Today I’m talking with Peter Blackaby who is the author of the book Intelligent Yoga which he is currently writing the 2nd edition for. Pete started practicing yoga in 1978 and began teaching in 1986. He then went on to become an osteopath. In 2002 he became involved in the British Wheel of Yoga (which is the governing body in England), and ran a two-year teacher training program for them. Since then, Pete has been running courses for teachers and teaches functional anatomy and biomechanics in the UK and internationally. His interest in the last 15 years has been to put some scientific underpinning to the practice of yoga, both in the biomechanical sense and in the mind/body relationship.
In today’s conversation we’re talking about moving away from the Western reductionist view of anatomy, what a bottom up approach to yoga looks like vs. a top down approach, how the whole person’s lived experience is tied into how they move, and how yoga teachers can approach working with students who have chronic pain.
Leslie has been a yoga educator for the last four decades and is an internationally recognized specialist in the fields of yoga and breath anatomy. He leads anatomy and yoga methodology workshops for many of the leading yoga associations, schools and training programs in the world.
He is the co-author of the bestselling book Yoga Anatomy and the founder of The Breathing Project.
Leslie has also helped to organize international yoga conferences while serving as Vice-President of Unity in Yoga, and was part of the committee that established national standards for yoga teacher training.
In today’s conversation we’re talking about what it was like to have a front-row seat for the birth of the fitness and yoga industries in the United States, concepts related to breath and breath anatomy, and the art of teaching and the importance of creating an atmosphere of inquiry in yoga classes in order to honor students’ individuality and allow for deeper insights.
Today I’m talking with Amy Matthews. Amy has been teaching movement since 1994. She is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst, a Body-Mind Centering® Teacher, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, and a movement therapist and yoga teacher. Amy is also the co-author of the best-selling book Yoga Anatomy, and together with Leslie Kaminoff Amy teaches The Breathing Project's Advanced Studies courses. In today’s conversation we’re talking about Laban Movement Analysis and Body-Mind Centering, developmental movement work, and what that means for infants- how they can get a solid foundation for personal agency and emotional regulation through movement, and how developmental movement work helps adults as well. We also talk about embodied teaching, how teaching is its own art form and how it can also call forth a student’s personal agency.
Beyond Anatomy: A Somatic Symposium (coming soon! April 1st and 2nd)
Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and the founder of Nutritious Movement. She is the author of several books including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and her most recent collection of essays, Movement Matters. In today’s conversation we’re talking about the ecology of movement. How does your movement affect not just your health but also humans everywhere, even ones you’ve never met, and how does it affect the health of the planet as a whole? We discuss the real impact of our sedentarism and our drive for convenience, and how movement can be a very profound and impactful form of activism.
Today I’m talking with Mark Walsh, an embodiment specialist who is the creator of the Embodied Facilitator training, Integration Training, Embodied Yoga Principles, and Purpose Blackbelt. His work in embodiment has taken him to a wide range of organizations and communities, from businesses in the UK, to the Middle East alongside the UN, the slums of Brazil, an HIV organization in East Africa, and many other places. In our conversation today we talk about what embodiment means, some of the ways embodiment is being misunderstood, how lives change with embodiment, what the consequences are of living in a disembodied time culturally, and, considering that the world is in a pretty inflamed place these days, we take on how those of us who work with the body can be activists- how our work makes the world a less traumatized and traumatizing place.
I’m talking with Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews, and Peter Blackaby about our upcoming somatic symposium at The Breathing Project in New York this April called Beyond Anatomy. We talk about what “beyond anatomy” means to each of us and what some of the specific things are in our own learning trajectories that we are exploring at this point.
For the final episode of season 3 Bo Forbes turns the tables and interviews me, Brooke Thomas. Bo asks me her own questions as well as those submitted from listeners (thank you!) and we cover a lot of ground. If you want to hear about my personal path with my body, how learning through the podcast changed the way I see all bodies, how I parent based on what I've learned, my current practices (particularly in natural movement and somatic meditation), and what the road ahead looks like tune in.
Bo and I spoke at length and below are the questions that were asked. The circuitous route that ensues after a question was asked is hard to capture so...
- What’s your earliest memory of being in your body?
- The sense of being different can be an impetus for innovation or a life sentence- how did that go in your life?
- What stands out as key moments bringing you into this work?
- What did your healing journey look like?
- How and why did you start Liberated Body? What was the intial vision, how has it changed, how has the practice of doing it changed you?
