In late 2014 I wrote the original Body Tessellations article. Two years on now the Body Tessellation stretching work has become a hallmark of the Re-patterning Stretching syllabus within the Physical Alchemy method. More than this, tinkering with this strange concept has led to structural changes within my body; students bodies and even the ‘body’ of the method – this practical experimentation has actually yielded insights that changed the structure of Physical Alchemy (as will be discussed below)!
As I mention in the original article the use of Body Tessellation stretching within Physical Alchemy grew out of a combination of artistic expression, search for efficacy and potency in methodology and the contemplation of a number of experiences I had had during workshops of the Stretch Therapy method – taught by [K] (Kit Laughlin).
On a personal level this has been a difficult and life-changing period. There has been a certain enchanting quality about it, however. The auspiciousness has been further enhanced by my own knowing of the feeling that I am in the living current of an art in creation. I remember hearing [K] describing his time in Tokyo when he was roughly my age now. His having of a serious of serendipitous (though some inauspicious) occurrences whilst he was teaching Yoga there, in Japan. I recall longing for my own period of art creation. Hearing [K] talk about his evenings spent in a small apartment with little more than a high quality sound system, Miles Davis and a copy of BKS Iyengars ‘Light on Yoga’ that he was deconstructing and reconstructing along with his insights and his study of several traditional method of Japanese bodywork painted a strange picture of paradoxes.
Now I have had this period also. Not in Tokyo. No Miles Davis. Just a series of unexpected events following intuition seemingly madly at times. Insight, research and intuition yielded the body of work that [K] is famous for – so a similar thing has occurred for Dave. And I can think of no better way to show the lessons of my apprenticeship were well learned than the documentation and dissemination of my divergent phylogeny.
This article is one step in the large process of the book I am writing and as such will likely change before the publication.
Here is the story of how I pursed a seemingly foolish idea and it changed everything.
[*] Paradoxical Stretching
Paradox is generally taken to mean a fusion of opposites that exist bizarrely (and workably) within the same whole. This works on a number of levels for Body Tessellation stretching: the stretches utilize opposite ends of the spectrum of the neuromuscular system (strength exerted in extreme end range), relaxation and tension, highly intense yet oddly comfortable, many humans assisting one human have an intense but private internal experience.
Paradox – taken from the Greek paradoxon meaning ‘contrary/distinct from opinion’ is also an apt word to included here in that many people dislike or disavow stretching – and of those that do sanction it some proportion among them again disavow partner stretching.
[*] Body Tessellation Stretching
Tessellation is generally considered to be:
‘..the state of being tessellated – an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together, especially of polygons in a repeated pattern without gaps or overlapping’
On the surface it looks a bit like aerial yoga, though it is not. That is largely a balancing skill working within the proprioception aspect of the neuromuscular system wheres the Body Tessellation work is designed to work upon the deeper, substrate level of the body as well as the proprioceptive systems (but in a different way). For this reason the element of balance is taken out of the equation with the multiple bodies and supportive vectors and props being to remove any apprehension and reduce vestibular apparatus involvement.
Breath is often the active element in these stretches. ‘Exorcising the breath’, ‘Body Tessellations’ , ‘Deep Pressure’ (Stretching Under Pressure) and ‘Tissue Wringing’ make up the 4 deeper sub-syllabuses of Re-patterning Stretching (see Structure & Syllabus below). In the tinkering that created the deeper sub-syllabuses it became clear that there needed to be a spectrum and process to allow people to access these very potent (but somewhat dangerous if unprepared for) exercises.
[*] Gates & Qualities
A gate is something you must pass through to get from one realm to another. The idea of having gates on the progression from one level of a skill-set to another is not a new one. It has been used in all types of schools of training throughout the ages and still it is useful today. On a physical level in graded martial arts (when they are being taught properly) a belt is a gate. A visual display of technical mastery and embodied quality of a certain degree. On the level of the mind there is the Gateless Gate [無門關] of Zen/Ch’an practice. A collection of 48 koans [gong’an] that function as gates and test the practitioner’s mind and qualities related to its training. This collection dates to 1228, so we can see that this idea of gates is an ancient one.
