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Friday, January 29, 2021
Bringing Yoga to Life - Chapter 8 - Embodied Awareness
Bringing Yoga to Life - Chapter 8
I do realize that I started some of the posts on this book pretty much mid-book. I apologize as I got back into blogging after our book club started reading the book. It is a book that has a lot of depth to each chapter and could be read many times to really catch all the wisdom Donna is sharing.
Despite the mid-book beginning here I still think there is much to glean from this chapter entitled Embodied Awareness.
I like to look up the definition of words.
Embodied is defined as: be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling) and Awareness is defined as: knowledge or perception of a situation or fact, a state of being conscious of something.
Chapter 8 focuses on becoming more in tune and in touch with our inner selves than enamored with how the body looks on the outside.
Donna writes, "When we live in exile from the sensate reality of the body, we live in exile from the source of our aliveness. The only place that we can reconnect with this aliveness is in the body."
In a conference I attended in 2012 the aha moment of "Make friends with your body, before it turns on you" struck home in a deep way. Making more sense then just being physically fit, but also in mental, emotional and spiritual connections. Donna writes on how many of us have become divorced from our own "feelings, sensations, intuitions, and instincts" and that by not being at home in our body, we divest ourselves of our somatic reality. Some strategies she says people use to do this are disassociation with the body, negative attention to the body or ignoring and deflecting feelings that arise which only serve to distance us from life itself.
It can take a lot of work as we can easily become "accustomed to ignoring or overriding our inner instincts", but Donna says, "When we being to live in the body again, we discover that we have an internal environment that is as rich as that of any country and in a constant state of flux and change." Prashant Iyengar once expressed this at an intensive in Pune by saying,"Inside us there is a universe. Outside there is just a world."
Yoga tradition helps us to "recognize the importance of the body and mind living in harmonious relationship to each other" and that the "physical manifestation of the body was but a form animated by something greater than itself."
There is a quote by B.K.S. Iyengar - "The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in." I can't remember which book I read this in and may not be remembering the details correctly, but from what I remember, traditionally an idol was kept in the temple and only brought out on special occasions, but the temple was swept and cleaned daily for the idol to reside in. We need to do that for ourselves. The physical body does need to be cleaned, exercised, etc. daily for the benefit of the soul..not the body itself.
Donna writes about the life force as being the animating principle behind all the organs of perception: hearing, touch, taste, smell and sight that influences the shape and form of our structure. She says, "Through rejoining the body, we learn to become internally literate once again."
Donna says we can begin to do this by "practicing the asana from an interior perspective" and "bring our minds back into our bodies." Prashant Iyengar writes in the Alpha & Omega of Trikonasana that "Yogasanas are to be done by the body but for the mind, for the psyche, for the consciousness and for the culturing and refinement of a human being." He states that asanas are not postures but a unified state.
As you continue reading the chapter Donna writes, "When our primary imperative shifts from attaining a form to developing an intimate connection with the life force moving though that form, we are reclaiming the only part of the practice that ultimately can have any relevance for us - finding out who we really are."
Prashant says this also in his book, Alpha & Omega of Trikonasana, "when the internal condition is brought to a unified state, one starts worshiping through the asana and not worshiping the asana itself."
Another one of my favorite quotes that was a mantra when I was homeschooling my kids was from Erich Schiffman that has the same theme, "Earth is school, and the main thing to learn is who you are. You do this by experiencing who you are. You will know what you need to know when you need to know it."
As we practice an asana Donna writes that we can cycle through different stages, with each stage providing a platform for the support of the next. She suggests Feeling What Is, Feeling Where We Are Stuck, Joining With The Breath, Refining Our Relationship With The Life Force and Moving Into Stillness.
To feel what is we must observe the body-mind from a neutral viewpoint, then we can begin to feel all the places where we hold tension and as we breathe we start to feel the phases of each breath. Over time we can refine our postures for the life force to move within with more ease and clarify our relationship to the elements. With more and more refinement, "we redirect our awareness to the stillness that is in between, inside and throughout all movement."
I know this is a very short blog on a very in depth topic but I hope you find with a practice full of "curiosity, innocence and playfulness" a greater sense of embodied awareness.
Om Shanti, shanti, shanti,