The connection between our mind and our body is important to both our mental and physical health. We all have a physical body, and we all experience thoughts, feelings and emotions. In order to move through life safely and mindfully, we should be aware that each influences the other.
Mindfulness pioneer Thich Nhat Hanh said of the connection between mind and body “These comprise our territory; and each of us is a monarch ruling over our territory. But we’re not responsible monarchs. There’s disharmony and conflict in our territory. We don’t have the capacity to restore peace and harmony. Instead of surveying our territory, we escape and take refuge in some form of consumption. Mindfulness is a practice to give you the courage and energy to go back and embrace your body and your feelings and emotions, even if they’re unpleasant. Even if it seems they may destroy you, go back and embrace them and help them to transform.”
Mind body practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong are healthy exercise. They have a positive impact on both the nervous system and mood regulating hormones. When we engage in embodied practices, our self-awareness increases. This helps us to observe what is going on inside our bodies as we go about daily life.
Embodied practices consist of forms and postures. Research shows that postural control and visualization have an impact on our physiological condition. An article called “Lighten Up! How Imagery and Postural Intention Affect Balance and Muscle Tone in Older Adults” published in liebertpub.com explores this phenomenon. According to the study, mind body practices like tai chi combine postural alignments and biomechanics with the internal qualities that generate and result from them. Consequently, they show promise for improving mobility and balance, and also in addressing musculoskeletal pain.
Dance & Movement Psychotherapists, like Shirley, also work in an embodied process. In other words, they use the mind body connection to help clients. Through body awareness and mindful movement clients begin to recognise how bodily sensations relate to emotions. This is known as the ‘felt sense’ and it is used in embodied psychotherapy practice. It is particularly helpful in trauma healing. In Dance & Movement Therapy, mindful interventions can also be used to foster release in clients who are stuck or frozen. In this way the mind body connection offers the possibilities of expression, self-awareness and integrated healthy wellness.