And so it is that I, in homage, have concocted some gates for the Re-patterning Stretching syllabus of Physical Alchemy. These gates serve the purpose of helping allow students to physically un-knot at a rate natural to them (there is not minimum number of years or hours – simple a collection of physical and mental parameters than must be met).
[*] Gates in Re-patterning Stretching
Gate 1 consists of basic bodily awareness (kinaesthetic and spatial), the ability to correctly physically communicate and assist another human being with partner stretching skillfully (touch – basic) and lack of profound medical condition that would prevent or make dangerous the practice.
Passing this Gate allows the student to work with other students skilfully and process more efficiently through the Exploratory Phase and into the Immersion Phase. Prior to this gate the student is given solo exercises and also aided by the teacher or senior students in specifically chosen partner Re-patterning Stretching exercises.
Often people present to class already having passed this Gate via innate abilities and previous training in another discipline. On a few other occasions I have met humans whom I am genuinely curious how they got into clothes that morning. For the most part people adapt and pass this Gate within a term [10 weeks].
[*] Partnering in Partner Stretching.
This could be viewed as a passive role and can turn into this if the person is not paying attention. In actuality when you are the non-stretching person(s) in a partner stretch you are training the kinaesthetic intelligence as you control the traction, torsion (wringing), pressure (or combinations of these) vectors going into the stretchees body. You also train yourself to feel the huge currents of information coming back to you as feedback from their body. Visually you can be working on Observation skill-set: seeing where breath is stuck or stagnant; feeling and perceiving changes in colour, temperature and atmospherics.
Whereas Gate 1 is a relatively simple affair for most, Gate 2 takes a fair amount of quality training and time for the majority of humans. The amount of skills necessary to pass is greater and so is the depth of skill.
[*] Body Awareness – General.
Some of the other parts of this gate are specific types of physical awareness (like Discernment of Sensations and Uncoupling). Besides this the perceived ‘general raising’ of the totality of body and spatial awareness is taken into account based on the experience of the teacher.
[*] Discernment of Sensations.
During the Immersion Phase the student should have had the experience of meeting a ‘tangible’ physical restriction – and then overriding it with various neuromuscular methods (contract-relax) and gaining insight into the plasticity of the body and the inaccuracy of the sensations coming out of the body.
[*] Sea of Proprioception.
A seemingly passive and supportive aspect (at least in terms of stretching vectors) is what I call the ‘sea of proprioception’ quality. This is the getting used to relaxing and having huge areas of the body being supported in different ways. There is something different to receiving this much feedback through the skin and touch receptors at once. This insight came in combination from my trying to reduce as much apprehension as possible, my study of touch as a type of ‘kinaesthetic food’ (from Job’s Body* – see notes) and the practical physical intuition of one of my students [H] – who was always wanting to be squished and have deep pressure applied during stretches. These (largely the last, practical insight) created the ‘Stretching Under Pressure’ sub-syllabus discussed under the Structure & Syllabus section below.
The ability to coordinate and finely tune neuromuscular contraction and relaxation levels internally whilst under the duress of a strong stretching sensation. This skill allows for modulation of multiple stretching vectors and gives access to hitherto unreachable recesses of the physical interiority by virtue of using the stretch reflex as a flashlight (or sorts). These areas can also be coaxed to relax or work in congruence to provoke other areas to have increased stretch.
This ability needs a relatively high body awareness and also leads to higher body awareness. It carries over to all types of other exercise and movement modalities – and even to everyday life in interesting ways. Manipulation of the breathing apparatus is a special class of this ability that gets its own category.
[*] Ignition of Physical Intuition.
Gate 2 give access to the realm where you really start to work on developing the quality of Physical Intuition. This said the Gate itself is passed by the showing of a spark of this quality by the student (that is further kindled in the next phase). Re-patterning stretching is exceptionally good at developing some types of physical intuition and unsuited for developing others. As Physical Alchemy is largely about the development of such meta-qualities the studying of other methods to gain other aspects of this quality is encouraged.
There needs to be a decent amount of strength, flexibility, soft tissue quality and strength at end range to commence some of the stronger Body Tessellation stretches. Usually the person presents with some aspects along the classic lines of ‘flexible but weak’ or ‘strong and tight’. Once the initial deficit is adjusted for the Body Tessellation stretches come to the fore as many of them build up to using full force contractions (very slow and aware build up) at the disadvantageous leverage position that occurs near end-range of the stretches.
