Body Sensing: Connecting self and world
Cliff Smyth, GCFT
There's more to sensing than meets the eye
Feldenkrais Awareness Though Movement lessons make use of the relationship between sensing and movement to improve your movement - and your awareness of yourself and the world. You can discover the sensations associated with movement that are comfortable, easy, smooth, light, pleasant and even fun - and then use those sensations to guide all your movements - whether consciously or from the direct experience of moving better. The ability to shift attention, and make finer and finer distinctions, allows you to develop a more refined sense of your body. This sense can help you notice early signs of illness or injury. It can help you find ways to perform at higher levels. Interestingly, because you sense the world though your body, changing how you sense yourself can also change how you sense the world.
There are more than five senses
There are more than five senses that contribute to your perception of yourself and environment. The traditional five senses are all exteroceptive: you sense what the world looks like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like - and feels like to your skin when you touch. However there is also interoception: the perception of the internal state of your body. Most people can sense their heart rate when it is fast and strong. Others can sense changes in their blood pressure. You can come to sense how you are breathing or what is happening with your digestion! You can have an overall sense of the level of alertness or readiness for action of your whole body.
Improving your ability to sense yourself can help you improve your life in many ways:
- to feel your movement and shift to more efficient or comfortable patterns
- to feel what you can do to avoid injury or illness
- to detect your emotional reactions - and perhaps respond more appropriately...
Moshe Feldenkrais suggested that the role of the nervous system was to sense the world, to sense the body and to have the curiosity to do these first two things. All three of these functions of the nervous system are essential to our survival and well being.
Sensing and movement are linked
You make movements almost continuously in order to generate sensation - like small movements of the eyes and head to refresh and focus visual images. An improvement in sensing leads to better movement, and vice versa. The sense of movement emerges from feeling the changing location of your whole body and its parts in space and in relation to supporting surfaces, as well as the work of your muscles. In addition, as you initiate movement your body anticipates the effort needed, and the direction or shape the movement will take. You then sense if the movement is as expected and adjust to meet your goal. The quality of sensing affects the ability to adjust your actions. This is learning.
The outcome of each Feldenkrais lesson is different for each person each time. However, people often report that the world seems a little different after Feldenkrais lessons - such as an altered sense of the colors in the room or the sounds coming to them. Others report a different sense of the body as a whole - it feels lighter or longer. It is as if all the senses are more integrated, and there is a greater sense of connection with the ground and the space around them... These kinds of responses reflect the new awareness possible from attending to the body in movement. It is something to savor. You might want to take a walk, visit a gallery, go for a swim, get out in nature. Because you experience the world through your body, it is the key to sensing yourself and the world in new ways.
Cliff Smyth, 2011