Embodiment and Yoga

“Embodiment is the awareness of the cells themselves. It is a direct experience. There are not intermediary steps or translations. There is no guide. There is no witness. There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves…The source of this process is love.”
-Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen

Embodiment is the fulfillment of yoga – union. The clear line of division between subject and object blurs, and we experience both as made up of the same essential stuff. In the yoga tradition this stuff is called Satchitananda. Sat = being, truth, infinite and eternal existence. Chit = consciousness that is force, what it wills becomes, infinite and eternal all-embracing awareness. Ananda = delight of being, absolute and unobstructed comfort, infinite and eternal fulfillment. These three are One in their wholeness and undivided, indivisible. They are three aspects, faces, qualities of the One that is All. Being, Will, Experience. This is the universe’s fundamental fabric.

planetaryhierarchy

Yoga is a state as well as a process. When we “practice” yoga, we actively and intentionally engage in the process of moving toward the state of yoga. By practicing yoga, we align ourselves with the yoga of Nature, the Earth’s yoga. Our embodiment is the Earth’s embodiment, and through us Her innate intelligence is set free to play and learn and transform the stuff of Her body. She touches Herself through our hands and loves Herself through our hearts and knows Herself through our minds. And when we directly experience the underlying unity of all that is, when we touch Satchitananda and are plunged beyond ideas into an integral and unarguable knowing of our interbeing with all that is, was, and ever will be, the Earth too awakens and knows and loves and touches the fabric that manifests as Universe.

But embodiment doesn’t seem natural most of the time. As much as we might look to children or animals or plant life and sense an innate capacity for embodiment, something seems to interfere along the way, separating us from the direct experience of unity. Different philosophies throughout human history have attributed the experience of separation and alienation to various causes – original sin, inherent flaws in the makeup of mind, etc. And it’s easy to infer from these perspectives that something went wrong. We messed up, God messed up, some third party interfered, or maybe even this whole show has no purpose at all, we’re just spinning for no reason in a dead and stupid universe hat compulsively vomited us into existence.alex-grey2.jpg

But what if everything is both purposeful and exactly as it should be? What if we are living in the midst of an ongoing process of growth from primal ignorance, in which Satchitananda’s self-awareness was intentionally involuted and encased in seemingly dead, inert matter, and through which it is emerging, gradually but progressively and inexorably, toward full self expression within form? What if we are not just ‘living in the midst of’ this process, but we ARE the process, and our own individual and collective embodiment is a collaboration in the manifestation and fulfillment of a 14 billion year adventure?

Then embodiment is not just an individual and self-serving effort, but a profoundly purposeful and holy task. And since Satchitananda is essentially One and undivided, seemingly solid and inert matter is also carried forward toward awakening and self-awareness. The rocks and dirt and dry bones that we experience as dead and dumb, of course including the most material structures inside our bodies, are waking up and discovering themselves as God. And so in a glorious and sacred feedback loop, as we awaken our cells with the touch of our consciousness, they too respond, touch us back, and awaken us. The source of this process truly is love, for love is yoga, and yoga is love.

 

 

Embodied Tensegrity, Fascia and Yoga

The Fluid Body

“At the beginning of our life cycle, we are conceived in fluid, developed in amniotic fluid and born in fluid; our bodies are more than 70-percent fluid. New scientific discoveries demonstrate that the fascial system is a combination of a powerful fibrous web surrounded by a ground substance that is a fluid/gelatinous medium, and which is the internal and external environment of every cell in the body. Recent research shows there is a micro-fascial system (a tensegrity structure) within every cell. Inside the cytoskeleton of the cell lay microtubules of fascia that have a hollow core, which fluid flows through. Energy, information and consciousness flow within that fluid. Consciousness flows through every cell of our bodies. The fluid within and around every cell performs the important function of being the transport medium of oxygen, nutrients, chemicals, hormones, toxins, energy and information throughout our entire being, almost instantaneously.”
John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T.—Massage Magazine April 5, 2011

Tensegrity
“Tensegrity, tensional integrity or floating compression, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.” Wikipedia

tensegrity-in-sand-cerbrovortex.com

Tensegrity is a term coined by Buckminster Fuller. The word is a contraction of two terms: tension and integrity. It describes a structural relationship principle that Fuller defined as stabilizing the shape of structures by continuous tension or “tensional integrity”, rather than by continuous compression, such as is used in a stone arch or a skyscraper. A tensegrity structure is composed of firm rods that do not touch one another, but are suspended and made strong by the simultaneous action of a network of balanced compression and tensile parts.

Kenneth Snelson Free Ride Home tensegrity 1974

Buckminster Fuller was inspired in his work by the innovative sculpture of Kenneth Snelson in which we can see how otherwise heavy metal struts are upheld with a sense of levity and ease when the tensegrity principles are applied.

While most buildings utilize simple compression in alignment with gravity—block upon block and into the earth—to support their form, tensegrity structures are different. They are self-supporting, absorbing and distributing forces omnidirectionally throughout their shapes, giving them the ability to yield increasingly, without ultimately breaking or coming apart. They allow for what would otherwise be heavy limbs and reaching projections to be far away from the center without toppling the entire system.

Biotensegrity
It wasn’t until fairly recently—the last several decades—that scientist have observed that these very same principles of self-inclusive support underlie the integrity of all biological structures.

One of these pioneers, Dr. Stephen Levin, coined the term biotensegrity to describe the ubiquitousness of tensegrity principles in biology. In observing biological organisms, from the most miniscule to the enormous, they have found that all biological organisms are made strong and resilient by their tensegritous unison of tensioned and compressed parts. This applies at the level of the cell membranes and the inner world of every cell. Biotensegritous organisms are as self-intelligent as they are structurally sound. At the cellular level, biotensegrity allows the cell to sense its environment and convert mechanical signals into biochemical changes. Biotensegrity is equally evident at the level of muscle, bones, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. These principles maintain the integrity of every structure of the body, including organs, glands, nervous system, and the rest.  They integrate the body as a whole into a larger biotensegritous form. Dr. Levine and his colleagues have called this a hierarchical system, in that the principles of organization are evident at all levels of expression—from atoms, to cells, to every body tissue, and the body as a whole. Our bodies are layer upon layer of tensegrity structure and function.

Dr. Levine writes:
“What I had been taught during my residency training by some of the top biomechanics people at the time, was the application of first year college physics to biologic structures and particularly how it applied to the human frame. This has been, and continues to be, the accepted mechanics since first described by Borelli, a mathematician and ‘renaissance man’, in 1680, nothing has changed.

