Here is David Braunstein’s new blog! It is inspired by Mysan’s class theme last week; Motivation

Have a read, enjoy, have a think, comment and contemplate 🙂


What’s my Motivation to practice Yin Yoga?

I’m in my least favourite pose, Saddle Pose. Mysan explains that I should get: “A deep opening in the sacral-lumbar arch and a stretch in the hip flexors and quadriceps.” She gaily adds that I may get “the bonus of a deep opening at the front.”

Hurray! What I am getting right now is my lower back screaming -No No No No No!

When she asks me, “What’s your motivation?” right now I’m inclined to answer – some kind of sick twisted masochism. My motivation initially in recommencing a yoga practice was to prepare myself for a meditation retreat. I knew I would be sitting for long periods of time and I was dreading the physical aspect, knowing that my body and in particular my hips, back and ankles were going to become a major distraction.

It worked but four months later, what is my motivation to keep coming? Well I have never walked away from the Sanctuary not feeling glad I’d made the effort to come. But what does that actually mean? What is my motivation? – it’s a very good question!

Years ago, when studying literature, I did some training in writing for theatre that was always the major question to ask. If you create a character, what is that character’s motivation? Why do they behave the way they behave? Why do they do things they do? Why do they say the things they say? Why is their life the shape it is?

So, I’ve been thinking about motivation for a long time. I’ve even got some ready made answers, but those answers in no way adequately explain why I pay Mysan on a regular basis to tell me to put my body into poses that stress my body the way I have for the last five minutes….

“You’ve got another 60 secs to go “…Oh God No – Why do I do this? -ex movere: the roots of emotion

We are, when reduced to the perspective of our basic form, tubes: fractal branching tubes of life. The life flowing through me is a tiny filament in a steady flow that reaches back through my parents and ancestors, back through every life form that gave rise to humanity to the dawn of life on earth.

Our common purpose which we share with all life is to connect to the force of that and be moved by it. That’s what life is: the process of responding to the environment. The force that moves us to go forward, to continue this implacable journey to … to what? what is the end? For much human history people have constructed elaborate answers to this question of the meaning of life.

This drive finds expression through many aspects of our behaviour, as Abraham Maslow famously expressed in his hierarchy of needs. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

His five stage model can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are often referred to as deficit needs and the top level is known as growth or being needs. In the 70’s positive psychologists added three additional stages of growth needs (shown & highlighted below.) What is of particular interest to yogis and spiritual philosophers like Ken Wilber is how this system maps onto the Chakra system. {maybe with a bit more of a fiddle than shown below}

The deficit needs are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the drive to fulfil such

needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food the more hungry they will become.

One must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. When a deficit need has been satisfied it will go away. Our activities become habitually directed towards meeting the next set of needs that we have yet to satisfy. When we still have deficits they can come to motivate us in ways we may be fully aware of. These then become our salient needs or as I like to think of them our “conditioning”. However, growth needs continue to be felt and may even become stronger once they have been engaged. Once these growth needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Maslow has been criticised for suggesting that different levels or stages of motivation may not be acting on the

person at the same time.

Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self- actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences, including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy. Therefore, not everyone will move through the hierarchy in a uni-directional manner but may move back and forth between the different types of needs at distinct phases of their lives.

Often this will involve the progressive deepening of emotional feeling involves the perception of change within ourselves in relation to our life experience. (i.e. we grow wiser) We experience emotion when we feel ourselves being distanced from or move out of a prior orientation and are displaced or dis-located with respect to it, so we assume another stance or position in adaptive response to the perceived alteration in our environment. (Note: the Etymology of the word emotion is from ex movere meaning “to move out of”)

John Dewey defined emotion as “the effort of the organism to adjust to its formed habits or co- ordinations of the past to present necessities as made known to the perception (i.e. senses)

That’s what yogis do they identify the way they have been conditioned by their experience and they feel how their experience has altered or changed them. To do this effectively is to become self actualised; to choose our response to the world rather than being in reaction to it.

Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society

rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. But society also acts to entrap people into addictive behaviours associated with deficit needs.

1. Root Charka Biological/ Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. 2. Sacral Chakra Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability.

3. Solar Plexus- Social belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).

4. Heart Chakra -Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility,.

5. Throat Chakra Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability.

6. Third Eye Chakra -Aesthetic needs – appreciation & search for beauty, balance, form.

7. Crown Chakra Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.

My unique capability which I share with every person in the Sanctuary right at this moment is that I have this need, almost a hunger to answer that question. All sentient beings not only live, they seek fulfilment, and indeed they are driven by it. Fulfilment is experienced when I choose my response from a place of deeply felt knowing and acceptance to my environment rather than reacting to it due to my conditioning.

