The vehicle through which we experience ourselves as organisms is the “felt sense.” The felt sense is a medium through which we experience the fullness of sensation and knowledge about ourselves. - Peter A. Levine
Following up with my last post on practicing alternate nostril breathing, I wanted to share with you another practice I do - when alternate breathing does not work or is not enough to calm my nervous system down. It is called the ‘felt sense’ - also known as your body sensations.
Connecting to your body sensations may sound obvious to you, but I have met plenty of folks -including me - who have had a hard time confusing the felt sense with thinking (your mind) or feeling (your emotions).
Because getting in touch with the felt sense can be incredibly grounding and easy to get out of touch with, I felt the need to share some of the practices that have worked for me and my yoga therapy clients. If you got 5-20 minutes, feel free to check out and try some of these practices.
- Hold a warm (please make sure it is not too hot before trying this exercise) cup of tea or bone broth. Allow yourself to sense the temperature and texture of the cup in your hands.
- Take an epsom salt bath - you can do a full body or just soak your feet. Notice how your body moves with your breath and how your skin feels (ex. cold, relaxed, wet, warm…) in the water. Please let go of your devices during this time.
- Learn how to do a self-body massage or go get a massage by a licensed practitioner. Your bodyworker or massage therapist can teach you techniques you can safely do at home, work, and while traveling.
- Take a warm shower or run water over your hands in a sink - notice how the water feels against your skin.
- Go for a walk or run in nature. In the Bay Area there are a ton of urban trails. Just watch out for the bikes! During your hike, sense how you body (ex. feet, hips, ribs, head) moves and feels as you walk.
- Dance to your favorite song. Notice how your hips, hands, and the rest of your body sense the music and movement.
- Revisit your coloring books. If you cannot find one, get a magazine you enjoy. Then grab a pen, crayon or pencil and fill in or follow the lines of the pictures in the book or magazine. Notice how the temperature and pressure of your hands feel against the pen, crayon, or pencil you are holding.
Allow yourself to stay with your sensations as you practice these exercises. When you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts - gently go back to your body sensations. With practice, you will find yourself getting caught less in thought and feeling more relaxed and present at the end of your practice. As with all practices, please remember practice makes permanent, not perfect.
With continued practice, connecting to your felt sense will help support you to being mindful and present; state of beings that are associated with all sorts of health benefits and wisdom! Because of these benefits, I encourage you to find practices that work for you - whatever they may be.
After you have tried some of the ones I have listed, I would love to know how they worked for you! If you have practices that I did not list, feel free to share them in the comment section too!