- From Rebecca M: "1) You mentioned you had health issues and became really good at eating crackers on the bench while others were involved in activity. When did you realize that you had crossed over from sedentary to a true lover of movement? 2) What were some of the obstacles you had along the way and how did you solve the problems?"
- Bo "The idea that the body should be or should do... it can give people imposter syndrome. Sometimes we just have to step into our place. Often the tipping points we experience are small and subtle, yet the world often conditions us to look for these big momentous transformations.
- From Patrice N “I know that your curiosity (at least I think I know that) and some physical issues brought you to looking more deeply into embodiment as a topic - but now, after this time of exploration - can you say something of the value you've gained from working with embodiment practices? Often, students/clients don't get what or how an embodied existence enriches the experience of being human. They seem to think that if they simply feel "no pain" things are fine."
- From Jill Miller “What do you do for your non-negotiable daily self-care?”
- From Kristin W "Your mention of the Meditating with the Body program, inspired me to check out Dharma Ocean. The result is that I have been meditating on a daily basis for the first time in my life! The Dharma Ocean approach of deeply grounding in our sacred bodies has changed my life in a short few months. I would love to hear about your experience with it."
- Luna E “What are your movement actions/daily/weekly/monthly? and how have you dealt with or have you had any injuries?"
- Natalie “With all the info that you gather how do you discern what to practice for yourself?”
- Marita “Who or what has changed your way of thinking about your body?”
- John S “In season 3 we’ve heard from some fabulous researchers. I know there is so much that can be learned through the lens of science. At the same time, I sometimes question how suitable science is for learning about the embodied experience. Science is necessarily based on objectivity and reductionism, while our embodied experience is inherently subjective and holistic. Given these differences, what do you see as the promises and pitfalls of research into the embodied experience?"
- Julie F “1. Given that body and mind is not separate, and this speaker's discussion has implications for body, mind, and life practices - I would like him to expand that more. Also how he practice the line in his life. 2. Do you have 'play list by theme', also for women..since I don't see too many women in your talks."
- Ana Maria “I want to know how all the body nerdery has impacted what you're teaching or practicing with your son?”
- Kathleeen L "Anderson Cooper' recent comment about his massage therapy experience has incited much conversation in our profession. I have been inspired by his experience that negative emotions can be massaged into the body. For the past few days, I have been asking my clients to share a happy, positive thought as I address their area of concern. For example, I had a teacher with tight shoulders. I prompted her to talk about why she got into teaching and her favorite memories as I massaged her upper trapezius. Is there any research or theory to support the idea that positive or negative thoughts can affect muscles in this way?"
- Cathy H “How do you metabolize this incredible world of questions and discovery and constant emerging-ness that the podcast invites us into? Everything I believe to be true is only the case for a moment in time and sometimes I feel that what makes me feel curious and alive also makes me feel a touch overwhelmed.”
- What will you be up to in the off season? What projects are next?
Cynthia Price is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Washington in the Biobehavioral Nursing Department. Her clinical and research expertise is in the development of body awareness, or interoception, to improve health and well-being. She is the creator of an approach towards educating people in body awareness called Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy or MABT for short, and is the founder of the Center for Mindful Body Awareness.
Her research studies have focused on the use of MABT for multiple health conditions including Substance Dependency, PTSD, chronic pain, and HIV.Interested in the processes involved in learning mindful body awareness, Cynthia studies qualitative aspects and underlying mechanisms of the MABT approach. She is an author of two scales to measure interoceptive awareness: the Scale of Body Connection (SBC) and the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA). Committed to increasing health care access to underserved populations, Cynthia works with local and international programs to provide and improve complementary and integrative health care through her research, teaching, and service.
Cynthia’s work is essentially getting at the heart of what I’m most excited about in approaches towards the body. Cynthia and I talk about what MABT’s components are and how it helps people with a diverse range of challenges in clinical settings, how and why she came to do this work, and, more broadly, why we disembody, how individual that is, and what we gain when we cultivate a relationship with our bodies.
- Cynthia describes herself as a bodywork researcher.
- As a researcher she developed an approach that grew out of her clinical practice called Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy, or MABT. She took the key elements that people needed to develop body awareness and connect with their bodies.
- Research focuses on looking at how MABT helps people in their lives- people with trauma histories, substance abuse disorder recovery, veterans with chronic pain and PTSD, as well as people living with chronic pain.
- MABT involves developing interoceptive awareness.
