Workshops in Keene – NH for Adults, July, 7-21, 2014
Led by Aloka Marti (method creator) and Francesco Colturi (certified facilitator) with Drs. Heidi Watts and Margo McLeod, adjunct faculty.
|Awareness Through the Body is a comprehensive curriculum of exercises that aims to raise awareness and enable children and adults as well 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. The program works by first bringing the individual into a state of receptivity in which they can better “listen” to the many and varied inputs being continuously received from both their inner and outer worlds. For all ages the exercises allow for each person to gradually discover all the parts of themselves and to find the tools to manage this complexity effectively.
The Origin of Awareness Through the Body
Awareness Through the Body was developed in India with children in Auroville schools. Auroville is an intentional, international community in southern India, dedicated to the search for human unity and best known for it’s groundbreaking projects in environmental sustainability. (www.auroville.org.in) The Auroville community maintains six schools serving children from preschool through high school for the community, and four schools for local village children from kindergarten through high school. ATB is now being offered in many of the kindergartens and all of the elementary schools for both Auroville children and the very poor village children in schools affiliated with Auroville. Workshops for adults with many different backgrounds (teachers, yoga instructors, artists, body workers, therapists) have been offered in India, Holland, Spain, and the United States since 2004.
Awareness Through the Body offers tools for living in the world of today: tools to increase self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-confidence; tools to enable children and adults to be witness to their own thoughts, feelings, moods, actions and interactions with others; tools to reduce stress, to concentrate and still the mind. These tools are useful for any person, young or old, male or female. Aloka, one of the founders of ATB, says, “Everybody is given the space they need in ATB so they can find their own way of working. The emphasis is put on what they do well.” Recently we have even begun exploring the possibilities of ATB for children with specific learning problems, such as Asperger’s or ADHD, with some hopeful results.
There is a particular need for children of today to develop these skills. They spend many hours sitting, either in classrooms or in front of a screen. They are less and less active physically but mentally they are bombarded with a variety of visual and oral stimuli, some of which is violent in content or presentation. Obesity and inability to concentrate are only two of the problems attributed to the reduced range of physical activity and the increased stimulation. Children come to school with a burden of anxiety from the tensions in our society and the increasing fragmentation of social support systems from the family and the community. With ATB, children gradually learn to focus, concentrate, relax and feel a sense of accomplishment.
The Founders and Instructors
Aloka Marti and Joan Sala, the former a dance and sports teacher, the latter a physical therapist and yoga teacher, joined forces in 1991 initially to work with the children of Auroville on sports activities and posture. Working from the Integral Education philosophy of Auroville, which is very similar to a progressive philosophy, ATB emphasizes the importance of addressing all the planes of the being: mental, physical, emotional, vital (emotional/social) and spiritual. In the West we recognize this as an address to all learning modalities and styles. ATB also demonstrates respect for the child by providing opportunities for self-assessment and self-direction. All competition is framed as individual – to do better than you did before, but not necessarily better than anyone else. In the purest form the program is child-centered because it focuses on the needs and skills of each individual child, and also fosters awareness and appreciation of others.
The original work has evolved into a sequential series of activities combining strategies from dance, movement, yoga, mindfulness, new games and physical therapy which are engaging and effective with children of all ages, and indeed, with adults as well. All of the workshop activities can be used with children from quiet breathing to negotiating an obstacle course collaboratively. The experiential nature of the workshops makes it possible for participants to learn deeply and to adapt the rich variety of activities to settings from schools to old age homes or to use as part of an individual practice.
The Book, Awareness Through the Body
In 2006 Joan and Aloka published Awareness Through The Body, which describes the evolution of the work from the philosophy of Integral Education. Organized around themes such as Concentration, Attention, Physical Structure, and sensory awareness, it explicitly describes relevant activities, giving the purpose and place of each in the sequence and details their experiences when doing the activities with children. The book is enriched by several hundred photographs of children engaged in these activities, from a group symmetry exercise with music, to a child, blindfolded, meditatively feeling the bark of a tree. Teachers who attend the workshops often buy the book as a user’s manual and for inspiration.
The book can be purchased through amazon.com.
What teachers say about ATB:
I loved the workshop and the strong sense of connection to myself that it engendered. … In addition I thoroughly appreciated the variety of activities that gave us a balance of active and quiet, inward experiences, connection with others and with self all of which contributed to the overall sense of centeredness and self-knowledge. THIS WAS THE MOST PROFOUND EXPERIENCE I HAVE HAD AT A WORKSHOP IN MY 60 YEARS.
Teacher Educator, Vermont, 2010
With so much time spent watching computers, social media, television, movies, games, etc.,. the visual dominates in our culture. How relaxing and interesting it is to take time to explore the world with our eyes closed or blindfolded, to sense in other ways. Not to imply there isn’t lots of eyes-wide-open laughter as well….
Center Director, New York, 2012
I am heading into the next year with new “games” and exercises to bring to my students and, more importantly, a way of talking with them about their experience of attention. This is a real gift. I would love to explore ATB further, and would like to stay in touch about other workshops.
Waldorf teacher, Maine, 2013
What is ATB? It’s when mindfulness meets new games and all the capacities open up!
What children say about ATB:
“It made me more aware of everything around, and it made me much more open. When I get nervous now, or angry, I always return to my breath to cool down.”
“They taught through games and we still learned a lot. It helps you in your relationships with other people, makes you very open and understanding.”
“They gave us exercises to quiet us down and then exercises to bring us back, exercises on how to develop the senses and awareness, and how to use the senses and how to recognize feelings.
“The group work was very important. You learn how to find your own way in a group and one thing we learned is that if it didn’t work one way we could try another.”
“I know I am not good at physical things but I remembered to use my breath and my will to get calm and focused. Then I won the discus toss!”