During our embodied awareness sessions at the Community House we start and end with a breathing exercise. Lately we have been using the 11 minute Wim Hoff technique.
He is a fascinating guy. He speaks clearly to this importance of embodied awareness, or presence here. youtu.be/fC5vyMERa94
He suggests that most of us live our lives being entirely in our thoughts. Hence, we disconnect to those parts of our being and even our brain that are related to emotions and embodied experiences. His realization came after swimming in a frozen pond, and feeling more alive and present than ever before. He went on to repeat the experience and found himself further filled with life energy.
His basic premise fits nicely with what I understand about the brain from my own studies in neuroscience. I had studied the attention systems in the brain, and studied both schizophrenia and attention deficit "disorder". Both of these psychological states of being have terrible issues with focused attention. My research was focused on the biochemistry, and how we can bring people into a focused state through the use of drugs.
In the work in schizophrenia, I looked at the effects of nicotine. My belief is that nicotine actually increases the sensory drive. If you look at the brain, it has multiple states of being. In one state we are dreamy and creative. In another state we are focused on what is right in front of us. In that part of the brain responsible for bringing the sensory input into the conscious part of awareness, there are also different states. One that lets the internal imagination rule, and another that more systematically represents the external world. So nicotine acts to increase the power of the external input.
For those smokers out there, you may have the feeling that nicotine is "grounding".
Wim Hoff talks about the power of his techniques to bring people back into their body, and how this can eliminate depression and help people with trauma. This makes perfect sense. For people who have experienced trauma, there is often the experience of disassociation. The person had developed the ability to disconnect from their physical situation in order to escape into their mind. Autism may be an extreme form of this escape, and schizophrenics are definitely trapped in their own imaginary world.
Breathing or intense sensory experiences help bring the person back in touch with their embodied selves. Notice how autistic children love spicy food, super sour pickles, or strong sensory experiences. I believe they are having difficulty incarnating.
So the importance of connecting to the physical is not really about having a nice body, or even a clean bill of health, these are of course by-products. Rather, connecting to our physical being we enter more deeply into who we are. We activate those deep brain regions and begin to thrive. Our experience of life becomes more powerful, and our will to live a full life grows with each embodied breath.
So give it a try for a week. Start your day out with some Wim Hoff breathing.
Here is the three cycles we have been using. Enjoy!
WIM HOFF BREATHING