Foundations of Humanist Yoga Working with our sensory awareness
What's the point of working with our sensory awareness in yoga posture practice? Our nervous system evolved under evolutionary pressure. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors honed their senses in life or death situations. To hunt for food in the wild, and avoid danger, they'd have had to move fluidly, over uneven terrain, with their senses acutely attuned to the surroundings, moment by moment.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors honed their senses in life or death situations...
In the modern world, we no longer need to search for food in a wild and volatile environment. We walk around in orderly streets, on flat, safe surfaces, protected by fences, signs and signals. We can move around quite clumsily, at no real risk to our survival at all. We have less need to hone our senses. And so sometimes they can fade and blur, without our even noticing.
The muting of our ability to sense what's happening in the outer world can transfer to our ability to sense our inner world - our feelings within the body, mind and heart. We may grow slower at identifying bodily signals that tell us something is awry. And slower to respond by making helpful changes. Perhaps that's one reason why we're so prone to recurring aches, pains, headaches and digestive problems. And why we often feel worried, afraid or sad, without really understanding why.
Muting of our ability to sense what is happening in the outer world can transfer to our ability to sense what is happening in our inner world.
The experience of trauma can cause a numbing of our senses too. If something really shocking happens to us, we may respond by shutting off feelings that threaten to overwhelm us. But, at the same time, our ability to interpret gut feelings is impaired. And this can cause strong, distressing reactions in response to seemingly insignificant events. Many of us experience a traumatic event at some point in our lives. And while there is always the question of degree, even a seemingly minor trauma can lodge in the memory and interfere with human flourishing. Somatic practices like yoga can be highly effective in helping people over come different degrees of trauma.
Yoga is well placed to help us learn how to constantly re-notice ourselves
How can we rediscover our senses? How can we learn how to refine the way we read our environment and ourselves? How can we help ourselves to heal after distress? We can begin by learning to re-notice ourselves. Yoga is well placed to help with this. It teaches us to pay close attention to important human experiences we might take for granted, or fail to acknowledge. In our yoga posture practice, we deliberately ignite sensation by moving the body into different shapes. With practice, we refine our ability to listen closely to the sensations we ignite. We reflect on what the body's telling us. And respond in an intelligent way. What we explore on the mat, the body remembers. A heightened sensory awareness will colour our daily lives.
I've absorbed these ideas & approaches from Peter Blackaby's wonderful book 'Intelligent Yoga' - available on Amazon.
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