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Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies

Wolf E Mehling1*, Judith Wrubel1, Jennifer J Daubenmier1, Cynthia J Price2, Catherine E Kerr3, Theresa Silow4, Viranjini Gopisetty1 and Anita L Stewart5

Author Affiliations

1 University of California, San Francisco, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, California, USA

2 University of Washington, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, Seattle, Washington, USA

3 Harvard University, Osher Research Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

4 John F. Kennedy University, Somatic Psychology Program, California, USA

5 University of California, San Francisco, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, California, USA

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Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2011, 6:6  doi:10.1186/1747-5341-6-6

Published: 7 April 2011

Abstract

Enhancing body awareness has been described as a key element or a mechanism of action for therapeutic approaches often categorized as mind-body approaches, such as yoga, TaiChi, Body-Oriented Psychotherapy, Body Awareness Therapy, mindfulness based therapies/meditation, Feldenkrais, Alexander Method, Breath Therapy and others with reported benefits for a variety of health conditions. To better understand the conceptualization of body awareness in mind-body therapies, leading practitioners and teaching faculty of these approaches were invited as well as their patients to participate in focus groups. The qualitative analysis of these focus groups with representative practitioners of body awareness practices, and the perspectives of their patients, elucidated the common ground of their understanding of body awareness. For them body awareness is an inseparable aspect of embodied self awareness realized in action and interaction with the environment and world. It is the awareness of embodiment as an innate tendency of our organism for emergent self-organization and wholeness. The process that patients undergo in these therapies was seen as a progression towards greater unity between body and self, very similar to the conceptualization of embodiment as dialectic of body and self described by some philosophers as being experienced in distinct developmental levels.