The owner’s manual to your body
Awareness Through the Body is one of Auroville’s major innovations, developed by Aloka and Joan in the last thirty years. It helps anyone discover the existing connections between mind, emotions and the physical body, and offers ways bring these parts together in a more harmonious whole. All this work is done through the body.
In Joan’s own words: ‘ATB is like learning the basics of life. When you go to school, they teach you geometry, but nobody teaches you how to use yourself, or how to sense yourself. Nobody gives you the owner’s manual to your own body, so what we try to do is teach the logic of the body, awareness and self-regulation. This involves attention, sensing, self-sensing and witnessing oneself, all these basic tools. When we refer to our ‘self’, we often don’t know what we are talking about. ATB helps you explore that.”
Learning how to focus
The keyword here is: attention. While it is part of all body work, we often assume that we can keep our attention, which seems less and less likely in our oversaturated world. “How you know yourself depends on your ability to focus and sustain attention, on your capacity to listen to yourself and others. But this basic ability is taken for granted and normally people do not ask themselves what attention is! What is the sensation of attention? What happens when you move attention? They take for granted that we are able to sustain soft focused attention and to sense, to listen. But are we really paying attention?”
Although ATB came out of Aloka and Joan’s experience of the Integral Yoga and was developed in Auroville schools, it has universal application and is useful for anybody who wants to understand themselves better and become more attentive to the world in and around them. ATB is growing, with schools in Spain and Italy taking up the approach. “The feedback normally is that it is simple. And it works. And that is why we always say: simple is what works. People also suddenly realise that the body is a door to come back to themselves, to stop and have the space to get in touch with all these things that they didn’t know about their inner world, or didn’t have access to.”
When you go to an ATB session, you can expect a lot of simple physical exercises that have attention at their core. “We use combinations of exercises that help people to use their attention in different ways – they can focus it or spread it, move it or share it. For example, we ask people to work in pairs, with one person blindfolded and the other ‘pulling’ them closer with sound, as they move around the room. An exercise like this creates focused attention that has a clear reference in the senses, the sound. Another thing we train is how to move attention consciously. Many tools can be used, and if a particular tool is not working, we can return to the tool box and get a different one. Having said that, we have some basic exercises that we use consistently because we found them to be very useful.”
“As we do these exercises, we ask individuals to scan their bodies and notice the sensations, as well as the changes in the sensations. We ask them: what is the sensation of paying attention? How do you know that you are paying attention? What happens in your sensations and perceptions when you move or share attention? Are you able to tell when your attention gets stolen away? This helps them gain an experience in their body of what attention feels like, and build their own landmarks for being present.”
Ready to try?
Aloka, Joan, and their team of trained facilitators regularly conduct ATB workshops in and outside of Auroville. For an overview of trainings, please see here.
Do you want to know more about Awareness Through the Body before jumping in? Order the Book from Auroville here.