Collapse Yoga (text)

 


With inserts by Eliza Trefas (ET)


”Collapse Yoga mixes Yoga with possible "negative" states as weakness, sadness, illness, anxiety, hopelessness, renouncement, exhaustion, grief, boredom, decrepitude, failure and their traces in the body. It collides Yoga's aims for coordination, balance, strength, flexibility with the body's deep desires for asymmetry, incoordination, weakness, relaxation, unbalance, abandon, collapse, freedom. It affects the normativity of the human form. Collapse Yoga is often practiced next to intimidating buildings, monuments, in charged public spaces symbolically associated with cultural stiffness, harmful ethics or bad politics. There is a correspondence and influence between the body's politics and society's problems." Collapse Yoga (2016)


My phone is in this funny position in my hand, sideways tilted and a little bit upside down. I'm lucky that my head collapsed to the same side, but is still quite strange to write from here. My body is disarticulated. From my crooked posture I see a normal world outside, correct buildings, people walking straight, with clear aims, probably to some squared boxes, like the one in which I am now. Probably meeting other normal people, and having their normal lives. They have a structured life I suppose, a fair proper life most of them. They have human form, probably human thoughts, human perceptions, human feelings, they are real humans. I don't feel one of them, now.

There is a silent work in our bodies for maintaining correct posture, appearance, composure – a kind of automatic yoga. (Western) Yoga aims for alignment, flexibility, balance, coordination, elongation, straightness, uprightness, control, for peaceful and harmonious states. Like many other somatic practices, it has an improving, purifying, positive feel, a personal growth tone, an aspirational and healthy thinking esthetic. And, as most spiritual, somatic techniques, it creates needs about how we should be, ideals for our bodies.

I follow my sadness in the body. My head hangs down, hands are getting close to my chest and my face. There is a feeling of intimacy because of the chest, hands, head being so close. The phone is too close to my eyes, difficult to write. My legs bend and the triangle head-hands-chest is going down. The triangle is getting smaller and smaller, I can barely write anymore, soon I won't be able to. I went deeper into the pose, my hands touched my chest and the phone touched my head. I stayed for a while there and I shifted from feeling the posture psychologically, from inside, like a great sadness, to feeling 'the energy' of the asana – the body like an abstract antenna catching exterior abstract affects and subtle energies. I kept switching between the inside and the outside perspectives.

We often ignore the negative experiences, emotions stored in our bodies, and go for idealized bodies through fitness, yoga or other practices. Collapse Yoga starts from where we are, from feeling and living our present situation. It is against forcing things at the somatic and spiritual levels, against imposing our will on bodies and realities. If a body is tired or sad, it should be allowed to experience, to go through that exhaustion or sadness, instead of being forced into freshness, happiness… It shouldn't be fought with. I let this posture collapse more, so now I'm on the floor, my head is almost touching my left foot, my chin in the chest. I'm the closest possible to becoming a ball, a deformed, asymmetric ball. I connect with a deep sadness and hopelessness, personal and collective.

"My body feels heavy but my chest opens. The chest is heating up, I feel it going inside out. I am curled above the floor, on my feet, but my chest is longing to the side, wanting to face the world. Chest replaces words. Chest fixes some of my regret. I feel small drops of relief in the body, in my back, in my shoulders, in my hips, small collapses here and there. Emotions organize themselves within me. To take a step now feels unfair. It does something to me, being pinned down right here. My feet are so heavy, I shouldn't leave, I understand that. My left hand raised now until my face dropped in it. My left hand arrived to hold my head. Body pushing more towards ground and just a little towards sky. I feel hope. But there is more regret than I thought in my body. All objects and structures around don't define limits and stops anymore, but they shelter me in my unfolding. Otherwise it would also be interesting to know how far I would fall by forever collapsing. Because of my disciplinary dance training, my body cannot collapse. It was never allowed to. If you collapse, do it quietly, they say. We don't want to think it's failure. Failures stay behind the scenes. Both literally and figuratively. We hide the failures under the carpet, behind the curtain, and too deep inside our bones. They stay quiet, covered and forgotten, but still inside our home. Though no one relates to a quiet failure. It would be nice to exhale for once."(ET)

