It has not been easy for me to say what embodyoga is. I do know that the inclusion of the inner body as both subject and object in movement meditation is a fairly unique approach to practice. I cannot take any credit for this approach. I personally, developed yogicly over the past 40 years within the hierarchical structure that I have previously mentioned. The idea that I could better myself in some way through my yoga practice and then, due to that improvement, would be able to see life more clearly, was the model I accepted as the way to achieve my goals in yoga.Part of the problem has been the misapprehension that the mind is somehow more refined, and maybe even of higher intelligence, than the body. My teacher of the last decade Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, introduced me to the vast intelligence of the body (and the mind) as they exist in the continuum of space (embodied anatomy) and time (embodied developmental movement). It is her work — experiencing, witnessing, noticing, and fully embodying all of who and what we are, that I have tried to incorporate into my understanding of yoga.
Here is the first installment of an Introduction to Embodyoga®. Thank you for taking the time to read it.
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.
In 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.