Monday, July 28, 2014

Body-Mind Feedback Loop

We've been exploring how the body offers wisdom, insight, connection.  As we become aware of the body's road map, subtle shifts may occur.  For instance, we may notice our breath is shallow as we are driving in traffic.  Or we may notice we are slouching at the computer.  These are examples of the bodymind feedback loop, informing through discomfort, pain, or other sensation.  Tuning in, listening, becoming aware, allow us to consciously make changes - relax our shoulders, breathe deeper and slower - which, in turn alleviates the discomfort.

As a massage therapist, I see the effects of poor posture, repetitive-use discomfort, chronically held tissues, and injuries due to ineffective feedback loops.  We are distracted.  We "push through the pain."  We numb our senses.  Our bodies are talking to us and we either don't hear, or we choose not to heed the message.  And then we wonder, usually down the road a bit, but sometimes more quickly, why we're hurting.

I've been discussing physical cues in the bodymind feedback loop.  But what about emotional cues? 

Our emotions are responses to stimuli - both external and internal - with psychophysiological, biological, and cognitive components.  Emotions influence behaviors and vice verse.  Emotions play a part in every experience, with or without our conscious awareness.

Much like the body's cues, emotional cues are rich with personal insight.  Let's try a simple experiment.

Get comfortable in your chair and take a few deep relaxed breaths.  Maybe roll your head gently side to side to relax your shoulders.

Now read the word: H A P P Y.

Say the word H A P P Y aloud and notice any sensation in your body. 

Notice any thoughts or memories that appear. 

Now breathe a few relaxed breaths.  Write down your observations.

For me, the word H A P P Y, lifts my eyebrows slightly, and raises my cheeks slightly at the corners of my mouth.  I have a sense of elevated mood.  These are subtle, but definite cues.

If I take this a step further, I sense warmth in my chest and see the color yellow, like a sunny veranda appear in my mind's eye. 

Emotional cues may fill in some of the picture that our physical cues draw.  For example, I am experiencing a tightening in my neck, causing my shoulders to raise towards my ears.  When I tune into this area, I am aware of shortened breath, a constriction of air, and slight anxiety.  I can be pretty sure that the tension in my neck is related to the constriction of breath, and the anxiety.  Now what do I do with this information?

My next post will explore pathways of using the bodymind feedback loop to begin healing and to deepen awareness.

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