We hear a lot about embodiment these days, but what does it actually mean? And why is it considered so important – in our yoga practice as well as in life?
In this free download, yoga therapist Lisa Clark, educational director at Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s School for Body-Mind Centering, talks about how embodiment offers us a completely different way of connecting with the body’s inner wisdom.
“Embodiment is when the body itself tells us how the tissues move. And I could see so totally how this and yoga could be a love affair for the ages,” Lisa notes.
Lisa first became introduced to the concept of embodiment in the late 80s, when she heard movement pioneer Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen talk about it. This became the beginning of 40 years of study and work with Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen as she developed her Body Mind Centering (BMC) movement approach.
Lisa talks about how we can explore human movement through the lens of 10 different body systems, including the organs. Viewing the body through any of those systems can awaken awareness and integration. And the approach dovetails beautifully with yoga.
“Yoga is this incredible, great practice that moves us somatically through ourselves, body, mind, and spirit toward integration. This can be the effects of the physical aspect, mentally, on our focus, our meditation, our breathing, or how we function in the world.”
Lisa then focuses on how this approach to embodiment and mind-body centering can help us awaken a whole new dimension of our breath.
In yoga, we traditionally endeavor to cultivate the breath. This has never been more true than in the current pandemic, which has brought into sharp focus both the preciousness and fragility of a healthy, life-sustaining breath.
Both in Pranayama and in Asana practices healthy breathing is always front of mind for yogis. But how many of us consider actually initiating movement from our lungs?
The body-mind centering approach teaches us to experience a felt sense about breathing in a way that facilitates an understanding of how we shape our breath. This includes how the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are inextricably linked with the blood carrying the breath out from the body’s center to the periphery.
Lisa explains that exploring the structures of breathing fosters a sense of responsiveness to them.
“Body mind centering creates a tonal response in these structures that provides new information to the body that the cells and the nervous system pick up. In this way, we can repattern breathing patterns,” she says.
This kind of approach is useful for anyone wishing to cultivate a healthy, resilient breath with elasticity in the tissues to support them throughout the course of their lives. And, it can be extremely valuable to someone seeking to avoid or recover from an illness or condition–not just Covid, but other chronic conditions such as COPD, asthma, and the like.
And it goes beyond ‘just’ what’s happening with the breath. Lisa explains how tone in the lungs creates internal support for the thoracic cavity and spine, the cervical spine, the skull and the upper limbs. When lungs are at low tone, they will pull down the whole outer structure of the body, she notes.
“Nine times out of ten when someone complains of restricted shoulder neck movement, I’m looking like a laser beam at their upper, middle or bottom lobes of their lungs to check how “glued” they are and whether there is differentiation in the upper lobes to free the neck and the head,” she explains.
“I can even have limited arm movement that has nothing to do with my arm or my shoulder girdle but is the result of my mid lobe being glued down to my back posterior lobe.”
Describing resiliency as the ability to respond and not get glued down, Lisa relates that when we always do the same kind of movements, our body kind of gets into a groove of sorts. But when we introduce a variety of movements in all different planes, the nervous system has an invitation to create a new neural pathway.
“When I start to do a rotation or a lateral movement or something spiral, how about something simple?” she posits. “I have to reach for that jar on the shelf. And that involves not only an extension, but perhaps a little bit of spiral. Well, the lobes of my lungs helped me do that movement.”
As we learn to initiate movement from any body part, like the lungs, we start to move from the inside out and connect in a much deeper way with the body’s inner wisdom.
You may also be interested in Lisa’s course, Breath, Embodiment, & Yoga: Amplifying Your Vitality Blueprint.