling you a bill of goods for a buck.

What you will find as you deconstruct your understanding of yoga is that as it is situated in the many other Wisdom traditions, rigid beliefs are not part of the deep and accurate perception yoga calls each of to practice. The absence of flexibility of mind is far more troublesome than some hamstring shortness.

The good news is that there is now a convergence of principles and practices that can prime us for responding more effectively to pain. Very quickly these relationships are all pointing toward one another through:

  • Classical Yoga and Wisdom Teachings
  • Modern Systems and Complexity Theory
  • Emerging Pain Science
  • Creativity Research

The closest thing to a “recipe” is offered at the end of the book. The first two steps in the recipe are:

1. Practice a new yoga definition daily.

2. Mix in plenty of playfulness and a big dose of humor, taking neither you or the suffering too seriously.

Like any good cook or chef, any recipe only takes you so far. As you read through each of the chapters with your “chopped” yoga definition in all of its freshness, you will begin to see at deeper and more accurate levels producing a sense of lightness and playfulness even amongst the heaviness of pain and suffering.

Savor this one sweet paradox and join me as we create new futures where pain and suffering is avoided and diminished in so many unpredictable, practical, and exciting ways!


  1. Dr. Beth Scott on July 24, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you for lifting the edge of the rug (professional yoga culture/attitude…), poking at what’s under it (our stuck thinking and habits…) and giving us something to smile and laugh at (usually ourselves!) in the process!

    • Dr. Matthew J Taylor on July 25, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      I am thankful you enjoyed to tweaking… it is so easy to get too easy in this era…and you are right, when we can’t laugh at ourselves, all is lost. Thanks for the smile Beth!

  2. Pat Barnes on July 24, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks Matt! I’m enjoying reading your book. Your commentary here makes it seem like a book Discussion Group. Thanks for the cliff notes too!

    • Dr. Matthew J Taylor on July 25, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      we more “mature” readers certainly do learn to appreciate good Cliff notes, don’t we Pat? : )))

      • Diana Perez on July 28, 2018 at 10:46 am

        Hi Matt,
        Thank you for this. Appreciating your ideas and guidance as I try to think outside the box in this ever evolving journey of merging PT and Yoga Therapy. Enjoyed your Creativity lecture on Yogamate! Namaste.

        • Dr. Matthew J Taylor on July 28, 2018 at 11:01 am

          and I appreciate your great and very prevalent question around the struggle to be “certain” or at least safe. Anyone that suggests it’s a simple issue, just doesn’t understand : ) Thanks Diana!