This is actually a crucial factor in the Body Tessellation level stretching work (and Physical Alchemy on a wider scale). Any fool can create a strong stretch in a person. Any decent practitioner can create a strong and safe stretch in someone. It is another thing entirely to dial the stretch to the precision necessary to create a strong enough stretch in a person whilst cuing them to maintain the breathing apparatus and Awareness clarity enough to make significant inroads into ‘character armour’ patterns within the soft tissues to a sub-cathartic totally digestible by that human (on that day) level. This is the art of Body Tessellation work (well, besides the artistically effective arrangement of bodies in supportive roles).
Tied to the simmering is the production and digestion of the repatterning effects I have talked about elsewhere. We are after increase in sensory lexicon. We are after the highest quality of new sensory impressions (before or as a gate to quantity).
[*] Using Body Tessellation stretching to work on further Qualities
So we can see how the Gates are dependent upon the requisite qualities being present in the individual. This then leads to a new field of enquiry and the development of new qualities along with the refinement of already existing qualities until another Gate is met and needs to be ‘unlocked’ by a specific combination of skill-sets and qualities.
[*] Gates in Physical Re-patterning Work more generally
Just as Re-patterning Stretching is only one syllabus within one of three ‘shells’ of the method that is Physical Alchemy, so are (a few) other people in the world doing what I would classify as physical re-patterning work – that is the use of physically dominant process work in the aim of re-patterning human beings to evoke transmutation. The gates and qualities above are specific to re-patterning stretching and for many of these qualities these methods are exceptionally good at cultivating them. But one does not learn about timing of punches, kicks and elbows against resisting opponents in a stretching class. So the qualities of combative timing, fear re-patterning and breathing, adrenalin control are not trained in my classes. The techniques that go along with this, either. Teachers who teach these and other aspects (in martial arts) well are in fact doing ‘physical re-patterning work’ with the students. This is (one of the reasons) why people often get big transformations of ‘character’ from martial arts training.
Similarly in dance, circus or arts of evasion (parkour) – depending upon the skill and capacity of the teacher and the ripeness of the students these can all be used as physical re-patterning arts (as well as and in no way in conflict with their original purposes as arts – fighting, performance, moving with alacrity through the urban environment, and so on).
Part of the insight into Physical Alchemy being an Art of Re-patterning (talked about in the first article and other pieces of my work) came from this Body Tessellation work. These are not appropriate stretches for a therapeutic environment (and so are not Stretch ‘Therapy’). These are tools for people who have claimed self-responsibility for being their own experiment. Some of these stretches are immensely potent tools of physical cartography but I would not use them whilst injured in certain areas (or with some medical conditions). These are perfect tools for Physical Alchemy. Pick the correct tool for the correct task.
So let us now turn our attention to more practical matters. Below are an abbreviated description of 5 Body Tessellation stretches.
[*] 5 Physical Alchemy Body Tessellation Stretches
Each of these 5 Body Tessellation level stretches has been chosen to show particular beneficial aspects to this type of work. As described elsewhere in the article this level of stretch evolved out of my experiences and insights from [K]’s Advanced Class and Workshops. The work was so obviously another level of potency above the already exceptional effective strong partner stretching ‘normal’ to the Stretch Therapy body of work.
Be forewarned! The 5 stretches demonstrated below show positional improvisations in the creation of Body Tessellation versions of common (and uncommon) stretches, Physical Alchemy artistic flavour and some of the qualities mentioned in this article but are not instructional articles for the stretches. Many technical aspects of stretches are left out because these are end postures of a sequence of stretches along a common line. IF you have done a Stretch Therapy workshop with Kit and have training partners who have also done this you could consider experimentation.
[ These 5 exercises will be described and detailed in full along with around 20 plus other similar order of magnitude Body Tessellation exercises in the Physical Alchemy book (due in November) and taught at workshop level throughout 2017 and beyond ]
[*] Tiger-skin Rug Pancake
The ‘Tiger-skin Rug’ Pancake is a Body Tessellation version of the Pancake exercise that is found in many systems of exercise. Seeing as though this is a physical re-patterning work variant we care not for pointer toes (in fact we would rather have neutral feet so as to more easily and powerfully utilise the knee flexion contraction options for the hamstrings).
