Interoception is a buzz word that we continue to hear more and more in Yoga circles. In the past decade, there has been a six-fold increase in publications on interoception. At the last Australasian Yoga Therapy Conference, Donna Farhi presented on ‘Empowering people through interoception: restoring full sensory capacity.’ But what is it?
Interoception consists of our ability to perceive, process and integrate all the signals from within our body. It’s the ‘felt’ sense – our awareness of our internal body state. It includes our ability to feel pain, hunger, and to identify our emotional state, as well as, to be able to interpret the signals our body gives us correctly.
As yoga therapists and teachers, we can help our students to tap into their bodies so they are less reliant on us and can attune more to their own somatic experience. This empowers them and enhances their own self-knowledge and promotes self-care. They are the only ones who can feel what is happening inside their bodies after all!
Why else is it important for yoga therapists to understand interoception?
- It can enhance your understanding of neurological, psychiatric, attention, somatoform and emotional-processing disorders.
- It may eventually contribute to protocols for the testing of holistic practices such as Yoga Therapy to help target specific conditions, like the ones listed above.
- It is relevant to Yoga therapy practices which can lead to powerful modulation of interoceptive awareness.
How can we incorporate this into our client’s Yoga practice?
- Ask them to move slowly so they can focus on how movements feel in the body
- Mix it up – try familiar poses with minor variations, like turning the head a different way or moving the arm to a different position
- Narrow and wide lens approach – focus on a specific part of the body and then ask them to switch their focus to the entire body
- Encourage reflection by taking a pause between practices
- Notice the difference before and after the practice or the difference between one side and the other
The term ‘interoceptive’ was first used by neurophysiologist Charles Sherrington in 1906! And by 1994, Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error, showed how embodied emotional processes are integrated into rational ones. Interestingly, in 2014 Bud Craig identified an area deep inside the mammalian brain- insular cortex-as the place where interoception generates feelings.
References: Craig, A.D.B. (2014) How do you Feel? An Interoceptive Moment with your Neurobiological Self DOI: 10.1515/9781400852727 Northoff, G. (2016) Neuro-philosophy and the healthy mind: learning from the unwell brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. DOI/PMID/ISBN: 978-0-393-70938-4 nces: