“Our sensations are the original language of the body.” ~ Amanda Blake
Is your body talking to you?
Are you listening to its whispers?
Or do you wait until it screams?
Learning to slow down and listen to your body isn’t just about feeling the aches and pains of over exertion. It involves discovering how you actually feel emotionally about something.
Your emotional health and physical health are intertwined and inseparable. Your emotions are experienced and stored in your body. And they are manifested through body sensations. Breathless, clammy, fuzzy, hot, heavy, dizzy, queasy, or shaky are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re angry or stressed. Energized, full, expansive, smooth, and radiating are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re joyful and confident.
It’s within your body that you’ll discover the key to unlocking your emotional intelligence. In other words, emotions live inside your body, changing your physical experience and causing you to believe and act in particular ways. One moment you’re happy (emotion) on top of the world, so you’re feeling spacious and light in the chest (body sensations). Then someone says something that makes you feel anxious (emotion). It feels like your world is caving in, your shoulders slump and you feel deflated and dull (body sensations).
Conversely, by changing your posturing, you can alleviate these body sensations and alter your emotional experience. If you’re feeling shy and uncertain, you can breathe deeply, soften and straighten your spine, lift your head and look people in they eyes. The more you practice this, the more it will be your natural response and your emotions will change to feeling more confident and self-assured.
The concept, embodied cognition, says every thought/ideal is connected with an emotion which, in turn, has a physiological response in your body. Reflect on how the energy of shyness makes you feel small and act withdrawn. Sadness feels heavy, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Anger feels hot and stormy. Excitement feels energizing.
Tune into your emotions and identify each sensation as you experience it. Honor the messages that your body is sending you about your feelings. Don’t try to over ride them. Suspend any judgment of them. Simply observe them for what they are.
Do you want to become more balanced and centered? Here are some simple ways to get better acquainted with how your body responds to emotions. Observe what body sensations and emotions manifest as you do each of the following:
Regular exercise. It’s been proven to reduce stress, boost your “feel good” endorphins, enhance your self-confidence, sharpen your thinking ability, ground you, and inspire creativity.
Now add another dimension to your exercise sessions – an emotional one. Are you feeling anxious? Channel your anxiety into the physical act of exercise and release it. Invite all of your feelings, whether you view them as positive or negative, to come through your movement.
Improve your posture. Sitting in a slumped, helpless position invites thoughts and memories to manifest. Sitting in an upright, powerful position invites empowerment thoughts and memories.
Eating healthfully for your body type. Everyone has a unique biochemistry which greatly influences brain chemistry and emotional state. What you choose to fuel this system will be determined by your metabolism, blood type, genetic history, and activity level. Of course, we all have basic needs for fresh, nutrient-rich, whole foods.
Deep breathing. It improves your physical health and helps you remain calm under stressful situations. Also Alternate Nostril Breathing can help you achieve balance and harmony.
The key to controlling your emotions is developing an awareness of exactly WHERE you feel them, HOW they feel in your body, and in WHAT healthy ways you can process them. Somatic Coaching can help you become between attuned to what your body is telling you. Contact me and let’s schedule a session that will transform you life.
And if you need help listening to your body, make sure to click here to download your free copy of The 7-Point Wellness Assessment – Create Change Through Awareness.
Over the course of the last few weeks we’ve been discussing various aspects of embodied leadership for women. It’s not something you do – it’s who you are. The way you speak, the words you choose, your body positioning, all reflect the harmony you feel by being fully present.
People follow leaders because they’re inspired by their presence and way of being, not by how smart they are or what position they hold. When you become an embodied leader who lives the life that you teach, you’ll build trust quickly and inspire others to achieve excellence.
Remember, embodied leadership results from collaboration between body, mind and spirit – the whole YOU. An excellent leader provides a model that embodies the good that others want to achieve in all areas of their own lives. Let’s recap what this means…
Body: To lead others, it’s important to model how to be physically fit. An awareness of what you’re body is telling you and what it’s revealing to others is essential to creating a presence that inspires confidence. When your body is congruent with your mind and spirit, you’ll be able to control the physiological responses to stress and you’ll feel at peace even under the most trying situations.
