Click on the image left for a short film clip which will invite you to kick off your shoes and relax for less than a minute, so after you have watched my stripy socks you may wish to take yours off! And then you can repeat this as many times as you like whenever you like! You can try it standing up or sitting, and I hope you feel the restorative effects in your breath and your energy of taking your eyes off the screen, taking your feet out of your shoes and bringing your feet back to life. Enjoy!
Self care and companionship are interlinked and have become a practice and value system which have revolutionised my health, my life and relationships and my work as a therapist. For every client I work alongside, as part of my intention for their wellbeing, I aim to support them to recognise what they already do, which is an act of self-companionship and care. This can lead onto what they want to develop more in the therapeutic work we do. For every movement group I offer, self-care and companionship are foundation principles for the design of the practices I will guide people through.
Think of a place you live in or have lived in for some time. You get to know it as you see it, the journeys you make there, leaving and returning, you have a feeling for it and it becomes a part of you. You care about it and what happens there; you recognise the landmarks, you see the changes in the seasons and over time. Sometimes you don’t see things because they are too familiar, but when change occurs you know it has changed. Like knowing a place, I feel that self-care and companionship is about knowing my body; not just about occasionally being nice to myself – apologetically ‘unwinding’ after stressful times by having a long bath – but actually building loving behaviour toward my body into my lifestyle.
Self-companionship is about building a knowing relationship: learning the feeling and qualities of condition, e.g. aches, tensions, energy levels, as well as what feels good, pleasurable, relaxing. One habit which industrialised societies breed, is to take a paracetamol for pain and get on with your work; then have a drink (cafeine/alcohol) to lift or energise you. I used to do this regularly until my body started reacting with bigger symptoms of stress and I realised that taking a paracetamol and carrying on was like telling my body to shut up. Well, like a lot of bodies, if I don’t ‘listen’ to mine, it doesn’t shut up, it just gets louder!
Knowing my body signals better involves daily attention and can be preventive of stress building over time. I learn how to respond to these signals and feelings and I build a context of feeling in my body so that when some unusual feeling arrives, I recognise it more clearly and pay attention – what is it telling me and do I need to find out more or do I recognise what it’s telling me? My ‘feeling’ symptoms can tell me things about my emotions, my physicality and thoughts, for instance tensions, aches, energy levels. If something feels very intense or unusual, I will seek advice from a professional, as their context for recognising symptoms is much wider than mine. Over time, my self-companionship is saving me many trips to the GP because I’ve learnt to interpret both physical and mood changes and respond to what is called for: more rest, better food, more fluid, more activity, more intimacy in my relationships, more time in nature, more work, less work… A good GP will also encourage this self awareness and care and feed into your knowledge base.
Self-companionship goes beyond ‘care’ as most ‘wellbeing’ and ‘beauty’ industries would interpret it – pampering, beauty re-vamps, ‘recharge your batteries’ retreats – because, as becomes clear, self-companionship puts us in touch with our uniqueness, our inner truth and our potential to live more simply as confident, healthy and caring people. In fact self-companionship has been and continues to be essential for me to know my inner authority, feel my confidence and connection to my truest values and beliefs. Importantly also, I can recognise what I am being ‘called towards’: what excites and enlivens me in my heart and soul. This kind of knowledge is very unique and we cannot be told by others what this is, we need to take care to recognise it.
As with the place we live(d) in and love, in being a companion to ourselves, we also want the best for ourselves, because when we give ourselves care, we thrive and this can overflow into all that we do and are for others and in this world. Self- companionship, from my experience, is slow, committed, unpredictable, sometimes painful and deeply satisfying over time.
Get in touch with me if you want support to start or develop your own self-care and companionship.
https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/intelligence-flesh – this academic article is an account of how historical thinking about the body and mind has been updated, referencing research experiments testing how people think and behave when they are challenged or supported in their bodily wellbeing.
This shows that in order to think intelligently, creatively, in detail, we need to be feeling well in our bodies: energy, immunity and emotions, for example, all need to be in balance. This balance is necessary because our bodily functional systems are informing our thinking, so if any system is overloaded it will not be contributing and we will be less clear in our cognition; some instances of this are if we are tired, hungry or ill, or if we feel sad, angry or frightened.
