In our quest for the mind body connection, we have moved further away from it. We focus on perfect alignment, experiencing full expansion, pushing to be more: more flexible, more fit, more strong.
But what if establishing a mind body connection actually came from thinking less and feeling more? What if our ability to move fluidly and efficiently wasn’t predicated on a specific external image or physical accomplishment but instead came from a deep sense of feeling connected to your physical self, a knowledge that comes from feeling like your outer self expresses your inner self?
If we think of movement as something that is only done in certain situations, like when we are on a yoga mat or when we are outside running, we are missing out on the in between times. Movement is what makes us us. It enables us to gesticulate, emote, and verbalize. It happens while we sit on the couch, swiping right (or left). It happens during simple daily tasks, like clearing the dishes or folding laundry. It’s a part of us we take for granted and largely ignore, until something hurts or slowly, we lose movement options. As our movement choices decrease, so too does our ability to interact with the world on a larger scale.
Proprioception, or our unconscious awareness of where the body and its limbs are located in space, is often considered our sixth sense. Like all of our senses, it can be enhanced with focused practice. And the more we vary how we practice it, using exercise, the environment, and play, the more developed it becomes. Its development leads to more integration of the senses which ultimately leads to a greater sense of balance.
This improved sense of balance is both physical and emotional. The more of your self you can feel, the more of your self you can rely on; the ability to rely on all of the different parts of your self creates autonomy, something we all strive for, on some level.
When you begin to feel more confident in your body’s ability to work with gravity and keep you upright, you can direct your attention more easily to things like interoception, your awareness of your internal state. Interoception includes things like feeling your heart beating, knowing when you feel slightly off, and sensing your breath. The ability to observe these physiological functions without judgement establishes a connection between observed patterns—when we notice a physiological shift because of an emotional shift or vice versa, we become more aware of how intimately connected the mind and the body actually are.
If you climb a steep hill, realizing 500 feet from the top the only way to finish the climb is to hold on to a rail without a safety harness, and pull yourself up so you can take in the views, your mind body connection and subsequent response are highlighted through your interoceptive state. As you stand at the start of the rail and look down, you may feel a sense of queasiness settle in. Your breath may shorten as you wonder whether your arms can hold you and you try not to ponder what happens if they don’t. The situation is stressful, partially because there is genuine risk involved, and partially because you don’t trust your body to support you.
If instead you have been preparing for this moment by climbing ropes inside and climbing walls outside, you stand at the rail excited instead of stressed. You may notice a slight increase of heart rate as you anticipate the climb in front of you, but your breath remains steady and instead of queasiness, you feel curiosity about what’s to come. As you take hold of the rail, you feel a sense of calm and you focus on placing one foot in front of the other.
Not everyone wants to climb steep mountains, but all of us want to feel capable enough to do the things we want to do, when we want to do them. This may include climbing mountains or it may include talking to a stranger in a large group. Choosing a movement practice to feed the mind and the body breeds consistency and consistency breeds long term change. We are what we practice, so choosing the a movement practice that influences the entire self will ultimately create a greater sense of embodiment.