Interoception: tuning into the intelligence of our bodies

 
 
There was a fantastic article in the guardian last weekend about the benefits and magical powers of our interoceptive sense –  you may have seen me share this on my social media.

Interoception is our ability to sense our internal state and what is going on in our bodies.  We rely on it to know if we are hungry, tired, tense, anxious, happy, thirsty, relaxed – and so you may rely on it a lot more than you have ever really consciously realise.

We are almost conditioned to ignore our interoceptive signals so that we can become machine like in our productivity and achievements – noticing that you are feeling tired, thirsty, tense, happy can be seen as an unnecessary distraction in this life.

This is also especially true for those that work in caring roles – noticing and being aware of our own experiences can sometimes be perceived as selfish, and overtime we learn to suppress the signals from our bodies.

I spent years not having awareness of when I was thirsty, and would often come home from a long day at work dehydrated with a pounding headache.  As my personal yoga and somatic practices deepened, I discovered that I had more awareness of my internal states and so I became able to take care of my needs a little better.

Don’t get me wrong – I still have days where I get sucked into my work and suddenly realise I’m absolutely ravenous and in desperate need of a break, but it is becoming less of an everyday event.

Supporting others to reconnect with the intelligence of their bodies is a cornerstone of my yoga teaching and coaching practice and interception is often a starting point for learning to tune into your sense of self awareness.

Nurturing our sense of interoception is really vital to our wellbeing and our ability to feel present and fulfilled in this life – without it, we are not able to fully inhabit our bodies and our experiences and we find it difficult to access our intuition and sense of instinct. We need to be able to access our sense of internal experience know make aligned choices and take action that feels right.

 

My tips to help you develop your magic powers of interception:  

1.  Slow down – slowing down generally helps us to tune into what’s going on internally.  Choosing an activity that you do regularly, like making a cup of tea, and do it at half speed.  Become aware of how you feel and what is happening in your body.  How does your breath feel?  Are you hungry/thirsty/tired/stressed?  Doing this regularly will help you to build up your internal “interceptive map”  and you will discover what your usual sensations and experiences are. 

2.  A body scan – a widely used mindfulness practice where you scan your body and sense into each area in turn.  There are lots of variations available on YouTube or on common meditation apps – find one you like.  I often offer variations of a body scan in my  yoga classes.  

3. Use your fingers to become aware of your pulse at your neck or wrist.  Get a sense of how it feels, for as long as you need.  Then move your fingers away from your neck or wrist and place your hand over your heart, on the left side of your chest.  Sense your heart beating here.  After 30-60 seconds, move your hand away and see if you can sense your heart beating in your chest without your hand there.  Come back to this throughout the day; if you can’t feel your heartbeat initially, use your hand or feel your pulse first.

I invite you to notice what feels good and enjoyable rather than looking for what might be wrong; trust the intelligence of your body.  

There is also a link to a body and breath awareness practice which helps you to sense into your body and your develop your interoception.