Over the space of many years I have shifted from making Yoga shapes ( asana) to developing a practice of embodied movement or embodied Yoga.
As a beginner when you join a Yoga class you have to practice putting your body into new shapes which it does not usually make during every day life and therefore to begin with you will probably not practice embodied yoga. The Teacher says eg. ‘Put your arm here;’ and ‘Put your right leg there,’ and you follow his/her instructions and then you make these 2 dimensional shapes. Students get stuck in a habit of ‘making a certain shape in a certain way’ even though it may be unhelpful. The patterns or shapes become habitual and when they find a new Teacher who does it slightly differently there can be a lot of resistance to change what they already ‘Know’ and ‘put onto’ their body.
Over years of training I’ve grown into a more interoceptive and intuitive way of moving. Thus creating a loving friendship with my body which depends on me listening deeply instead of inflicting upon it what I think it should do without any thought of self care or compassion. This is the world we live in where ‘No pain is no gain’ the old adage that is engrained into our culture and causes so many injuries yet many people of my own generation still believe it to be true.
Embodied Yoga means also to be mindful. Yoga is a school of Mindfulness which means paying attention to the present moment and training the mind to do that. Being aware of our thoughts, feelings and emotions from moment to moment while moving through and connecting to a place of alert stillness.
Movement will create thoughts which will create emotions, so it’s necessary to be aware of this while moving through your Yoga practice so your body and mind stay connected or embodied. If you have no awareness of the subtle sensations happening inside your body and project outward during your Yoga practice then you are simply creating shapes and there is no embodiment happening. The body and mind are disconnected.
By practicing somatic, mindful Yoga movement I listen deeply to my body as I move and experience with curiosity the wonderful mysteries that are unfolding in my body. My interoceptive research allows me to be in question and observe the mystery unfolding while being in contact with the aliveness therein.
Words don’t do the experience justice it has to be felt. To find the effortlessness in the effort is the opposite to imposing movement onto our body, (the no pain no gain idea). When I move with ease there is strength, fluidity, joy and currenting through the body’s muscles like a stormy ocean that enjoys it’s own release of energy on the surface but is still embodied with the quieter still depths below. The whole ocean is embodied, it’s not that the surface is separate to the depths. So even in a storm the water flows, arises and rolls with ease and grace in it’s powerfulness, and strength.
So when I practice embodied Yoga the movement is delightful and refreshing, my body feels alive, light, energetic and vibrant. An Embodied yoga practice is strong, balanced, self empowering, loving, pure and true. Connecting us to our authentic self.
Mentally we can also get stuck in our beliefs and thought patterns so having an embodied, mindful yoga practice can open us up to new perspectives and possibilities on a conscious level.
Recently while working with Primary school children I noticed how if you say to them Go roll or Go leap or Go bounce it initially seems confusing to the majority of them as they quizzically looked at each other and asked, ‘How do you do That?’ rather than a natural thing that one or two children in each class still know how to do instinctively. The majority no longer appeared to instinctively know how to do these natural human patterns of movement as they have sadly become conditioned into a more sedentary lifestyle.
By giving space to these children to then make these lovely movements of skipping, jumping, hopping, rolling, sliding, bouncing and so on, I observed how happy they became in the moment as they re-discovered the refreshing, delightful joy of embodied movement and play. A wonderful sense of freedom came over me and them.
As we get older we create habitual or bad patterns of movement and then our muscles forget how to current effectively and this may cause us injury in the future. So it’s important to have an open mind on how to move and create more fluidity of movement by becoming more intuitive, mindful and explorative during your Yoga practice.
Embodied Yoga gives you an opportunity to befriend your body despite perhaps it’s aches and pains and to welcome and be grateful for whatever is present, as it is all part of the journey of experience. So befriending your body instead of judging it; or feeling let down by it; or blaming it, take responsibility for it in a loving, compassionate way by listening deeply to it’s intelligence. It can be powerfully healing to begin to offer love and compassion to your body instead of judgement and self critique.
So Yoga for me is not following a list of instructions, it’s a self searching tool that opens up curiosity and wonder to the vital life force energy that lives inside us, that connects us to each other, to mother earth, to all sentient beings and to nature and the universe.
Hari Om Tat Sat 🙏🙏🙏
Janet McGregor https://www.facebook.com/janet.mcgregor.73/
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