This is all based on Newtonian mechanics, as it would be applied to a column or building built with rigid materials and standing in one place on solid ground. But humans, and all biologic structures, are mobile, omnidirectional, gravity independent structures built of ‘soft materials’, foams, colloids and emulsions, (bone and wood are stiff foams, like styrofoam), and mechanicals laws as applied to these structures may be different. It is impossible to explain the mechanics of a dinosaur’s neck using standard Newtonian mechanics.” Stephen Levine—(Bold added.)

Embodied Tensegrity and the Fascial Matrix
Unlike most of the structures we have built to house ourselves, our bodies are far from being simple compressive structures. Fascia is a tensegritous matrix of connective tissue that integrates and forms the support of everything in the body. It is the very fabric of the body. An uninterrupted viscoelastic tissue, it surrounds and penetrates all body structures from head to toe. It is the 3-D web of fibrous, gluey and wet collagen fibers that holds everything together. Fascia comes in all different viscosities, densities, strengths, and resiliencies—from super strong and stable, to gooey, and highly viscous. Its qualitative differences are based on function and how it is embodied and used. The intricate relationship of the fascial system’s muscle, bone, ligament, and tendon creates a tensile and compressive balance that unifies and distributes the force of any movement through the whole body seamlessly. When something moves, everything moves.

Fascia has ten times more sensory nerve endings within it than muscle tissue. This fine three-dimensional network of intelligence is creating, receiving, and expressing information and sensation constantly. Impulses of communication flow through the fascia at the speed of sound in water —approximately 720 mph—as opposed to the speed of impulses flowing through the nervous system—about 150 mph. Communicating roughly three times faster than the nervous system, fascia’s underlying fluidity and connectivity forms an inner communication system that is nearly immediate. The entire system perceives instantaneously.

As a system of proprioception, fascia is constantly communicating to the body where it is in space.  It is also a system of interoception. Interoception is the process of perceiving what is happening within. Body awareness is one of the main ways we feel who we are. Interoception is feeling and sensing who we are in our form. Fascia is an intelligent whole-body-mind system, sensing itself and offering feedback to itself, about itself—constantly and nearly immediately.

Our skeletal system is part of the biotensegritous matrix. Our bones—also connective tissue—form the struts of stable compression for a large portion of our body’s form, while the fascia provides the tensile pull. Bones are suspended within the fascial weave. They do not actually touch. The old paradigm of bones being a system of levers that basically hinge at the joints is simply not true. More accurately, bones are like spacers in the body that float within the fascial weave. In other words, the continuity of the fascial system does not end the way bones do at the joints. Fascia contains and incorporates muscles, bones and joints into the entire system, managing and integrating all movement globally. No hinges, no levers, just resilience, strength, and wholistic integration.

FASCIA TENSEGRITY ichosahedron

Icosahedron–Cellular Tensegrity Model

This can be understood and recognized at the level of the cell. Cells themselves are beautiful tensegritous structures. Each cell is a microcosm of the body as a whole, with intricate self-supporting functions, that in turn support all larger biological functions. Cells are composed of a tremendous array of functional parts, processes, and intelligence. Like the body as a whole, each cell contains a balance of tension and compression elements. The cell’s compression struts are called the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton weaves through the cell’s interior as strands of filament and microtubules. Cellular microtubules provide a communication system within the cell, and flow with fluid. The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was given to a group of three scientists for their research and findings about the nature of the cytoskeleton. Their work shed light onto the fact that the cytoskeleton is an intelligent and important part of the communication system within the cell. In a New York Times interview, when pressed to describe the contents of the microtubules of the cells, one of the recipients said…it could most closely be described as “liquid light”.

Cellular intelligence is more than an amalgam of its parts and functions. Every cell is awake, alive, and self-aware. Although science is becoming better and better at describing the physical expressions of creative intelligence, we still cannot see or name the nature of intelligence itself. The best we can do is say that cells are intelligent. Perhaps that is good enough. Again, it is the same at the microcosm of the cell and the macrocosm of the human being. Cells do everything we do. They move, they metabolize, they make choices, create energy, and they relate. They relate both to their own inner environment and the family of cells. They are individually organized and also work together to express into complex body systems and organisms.

geodesic red blood cell

Red Blood Cells

Due to their inherent fluidity and shapes, cells have the ability to pack closely with one another. The basic geometry and tight packing of cells allows forces moving through them to be spontaneously transferred omnidirectionally into the other surrounding cells and through the surrounding tissues.

This is clear in the fascial body. Since fascia is primarily fluid and so ubiquitous, wrapping and weaving through everything, we have a way for understanding how any and all body movement can be transferred through the whole body in a seamless and unified way. In the images below we see two examples some of the more fluid fascial tissues. Note the geometric shapes.

fascia   fascia1                                            Examples of Fluid Fascia—Shapes and Textures

“The mechanics of tensegrity structures are quite different than the lever mechanics that have been applied to biologic structures since Borelli’s
{(Borelli 1680)} treatise. Contrary to lever mechanics, hierarchical tensegrity structures have only tension and compression members. There is no shear or torque, nor are there bending moments. Orientation in space has no effect on how the structure functions. Forces are distributed throughout the system rather than locally concentrated as they are in lever systems. The system functions as a single unit. All this makes for a more energy efficient system. Movement is not bending of hinges, but expansion, repositioning and contraction of tensegrities. An instant repositioning of tensegrities allows for freely moving joints while the triangulation imparts stability of form and function. Biotensegrity is the unifying mechanical structural concept that bridges the islands of information that we now have about fascia and its role in body functions, and makes them a unified archipelago for understanding fascia’s role in anatomy and physiology.” Biotensegrity—The Mechanics of Fascia, Stephen M. Levin
 and Danièle-Claude Martin —(Bold added.)

In recognizing and embodying this new paradigm for understanding our biological selves we open to the possibility of living and moving within this system in harmony with the way it is designed—without any shearing forces disturbing the health and resilience of any tissues. Looking at ourselves from the perspective of biotensegrity, cellular movement and intelligence, and the fascial weave, we are called upon to question many of our assumptions about anatomy and what it means to be in a body. An inquiry into fascia leads us to alter our perceptions about how we use our structures to support ourselves. We are led to discover a depth of integration that goes well beyond our beliefs that muscle and bone are the primary weight bearing tissues and the primary movers. We put into question the very dynamics of movement: What is moving? How do we initiate movement? Is movement governed by gravity? Or is gravity just one of the forces that integrates us with our environment? How separate are we? In what ways are we part of—like the individual cell in a larger organism—the larger biological family in which we live?

