What Is Embodiment?

The mind and body connection.

woman meditating with hands together

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What Is Embodiment?

Embodiment

When people experience the world through their bodies and senses, they may feel grounded in their physical bodies or embodied. The term refers to the mind and body connection.

Embodiment and Somatic Therapy

Scientists are finding that thoughts reside in the body, not just in the mind. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, embodied cognition is the concept that “the human mind is largely determined by the structures of the human body (morphology, sensory and motor systems) and its interactions with the physical environment.”

In other words, the human mind is largely influenced by our bodies and how they interact with the physical world around us.

Embodiment doesn’t overlook the value of people's physicality or senses. Embodiment practices are derived from somatic therapy. Somatic therapy (typically used in the treatment of PTSD) helps patients focus on bodily sensations triggered by thoughts of the traumatic memory.

The Importance of Embodiment

In the current world of screens, people often disconnect from their bodies. Therefore, most don’t listen to their body's sensations or heed its signals when something goes awry. This can, in turn

Embodiment in Research

In one recent study about women in Adelaide, Australia, who hesitated to get help for their disordered eating, the concept of embodiment was central.

In this study, scientists discussed how the self is not separate, but aspects of the self are tied together through embodiment. They suggest that approaching severe and enduring anorexia nervosa (SE-AN) through a paradigm of embodiment can positively influence future therapeutic models.

Current therapeutic models try to divide anorexia nervosa from the body and separate it from the idea of a whole self to achieve recovery. The scientists believe using a an embodiment model reframes our understanding of SE-AN.

Embodiment Practices in Somatic Therapy

Embodiment practices attend to the senses and incorporate your physical being into the healing process. These practices fall under the umbrella of somatic psychology. The term “somatic” means relating to the body.

Somatic therapy focuses on this very important mind/body interface. This form of therapy is inclusive and takes a holistic therapeutic approach.

Rather than focusing on the mind as other therapies do, somatic psychology focuses on the feedback loop between the body and mind. Therefore, having body awareness becomes a crucial healing agent.

Tension and pain no longer take up residence in the body anymore. In this kind of therapy, patients go beyond where verbal communication or talk therapy can take them. Somatic therapists employ mind-body techniques for the sake of releasing what’s weighing on you physically and emotionally.

Proponents believe that the spirit, attitude, mind, and body should all be considered in treatment as they each have an effect on mental health and vice versa.

What Somatic Therapy Aims to Achieve and How It Incorporates Embodiment

Rather than using language and verbal communication to resolve problems, the aim of somatic therapy is to use your body to help release stress and tension via an embodiment practice.

Yoga as an Embodiment Practice

Yoga is a great example of embodiment therapy as it’s a mind-body practice. You focus on your breath and specific postures to reach a peaceful state.

In a recent paper, scientists discussed how yoga practice could influence how we positively inhabit our bodies.

Other Embodiment Practices to Try

Mental health practitioners use somatic therapy or embodiment therapy in a variety of ways. They employ body-oriented modalities for the betterment of patients in these types of activities:

To cultivate a deeper sense of connection between your body and mind, here are a few simple embodiment practices that you can try:

  • Take a walk: If you're feeling stressed by a million things going on in your mind, you might lean into physical movements. As you walk, try to pay attention to your body and how it feels in your environment. Tuning in to how your body responds to your physical surroundings can open your eyes to how intrinsically connected your body is to your mind and emotions
  • Try a deep breathing exercise: When you engage your body in a breathing exercise or another form of movement, it may help to naturally reduce intrusive thoughts. You will likely also feel a sense of calm, greater access to your intuition, and a deeper sense of well-being.

A Word From Verywell

By using embodiment practices, the body and mind work seamlessly together. Another great byproduct? You can start to recognize your strengths, vulnerabilities, and uniqueness. You become part of an integrated and whole self. Thus, you can go beyond self-acceptance to appreciation and even self-love.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kiverstein J. The meaning of embodimentTop Cogn Sci. 2012;4(4):740-758. doi:10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01219.x

  2. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Embodied cognition.

  3. Brom D, Stokar Y, Lawi C, et al. Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome StudyJ Trauma Stress. 2017;30(3):304-312. doi:10.1002/jts.22189

  4. Musolino CM, Warin M, Gilchrist P. Embodiment as a Paradigm for Understanding and Treating SE-AN: Locating the Self in Culture. Front. Psychiatry. 2020.

  5. Piran N, Neumark-Sztainer D. Yoga and the experience of embodiment: a discussion of possible links. Eat Disord. 2020;28(4):330-348. doi:10.1080/10640266.2019.1701350

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.