How We Embody the Yoga Sutras
Further explorations — integrating EmbodiYoga and the 8 Limbs
It’s one thing to understand something with the mind, quite another to know it with the body. Currently enrolled in EmbodiYoga Advanced Teacher Training, I decided to write about embodiment weekly, at a minimum, to document the process and hopefully make others curious about it. If you haven’t already, read last week’s post here. It details concepts that will be useful for today’s post. And be sure to view all posts in the series here to get a bigger picture of this amazing practice.
Today I attempt to merge aspects of embodiment, the mind, and the concepts of EmbodiYoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. If you are unfamiliar with the Yoga Sutras, specifically the 8 Limgs of Yoga, go here. I’m writing weekly about the 8 limbs too. It’s totally fine if you call me a yoga geek. I already know. Yoga nerd?
So, we know that embodiment is direct perception of the body, and that EmbodiYoga takes it further by incorporating somatics, embryology and yoga into one discipline.
I’m beginning to see it as an evolution of my yoga, as well as foundational as I incorporate basic yet profound aspects of the practice into my daily existence. I’m envious of yogis who can twist into beautiful shapes, stand on one hand and look pretty doing it, but yoga (to me) is much deeper than Instagram challenges.
EmbodiYoga gives me the tools to teach in a different way, and to help students understand their bodies in greater measure — and from a deeper perspective.
EmbodiYoga & The Yoga Sutras
The practice of EmbodiYoga requires attention, intention and decision which lead to absorption (embodiment). Interestingly (though not surprisingly), all of these concepts are also found in the Yoga Sutras 3.1 — 3.5. This portion of the short text outlines the last three limbs of the Sutras, Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption, becoming one with the object of meditation).
And the culmination of the three is known as Samyama. Without going too far into this concept, I’d say Samyama is the sum of living ALL of the limbs effortlessly, which leads to embodiment. If you understand the 8 limbs, I’m guessing this makes sense to you too. If not, this website does a great job of breaking these limbs down in more detail.
Okay. Deep breath. You’re doing great. You’re doing yoga. Consciously breathing is the fourth limb. I am writing about this and you are reading it at the level of the mind. Buuuuuttttttt …..
What about the body?
Yoga is a human practice that involves the human body. Shouldn’t we drop it down to the body? Umm, if you don’t know the answer, I think yes! The image below is a concept hand drawn (by me), though offered by my teacher, Lisa Clark, Founder of EmbodiYoga. It illustrates and helps us visualize how the concept of embodiment and the 8 limbs mesh.
We are three dimensional beings. We live in a three dimensional world. We exist within horizontal, vertical and saggital planes. Good so far?
A Physical Look at our Planes of Experience
Let that settle in. Stand up. Feel your feet upon the earth. Allow your crown to reach toward the sky. Vertical. Settle shoulders down; feel the collar bones widen across your chest. Horizontal. Take a deep breath. Feel the lungs and belly expand on inhale, gently fall on exhale. Saggital.
A Deeper Dimensional Look at the Sutras and our Human Experience
Attention (3.1): Dharana (concentration) works on the horizontal plane. We focus, concentrate our minds, bodies, energy.
Intention (3.2): Dhyana (meditation) works on the vertical plane. The deeper concentration, the more fully we move into the state known as meditation.
Decision (3.2): also Dhyana (meditation) works on the saggital plane. I see this as the beginning stages of learning to embody — fully inhabit ourselves, mind-body-spirit. Instead of entirely using the mind to ascertain our experience, we begin to use the body itself.
Absorption (3.3): Samadhi (one with object of meditation) unites concentration, intention and decision into one unified whole. Instead of three separate actions, they become a state acheived from those actions. This inner journey reveals all of the subtler aspects naturally. It isn’t forced. It happens — though not without consistent work of the practitioner.
Integration (3.4–3.5): Absorption of the concepts become integrated. We become embodied humans with the ability to live in our bodies, with a felt experience of the bodies without using the mind at all. I wonder if this is possible in our lifetime. Certainly it was of old yogi sages. And it really is the entirety of what yoga and enlightenment point to.
I’m certain I’ll have much more to say on this as the days, weeks and months go by. I’m only entering my fifth of fourteen intensive weekends, so I know I’m only scratching the surface, but I hope I’ve given you something to ponder.
Until next time, live life fully and embody yourself as often as possible!
Thanks for reading. Did you enjoy? Please tap the 💚 to recommend it to others. Namaste …
ABOUT & OFFERINGS
Hi! I’m Heather, a writer and yoga educator from SE Ohio. I share daily-ish here as part of my spiritual practice, and am working on my first book, Yoga Prayers. Download the first 25 pages, A Prelude to Yoga Prayers, for a brief introduction into yoga history and philosophy — and let me know what you think! Yogis, I’m also looking for stories to include in the full version of the book — how you came to yoga, what you’re learning, how you’re applying the 8 Limbs. Reach out!