The Auto Familiar
One of the most difficult tasks of teaching a movement based practice like yoga, is getting across to students that they must unmask the assumptions they carry within them around what it means to fully be in their body. Some of the assumptions we use to shape our experience of ourselves are obvious; gender, age, weight, height, etc. Many, many more are far more subtle and often require fairly intense study to uncover. The difficulty is in illuminating how years of conditioned action have brought us to our current level of self-awareness.
Movement and posture, not unlike language, can take on a very auto-familiar quality within the closed sphere of our own experience. The range and vocabulary of our movement can feel limited to what we have previously experienced or known. Movement based practices like yoga or dance are in many ways like learning a foreign language. By demanding that we stay present, they dislodge us from our assumptions and quite literally propel us into the possibility of redefinition. From the vantage point of a new vocabulary of movement, we can envision being in our bodies in a fresh way.
The known is a powerful and safe place to reside. Stretching beyond our comfort zone into a new vocabulary of experience is how we shake free of the assumed prejudices we hold about ourselves.
“Taken by itself, each language is auto-familiar: it has its own concepts, its own system of thought which, within it, condition the thinkable. The way we think and speak arises out of decisions our language has already made for us: language discreetly dictates to its users - in an invisible manner - self-evident assumptions and proscriptions that are inscribed in its grammar (which is, by definition, imperceptible from inside the language.) In order for grammar to appear as such one must dislodge one's language from its self-presence, from its assumptions and proscriptions, by subjecting them to the otherness of a different grammar, by putting them in question through the medium of a foreign language.” Felman, Shoshana. Writing and Madness. pp 18-19.