Touch and Inner Awareness

By Mark Stephens on Sun, 05/01/2016 - 19:11

Ancient writings on yoga explain this with the koshamodel, in which prana—the life force that we cultivate through the breath—is the mediating force unifying body and mind (vayutattvain the Samkhya branch of ancient Indian philosophy). Rather than starting from the assumption that the body and mind are somehow separate, here we approach the practice as one of awakening to the existing reality of the bodymind as already whole—wholeness that we might not think or feel to be whole due to the conditions of the bodymind itself in its inner nature and all its sociocultural conditioning.In practicing, when we breathe consciously into a part of the body as directed by the tension highlighted in a particular asana, we are creating the opportunity to consciously awaken awareness there. Doing this in each of 840,000 asanas—the number mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as a way of saying there is infinite possibility—we gradually awaken awareness throughout the entirety of our being, awakening and expanding embodied consciousness—even if relatively hidden, dazed, or confused—that is already there.  


As a yoga teacher you have the opportunity to guide your students in a way that supports their fullest development of these qualities of awareness. As discussed earlier, many people learn most easily and thereby also open more fully to the transformative potential and effects of yoga and other awakening practices through touch, thus making touch among the resources you might well tap in your teaching. The specific ways that some unique individuals’ embodied intelligence manifests in their being may make it practically impossible for them to independently find their way into and out of asanas in a way that is safe, sustainable, and effective, let alone into clearer awareness, often resulting in the reinforcement of postural and life habits that are self-limiting rather than wholesome and transformational. The part of the neuromuscular system that gives us part of our inner self-perception— proprioceptive (“perceiving of self ”) functions—is often inaccurate, making our larger kinesthetic awareness of movement and positioning in space less than accurate. Clearly informed and appropriately given touch can help students in developing and refining this awareness as they learn to more consciously breathe in their bodymind. Breathing more consciously in the bodymind, perhaps accompanied with the teacher’s clear, simple touch, students can awakento even deeper and clearer self-awareness. In your role as a guide, taking the seat of the teacher, you can give your students support for a lifetime of betterment and joy in their personal practice