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Embodiment: Holistic coaching works through the body

"Embodiment. Understanding and using the interaction of body and psyche". This is how Gerald Hüther, Maja Storch, Benita Cantieni and Wolfgang Tschacher sum it up.

They write from the professional perspectives of cognitive science, psychology, neurobiology and bodywork about the importance of the body and a holistic view of body, mind and spirit in science.

Her goal - just like mine - is "that the body finally gets the attention it has long deserved. That it not continue to be treated like a machine, either forgotten or suppressed, or just trained and operated on."

The authors shed light on the embodiment perspective from their areas of expertise and argue that it is so important ",that the whole assessment of bodywork needs to fundamentally change. Any professional who counsels, treats, or researches people without including the body should have to provide an explanation for this shortcoming." Clear words, when reading which I, as a body-oriented coach, like to nod in agreement, because at the end of the day, we cannot live without the body. So why do we still leave it out of therapies, trainings and coaching sessions?

Since I, like the four authors, believe that far too little attention is paid to the body in a holistic view of the human being, I am also taking the topic of embodiment as the occasion for this article.

Embodiment: What does that mean?

For some years now, neuroscience and cognitive science have increasingly been dealing with the term embodiment. In essence, this involves taking a closer look at the connection and interaction of thoughts, emotions and experiences with our bodies. The result: our brain does not work separately from our body, but rather processes and evaluates the signals received by the body from the environment in the form of stimuli (auditory, visual, tactile...).

Neurobiology confirms that experiences are not only stored in the brain as memories, but also in every cell of our body (cell memory or experience memory). We access our memories in the brain consciously, while the experience of our body is an unconscious process. The thought patterns and beliefs stored here nevertheless express themselves physically as a reaction to certain situations, e.g. in the form of a tingling in the stomach, muscle tension or a feeling of tightness in the throat. These physical reactions then eventually influence our thinking, emotions and actions.

Cognitive science assumes that rational processes are therefore not possible without the body, because our environment is first and foremost sensory perceived through our body and not through our head.

Embodiment: interaction between body and mind

We know from research that our body posture, facial expressions and gestures can be an expression of our mental state. For example, it has also been seen that depressed people often show a more huddled posture.

The embodiment of our inner state happens completely unconsciously. But science has also found out that we are able to consciously influence our state of mind by changing our posture.

Embodiment exercise: Make the comparison yourself!

Sit down, tilt your shoulders forward, and relax your spine so that it curves forward. Hang your head and put on a serious expression. Remain like this for a minute. How does it feel? How is your breathing?

Then stand up with your legs about hip-width apart, back straight, shoulders back, chest up, head also tending to the front so that your cervical spine is straight. In addition, you can now raise your arms to your hips. Smile (even an unintentional smile makes us feel happier). Stay in this position for one minute. How do you feel now? What do you notice different from the previous posture?

We have known about embodiment for a long time

Actually, we have known for quite some time that body and psyche form a unity. In connection with sports and exercise, not only the improvement of the physical condition of a person, but also the psychological one has been studied and proven many times. We know that exercise improves blood circulation in our brain, it influences our nervous system, releases endorphins, reduces stress hormones, etc. All this has a positive effect on our well-being.

Since the late 1990s, neuroscience has been studying the impact of exercise on the brain. The discovery that physical activity can help our brains form and connect new neurons, altering behavioral responses and improving mental health, was groundbreaking. Over the decades, more and more studies and research have been published on the fact that and how exercise can influence our brain and memory processes, as well as emotional processes, and improve our ability to think and learn. The basis for this is our nervous system, which receives stimuli via the sensory organs and transmits them to the brain for evaluation and processing. Through neural networks, thinking, emotion and the body are interconnected and influence each other. Unfortunately, we rarely make use of all this knowledge, even though we have often recognized from various experiments and studies, for example, that we learn faster and better when we move or when we experience things with our senses.

Embodiment in Coaching

Now this does not mean that sports are played in Embodiment Coaching. Nevertheless, with targeted movement exercises and neurosensory and sensorimotor training, as well as the conscious use of our senses, our well-being and resilience are increased. Our nervous system relaxes, we feel more confident, and as a result we are able to change stuck and obstructive thought patterns and beliefs. We are better able to make decisions, understand and regulate emotions and accordingly adjust our behavior in certain situations. So in this form of coaching we use our body intelligence instead of pure ratio. New insights and experiences are thus also anchored in the body.

Embodied Coaching uses your body intelligence. We simply feel.

Since humans are by nature and always (day and night, private and professional) emotional creatures and our bodies are able to regulate our emotions or even change them in certain situations, Embodiment Coaching (also called Embodied Coaching) can support us in many ways, both in dealing with ourselves and with others. This manifests itself in our behavior, charisma, communication and interaction, achievement of goals, etc.

It is important that we again feel into ourselves, allow all emotions and do not approach a problem or challenge too cerebral, but following our body impulses (often called intuition). And that is exactly what we do in Embodiment Coaching.

In embodied coaching we use body movement to solve problems

What happens in an embodiment coaching session?

For example, if you come to me with the topic of burden, an Embodied Coaching session can start like this:

Without talking about it for a long time beforehand, we go directly into action. You stand with a weight that I put on your back or in your hands and let it have an effect on you. I ask questions like, "How does this feel? How does your posture change? How are you handling this weight?"

With the help of heavy objects, we quickly feel burdens physically. In Embodied Coaching we find out how we can deal with burdens.
Dealing with burdens in embodied coaching

You will feel a body impulse and thoughts will arise about it. Some clients hear themselves saying, "I can take that longer; I can do that; There's more. Keep it coming!" or anger or discomfort will surface. A body impulse wants to throw the burden into a corner and say, "Get rid of it!" or carefully set the weight aside. Some feel guilt at this, that they no longer wanted to carry it. Others keep the weights and feel proud that you are so strong.

So we experience burdens purely physically, without having talked about it.

Saying no, throwing off ballast, discarding burdens. In Embodied Coaching, we feel burdens physically and become aware of our limits.

We observe how we feel burdens, which learned patterns we have and which body impulses we do not give in to. In the course of coaching, we find out what would be healthy for the client in dealing with burdens. For some people it might be healthy to express their discomfort and throw the weight in the corner at times, for others it might be more important to learn to be more aware of their own boundaries and say no. We learn how to take on burdens in a healthy way.

This short exercise has saved us hours of "talking around the bush", because through the body we very quickly get to the core of the matter and can develop solutions, e.g. with systemic coaching elements or body exercises.

You can find more about Embodiment Coaching here.



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