Bodies are your way of experiencing the world and in experiencing the world through a body, you change and grow and become the person you are. It's very common, even I do it sometimes to make a point, to think of people and their bodies as separate from each other: "you and your body," I might say. But really, you and your body are one person, the same person. That's why I think people find it such a profound experience to get to know their bodies because in doing so they get to know themselves. Knowing your limitations, playing with and challenging those limitations, is an exercise in growth as a person—whether those limitations are mental or physical, they are yours and your overcoming them is momentous. As a therapist, I think the most profound changes come from people discovering these connections between who they think of as themselves and the body they inhabit. Think about stress for a moment. For me, and I think this is true for a lot of people but I won't claim it is true for everyone, I feel stress physically. I know when I am stressed when I start acting and feeling stressed. My eating habits change: I don't eat as well or as often. I sleep worse: I can't sleep as long or as deeply as I normally do. I get sore and tight: my muscles are fatigued faster and my energy is lower than it normally is. Though my mental experience of stress is more than a mere a reaction to my physical feeling of stress. To borrow a term from Antonio Damasio, my mind and my body communicate in a resonant loop wherein my mind reacts to my body which reacts to my mind and their reactions in turn change each other. They are connected and interwoven, they resonate.
Though my practice doesn't incorporate this idea directly, I still practice quite standard massage therapy in a lot of ways, I do incorporate these ideas indirectly: I ask my clients more often than most therapists how something feels and I get them to direct their attention on how they are reacting to that feeling. For example, I'm interested not only if one is feeling referral sensation from their shoulder to their neck or head but also if they notice their face wincing or their hands tensing or maybe a feeling of both relief or satisfaction. Sometimes these feelings are really subtle or sometimes they're very clear. Regardless, the kind of attention and focus I ask of my clients is what is or interest more so than any particular sensation. It's the skill of embodiment that interests me and how developing that skill on the table leads one to practicing that skill in their day to day lives.
So many people who come to me experience feelings like head aches and their most common reaction to those feelings are to try and ignore the sensation, to get through their day and move on. And I see the practicality in that, absolutely. One side effect, however, is that they then have a hard time identifying when they are tense and when they are relaxed. They suppress so much of their reaction that they have a hard time knowing what they are feeling. They don't feel the tension and they can't tell when there is a release. They judge their experiences in a binary fashion: either there is pain or there is no pain. But what about pressure, tightness, pulling, stretch, restriction, resistance? These sorts of feelings are the insidious ones that people ignore and then lose a lot of control over. Relaxing is hard, as I've said but I think it's pivotal and a profound practice once one takes it seriously.