Intentional Living

Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises: An Overview

Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises depicted by a maze or rocks on a beach

________________ Author: Frederike Leclerc

Healing Through Movement: Discover the Power of Embodiment Practices

In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy to lose touch with our bodies and the present moment. We’re often so focused on meeting external demands from school, work, and society that we ignore the signals our bodies send us. This disconnection can negatively impact our mental health, lead to physical ailments, and intensify emotional imbalances. To truly heal, we need an integrated approach that addresses mental, emotional, and physical well-being. One powerful method that fosters such holistic healing is embodiment practices. Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises can be understood as a daily practice such as any form of exercise. It is a philosophical and physical proposition for the achievement of long-lived well-being.

Defining Embodiment

Lexicographers define embodiment in the following way: embodiment | ɪmˈbɒdɪm(ə)nt, ɛmˈbɒdɪm(ə)nt 

Oxford English Dictionary: 

| noun a tangible or visible form of an idea, quality, or feeling: she seemed to be a living embodiment of vitality. • [mass noun] the representation or expression of something in a tangible or visible form: it was in Germany alone that his hope seemed capable of embodiment.


| verb to represent (something) in a clear and obvious way : to be a symbol or example of (something). He is a leader who embodies courage.

If we look beyond dictionaries, we discover that somatic psychology offers a more comprehensive explanation of embodiment. Somatic psychology maintains that the body’s felt experiences and the mind’s thoughts are deeply intertwined and interdependent. This awareness comes from three sensory mechanisms: exteroception (sensing the external environment), proprioception (sensing the body’s position), and interoception (sensing internal bodily experiences).

While this explanation is accurate and valuable, it too falls short of fully capturing the essence of embodiment and is quite complex as a definition. In a sense, in our attempt to define embodiment practice, we realise that it is the culmination of centuries of human knowledge. This way of being (embodiment) allows us to embody wellness, it is a way of bringing balance to our internal world. With this in mind, it is important to note that we are best served by its potential to support our health and happiness by embracing its role in all aspects of the human experience.

The Indian Tradition

A helpful reference for your embodiment journey might be to seek out the Indian origins of embodiment as concept. Within the Indian context, embodiment is a part of the Tantric tradition. Tantra refers to both the philosophy and set of spiritual practices that emerged in India around the 6th Century, focused on the direction and manipulation of universal energy as a means of liberation. Though it is most commonly understood to be a co-development of esoteric Hindu and Buddhism traditions, Tantra has also influenced a variety of Eastern religions such as Daoism, Shinto, Jainism and Tibetan Bon. 

The term “Tantra” is derived from the Sanskrit root tan meaning “to weave” or ‘”to compose,” and refers specifically to a type of instructional text, often presented as a dialogue between a god and a goddess.  These texts outline rituals and practices which can be used to invoke the energy of Tantric deities. Generally passed directly from guru to student, Tantric teachings are believed to grant spiritual transformation and liberation.

The special association with “weaving” or “composing” at the core of this tradition provides a helpful framework for how this practice should be integrated.

Understanding Embodiment Practices

Embodiment practices utilize the body as a conduit for healing by promoting self-awareness, mindfulness, and connection. Furthermore these practices explore the intricate relationship between our physical selves and our energy, emphasizing the integration of body, thoughts, and actions.

Rooted in somatic psychology, embodiment practices rest on the following assumptions:

  • Life events impact our entire being—physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual.
  • All experiences must be processed through our sensory systems.
  • Thoughts are physiological, occurring throughout the body, not just the mind.

Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises Techniques

Common techniques include dance or movement therapy, visualization, sensory awareness, and progressive muscle relaxation. As such, these practices can be integrated into psychotherapy to enhance the healing process by helping individuals connect with their bodily sensations. This practice can be viewed as form of exercise. It is a form of healing exercise which requires practice and is most beneficial when practiced regularly.

The Philosophy Behind Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises

Embodiment theory posits that our minds are deeply integrated with our body’s sensory and motor systems. As a matter of fact, by thinking about an object you can trigger simulations of the experience itself. Essentially, our brain guides our interaction with the world, but this interaction is mediated by our body. Furthermore, tis theory is supported by research in cognitive and social development, neuroscience, and clinical psychology with the intention of developing a wholistic approach to mental health issues.

Practical Examples of Embodiment in Therapy

  1. Treating Depression: Embodiment techniques can be particularly effective in treating depression. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has shown greater efficacy in treating and preventing relapse of depression compared to traditional talk therapy. It has been shown that grounding techniques and awareness of physical sensations help individuals to monitor and control their physiological responses. These techniques have been shown to increase energy as well as positive thoughts through movement and music.
  2. Managing Anxiety: Anxiety often manifests as a “fight or flight” response, overwhelming the mind with sensory information. Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises can reduce anxiety by engaging the body and calming the mind, shifting the nervous system out of the fight-or-flight mode.
  3. Addressing Eating Disorders: Individuals with eating disorders often feel disconnected from their bodies. Embodiment practices, such as yoga, teach individuals to accept themselves and reconnect with their physical sensations. Furthermore this reconnection may foster healing and self-acceptance.

Healing Exercises for Your daily Practice

At Inner Shala we understand that incorporating embodiment can be simple and highly effective. Here are five exercises for you to try:

  1. Mindful Breathing: Begin your practice with a mindful breathing exercise to center yourself and connect the mind and body.
  2. Outdoor Mindfulness: Go outdoors for a mindful walk, notice the sensations and observe your thoughts.
  3. Stretching: Incorporate brief stretching exercises, focusing on the neck and upper body, to help tune into your physical being.
  4. Dance Therapy: Dance therapy promotes emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration, enhancing overall well-being through movement. Dance spontaneously!
  5. Visualization: Use visualization techniques to activate the same brain regions as physical experiences, providing a powerful tool for healing even when physical movement isn’t possible.

The Role of Yoga and Breath Work

Yoga, a well-studied embodiment practice, offers a perfect blend of physical postures, breath work, and mindfulness to foster connection and healing. You will find that specific yoga postures can alleviate various physical, mental, and emotional issues, while breath work (pranayama) creates an immediate connection between mind and body.

Examples of Breath Work:

  • FluidUs Fountain Breath: Take a deep inhale, and a soft exhale. Now draw in a slow breath, follow it up your spine past your heart and throat, into the cave of your skull and hold your breath there. From within your hold draw a sip of air in, another sip of air in, and one more sip of air in and hold. Soften the skin on your face as you hold. Feel the breath expand in the crown of your head. Draw in one more sip of air, and exhale all the air out. Feel.
  • Square Breathing: Inhale, hold, exhale, and hold each for four counts.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Lie down with a book on the diaphragm, using the breath to make the book rise and fall.

In Conclusion

We hope this overview of Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises offers a good initial touch stone for you to explore further. Embodiment practices are a holistic approach to healing. Accordingly, by reconnecting us with our bodies and the present moment we begin to see the totally of our experiences. Through mindful movement, breath work, and sensory awareness, these practices help us achieve balance, self-acceptance, and overall well-being. Significantly, by integrating embodiment techniques into our daily lives and therapeutic practices, we foster profound mental, emotional, and physical healing. Finally, discover the Inner Shala approach to Embodiment Practices as Healing Exercises here: Inner Shala Embodiment Practices.

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