The word "yoga" tends to bring to mind intricate poses and "body pretzels" that appear nigh-impossible to the average person on the street, as well as its traditional association with the tenets of Hinduism.
With many different and modern yoga variations such as goat, yin and even beer yoga attracting a significant following across the world, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine a discipline that instead draws upon the Chinese philosophy of Taoism.
That is exactly what Katonah Yoga is- essentially a Hatha practice developed 40 years ago by Nevine Michaan, infused with Taoist theory and geometry, expressed through the language of metaphors, interwoven to form a guide to harnessing and living joyfully within your body.
But how does Taoism relate to Katonah Yoga?
Simply put, the three main principles of Taoism are yin and yang, the repetition of patterns and that nature reveals itself in patterns. It teaches us to manipulate patterns to serve us, as well as develop new ones to help us move and function better, with the repetition of these patterns helping us build and improve both physically and psychologically.
In fact, Hong Kong has the privilege of being the hub of Katonah Yoga in Asia, with instructor Clare Lim the sole qualified teacher in the region after learning under the direct tutelage of founder Michaan in New York.
Clare's method involves visualising the body as a map to measure yourself in time and space- it is intelligently designed so body parts fit and fold into one another (for example the armpits fit into the knees) and thus, a typical Katonah class usually cross references vinyasa yoga poses with geometric shapes to embody the archetype, rather than express them personally.
Taoist principles teach us to embrace the body as a house that moves not just left and right, but also within dimensions. By embracing this feeling of spaciousness, our organs have more space to perform their designated jobs with the least amount of stress and energy.
In practice, Katonah yoga encourages the body to support itself through its bone structure and joints rather than relying on muscle, so it can “not only be balanced in the moment, but for longevity"- giving it widespread applicability and ensuring such principles can easily be translated to other movements such as acrobatics and dance.
In an era where people are more health-conscious and in tune with their body, Katonah yoga not only aids the achievement of self-awareness, but also with realisations regarding the functioning of the body, as well as the universe and beyond.
Challenge yourself with these exercises!
1) DOWNWARD DOG
Fold from your hips and take the pressure off of your shoulders and back.
Use a chair to practise folding from the hip joint to better, to improve joint function/flexibility.
Try coming onto your finger tips in order to really bring your legs into this movement.
2) GOMUKHUSANA a.k.a. COWFACE ARMS
Don’t bind your arms randomly.
Have your top elbow find North, and lower elbow find South.
The different parts of our bodies are made to fit!
Don't worry if you have to use a strap to do this pose- it means you can become better adjusted and better fitted to yourself.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author's own and do not necessarily represent the official position of More Chaos.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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A student, writer and content creator, Heather first turned to yoga at 15 as a means to cope with the physical and mental strain of track and swimming.
Yoga has since taken on a much greater meaning for her, with Heather spending the past 3 years experimenting with a variety of yoga styles and disciplines in pursuit of a sustainable approach to fitness- the aim being to maximise movement with as little injury risk as possible.
Aside from running, swimming and hitting up movement studios, she is an avid blogger and regular newspaper contributor specialising in existential topics.