Discovering the Origins of the Yoga Postures

Through the use of structured form and improvised form, Evolutionary Yoga is an excursion into the beginnings of movement and form.  What intrigues me is discovering the underlying support of the bigger, recognizable forms we call ‘postures.’  There are three elements that, if explored, greatly enhance and enrich one’s practice and may lead to the understanding that the yoga postures are just part of a web of form.  These three elements are seed movements, thread movements, and spontaneous yoga.

I.  Seed Movements

The seed movements are the very beginning movements of yoga.  Sometimes called “micromovements,” they are the first manifestation of movement originating from stillness, from the imagined.  These original movements also include the evolutionary origins of movement – called developmental movement patterns in human beings. 

II.  Thread Movements

If the postures are the bones of the body, the thread movements are like the connective tissue of the body.  This ‘web’ within the body is called fascia, which connects the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and organs of the body.  When woven together, the thread movements create a web of movement that connects these larger, more solid structures called postures. 

"New Coils," Scott Olmstead

III.  Spontaneous Yoga

While profoundly guided by the wisdom of the ancients, my approach emphasizes the importance of spontaneity within one’s practice.  Evolutionary Yoga is a return to the discovery of yoga from the inside out.  We learn the external forms of yoga, what so many call the “positions” with their various names.  Though this is one way to enter into an experience of yoga, many stop here.  Of course, this is only a beginning.  Sometimes we just need to drop all the techniques and follow our unfolding moment-to-moment sensations.  Sensation, our inner teacher, speaks fluently in a language that both unites and transcends all technique.  We spontaneously create our own yoga that may or may not look like what you see in the common traditional lexicon of yogic forms.  What are known as postures are merely landmarks.  They are like a drawing of dots or like an outline.  The artistry of practicing yoga lies in the infinite ways to connect the dots or, how we color in the outline.  I see the postures as flexible themes, points of departure, springboards for spontaneity.  It is the amorphous within the formal – the un-choreographed and unrepeatable – that is the essence of yoga.  For me, this is richness. 


One tool that I’ve developed to help facilitate or induce spontaneous yoga is what I call bodystorming.  Like the free-associative process of brainstorming used in writing, bodystorming is a process of allowing yourself to be moved, without judgment, without the mind interrupting and imposing its known sense of order.  The most daring and courageous act is to drop what you know and avail yourself to the unknown, to wait, to listen, to follow.  For me, this is innocence. 

Ultimately yoga is an eruption of the moment, an unplanned, unrepeatable expression of movement and stillness conversing.