"Re-embodying early movement patterns can give support and clarity to posture, movement expression, emotional life and the psychological development of a sense of self, as well as essential grounding and inspiration for spiritual opening and creative work." - Linda Hartley
As yoga practitioners, movement specialists and body workers, we’re not simply interested in understanding our embryological journey from a purely scientific perspective that focuses on studying the anatomy and biology of the embryo.
We’re interested in a more comprehensive view, and more importantly, learning about our origin in utero by re-experiencing, re-imagining and re-membering.
How do you study embryology from an embodied perspective?
Our entry point into embryology starts where we are as adults. Supported by images and models that help to illustrate the developmental stages, we follow the developmental pathways back from our adult body to our very beginnings in the womb through movement.
And as formlessness came before form, that means a willingness to move beyond the boundaries of regular yoga shapes. As we're exploring cell and tissue formation, some expressive movement on the floor can be incredibly insightful in helping us access our embryological experience.
We know that our body can move through the space we occupy but how do we know our head from our tail, and how do we navigate gravity? How exactly did we create our limbs and why did we organise them in a particular way?
Does knowing that our heart was initially formed above the structure of the head change the way we view ourselves? Perhaps this knowledge shines a new light for us on the received hierarchy of systems and structures and even that the sense of being lead by the heart not the head is not such unnatural consequence given our embryological history.
Enquiry-based movement helps us explore these questions from a personal perspective, including:
the sense of having a front and a back on a big gym ball in a new way
playful games around boundaries: how I know what is me and what isn’t me, the development of ‘self-agency’ or will and thinking about if or when this develops in utero
the development of the organs: what is it like to experience the heart as the head or the head being inferior to the heart, what does that change about our experience?
the development of the limbs (head, tail, arms, legs) and the sequencing of how they emerge and organise around the naval centre (the pattern of naval radiation)
5 embodied practices to help you tap into your experience in the womb
You don't have to wait to join an embryology course to begin tapping into the embodied embryological experience. Here are a few home-based enquiries that you might like to explore.
1. Bath time
Research and relaxation in one fell swoop. Next time you get into a nice warm bath, try leaning back and let your head float. This sensation of the weight of your head being entirely weightless is evocative of your in utero experience. How does your relationship to sound change?
2. In the pool
If you’re a swimmer or you find yourself visiting your local pool (or even better... the ocean!), you might try a few different practices to access an ulterior experience of the body in which your relationship with gravity shifts. Notice the internal and external changes in your experience of your body.
allowing the body to float on the surface
dipping yourself below the surface to swim underwater
plunging your entire body under the water
3. On the yoga mat
Even on the yoga mat, you can begin an enquiry into your embryological experience by exploring the connection between your body and the ground. For example, as you place your feet on the ground, which sensations in this experience tell you about your feet, and which about the ground? How are you noticing what is you and not you?
From this fundamental relationship between what is you, your feet, and what is not you (the ground), find an active connection between your feet and the ground (pressing in this way can be called "yield and push") so that your chosen form or asana arises through your tissues from this connection to the earth.
You might try imagining being clothed in a tight body suit then visualising removing the suit and exploring the sense of expansion and freedom that may arise.
This can be evocative of a birth experience, so do take care with such visualisation, especially if you are aware of any personal birth trauma.
The experience of sounding doesn't have to include any complicated chants or even an 'OM' to offer an insight into the vibration of our being. Something as simple as humming or practising bee breath (‘bhramari pranayama’) can create the sense of listening with all of our cells, not just your ears.
EMBRYOLOGY, MOVEMENT & ENQUIRY
A 3 DAY COURSE
If you're interested in exploring your earliest moments through the study of embodied embryology, you may like to enquire about our Embryology, Movement & Enquiry course with Aki Omori.