Mind: To lead others takes mental discipline. Developing emotional intelligence increases your ability to concentrate and focus, observe and release negative self-talk, calm your emotions, see the possibilities as you visualize positive outcomes, and be fully present in and accepting of difficult situations.
Spirit: To lead others, your passion must shine. When you’re firmly grounded in your own spirit, you never need to feel challenged or defensive, but you remain open and accepting. You’re able to hold onto your own values while helping your clients achieve what is most important to them.
When you embody or truly live what you believe, people can see that you’re balanced and centered, and they want that for themselves. This is what creates an authentic connection with others.
What are some other benefits to you and your relationships when you excel at embodied leadership skills? You’ll be able to:
- Improve physical, emotional and mental endurance, strength, and agility.
- Increase your self-confidence and composure by remaining centered.
- Keep your compassion through awareness of others.
- Sharpen your concentration, focus and visualization.
- Be organized and goal oriented so you achieve your best life ever.
- Stand out in your industry as a thought-leader.
- Stay committed to your goals in the midst of complexity.
- Use body language to clearly communicate your core beliefs with conviction.
- Read the intentions, motivations and abilities of the people around you.
- Have honest, courageous conversations about the most difficult subjects.
- Enhance and support your own mind/body/spirit and that of others.
- Resolve conflict as you learn to let situations unfold without resistance.
- Build trust as you listen carefully and proactively provide solutions.
- Act decisively while maintaining important relationships.
- Anticipate and address potential problems rather than reacting to them.
- Create opportunities for effective action in emotionally charged environments.
- Increase your own accountability and that of others.
- Enable people to self-correct by giving well-chosen feedback.
- Motivate and influence others to take action.
- Fine-tune your awareness as you see what others need and desire.
Coaching is an investment you make in yourself to create the life you truly want. Meaningful results require a commitment. Please contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via Skype, so we can explore our coaching partnership.
It’s commonly assumed that good leadership styles are mostly mind or personality based. Although it’s recognized that leaders should look the part too, being physically fit and well groomed. And some even give consideration to speech training and the way a person carries herself. But beyond that the body isn’t thought about much…
That’s a mistake because ultimately what’s inspiring is a leader’s presence and way of being.
An embodied leader is aware that planning and leading are definitely whole mind/body/spirit activities. And that’s what makes business leaders who have embodied leadership skills so different and more much effective.
Take for example a leader we’ll call Sarah.
She’s so busy she doesn’t have time for breakfast as she rushes off to meet her team. They greet her with demands that pull her in eight different directions. She tries to handle them all at once, while not giving any of them the attention they deserve. Oh, her frustration and stress levels are rising. She has deadlines to meet, so she cancels another lunch date with her best friend…again! She just hates putting her friend off like that, but she couldn’t have eaten a bite anyway.
The presentation scheduled this afternoon is making her sick to her stomach. And no, she can’t make it to the gym today. She’s must keep her doctor’s appointment because her blood pressure pills need to be adjusted and she want to talk with the doc about getting something for the anxiety and depression that’s closing in on her.
Everyone thinks she has it all together. That she’s so successful. She looks like a leader. Yet she’s falling apart inside. Something is drastically wrong. Her leadership style is impossible to maintain.
Are you starting to see that effective leadership styles requires that the body be completely congruent with the mind?
A successful leader must be able to intervene in his or her own physiological responses to stress and have the awareness to know which decisions are going to support the things that are really important in life.
Sarah, from the above story, wants to be calm and collected. She has every intention of reaching her goals for having a successful business, strong friendships and good health. Yet as stress is introduced, her body betrays her. Because she’s only thinking with her conscious mind of doing the things she know good leaders do, her body rebels, because it reverts back to patterns that have been formed by a lifetime of habits.
Your habits live not only in your memories, but in your tissues and cells. The body remembers. Embodied awareness lets you hear what your body is saying. It helps you watch yourself from an outside perspective. Then you can engage in practices that develop your ability to take more effective actions. In time, you develop a new muscle memory that lets you do things you couldn’t have done before, whether it’s being calm under crisis or being an assertive introvert.
Extreme stress can cause a mind/body disconnect that makes people act in crazy ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “She’s not herself today.” When stress triggers an interaction in our brain between the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and the amygdala, which assigns emotional significance to an event, the fight or flight stress response takes over the conscious mind. Normally you wouldn’t scream, yell, shake, and cry, but the brain/body disconnect makes you behave in a way that’s foreign to you.
