Exploring Embodied Wellbeing
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Phenomenological theory and neuroscience suggest that there is no mind-body separation. Yet current mental healthcare services focus mainly on cognitive aspects of the individual in their interventions of depression and anxiety. In consonance with the recent shift from a pathological dominance to a focus on wellbeing, this study acknowledges neglected areas of body and wellbeing in psychological research and healthcare practices by exploring the concept of ‘embodied wellbeing.’ Using participant observation and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to analyse in-depth interviews conducted with experienced practitioners in various forms of bodywork including Mind-Body Centering, the Feldenkrais method of Somatic education, the Alexander technique, improvised dance and Tai Chi, the study seeks to make sense of the experiences and effects of practicing body-awareness methods. The analysis highlights the themes of intuitive trust in the wisdom of the body, experiencing a process of awakening and finding one’s place in the world. Participants’ accounts correspond to literature on therapeutic and educational integrative approaches to embodiment, mindfulness and wellbeing. Further, there are parallels between the participants’ responses and phenomenological concepts such as Merleau-Ponty’s ‘body-subject’ and Heidegger’s ‘being-in-the-world,’ as well as Aristotelian eudaimonic wellbeing. Complementing quantitative studies, this phenomenological study provides useful insights into body-awareness work and can potentially facilitate the development of alternative remedial, preventative and promotive healthcare methods.