The birth of Embodied Yoga Principles

I’ve been teaching how the body relates to who we are and how we live (embodiment) for around ten years now and studying it for twenty. A few years ago yoga teachers started coming to workshops and saying it was adding a new dimension to their work. I’ve done awareness based stretching as an integral part of my core aikido practice since I was a teen, and yoga proper as an adjunct to that, but most of my body education has been in martial arts, meditation and dance, with some bodywork, improv and body therapy. It became clear to me that awareness and personal growth orientated yoga was aligned with embodied work, and also that the wider field of embodiment also had a lot to offer yoga, which frankly misses a lot. What started to occur to me was that yoga is by far the best known and accepted embodied art and that if I wanted to bring embodied work to the world on a large scale – this is my life’s work as I regard embodiment as central to many of the key challenges we face – that I needed to engage with yoga. Yoga is practical, portable, widespread and a household name, so given I don’t really have any attachment to what form embodiment is taught in, why not go with that? And so began a journey deeper into the yoga world.

For the last two years I have been practicing with some intensity and exploring different styles and teachers. Perhaps I was naive, or just lucky to have had good instructors in Brighton like Gary Carter and Jim Tarran but I was pretty shocked with a lot of what I found in the wider world! Commercial modern postural yoga was nothing like any embodied art I’d studied and was so integrated into the modern world to the point of taking on many of its sicknesses. Mixed with new-age superstition, fundamentalism and passive aggression was a kind of body-beautiful consumerism I simply wasn’t expecting! I actually ended up taking quite a political and combative stance on what I found (having been kicked out of the UK’s largest online yoga forum for this I founded the Yoga Renegades FB group which has become something of a tribe). I’ve also met some wonderful people through yoga and over the last year have been exploring what a yoga based primarily on awareness of personal patterns and embodying new ones practically in life would be like. What has emerged is a unique art – this is quite a claim and while much traditional yoga is embodied and points to life application – EYP however does this as the central focus of practice in some unusual ways. Of the several hundred people in ten countries who have now tried it already, from every major yoga style, none found it boring or familiar, and the general feedback is that it’s a deep yet fun and practical approach. The central features of EYP that have emerged as an offer to the yoga world are:

– awareness raising of personal patterns being given priority over athletic development
– a way of bringing psychological depth back to postural practice quickly and safely
– a deep but rational Western friendly approach
– a fun and social method. EYP is much more interactive than a regular asana class
– a very pragmatic focus on getting your yoga into life. I think we do this literally better than anyone
– a principles-based approach that can be added as a layer to any style and used creatively

EYP has gone though much development and I have many people to thank for this particularly Annabel Broom who kickstarted the design process and Vidyadasa who has become my partner in crime.

In developing it, the biggest challenges that emerged were helping people see how it’s not yet another postural style and there’s more to life than downward dog, encouraging people to let go of attachments as to their expertise and what yoga could be, and that it could be too powerful and create intense therapeutic-level emotional responses very quickly!

In training the first teachers selection was key as it became obvious that a certain depth and maturity is required to hold this work safely. I am extremely happy with who was interested in training in EYP and the first teachers are a diverse group from around the world (shout out to Amanda BrownKarin van MaanenPreya Chauhan Ciara Collins-Atkins Clive Fogelman Jane Dancey Mayan Patel Steve Savides, and Ilze Jēče andJude Murray our first non UK based teachers!) with a real wealth of experience they bring to the emerging art. As EYP is a set of principles the community will co-create what is to come, and my own lop-sided personality will become less important.

I’m very happy to be launching EYP this week online with a new logo, FB group, website and set of professionally made YouTube videos. It’s been quite a journey already and I see a big bright future for EYP. It’s not a company or a brand or a style it’s a movement and one which will not only change the flow of modern yoga, but I hope, positively impact the world. It was a big bold dream and now it’s a reality. THANK YOU so much to all those that have supported and midwifed it.