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Sep 17 2015

Body Awareness: The danger of being too aware

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Body Awareness is a popular term especially in yoga and Pilates circles, but what does it mean? Some would argue that being "body aware" is having a keen kinesthetic sense of how your body moves and feels in your environment at any point in time. One medical dictionary definition describes Body Awareness as "the felt sense of embodiment; consciousness of our somatic feelings." How's that for a clear definition?

In working with clients, I have received a number of explanations of Body Awareness over the years. Some would use this term as an expression of how well they know what hurts them and how well they can articulate that discomfort. Others use it in tandem with a number of anatomical references, regardless of accuracy, to show me how well they know their bodies.

What is a common theme in all definitions is that the physical aspect of Body Awareness often goes hand in hand with the cognitive. This means that people are spending a lot of time these days thinking about their bodies, how they feel, how they look, what's working and what's not. This can be great for Movement practitioners as we are given ample information and feedback from our clients, but is this really a good thing or are we creating a monster?

In my opinion, a useful definition for Body Awareness involves being present in your body at a time when it is necessary to focus on a specific quality of movement. This does not mean that we should think about every movement all day, and what body part or muscle group is active with every action. What an exhausting way to move throughout your day. Some activities definitely require thought to execute them safely and effectively, but most of our daily tasks do not.

Our bodies know how to move, partially in our innate makeup and otherwise from our learned behavior formed at a young age, and the subsequent movement patterns that developed. Controlled by our central nervous system, we are subconsciously able to make split second decisions about movement, whether to propel us forward to the next task, to direct us around space, or stop us from impending danger. We do not need to think through these actions, in fact, over-thinking can be detrimental. Often times, the exact opposite of our intention occurs. By thinking too much about our bodies in motion, we are inadvertently slowing our progress forward, and creating barriers to movement fueled by fear and doubt.

Perhaps a better approach would be to just allow our bodies to move through life as we are designed. If we really need to focus the mind, maybe thinking about movement in terms of direction, space, and shape as explored by Movement Theorist, Rudolf von Laban would be more productive, rather than in terms of pain, inability, and apprehension. Most importantly, I think it is time we stop thinking so much and just start moving for movement's sake.

Written by Holly Wallis, PMA®-CPT, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist
ReActive, LLC    www.reactivemovement.com     510-990-1364

© All rights reserved.


Written by Holly Wallis, PMA®-CPT, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist
ReActive, LLC    www.reactivemovement.com     510-990-1364

© All rights reserved.



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  • This word “Body Awareness” is commonly used in yoga where they say about the body and chakras present in the body. Each book gives different meaning to this word which changes from time to time in what way we use this word to represent anything.

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  • When you explore more in to the subject, the meaning gets deeper and large resulting in a lot of processing for your body to understand each and every move the body should move its consequences resulting in slowing of your progress. Body awareness in its basic definition is a good thing for people.

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  • Sheri Jennings 1 years 147 days ago
    As someone who has been a student of many different activities requiring body awareness (from classical singing to tennis to dressage to Pilates, actually, in that order!), I couldn't agree more with your premise, Holly. As I age I try to bring more awareness to activities requiring balance, lifting, and anything that stretches my capabilities some. This keeps me from becoming "too self-aware", which for me is really tiresome! Thanks for the insight.

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