One thing that is noticed (besides the increased stretching and deep pressure sensations in the expected structures of hamstrings and adductors) is that the two partners sitting on the lumbars and upper thoracic provokes the breathing apparatus structure to work in a different way. It is for this reason that this exercise is also categorized in the ‘Exorcising the Breath’ sub-syllabus.
This stretch is very good for ‘hyper-mobile’ students and is quite good with working with the physical dimensions of anxiety – if you have the skills as a teacher to do this. This particular stretch took a few of my students who had ‘full-but-unrelaxed’ Pancake into the realm of them being totally comfortable on the ground in this position (Pancake as rest position).
The physical prerequisite for this stretch in terms of range is about ~6-8 inches from sternum to ground without a huge degree of lumbar flexion. We use other versions of the Pancake if these physical parameters are not met.
Some single-partner work in preparation.
The first partner always sits upon the lumbars. The version pictured above is an excellent exercise in its own right.
Side angle of the ballpark ROM necessary as prerequisite. I started higher than this by a few inches.
The second cushion is applied. The second partner sits roughly on T4 (give or take a few vertabrae for individual variance in spinal curve and flexibility patterning)
This is the final, most excellent feeling position for me on the day of shooting. I have a small zafu cushion under my lower abdominals to complete that particular tessellated circuit.
And here is [H] completely flat as a tiger pelt and relaxed.
[*] Crucifixion Strength Human Crossbow
As we can see this stretch makes it into the ‘Body Tessellation’ category not fully by virtue of the number of people providing support but largely because of the depth of the tissues we are targeting in this exercise. As you can see in the images there is some serious ribcage distortion happening for Robbie and myself. This is build up to very slowly. The angles involved are not for show (though they do look cool) but because this is how much you need to bend the body to get the stretch into the sheaths of connective tissue around the inside of the lungs (mediastinum), the deep anterior spine structures and some of the hyoid muscles.
Whilst we use big contractions of the pectorals to get into the position (along with passive backward bending over the foot of the partner – who has to be very good at partnering) the contractions for these delicate structures are very minuscule. Indeed, we use the breath to work on most of them. That is, we use the muscles as active elements of the first phase of the stretch; then once in we use them as stabilisers and the breathing apparatus becomes the active element. This all requires a degree of body awareness that forces this stretch into this category.
The creation of the original stretch alone should gain [K] a knighthood.
[Looking ‘down the barrel’]
In the Crucifixion strength version the Stretchee will be flexible and bodily aware enough the you can triangulate in and be vertabrae specific with the supportive vector from the foot. It even makes a big difference which portion of the calcaneous is used, or indeed if the heel or the ball of the foot is used. By this stage the Stretchee will be able to clearly and concisely describe which portion of the foot and where on the dorsal surface of the body they want the foot.
Here is Kit’s great ‘scapular coaxing’ re-position and contraction. The pec minor can be made to contract via pressing the shoulder into the practitioners hand (lightly). The two hands then coordinate to allow the shoulder girdle to open and expose the chest and anterior shoulder connective tissue structures to further and deeper stretch.
In this version my legs are allowing for a horizontal adduction contraction of the humerus and my hands are supporting the posterior ribcage. The person assisting needs quite good adductor flexibility so as to exit and enter the stretch without bumping the Stretchee (or falling back and giving the partner a face full o’ arse).
Another variant with knees as extra stabilisers and hands on lateral ribcage.
Do not try this one. This for me where I am at now with my stretching is a wonderful and easily digestible stretch. It has taken many years to get here and to continue to explore the body I now need to do this. It looks a bit more sever than it is, too. Robbie is simply providing an immovable object for me to do very subtle neck and skull flexion contractions into and the extra proprioception from the mild forearm squish allows my posterior neck structures to relax their protective inclinations towards tensing up unnecessarily.
[*] Cerberus Hamstring
The Cerberus Hamstring stretch is an isolation of the hamstring like no other. This is very simply the 3 partner Body Tessellation of the Stretch Therapy ‘Train Conductor’ stretch. The third partner (as you will see) locks in the knee angle and further tessellates and stabilizes the stretching leg for a truly “smoke those hams’!” experience. Unlike some of the other Body Tessellation stretches that use very subtle contractions this one you go bent-kneed at those hamstrings like you were dragging the 3-headed guardian of the Underworld back to Earth in Herculean labor.