The article requires a bit of time to take in, however, it’s a good academic research-based argument that we need to pay our bodies some more heed as vital inputters to our thinking, decisions, beliefs and ideas. Equally, and much more widely accepted is the reality that our thoughts affect our feeling of wellbeing and therefore impact on our bodily health.Therefore, we can help ourselves by recognising negative thoughts which aren’t helping us and many cognition based therapies primarily support this approach. I recognise the importance of both work with thoughts and body experience and expression and both are integral to my therapy work.
What fascinates me from my experience, in line with this article, is that often our bodies can be the origin of our thoughts and ideas, because the impulse might come from a feeling we have or an awareness of a process beginning in our flesh (often called intuition), which is why artists and creative people are increasingly turning to mindful movement and body awareness practices to inform their creativity. It’s also why the sense of ‘interoception’ – internal sense perception – is now recognised as a tool for people who use instinct/intuition to inform their work, for instance hostage negotiators, financial traders and therapists.
Any one of us can develop more awareness of our body’s influence on our thinking and be more empowered, healthy and creative. Often those of us who have experienced and survived extreme symptoms in our bodies will have also had a connected revelation about our lives and purpose. This is why i love my work as a body and movement therapist, supporting people to make the connections with the intelligence in their flesh!
Do contact me if you feel interested by what you have read here. You may wish to explore and become more familiar with your body’s intelligence and the potential meaning for you of any health issues you are experiencing.
I’m writing about touch, because it fascinates me how complex is the felt and imagined experience of physically connecting to ourselves and others. It is my own wish to simplify understanding of and through my work, to share nurturing touch with others; to empower more of us to care for ourselves and others with touch.
I would like to promote the value of being curious, no matter what our experience, to begin a quest to reconnect to our bodyselves, and to open the channel of communication through touch. Receiving touch from ourselves and/or trusted others is hugely influential in our wellbeing, from expressing love or relieving stress to diagnosing and healing ailments. Deane Juhan, a massage and bodywork practitioner of professional repute in USA states in his book, Job’s Body  that touch is ‘food’ for the body. Wow, no wonder that it feels so nourishing to be touched in a way that we like and can influence how we feel in ourselves – just like a good meal! From the moments when we contact the womb wall as a foetus to the end of our lives, we are influenced and we develop physically, psychologically, emotionally through our tactile relationships with people, Earth, human creations and all life.
Our bodies are the physical expression of our inner conditions, our energy and biological processes that are in constant relationship with our environments and each other. How much of this relationship are we actually aware of in any moment? Research shows we are aware of very little because what we tend to relate to is that which we can see, hear and think about. So much of what are bodies are immersed in is not thinkable! Of course we think a lot, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and we desparately want to control our bodies in many ways so that we can fit in with our society and lead productive lives. Many of us like some aspects and dislike some aspects of ourselves and this often plays out in our physicality (body/movement/behaviour/health). We might try to alter our physicality for cosmetic or health reasons. Many of us think and feel we’re well enough, okay enough with ourselves, and don’t need to know any more or change anything.
Plus, at times, (for some of us, all the time) our bodies can give us overwhelming feelings, disease or injury which cause us to feel pain and we don’t like that. So these are some of the reasons we might not like to touch in to our bodies, nor to accept that they are expressing who we are.
However, it is certainly possible to increase our ability to receive our bodies’ signals and understand the processes that are going on if we learn how to focus and notice more subtle embodied experiences. Touch gives us recognition of familiar and unfamiliar textures, movements and forms in our environments, helping us to orientate ourselves to what we need and where we need to be. We can also seek this information from touch contact with our bodies and learn to recognise signals and physiological changes which call us into response.
Remedial touch like massage can support tissue softening and fluid movement; giving and receiving attention to ourselves through self-touch can elevate our sense of wellbeing because the ‘bonding’ hormone oxytocin is produced in this physical contact; sharing touch with others can also generate oxytocin as well as enhance our self confidence and sense of identity amongst others. Physical contact is at the heart of most kinds of relational behaviour from very early stages of life, as various qualities of touch can give unspoken messages between people, communicating feelings, boundaries and playful intention as well as evoking sensual pleasure for which it is hard to find words.
