Body Awareness has become a popular term lately in the world of movement, but what does it mean? Some people would say that Body Awareness is understanding where your body is in space and the sense of how it moves within it, while most often, others say that it is when you know that something doesn’t feel right or good in your body at any given time. Mehling et al of UCSF define Body Awareness as “an attentional focus on and awareness of internal body sensations”.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to focus too much on what is wrong in our bodies, and very little on what is right. This has proven to prolong the symptoms of pain, and to create a continuous pain cycle with little sense of improvement.
I like to think of Body Awareness in a more positive light. How about being aware of what is working well in your body? Instead of focusing on what hurts or feels tense, imagine how reassuring and empowering it would be to think of all the parts of your body that feel great or are working well for you today! That sure would put that one pain in its place, literally, and give you a starting point for your movement practice, one of both positivity and strength.
How often have you asked someone how they are and their response is this hurts, and that hurts? When I work with clients who are suffering from pain, rather than simply asking them how they feel, I find that if I ask them to list a few things that feel good in their body, or what successful strategies they have used to move well, the response is most often enthusiastic and motivated. Even if the list is short, they will also list things that they think they could try to manage even better the next time. This approach allows the client to feel in control of their own well-being, which results in continuous progress from week to week.
Here are just a few strategies you can practice to become more Body Aware:
1) Try moving from individual bones to become familiar with where that bone moves in space in all directions – For example, lift the leg from the thigh bone, lift the arm from the upper arm bone, rotate through each vertebra of the spine.
2) Move from each joint to notice how each folds and unfolds, and how it encapsulates a bone – Try circling the head of the femur in the hip joint like a mortar and pestle, or flex and point from the ankle instead of the toes. Now work through each of your joints from your toes to your fingertips.
3) Practice moving one section of the body while keeping the other still. For example, move the upper half vs lower half, move one side vs other side, move upper right side/lower left side together and vice versa.
4) Think of five things your body did well to support and move you today…then thank it!
A highly-trained Pilates and Therapeutic Exercise specialist can provide valuable tips and tricks to help positively improve your Body Awareness and break the pain cycle.
Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
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