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Yoga Anatomy from the Inside Out: Teaching People to Be in Their Bodies
“Teaching people to be in their bodies is actually a radical political act,” notes yoga therapist Leila Stuart, co-author with Donna Farhi of Pathways to a Centered Body in this interview. When people are truly embodied in their body, then they’re present, and they’re available to reality. It is then that they can respond to the actual demand of the moment, rather than respond from a conditioned response.
In this interview, with YogaUOnline, she discusses the immense value of experiential anatomy in deepening our yoga practice and connection with our body. Leila Stuart is founder of Centerpoint Yoga Therapy Studio near Vancouver, which specializes in cultivating a somatic experience of the body and developmental movement patterns.
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Leila Stewart: Absolutely. I have seen it. I have been teaching for almost twenty-five years and I have seen it over and over again. Many people come to the classes for something physical and they stay for the non-physical. I think that’s really what our task is as yoga teachers: to steer students toward an experience of their wholeness because somehow they’ve become separated from that. And we yoga teachers have become separated as well, and we teach what we need to learn. The more we can get a sense of our own wholeness (the best tool for which is experiential anatomy), the more seated in the self we are and the more connected we are to our self, to others, and to that which is greater than us. We make room for it.
Yoga U Online: Leila, we’re also very excited because you have a course on YogaU on Experiential Anatomy with special focus on the the feet. Tell us about the course and what you’re covering.
Leila Stewart: Sometimes I think that if lack of awareness was a pathology, nearly everyone in the world would have pathology. Some might say that the feet are not a very sexy topic. If people understood that the way the feet meet the ground, how they relate to gravity through the ground and then mediate the counter thrust of gravity is important not just physically, but on all levels, then they would pay more attention to their feet.
I have cultivated a habit of observing. Whenever I’m out, I look at how people are walking; I’m always doing assessment. Over and over again, I see how people are not actually walking on the ground in a connected way.
In this course, the main goal is to explore what it actually means to have a stable foundation, both physically and on other levels. What does that it mean to be able to stand on your own two feet metaphorically and physically? The course is about how to get there. We will look at the two dimensional anatomy as well as some of the concepts and principles that we then take into practice in a somatic way. The Foot Triangle work is something that I have developed over many years and there will be an introduction into that work and people will learn how to use the awareness of the Foot Triangles in yoga poses.
We will also look at the Koshas because for me, the Koshas are a foundational part of understanding yoga therapy. Additionally, we will look at some pathologies and the anatomy. The anatomy of the foot is fascinating. The feet are so tiny compared to rest of us, yet contain a quarter of all the bones in our body and have an amazingly intricate and complex architecture to allow us to both have stability and mobility. The foot is one of the structures in the body that equally balances these two abilities: stability and mobility. Yogicly, we’re looking at Sukha (ease) and Sthira (steadiness). That duality is really exemplified in the feet. We will look at how we pattern mobility and stability in our feet by understanding and feeling the anatomy of our feet.
Yoga U Online: That sounds wonderful, Leila, and we look forward to your course.
Want to learn more? Join Leila Stuart, co-author with Donna Farhi of "Pathways to a Centered Body," for her online course: Standing on Your Own Two Feet: Experiential Anatomy of the Foot.