From the Secret Lives of Yoga Poses Archive posts from 2008 – 2009
Strengthen – Developing Self Awareness
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Our Bodies As Ourselves
Conversations about developing self awareness are usually focused on non physical aspects of the self – our minds, emotions, personality, and so on. But many people, myself included, have accessed profound revelations of self awareness through the body.
The body is the self, too. Physics tells us that the body, like any other material thing, is made of energy, vibrating at the exact right frequency to elicit its specific density, and to create its individual form and fabric. Seen in this way, it’s seems to me that our muscles are no less our true selves than our deepest dreams and desires. We may be more than our bodies, but certainly we’re our bodies, too.
I believe that embodiment is a gift. Developing self awareness is a way to show appreciation for that gift.
Our Bodies are Our Interface
Our muscles give us our shape. They are the part of us that translate who we are to the world, even to ourselves, in the language of the senses. Other people are able to be aware of us in an immediate way because of our physical presence. And in the pulsing, reflective manner of the universe, this is true for awareness of ourselves as well.
Did you ever hear of The Invisible Man? Not the Ralph Ellison one (although it would be interesting to consider the parallels). It was also a book by HG Wells, and what I remember is the television adaptation from the seventies. The hero was a scientist experimenting with invisibility, who accidentally turned the formula on himself. The show opened with him painstakingly cloaking himself from the ground up: socks, long pants and sleeves, shoes, gloves. He had to have some kind of material covering, some kind of substantial outer layer in order to appear to the world, and to himself. The most powerful moment of the sequence was when he wrapped his face in bandages, effectively assuming the identity of someone terribly wounded, maybe burned, or marred in some way. This was a vivid image for me as a child because I could relate. I think we can all relate to the experience of feeling unable to show our self to the world, unable to see our self accurately reflected back in the faces of the people around us. It is the feeling of invisibility, and it hurts. The invisible man healed himself by showing himself, even as he showed himself to be in need of healing.
Developing self awareness is like the secret life of developing awareness of your body. Awareness of your body comes from using it, moving it, feeling it, and paying attention to it. In the yoga asanas, or postures, we draw our muscles in around our bones, like the TV invisible man wrapped bandages around his body. I find this can help to heal the wounds of invisibility from the inside. In this way, getting stronger can be an act of self love.
Developing Self Awareness with Yoga
In yoga poses, awareness is key. In the style of yoga that I practice and teach, the awareness exercises we do with our mind, moving ever outward from our innermost experience to the very edges of our physical form, are met with the awareness faculties of the body moving inward from the edges. This practice is sometimes described as “yang” practice, in contrast to yin yoga, which utilizes the body in a resting state. When we contract our muscles we stimulate our proprioceptors, which tell our minds about the shape of our bodies, and where they our bodies are in space. With conscious practice of yoga poses, you can use the developing strength of your muscles both to fortify ythe interface through which you engage with the others, as well as to enhance your self awareness on a deeper level.
This information is meant to inspire you, and to encourage you to begin your own life-affirming practice of yoga. A safe and rewarding yoga practice can only be ensured by the guidance of a well trained, real live teacher.
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