Phone: (309) 786-3006
betsyzmudaswanson@gmail.com
Betsy Zmuda-Swanson, MSW, SEP
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Illinois & Iowa

Why Bodypsychotherapy?

I have found being embodied a challenge.  Being in my body.  Sure, it sounds natural, inviting, like anyone could do it and do it well.  Yet, some things are so 'simple' and 'natural' they are hard.  Like nearly all of us, I was born and raised into the American Dream. In my upbringing the social directive was be cognitive.  Use your good mind.  You can do anything you want.  You can be whatever you want.  Getting ahead means being smart, the smarter the better.  However, in all my studying and schooling, through most of my trainings, I failed to learn how to be in my body.  

A foundational piece of Bodynamics and other body psychotherapies is to feel your body.  To know when you are in it.  This also includes being aware when you are not in it.  Embodiment is having the awareness that I have a body.  I know I have it because I can feel it.  My body sensations are grounded in my awareness.  I am conscious of sensations happening in me, my body space, all the way to the floor and I am able to put that into words.  Initially, adding words may be cumbersome.  It takes longer.  I am using  both my left and right brains, my neocortex to describe in words, translate, what my brain stem and midbrain are detecting via sensations and feelings.  

I can feel the weight of my head and torso, guided by my spine on my sitz bones. I can feel my heart vibrating in my stomach and down my left oblique. Taking in a deep breath, I am aware of the air pulled in through my nostrils.  As my lungs continue the in breath, my head doesn't fill up; rather the air slides down near the back of my throat, feeling warm as it descends into my esophagus. Instantly, a light pressure makes itself known under my ribcage. I find and appreciate my lungs.  Subtly my diaphragm fills and smoothly expands,  pressing down on my belly, as far down as I care to follow.  I feel the stretch and elasticity of my diaphragm directing air up through my torso, pass my chest, exiting my nose.  By knowing this wordless process, I'm aware I am in my body and breathing.  Putting it into words elongates the process and enables me to share it verbally.

Tai chi chuan is a slow and purposeful martial art, constructed in ancient times for self protection. It positions a practitioner to use a potential opponents energy deftly, defensively.  Whether I am practicing the short form of 60 positions, or the 132 positions in long form, I want to be present, embodied.  The learning of tai chi is a conscious cognitive endeavor, watching and imitating each move.  Once the form lodges in the conscious mind,  it is stored in the implicit mind. Thinking is best cast aside.  Being is prominent. My body knows the moves.

Last summer I noticed a change in my tai chi practice.  My desire and attention to be more embodied led the way.  One day, I ended White Crane Spreads its Wing and moved into Cross Over the Knee and Step.  At the moment with forward assertion of the step, I shifted my weight onto my left foot, I had a thought to call a friend regarding a particular matter.  Instead, I made a conscious decision to continue feeling my body weight on the soles of my feet.  Hundreds of times in the past, when a thought came up, I followed it knowing my body would continue the form without my body awareness. I had treated thoughts as supreme commanders that had to be followed and thought through.  This time, in the act of tai chi chuan short form, I realized the thought was secondary.  It was a distraction to take me out of my body.  I wanted to stay feeling my feet grounded on the wood floor.

In the months that followed  being more grounded led into, as described in Bodynamics, more reality.  My feet changed as long held tensions relaxed.  Areas where my muscles had elevated tiny bones, slowly released down to the ground.  Events in my life corresponded.  I could see extended family members in more reality instead of overlooking unpleasantness, and feeling duped, later. Events unfolded over several months revealing long held upsetting decisions my mother and younger sister had made.  Decisions that previously I would have denied. 

Being more in my body means being more here. I realized I had spent most of my time in my head and paid the price of disconnecting from my body, myself.  This seemingly subtle difference has helped me to be more solid, confident and clearer as a person.