In my classes, I typically begin with the most difficult thing to teach, relaxation. Once the group begins to get a sense of how it feels to move in a relaxed way, the next natural step is to introduce the concept of body awareness.
Research suggests that body awareness can play a role in the experience of pain. Studies have shown that people who have a higher degree of body awareness are better able to tolerate pain and have a greater ability to control their pain experience.
For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an effective pain management strategy that emphasizes body awareness. This method teaches individuals to focus on their breath and bodily sensations, which can help them to better understand and manage their pain.
Additionally, some studies have found that people who have chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia or chronic lower back pain, often have less body awareness and less ability to recognize and describe the location, quality and intensity of their pain. Improving body awareness may help these individuals to better understand and manage their pain.
Our bodies are designed for movement but in a balanced way. Equal focus on effort and rest allows the body to do what it does best. Most exercise creates stress and the destruction of tissues. The results we are seeking from training only occur during rest and recovery, not during the actual high-intensity workout.
Just about everyone has imbalances in the muscles and other soft tissue in the body that support the structure of the skeleton. As we uncover and resolve the imbalances, we move with greater ease and discover that we can be pain-free even in our senior years.
Restoration involves decompressing joints, as well as strengthening and lengthening muscles. This helps to remold the connective tissue that supports the structure of the body. The flow of oxygenated blood is critical to the healing of injuries. Movement facilitates that process as other muscles assist the heart muscle in circulating blood. Attention to alignment and slow purposeful movement allows us to feel the rhythms of and range of motion in our body building body awareness.
A focus on posture and alignment gives restorative movement its “juice.” Correcting imbalances in the muscles, joints and connective tissue unlocks the body’s healing ability. Most participants find relief for many things including pain, stiffness, scar tissue, headaches, carpal tunnel, etc. Full-body workouts are an important part of rebuilding and maintaining balance.
Taking time to restore and assess what our body needs opens the door to an improved quality of life.
Body awareness can help manage stress in several ways.
First, by paying attention to bodily sensations, individuals can become more aware of the physical symptoms of stress, such as muscle tension, increased heart rate, and shallow breathing. This awareness can help individuals to recognize when they are becoming stressed and take steps to manage it before it becomes overwhelming.
Second, techniques such as mindfulness and meditation that promote body awareness can help individuals to learn to focus on the present moment, rather than dwelling on past or future events. This can reduce anxiety and stress by helping individuals to better manage the constant stream of thoughts and worries that can contribute to stress.
Third, body awareness can also help individuals to recognize and release physical tension that can accumulate in the body as a result of stress. For example, by becoming more aware of muscle tension in the shoulders, individuals can learn to relax these muscles and release the tension.
Fourth, yoga and other forms of physical exercise that focus on body awareness can also be helpful in managing stress. The combination of physical movement and focus on the breath can help individuals to feel more grounded and centered, which can reduce stress and anxiety.
Body awareness can be cultivated through practices such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qigong, as well as through exercises such as mindful movement and body scanning.
Mindful movement exercises involve paying attention to the sensation of movement in the body. Body scanning is typically done while lying down and focusing on each part of the body in turn, noting any sensations or discomfort. Practicing these techniques regularly can help to improve body awareness and reduce stress and tension in the body. Restorative practices lay the groundwork for greater overall awareness and wellness.