I'm crushed, on my spread knees and on my left temple, as much of my body as possible touching the floor. The screen is very close to my right eye, the other eye is blocked by the floor. Almost impossible to write. The airport becomes a non airport, the flight announcements just dimmed noise. I hope I am not losing the plane. There is also an audience for what I'm doing. The feeling is not that different from performing in a museum. I'm standing up now, but my state stays the same. The space is more 3D, if that's possible. Things are more contoured, and somehow everything seems to be in focus. My hearing is accentuated too, and I register clearly the details. The woman drinking her coffee here and the faraway mountains covered in snow that I see through these big windows are equally present. It feels like I succeeded to take off without a plane. It's a mystery how just by disjointing my body, the perception changes so much. What would happen if I go further?

Culturally, we're pushed to a bodily optimism. We have to always produce and present a normal body, even to ourselves. The only ones who are somehow allowed to deviate are the mentally deficient and the 'crazy'. Working with "severely mental deficient" kids, I noticed that their bodies, which in the beginning seemed handicapped, were actually much more versatile and connected with themselves and the environment than the 'normal' ones. They didn't interiorise the policing of their bodies, the great normalization, so their bodies actually respond and experience the internal and external environments. It was a shock to see that those kids, who couldn't use the spoken language, had much smarter bodies than us, the helpers there. They could read our bodies better than we could read ourselves. The roles changed, I felt bodily deficient. They slowly taught me to abandon some of my somatic normality (emotional stiffness) and let my body be, experience and communicate. We started to have our bodily jokes and to make fun of the rigidity of 'normal' people.

Probably no-one can tell that I'm doing Collapse Yoga but my feeling about myself and reality has changed. There is something broken and open in me, my body goes in other ways with the most little details, and the world is getting different too, it's becoming alive. Things become fresh, charged with potential. Something woke up in me, it's very subtle. The grass is greener, and the trees have an extra dimension. I see them clearly but there is also something affective about them. Presence. I feel that I open my human form, warmth. Maybe I feel the trees because they are also doing Collapse Yoga. They are not into the madness of symmetry, straightness, alignment and correctness. They let their bodies express their lives, they let their lives affect their bodies. Finally we can have this affective communication that many cultures are speaking of. I wonder why it is not so with humans, they're ridiculous in their correct bodies.

"Notice the automatic maintenance, control and correction of our postures and movements, the drive for alignment, composure, elongation, coordination, symmetry. And the elements of the posture that want to collapse, to relax, to fall apart, to abandon, to dislocate, incoordinate, untie. The traces of exhaustion, sadness, failure, illness, disappointment, fear… Let the body amplify and explore these traces." This is how Collapse Yoga sessions might start, Collapse Yoga is a technique attuned to the inevitable presence of collapse, in our lives and in our world. Despite our best efforts, the everyday yoga that we do for maintaining our human form will fail. Our form will inevitably collapse sooner or later. This makes most types of Yoga, and many other practices, appear as wishful thinking, or desperate. Paradoxically, Collapse Yoga is the optimistic one.

I'm lying backwards, my legs flexed under me, on my elbows, my back elevated a little, my head is curved as much as possible towards the chest, my gaze towards my own nose and some parts of my face. My eyes move towards right, to catch the screen to write this. My gaze turns towards my face again. And back towards the screen, my hand writes that I don't know exactly what's this posture, but it's a lot of hopelessness, abandon, locking into myself. I feel the posture more. It's perfect for this world. I maintain the postures for longer than in other Yogas. I feel more connected in these asanas. Collapse Yoga is the yoga of our times. Our implicit daily yoga, of controlling and correcting, dulls the sensitivity of the body. This makes us unable to understand the importance of embodied experience and to easily replace it with spectacle. In performance there is a long history of going against representation, against spectacle, but the new online push is a regress to just that, disembodied spectacle. The entire society seems to be spectacle. From the ways the media and behavioral experts maintain fear, to our forcedly choreographed movements, presences and absences in public spaces, to our proximity avoidance gestures in our imposed masks.

