What is Interoception
Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective by Jonathan Gibson states that “most of the literature currently supports a working definition of IA (Interoceptive Awareness) to include a perception of the internal state of the body. This contemporary definition includes sensory awareness that originates from within the body’s physiological state as well as a person’s appraisal, attitude, belief, past experiences, expectations, and contexts, what is often referred to as top-down perceptions“
Top-Down vs Bottom-Up
In top-down processing we use our cognition to arrive at our perception. If you recall in my previous blog, Is Yoga Actually Useful for Proprioception Improvement?, I discuss how yoga can make us more aware of our physical sensations. Moreover, this improved physical awareness helps improve things like strength and balance. Thus, proprioception is more of a bottom-up processing where our perception effects our cognition. On the other hand, the improvement of top-down Interoception results in better emotional and behavioral regulation
If you’re a visual learner, this is a great picture that explains Proprioception vs Interception.
Yoga that Improves Interoception
Slow Yoga allows us more time to pay attention to our feelings as we practice (am I hungry?). Also, in our fast paced days, allowing these moments while we practice gives us the time we may need to notice and process feelings we’ve put aside for convenience or as a result of trauma. Trauma may make slowness intolerable for some, so be sure to ensure the slowness is within your tolerance time limit.
Yoga with Pauses
Allowing time in your practice to pause and notice sensations can help you understand how different flows or poses impact your energy, your irritability, your misconceptions in life. Yes. Pausing during our yoga practice can lead to pauses in our daily life that allow us to see our expectations and beliefs differently.
Be kind to yourself while you practice yoga. While going slow and taking pauses may improve our awareness, we want to notice how we feel without judgement. Reframe any negative thoughts that arise so that a sense of trust in yourself and your abilities is front and center in your practice. This kindness is especially important for those that have a chronic illness.
The frustrations from being chronically ill can result in a disregulation of our interoception. Instilling the above three concepts into our yoga practice helps improve our interoception and emotional regulation while focusing on wellness.