Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Mind-Body Connection

We’ve all heard the term “mind-body connection.” But what does this mean at an experiential level? If you are fortunate enough to have experienced this “felt-sense connection,” are you able to draw upon it in your daily life? Most of us are too busy to stay “connected.” One downside of today’s fast-paced culture is the discon¬nect it fosters between mind (thoughts) and body (sensations). In our desire to get ahead and think ahead, we lose touch with what’s happening in the present. Con¬necting to sensation in our bodies is a way to be more fully in the present. And it can help balance the stresses in our day-to-day lives.

So what actually is sensation? And how do we connect to it?

Sensation can be described as the perception of physical internal bodily change—for example, the awareness of tension, temperature, tingling, and vibrations. Our bodies have receptors for all of this incoming information. Special senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) connect us to internal and external stimuli, sending information to the brain. The brain then sorts, processes, and stores this information and sends out a response. It is all linked up by an intricate network of neural circuits.

Physiologically, the mind and body are bound together structurally and functionally; whatever affects one affects the other. All of us are born with the capacity to take in, process and express sensations. In fact, babies and young children are masters at focusing on present sensations. But somewhere along the way, we lose this ability to con¬nect to our present. Instead, we find ways to ignore or avoid these sensations. In some cases, unresolved experiences and trauma may leave imprints on our sense memory, resulting in “stuck” areas in our body. This can make it difficult to connect fully to bodily sensation. Becoming aware of and releasing stuck areas in our bodies is different from reliving the associated trauma. This awareness can make us more engaged, authentic and effective in our lives.

With practice, we can expand our perceptual field to include more of our internal landscape. However, it takes conscious attention to regain what was once second nature. How do we do this in our daily lives?

Meditation, yoga, martial arts, movement and bodywork, and communing with nature are just a few examples of ways to calm our mind with our body, or our body with our mind. These different approaches cultivate awareness, both internally and externally. The key is transitioning this conscious awareness of felt-sense from the massage table, the yoga studio, or the walk in the woods into our daily lives. This takes devotion and practice.

Check back again to read about ways to make the mind-body connection.

Donna Waks: Registered Craniosacral Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Movement Analyst has a private practice in Washington, DC where she offers individual and group sessions in bodywork and movement fundamentals. Her clientele includes, athletes, pre- and post-natal, elderly, acute or chronic health issues and people dealing with day to day stress.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Obesity and Health are Contagious

Researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego have conducted a study that shows that obesity is not only a growing epidemic in the United States, it is as contagious as the common cold. The study says that if you associate with a group that is overweight, it is very likely that you will be overweight as well.

Spouses spend a lot of time together, but an overweight spouse has a smaller influence on you than your friends do. You share the same genetic makeup with your siblings, but they, also, have a smaller influence than your friends do. This is because we look to our close friends when determining appropriate social behavior. It feels more comfortable to be overweight if the majority of our friends are overweight. This makes sense, right? Are you always motivated to go out and run when you see your spouse lace up his/her running shoes? And just think back to all the times you were perplexed at your sibling's choice of hair style or clothing, but at the same time you wanted to dress exactly the way your friends did. We may not be in junior high any more, but things have not changed completely.

Try conducting your own survey. The next time you are at a social event, take a look at the groups of friends around you. See how many groups seem to be made up of mostly overweight individuals or mostly non- overweight individuals. Or even study your own different social circles.

However, the inverse can be true also. If you want to become healthier this year, you might need to spend time with a healthier group of friends. I don't mean that you need to completely divorce your current group of friends, but associating with healthier people can influence you to become healthier also. Plus, when your other friends see how healthy and fit you have become, they will likely want to join you! People that want to stop smoking or drinking will often join new social circles. Individuals that want to become healthier should think along the same lines.

Or perhaps you can convince your closest friends to work out with you?

To read more on this subject, check out the article in Time Magazine.

For more information on small group personal training in the Washington DC area, check out