Finished separating the body that must be treated and the mind that only serves to “think”! The two are intimately linked. “ So we cannot go through the body (movement, breathing) to calm the mind and regulate emotions, or on the contrary play with the mind to modulate bodily sensations such as pain », says Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau, psychologist and hypnotherapist. “Going through sensations or movement often proves to be more effective in treating anxiety, depression, addictions… than seeking to act directly on thoughts, as in classic psychotherapies”, confirms Dr Yasmine Liénard , psychiatrist. Here are some practices that help you feel better.
Visualization, what is it?
It relies on pictures (symbols, places, colors…) to induce a feeling of calm or energy, depending on the objective. ” The visualization techniques allow you to observe and change a feeling (discomfort, pain), an emotion (sadness, anger, etc.) or a behavior (in addictions for example)”, explains Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau. If you have pain, you can for example use the technique of Chinese portrait : if your pain was an object, a color, a shape, an animal, what would it be?
We then visualize this image, for example an ice cube with very hard edges, then with each breath, we modify the image with the intention of modifying the sensation, for example by feeling the ice cube melting, the water flowing in some way something warmer… The more we enrich the visualization of physical sensations, smells, sounds, even tastes, the more effective it will be. “MRI studies show that the brain processes these imagined situations as if they were reality,” adds the psychologist.
How to practice visualization?
It’s easier at the start to be guided by a practitioner (psychologist, sophrologist, hypnotherapist…), who suggests images or helps us find the one that speaks to us, then guides us to deepen visualization, especially since his voice promotes relaxation. But you can also train alone, for example with meditation or hypnosis apps that offer visualizations (Namatata; Stop anxiety hypnosis; Relaxation hypnosis, etc.) or simple exercises. The more you practice, the faster the effect when you need it (pain, anxiety…).
What can we expect from visualization?
Visualization helps to unblock the situation (sleep problems, chronic pain, phobias, addictions…) in a few sessions, sometimes just one. It is used by many psycho-corporal practices such as hypnosis, relaxation, sophrology, cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT)… Visualization is also a technique used with a view to performance and self-confidencefor example by athletes or in the professional environment.
Two visualization exercises to try
The tree to (re)find calm: standing or sitting, close your eyes, make yourself comfortable, first pay attention to your breathing, without trying to modify it, then imagine yourself becoming a tree, with roots that take root in the ground, bypassing the small stones or the biggest ones to draw the energy where it is. Also visualize the tree stretching towards the sky, feel its verticality and, even if the wind can blow and move the branches and leaves, the trunk remains straight, solid, in line… “As soon as we are stressed, agitated, with thoughts that come back in a loop, this image allows us to train ourselves to come back into balance”, says Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau.
The inner child for reassurance: imagine a small child who represents us, his physical characteristics, his clothes, his emotions, then take him in his arms to hug him, soothe him, take him to a safe, welcoming place… “This visualization allows to develop self-compassion, to be gentler and more welcoming towards one’s own difficulties, and also to regain a sense of security if one has experienced a trauma,” explains Dr. Liénard.
What is moving meditation?
The principle of moving meditation is to move in “mindfulness”, in other words by paying attention to everything that happens in his body. We find this idea in ancestral practices such as Zen but also in tai-chi, yoga or qi-gong. “Meditation in motion allows you to train to be present to yourself, in the moment, whatever the context and the circumstances around you, pleasant or not”, notes Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau. Like a gym that “muscles” our attention. It is easier for some people to explore meditation in movement rather than in stillness, which can be stressful or feel like “doing nothing”.
How to practice moving meditation?
The simplest is to start by walking. For example, by training in peace, walking barefoot at home, in your garden, on a beach… to properly perceive sensations. Break down the movement of the foot that takes place on the ground, which joints come into play, the density or texture under the soles of the feet, the arms that swing, the clothes that rub on the skin, the feeling of cold or heat on the different parts of the body… You can also pace your steps on your breathing to slow down the walk: for example, inhale over 4 steps, exhale over 4 steps. “By dint of training, you manage to pay attention to all these details when you walk on the way to work, for example. This awareness of the body becomes more natural”, assures Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau.
We can then integrate this meditation into all daily movements: when we cook (the ballet of the hands, the textures under the fingers, but also the smells), while playing sports (feeling which muscles we are mobilizing, contractions and relaxations…), while gardening… “Being present to one’s body, without seeking a specific goal, in everything one does, is very therapeutic for the brain”, assures psychiatrist Yasmine Lienard.
What can we expect from moving meditation?
“Paying attention to the sensations of the body interrupts habitual thought patterns and ruminations. This is why it can be effective, particularly in the face of anxiety: it prevents, for example, anticipating disasters that have not yet taken place or imagining the future in a pessimistic way, which fuels anxiety, “explains Dr. Lienard. By developing the plasticity of the brain, meditation helps to adapt better and to have a more global perception of the problems that one encounters.
What are the other types of therapies that link body and mind?
A new creative activity anti stress, in line with coloring. We use drawing as a new support for a meditative, even contemplative practice, with the observation of images, colors, gestures, noise on paper… To be discovered for example in books Decal therapy, Vegetable patch and garden (ed. Marabout, January 2022).
Some psychoanalysts or psychotherapists offer patients to dance to express through gestures (always symbolic) their unconscious, their emotions, their memories… in order toesper and remove blockages.
The Teepee method
It assumes that emotions are a physiological process and can be regulated simply by paying attention to their physical manifestations. Gradually, this allows release the deep memories of the body and the fears that are embedded.
To go further, read My meditation bible, Isabelle Célestin-Lhopiteau, Leduc S. ed, €23 (released February 22) and In search of your true self, meditate to find your true nature, Dr. Yasmine Liénard, ed. Odile Jacob, €21.90.
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Visualization and meditation in movement: all about these body and mind therapies
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