I'm with the fists clenched, oriented towards the ground, towards the beach, the right one not so much anymore, to be able to write this. I feel some remains of a fighting energy. Head and back bended, shoulders a little bit tense. I feel closed into myself, defeated human, defeated humanity. I accentuate the posture, going down, my fist relaxes a little, my shoulders too. It is also an acknowledgment and acceptance of the world in this falling. Now I feel my posture connected more with the sea than with the world. The tide is coming closer and closer to my feet, like it's saying "it's ok, everything will be washed away soon." I'm collapsing completely on the sand. My hand with the phone too. I'm sideways fallen with my right elbow in the sand and the rest of the body contorted. I'm like a stone waiting for the tide to arrive. The sea is a being. I'm down, my head is touching the sand and I look through the arch of my left leg to the inverted sea. The sea is an angry sky, it's coming for me.

How would be the transition of going to the beach online? You don't have to struggle with the heat, you just stay comfortable at home and enjoy the beach on your screen. If this sounds ridiculous, the online transitioning for performance and other art forms, where the embodied experience is crucial, or for schools, is beyond ridiculous. "Transition your holidays online!" is what should be said to anyone who proposes the online move for art, especially performance. They should go on holidays on Zoom, with live transmissions from their favorite beaches or from wherever they wish. Maybe after some online holidays like that they would start to understand the importance of embodied experience.

I'm in a strange posture, with my forehead in the sand, my face almost touching it too. The rest of the body is quite contorted. I almost breathe the sand. I collapsed on the side, with my face still close to it. I feel like I'm being slowly swallowed. I'm browsing over the multitude of little sand pebbles in front of my eyes. I cannot think past them. They caught my thoughts. I stayed like that for a while and at some point everything opened, the sea, the sounds were present again. My body feels more alive, in a flow. Affects, energies are circulating through it and outside of it too, there is an affective relationship with the surrounding. All kinds of enriched details catch my attention and my body responds and affects in return. My posture, my body is in relation with everything around. The environment is not just an image anymore.

"I am close to the ground, on my feet, with my knees apart and I start to look straight and openly to the world from here. My eyes fall as open as they can, my mouth unclenched. My belly goes out, both physical and emotional bloat. Shame is tight but my body untangles now. I feel like a little monkey in the park discovering her body. I squat on top of a hill and subtly play in my disgraceful way. It's a shaming posture, but I try to let the notions of shame collapse and embrace alternative ones. My body starts to open. My monkey posture starts to put some things in perspective. I feel small in the world, in this park. Even though I am on an elevated platform, somewhere uphill, I got arranged in a posture that makes it paradoxically easy for me to feel hidden, camouflaged, a perfectly normal element here. Perhaps it takes passing over an average line of embarrassment to ultimately feel that in fact we're not as visible. I have been in this squat for a long time now. The more I stay, the more it normalises. My body familiarizes with being here like this, I become an element of my surrounding. I feel connected to something bigger. Unlike being human which feels so strange to belong to. I guess you feel it too. There's a quiet anxiety in being part of human. A specific obscure reason I don't know. But becoming part of nature... I am not alone."(ET)

Too much insistence on correctness, purity, straightness, alignment, symmetry, is producing blockages and oppression in the body. The resulting stiffness and numbing produces disconnection and distrust towards bodies, our own and others. The governance of our own bodies extends to the entire society and a control based stiff normalization becomes the society's politics. The body's capacities to affect, to feel, to determine perspectives and realities become culturally oppressed. The untrusted bodies are put in the hands of 'experts' to be better corrected and controlled. Body processes such as illness, dying are becoming simply unacceptable, because there is no trust in the body's capacity to heal, and there is no meaningful relationship with death. Once sensibility, joy, aliveness of the bodies are gone, paradoxically, the entire energy of the person and society are focused on desperately protecting the biological 'life' of these dead bodies. Absurd fears, norms, regulations are controlling more and more these bio-machines that replace the bodies. On this terrain, things like Nazi's Aryan Ancestry Certificates or vaccine passports can easily appear.

