How do we define embodiment? In the beautiful words of French philosopher Merleau-Ponty, “To be a consciousness or rather to be an experience is to hold inner communication with the world, the body, and other people, to be with them instead of being beside them.”
These days I call myself more of an embodiment teacher than a yoga teacher. Each time I step onto my mat it becomes another opportunity to move and become the movement. To not just have an experience but to be the experience I feel in my body.
The more we practice, the more we begin to learn how to live through the sense door by engaging in the world through the experience we feel in our body, through our body, and perceived through our body. I often hear teachers or practiced students say that yoga brought them “home.” I like to think of this home as just the return to how we were born, as a sensing and connected being. We are born as an embodied being yet lose this ability once our higher brain develops. We move away from our embodied, sensory knowledge as guide, and instead rely just on the mind to make sense of the world. In our practice, we come back to the familiar and grounded knowledge that the body provides. Every time we step onto the mat we are dropping into the sensory door and engaging in a higher-level consciousness that is born from this embodied experience.
We can invite our students into this experience by helping them to sense their body while in a pose. Therefore, Balasana is no longer just bringing the hips back toward the heals, but rather, it becomes the quiet, safe folding of the body where the spine rests in gentle opening and the soft underbelly is safely protected and breathing freely. It is in a moment like this that we are embodying the pose. In a moment like this, sensory knowledge comes alive and we return to our familiar home.