The base metal. Classic ST Train Conductor stretch with 2-partner assistance. Fantastic stretch I use every week. Only the sly look on Frederik’s face gives away that this is not going to be a normal Train Conductor.
[ Owh Oh! Look out Mr Teal – the Law of 3 is in effect. ]
This angle nicely catches how the third partner can ‘clinch’ the thigh just about the knee and create a very strong ‘locking’ effect upon the knee via this and the shoulder forming a proprioceptive circuit.
3 different angles and some different options for support.
‘View from the bottom’ (Fellas!? I’ll have the money by Friday – I swear!)
[*] ’Drawn & Quartered’
This one is a very recent development. I was contemplating the fact that one of my other Body Tessellation stretches (‘The Exorcism’) is such a potent exercise at Tessellation level but the partner and solo versions are but shadows of the transmutational sun of this exercise. What if other solo rotation exercises I found were so so (for flexible people) could be alchemised in a similar way? It was an easy choice, the ST Lying Rotation (it is even one of the ‘daily 5’).
This supercharged rotation is exceptionally good at unlocking the soft tissues around the ‘hepatic band’ of the mid-ribcage. As with all Body Tessellation level rotations it can be uses within the ‘Exorcising the Breath’ or ‘Wringing out the Human Towel’ sub-syllabii depending upon what you chose to make the active element – the breath or the muscle.
Also (as with all Body Tessellation level rotations) you need to come out of the position glacially slow – and in fact are aided by the 3 partners in rolling out onto the stomach.
[un shava – freshly exhumed]
Better make him comfortable after disturbing his slumber.. Cushions and bolsters come to the fore big-time in aiding the Body Tessellation ‘sea of proprioception’ quality.
A triad of 1-partner Lying Rotation strategies I came up with during the tinkering process that are actually quite nice stretches for people not ready for the full version.
Behold! It is quite a sight in its’ full glory. The traction of the arms is controlled by the Stretchee and their tolerance and desired intensity.
Though it may look like I am exerting pressure with my shin upon the pelvis all I am really doing is blocking it from moving very strongly. It is the muscle I block the ischium with too and not the tibia bone.
Back to a corpse now. Better put him in the earth again. Shavasana [Corpse Posture] is an excellent ‘counter-pose’ for these very strong stretches; especially if the re-patterning effects start to come in near the end of the session.
More flexible people start further ‘wound-up’.
Getting the placement of the shin correct and ironing out any kinks before progressing into deeper water.
For myself (and a small group of my senior students) the hand is placed on the face and skull so that you can do a complete spinal rotation contraction. This feels amazing. The contraction is done subtly and built-up so as to not engange the prime movers (extrinsics) and put it into the deeper spinal rotators (intrinsics).
[*] 3 person ‘Bone Whale’ Back Bridge
This particular stretch is done in Stretch Therapy almost identically and I have a debt of gratitude to [K] for showing me all the cuing of the original. My addition to this posture was using the head; more accurately the skull bones of the 3rd partner to provide a ‘mini whale made of bone instead of wood’. This is very nice as it allows for a much more precise assistance than bending over a whale and is also stronger than assisting with the hand (the ST standard). The person offering ‘cranial coaxing’ needs to have a strong and coordination neck and thorax so as to exert the support vector to a very fine degree of pressure whilst maintaining the ‘immovable object’ feel. This is actually a great exercise for the person performing this assistance.
The extra vector that the ‘bone whale’ provides allows for much easier and deeper Uncoupling of structures on the ventral and deep anterior aspects of the trunk and spine. We tried a version using a ‘leg press’ from underneath by the 3rd partner, instead – it wasn’t too pretty but was reasonably effective. It has been flagged for further experimentation.
With all the vectors in play, ideally you switch to breathing apparatus active – though you can also do some nice wringing and complex contract-relax sequences here which would take too long to describe.
a) Shin bones are tractioned away from the spine via the calves. b) You can see that Frederik is now tessellated nicely between Robbie’s legs and my head. The cupping of the elbows both helps me stabilise and exert force with the head and helps Fred open his chest up even more.
