Embodiment has become a ubiquitous term in today’s language. It finds its way into various contexts such as dance, yoga, love, and more, often used without a true understanding of its underlying significance.
Is embodiment just dancing and expressing yourself? What is embodiment work exactly?
Here is a quote that one of my first embodiment teachers shared to introduce us to the concept of embodiment:
“By changing your body expression, you can change your walk through life”
Embodiment and Disembodiment in History
In order to understand what embodiment is and why it is such a thing nowadays, we need to understand its history, or in other words the history between humans and their body.
History has evolved in a way that human beings could only detach from their body.
Here are all the major events that created disembodiment in the human body:
- Agriculture era: When agriculture started to develop 10 000 years ago, the body started to become just a tool for harvest. Humans started to become numb to their body pain.
- The philosophy of “Dualism”: In the 17th century, philosophers like Platon or Descartes argued that the mind and the body are completely separate and distinct entities. The mind is a non-material, thinking substance, while the body is a material, extended substance.
- Religion and the body: Augustine’s writings gained significant influence within the Christian and Catholic faiths, as he espoused the view that the body was inherently “sinful” and required stringent regulation.
- Industrialisation era: In the 18th and 19th centuries, heavy industrialisation development reinforced this image of the body as a machine.
- Consumerism: Nowadays in our modern society, the body is often just seen as an object, or even as a brand.
Due to our historical context, our modern society is disembodied, underscoring the contemporary significance of embodiment.
Defining the Word "Embodiment"
Just by reading the above history of disembodiment, we can now understand the concept of embodiment as a form of body awareness.
A short definition of embodiment would be: “Embodiment is the way we are as a body.”
Embodiment is a form of somatic therapy in which we use body expressions to understand and heal the mind. It challenges traditional views that separate the mind from the body and highlights the importance of considering the body’s role in shaping our mental processes and perceptions.
We all have different body patterns that define who we are, even though we are not always aware of them (the way we walk, face expressions..). These body patterns originate from our history, our environment, our culture or our education…
Embodiment is a somatic experience in which we explore these body patterns in order to discover our history, our trauma and who we really are… By practising embodiment work, we can heal ourselves and eventually change our life’s direction.Read the next paragraph to understand how this works.
One of my first Embodiment therapy teachers once said: “By changing your body patterns, you can change your walk through life”. This is probably the best definition of what embodiment work is.
How Do you Practice Embodiment?
Image of an Embodied Yoga Class with Cara Shanti
Embodiment work is a holistic approach to personal growth, self-awareness, and healing that emphasizes the connection between mind, body, and emotions. It involves various practices and techniques aimed at enhancing an individual’s awareness of their body, sensations, emotions, and how they manifest in daily life. Embodiment work can be used for therapeutic purposes, self-improvement, and personal development.
Here are some examples of embodiment work:
- Somatic Embodiment Therapy : Embodiment work can be particularly effective for individuals who have experienced trauma. It allows them to safely explore and release traumatic memories and emotions stored in the body. This process can support healing and recovery. As an Embodiment Therapist, I can guide you if you have further questions about embodiment and somatic therapy.
- Embodied Yoga : Embodied yoga goes beyond the physical postures (asanas) commonly associated with yoga and explores the felt sense of the postures (see above picture, which gives deeper insights to the practitioner. Embodied yoga draws from various yoga traditions and somatic practices to create a holistic and mindful experience.
- Dance Therapy : Dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy (DMT), is a therapeutic approach that uses dance and movement to promote emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. It emphasises the therapeutic potential of movement and dance to improve mental health and overall quality of life
- Embodiment Coaching : Embodiment coaching is a holistic approach to personal development and self-improvement that focuses on enhancing an individual’s awareness and connection with their body, emotions, and the present moment. Embodiment coaching can be used to live a more authentic life or to achieve some specific goals (love, leadership…)
- Art :Embodiment in art refers to the representation, expression, or exploration of the human body or the concept of embodiment itself through various artistic mediums and forms (paint, sculpture…).
There are many more ways to practice embodiment, but here are the most common embodiment work you are more likely to find.
As an Embodiment professional and embodied yoga teacher, I can help you reconnect with your body intelligence and guide you in your path to healing. Drop me a message via email or whatsapp if you want to have a little chat.