Consciousness and Form are Inseparable
When we incorporate yoga philosophy into our embodied explorations we begin to see and experience ourselves more fully. In yoga practice we learn that there is consciousness penetrating our form. We know that all of the layers of structure, from the finest to the most dense, contain all of the elements that exist in nature. In the world, as in our bodies, consciousness and form are interpenetrating and in motion.

mesenchyme_embryonic_DEVEOLPING CELLS Study Blue MYOFASCIA dense_regular_connective_tissue Study Blue

Embryonic Mesenchyme                                  Myofascia                          Dense Regular Connective Tissue

In the examples above we can see how the fine beginnings of fascia in the embryonic mesenchyme progressively become more differentiated as they form the myofascia and dense regular connective tissue. There are many more layers to this continuum, and these are only examples of the increasing density and variations of connective tissue’s form.

Scientific microscopes show us the shapes and textures of the fascial weave. Yoga practice invites us to use our own inner microscopic vision and subtle senses to experience this directly. As we travel through awareness to our deepest form we find that the finest layers of fascia are in fact highly refined and intelligent structures. Refined structure and refined awareness exist together. They genuinely cannot be separated. They are one moving amalgam of life and function—the finer the fluid, the finer the expression of consciousness. In exploring these elegant, vibrant, and changing structures, we are able to witness the consciousness that is penetrating our bodies at these subtle layers.

When we embody and delve into the liquid brilliance of connective tissue at its finest, we find ourselves right at levels of personal experience that are very close to Source. This is where our most exquisite, powerful, and bright fluids are learning to function and take shape. They are rich with space and they glisten with Awareness. We are there to witness the subtle layers of our being expressing into the amazingly intricate and glorious manifestations of the awake-and-alive forms that we embody. This inquiry takes place in time as well as in space.

Our earliest embryonic beginnings are still here for us to experience. Embryologically, we were and we are, contained and relational templates of moving awareness, intelligence, space, and fluids. Fascia derives from one of the three embryonic germ layers—mesoderm. Mesenchyme, in turn, derives from mesoderm. Mesoderm and mesenchyme give rise to our connective tissue body, including muscle and bone. Fascia, in general, is more liquid and develops before bone and muscle, so we consider it to be more primary than the musculoskeletal system. In other words, it underlies the development of muscle and bone, in effect unifying muscle and bone into its more all encompassing weave.

It can make sense to start an inquiry with embryonic mesenchyme. This is the earliest, most refined, and fluid state of what becomes our connective tissue and fascial body. Highly liquid, the embryo folds, warps, and grows—fluid moving in fluid, driven by vast creative intelligence and profound organization. Powerful spirals and vortexes of movement and awareness give rise to complex form. The movement of consciousness within our liquid body determines human function and shape. This is true in our earliest beginnings and it is still true. Our entire structure has formed in water, and water continues to be the primary physical constituent of which we are made.

How to Explore
Embodying our fascia—which basically means actively feeling it and recognizing the consciousness that is emanating from it—reveals the possibility of fully integrated whole-body-movement. Fascia is composed of intricately relational substances. Each fiber and molecule is in constant communication with its immediate environment and the larger global family of cells. When we look at pictures of fascia it can appear chaotic and disorganized. But that is far from the case and far from one’s embodied experience of this tissue. Its intricate weave is perfectly organized for the exact work that it is doing. Each of the different expressions of fascia has an individual balance of resilience and strength. Where fascia is situated in the body has everything to do with its function, structure, and consciousness. Where it needs to be strongest, it is. And where it needs to be lightest and most resilient, it is. It brings a quality of unity to our embodied experience, even as we recognize and enjoy its variations in form and function.

The tensegritous structure and shape of fascia makes it uniquely able to distribute forces of movement and weight multi-directionally in the body. Because of the nature of its weave, fascia can absorb force into it and provide an astonishing variability and number of pathways for the force to travel. When you put many of these structures together—like we have in body tissues—the options for movement just continue to multiply.

TENSEGRITY TOY1It can be helpful to hold a common “Skwish Toy”. Composed of wooden rods and connecting bands, the Skwish Toy is a tensegrity structure and the way force is transmitted through it is not unlike how it happens in a cell or a larger body tissue. Stabilize a spot in the toy and then move any other part of the toy. Notice how the movement transmits through the entire structure through the dynamic play of the compressive and firm rods, and the connective bands. Then imagine many Skwish Toys connected to one another. Again, movement anywhere would be transmitted through the whole structure. This is a toy model with limitations, but there is a lot to learn here about how we live in our bodies.

Embodying Our Fascial Weave
Understanding our bodies from this paradigm of movement is a huge shift from the kind of thinking that has been most prevalent over the last few centuries. Far from being structures that are in competition with gravity or always being pushed or pulled earthward, this model shows us how our inner relationships of tension, compression, and resilience are involved in supporting one another. It offers critical insight into how we can feel quite light and buoyant, even in very extended shapes and movements. Gravity is not the only force. In reality, we are using omnidirectional inner supports to fill out our form and create our movement. This paradigm makes gravity a more congenial partner—not a brut force that needs to be overcome by the leverage of our hard bones and muscular strength.

What we are not is mechanical or linear beings—neither at the level of consciousness or structure. It is important for our growth and our ability to embody our full potential, to unearth these unhealthy and restrictive concepts and replace them with a more wholistic paradigm for understanding what it is to live in an intelligent and intricately relational body. Our complex fascial weave is an underlying template of wholeness that supports an incredible diversity.

How we live in our fascia affects everything about how we feel. Equally, how we feel affects our fascial system. The tensegritous continuity of the structural body is a mirror of the continuity that we know to be the weave of Awareness, heart, and mind through our being. Fascial sensitivity can be a window into a more complete comprehension and direct experience of individual and Universal Self—as an embodied, sensed, and felt reality.

We find ourselves exploring layers of personal awareness that are rich with insight and comfort, and feel very close to our essential nature. These subtle and delicate layers of form and consciousness are underneath the common restrictions and tensions that we chronically allow to occupy so much of our time and attention. Each of us is already fully primed to take this journey. We can all do this. The recognition of our inner world is available right now. We make a very critical mistake when we assume our personal, so called “issues”, need to be resolved in order to experience our own nature. They don’t. You can do this now. The access is there, even if you feel that in some way you are still not quite good enough, clear enough, or spiritual enough to witness something so precious. You are good enough. But you do need to do the work.

Embodying the facial weave is a deep process. For you, it might begin at the layer of the cell. Cellular qualities and structure form the embodied basis for experiencing all body tissues. Embodying the integrity and intelligence of the cell can easily be expanded to include the larger—and inherently similar—organ of the fascia. Embodied explorations can be done from either direction: cellular to fascial, or from the fascial level back to the cell. They both work and your personal affinity will determine which is the best and least effortful pathway for you.

Initially, this may sound complicated, but in reality, it is inherently easy. It is easy because it is so basic to who we are. A good degree of curiosity is important. Then, all one really needs to do is inquire and practice with tenderness, clarity, and patience. A key is to continue diving underneath restriction. Restrictions in body and mind are by their very nature not as comfortable or enjoyable as freedom. There is freedom and ease underneath all discomfort. If we can accept that greater comfort may be more desirable than discomfort, we can follow the yogic pathway through and under these limiting patterns into deep, abiding, restful ease.

