Defining yoga in the West is a hard undertaking. It is many things and people go to classes for different reasons. Work your body to the point of exhaustion (and possibly bliss) in Power/Hot, connect with your breath and spirit in Vinyasa, and learn to actively rest in Restorative. Attend these and other styles to find different teachers — and perspectives on the practice.
Yoga philosophy adds another interesting layer which is often missed or skimmed in many studio classes — though I believe it should be integrated, as yoga is thousands of years old and rich in history. You can use the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a jumping-off point if you’d like to go down that rabbit hole. I did many years ago and still can’t find my way out. Again, just one small layer of the complex web that is yoga.
As a practitioner for twenty years and a teacher for ten, my own practice has changed with study, my values, beliefs and age. Currently enrolled in advanced teacher training, on track to be accredited as an RYT 500, I’m learning about yoga from an embodied perspective which combines body-mind centering, somatics and embryology. A whole ‘nother world is now open to my experience. In addition to teaching, I am writing about Everyday Embodiment each Thursday to spread my love of this amazing practice with others.
Earth is home and as humans we should be one with her, though most of us don’t consider this relationship at all. The arriving sequence/bonding with the earth is a foundational practice of EmbodiYoga, and in it we learn to develop a relationship with Mother Earth.
A basic premise of all somatic practices (that I’ve encountered thus far) is this relationship with Earth. We also learn to directly experience sensations in the body.
My daily practice is slow, intentional and grounding, with complete focus in the body — and my relationship to the Earth. I ‘arrive’ each morning and practice somatic meditation each evening.
As a habitual human being, I’ve tended toward left-brain overuse my entire adult life. I am precise, organized, analytical, detail-oriented and focused 99.9% of the time. It can drive a person mad. I knew years ago that I had to find an outlet and yoga fit the mold.
Somatics, as I’m learning, is about lessoning the effects of the left brain by dropping attention into the body. The Soma is the intersection of body-mind-spirit and it functions solely from right brain.
“The body itself is intelligent and aware, down to the cellular level.” The Awakening Body, Reggie Ray
The trouble is that we live in our minds too much to see it, feel it, know it. Unless we take our attention there, we are completely unaware.
The Arriving Sequence (aka Bonding with the Earth) is a foundational practice that (a) grows a deeper connection to the Earth and our bodies, and (b) allows us to take attention to places in our bodies that are not receiving the Earth’s support.
In the practice, we visibly see how we are holding back. We recognize the tension we are holding unwillingly, and we begin to unravel it through direct experience. It’s an amazing, profound process.
The Arriving Sequence/Bonding with the Earth
In this practice we’ll be lying on all sides of the body for equal amounts of time — supine (on the back), side lying (each side) and prone (on the belly). Set a timer for 8 to 40 minutes. I use an app called Insight Timer because it allows me to set bell intervals. (If you set an eight minute timer, you schedule the bells two minutes apart to allow for all four sides of the body. If you set a 40 minute timer, you’ll set them ten minutes apart — and so on.)
INSTRUCTIONS for each of the four sides of the body
PRONE (on your back): lie on a yoga mat, or directly on the floor. (I prefer the latter as I tend toward minimalism and simplicity — it allows me to do the sequence anywhere and anytime without props. I also have hard wood floors and enjoy connecting with the natural material of wood and it’s healing properties.) Take the same position you would for Final Resting Pose (Savasana) in yoga. You can place a bolster or rolled up blanket behind the knees to take pressure off of the lower back. Legs are resting gently on bolster/the floor, slightly splayed comfortably. Arms are down to sides with palms up if that feels comfortable.
LEFT SIDE: slightly bend the knees to find ease, stretch lower arm long and rest the side of the head on the outstretched arm. The spine is in one long line, with it’s natural curves present.
RIGHT SIDE: repeat left side instructions.
PRONE (belly down): arms out or down to sides, head turned to one side and then turned to other side half way through.
FOCUS as you lie on each side of the body
Begin long, slow, deep breaths — in through the nose, out through the nose. Pay attention to all of the places resting on the Earth. Notice places that are pulling away from the Earth, and places that are relaxed down. (I’ll explain these concepts in greater detail in subsequent posts, but for now just notice tension and relaxation.)
Better yet, listen to this 15 minute audio of my teacher, Lisa Clark, EmbodiYoga Founder, leading a short Arriving Sequence lying only on the back body. She goes into further detail of the practice and it’s principles. Longer sequences can be found here in subsequent podcasts.
This is a practice you can do every day. It will shift you into Body Time and out of Nervous System Time. If you are a chronic left brainer, like me, I promise it will change you in profound ways. Try it today and let me know what you think.
Until next Thursday, practice being in your body every day, if only for a few moments a day. The gifts of embodiment are profound.
Image: Jordan Whitt