Science, medicine, and philosophy has allowed us to explore some of the mysteries concerning the harmonious relationship between the mind and the energy of the physical body. Taking one step deeper into this connection, we are learning more about, not only the relationship between the mind and body but more specifically how the awareness of our body plays a key role in the experience of emotion.
This deep-rooted interaction is what gives rise to the mind-body connection in terms of therapy and mental healing.
Basic Body Awareness Therapy
Inspired by various movement systems such as Zen meditation, yoga, and T’ai Chi — body awareness therapy was conceived by psychotherapist Jacques Dropsy and his movement system. This system, which emphasizes the body as a gateway to personal empowerment, is often used by physiotherapists that work with cases associated with mental health.
When a human being loses contact with the body over an extended period of time due to stress and mental strain, this is often expressed in poor balance, short breathing, dysfunctional movement quality, and can often manifest in body language with others.
Through various breathing exercises and guided movement, body awareness therapy aims to help regain contact with the body by promoting physical awareness — lying, sitting, standing, walking — in individual and group physiotherapy sessions. It offers a strategy for integrating balance and mental awareness in order to cultivate a grounded sense of personal well-being.
Embodied Cognition and Posture
Embodied cognition is the idea that the relationship between the body and the mind runs both ways. The mind influences the way the body reacts, but movement of the body also triggers an emotional reflex in the mind.
Richard Petty, professor of psychology at Ohio State University explains that the way we ultimately feel has a lot to do with our posture and the associations we have with being taller. The brain has an area that reflects confidence, which can be triggered through physical movement in more ways than one.
In the same way, happiness leads to smiling and smiling also leads to feelings of happiness, your body posture sends powerful signals to your brain, which, in turn, affects your attitude.
Posture is actually about changing your hormones. Proper posture is related to increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice that brings your conscious attention into the details of the present environment and sensations of your physical being. This technique is used to regulate emotion in order to reduce negative thinking and personal suffering. It begins with the body and the breath.
Theories of body awareness can be found in the early Buddhist text entitled “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.”
The four foundations are:
Mindfulness of the Body
Contemplation of the Feelings
Contemplation of the Mind
Contemplation of Mind Objects
In the foundation of the body, mindfulness is concentrated into the breath, followed by an awareness of the body. The four basic postures are walking, standing, sitting, and lying. The discipline is to simply be aware at all times of the body.
When focusing on the body, your awareness is neither in the mind nor in the body. Your attention resides in the conscious interface between the body and the mind.
You become the observer rather than the object of observation, and the energy of your focused attention is at the interface between mind and body — a gap of open space and transcendence. This perspective alleviates tension and allows for proper flow of emotional energy.