The book is meant to provide a guide for people who want to discover the existing connections between mind, emotions and the physical body, and to offer ways to integrate these different parts into a more harmonious whole around their inmost centre. Because we use the physical body to achieve this task we call our work Awareness through the Body. We developed this approach working with children at schools in the emerging international township of Auroville, in south eastern India, over the last eleven years. In the book we focus primarily on our work at the elementary school level, though we use the exercises we describe, with slight modifications, with older children and adults also.
Awareness through the Body is a comprehensive curriculum of exercises that aims to raise awareness and enable children – or adults – to become conscious of their own perceptions and abilities so that they may become self-aware, self-directed individuals. The activities are creative and often fun; they develop gradually and encourage concentration, focus, relaxation and a sense of accomplishment. We have borrowed and blended elements from a multitude of disciplines, including dance, hatha yoga, Taoism, martial arts, physiotherapy, shiatsu, relaxation and breathing therapies.
In section I we present our goal, the principles we work with, our objectives, and the organization and flow of our classes. In section II we describe the themes and activities we use with the children. Each chapter is devoted to a theme or an activity, with a description of the exercises related to it, their benefits, their manner of presentation, the different possibilities for their exploration, and our experience with them.
The themes are:
Attention and concentration: After describing the importance and effects of cultivating the power for attention and concentration we provide a wide variety of exercises to help develop those effects and enhance them.
Breathing: A detailed presentation of how we introduce the children to what breath is and how to discover and train healthy breathing habits. We follow with a series of simple and practical exercises that will enable any individual to develop breath awareness and an understanding of how to use breath more effectively.
Knowledge and care of the different bodies: An explanation of how we present the different parts that form a human being, and their interactions, thus enabling the students to better care for and better use their own being.
Different states of consciousness: Discussion about the movements taking place in the consciousness of an individual and how to become aware of them. Relaxation is the key to developing this awareness. We include exercises that foster these changes and enhance the capacity for relaxation.
Sensory awareness: Here we address ways to explore and refine the five senses and the kinaesthetic sense. The chapter also includes exercises for the exploration of the mind as a sixth sense.
The five Elements: Description of the sensorial exploration done on each of the five elements that compose all matter: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. These types of explorations bring the individuals in contact with the deepest part of themselves.
Exploration of the subtle physical body: A set of exercises to discover and learn to perceive the subtle energetic layer existing around the physical body.
Physical structure: Explanation of how we approach the work on the physical body, so that the individual becomes aware of his physical body in all its aspects. In the chapter we describe the most effective exercises we use and give references for the techniques we use in our program.
Evolution : A project on the theme of evolution in which, through body movements, children or adults can experience the development of locomotion characteristic of the different species in the evolutionary process. The project opens a door to an understanding of what evolution really is: an evolution of consciousness.
The activities are:
Structures Setting: An adaptation of the work of Elfriede Hengstenberg. The activity consists in providing situations in which the individuals can explore themselves at all levels of their being. This is done by creating landscapes with different materials i.e. ladders, planks, mattresses, clothes, ropes, etc…, through which the person moves.
Plates : A set of exercises to foster concentration, self observation and inner balance through the work of balancing an aluminium plate on top of a stick.
Sticks : Group exercises to develop high coordination that can enhance the power for maintaining concentration and being present in the moment. The exercises are done with the use of bamboo sticks.
Form and Space: Through form exercises the individual can discover that each shape the body takes brings with it a different experience in sensation, feeling, emotion, and thought. Space exercises help individuals to auto-define and auto-affirm themselves, making them aware of their need for inner and outer space.
Games: A description of the way in which we understand and use games. We provide some examples and a bibliography of the games we have found most useful in our work.
We end the book with feedback from the children on the classes and some of the exercises. We have also included a short note on the two people who have inspired us, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and the place where we live and work, Auroville.