"If you open your heart and try to put yourself into the position of the embryo and join in experiencing the gestures of growing that are taking place there, all at once the embryo will tell you a very profound story." - Jaap van de Wahl
Exploring embryology is little like going on a treasure hunt. It provides a map of pathways we can follow back from our adult form and 'being' to the treasure of our origin.
But tracing that journey from vibration to single cell all the way to complex organism isn’t just a physical one, and it’s certainly not something that can be understood fully from the pages of a scientific textbook.
That’s why we prefer to explore embryology from an embodied perspective and with a philosophical twist.
3Ps OF EMBRYOLOGY: PHYSICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL & PERSONAL
Connecting with our origins in utero is a multi-layered process that is as personal as it is profound. It taps not only into the physical evolution of the body but also the philosophy of the self, provoking some deeply personal questions about who we are and where we've come from.
1. Physical: The origins of the body
The developmental pathway from cells to tissues to systems to organism is well documented, and this scientific study of embryology forms an invaluable part of our understanding.
We see the enfoldment of space and the development of tissues and structures. We track the origin and maturation of systems.
We trace the sequence of primitive reflexes and developmental movement that not only support our birth from the element of fluid to those of earth and air, but also our early years taking us from babe in arms to an infant exercising our own self-agency.
We learn about having a front and a back and a relationship to gravity; about our centre and periphery and the integration of our spine and limbs; about the support from our organs and the constancy of our breathing cells.
But this is only the beginning.
2. Philosophical: The origins of the self
Aside from the physical, it's can also be helpful to connect with the less tangible aspects of our evolution in utero, including a philosophical enquiry into the origins of our sense of self and the development of our free will or 'self-agency'.
There are various theories of prenatal psychology that would support the idea that it's not solely the physical form that evolves in utero, but also the self.
It's also suggested that in order to birth ourselves as infant, we need to exert a certain amount of will. This opens us up to an exploration around the idea of who we are, our sense of being able to choose, and our ability to make decisions for ourselves, and whether (and indeed how far) these concepts can be tracked back to our experiences in utero.
Through experiential enquiry around boundaries we learn about the sense of what is me and what is not me, and question if or when self-agency develops in the course of our journey from cell to self. This work can be playful and illuminating, yet sensitive and deeply personal all at once.
Another philosophical dimension to our study of embryology comes through an exploration into the initial vibratory movement of our first cells. This offers us a fascinating glimpse into the OM and the underlying hum of the universe.
3. Personal: A journey back to you
An exploration of our gestatory experience may also give us a glimpse of the seeds that grew into the individuals we are now. It's a deeply personal journey.
Insights into our earliest moments can be enormously revealing in terms of our own postural and movement patterns - how we move, the way we hold ourselves. And that's not limited to the physical form, either.
Exploring embryology form an embodied perspective can offer us a unique lens through which to reflect on our behavioural patterns as adults. How much of the way we behave now has been informed by our time in the womb?
These kinds of enquiries and reflections can be profoundly moving at a personal level. It can offer some beautiful 'lightbulb' moments but may also tap into some sensitive personal material.
As a result, it's important that participants studying embryology through an embodied lens, have sufficient support and personal resources to help them continue these somewhat sensitive enquiries in a safe and constructive manner.
EMBRYOLOGY, MOVEMENT & ENQUIRY
A 3 DAY COURSE
If you're interested in exploring your journey from cell to self through the study of embodied embryology, you may like to enquire about our Embryology, Movement & Enquiry course with Aki Omori.