WHAT IS EMBODYOGA® ?

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WHAT IS EMBODYOGA®

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® is a whole-person experiential investigation into, and enlivening of, cellular awareness. Through inquiry and relationship 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.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Embodyoga® embraces a Tantric philosophical view of our bodies. We study our personal body-mind system as a microcosm of the Universal Whole. We explore our body’s structures and consciousness through embodied asana, pranayama, and meditation. We investigate the personal as well as the Universal using the tools of radical self-acceptance and discriminative mind.

CELLULAR AWARENESS

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. The embodied recognition of Unity provides profound inner comfort and nurtures trust in the natural order of things. Our relationships become based on commitment, respect, and love.

EMBODYOGA® PRACTICE

The principles of Embodyoga® enhance every style and level of yoga practice, creating a depth and beauty that are visible and profoundly felt by the practitioner. Alignment expresses itself from the inside out and is very specific to each individual. We expect differences in the completion of any yoga posture based on the unique inquiry of the person practicing.  The following core techniques and practices apply equally to vigorous, vinyasa, and gentle yoga:

EMBODIED-INQUIRY™ is an intimate exploration of all layers of our form and consciousness, through the body’s systems to the cellular, sub-cellular and pranic levels. We weave Embodied-Inquiry™ into our asana, pranayama, and meditation practices.  It softens our thinking mind and encourages us to move more deeply into sensing, feeling, and directly experiencing our essential selves. Guided by discriminative mind and profound self-acceptance, fueled by curiosity and desire for greater depth, Embodied-Inquiry™ is playful and absorbing.

Through the use of our unique WHOLE-BODY-SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONAL TEMPLATES, we create a fully harmonious experience in each yoga posture. Force and weight are fluidly distributed throughout the body to completely relieve the stress on specific joints and muscles. Postures and movements are organized so that the whole body supports their form, instead of individual muscles straining to hold themselves in place. When we fragment our body awareness in order to force ourselves into an asana, our mind and awareness fragment as well. By engaging the whole body in supporting postures, we encourage a unified self-awareness with greater access to the experience of Unity. These organizational patterns are inherent in the postures, and based on our developmental underpinnings and deep anatomical structures. But they need to be recognized and practiced to ensure safety, comfort, and support for a lifelong yoga practice.

Through EMBODIED ANATOMY™, we directly experience the intelligence of our cells, organs, glands, tissues, fluids, and body systems and the qualities of awareness that are expressing through them at all times. We locate ourselves in form and space and deepen our understanding of our personal expression in the world. We become witnesses and active participants in the symphony that is our body, heart, and mind.
From the time of conception, through all the phases of life until our personal death, we are evolving and developing as human beings. Through EMBODIED DEVELOPMENTAL MOVEMENT™ we explore our human journey from beginning to end. We experience and investigate cellular breathing, the organization of cellular families, embryological development, and development through gestation, birth, the first year of life, and beyond. As adults we carry embodied memories of our development. By accessing these memories we touch primal desire and curiosity, and witness their growth through our lifetime.
Embodyoga® brings the experiences gained through EMBODIED DEVELOPMENTAL MOVEMENT™ into our ongoing yoga practice. We reach for what we desire and we pull it into ourselves. We learn to digest and assimilate life as it is. We yield into the Earth and feel the support of Her mass as we push ourselves skyward.  We experience our individual lives as the interface between Unity and duality, the play of the Formless within form.

Embodied Anatomy™ and Embodied Developmental Movement™ are trademarks of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and The School for Body-Mind-Centering®.

Meditation is Natural

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Meditation is a completely natural function of the human mind. We are inherently intelligent and curious beings. It is part of being human to wonder about ourselves and about life. All cultures have engaged in meditation and there are many methods of practice. Some are very precise and technique oriented and others are intentionally less precise. So many of the techniques are excellent. Different techniques resonate with different people. In this piece, I am writing more about the dynamics of meditation than about any specific technique. Meditations of all kinds work because they all arise out of the same body-mind-spirit system. They all need to rely on the natural tendencies of the body and mind to experience deeper comfort, happiness, and joy.

The secret of meditation is that when we can get out of our own way we can allow the deepest inner comfort to simply pull us in. It is natural. It is actually harder to resist than it is to do, but we have to understand the situation in order to free ourselves from our own crippling restrictions and inhibitions. Comfort is waiting, even bliss. There is nothing to believe in this at all – no belief is necessary. The only thing necessary is the burning desire to know. It has to be a burning desire because if it isn’t strong enough you simply won’t do it. For most of us, meditation is not effective when not done regularly. And regularly means every day… for many years. You probably do have plenty of time so now is a good time to start.

DEVELOPING CLARITY OF MIND AND GAINING CHOICE IN HOW WE PERCEIVE
Our minds have two basic directions available for movement at all times. We can look outward and focus on the outer environment, or we can move our awareness inwardly and focus on our inner environment. As we explore these realms, we learn more about them. Our experiences of the outer world build impressions, concepts, and ideas that we store within. These perceptions are colored by our inherent personality. Our personality is an intermingling of our genetic and karmic makeup, and the stored impressions of our life experiences. The blending of perception and judgments that we make about perception, creates another level of inner consciousness. We think about things. We feel things. We make decisions – consciously or not – and we act. We perform functions in the world. We relate, interact, learn more, store more, and color it with more of our own story. We build a life based upon our interactions and perceptions, the decisions we have made about them, and our ongoing experiences and relationships.

The key to successfully navigating this process is cultivating choice about how we perceive. We develop choice through inquiry into our perceptual faculties and discovering how they are informing all that we think and feel. Without choice we are simply at the mercy of our personality and our environment. Left unchecked, our stored impressions will color our experiences so thoroughly that we cannot differentiate what is actually present in any immediate event from the qualities and feelings that we are essentially applying to the experience from our own storehouse of impressions, images, and held-to-be-true concepts about life and self.

