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Interoception: have you heard of it?

Well, I hadn't until Thursday and then, as so often happens when you learn a new word, you then hear it again much more frequently.

I was having my busiest afternoon yet in my new home studio and my first client/student was left for a few moments while I went and collected something. She used the time to peruse the books I have placed on a shelf. The books are partly there to confer a "learning" in the practice (they are #Feldenkrais and related books), to make it more homely and to start conversations. She said, as I came back, "I have got three of those books", and we then played a game of guessing which ones. The first was Mindfulness. A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World which actually an ex-girlfriend gave me to encourage me to be more mindful; I have not read it yet; I am never very good when things are foisted on me. The other was Sapiens and the third was The Highly Sensitive Person which I had found very useful when dealing with a family member on the #autisticspectrum. I have personal reasons and increasingly professional ones to read up on Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

My student (in "classic" Feldenrkrais terminology, I am the teacher and the person I am with is the student. I don't like the word "client" ( for reasons I will blog about!) but sometimes use it so that other people feel safer-) is part-way through an introductory course of five FIs (Functional Integrations) with me and works with Autistic Children. This is partly, as I have since discovered, she used the word "interoception". It is in some circles known as the 8th sense. "Interoception is the sensory system that helps us assess internal feelings. And increasingly, it's being recognised as the 8th sense along with sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, balance and movement in space (vestibular sense) and body position and sensations in the muscles and joints (proprioceptive sense)".*- See below. To be honest, in spite of being a movement teacher for many years I hadn't even heard of #proprioception until I trained in Feldenkrais Method, and as I have said, #interception is new this week!

Ed's left hand is placed lightly on the student's right shoulder as he lies on his left side with the sun light glowing on his neck and jaw
In Feldenkrais we touch often very lightly so that the person can feel what is going on inside them

As we "worked", she started to talk about her "interoception" and I actually asked her whether she had made the word up; in admiration, I must add rather than incredulity. She said, "no" and explained it to to me. It got us talking a bit and then she offered up a couple of books that she felt I should read. I love it when my students widen my horizons; such an important part of the process. They are the following Radical Wholeness by Philip Shepherd and Original Wisdom by Robert Wolff. They both look great and I hope to dive in before too long.

We wrapped up the session with some very interesting thoughts about how she might view her place in the world differently as a result of what she had felt physically, dare I say, partly through her interoception! And here is a link to a page about this 8th sense and if you are involved with teaching children or adults with ASD and learning difficulties, then this could be a nice resource: *

My last student of the day was a local yoga teacher. We were meeting for the first time. It is still a huge surprise to me that I meet people now in my practice, and within minutes we are into the deepest parts of their lives. It is a great privilege and I hope that for years to come I can develop this skill for listening both in the traditional way and through my hands to help people. But before too long she had also used the word "interoception". In my professional guise, of course, I demurred from blurting out, "I have just heard that word for the first time in my life and here it is again!" and carried on with the session. But after working with this student I reflected on what it is that I do.

Often I say, or people say to me, that with Awareness Through Movement lessons or Functional Integration that the inside of us becomes more visible. We are particularly concerned in Feldenkrais to reveal the connection of the 206, or so, bones to each other in the dynamic system of the skeleton; that is our way in. People have been known to say after some class or one-to-one, "it is like I have been oiled from the inside". I remember, as I was recovering from chronic back pain that, on one walk, I remember, distinctly, feeling that my insides had been gently rubbed with what I took to be almond butter!

My point in all this is to actually draw your attention to how interception and Feldenkrais and autistic spectrum disorders meet. It is very much a work-in progress-for me. A few years ago, on my training, I guessed that Functional Integration and Awareness through Movement could be great tools for helping people on the autistic spectrum to regulate their emotions and behaviour but it was simply speculation.

I have contacted various people but not really followed through; my cousin, for instance, John Lubbock, who along with his orchestra of St John's Smith Square, ( who often perform in Oxford and Dorchester Abbey), does amazing work with children with special needs; my cold-water swimming guru and friend Raf Oya, also does great work at a school for children with special needs and now my latest client (the first one in the blog and not the Yoga Teacher (as far a I know) also is in that area of education.

I am very keen to get the message out that our hands-on work can be of great assistance in this area. I am still not quite sure how to go about it but have been given great guidance from one of the leading Feldenkrais practitioners in the world Anat Baniel; she has developed the work into what she calls the Anat Baniel Method with its attendant trademarks and has produced a very useful book, Kids Beyond Limits .

In the book she lays out a nice and simple 9 Essentials of NeuroMovement (again all trademarked) and I would recommend anyone in the field to check out this helpful breakdown of what are essentially Feldenkrais's ideas neatly packaged for people to readily understand!

I am also keen for it to be known that I am ready to work with people of all ages and all abilities. I am not yet trained in the Jeremy Krauss Approach, another brilliant off-shoot of the Feldenkrais Method, being taught in Germany now, but I know that the skills and attitude I have developed are very much suited to helping people on a very wide spectrum of ability-disability. So if you are interested to know more and want to get a taste of how Functional Integration works then please subscribe to my site and let me know what you would like to explore.

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