By quite literally following the bliss, we inevitably drop into these subtle and more supportive layers. We can allow our thinking mind and outer layers of self to be seduced by the gravity of inner comfort. We allow ourselves to be pulled inward. The whole-body fluid source of fascia is an excellent focus for inquiry because its energetic pull is very strong. We are spontaneously drawn toward the sea of comfortable awareness that is emanating from our core.

In exploring fascia it can be useful to limit our outward expression of physical movement at first. Awareness and prana initiate movement. If we go very directly into muscular movement we will often simply use habitual patterns. The habitual patterns of movement may block our experience of the more subtle forces—consciousness and prana—that underlie the movement. As we learn to feel life force flowing within the facial weave, we open to a different initiation of movement; one that begins as a gesture of consciousness and intention.

The unifying weave of fascia carries and distributes the impulse to move. It sets the tone, distributes the forces, and then the muscles move. Fascial initiation is a more wholistic experience than what the more differentiated muscles feel. It is impossible to move through fascia without feeling it transferring and undulating its forces through the entire body. One of the hallmarks of fascially initiated movement is that every movement is felt wholistically, not just in the specific area of the body that is obviously expressing, but fully through the entire weave. It is a fluid sensation—like noticing a current in the ocean that was already there, and allowing it to express into a larger movement.

Our state of mind fully penetrates the body through the fascia. Fascia will harden if we try too hard or become too serious in our approach. Attitudes of perfectionism in life, spirituality, or yoga, as well as harsh self-evaluations, will always create tension in the fascial network. Cultivate kindness toward yourself. Profound self-acceptance is not just necessary for this process, but self-acceptance grows fuller as we perceive the inner world more clearly. Follow your experience inward through the layers of consciousness and form—opening to newness.

Practice santosha—contentment and acceptance of all that you find, and viveka—keen discernment and discrimination. The crucial balance of santosha and viveka, actualized through wisdom and love, will be the most reliable guide to our process. With regular practice, continuity of experience develops. The relationship that we establish with inner comfort becomes an emotionally and spiritually tangible support in yoga, in movement, in stillness, and in life. We feel it as a unified and comfortable state that penetrates body, mind, and spirit…even in the most challenging and difficult times.

Embodyoga®—Overcoming “Otherness”

dancing-shiva
In our modern “Western” culture, perhaps more so than in any other culture in history, we’re taught to see and relate to surfaces.  Even when we dissect or disassemble things, we find within them more surfaces.  Atom, nucleus, electron, quark…on and on through layers of surfaces.  Underlying qualities and interconnections evade us, retreating from the spade as we dig deeper and deeper into the soil of matter.

We can cut through the trunk of a tree, observe the rings and grain, name the tangible processes through which it derives nourishment from earth and sky, but what does this tree know?  How does it feel?  What is its inner, subjective, experience of the world, and how does it relate to and communicate with the forest?  We learn from a young age that these questions are inherently silly, childish.  We learn to dismiss an investigation into the mind of a tree or the subjective experience of a forest as unscientific and unreal.  And yet when we create a world in which only humans’ subjective experience is real, we become dead to the complex, living web of intelligence that surrounds and infuses our ecosystems, our bodies, and our minds. The illusion of aloneness is at best painful, and at worst the driving force behind Earth’s next mass extinction.

Confined to this philosophical rubric we become incapable of knowing except through abstraction – by identifying something as “other” and examining its otherness and relationships to other others.  This “othering” extends even to the space and substance within our own bodies.  My bones, my muscles, my organs, my glands, all appear as objects taking up space inside my skin.  My heart beats, my lungs breath, my blood flows, but all of these processes seem to have little to do with me as I experience myself – captain of the ship, observing the world from my perch up in and around my skull.

The practice of Embodyoga® invites us to step down from this perch and directly into life, starting with a very accessible place – our own bodies.  Instead of taking the body apart and examining the surfaces of its contents, objectifying our very selves, we go inside to discover the essential qualities of our physical structure.  The objective becomes subjective as we touch the consciousness that pervades all layers of self, from the most solidly material to the most ethereal and formless.

We begin by focusing our attention on the more abstract idea of bone, or muscle, or organ, or gland.  We then use imagination and sensation to explore and observe this “other” with our awareness until suddenly, effortlessly, often surprisingly, we enter into a kind of communion with it.  Breaking through the perceptual bubble of the ego-mind, pouring into a subjective experience of gnosis, or knowledge through identity.  I know my liver because I am my liver.  The miracle of human subjective awareness, with its capacities for meta-cognition, infuses into the pre-rational self-awareness that pervades the body.

This shift is a spiritual breakthrough with vast implications, and the essential opposite of theoretical, abstract, or disembodied.  It opens the door to a gnostic experience of the entire ecology around us.  Everything in the world can be communed with similarly.  We can know our surroundings, each other, the earth, the cosmos subjectively – by identity.  I know the tree because I am the tree, the sea because I am the sea, and I know you because I am you.  This ancient spiritual concept becomes accessible through simple embodiment practices.  And when all is experienced as the self, who is there to oppose, to fight, to fear?

Tantra, Cellular Awakening, and Embodyoga®

cn16x24_6975Tantra and Embodyoga®
Tantric thought arose about 1000 years after the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were codified. Whereas the Yoga Sutras of Classical Yoga address the objective of overcoming the obstacles presented by being in an embodied form, Tantra is the yoga of engagement and relationship. Tantra sees the body and the world as the foundations of yogic practice, far from obstacles that need to be overcome, as is so often the perspective in Classical Yoga. In contrast, Tantra focuses directly on the body. Tantric philosophy includes a direct study of the human body-mind-energetic system with the goal of recognizing the Unity of all of life and engaging in the play of a life lived fully. A person who lives life in fullness accepts and incorporates all aspects of the human experience and celebrates our embodied form as nothing more or less than an expression of the Divine. Tantra recognizes the value of experiencing the universal wholeness (of which we are all a part), while enjoying the play of differentiation and individuality, which we embody as human beings. By viewing each individual body-mind system as a miniature replica of the structure of the universe, Tantra teaches that by studying our selves and our relationships—through all the levels of our personal manifestation—we open to the Universal Reality that is equally within as well as without. The practices of Hatha Yoga derive from Tantra and are designed to assist each person in the process of recognizing the abundance of life force that plays out before our eyes at every moment. Embodied Anatomy™ follows the same techniques that are outlined in the Yoga Sutras.

