Recovering the Embodied Self through Somatic Education
By Abigail Natenshon, MA,
Evidence of the unity of the
mind and body and its impact on the self and healing dates back 2500 years
as a benchmark of Buddhist practice.
Twenty-first century brain research and technological advancements
capable of measuring consciousness and state of the mind validate the notion
that the healthy self is an
integrative union of body and mind. Anorexia and bulimia represent the
fragmentation and loss of integrity of the core self.
The self as we know it is
‘embodied,’ accessible through a ‘bodybrain’
that learns ‘from the bottom up,’ as well as through a ‘mindbrain’ that
learns ‘from the top down.’
Somatic education offers embodied learning that is kinesthetic and
with traditional language-based treatment approaches, mediated somatic
education interventions, through movement with attention, awaken a bodily
consciousness that counteracts one’s loss of self through identifying solely
with the mind, in thinking, in emotions, or in external situations.
In restoring the connection between the mental and physical body,
somatic education facilitates recovery.
A somatic education technique that has proven to enhance eating
disorder recovery and body image disturbances is the Feldenkrais Method©.
(See the Feldenkrais Method link on this web site.)
Eating disorders are
disorders of the brain; their symptoms present as dysfunctional emotional,
behavioral and perceptual patterns that stem from imbalances in brain
biochemistries, the neuromuscular system, and in sensory integration
Through the process of treatment and recovery, neurological imbalances
become rectified. Drawing from a mindfulness or sensibility derived from the
physical or embodied self, somatic education facilitates an integration of
sensory functioning which ultimately evokes healing changes in the global
structure and function of the brain, through neurons that fire together and
wire together. The role of the bodyself in the etiology, maintenance,
prevention and healing of eating disorders enlightens our notion of how
people learn and of what constitutes effective treatment.