Embodiment and Self Regulation

To be embodied is to experience and process interactions, thoughts and experiences with oneself, others and the environment through sensation and movement. When you are embodied you can think and feel simultaneously.  It’s something that I teach probably because it is a state I seek.  My experience in Authentic Movement is a sure way for me to become embodied and working with clients getting them in touch with their bodybrain brings me to mine.

Katya Bloom defines embodiment as: “the tendency toward balance and integration of the different aspects of the self— sensory, emotional, and mental—within the containing confines of the bodily structure, bounded by the skin and responsive to internal and external stimuli.”  A bit academic but on the mark, I like: “within the containing confines of the bodily structure”, embodiment isn’t out there somewhere it’s in here, within me.

The first step in embodiment is self-regulation.   Self-regulation is the ability to create and sustain balance in the nervous system.  This means knowing how to calm when you’re over activated and how to alert when you need to pay attention. People who can self-regulate are often called grounded or well resourced.

When I’m embodied I feel held up by gravity and am aware of my responses.  When I’m exhausted, agitated or both, likely I haven’t been self-aware enough to stay in balance, probably I am asking myself to keep going when my bodybrain needs to recuperate.  I know I’m dis-regulated when my agitation with too many objects in my environment doesn’t let my attention go anywhere else.  And I can’t get them all put away, they seem endless.  It looks so different when I’m self-regulated.

What are your own personal cues to dis-regulation?  Nail biting, squirming, drowsiness, space out, holding breath, increased heart rate, tensing or clenching, or agitation are some possible cues. Trying to stop the behavior may not be the way to self-regulate, sometimes what we negatively label as distraction is really a bid for self-regulation.  Like fidgeting which can be an attempt to increase sensory input and get the nervous system integrating information and energy. And sometimes folding a big pile of laundry does help me.

How do you resource yourself and return to a regulated state?    Right brain activities are often re-balancing, many years ago I found myself coloring, it was so satisfying I began to look for things to color in, allowing myself to indulge this whim.   We also self-regulate by connecting with someone who is calm and self-regulated.   Are there certain people who you like to be with when you’re distressed?  Just being with them feels good. That’s the way a parent calms a baby, their regulated state will calm the infants immature nervous system.  One of the few self-regulating skills an infant has is to go to sleep.  Connecting with well-regulated adults teaches their developing nervous system how to settle.

If you have the ability to focus your attention on movement, sensation, breath, or imagery; that connection with self is likely to bring you to regulation.  From a self-regulated place the next step in embodiment is allowing ones process to unfold with awareness.  Cultivate body awareness: “What does this sensation want to do?  What inner movement or impulse wants to come forth?”  As you begin to follow the body’s process you become more embodied.  Like any other skill when we first begin to practice embodiment it seems awkward and takes a lot of attention.  Start small, breathe and notice, shift your body position and notice, imagine yourself as a mountain, as a river, the deep ocean, (create the image of the quality you want to embody) and notice changes in sensation and perception.  Welcome back to your body the place you’ll spend the rest of your life.

About karenkirsch

I am a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist and Laban Movement Analyst. I have a Masters degree in Somatic Psychology with training in Interpersonal Neurobiology, Body Mind Centering, Dance Therapy and other mind/body disciplines. My passion is to help people integrate sensate understanding into the practice of daily living and encourage gentle exploration grounded in sound anatomical and neurological principles.
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