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.
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.
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.
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.