Updated: Nov 25, 2021
About nine years ago, I injured my lower back after taking part in a running activity. I was in deep pain. It hurt to sit, bend over, or even stand. I had completed my yoga teacher training the year before and saw my career that I was ready to embark on crumbling before my eyes. I went to a chiropractor and had the standard initial consultation. “Why are you here? Where is the pain? Can you describe it? Is it dull or sharp?” I remember being frustrated with all these questions. I thought, “You’re the doctor! You figure it out!” I gestured toward my back and replied that the pain was “somewhere over there.” I couldn’t describe it; it just hurt.
I now realize how disconnected I was from my body (yes, even as a newly trained yoga teacher at the time) and lacked interoception. In general terms, interoception helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. When we lack interoception, our ability to identify, notice, or describe our emotions or sensations is limited. This can lead to poor self-regulation, ignoring the body’s needs, staying stuck in pattern, and acting from a fragmented state.
As a student and teacher, it took many years of practice for me to have body awareness, notice my felt sensations, and use it to guide my experience. Interoception can be applied in modalities as a student and teacher:
YOGA: Notice what’s happening in your whole body with the idea that our system in interconnected (ie. breathing, posture, where you are creating unnecessary tension, which muscles you need to engage)
MEDITATION: Observe, without attachment, what surfaces in your mind and body. Have an anchor to return to if you get distracted or overwhelmed.
TRE®/ tension-trauma release exercises: Develop a rich vocabulary for your physical, mental, emotional, and energetic state. Self-regulate by not getting lost or overwhelmed in the experience.
Innerdance Energy Work: Surrender into the flow of the journey and take in the multi-dimensional, multi-sensory process. Take time to reflect afterwards, perhaps through journaling or being in nature. What did the experience show you?
CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY: Tune into subtle sensations; be present; and allow time for movement to happen
FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS: Gently track moment to moment sensations as a representative. Sometimes the first sensation is a “secondary emotion”— a highly charged emotional reaction on the surface. After that has discharged, a primary emotion usually comes up, ie. sadness. Notice what happens when any representative makes a movement and how that impacts the other representatives in the field.
Whether I was the student or the teacher, the turning point arrived when I let go of achieving a specific outcome, or being in 'auto pilot' of an experience. Practicing equanimity, slowing down, and tuning into the present moment were all key to building interoception. In somatic healing work, acknowledging what is present and true can be radically transformative. It works as both a discharge and embodiment. This is often stated aloud in a concise, clear “I” statement to yourself or to someone who is involved in your issue. Some examples are, “I need space.” “I have grief.” “My voice is important.” When you are able to land on a truth, the body responds in agreement with an emotional release, tremoring, or other somatic ways. It has found freedom from what has been ignored, suppressed, or unclear.
The next step would then be to inquire a bit more about where this truth comes from and heal from "the root." I highly recommend Resmaa Menakem's book My Grandmother's Hands. The information is 100% practical for all types of trauma as it relates to the body and mind.