With the rising popularity of meditation and yoga we have witnessed a movement towards Integrated Body Mind Training techniques (IBMT). Originally a health system devised in China in the 1990s, IBMT is now coming into its heyday.
These methods work on one simple premise. We are more effective when we have clear communication between mind and body.
We know from science that there is a direct relationship between body and mind.
What we do with the body influences the mind, and vice versa. Therefore, the best healing practises are ones that focus on both the mind and the body as one entity. In other words, Integrated Body Mind Training techniques.
Why do these technique work? Because they combine mental health and physical health.
Mind and body are one.
For instance, how many times have you felt a tightness in your chest and then felt stressed? Or, the other way around, how many times have you felt stress and then experienced tension in your chest?
Yet many people are often unaware of this link between body and mind. And this causes erroneous ways of thinking. For example, we feel tension in the chest. And then we feel stressed. And so we think, “I’m stress, something must be wrong.” When accurate thinking would be, “There’s tension in my chest.”
Do you see how sensations in the body lead to emotions than then influence thoughts? Hence the need for more mindful awareness of physical sensations.
To maximise our self-awareness, we must enhance the link between mind and body. And hence the need for Integrated Body Mind Training Techniques.
What Are Integrated Body Mind Training Techniques?
Essentially, Integrated Body Mind Training techniques are methods that combine the mental with the physical. They make us more mindfully aware of physical sensations and the relationship between mind and body.
Proponents of this field of medicine argue that the mind and body are one entity, almost like two sides of the same coin.
To understand the mind-body connection, consider how different emotions create different physical states. I really enjoyed this article about this on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
How emotions cause physical sensations:
- Happiness: Creates a sense of relaxation and readiness. When we are happy, communication between the body and mind is enhanced.
- Love: Love is closely related to physical desire. It creates sensations in the reproductive organs. Plus, because of affection, love creates sensations around the head and chest.
- Pride: Creates sensations of strength in the chest and head.
- Anger: Creates tension in the hands, chest, and head. Focuses attention on the body in case we need to act.
- Fear: Stimulates the “fight-or-flight” response, which increases blood flow and adrenalin.
- Anxiety: Causes tension in the chest and escalates heart rate.
- Depression: Does not stimulate the bod. And reduces activation in the extremities.
Note that the opposite is true.
Physical sensations lead to emotional conditions. Molecular neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa says that, “Awareness of bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness.”
For instance, taking a bath creates warmth in the body. In turn, this makes us feel relaxed.
Because of the link between emotions and sensations, we can train the mind to be more conscious of physical sensations, and in turn increase self-awareness and emotional control.
And that is why Integrated Body Mind Training techniques are so beneficial.
Now let’s look at the best Integrated Mind Body Training Techniques.
Different Integrated Body Mind Training Techniques
Mindfulness is really the heart of Integrated Body Mind Training techniques. Because it is all about awareness of physical and emotional sensations. [READ: Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners].
When we are mindful, we are more aware of physical sensations. We are also more aware of thoughts and feelings. However, we do not get lost in thoughts and feelings. Rather, we perceive them for what they are. For instance, a thought might be just a visual image or a sound in the mind.
Mindfulness is heavily based on the Buddhist meditation technique Vipassana. When we practice Vipassana we observe the world via the senses. This reduces ruminating thoughts and provides a more direct experience of reality.
When we are mindful, we calmly, non-judgmentally observe the present moment with continual awareness.
Because mindfulness creates calmness, it is helpful for numerous conditions related to stress according to the American Psychological Association.
Plus, mindfulness helps with both cardiovascular conditions and cancer.
Because mindfulness involves calmly observing our emotions, it trains us to have better self-regulation. In other words, with mindfulness we reduce the extremity of emotions. And this is beneficial for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
One of the best techniques is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. This is a course created by Jon Kabat Zinn. In it, we learn to be mindful of both external and internal stimuli. You might like to listen to these podcasts about it.
Here is a simple Integrated Body Mind Training technique based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan meditation.
Mindfulness-Based Mind Body Training technique
- Sit comfortably with good posture. When we have good posture, we naturally create positive emotions like confidence and inner strength. Therefore, it is best to sit with good posture when practising mindfulness.
- Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths to relax.
- Focus on the sensations in the crown of your head. What do you observe there? Is there an energy or sensation? If so, be mindful of it. Now take one deep breath and observe how the sensations in the crown of your head change as you breathe.
- Continue to your face. Focus on the sensations in your face. Take one deep breath as you continue to focus on physical sensations in your face.
- Continue down your body gradually. Focus on one part of your body at a time. Notice the sensations there. Take a deep breath as you continue to focus on the sensations.
