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Blog Mental Health Personal Growth Body Awareness: What It Means And How To Develop It

Body Awareness: What It Means And How To Develop It

Have you ever felt out of sync with your body? Maybe you’ve felt tense and unable to relax, or you’ve been so focused on your work that you didn’t even realize you were hungry until your stomach started growling. Do you bump into things a lot, or do you have trouble knowing where your limbs are in space? If any of this sounds familiar, then you might need to work on your body awareness. Body awareness is the ability to sense what’s happening in your body and to feel comfortable in your skin. It’s an important part of self-care and can have serious health implications. In this article,  we’ll explore what body awareness is, why it’s important, and how you can develop it.

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What Is Body Awareness?

Body awareness is the ability to sense what’s happening with your body. This includes both physical sensations and emotions. It also involves being aware of your posture, movement, and breath (3).

Kinesthetic awareness is the ability to feel your body in space and to know where your limbs are in movement (10).

Body awareness involves the proprioceptive system—a network of nerves that helps you sense your body in space. It also relies on the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and movement.

The proprioceptive system is made up of receptors in your muscles, joints, and skin. These receptors send information to your brain about your body’s position and movement (15). 

The vestibular system includes the parts of your inner ear that help you balance and the nerves that connect it to your brain (9).

What Is An Example Of Body Awareness?

Here are several everyday examples of body awareness:

  • Walking: feeling the pressure of your feet on the ground, sensing the movement of your legs and hips, noticing how your arms swing as you walk
  • Eating: being aware of the taste, texture, and temperature of your food; knowing when you’re full
  • Sitting: feeling the contact of your body against the chair, the pressure of your weight on your feet
  • Breathing: feeling the rise and fall of your chest, the expansion of your lungs, the movement of air through your nose or mouth

In each of these cases, you are aware of your body and its sensations. Body awareness also refers to a more global understanding of your bodily state, such as knowing where your limbs are in space or being able to identify different parts of your body by touch.

It’s easy to be unaware of basic bodily sensations and functions. We often take it for granted and fail to take notice until something goes wrong. For example, you might not be aware of the sensation of your heartbeat until you have a heart attack or feel pain in your chest.

As well, you might not notice your poor seated posture until you experience back pain. Or you might not be aware of how shallow your breathing is until you feel short of breath.

Body awareness can be hard to achieve if you are not used to paying attention to your body. It takes practice to develop body awareness, but it is an ability that anyone can improve.

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Why Is Body Awareness Important?

There are many reasons why body awareness is important

Better Balance And Stability

Paying attention to your body can help you maintain better balance and stability. This has a lot to do with the vestibular system, which is responsible for your sense of balance. 

The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and sends information to the brain about the position of your head in relation to gravity (9). 

If you have poor body awareness, you may not be able to tell if you’re off-balance. This could lead to falls and other accidents. Developing better body awareness can help you avoid these potential hazards.

Improved Movement

Body awareness also plays a role in movement. When you’re aware of your body, you’re able to move more efficiently and with greater precision. You’re also less likely to injure yourself because you’re more in control of your movements (6).

As an example, a tennis player who’s aware of their body can swing the racket with the right amount of force and hit the ball in the desired spot. 

A golfer who’s aware of their body can make a smooth, controlled swing. And a dancer who’s aware of their body can execute the steps with grace and precision.

In contrast, someone who’s not aware of their body is more likely to make jerky, awkward movements. They are also more likely to injure themselves because they don’t have control over their movements.

body awareness

Weight Management

Lack of body awareness can lead you to misinterpret your body’s hunger cues and cravings (16). For example, you might think you’re hungry when you’re thirsty, or you might eat even when you’re not hungry. 

On the other hand, if you have a good sense of body awareness, you’re more in tune with your body’s needs. You’re able to tell the difference between hunger and thirst, and you’re less likely to eat when you’re not hungry. 

This can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. When you’re aware of your body, you’re less likely to make unhealthy food choices. 

Pain Management

Sensory information from the body plays a role in pain perception. When you have poor body awareness, you may not be able to tell where the pain is coming from or how severe it is (1). 

On the other hand, when you have good body awareness, you’re able to pay attention to the sensations in your body and better understand your pain. This can be helpful if you’re dealing with chronic pain or recovering from an injury (5).

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Better Self-Care

You have physical and emotional needs, and it’s important to take care of both. When you have good body awareness, you’re more in tune with your needs and more likely to take care of yourself. 

For example, if you’re tired, you might take a nap. If you’re thirsty, you might drink some water. And if you’re feeling stressed, you might do some deep breathing or go for a walk. 

In contrast, if you have poor body awareness, you might not realize that you’re tired, thirsty, or stressed. As a result, you might not take care of yourself as well as you should. 

Reduced Stress And Anxiety

When you have good body awareness, you’re more in tune with your body’s physical and emotional needs. This can help you manage stress and anxiety.

For example, if you’re feeling stressed, you might notice that your muscles are tense. This awareness can cue you to do some relaxation exercises or take a break. 

Or if you’re feeling anxious, you might notice that your heart rate has increased. This awareness can cue you to do some deep breathing exercises or take a few minutes to relax. 