 

Embodied Anatomy™ takes us on a journey into the varying textures and densities of our form and structure. We consciously inhabit and become intimate with the family of cells and functions that support our very existence. In this process we begin to recognize the intelligence and awareness that is at the basis of each and every part of our body. Through Embodied Anatomy™ we actively explore ourselves in space from our densest structures to the most ethereal and spiritual.
For example, the densest aspect of our bones, compact bone, expresses our mineral body – the element of earth – and the consciousness and qualities of heaviness, stability, strength, stillness, and simple presence. Yet, at the level of the marrow that flows within them, even our bones are fluid and warm. This is a very different inner experience from the compact bone itself, which is relatively dry and moves less quickly. Yoga invites us into ourselves to explore the way the elements mix with intelligent–awareness and form a structural matrix. Earth, water, fire, air, and space are the elements that the ancient seers have pointed to for our inner contemplation. Our organ body is fluid, voluminous, and mobile. It relates strongly with the element of water warmed by fire.

Fully embodying our anatomy we become able to initiate movement directly from different body tissues and learn to allow the consciousness of these tissues to express in the movement. For example, moving from bone and muscle has a very specific quality of consciousness that expresses and is visible in the created form. Movement from the organs is softer and more fluid than bone, because those are the qualities of organ. Our glandular system has a lighter and more highly vibrant expression than bone, organ, or muscle. Initiating movement from the glands provides a crystalline kind of suspension system of support for the vertebral column and the skeletal structure as a whole. Glandular support feels light. Movement from the fascial system offers an interpenetrating fluid, elastic, and strong web of support throughout all the body tissues.
Although we appear to be solid, we know that at the level of the spinning atoms within we are actually composed of vast amounts of space. The yogic picture of human existence places awareness at the core. At the very subtlest level of our structure is space and the quality of ananda, or bliss. This experience too is embodied (part of who we are), and the invitation of yoga is to realize this by direct experience. Further, the yogis tell us that at the level of our “inner space,” the experience is one of bliss.

 

Cellular Awakening

Embodyoga® is a whole-person experiential investigation into, and enlivening of, cellular awareness. Through inquiry into our bodies in our asana, pranayama, and meditation practices, and by investigating our relationships in the world, we actively engage with all aspects of self and the environment in which we live. Our inquiry reveals direct perception and authentic experience of our true nature. By inviting insight into our true nature, we begin to notice that we are awake and alive at every level of our being. Cellular awakening alters our perception of self, the world, and our place in it. We spontaneously recognize that as we are, so is everything else. Continue reading

Shraddha In Embodyoga®

[Shraddha] is literally “that which is placed in the heart”: all the beliefs we hold so deeply that we never think to question them. It is the set of values, axioms, prejudices, and prepossessions that colors our perceptions, governs our thinking, dictates our responses, and shapes our lives, generally without our even being aware of its presence and power.”                       

–Eknath Easwaran, Introduction to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita

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We all have shraddha. We are made of it. Our system, or structure of beliefs literally creates the multi-dimensional beings that we are.  And like breath, we exhale our shraddha, our foundational beliefs, into the space around us.  They swirl through space, permeating the atmosphere, and are absorbed into the fabric of our lives. Then we inhale, and we take in the collective shraddha, the beliefs that silently pervade our culture, subliminally, under the radar of waking consciousness.

Below the mental hierarchy of beliefs, with the most fixed and solid at the bottom and the most fluid and loosely held at the top, our emotional being has its own shraddha.  Less linear but more intransigent.  It wells up through your constructed mental reality like mud between your toes, or like an unstoppable volcano of molten stories – self-reinforcing and too blazing hot to approach, too fused to disentangle.  Deeper still lies the shraddha of the sense mind.  The rules and laws of material reality filter into us and stamp our consciousness with rigidity, impossibility, death.

Embodied inquiry means facing these layers of shraddha.

First of all, a fixed mental belief that inner, ‘subjective’ reality is illusion stops the inquiry before it starts. The religion of fundamental materialism permeates our culture, reminding and remonstrating that our experiences are false, and only material laws, only collisions between surfaces are real. Consciousness itself is a cosmic mistake, a chance collision, a fluke.  The universe is a vast, empty crevasse, waiting to swallow the instant of experience that is my entire self. We spend trillions of dollars and euros and pesos and yen and seconds and friendships and beads of sweat to decipher the rules by which this impossible clock ticks the hour. Meditation, even contemplation is a frivolity, unless it produces something for the machine to senselessly devour.

In order to even attempt a direct inquiry into the nature of self as it manifests in my body, I have to deal with this collective shraddha. Before I can venture inside to sense the quality of consciousness that fills space as lung, touch the spongy fullness and feel it condense, expand, draw in, expel, yearn, weep, pray, hope, and sing its own song of being to the gods, I have to suspend the disbelief in its inherent self-awareness.  I have to say, “Hmmm…let’s see what happens if…” And part the curtains and dive in.  And to the degree that I keep myself tethered to the shore (which is inevitable at first), my dive will be shallow and rough.  But even a surface touch can change everything.

Even brushing against the skin of the lung, the elastic and enervated pleura, can thrill enough to shake the entire towering hegemony of doubt.

Of course doubt conceals its own shraddha, hidden beneath its thin crust of justification. And doubt feeds the spirit of inquiry, as long as it doesn’t choke that free spirit. Either way, doubt dies hard, so the shaking doesn’t topple it. But when we hear the lung’s voice whisper softly, almost imperceptibly (“what was that?  …was that it?”), we might feel a sudden shock of freedom, of possibility that becomes a slight but inevitable crack in the windshield. Dawn grows like this.  Subtly but persistently, faintly but with an unwavering perseverance.

And in the body, in the lightning flashing through fascia, in the blood pulsing, washing through vessels, kidney, heart, even in the dense compact bones absorbing, shedding, relating through ligament to meat, in the breathing and living body we find another layer of shraddha. Life force and matter dancing in conjugal clasp, movement preserving homeostasis and resisting the constant draw of decay.

The body exists because it believes in its own existence.  It persists because it believes in its ability to heal itself.  And it dies because it believes in death.

Ultimately, Embodyoga invites us to forget about what we know, or what we’ve heard, the rules and laws that have been chanted like an impenetrable veda by solid matter herself as we emerged from her womb. We are invited to experience directly.  Lungs, liver, fascia, pancreas, carotid bodies, psoas.  Forget what the textbook and our friends and parents say and go inside, touch these warm, vibrant, living structures. Ask them who they are, and let their essence envelope your consciousness.