What is Embodiment in Psychology?
Embodiment in psychology refers to the idea that cognitive processes, emotions, and perception are not solely the result of brain activity but are also influenced by the body and its interactions with the environment. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of the mind and body in shaping human experiences and behaviours.
Here are some key aspects of embodiment in psychology:
- Sensorimotor Interactions: Embodiment theory suggests that our sensory and motor systems play a crucial role in shaping our cognitive processes. For example, the way we perceive and understand concepts may be influenced by our bodily experiences and interactions with the physical world.
- Embodied Cognition:This concept suggests that cognitive processes, such as memory, problem-solving, and language, are not purely abstract mental activities but are grounded in our bodily experiences. For instance, when we think about an action, our brain might simulate the sensory and motor experiences associated with that action.
- Emotional Embodiment: Emotions are not just mental states but also involve physiological and bodily responses. Embodiment theory proposes that our emotional experiences are influenced by the feedback from our bodies, such as heart rate, facial expressions, and bodily sensations. For example, smiling can lead to feelings of happiness, and a racing heart can intensify feelings of anxiety.
- Perceptual Embodiment: Perception is also influenced by our bodily experiences. How we perceive and interpret sensory information can be affected by our physical sensations and movements. For example, the way we perceive the weight of an object may depend on our previous experiences handling similar objects.
- Social and Cultural Aspects:Embodiment theory can extend to social and cultural contexts. It suggests that our cultural upbringing and social interactions can shape our embodied experiences and influence our cognition and behavior. Cultural practices, rituals, and body language all play a role in this process.
Embodiment theory has gained attention in various areas of psychology, including cognitive psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience, as it provides a more holistic understanding of human experience and behavior.
What is Embodiment in Philosophy?
In philosophy, the concept of embodiment refers to the idea that the body is not merely a vessel for the mind or a separate entity but is integral to our understanding of consciousness, perception, and human existence.
Embodiment philosophy challenges traditional dualistic views that separate the mind and body, emphasizing the interconnectedness of physical and mental aspects of human experience. It has been particularly influential in the fields of phenomenology, existentialism, and philosophy of mind.
Here are some key aspects of embodiment in philosophy:
- Phenomenological Embodiment: Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that focuses on the first-person subjective experience of consciousness. Embodiment plays a central role in phenomenology, as it emphasizes that our experience of the world is always embodied. Philosophers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued that our perceptions and understanding of the world are fundamentally shaped by our bodily experiences, movements, and sensations.
- Existentialist Embodiment: Existentialism is a philosophical movement that explores questions of human existence and freedom. Existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir also recognized the importance of embodiment. They argued that our bodies are not mere objects but are central to our experience of freedom, choice, and responsibility. For Sartre, our bodies are both a limitation and a source of possibilities for our existence.
- Philosophy of Mind: In the philosophy of mind, embodiment has led to the development of theories like embodied cognition. These theories challenge traditional computational models of the mind and propose that cognitive processes are grounded in bodily experiences and interactions with the environment. Embodied cognition suggests that our bodies and their interactions with the world play a fundamental role in shaping our mental processes.
- Ethics and Morality: Some philosophers have explored the ethical implications of embodiment. For instance, the feminist philosopher Iris Marion Young argued that our bodily experiences, including how we are perceived and treated by others, have a significant impact on our moral and political lives. She highlighted the concept of the “lived body” as central to understanding social justice and oppression.
- Embodied Subjectivity: Embodiment philosophy also addresses the nature of subjective experience. It suggests that our sense of self and subjectivity is intimately tied to our bodies. The way we experience ourselves and others is shaped by our bodily sensations, emotions, and physical presence in the world.
These concepts make us realise the profound impact Embodiment had on various philosophical traditions and how it continues to influence contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind, ethics, and phenomenology.
Still have more questions about Embodiment? Want to try a 20 min free session with me? Contact me via email or Whatsapp!
Yoga & Embodiment
My name is Caroline, but you can call me Cara. I am a Somatic Yoga Professional and Embodiment Therapist.
Because real therapy also involves the body, my goal is to help my yogi friends get to know themselves better and finally free themselves from all the tensions or traumas accumulated throughout their lives.