Moving with genuine intention is something that I love to focus on because it is a great way to allow yourself to drop down into the present moment. Presence is something that many of us struggle with, including myself. Cultivating a practice of moving with intention - i.e. with special attention given to the connection between muscle groups, breath and articulations of the body - allows us to create a deeper connection between our mind and body. Establishing this connection is a great way to feel more in tune with ourselves. A common trauma response is to numb out or dissociate when we are feeling stress, fatigue or a trigger, but practicing mind-body connection helps to combat this tendency.
This was the topic of discussion during our fourth Weekly Zen session. I go into moving with genuine intention further below. We also got into a brief discussion of the science behind vibrational sound therapy during our Weekly Zen session. I then led the group in a relaxing sound bath. I wish I could be doing these sound baths in person, because the vibrations are so much stronger when you are physically present, but hopefully soon I will be able to hold sessions in person. After the sound bath we got into a guided meditation about navigating stress. A recording of this guided meditation can be found on the 'Guided Meditations' tab of my website. This meditation will put you in a mindset where you are able to calmly tackle stress and truly navigate through the difficult times with greater ease. Feel free to check it out!
So let’s talk about some of the common and most used connections in our bodies. I’d like to begin with talking about chewing. Your teeth and jaw work hard to grind down your food. This is the first step of the digestive process and arguably the most crucial, because the level to which you chew your food determines how hard the rest of your body has to work to digest it. To avoid certain digestive issues it is imperative to chew well. I know this sounds so simple and probably a little bit childish, but it is something that we are not reminded of often enough. So often we cruise through a meal or are mindlessly snacking and barely chewing what we are taking in. This can lead to a build up of undigested food in our intestines. Next time you’re eating, try to pull yourself into the present moment. Chew slowly. Taste fully. Try to pick out three different flavors from what you are eating. This is such a simple way to connect your mind and body to the food you are consuming. It also helps you to savor and appreciate your meal that much more. Clenching of the jaw is a common issue for many people. Try to notice when you are clenching or if you are just tightening periodically. Release and relax your jaw as much as possible throughout the day.
Another important connection is between the lower black and glutes. When you are exercising or simply moving in general, you want to become aware of where you are distributing weight or exertion throughout your body. You want to avoid dumping excessive amounts of weight into your lower back. If you are lifting something heavy or even just walking up the stairs, envision activating your glutes. See the difference it makes when you take the tension off of your lower back. Back pain is a very common ailment, and although some of it is unavoidable, little shifts in the way we function and move daily can help to prevent this pain. It can be really helpful to even touch the muscle/ area of your body that you want to activate as you are lifting something or going up steps (that is if your hands aren’t full). It may look a little odd, but touch your butt!!! The sensation of touch will help your brain connect to that area more and fully activate. After a while of practicing lifting with your glutes and activating your glutes on inclines as opposed to your lower back, you will probably notice some welcomed toning of the glutes too, just an added bonus of taking care of your body. This is especially useful if you are practicing something like yoga or pilates. Each time you lift your leg up and back when in downward facing dog, you want to be engaging your glutes - not your lower back. Also, for warrior III pose, as you lift your leg up behind you and balance on one leg, it is very important to be lifting that back leg using your glute, otherwise injury to the low back can occur.
There is a muscular connection between our shoulders and upper neck that can become problematic if we do not remain conscious of it. Many of us carry a lot of tension in our shoulders and neck. I know I find myself noticing that my shoulders are practically up into my ears many times throughout the day. This requires a relaxation of the area and sending my shoulders back down. A good way to do this is to envision your two shoulder blades coming together behind you and then sinking down slowly and rotating outward apart in a half circle motion. A slow and intentional neck circle can help to relieve tension held throughout the neck. You want to go from side to side, not in a full circle. Rotating your neck in a full circle can cause pinching of nerves, we don’t want that!
Again, to circle back to growing more present within your body, becoming aware of when you are holding tension and finding ways that work for you to release it is vital to growing this presence. This spans into so many more areas of the body and muscle groups, but these three are a great place to start!
Becoming aware of your movement and learning to move more intentionally is something that requires practice and patience. We are so accustomed to hustling and bustling through life that we rarely take the time to engage with our bodies, feel into our muscles, and identify where strain or mishap may be occurring before it turns into an injury.
After the moving with genuine intention discussion, we shifted into a vibrational therapy sound bath. I briefly explained some of the science behind vibrational sounds therapy. Here is a recap of the information I shared with the group:
There are four categories of brainwaves, which range from frequencies that occur during the most activity (beta) to the least activity (delta). Different states of alertness and consciousness in different parts of the brain generate varying frequencies of brainwaves.
Beta waves are the fastest type of brainwave and occur when the brain is active and engaged mentally.
Alpha waves occur when the brain is in a state of non-arousal, such as when a person has finished a task and is resting or when one meditates.
Delta brainwaves are the slowest and are associated with deep dreamless sleep.
The premise of vibrational therapy is that the brain synchronizes its brainwave frequency to the difference in hertz between tones played in each ear, which, depending on the frequency, can lead one to states of deep relaxation associated with beta waves or meditative trance-like theta waves. One theory is that sound works through the vibrational tactile effects on the whole body. Sound could stimulate touch fibers that affect pain perception.
One study of people with fibromyalgia found that ten treatments (twice per week for five weeks) of low-frequency sound stimulation improved sleep and decreased pain, allowing nearly three-fourths of participants to reduce pain medication. Sound-based vibration treatment has been shown to help people with pain from arthritis, menstrual pain, postoperative pain, knee replacement pain. Sound-based treatment has even been found to improve mobility, reduce muscle pain and stiffness, increase blood circulation, and lower blood pressure.
This journey is teaching me so much about the way I show up for myself, but also about the way others around me show up for themselves as well. I am so beyond grateful to be sharing this with those of you who are attending my Weekly Zen sessions and reading this blog. My heart is filled, and for that, I thank you all.