We have often been asked to speak about our background experiences, about how this programme developed and where all the ideas came from. We believe that Awareness Through the Body came mainly from our personal experiences in the context of our spiritual path.
We are both originally from the same town in Catalonia, Spain. Aloka moved to India at the age of twenty to live in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She taught contemporary dance for adults and the children of the Ashram School for several years. During this time she practised hatha yoga and Tai chi. In 1991, she moved to Auroville. Joan (pronounced “joo an”, a very common masculine name in Catalonia) had been learning and practising natural therapies, shiatsu, Taoism and martial arts in Spain. When he came to Auroville in July 1991, he practised different types of massage, physiotherapy and postural re-education.
In January 1992, Joan was working as a physical therapist and Aloka was involved in the sports programme for small children. Some teachers from Transition School, noticing the poor posture of the children, approached Joan to ask if he could come to the school and give some classes to help improve their posture. At that time Aloka had decided it was better for the kindergarten children to do their sports activities on separate grounds in the kindergarten complex as these provided a more suitable and protected environment than the sports ground shared with the older children. Joan asked her if she would help him with his classes in the elementary school and she agreed to do so willingly, on the condition that he would help her with the kindergarten sports programme. From that time on, we have been working together and our work has constantly changed and evolved.
All the techniques we had learned thus far could bring individuals to an increased awareness and to experience different states of consciousness, and all these techniques had a common point. Each, in its own particular way, encouraged a journey of self-discovery, self-mastery and the ability to experience reality in a more complete way. Take martial arts and dance, for example, two very different disciplines. At certain moments in the training process each of them, in different ways, requires the individual to discover himself and to move or act from a state of consciousness different from that which is ordinarily used. With these observations in mind we tried to identify exercises directly linked with increasing awareness and expansion of consciousness and adapted them for the children we were working with.
Throughout 1996 and 1997, we went on adding new activities to our programme. During this time we recorded a class where the children were working in silence, in an exercise that lasted forty-five minutes. We showed this video to the parents so they could see the level of concentration and interiorisation their children were able to reach. While showing the video to the children, one of them said, “We don’t look like ourselves! We look so spaced out!” To which we replied, “It’s the other way around! Not spaced out, but spaced in!”
By now, the children are capable of high-quality work; they are able to participate in very intense, deep classes for long stretches of time. This is due to the fact that the children are exposed to the programme when they are very young, and that Awareness Through the Body is an integral part of their school experience.