- Continue until you have focused on each part of your body one step at a time.
2. Breathing Meditation
When we practise meditation, most of the time we are observing the breath. And science shows that when we non-judgmentally observe the breath, breathing rate slows.
In turn, this creates relaxation in both the mind and body.
Try this simple breathing meditation exercise.
- Sit comfortably with good posture. Make sure your spine is straight but relaxed. Slightly lower your chin to elongate your neck.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in through your nose. Observe your breath moving through your body.
- Breathe out through your mouth. Again, watch your breath moving through your body.
- Continue to 108 breaths.
This Integrated Mind Body Training technique uses focus for relaxation. When we focus on the breath we relax. This promotes activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Plus, it reduces activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Overall, this technique creates relaxation. You will find it helpful for reducing stress.
3. Zen Walking Meditation
Many meditations can be used as Integrated Body Mind Training techniques. However, the best ones involve awareness of the body.
For instance, try Zen Walking Meditation, or “Kinhin”.
When we do this, we walk slowly while mediating on the movement of the legs. The key is to be conscious of the complete movement of the legs and feet.
Here is a simple guide.
- Find a path about twenty metres in length.
- Stand at one end of the path.
- Take ten mindful breaths to relax.
- Begin to walk very slowly. While walking, observe how the legs move. You should be aware of the entire process of movement.
- You might find it beneficial to label movements. For instance, say, “Left foot rising.” And then. “Left leg swinging forwards.” And so on.
- When you reach the end of your path, turn around and repeat.
This exercise makes us more conscious of bodily movements.
Research by Paul D. Loprinzi [University of Mississippi] shows that this reduces anxiety.
And research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that it reduces depression.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a wonderful exercise for relaxation. When we practise this method, we develop body intelligence. That is, body awareness, body knowledge, and body engagement.
When we practise PMR, we systematically tense and then relax different parts of the body. Meanwhile, we observe the change in feeling between tension and relaxation. This helps us learn to relax our muscles.
Research shows that Progressive muscles relaxation:
- Reduces anxiety.
- Improves sleep.
- Improves systolic blood pressure.
- And helps with numerous pains, including neck pain.
One of the fastest rising Integrate Body Mind Training techniques is biofeedback. This method uses technology to enhance bodily awareness. Electromyography is used to allow people to change their body state.
Research shows that biofeedback can help with blood pressure and migraines. Plus, it aids with self-direction. Finally, it can help with various pains as well as sleep disorders.
Here is a full video about biofeedback from the University of California, San Francisco, Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine
If you have ever studied the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you will know that yoga is about more than just exercise.
In fact, yoga incorporates many exercises for the mind. For instance, meditation and Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal).
When we practise yoga, we shouldn’t just move the body. We should be mindfully observing the body in different poses. This enhances self-awareness.
Self awareness is a core component of Yin Yoga, created by Paul Zink in the 1970s.
In Yin Yoga, we get into an asana (pose) and stay in it for up to 45 seconds. While in the pose we focus on bodily sensations. This enhances self awareness and the mind-body connection.
Here is a simple example.
- Get into Downward Dog pose.
- Tune-in to the sensations in your body. Observe how you feel in different parts of your body.
- Slightly adjust the pose. For instance, tilt slightly to one side. Observe how you feel now.
- Continue to make very small adjustments to the pose and observe the sensations in your body.
- When you’re ready, continue to the next pose.
- It is best to focus on simple yoga poses when doing this. For instance, Child’s Pose, Warrior I, and Mountain Pose.
7. T’ai Chi & Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient healing practises used in Taoism. When we do tai chi and qigong, we slowly advance through a series of postures. In this way it is similar to yoga. However, movements are slower and there is more emphasis on mindfulness.
Indeed, traditionally, tai chi is meditative.
The slow and graceful movements help us to relax. Plus, they reduce physical stress. They can be particularly useful for arthritis. And I personally find that they slow my mind and make me much more self-aware.
A Harvard report shows that these methods can help to reduce anxiety and depression.
These three physical practices focus on using body movements that draw attention to the internal experience of the present.
Mind and body are one. Yet for centuries in the West, we have treated the mind and body as separate things. For instance, we have counselling and therapy for the mind. And we have various medicines for the body.
We have missed one of the most important parts of healing. That is, the mind-body connection.
For total health and wellbeing, we should train the mind and body as one. And that is why Integrated Mind Body Training techniques are so helpful.
When we become more aware of bodily sensations, we increase overall self-awareness.
I’m optimistic that the trend towards mind-body healing will continue. Because this truly is the future of health.