"Lately I like walking slightly asymmetrical, it seems to help me tune in to something bigger. As soon as I let my body fall into ambiguous explorations and personal healing systems, I get connected to a bigger understanding. Vague as well. It takes time and practice to read or interpret these feelings. But it comes with an instant reassuring feeling that this has power and potential. The more I open to this ambiguity, I gain a deeper feeling of trust, creativity and a serene unconditional listening. (Love?). This listening comes by itself. I don't try to do it on purpose, it's something my body automatically does. It's a sort of attention I give a little push to and then carries on by itself. Like in meditation, where the more you practice the easier is to tune into it, the same in Collapse Yoga where the more I practice it, including it in the middle of my walks, of my thoughts, of other tasks and practices, the more it helps me develop this listening and processing of feelings, a sort of own philosophy of self. And I guess most of us are unconsciously on a constant quest for our own philosophies."(ET)

I let a combination of sadness and boredom take over my body, my head is falling, hanging, my hands are falling too, the phone gets further away from my eyes, it's difficult to write. I'm slowly going down. I feel good by giving in, really inhabiting, expressing how I feel, how I am right now. Although it's a difficult posture to sustain. I try to feel the posture, to get relaxed in this difficult situation, to avoid blocking my breathing. There is quite some stretching in the back of my legs, it's a complex situation, difficult but somehow true. It's not a bad posture. There is all this stretching in my spine and the rest of the body. There is a balancing work that I do. Yoga comes into picture, it's not just collapse. If I choose to see it as a good practice for my body it becomes so, like in that study in which some maids considered their work as fitness exercise and it really worked as that. Now my body makes little adjustments in this posture. I came back standing, and I feel better already, my chest more open and lighter. By amplifying it, some heaviness was lifted up from myself. It's a form of paradoxical therapy – instead of correcting the problem, you amplify it.

Experiencing our defects, minuses, problems, means starting from where we are, not from an idealized image of ourselves. Collapse Yoga is not just about collapsing, it's about working with the collapse, or letting the collapse work you. It's about finding potential in falling and being low. Our problems become our practice, our solutions. The incorrect, banned, bad postures are not only ok, but they become a good practice. You can even start to enjoy exploring the traces in the body of the 'bad states', letting the body to indulge in all this collapse. By making the most of your own fall, your collapse becomes Collapse Yoga.

Heaviness and bad mood, I let my body react to it. It's going down, my knees pressing against each other, I'm leaning towards my left, hands a little bit limp towards the chest. It's a heaviness that is more than personal, related with the world. My body is losing balance, is losing and recovering balance, like when you're very drunk. The pose is somehow maintained, with small variations, it makes me smile, it's like a dynamic collapse, or a moving asana. Heaviness is somehow integrated. It's like by destabilizing the body and my feet getting loose, heaviness becomes more manageable. I'm lighter.

We're in energetic, climatic, economical, intelectual, artistic, spiritual, ethical… collapse. Some researchers say that all this medical crisis is happening, besides for concentrating money and power even more at the 'top', also as a way to mask the collapse, and to control it to a certain extent by degrowing the economy, and the unsustainable levels of energetic consumption. The collapse capitalism is scrambling for the last resources. After depleting and destroying the environment, our bodies, our lives are the last frontier for terminal capitalism. Life and death are the ultimate resources to mine and collapse. The last big money is in mandatory medicine, and in humans on complete surveillance, as data colonies for AI. Even if we are not aware, or in denial, the surrounding collapse is affecting our bodies. At some levels we affectively register what's happening. We might feel it as a generalized fear and rigidity in our bodies. A fear that desperately needed an object, and it got one, "the virus".

I'm in this collapsed meditation posture. It's difficult to write, I'm on my left elbow, my hands are a little bit contorted, tense, head collapsed, almost touching the phone. I relax the thumbs from time to time to type this. I try to feel this posture. Now I'm very compact, and asymmetrical, it's difficult to breathe. The sensation is that I want to minimize my place in this world. Smaller and smaller, turned inside. My body occupies the entirety of my perception, that's much too much. I prefer to close my eyes, except when I write. Someone entering the room can get scared, I'm looking like a dead body in a strange posture on the floor, when I'm not writing.