In contrast, if you’re not aware of your body, you might not notice the physical signs of stress and anxiety  (2) (17). This can lead to chronic stress and anxiety, which can have negative effects on your health. 

Some of the potential effects of chronic stress and anxiety include (13): 

  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Low energy levels
  • Depressed mood

body awareness

How To Develop Body Awareness

There are many things you can do to develop body awareness. Here are a few ideas: 

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that involves focusing your attention on the present moment. This can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations (12). 

An example of mindfulness meditation is sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. As you breathe in and out, you pay attention to the sensations of your breath. If your mind wanders, you simply bring your attention back to your breath. 

Yoga

Yoga involves both physical and mental components. The physical component can help you become more aware of your body, and the mental component can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions (8).

Some specific yoga poses that can help you develop body awareness include:

  • Tree pose
  • Warrior I pose
  • Triangle pose

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Pilates

Pilates is a type of exercise that emphasizes controlled movements and breathwork. This can help you become more aware of your body and how it moves. 

Body Scanning

Body scanning is a practice in which you focus your attention on each part of your body, from your head to your toes. This can help you become more aware of the sensations in your body (11). 

To do a body scan:

  1. Find a  comfortable position. You can lie down or sit in a chair.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Focus your attention on your head and face. Notice any tension or relaxation in these areas.
  4. Slowly move your attention down to your neck and shoulders. Notice any tension or relaxation in these areas.
  5. Continue moving your attention down your body, noticing any tension or relaxation in each area.
  6. When you reach your feet, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.

body awareness

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a practice in which you focus on tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. This can help you become more aware of the sensation of tension and relaxation in your body (7). 

To do PMR:

  1. Find a comfortable position. You can lie down or sit in a chair.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Start with your head and face. Tense all the muscles in this area for 5-10 seconds. Then relax the muscles and focus on the sensation of relaxation. 
  4. Move down to your neck and shoulders. Tense all the muscles in this area for 5-10 seconds. Then relax the muscles and focus on the sensation of relaxation. 
  5. Continue moving down your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group. 
  6. When you reach your feet, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.

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Proprioceptive Activities

Proprioceptive activities involve using your muscles and joints to move your body in specific ways (14). These activities can help you develop a better sense of where your body is in space. 

Some proprioceptive activities that you can do at home include: 

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-upsSquats
  • Lunges

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises involve maintaining your balance while you move your body. These exercises can help you develop a better sense of where your body is in space. 

Some balance exercises that you can do at home include: 

  • Standing on one leg
  • Walking heel to toe
  • Standing on an unstable surface, such as a pillow or foam mat

body awareness

Body Awareness For Kids

Body awareness begins as early as 4-6 months, however, it develops significantly during the toddler years. As a parent, there are things you can do to help your child develop body awareness (4): 

  • Play catch, hopscotch, or other games that involve movement.
  • Encourage your child to explore their body and move in different ways.
  • Help your child identify different emotions and how they feel in their body.
  • Model good self-care practices, such as eating healthy, exercising, and managing stress.
  • Play “Simon Says” or other games that involve movement.

Children with poor body awareness may exhibit the following signs:

  • When asked to draw a picture of a person they may exclude certain body parts or place them in the wrong spot.
  • They may have trouble with tasks that require coordination, such as catching a ball or tying their shoes.
  • They may be more accident-prone than other kids

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, talk to your child’s doctor. They can assess your child and provide guidance on how to help them develop body awareness. 

Final Thoughts On Body Awareness

Body awareness is the ability to pay attention to the sensations in your body. This can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, manage pain, or reduce stress and anxiety. 

There are many things you can do to develop body awareness, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, Pilates, body scanning, and progressive muscle relaxation.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Being aware of the painful body: Validation of the German Body Awareness Questionnaire and Body Responsiveness Questionnaire in patients with chronic pain (2018, journals.plos.org)
  2. Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies (2011, biomedcentral.com)
  3. Body Awareness: Construct and Self-Report Measures (2009, journals.plos.org)
  4. Body Awareness Activities for Kids – NAPA Center (2020, napacenter.org)
  5. Body Awareness as an Important Target in Multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Treatment: Mediation and Subgroup Analyses (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement? (2009, tandfonline.com)
  7. Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation (2021, hindawi.com)
  8. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews (2012, hindawi.com)
  9. How does our sense of balance work? (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Kinaesthetics – an overview (n.d., sciencedirect.com)
  11. Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective | Psychology (2019, frontiersin.org)
  12. Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress (2019, apa.org)
  13. Stress effects on the body (2018, apa.org)
  14. The effectiveness of proprioceptive training for improving motor function: a systematic review (2015, frontiersin.org)
  15. The Proprioceptive Senses: Their Roles in Signaling Body Shape, Body Position and Movement, and Muscle Force (2012, journals.physiology.org)
  16. Unpredictability, body awareness, and eating in the absence of hunger: A cognitive schemas approach. (2018, psycnet.apa.org)
  17. When the brain does not adequately feel the body: Links between low resilience and interoception (2016, sciencedirect.com)

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