And then shraddha widens. It escapes the narrow, rigid, suffocating dungeon and emerges into a spacious air where anything is possible.  When shraddha expands, it opens itself to the varied manifestations of the divine, to love, to hope and aspiration, shaking off the shackles of cynicism imposed by fear.  And where to we go from there? “Hmmm…let’s see what happens if…”

LAYERS OF SPINE AND CORE—YOGA

Spine is core, and as such, has many layers of reality, from the most subtle expression of empty radiance, through all the colors and manifestations of individuality. When we take on an exploration and inquiry into spine in Hatha Yoga, we are seriously embarking on a journey into deeper and deeper layers of core. All of our layers are evident in the spine, and since spine is the home of both the subtle and anatomical nervous system Hatha Yoga has pointed us directly toward this inquiry.

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Kosas
The inquiry and exploration of embodiment that we use in Embodyoga® is modeled on the kosas – the sheaths of awareness manifesting from the most subtle to the most obvious, or gross. The kosas are our layers of manifestation from the most subtle to the most obvious and dense. In Embodyoga® we continue to inquire through all of the layers – always knowing that deeper truth is just awaiting our realization.

Atmamaya Kosa – pure unmanifest awareness – no element – no form
Chittamaya Kosa – individual awareness – no element – no form
Anandamaya Kosa – blissful awareness – space
Vijyanamaya Kosa – wisdom and heart, Buddhi mind – air
Manomaya Kosa – intellect, thinking mind – fire
Pranamaya Kosa – emotion, feeling – water
Anamaya Kosa – the anatomical structural sheath – earth

We understand that each of these kosas exists in every particle and space within us. Everywhere. Always. It is from this basis that we explore and navigate inward to recognize our fullness, our humanity and our divinity, and how it is manifesting through us.

The structure of spine and what it means in the body-mind.
Spine is a multi layered core structure with many levels from the subtlest to the grossest. Since Hatha Yoga is a spinal based practice it is important to consider the spine thoroughly. Our vertebral column is core in relation to the rest of our skeletal structure in that it is our central axis. It’s obvious that in yoga the spine is more than just the vertebral column. It is home to the central nervous system, which of course, is continuous with the brain. It also houses the three main nadis – ida, pingala, and sushumna. Sushumna nadi is our personal conduit and connection to Universal Awareness and can definitely be considered to be the core of the spine, or the core of core.

Some of the layers of core (listed loosely) from the subtlest to the most obvious.
1.    Sat-chit-ananda and our embryological development. When first conceived we are still very close to the very most subtle levels of awareness and manifestation. An investigation into the kosas will direct us to the initial explosive union of Shiva/Shakti that is our individual welcoming into form; it is fully universal and fully individual. We enter life and form as awareness and consciousness moving into and through the sheath of bliss, or ananda. Sat-chit-ananda: awareness-consciousness-bliss. This is our nature and is who and what we are at our core. From here we continue to manifest into more and more specificity and individuation of structure. As above – so below, we are microcosms of the Universal Whole.

2.    Pit-of-the Belly and the Notochord: Awareness is omnipresent and is our own first template of organization. In our very earliest embryological beginnings we experienced directly a state of unity as it began to differentiate and manifest into more and more individuality. This is both personal and universal. From the moment of conception through full development we were – and are – present. The arising of the primitive streak, the primitive knot (or node), and the notochord gave us our very first sense of a core structure. The notochord and the primitive knot remain important in our adult form as they provide our personal gravitational center in the pit-of-the-belly, and an ongoing direct experience of a radiant channel (notochord) within our body-mind experience. This is our first realization of sushumna nadi.

tibetan sushumna23.    The spine at its deepest level is sushumna nadi. We might say that sushumna is the core of cores in the human system. It is the empty radiance of pure awareness that supports all of existence. We experience sushumna in our subtle form along the spine. Yogically, it is represented within the spinal cord itself. However, in our personal embodiment of form, it can be experienced as a tube of tangible radiance, right through the center-body from perineal body to the crown. It informs and penetrates all of the body tissues. The paradox of sushumna is that just as in the micro and the macro experience of awareness, or purusha, sushumna exists not only in the spine and in the central channel of the core of the body, but is present in every cell and every particle of our being.

chakras4.    The chakras are individual expressions of awareness that carry our personal qualities and traits. They contain our personal deep-core information encoded at a subtle level.  

5. The glands relate to the chakras and the nervous systems. They express the energy of the chakras. They bring levity into the structural spine and help provide a light suspension system to our experience of core. They link the nervous system and the fluid body.

 

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6.    The central nervous system is another structure that we considered to be core. This includes the brain and spinal cord.  (For our purposes in embodiment we consider this structure to extend all the way to the coccyx, although it is technically not called spinal cord at its lowest levels in the lumbar and sacral region).

 

 

 

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7.    Soft organ core includes our digestive tube from mouth to anus, as well as our heart and brain. The spiralic support of the organ core provides fluidity and softness to our core experience. Organ core contains humanity, depth, volume, emotion, love, and desire for bonding and connection.

 

 

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8.  The developmental patterns form layers of core-consciousness. They underlie our neurological and structural organization and the development and expression of our curiosity and desire as we grow. When we use the fluid patterns in our yoga classes we are inviting our students to return to a core level of human consciousness. We invite them underneath and before the discursive thinking. It is a nonverbal and universal place of comfort. When we move into the vertebral patterns we are revisiting the growth of our brain and nervous system during the first year of life and beyond. These movements and the inquiries that arise with them will often stimulate an awareness of early self-concepts and perceptual tendencies that may still be operating in our lives –core beliefs.

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9. The deep navel is a layer of core. Navel radiation, and navel yielding bring us to this important center. Navel flooding breath, and proper integrated use of the deepest core muscles (psoas major and the crus of the diaphragm) provide muscular support for core. By maintaining soft tone in the navel we avoid hardening this critical area of the manipura chakra and our digestive organs. Navel is a deep sense of self and it can be an ongoing meditation in the body to balance – not harden or collapse – around this center. Not to minimize the importance of the external wrapping abdominal muscles, but we do not consider them to be truly core as they primarily support the peripheral body. However, the stem of the thoracic diaphragm is a core muscle as it is attached directly to the vertebral column. The stem of the diaphragm is the primary muscular support of the spine through the central torso and to the tail.  We also consider the longus colli and longus capitus in the neck and skull to be core muscles.

10.   The diaphragms of the central body from pelvic floor to crown are important core structures. They include: pelvic floor, the peritoneal sac and the mesentery, breathing diaphragm, thoracic inlet, vocal diaphragm, soft palate, tentorium cerebelli at the base of the brain, and finally the crown of the head. These diaphragms line up one above the other in our vertical body. They both contain and distribute the radiance of core – especially the embodiment of sushumna – though our bodies and into expression. They are horizontal structures – platforms in a certain way – through the verticality of our human core system that assist us through awareness and movement – in balancing on the earth and offering and receiving through the full horizontal range of our lives. (I wish I had a good drawing or representation of how these diaphragms line up one above the other in the body. It is remarkable, and perhaps difficult to visualize without instruction.)