"I observe how my body does sadness. It can become pretty funny. Sadness is mellow and sticky and it doesn't fit into one jar. It falls everywhere around it, overwhelmingly tired. I get to empathize with how my body feels with my sadness. I accept however I want to stay, wherever I feel a bit of relief. I'm simply sitting somehow, not really sure how I got here. But my face and my presence are dripping on the floor. Today I have no expression pinned up my face. I'm shapeless. If I embody an emotion and I allow it to continue manifesting physically without looking for a stop or end, without pinning it into a fixed posture, into a recognizable pause, the emotion seems to start its own abstract dance within. It speaks back to me, asks me questions and by doing so, implicitly gives me some answers. The only way out is to go in. Escaping means to follow the thread and the thread is your body. Not the body as I see it but the body as I feel it."(ET)

Just by slightly bending the head sideways you can bend your perspective on the world. It really feels like the body perspective creates reality, like many natives are saying. My body activates only the necessary muscles for not totally collapsing. My head is pulling down with all its weight. My hands hang heavy too, they are on my legs, above knees, the phone is very far from my eyes. I barely can raise my thumbs to move them from one letter to another on the keyboard. If this state is contagious, and I think it is, you might also relax till the point of barely keeping your eyes open and probably have difficulties not falling on the text, asleep.

For certain Amazonians, the body's perspective is creating the world. Shamans by modulating their bodies, which are seen as a bundle of affects and capacities, can access other worlds. There are multiple worlds, multinaturalism. This is radically different from the western multiculturalism – one nature, one objective world on which we can have different cultural perspectives. Probably our reality is so objective, so solid because our bodies (also in terms of affects and capacities) are rigid, solid, stiff. The bodies' self-discipline and correct organization are maintaining the world, the coherence of reality. Through practices as Collapse Yoga, the human form can disintegrate, the structure of reality can become softer, malleable, the world unknown. If the human form is shaping reality, destabilizing it can be a way out of it, especially when it turns into a nightmare.

It's like Collapse Yoga allows me to see nature. By deviating my body from its normative posture, something happens. The deviation means presence. I perceive my body as a strange landscape. The grass literally becomes greener, and I perceive the plants individually not just as a general green mass and not one at a time. The shapes of the trees are communicating, of the buildings too, and even humans. They're funny with their correct ambitions and proper walking, they seem a little bit robotic, out of nature. And probably we are. Because this is what we want, it's visible in our bodies. I don't know, probably it is just an impression, but I feel that my collapsed posture protects me from this stiff atmosphere around institutions, buildings, humans. Protection is not the right word, I'm rather exiting their implicit power and influence.

Collapse Yoga done near power institutions, in significant moments and places, can be a way of bringing in the open their collapse influence over our bodies and lives, it can be a form of protest. Collapse Yoga can be also subtle, light, camouflaged in the daily activities. We simulate the bodies that we encounter, and, through this generalized involuntary empathy, the reading of a collapsed body produces a little bit of collapse in others too. We may become more collectively aware of the embodied problems and let the body process them. There is a correspondence and influence between the body's politics and society's problems. A too normalized society is just a little step away from a totalitarian society, and that step is being made these days. By affecting the normativity of the human form, in a twisted way, Collapse Yoga is a return to the traditional Yoga's ambitions of being much more than a healthy sport.

This plant at my feet is fascinating, it's spreading in all directions close to the ground. Like a strange mandala, it's pulling me towards it. I bent my knees, I got very close. My body goes in all sorts of deviations, collapses, misalignments, all somehow related with the plant. It's like my current asana is shaped by it. I can stay longer here than in other postures. It's more meaningful, more powerful, and also light and soft. My eyes are attracted by its center, it's mesmerizing, so much complexity, I somehow register it in my body. My eyes are caught by another similar plant, 30 cm further, we're an unit, the three of us. It sounds crazy, but this is the feeling. It feels like something very stable in space and time, eternal, like I can stay here forever.

(2021)

To be published in Artwork