Let’s put it in another way…you may know you’re not supposed to run from a bear, but your legs don’t believe you. This is a really dangerous mind/body disconnect that gets you in trouble. Because the next thing you know you’re trying to outrun a bear…not a good idea!
So what can embodied leadership principles do for you that other leadership styles do not?
It supports you as you make slow and steady progress toward a strong awareness of your mind/body/spirit connection. Through mindfulness, centering, somatic exercises, breathing techniques, and NLP anchoring techniques you learn how to be present in the moment of stress in a relaxed, unattached way. It gives you time and the skills to slow down, be fully mindful so your actions truly reflect a peaceful state of mind. If you’d like to work with me as you master these skills, I’d be honored for you to contact me. We can set up a time to meet in person at my Ashland, Oregon office or via Skype.
Would you like to fully develop your potential for leadership? The principles of Aikido (The Way of Harmony or Peace) can help you. Aikido is a unique form of martial arts that emphasizes the blending of energy, rather than resisting it or attacking. It lets you peaceably deal with conflict by taking the energy directed at you and neutralizing it or diverting it. Aikido helps you be extremely calm, focused, and effective in the midst of chaos. In the process you learn to handle yourself around others with confidence and it gives you a powerful presence as an embodied leader.
Aikido heightens your sense of the mind/body connection. It strengthens your capacity to find and maintain a sense of calm while staying vigilantly aware. You develop an alert relaxation that appears to be very still but is highly engaged with your surroundings. With practice, you can become very stable AND ready to move with 100% of your power at will.
What principles of aikido serve business leaders best in today’s high-stress, high-demand world?
Be balanced and centered. If you feel like you’re under attack, you’re out of balance and are possibly operating from a place of disrespect or distrust. Instead of giving in to the fight or flight response or freezing up, you can use centering and breathing techniques that promote emotional calmness and mental alertness that enable you to respond gracefully to even the most stressful situations. The loss of a centered mind results in loss of balance as you instinctively start to fight for control. A centered and balanced mind doesn’t need to fight, control, or dominate.
Be calm. Many business leaders get caught up in reacting emotionally to everything, living in drama so that they’re always putting out fires. You can deepen your mind’s capacity for calmness. If you feel calm, you can maintain calm under any circumstance. Aikido teaches you to get closer to your attacker and move in the same direction as he is, which may seem counterintuitive, but is a very powerful life skill for diffusing tense situations.
Be fully present and aware. Too many people are disconnected or distracted from the here and now because of worrying about the past or the future. Or they’re so busy thinking of what they’ll say next they aren’t listening to what’s being said. By becoming fully aware of the other person or of the situation, without being attached to a preconceived outcome, you can build a harmonious relationship with what’s happening. By doing so, you get out of your own way and develop the ability to access your intuitive self. You learn to succeed by surrendering.
Be open and adaptable. The fear of losing control in actuality spins a person out of control. Let the situation unfold without resisting. Rather than letting your mind lead you, learn how to lead your mind. Become comfortable with not knowing everything, which in turns opens you up to creative solutions that are best for everyone on your team.
Be proactive and responsible. While it’s easy to make excuses for why something doesn’t work, an embodied business leader takes responsibility, provides guidance and support as he or she start influencing others to do their best. For those who are painfully shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in social situations, the principles of aikido teach you to assert yourself in relationships without being aggressive. You learn to successfully lead a person, so that he or she willingly follows. This is an invaluable skill for you in your role as an embodied leader.
You have the tools to deal effectively with conflict within you. You just need to find them. Just as silence is always present even if there’s a great deal of noise going on around you, you can experience silence if you shut out the distractions and listen for it. In the same way, you have the capacity for peace and calm under all stressful situations. You just need to learn to access it.
When you achieve peace, no one is going to take it away from you. Only you can give your peace away. With that simple understanding, you know that conflict is not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. By modeling your peace, you can diffuse sticky situations and improve not only your life but the lives of those around you.
Would you like to learn more about how a complete body/mind approach can help you excel in life and business as you step fully into your embodied leadership role? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a somatic coaching session with you in person in Ashland, Oregon or via Skype. And don’t forget to get your free copy of “The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment”, so you can build your life on a solid foundation.