Counter-pose. This is orthodox (though extreme) flexion after extension is a classic counter-pose for the bridge. -I prefer to teach people to spontaneous and intuitively investigate what ‘counter-posing’ feels correct for their body, for that posture on that day. We get some very interesting motions occurring! (like Craig’s Hip flexor “dance”)
[*] Structure & Syllabus
One unexpected outcome of pursuing the practical tinkering of the Body Tessellation work was that it actual had a organisational impact upon the Re-patterning Stretching syllabus and also upon the structure of the Physical Alchemy method as a whole. Starting with the Re-patterning Stretching syllabus it was heavily involved in the taxonomy of my re-patterning stretching schemata (as well as creating the name ‘re-patterning stretching’ due to my contemplation of this practical work and my own direction with the method).
The genesis of the Physical Alchemy approach to stretching started in the old ‘alchemical sessions’ I had with [M] and Sir Robbie. As the Body Tessellation explorations continued to evolve a number of classes of techniques developed out of these sessions. These explorations spilled over into my classes about 18 months in to my time in Sydney as by then some of my regular students were able to digest stretching of this magnitude – in fact their bodies craved it. Because the aim was physical re-patterning and not pain removal I opted to class the exercises by virtue of what they were re-patterning in the human form.
These classes (sub-syllabuses) will be the focus of my next article, but for clarity they are:
5 Outer Sub-syllabuses
• Unfoetalling the Human Form
• Sciatic Pathway
• Legs Apart
• 5 Necks
• Hanging Stretching (‘From the Bar’)
Further and more specifically related to the Body Tessellation stretching was the 4 Deeper Sub-syllabuses.
4 Deeper Sub-syllabuses
• Body Tessellations
• Deep Pressure (‘Stretching Under Pressure’)
• Tissue Wringing (‘Wringing Out the Human Towel’)
• Exorcising the Breath
The Deep Pressure, Tissue Wringing and Exorcising the Breath sub-syllabii all came out of explorations with the Body Tessellation concept and all make heavy use of it within most of their techniques.
In the tinkering around that was involved in this I also re-evaluated the spectrum of humans encountering my methods and how to most safely, effectively and efficiently progress them along (3 principles [K] had always stressed to me – I was listening).
What I found was that Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced whilst accurate enough did not give across the flavour accurately. Also, due to smaller class size I had people of vastly differing skill levels in the one class for a fair while (which again was very helpful in the creation of the syllabus).
[*] Physical Alchemy Stretching Spectrum
Exploration (someone who is new to the method and/or who’s skill is such that they are not ready to make serious inroads against established patterns of deep physical restriction and character armour —> Immersion (people who are pushing into the unknown somewhat and who have gotten noticely more flexible and supple and are working on all the ‘koans’ of the qualities involved in the passing of Gate 2) —> Tinkering/Physical Intuition (these people are now using Body Tessellation as their main stretching techniques and are making serious inroads into the ground substance of their physical form. Deep re-patterning of the physical form is beginning and stabilising. Also, more looked for by me is these students are starting to improvise much more; create their own stretches, or ways of doing certain stretches. They know what stretches they need on a given day much more easily. This is the art aspect starting to come forth! :).
How I class peoples’ skill level is related to the Gates mentioned above: Exploration –> Immersion –> Tinkering/Physical Intuition –> ?? –> ???. There are two other experimental categories in the progression that I myself cannot yet do – though I have met people with these qualities. This is what I am working towards. The name of the syllabus changes in the middle of the Tinkering/Physical Intuition category. Prior to this it is extra gate it is called ‘Re-patterning Stretching’, afterwards it is called ‘Alchemical Stretching’. An earlier article I wrote on this is now inaccurate on a structural level (though still has many of the concepts I use now, in prototype form).
All of these developments forced me to re-evaluate and re-structure the whole art I was creating. This led to a 3 shell model of all the teachings and practices that make up the method that is Physical Alchemy.