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11.    The spinal ligaments: the anterior longitudinal ligament, the posterior longitudinal ligament, and the ligamentum flavum. The anterior longitudinal ligament is along the front surface of the vertebral column from head to tail. It is a clear tract for spinal movement and especially axial extension. It is a profound integrator for all spinal movements.
The posterior longitudinal ligament runs along the back surface of the vertebral bodies and discs. It forms the front of the vertebral canal. The ligamentum flavum is a flexible set of ligament that contain the back of the vertebral canal. They connect the laminae of adjacent vertebrae, all the way from the second vertebra, axis, to the first segment of the sacrum. The spinal ligaments provide clarity, tensile strength, and precision to all spinal movements.

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12.    Core muscles are the muscles that directly support along the front of the vertebral column. The stem of the thoracic diaphragm is a core muscle as it is the primary muscular support of the spine through the central torso and to the tail.  We also consider the longus colli and longus capitus in the neck and skull to be core muscles. Fibers of the psoas major, minor, and even the iliacus provide core muscular support.

 

vertebral column

 

 

13.    Our vertebral column is perhaps the most obvious core structure. We differentiate axial and appendicular skeletons and they loosely describe what we refer to in Embodyoga® as core-body and peripheral-body. It is important to note that in Body-Mind-Centering® Bonnie has defined the axial skeleton differently from most anatomists. In our western anatomy axial usually refers to the vertebral column, the thorax, the jaw, and the skull. Embryologically, the thorax develops from the spine and at that level the growing thorax is deriving from core. It starts out as axial and ends up as appendicular. In our fully developed bodies we use the thorax in a unified way with the upper limbs to support our core. It is most useful in yoga practice to consider the thorax to be appendicular, or peripheral body, differentiated from spine.

Why Go Deeper into Embodyoga®?

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Embodyoga® is a radical and inclusive approach to the ancient science of yoga. It is an evolving tapestry woven from the deeply healing, therapeutic, and spiritual essence of yoga and cutting edge studies in the field of body-mind-consciousness. Embodyoga® fuses the emergent wisdom of Body-Mind Centering®, which was developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, with Hatha Yoga practices and Tantric Yoga philosophy.

Embodyoga® begins with the premise that our entire personal self—body, heart, and mind— is a sea of vibrating creative awareness. Practitioners of Embodyoga® recognize that each aspect of our physical, and energetic form is an expression of awareness manifesting through, and as, individual qualities and traits. We experience these aspects of self as gradations of awareness, all made of the same stuff, all having equal value and importance, and all interwoven to form a system that is perfectly equipped and primed for self-realization. In other words, through the gift of human consciousness we are able to witness our very nature as it is: creative, bright, alive, and self-aware.

When we practice Embodyoga®, we harness the powerful forces of curiosity and desire to guide our exploration of the body-mind system. Our inquiry initiates and leads the journey. Whatever route this inward journey takes, it leads to the revelation of the unity that underlies all form. Even as we are obviously individuals with our personal qualities and traits, we are also universal in that all that we are is awareness at its source.

Embodyoga® practice provides us with a direct experience of unity – the unity of recognizing the universal and the personal as one integrated and inseparable system. This perception of the inseparability of the universal and the personal, remains with us on and off the yoga mat, manifesting through our relationships with self and others.
When we have had a direct and profound encounter with our inner, true self, we can then effortlessly share this experience as an offering in all our interactions. A sense of love and responsibility for the wellbeing of all humanity expands outward from our self, through our family, friends, community, and beyond. This outward expansion results directly from our ability to perceive our essential self more deeply.

Nature-Spiral-Bokeh-Micro1In the same way that a tripod relies equally on three legs and will fall if any one leg is not present, Embodyoga® is supported by three pillars: Embodied- Inquiry™, Santosha, and Viveka. Embodied-Inquiry™ offers tools for cultivating an active and ongoing relationship with the universal and the individual self. It is an investigation into all aspects of our individuality without judgment about what we like or don’t like in ourselves. We recognize that a great deal of self- aggrandizement and self-criticism is erroneous and not supported by reality. We decide to set all self-judgment aside so that we can explore under it and around it in order to determine what is actually true. A willingness to see ourselves as we actually are provides the basis of self-knowledge. True inquiry requires honesty and a good bit of bravery.

We practice Santosha, the yogic principle of contentment. Santosha speaks to a willingness to wholeheartedly accept who and what we are, as well as who and what we have. In our inquiry into ourselves we practice santosha—contentment with whatever might be unearthed—in the process of self-investigation. Santosha does not imply an inability to respond and act on the insight revealed through inquiry. However, it does require full acceptance of what actually exists before we proceed and take action.

Viveka is the power of discrimination, or threading out, what is actually true from what is not. A discriminating mind, Viveka, helps us know how to respond to what we see within ourselves and before us in the world. Our inner investigation, embodied inquiry™, is guided by santosha and viveka. By practicing santosha, self-acceptance, the gates to the inner world open. Honing our keenly discriminative mind, viveka, we avoid fooling ourselves into complacency. All together, Embodied Inquiry™, santosha, and viveka create the groundwork and provide the conditions for the Universal to reveal itself spontaneously.

Central to the work of Embodyoga® and the process of Embodied-Inquiry™, are two main arenas of study: Embodied Anatomy™ and Embodied Developmental Movement™. Embodied Anatomy™ and Embodied Developmental Movement™ are systems for inner exploration that have been developed and taught by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of the School for Body-Mind-Centering. The brilliance of Bonnie’s work cannot be overstated; and it should be mentioned that the guiding principles in her work are profound self- acceptance and non-judgment. Bonnie’s explorations into the intricacies of the inner world of body and mind have led to a mapping of the body that is based on Embodied Anatomy™. Bonnie’s explorations into how we embody ourselves over time led to her understanding and mapping of human developmental patterns of movement that profoundly effect the neurological integration of body and mind. She calls this work Embodied Developmental Movement™. Our movement patterns arise from our consciousness and effect how we perceive the world and ourselves. Bonnie’s understanding of the importance of full embodiment is in line with the teachings of Tantra. Her gift to yoga is immense.

Not too very long ago, Western science accepted the idea that matter is energy. The fact that all matter is energy vibrating at differing speeds and creating differing densities of form is something that has been recognized by the yogic seers since ancient times. In fact, the yogis have gone one step further than Western science in describing the nature of energy. Yoga tells us that the nature of energy itself is intelligent awareness and that this intelligence is the stuff of which the universe is made. It is also the stuff of which we are made. Yoga has always taught that this reality can be experienced and witnessed directly.

In Embodyoga® our premise is simple: each aspect of our structure is expressing the field of Creative Intelligence, the very stuff of which it is made. By gaining direct and intimate knowledge of this awareness–matrix, we recognize and begin to inhabit fully the intelligence that expresses uniquely through our body tissues.