Issues in our tissues:

How our deficit needs twist us out of shape and block our tubes.

If you’ve experienced trauma in your life, you have experienced a serious threat to that most basic need, survival. So first of all congratulations – you survived! – not everyone does. However the flow of energy moving through you was significantly altered by your autonomic fight, flight or freeze response, there are always major emotional (dislocations in the flow of energy) associations with this response be it anger, fear or terror. As with people who experience post traumatic stress the response is trapped as memory in the body, in the manner in which our body holds, constricts and channels energy. This body memory is not only the cause of all pathology and much of the disease we experience; it is the underlying cause for not only the choices we make but also the unconscious behaviour we engage in. Our conditioning becomes what motivates us.

This mechanism of being motivated by long held unconscious body memories of past experience has been called armouring, or ego or character. In a very real sense it shapes us. And it’s not just trauma that acts on us in this way. Any threat to the first four stages of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that is, our deficit needs result in major changes to the flow of energy through our system. We are conditioned by the trauma, illness, injury & disease, betrayal, rejection, deprival and disappointment, humiliation, failure and conflict. The list is endless and unavoidable.

Every human life initially so pure, so organic and whole is comprised by this conditioning handed to us, at first our family and then society at large of character or ego building; but as Mysan says, “we have issues in our tissues.” The conditioning carries an enormous cost. To be a part of the society in which we live, it’s not just that we have compromised our inherent organic purity we have systems in place that reinforce the conditioning.

The major insight of Freudian psychology was that people repeatedly “act out” in order to recreate situations and circumstances in which repressed or unconscious emotional responses seek appropriate expression and resolution. Put more simply I create situations in my life specifically designed to experience the feelings I deny. If I see repeated patterns in my life, it is because those emotions have not yet found resolution.

A teacher of mine years ago would say “if you listen to the whispers you don’t have to listen to screams.” This realisation has a profound impact on my response to the question, “what is motivating you right now?” I breathe into it.

Daily, week after week I have come back again and again to tweak that memory and others like it. What’s my motivation? My inner knowing (my soul if you like) knows that here is an opportunity for healing.

Here in saddle pose with my body freaking out, with my monkey mind yabbering way, if I can quieten breathe and feel into it, I have the opportunity to exorcise that ghost. Rather than recreating circumstances in my life that I frame in such a way as to re-experience the initial insult (in my case a number of betrayals that altered the shape of my life in ways that I deeply resented but are also associated with feels of great sadness and also lead to fear)


a Sanskrit term which means “one’s own reading” and “self-study.”
And so 24 hours later I have my special opportunity in a private session with Nadia.

If five minutes of saddle identified the source of so much pain for me, twenty minutes allowed the space into which to go into it and work with it. Not to bore you with my personal process, the experience was cathartic. It confirms for me that the ultimate motivation for practicing yin yoga has something to do with self actualisation. The practice is to observe myself and see the way in which the conditioning from my personal experience of deficit needs are embodied in ways that impede or disrupt the flow of energy through my body.

“To begin self-study, it is necessary to divide oneself. You must learn to divide the real from the invented. [In this way] we understand what is not ourselves by analogy with what we know ourselves to be… the ultimate processes of the universe are feelings…”
– Peter Ouspensky from In Search of the Miraculous

How do I unbecome those conditioned responses that are not me, but are in truth memories and echoes of deficit needs from my past? When I want to scream No No No No No in saddle pose what comes to mind when I ask what motivates me is an experience in a relationship 35 years ago, and the ghost of suffering from that experience is haunting me. But my family history and 60 years of experiences just like that one are all shouting out, screaming no,no,no.

Now, I’ve been “working “on these issues in my tissues for the last thirty years. I’ve done countless workshops and notched up frequent flyer points in therapists’s chairs, but as Alan Watts tells us

Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate it from “I”.

It wasn’t necessarily being in the saddle pose that was cathartic. It was the release that occurs coming out of it. That’s my motivation, liberation from somatically held conditioning. That’s why I come back; each class is a lesson in Freedom!

The practice of Yin Yoga promotes the development of the capability to recognise held or stagnant energy and breathing into it so we can finally hear the message the body has been trying to tell us, but we have been conditioned by our culture to tune out of our awareness. It then encourages and empowers us to create a detached state of awareness from which to release that somatically held energy storage in the body.

It is the willingness to go beyond the naming our pain to use the discipline of yin to embrace, breathe into and release that is so empowering of Svādhyāya: How fortunate I am to have found this practice.