John Stirk’s book The Original Body has attracted a highly appreciative review from Anodea Judith PhD, yoga teacher, and Leigh Blashki, Past President, Yoga Australia.
Anodea Judith, PhD:
‘If yoga is the poetry of the body, this book is sheer poetry about the practice of doing yoga. It says it’s for yoga teachers, but really anyone who practices yoga or martial arts, as well as any form of bodywork or somatic therapy will be gratified to read this book. I ate it up, underlining and highlighting so many parts that I wanted to remember and bring to my teaching. It’s not an easy read — for it’s densely rich, and the many jewels want to be savored, thought about, and explored on the mat.
This book transformed my view and teaching of yoga and I’ve been at it for 40 years. As a somatic therapist, I also resonated with the author’s viewpoint as an Osteopath, and his reference to somatic pioneers such as Reich and Lowen, as well as Ida Rolf and other experts in the mind-body field. I wish I’d read it before I published my book on Chakra Yoga — I’m sure I would have incorporated some of his insights.
The author’s depth of understanding radiates from every page — a depth only obtained from decades of practice and years of study in many disciplines. It takes the reader deeper and deeper into their own tissues, understanding such things as working with gravity, moving fluidly, opening to sensation, embracing energy, and of course breath. It gets away from standard forms and encourages the student to explore the body’s most innate, organic expression, underneath all our conditioning, even the conditioning of yoga.
In today’s yoga world, so focused on outer form, so repetitive and often unconscious, taught by new teachers fresh out of their training, with only a year or two or yoga under their belt, the true experience of doing yoga is getting lost. This book is not about postures and routines or dequencing, but about the PROCESS of doing yoga. How do we find alignment, heal and balance, move energy, and commune with the divine, from within, in our own unique way? How do we discover our organic breath, how does it move the spine, and what really brings integrity to the body? How do we find our way to our original body (hence the title) contained in our sacred flesh but free to expand into the infinite?
If you suspect that the body is a gateway to realization, that being fully embodied is a life long exploration, not just a mass of muscles and movement, but of sensation and exquisite attention to the subtle, but profound presence of the life force, then this book is for you. And for genuine teachers of yoga, this book is a must.’
Leigh Blashki, Past President, Yoga Australia
‘The Original Body is a ‘must-read’ book for yoga teachers genuinely interested in rediscovering an authentic foundation for their personal practice and their teaching. As a long-standing yoga teacher and osteopath, Stirk has spent decades exploring primal aspects of the human body-mind and this text is a synthesis of many of his personal inquiries and experiences with students and clients. The Original Body posits that “there are ‘ancient’ ways of moving that underpin all other movements and postures and that these primal patterns can be tapped into as a spontaneous ‘now’ experience, not guided by previous personal experience or conditioning.” The ‘now’ experience is a meeting of sensations and feelings that cannot be held, captured or taught. The movement of the original body is the practice, practitioner and teacher. Stirk suggests that inquiry and organic expression cross each other as part of the unfolding movement of living. “When we are simple, free from techniques and ideas, the innocence of the body arises and draws us into a way of moving that is un-held, powerful and transformative.”
Throughout the book we are challenged to question many of the ways we have been taught move and practice yoga, ways that form our habitual somatic experiences. The author invites us to recognise that the functions of the neocortex, while often regarded as a hallmark of our evolved state, should not override the earlier and more primal functions of other brain structures such as the limbic system. While making good arguments for re-learning about our original body and its natural movements, Stirk’s language inspires and makes for enjoyable reading. For example, this gem resonated with me: “Let go of previous experience, be a guest of time. Time has no problem with itself because it is in time with itself. Remain receptive, as the sensations come towards you, do not know them. Give up a sense of owning the practice. Pass through personal relationship to what you feel. As we practice, attention to tissue sense invites a constant flow of sensation into consciousness. As sensitivity awakens, we devolve. Awareness retraces the evolutionary journey, from tissue to energy to space”.
This book, like many contemporary texts, has a section dealing with some recommended practices. However, as a further statement about the book’s overall theme of personal experience, the author has cleverly titled this section “Your Research”, which invites the reader to use the practices as personal research and exploration, rather than yet another set of prescriptive practices to fill the mind.
The Original Body is a book that is much needed in the yoga teaching community and in years to come will be regarded as an important, seminal text that helped reshaped yoga practice for the better, helping it to return to its origins, prior to lineage, branding or faddism.’
Alexander Filmer-Lorch, UK
“John Stirk’s book ‘The original Body’ is beautiful. It is so refreshing to read something in this field of expertise that is written from actual experience and is not just based on academic and intellectual knowledge. From the beginning, I got the impression that the author walks the talk, which is so rare in these days. Truly inspiring and a real gem for every yoga and movement teacher.”
About the Author – comments from students
“Over the past nearly 20 years, my work with John has been by far the biggest influence on my teaching and success with my students. I have had the privilege to take workshops and experience many excellent yoga teachers and John’s work continues to be the deepest, most powerful, and is always new. John’s knowledge of the body and the work enables me to communicate with my students on how they too can deeply relate and connect yoga to their own bodies – a gift that they use to deepen their practice. From my students that are themselves also teachers, I hear: ‘Wow, I have been practicing for years, but this is the first time I have noticed…We should all be teaching this way!’”
Trish Strauss – Breath and Balance Yoga Studio , New Hampshire, USA
“I have been a student of John’s for over 25 years and I am still enthralled by his ongoing development and depth of knowledge. His unique style of teaching combines a deep understanding of yoga and wealth of experience as an osteopath, the results being much more than the sum of two parts. Each class is a journey of discovery, engaging with the inherent intelligence of the body and encouraging its powers of self-healing. “
Nadine Hobson – Osteopath, UK
“Working with John brings focus to my movement, my breath unravels with a sense of purpose and my spine flows into richer movement from a much deeper connection.”
Ana Barretxeguren – Pilates teacher and Myofascial Release practitioner, UK
“As a teacher training young actors and dancers I have found John’s work invaluable in providing a unique insight into the inner mechanisms of the body supporting both vocal and physical development. The work is an original and detailed biomechanical approach to the human organism, it is inherently inclusive, everyone is able to do the simple positions. An essential tool for anyone involved in movement training.”
Rose Ryan – Lecturer in Theatre and Dance, UK
“This work is like giving oneself a very deeply personal treatment/session that is enhanced because I am doing it to myself and so have the complete responsibility for accessing whatever part of me, and however deeply I want to take it, rather than seeking this from an outside source (another practitioner ). “
Jo Brook – Zero Balancing practitioner, UK
“John’s work has enabled me to gain knowledge of the highest level about the workings of my body and my mind (the body brain). If you were born with a constant hunger to express and explore the physical self (as I was), you will never be satisfied with a method. His way of working, which is not only creative, unique, challenging and healing, is also richly infused with anatomical detail, allowing me to access the deepest tissue layers of my body and thus metamorphose into a more fearless dancing creature. “
Megan Schirra, creative body worker, dancer, Switzerland