[*] 3 Shell model for the structure of Physical Alchemy
Just as the body has 3 layers – ectodermal, mesodermal and endodermal tissues. So I have adopted a ‘3 shell’ model to the structure of Physical Alchemy as a method. The Re-patterning Stretching of the Exploration, Immersion and early stage Tinkering is in the outer shell (along with Physical Cultivation and another couple of syllabuses not currently taught). Later stage tinkering (Alchemical Stretching) is in the middle shell (the mesoderm) along with my Re-enchantment Process work. The inner shell is what I personally practice and do not teach at the moment. The inner informs the middle, informs the outer in a very nice fashion whilst the person encountering Physical Alchemy meets the outer then maybe after they have shown potential and sincerity can enter to the mesoderm.
[*] Ground Substance and Structure – Body as ‘Connective Tissue Retort’
Back to the physical body – something that became apparent from my contemplation was that the Re-patterning Stretching syllabus focus primarily upon the re-patterning and re-modelling of the ground substance; the substrate and physical architecture (structure) of the body. Deane Juhan in his wonderful book on the human form [Job’s Body: a handbook for Bodywork – see notes] has a paragraph heading that describes the body as a ‘Connective Tissue Retort’ and this is nice physically alchemical metaphor for the re-patterning stretching work.
Just as the alchemists heat mineral substances in their alembics and retorts in processes of transmutation, so to do we heat the physical structure of our bodies with the flames of stretch, pressure, tension and awareness. And just as metals release impurities upon heating so to does the re-patterning of one layer of dysfunction and amnesia give rise to old injuries and stagnation that bubble up to the surface to in turn by interrogated via the flame. Solve et coagula.
My esteemed colleague and alchemical brother Emmet Louis spoke at a recent workshop I attended about his ’18 month’ theory of flexibility and soft tissue remodeling from his own experimentation. Roughly this entails that if you want a sustainable physical transformation it will take you about 18 months to change state (a minor physical solve et coagula). To move from stiff as a board (“plank-like”) to ‘pretty fucking stiff’ takes around 18 months; then from this to stiff another 18 months – and so on and so forth. If you start flexible and want to become highly flexible, likewise it is an 18 month process (and this is with weekly training). There are always exceptions but I have also found this 18 month period to be a timeline for state-change from physical re-patterning work and my methods of stretching.
The Body Tessellation can be viewed as supercharged asana. As Emmet also says ‘the goal of flexibility training is to not need to do any flexibility training’ (i.e you are perfectly flexible, cold). I also subscribe to this philosophy. The Body Tessellation work allows me to cut down hugely on the amount of hours of training I need to do each week on flexibility – and it even has very intriguing carryover to mobility and strength work (though this my be localized to myself). At any rate I have more contemplative things I like to do for solo practice and I like doing my flexibility and sensory lexicon work together and with friends and students (tribe).
[*] Craft and the Laboratory Class
One lesson I got from [K] that has proved to be very profound was the need to establish a ‘Laboratory class’ (like his old ‘Advanced Class’) where you can train with senior students and tinker away with new techniques. This has many benefits for a teacher beyond the creation of physical techniques and so I recommend it to any teaching of physical re-patterning methods. This type of work is actually of the craft tradition far more than it is teachable at university level. In the photos above you have a medical degree, a physio degree, a design degree and a science degree on display (in that the humans stretching have little scrolls from these studies) – but this is not how you learn this work. I learned this work via apprenticeship and that is how it must be taught. The establishment of ones own Laboratory Class is the mark of the Journeyman as it functions as his or her laboratory. In fact a living laboratory in that you start to get taught a great many things by your students, especially when the physical intuition quality is ignited and self-generating.
[*] Embodied Paradox
To bring the article back to the beginning there is another (alchemical) reason that I chose to use ‘Paradoxical Stretching’ in the title of this second article. The deeper work of Physical Alchemy is to create a person who is themselves a living paradox. They embody paradox. I have meet a very small number of people who do this and they are the best and most interesting people I know.
I would not be part way through a book and caretaker of a wonderful living method if I had not taken this leap of faith. If you truly feel an intuition to follow some tangential aspect of your training (or life more generally) I would highly recommend doing so.
[ Happy, Sly and Moderately Caffeinated ]
Title Picture: M.C.Escher’s ‘Relativity’.
Job’s Body, Deane Juhan. [https://www.amazon.com/Jobs-Body/dp/1581770995/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483695371&sr=1-1&keywords=jobs+body]