However, some of us have never experienced touch as a bonding or supportive experience. Experiences of invasive or abusive touch are harmful and cause stress hormones to be produced, and if we are traumatised, this can sometimes result in chronic body symptoms. Instances of abuse can set us up to fear touch, and in fact our collective societal experiences of abusive touch have led to a backlash, when policy makers respond to fear by prohibiting many forms of touch in our caring and educational professions.
So touch is a powerful experience with a lot of meaning attached to receiving and not receiving tactile experiences.
Having been educated (training with Linda Hartley,  Penny Collinson, Amanda Williamson  and others) about the ways in which nurturing touch supports our ability to inhabit our bodies and relate to ourselves and others, my intention is to teach and support people to learn to touch themselves with intention to enquire, to care for and to accept themselves in order to cultivate embodied awareness. This will enable them to ‘tune in’ to bodymind, to enable them to discover their needs, and to learn how to meet their needs. Touch can be so powerfully healing when we can move through anxiety, numbness, not knowing, boredom and distraction and just remain aware, present with ourselves in our bodies for the sake of a few moments of exchange with ourselves. When people have done this practice for themselves, they may realise they are able to share touch with others, with much more awareness and understanding of the meaning it has for them and for the other.
 Juhan, D. 2003. Job’s Body A Handbook for Bodywork. 3rd Ed.
 Founder of Institute for Integrative Body and Movement Therapy – visit www.ibmt.co.uk for details
 Course leaders on the MA in Dance and Somatic Wellbeing taught at UCLAN, Preston, Lancs.
I feel that more than ever now, the best investment we can make is in the health and wellbeing of our body and mind – all choices and responses are affected by the state of our nervous system. We can learn to connect intentionally with our nervous systems in many ways. My one-to-one and group practices can support you to focus and be engaged directly with your nervous system and help you navigate levels of activation and recuperation. Not only are these practices great for taking a role in your health, they are also spaces where you can create, gain confidence and begin to love your body a little more… This is my intention and I invite you warmly to be in touch if this speaks to you!
Witnessing Your Intelligent Body
A gift in words from a participant on this closed series group:
Witnessing our intelligent body. Somatic Movement with Mari Winkelman
A short review by Katie Lloyd Nunn, participant on the May 2014 course:
At the beginning of our six weeks together, I had a broken wrist and hand in plaster, feeling incredibly fragile having been knocked off my usual confident perch.
A turning point came in the first session when we worked with proprioception (sensing in oneself) and the simple, natural movement of joints and bones. I began to find my ground again.
Exploring the concepts of cell, membrane and visceral interiority opened up a rich, juicy universe of life, healing and calm curiosity. This supported my return to teaching a weekly yoga class after the injury.
As we explored witnessing, I felt empathy flowering and a dove-like sense of safety landing in the group space.
In our last session, touch was introduced. Like everything in Mari’s work the invitation was clear and exquisitely, spaciously timed. Sensing, receiving, approaching or listening with just a hand or toes was delicately moving. To make contact in this way touches the very cells of the emotional heart, without attachment. And then, to let go, with lightness and appreciation.
It has been a joy to share this absorbing journey with others who resonate with this work and choose to make it an integral part of their daily life and spiritual practice. Each session was well-paced with time to reflect on the process by means of verbal sharing, drawing, dreaming. It’s blessing to inhabit the beautiful energy of Frankie’s Yoga Space in these spring evenings among the gardens and trees above the stream.
Key words are: subtle, modest, clear, accurate, kind, considered, respectful, expansive, dedicated, encouraging, intelligent and presence.
Thank you to Mari and my companions [other participants]
Health Moves – Group sessions for specific needs
Following a successful pilot in a local care home for the elderly, and hugely encouraged by their invitations back for more, Health Moves is establishing a presence in Stroud District as a provider of somatic movement education for health and wellbeing. I am offering somatic movement sessions and collaborating with Dawn Morgan, to offer unique packages designed to support and address specific health needs for groups of people in the context of public services as well as public and private sector organisations.
Please see the Health Moves Website for more information and contact me if you want to make enquiries.
I offer a monthly email Somatic Spaces which lists somatic movement practice and events UK-wide. More than 200 people receive this newsletter and contribute information on their work. It’s a real hub for the somatic movement community in UK. For more information and to subscribe, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.