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What does AI and Yoga have in common?

I recently chatted with my son, a software engineer, about using AI at his job. Very often when I do discuss work with my son, I quickly get to a place where I try my best to pay attention and understand, but often have no idea what he is talking about.

This time he said something that I could very much relate to. He said “But mom, even if the app is very “intelligent”, it still only uses information that is already in the internet. And we know that some things are true, some are false, some are very one-sided opinions, biased conclusion, depending on who paid for the study. Chat AI might be an amazing tool to put this information together at fascinating speed, but it can only work with information that is already there.

That made me think for a while, because I can relate to this very much in my Yoga practice. When we move our body, our nervous system sends signals to the muscles, connective tissue and organs to do certain tasks. What signals is sends, depends very much on “old” information. Through all our life we learned certain movements, we learned how to walk, to sit, to stand up, pick something up from the ground. With any negative experience we might have had doing this, our brain learned to adapt and find better strategies to avoid pain.

We might have fallen while running on uneven ground. The next time we find ourselves on a dirt path, the brain sends signals to the eyes to sharpen and look out for roots, for the muscles to pick up the feet a bit higher, to engage muscles that stabilize the ankle.

In every day life most of the time our body does perfect well running on auto-remote, following those orders form a brain that it learned from previous experiences. Just like chatAI, our brain uses this old input to create better strategies for what we are up to now. But does it do a good job doing so?

When I sit down on the mat for a Yoga practice, the body immediately puts itself in the same position it has known for years now. Without thinking, the right leg goes in front of the left, shoulders round a bit, chin drops. Yes, my body learned well how to sit cross legged on the floor. It knows how to do it without getting hurt. Even if this time I have a smaller cushion to sit on, a room is cooler than usual, and someone asks me a question, it does pretty well in putting me in a safe seated position.

But is this very best we could do? I do believe that only through a moment of stillness, some deep breathing, contemplation, active listening, we can find the presence to check in within our body to see how it actually is feeling RIGHT NOW. Is there anything different that I can address by modifying my pose a bit. Maybe sitting a bit higher, using an extra block, maybe changing legs to not favour the same hip all the time, maybe rolling the shoulders a bit to let them relax and even out, a little movement in the neck to release tight knots there.

This is a process that does not happen instantaneous, using old information that the brain has stored for me, to keep me safe. This is a process that take a little more time, a few breaths, listening to the body, recognizing old patters, trying to consciously break away from old habits that do not serve us any more, and rather re-creating was truly works for us best right now. Not just a “good enough to not get hurt” but a “very best for right now”. Yes, we do have to work with old data, but we can combine it with the present moment to create something even better!

I wish there was an app for that! Or maybe it’s good that there isn’t.

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