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Body=Mind practice (Yoga & Pilates)

Posted Sep 12 2008 6:23pm

Lesley Powell and Dr. Martha Eddy

Lesley Powell, director of Movements Afoot

Lesley: I love how my somatics knowledge has changed my practice in yoga and Pilates and centered my mind. When I go to my competition to experience other teachers/studios, there are a lot of generic cues out there.

“Pay attention to your breath.”
“Be in the moment.”
“Feel your powerhouse.”

I try to pretend that I am a beginner with no experience. With those phrases I might not have a clue what is being said.

Somatics has offered me a roadmap to lead my nervous system (mind) to my body. Let’s take breath;

Good breath affects the entire body. There is the real function of the diaphragm moving up and down with the inhalation and exhalation. The compression of the diaphragm moving down on the inhalation puts downward pressure on the organs, the pelvic floor and the rib bones expand. The exhalation is like a gentle hydraulic press. The diaphragm moving up on the exhalation creates a suction to lift the pelvic floor and the organs. Did you notice how just reading this changed your breath?

This understanding puts my attention inside of myself. It brings me into the moment. This is one way somatics changes my practice. As I breathe with this understanding of how breath works, I release tension. My body starts organizing its natural intentions.

Martha: I am interested by your last phrase – natural intent or natural intentions. What are the body’s natural intentions? I feel a clue to the wisdom of the body-mind relationship lives here. As we become more aware of our bodily sensations using our proprioception (the receptors in our nervous system that help us feel ourselves) we have more clues to how take care of our selves, move, or what to do. This type of decision making is an integration of body and mind processes.

So often during the day when we aren’t registering our body sensations we just move forward with no conscious and subtly hurt ourselves – developing physical imbalances in any overused or underused areas. We all know that if we hold our head in an odd position while feeling stress that our shoulders and neck often become tense. It is also possible to use too much tension while looking. This overuse causes stress in the eyes themselves but also in the rest of the body. At CKE and Movements Afoot we offer classes where we can become aware of sensations in the body (Pilates) or the eyes (EyeYoga), for instance. In these classes we have a chance to reengage with our physical sensations and to practice new ways of organizing the body for efficient use. This process involves a change in attitude – so once again we experience that body awareness is affecting the mind. “The mind can refer to emotions, cognition – thoughts or feelings. At CLE we encourage people to relax first, then to use the mind to tune and feel the body. Once there is an open state of awareness we can move in new ways and express new parts of ourselves, from this we can move into more potent action, most likely more comfortably as well.

One of my clients just mentioned that she was surprised by the fact that after her table work session rather than acting calmly she went home and pursued a difficult conversation and was able to bring a longstanding problem to resolution. She attributes this to having relaxed enough to feel stronger enough in herself to speak honestly.

So one of the CKE mottos is - Relax, Feel, Move, Take Action!

I would love to talk about how this type of awareness helps us in our practice of yoga. It would be fun to introduce everyone to the type of somatic movement classes that we do at CKE and Movements Afoot as well.


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