Maslow tells it like it is…

In many ways the quote below encapsulates the reasoning behind my approach to practising and teaching yoga postures. I consider the shape of the posture to be a suggested line of enquiry rather than a particular shape the body has to be forced into. I try to encourage my students to leave the ‘one shape fits all’ approach and explore what the posture feels like in their own body, so that the shape the body takes emerges from the bodymind’s continued journey into the posture. My experience is that this form of practice supports the development of bodymind awareness. Over time this awareness becomes a way of being that is guided by intuition rather than impulse, habit and the prevailing views of our time.

“All the evidence that we have… …indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will towards health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualisation of human potentialities.  But at once we are confronted with the very saddening realisation that so few people make it.  Only a small proportion of the human population gets to the point of identity, or of selfhood, full humanness, self-actualisation, etc., even in a society like ours which is relatively one of the most fortunate on the face of the earth.  This is our greatest paradox.  We have the impulse towards full development of humanness.  They why is it that it doesn’t happen more often?  What blocks it?

This is our new way of approaching the problem of humanness, i.e., with an appreciation of its high possibilities and, simultaneously, a deep disappointment that these responsibilities are so infrequently actualised.  This attitude contrasts with the ‘realistic’ acceptance of whatever happens to be the case, and then of regarding that as the norm, as, for instance Kinsey did and as the television pollsters do today.  We tend then to get into the situation in which normalcy from the descriptive point of view, from the value-free-science point of view – that his normalcy or averageness is the best we can expect, and that therefore we should be content with it.  From the point of view that I have outlined, normalcy would rather be the kind of sickness or crippling or stunting that we share with everybody else and therefore don’t notice.  I remember an old textbook of abnormal psychology that I used when I was an undergraduate, which was an awful book, but which had a wonderful frontpiece.  The lower half was a picture of a line of babies, pink, sweet, delightful, innocent, lovable.  Above that was a picture of a lot of passengers in a subway train, glum, grey, sullen, sour.  The caption underneath was very simple ‘What happened?’  This is what I am talking about.”

By Abraham Maslow (famous for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) Source: Maslow, A.  (1971) The Further Reaches Of Human Nature p.26-27

This post used to live elsewhere. It was rehomed here, 19 Dec 2016