Worse, we don’t even recognize that it is actually our own impressions and previously made decisions that we are witnessing when we think we are experiencing something new! We tend to believe our perceptions without too much attention to whether they are accurate or not, when often what we are perceiving says a lot more about our inner state than it does about our environment, and importantly, about our relationships with others. This limited and usually inaccurate method of perceiving breeds suffering and confusion.

So often we essentially affirm our previous perceptions and decisions, in order to make quick sense of whatever is happening at the moment. This is an important agility that our mind has. It helps us to respond quickly to danger and ensures that we can take care of ourselves in urgent situations. But in terms of seeing the world as it actually is, making rapid decisions about each experience can block our access to some of the deeper gifts that our awareness offers. When we are so immediately sure that our perceptions and decisions about them are correct – and just in case they are not – we become locked into a response pattern that may or may not be the most useful for us anymore.

Often these immediate responses were important and useful when they first manifested. They were a function of health in that they likely did protect us from an emotional or physical danger. Our immediate reactions to danger can keep us alive through extremely difficult situations. Some of these very difficult situations can continue to persist for years and we need to remain vigilant in our own defense. But later on, in times of safety, our ways of managing these painful situations can actually be inhibiting our active involvement and enjoyment of our lives.

Again, the question is of choice. Do we have “choice” about how we perceive and how we respond to our perceptions? How fully can we trust our perceptions? Can we be sure that we are accurately recognizing what is being presented in a current situation? Or, are we coloring it so quickly with our own expectations that we are actually experiencing our own feelings about the event more fully that the truth of what is happening?

FINDING DEEP COMFORT AND SUPPORT—AWARENESS AND ANANDA
This can be so very tricky to navigate. We need a frame of reference and philosophy in which to contain this investigation. We also need inner comfort and support to nurture us through the process of determining what is true from what is not. Without an inkling that increasing levels of inner comfort may be the fruit of this endeavor, we would certainly not embark on it.

The very reason that this process of investigation ultimately bears fruit is that deep comfort is the nature of the “stuff” that supports the mind. The support of the mind – its True Nature – like the nature of absolutely everything else, is Awareness; Awareness without any object of perception – just vibrating Creative Intelligence.
Pure Awareness manifests. It joins with the stuff – the nature of things – and infuses it fully with its intelligence.

Awareness manifests constantly into the field of manifestation (us) — in waves of bliss. Bliss, or ananda – as the yogis call it – needs some serious definition. Ananda can all too easily be misunderstood to mean some sort of happiness as we normally think of “happiness”. Ananda really has nothing particular to do with happiness. Ananda is better understood as complete and total comfort. There are many ways to expand upon this definition of ananda as comfort but it is important to realize that it is very different from what most of us imagine when we think of “bliss”.  Ananda is the deepest embodied experience of profound contentment, the sense of being completely at home.

Using the meditative techniques of serious inquiry, unwavering self-acceptance, and keen discrimination (embodied-inquiry, santosha, and viveka) we begin to recognize for ourselves the subtlest levels of who we are. We come into direct contact with the process of Pure Awareness moving into form… through waves of tangible bliss.

The ancient yogic texts have provided a powerful and all-inclusive statement about the nature of life. They tell us that the nature of the mind is bliss: sat-chit-ananda or truth-consciousness-bliss. It is very important to note that there is no denial of human suffering in this statement. The statement does say that even the worst suffering has the same nature, because all of creation emanates from the same Source – sat-chit-ananda. The implication is actually profoundly inclusive in that it does not hold bliss to be an experience reserved for the lucky. Rather it is saying that no matter who you are, or what your experience has been, there is hope for finding deep inner comfort because it is who you actually are.

Ananda is underneath and supportive of our entire body-mind-spirit system. Ananda and awareness are woven into varying densities and vibrating at various speeds to create our energetic, mental, emotional and physical selves. Awareness and ananda are often veiled at the surface levels of our consciousness. It isn’t that ananda and awareness aren’t present in our structural selves. They are! It is that we have a strong tendency to perceive our thinking processes, our feelings, and all of the matter and the structural stuff of life to be the whole story.
If we were to inquire more thoroughly we would soon notice the underlying nature of all that we are. We would see, touch, taste, and feel, the Essential Blissful Awareness that is constantly present. Honestly, it is a simple matter of attention. Pay attention. No really…pay close attention.

Meditate.

Introduction to Embodyoga— Part One

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. Continue reading

The Three Pillars of Practice — Inquiry, Acceptance, and Discrimination

INQUIRY — Embodied-Inquiry™ is an intimate exploration of all layers of our form and consciousness, through the body’s systems to the cellular, sub-cellular, pranic levels and all the way to the Core of Awareness itself.

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CONTENTMENT — Santosha is the wholehearted acceptance of and contentment with What Is – without inferring non-action. True self-acceptance lays the groundwork for personal evolution by freeing us up to make choices about how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world.

DISCRIMINATION —Viveka is the penetrating practice of discrimination. It hones and refines our consciousness, protecting us from the perils of self-deceit.

Santosha and Viveka

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Santosha is contentment with what is, without inferring non-action. Viveka is discrimination. Wise asana practice is infused with keen discrimination and tempered by radical and abiding self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance is an absolute prerequisite for useful practice. Without self-acceptance we are always in a battle with ourselves trying to change or perfect one of our imagined limitations. This is a battle that is never won because as soon as we perfect one thing we are on to the next to try to alter, change or improve another aspect of ourselves. The radical idea that you are just fine as you are is almost unthinkable to us. Continue reading