“We gain access to the body’s wisdom through interoception, which literally means ‘perceiving within.’”
~Daniel Siegel, Mindsight 2010
Mindful Movement is an integrative intervention which facilitates mindfulness with guided interoception, mindful breath and movements based on the Pilates Method. Its an evolving intervention which was created to increase ease in accessing mindfulness as well as to enhance emotional regulation and introspection during the therapeutic process. Somatic awareness, movement and release can facilitate similar awareness, movement and release in the emotional self.
Physical manifestations of emotional pain and helpful parallels in how one moves physically, mentally and emotionally through the world may also come into awareness.
“… our lived experience as well as our memories of experience —emotional experience, in particular— are fundamentally rooted in the body”
~David Wallin, Attachment in Psychotherapy 2007
Mindfulness & Movement
Mindfulness-based interventions are successful in treating anxiety, depression, chronic pain, chronic stress, etc. However, a sitting mindfulness practice is challenging for many and can be contraindicated for those with histories of trauma. I have witnessed clients “get out of their head” with greater ease when they “get into their body.” In 2008, I entered a comprehensive teacher training program to learn about a mind body practice called the Pilates Method. Since this time, Pilates has been found to facilitate mindfulness (Caldwell, 2010). Essentially, when we move the body mindfully, we improve emotional regulation and cognitive functioning.
“By reawakening thousands and thousands of ordinarily dormant muscle cells, Contrology (Pilates) correspondingly reawakens thousands and thousands of dormant brain cells, thus activating new areas and stimulating further functioning of the mind.” ~Joseph Pilates, Return to Life 1954
Mindfulness & Helping Professionals
Mindfulness-based programs have been found to reduce stress, burnout, depression and anxiety while increasing physical health, empathy and self-compassion in various healthcare professionals (Bazarko, et al. 2013; foureur et al., 2013; Schenström, Rönnberg, Bodlund, 2006). Mindfulness seems to be inversely related to employees’ emotional exhaustion and positively related to their job satisfaction (Hulsheger et al 2012). A number of mindfulness-based workplace wellness programs have been adopted due to these findings of increased resilience to stress, improved health, as well as increased productivity.
Many parallels exist in the healing process of physical and emotional injury/trauma. It is important to resist moving to quickly or pushing to hard to prevent reinjury. Effort and movement should instead be small and mindful. Injury can lead to unhealthy holding patterns and chronic pain physically and emotionally. Overall a shift of focus is required for better functioning, away from the hyper-focus on “strength” and toward a focus on release and increasing flexibility for better functioning. These parallels allow us to think and talk differently about lessons and barriers that arise in the healing process.
A Pilates mentor once explained, the ah-ha happens when a client hears feedback, perhaps that which was provided a hundred of times before, in just the way they need to hear it. A psychotherapy mentor explained that saying something different, using new language, is necessary to experience something different. Attending to our body provides additional language, another way to reflect, explore and repair when needed.
Bazarko, D., Cate, R.A., Azocar, F., & Kreitzer, M. (2013). J Workplace Behav Health, April, 28(2), 107–133. doi:10.1080/15555240.2013.779518
Caldwell, K., Harrison, M., Adams, M., Quin, R.H. & Greeson, J. (2010). Developing Mindfulness in College Students Through Movement-Based Courses: Effects on Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy, Mood, Stress, and Sleep Quality, Journal of American College Health, 58(5), 433-442. doi:10.1080/07448480903540481.
Daniel J Siegel, M.D. 2010. Mindsight; The New Science of Personal Transformation.
David J. Wallin, 2007. Attachment in Psychotherapy.
Foureur, M., Besley, K., Burton, G., You, N. & Crisp, J. (2013). Enhancing the resilience of Nurses and Mid-wives: A pilot of Mindfulness-based program for increased health, sense of coherence and decreased depression, anxiety and stress. Contemporary Nurse, 45(1), 114:125.
Schenström, A., Rönnberg, S., Bodlund, O. (2006). Mindfulness Based Cognitive Attitude Training for Primary Care Staff: A Pilot Study. Complementary Health Practice Review, October, 11(3), 144-152. doi:10.1177/1533210106297033
Interoception; Getting to Know Your Sixth Sense
“The heart and intestine (whose surrounding cellular structures mimic those of the brain) function as organs not only of circulation and digestion, respectively, but also of perception— hence the literalness of the expression ‘heartfelt feelings’ and ‘gut reactions’” (Wallin, 2007). Neurologists and psychologists dating back to the 1800’s have argued that interoception is the neglected sixth sense by which we construct our reality. “This sixth sense would include balance and proprioception — knowing your position in space— as well as the sense of hunger and thirst and internal signals from muscles…the feeling of your viscera, such as heart, lungs, and intestines—would also be included here and has been called ‘enteroception.’ Taken together, knowing the internal world can be called ‘interoception’” (Segal, 2003)...
Brain and the Breath
28,800 times each day we breathe. Our life depends on it, though most of us rarely pay it any mind. Perhaps we should reconsider. Simply paying attention to our breath provides numerous benefits for our physical, intellectual, emotional and behavioral health. At the most basic level, on inhalation the breath oxygenates our blood which then distributes this oxygen to all of the organs in our body, including the brain. On exhalation the breath expels carbon dioxide, which is toxic to our body. This miraculously happens without giving any attention at all. The benefits intensify greatly when we focus attention on our breath and exhalations become longer and more complete. Joseph Pilates describes this process as an internal shower in which proper blood circulation flushes the toxins out and leaves organs nourished with life-giving oxygen...
This month’s newsletter has been inspired by a client who recognizes the importance of movement in stabilizing mood and sleep patterns but has little to no time. You may see a stability ball in the office environment these days as a substitute for the office chair. I love this idea and I love the stability ball because it is an inexpensive (I found them for less the $10 at Ross including the pump) and versatile piece of equipment. So this month I give you some moves, and the mindset that can be squeezed into the tightest of schedules. Most of these moves can easily be done without the ball, so don’t let that stop you. The ball does add a fun, playful component that can also be beneficial to improving quality of life. Try it in the morning, midday, in the evening or all three! Have fun!...