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  • Writer's picturekirstymackenzie94

Why Interoception is an essential ingredient for your Wellbeing and how to cultivate it

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Interoception is how we “feel” our experience. However, it’s not a sensory muscle that we are used to practising. In fact until recently it was thought there were only five senses; sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. Today, however, we are aware of three hidden senses which include interoception, proprioception (where we are in space) and vestibular (helps us balance whilst we move).[1]


Interoception is fundamental for interpreting key signals from our body such as hunger, needing the bathroom, pain, pleasure and discomfort. Normally these signals are introduced to us as kids, but once we’ve learnt these fundamentals, that exploration into the felt sense then stops.


This illustration shows perfectly how we are taught to relate to our bodies and it's felt sense. Our body's are a place of mechanical disfunction/function, meanwhile thoughts and emotions emerge from and live in our minds/brain/head.


Our fragile connection to our felt sense is one of the causes for the gap that lives between our body and our minds. We instead might notice our felt sense as signals of discomfort or pain as our body shouts to get our conscious attention, or our felt sense might disappear completely as we become numb to our body - our body becomes a means to get around and do whatever our mind is deciding for it.


This can mean we become deeply dis-regulated as we don’t notice the stress and strain that we are exerting on our system. Consequently, under the pressures of life, we push ourselves deeper and deeper into overwhelm until something might give way, which could look like physical and mental breakdown = illness.


I’m talking from experience here too, this is exactly what happened to me. My illness pattern would look like; disconnection - overwhelm - tonsillitis and shutdown. The tonsillitis would always force me to rest and my system would reset.


It took until the 8th round of tonsillitis whilst on holiday in Spain that I eventually reconsidered my approach to living and moving in this world.


Building this awareness of my felt sense has been essential for me to help heal the divide between my body and mind. It’s both empowering and nourishing as we understand more about ourselves and can learn to feel and respond to the different needs of our system in each moment throughout the day.



Craniosacral sessions can be particularly illuminating as these sensations and our body’s felt sense that often happens in the shadows of our awareness can be brought into the light as we give ourselves the space, engagement and intention to connect and listen to our body’s language.


I feel as a practitioner, an important part of my role is to help cultivate interoception so that beyond the practice room, someone can discover, engage and practise this beautiful muscle, which is available to us all.



So how can we begin and nourish this journey of interoception from the shadows into our awareness?


  • Body scans - Each morning or evening whilst lying comfortably in bed, take your awareness from your toes up to your head, including your organs. Curiously pausing at each location with your awareness and noticing whatever arises. It might be very subtle, there might be a sense of heat, weight, absence, lightness. It can also be interesting to compare left to right and top to bottom of your body noticing any subtle differences. You can also experiment with tensing and un-tensing parts of your body and noticing the difference.


  • Meditation - Turning our gaze internally or finding moments of stillness during the day can help us become more receptive and aware of subtle changes and clues in our body. Kimiya Healing podcast has lots of really nice meditations to guide you into explorative connection with your body.[2]


  • Connect with your state of being during the day - Ask yourself what nervous system state am I in? - Fight, flight, shut down, freeze or rest and digesting. By bringing awareness to your state, it's starting to move, what might be, an unconscious process into your awareness. Following this awareness with questions, such as, 'How can I support or nourish myself right now?' and 'How can I bring my state into more balance?'.


  • Build body curiosity - Noticing your body during daily activities, learning what activities such as eating, watching TV, hugging someone, spending time with certain people make us feel, and how - what’s going on with our felt sense during these activities? With this awareness, can we bring in and curate more activities that make us feel good both mentally and physically.


  • Connecting emotions to different body sensations - Noticing or recording your felt sense when feeling different emotions. It can help to use body talk for this, “When I feel stressed my stomach hurts, my jaw feels tense and I become clumsy” or “When I feel love my heart feels soft and my head feels light”.


  • Finding Safety via Embodiment - Check out page 9 (and the rest if you have time) of this document [3] which has some interoceptive questions you can ask yourself whilst lying down, meditating or body scanning


Deepening our relationship with our bodies through exploring and practising our felt sense helps us to respond and regulate ourselves effectively and supportively. And the more we notice our different felt sensations, the more that will make themselves known. The subtleties of our being will just keep emerging and we can live with more alignment, health, understanding and connection to ourselves, our lives and others.


I am available in Bristol and Exeter for Craniosacral Therapy. If you would like to know more about how CST can support you please get in touch here or via email at kirsty.bodyfulness@gmail.com.



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