Body Awareness

The Five Inner Senses of Embodiment

Embodiment is a radical science, life-changing method, and lineage of ancestral wisdom that improves physical, emotional, and social well-being. Its key revelation is that the body has a mind—a power, presence, and awareness—of its own, and this awareness shapes us as much as we shape it. Many people are aware that well-being requires a strong mind-body connection. What isn’t yet common knowledge is what the body part of that connection entails. Over the last decade, science has shed new light on the factors that lead to well-being, but some of the most important insights into the body’s true potential haven’t yet reached mainstream understanding. From a young age, most of us are familiar with the five major senses that help us process the world around us: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Yet no one tells us that we have inner senses, too, which help us perceive the world inside …

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Neuroplasticity, boundaries, and the body

In a multiple-slide post on my Instagram feed, I talked about neuroplasticity, the science of change (and, um, how things can stay the same) in a 10-frame post. But that doesn’t lend itself well to this format, so here’s the text for you. Neuroplasticity refers to the role of the brain and nervous system (which includes the autonomic + enteric nervous systems) in helping create change. In this post, I’d like to apply that very cool science to the art + practice of setting good interpersonal + intrapersonal boundaries. Emerging research suggests that we can target a behavior we’d like to strengthen (or extinguish) by focusing not just on the practice itself, but on the prelude and postlude that precede and follow it. This helps recruit our attentional centers to pay attention. It supercharges our motivational system. And it deepens the relationship we have with the behavior we want to …

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On Russia’s Genocide of the Ukrainian People

When my mother was just 7 years old, Hitler began World War II by invading Poland, aided by the Russians. Soviet forces came in the middle of the night, took her family from their home, and placed them on cattle cars in a long train to Siberia. They took hundreds of thousands of people; many died of cold and illness on the way, and still more in Siberia. My mother and her family spent two years as prisoners of war in a Soviet internment camp. The Russian soldiers were brutal. I am the eldest of three. My entire life, I’ve had a visceral, irrational, mystifying, embarrassing fear of running out of food despite always having enough to eat. During Covid, we skyped with my aunt, who is 90. She too was the eldest of three, with my Mom and a younger sister. She told us the fear of going hungry made …

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Body Clocks + Biorhythms: Immunity, Mood, and Well-Being

A few weeks ago, I did a post on Seasonal Affective Disorder that advised exposure to light early in the day (within two hours of waking) and recommended other practices. That post lacked context, and prompted the apology post you’ll see after it. At the time, I promised to provide that context. Here it is. Almost all species have internal rhythms and a sense of time, which are the focus of a field now known as chronobiology. We have internal circadian (24-hour) clocks that generate and shape daily cycles in our physiology, emotion, and behavior.  Most organisms inherit the ability to track time on this 24-hour scale. For example, bees use their clocks to visit flowers at the appropriate time of day so they can feed when flowers are open. Birds use their biological clocks during migration to compensate for the changing position of the sun throughout the day. Other …

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The Art of Inquiry: How to Create and Undo + Create Ourselves:

    You know those rare moments when an idea, person, or experience moves you from a static place to a place of disorganization and discomfort, but ultimately, transformation? One of those occurred for me in March of 2017. I was in the middle of a strength training session in the gym, casually listening to an On Being podcast episode which featured the poet, theologian, and social healer Padraig O’Tuama. His words hit me mid-pullup, echoing in the special way that signals things will never be the same. The passage: “There’s a Buddhist concept,” says O’Tuama, “where if you’re asking a poor question—if a question is being asked, “Are you this or that?” Robert Pirsig says that you can answer, according to his telling of the Zen tradition, you can answer with the word mu, m-u, which means, “Un-ask the question, because there’s a better question to be asked.” The …

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Why yoga + the body are social and political

  In response to a recent email, I received several notes saying, “I didn’t sign up for your newsletter to hear about your political views.” I get that. Yet to separate integrative, mind-body approaches from politics sets up a false division between them. I’d like to explain why that is—and how it has a negative impact on well-being. Let’s start with the body.   Why Integrative Therapies are Inherently Social (and Political) From personal feelings like anger or sadness to social emotions like shame or trust, emotions have their origin as sensations in the body. As this origin story begins, receptors in your skin and internal organs collect information. These receptors specialize in distinct sensations: the speed of your heart, the pace and depth of your breath, hunger or fullness, warmth or coolness, activity or soreness in your muscles, emptiness or fullness in your abdomen (and bladder and rectum), and …

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Lose Your Momentum ~ Before It’s Too Late

Recently, during a therapeutic vinyasa practice at The Yoga Conference in Toronto, the class and I encountered a pivotal learning moment. As we reviewed the transition from Downward Dog into Lunge,  a participant asked about speed. “Intuitively, I get that slow is good,” she said. “But how slow? And is it O.K., sometimes, to practice the old and fast flow?” Her question gave rise to a passionate dialogue about how we use momentum in yoga and in life, and what the consequences are of doing so. Momentum refers to the building up of forward movement that takes us from one well-defined place to the next. It turns out that we use momentum in times of discomfort. We use it in transitions, for instance, when we’re caught between an old place or way of being and a new one. And we do so when the pressure to perform well lends emphasis to …

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