Embodiment; just another buzz-word?
It’s a word that seems to be getting thrown around more and more recently, but what does it actually mean to be embodied, and is there any substance behind the real meaning?
Although I’d heard of the term ’embodiment’ before, my head was turned when I noticed it was being used more and more frequently in the yoga industry. It was around the time that I was feeling a deep sense that something was missing from what I was currently experiencing in my own practice, so I was curious to learn more.
I expected an immediate, simple and tangible answer, but as I started to peel back the layers, what I started to discover was a concept with limitless depths and endless possibilities, with no definitive explanation, which left me intrigued to dig deeper.
One of the definitions which really struck a chord with me, is when being embodied was likened to that feeling we’ve all experienced, when you know deep down whether a situation or event feels right or wrong. Our minds might be telling us one thing, but in my experience, that wiser intuitive feeling never lies. This was the moment that I knew there was more to this, and it had my full attention.
It wasn’t long until I came across the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, and Body-Mind Centering, which is an embodied approach to movement, derived from the notion that our mind and bodies shouldn’t be considered as being separate entities; they are in fact intrinsically linked. That which repeatedly arises in the level of the mind will inevitably manifest in the level of the body, and vice versa.
Movement and sensation is our primary language of the felt sense, and this existed within all of us long before we developed a verbal language. The Body-Mind method invites practitioners to tap into our body’s intuitive wisdom, and encourages movement to emerge from this place of intuition; allowing ourselves to feel into the movement, embracing sensations and fulfilling shapes through curiosity, as opposed to allowing our thinking minds, and subsequently, the ego to take over.
This led me to asking the simple question, why? Why does it matter whether we’re embodied beings or not? The answers to this question started to make themselves known, as a result of simply having an awareness of what it means to be embodied, and it was this concept of intuition which was repeatedly arising.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been an over thinker, over worrier, over analyser of everything that was going on in my life. It regularly felt like there was some sort of internal battle going on within me, and my thoughts often left me feeling suffocated, leading me into some pretty dark places. This strategy of allowing my mind to overrule clearly wasn’t working for me, so what if there was another way?
As usual, I looked to my practises to help me on this journey, and I was guided towards some incredible yoga facilitators, who harnessed an embodied approach to their teaching style, underpinning the same values as Body-Mind centering. This was the game changer.
It took a little time to allow myself to let go, but I gradually started to give in to how my practise looked and whether I was ‘nailing’ an Instagram worthy pose. Instead I allowed myself to trust how my practise felt in my body, being guided by how it was feeling, rather
than whether it was aesthetically pleasing. There was something so profoundly liberating about surrendering to moving in this way, and for the first time I experienced an innate sense of freedom.
This feeling was gradually beginning to arise, not only whilst I was on the mat, but in my everyday life. I was starting to consciously have an awareness of how things that were happening around me felt intuitively, and most importantly, I was able to conceptualise the fact that my thoughts were still there bubbling away under the surface, but I wasn’t allowing myself to be ruled by them.
As a result of becoming more embodied, I was also more acutely aware of how I was treating my body. I subsequently became more mindful of what I was putting into my body with regards to my diet, and also what external resources I was utilising to fuel my energy, what was draining my creativity and soul purpose, and what was lifting me up?
Going back to my original question, is there any substance behind the real meaning of embodiment? I honestly believe I’ve only just started to scratch the surface, but without question, my experience so far has changed my entire outlook on life.
I’m excited to continue to peel back the layers and discover more, as my journey continues to unfold.