What is body awareness?
Simply put, body awareness means to be in touch with our body and to listen to its signals: areas of tension, changes in temperature, pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Getting to know our body is useful to help us be healthier, happier and more balanced. This is particularly important when life gets too busy and we need to practise good self-care. Sophrology is a great technique providing the tools to make us more aware of our bodies and make sure we look after it well.
We tend to get over-stimulated and distracted in our daily life by noise, emails, social media and so on. As a sophrologist, I hear many people telling me they feel disconnected from their inner self. Increasing our body awareness is the first step to reconnect; it brings us back to the “inside”, our centre of being and inner aliveness and that step in itself can be a real challenge in modern life!
With regular practice, simply observing and listening to each part of the body leads us back to our primal ability to simply feel, to sense, to receive messages from our body. In other words, through a regular Sophrology practice, we can re-learn how to simply “be” with a greater sense of awareness instead of just living in our own heads.
Tuning within and acknowledging how we feel allows us to draw a detailed map of our body in consciousness and helps us to reconnect deeply within ourselves.
Body Awareness comes in several layers:
- Physiological, with perceptions and sensations being processed by our (sophisticated!) nervous system;
- Emotional, through our feelings, for instance, pain or pleasure;
- Social, or how we “judge” our body depending on our culture, upbringing, social environment and so on. For example, when we think “I don’t like my body”.
Body awareness is something we learn over time: babies look at themselves in the mirror and are surprised when they start realising that they have a body! Yes, this envelope, this funny shape, is theirs! Children can also be our teachers, showing us how to look at our own body as if it was the first time. Think about how excited children get when they experience something new: they giggle, their eyes are wide open, they jump up and down! As adults, we become more restrained, but in the comfort of our own homes, we can take a moment of pause and reflection with Sophrology and reconnect with that sense of wonder.
This perception of our body will evolve progressively throughout life: we see our body changing over time through weight gain, weight loss, pregnancy, ageing etc. We may tend to judge our appearance according to what other people think or compare our body to idealised images in the media. The mental picture we might have of our body may not correspond to the way we actually look and this can cause us anxiety or insecurities if we think negatively. Thankfully, through Sophrology we can learn to silence our negative mental chatter, gain a sense of perspective and discover our true self.
Sophrology and Body Awareness
Sophrology is based on 3 fundamental principles:
- body awareness
- objective reality
- positive action
Sophrology is all about taking a moment to really be in our body, leaving aside the opinion we have of it, but rather, to fully experience and feel the life and vitality within our body, as it is and not as we think it is. We experience our body and all its sensations without judgement, staying in the present moment, being grateful for the amazing things our body can do and taking good care of it. Becoming more familiar with our bodies means we are more likely to choose the most healing and nourishing foods, have enough rest and enough sleep, act immediately as soon as we feel run down.
How do we develop our body awareness in Sophrology?
There are several techniques used in Sophrology to work on increasing our body awareness, but the most common is certainly the “Body Scan”, i.e. concentrating on each body part as if we wanted to create a mental picture of our body and consciously inviting each muscle and each organ to relax using controlled breathing. Through abdominal breathing and taking long breaths, we are anchoring ourselves to our body sensations.
The Body Scan is a fundamental technique in Sophrology. Every session starts with a Body Scan and we focus our attention on each part of the body, one after the other, slowly, from head to toe, following a specific sequence.
We listen to how we really feel inside and little by little we build up the awareness of our body, as it is objectively and without any emotional baggage or conditioning. With regular Sophrology sessions, we discover more about ourselves and our abilities. We stop taking our body for granted and start to appreciate it. Over time our initial feelings of disconnection dissipate, and it becomes easier to look within. When we are fully aware of who we are we find it easier to accept ourselves and also accept others. This can improve the way we deal with people in all areas of life, both personally and professionally.
Thinking back to the definition of Sophrology, meaning “the study of consciousness in harmony”, through practice we develop a sense of harmony, a deeper presence, we increase our concentration and our self-awareness. It goes without saying that this process results almost automatically in the increase of our self-esteem, which is one of the many positive effects of Sophrology!