It feels so good to deeply relax! Do you find that these moments are all too rare for you? Does the idea of relaxing at a deeper level seem illusive?
While there are no specific guidelines for how much relaxation a person should incorporate into their lifestyle, making time to unwind and enjoy life is an important part of maintaining good health.
To get the most benefit from your periods of relaxation, strive to achieve deep relaxation via the body, via the mind, and via the soul.
1. Deep Relaxation via the Body:
Deep relaxation, like meditation, exercise and deep breathing, when practiced regularly, is shown to have many potential benefits, such as, improved mood, decreased blood pressure, alleviated stress, anxiety and pain, and improved immune and cardiovascular systems.
You can achieve deep relaxation of the body by practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here’s how:
Create a relaxed, uninterrupted atmosphere by putting on loose clothing, playing soft music, dimming the lights, and shutting off the world around you.
Sit in a comfortable chair that supports your head and back. You can also do this exercise lying down if you’re trying to get to sleep.
Taking a few deep breaths, close your eyes and clear your mind. As you breathe in slowly, visualize what’s making you tense. As you slowly breathe out, visualize that you’re releasing those feelings. Imagine that all intruding thoughts are clouds sailing over you, so they move on and don’t fill your mind.
Progressively tense and relax every area of your body. As you proceed, think about how you would describe the relaxed state. If you can associate the relaxed state with a color, word, or image, you’ll attain deep relaxation more quickly in the future.
- Make a fist with your right hand, tightening the muscles of your hand and forearm. Count 10 seconds. Then allow your hand to open and your arm to relax as you count 10 seconds. Do the same with your left hand and arm. Feel the difference between the relaxed state and the tense state. Repeat.
- Make a fist with your right hand, and bring it up to your shoulder, tightening your upper arm. Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat with your left arm. Allow tension to flow out through your fingertips. Repeat both arms.
- Now focus on your head. Raise your eyebrows as high as you can, hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Allow your forehead to become smooth. Repeat. Next bring your eyebrows together, as you frown deeply. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat. Next, purse your lips into an ooh (like a monkey sounds). Hold for 10 seconds. Fully relax until your mouth falls slightly open. Next, clench your jaw tightly. Hold 10 seconds. Release. Relax fully. Repeat.
- Raise your shoulders toward your ears, allowing your shoulder and neck muscles to tighten. Hold for 10 seconds. Allow your shoulders to drop. Feel the tension flow down and out fingertips. Relax for 10 seconds. Repeat. Next, press the back of your head against the chair, tightening the muscles in the back of your neck. Hold 10 seconds. Relax 10 seconds. Focus on the relaxed feeling and allow it to spread throughout your neck. Repeat.
- Move your focus to your upper back, mid-back, and abdomen. Begin by pressing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, releasing any remaining tension. Next arch your lower back just enough to tense the lower back muscles. Hold 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Tuck your abdomen in tightly. Hold for 10 seconds. Release 10 seconds. Repeat. Breathe deeply a couple of times to release any remaining tension.
- Finally, focus on your buttocks and legs. First, squeeze your buttocks together, hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. You can choose to work on your legs separately or together. Bring your legs straight out in front of you and point your toes toward your face. Tighten your calves and thighs. Hold for 10 seconds. Release for 10 seconds. Repeat. Allow tension to flow down your legs and out the bottom of your feet.
Once you complete the Progressive Muscle Relaxation routine, scan your body for areas that still feel tense. Repeat the tensing and relaxing for that muscle group. Allow yourself to stay in the relaxed state for a few moments. Open your eyes. How do you feel?
Note: When tensing the muscles, don’t over tighten a muscle to the point of pain. If you have an injury, consult your doctor or therapist to determining the best method of tensing and relaxing that muscle group.
2. Deep Relaxation via the Mind:
Making time to find enjoyment is also an important element of relaxation. Get out of your mind often and distract yourself from your worries by making room for leisure and play. After all, laughter is good medicine! It decreases pain, helps your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and reduces anxiety.
We’ll discuss Deep Relaxation via the Soul in an upcoming blog post. Many people have found that they relax more fully if a coach guides them through the steps, rather than trying to do them from written instructions. If this is true for you, contact me and we can arrange a session that works for you.