- Cynthia trained as a massage therapist in 1981, and was in private practice as a massage therapist for 20 years. Halfway through those 20 years she went back and did her degree in counseling/psychology. She didn’t want to do psychotherapy alone, but wanted to feel more confident bringing a psychotherapeutic focus to her practice.
- Her practice became about body psychotherapy in approach, but really was about the development of body connection.
- She worked a lot with people who were in recovery from interpersonal trauma, mostly childhood sexual abuse.
- The key components of MABT- it is focused on teaching people the fundamental skills of connecting to their inner body sensations.
- It happens in 3 phases: 1: Literacy. How do you help someone develop a language and identify and be aware of sensation? In this phase they are using massage and stopping and pausing in places and asking people what they are aware of. 2: Learning what mindfulness is and how to engage in that in a somatic way. There are a series of exercises in this phase 3: A guided process of expanding capacity to attend to internal experience mindfully. People tend not to be able to maintain awareness for very long, and this helps with developing the capacity to stay connected inside.
- The incremental training orientation is enormously important for people who tend to avoid their bodies as a way of being in the world. What we find in our research is that people have gone to meditation classes and they are completely lost and this work helps them to know exactly how to meditate how to be in a mindful place.
- Why do we disembody? There is not one answer to that question. In my [Cynthia] clinical experience it’s such an individual experience why someone is disconnected.
- There is a cultural overlay but I think that individual reasons for why people get disconnected have to do with natural coping mechanisms that are really helpful for us for avoiding discomfort. Avoidance allows us to function in the face of things that are overwhelming.
- There are common things but the individual stories are so individual. It’s part of the beauty of working individually.
- MABT is differentiated by touch. Historically touch is not used as an emotion regulation tool.
- The field of psychology has created this split between the body ad psychotherapeutic practices. It’s understandable in that there has been so much abuse of touch- sexual assault and inappropriateness which created those guidelines. That’s why I [Cynthia] wound up in school of nursing. They understood that touch is healing. Massage used to be something nurses did in their care of patients.
- Psychologists will often wonder about this work- doesn’t touch create more trauma? Absolutely not. One needs to be sensitive in all sorts of ways, but touch allows people to ground their awareness in a way that provides an avenue for them to attend to their internal somatic experience. Touch is this centering focus for the mind.
- We don’t have an understanding that body awareness is a therapeutic and useful treatment for trauma, addiction, for emotional regulation more broadly
- That’s why it’s an exciting time. In mindfulness research there has been this focus on looking at mechanisms from a neurological and biological perspective. What has been written are theoretical models. What hasn't happened so much is really having the clinical component of this. How do we teach this work? How do people learn it?
- This work is ultimately about listening to their body to learn that they can trust their bodies. This sense that the body is against us can be something so pervasive- how do you soften into seeing it as something trustworthy?
- We get quote after quote [from research participants] of people really describing this. Saying they had no idea how they felt, and no idea that there was a link between physical and emotional sensation.
- A relationship with your body allows your life to unfold and most people don’t even know what that means unless they have experienced it. How do we talk about this? It’s such an internal process. It’s so experientially grounded.
- The most surprising and most challenging work with MABT has been with people who have chronic pain. Their pain is so big that it is their primary experience very day.
- Working with them to bring their attention into their bodies there can be a lot of resistance and fear. Someone who has lived with pain for 20 years and developed an array of coping mechanisms including medication- it’s a lot of them to shift and trust that they can go inside and be with this scary place. This is also true with people who are struggling with PTSD.
- In working with people with chronic pain that’s been the most amazing thing to witness- how much they discover that their pain is just one piece rather than their whole world.
- In MABT we’re helping people to take these baby steps. It’s an education process and a creative process.
- Work with women with substance use disorders: Learning MABT had a significant effect in relapse reduction. They are close to end of a larger study that National Institute of Drug Abuse is funding.
- The initial findings were quite positive. Not only did women with MABT have lower relapse rates and used less substances overall, they also had less depression, improved emotional regulation, reported less stress, less eating disorders which are often very high in women with substance abuse disorders.
- That study had a follow up at 9 months and the strongest results were from women continuing the practice on a daily basis.
- To date she has been training massage therapists in MABT. That’s shifting with growing interest from yoga therapists, psychotherapists, and more so they are starting to open up trainings to people across all these disciplines.
- One of the things I’ve [Cynthia] started to do is to consider how do we make this work accessible to more people? This started The Center for Mindful Body Awareness for people across all these disciplines and to work with non and for profits who are providing clinical care to incorporate and integrate this work so that it can be more accessible to people who are low income.