To embody yoga is to enter the body-mind fully with clarity of awareness, self- acceptance, compassion, and awe. To embody yoga is to perceive your nature directly, to witness and know that every cell is awake, alive, and self-aware. Emobdyoga® inquires into the body on a cellular level. Yoga is a process that begins with cellular awareness and expands from the inside out through the support of the whole body.

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Tantra
Tantric thought arose about 1000 years after the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were codified. Whereas the Yoga Sutras of Classical Yoga address the objective of overcoming the obstacles presented by being in an embodied form, Tantra is the yoga of engagement and relationship. Tantra sees the body and the world as the foundations of yogic practice, far from obstacles that need to be overcome, as is so often the perspective in Classical Yoga. In contrast, Tantra focuses directly on the body. Tantric philosophy includes a direct study of the human body-mind-energetic system with the goal of recognizing the Unity of all of life and engaging in the play of a life lived fully. A person who lives life in fullness accepts and incorporates all aspects of the human experience and celebrates our embodied form as nothing more or less than an expression of the Divine. Tantra recognizes the value of experiencing the universal wholeness (of which we are all a part), while enjoying the play of differentiation and individuality, which we embody as human beings. By viewing each individual body-mind system as a miniature replica of the structure of the universe, Tantra teaches that by studying our selves and our relationships—through all the levels of our personal manifestation—we open to the Universal Reality that is equally within, as well as without. The practices of Hatha Yoga derive from Tantra and are designed to assist each person in the process of recognizing the abundance of life-force that plays out before our eyes at every moment. Our inquiries follow the basic templates of investigation that are outlined in the Yoga Sutras.

Embodied Anatomy™ takes us on a journey into the varying textures and densities of our form and structure. We consciously inhabit and become intimate with the family of cells and functions that support our very existence. In this process we begin to recognize the intelligence and awareness that is at the basis of each and every part of our body. Through Embodied Anatomy™ we actively explore ourselves in space from our densest structures to the most ethereal and spiritual.

For example, the densest aspect of our bones, compact bone, expresses our mineral body – the element of earth – and the consciousness and qualities of heaviness, stability, strength, stillness, and simple presence. Yet, at the level of the marrow that flows within them, even our bones are fluid and warm. This is a very different inner experience from the compact bone itself, which is relatively dry and moves less quickly. Yoga invites us into ourselves to explore the way the elements mix with intelligent–awareness and form a structural and energetic matrix. Earth, water, fire, air, and space are the elements that the ancient seers have pointed to for our inner contemplation. Our organ body is fluid, voluminous, and mobile. It relates strongly with the elements of earth and water warmed by fire.

Fully embodying our anatomy we become able to initiate movement directly from different body tissues and learn to allow the consciousness of these tissues to express in the movement. For example, moving from bone and muscle has a very specific quality of consciousness that expresses and is visible in the created form. Movement from the organs is softer and more fluid than bone, because those are the qualities of organ. Our glandular system has a lighter and more highly vibrant expression than bone, organ, or muscle. Initiating movement from the glands provides a crystalline kind of suspension system of support for the vertebral column and the skeletal structure as a whole. Glandular support feels light. Movement from the fascial system offers an interpenetrating fluid, elastic, and strong web of support throughout all the body tissues.

Although we appear to be solid, we know that at the level of the spinning atoms within we are actually composed of vast amounts of space. The yogic picture of human existence places awareness at the core. At the very subtlest level of our structure is space and the quality of ananda, or bliss. This experience too is embodied (part of who we are), and the invitation of yoga is to realize this by direct experience. Further, the yogis tell us that at the level of our “inner space,” the experience is one of bliss.

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Cellular Awakening
Embodyoga® is a whole-person experiential investigation into, and enlivening of, cellular awareness. Through inquiry into our bodies in our asana, pranayama, and meditation practices, and by investigating our relationships in the world, we actively engage with all aspects of self and the environment in which we live. Our inquiry reveals direct perception and authentic experience of our true nature. By inviting insight into our true nature, we begin to notice that we are awake and alive at every level of our being. Cellular awakening alters our perception of self, the world, and our place in it. We spontaneously recognize that as we are, so is everything else.

There really is no end to these investigations. Embodyoga® offers tools and maps for excavating and exploring each layer of body and mind. Each practitioner’s journey is different and unique to him or herself. Our yoga practice is an ongoing process that is always fresh and new. We naturally create varying expressions of movement in asana, even when we are executing the same postures. We both create and witness the form of our practice taking shape. We become full participants in the dance of our individual and universal creation.

Over time, practice continues to yield greater benefits and enjoyment as we progressively recognize ourselves to be the Universal at play, expressing through the individual as qualities, shapes, and textures of moving consciousness. Our Embodyoga® practice follow the same process of the eight limbs yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The yamas and niyamas guide our relationships with self, other, community, and the environment. We practice dharana, the yogic principle of collecting and focusing awareness. As we inquire, the naturally compelling attributes of body-mind draw our awareness deeper due to the increasing comfort and bliss inherent at the subtle levels of our being.

Through Embodied Developmental Movement™ we explore ourselves in time. Developmental movement patterns present very early in life, from our experiences in-utero and throughout the first year. As we grow, we move. Brain development and movement are interrelated, and it is our premise that developmental movement patterns underlie neurological integration of body and mind. By revisiting these patterns as adults, we are able to improve our mind- body coordination and integration.

Practitioners of Embodyoga® are motivated by curiosity and desire to see life as it is rather than as we think it should be. Our explorations are really fun! The deeper we go in our yoga inquiry, the more enjoyable the process becomes because the blissful qualities that emanate from our core draw us in. The style of practice will be familiar to practitioners of Hatha Yoga. We use asana, pranayama, and meditation. In Embodyoga®, we fine-tune many of the basic Hatha Yoga techniques using cues from the inner body. Our practice may be very gentle and strongly inquiry-based at times, while at other times it may be vigorous strength building, or a flowing vinyasa style. As students and future teachers of Embodyoga®, you are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the life force that is moving through every cell in your body! I would like you to know yourself from the inside out as a sea of self-aware, Creative Intelligence that is rising and falling with the movement of life-force.

When we practice Embodyoga®, we are willing to do the down-and-dirty work of investigating ourselves each time without a preconceived idea of who and what we think we will find. We are willing to see ourselves as we are. The process is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. The goal is not to create a mood of enjoyment or happiness. The point is self-knowledge through our ongoing inquiry. We find out for ourselves who and what we are at each and every level of awareness, and through our personal experience we become established in that knowledge. Increasing self–knowledge leads to comfort and contentment, which allows spontaneous joy to arise. Abiding self–acceptance is the result of direct experience with our true nature and all that we are.

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