Embodied Self-Compassion invites you to turn toward your body in a loving manner while enhancing feelings of safety and relaxation in the present moment.

It is powerful to give self compassion as a body centred practice.

Arielle Schwartz, PhD, is a psychologist, internationally sought-out teacher, yoga instructor, and leading voice in the healing of PTSD and complex trauma. She is the author of seven books, including The Complex PTSD WorkbookEMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology, and The Post Traumatic Growth Guidebook.

What we meant by Embodiment

The term embodiment refers to the mind and body connection.

When people experience the world through their bodies and senses, they may feel grounded in their physical bodies or embodied.

Modern life often encourages us to prioritise productivity and efficiency above all else. By doing this, we tend to neglect our bodies, treating them like machines designed to perform tasks.

Embodying your experiences and emotions means acknowledging and expressing them through your body. It’s about allowing yourself to feel fully and without judgment.

Why practice embodiment

By taking time to nurture your mind and body, you can truly appreciate the depth and richness of the human experience. 

This disconnection from our bodies can have negative consequences on our mental health, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Polyvagal Theory

When we begin to notice physiological effects that traumatic stress has had on our body and mind through the applied the science of polyvagal theory, also known as “the science of safety.”

Polyvagal theory recognises that your vagus nerve is a key to mind-body health.

Polyagal theory provides a compassionate way of understanding your own threat responses by recognising that your nervous system is working hard to ensure your survival. If you relate to the tiered response to threat, you are not alone. 

You can do so by placing your hands over your head, throat, chest, or belly. In general, touch has been shown to reduce stress hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure while increasing the feel-good neurochemicals of oxytocin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin. These hormones and neurotransmitters are associated with enhanced tone of the vagus nerve and inhibition of the sympathetic nervous system. They are also the same chemicals that are released when babies feel safe and loved by their caregivers. 

Self Compassion

Self compassion is an act of extending kindness toward yourself through your words and actions.

It is often difficult to treat yourself in a loving manner especially if you suffer with mental health problems or have suffered trauma.

Sometimes, acts of self compassion leads increasing self-criticism along with distressing emotions or an increase in physical tension.

Compassion practices invite you to challenge and dispute self-disparaging beliefs such as when you tell yourself you are unworthy or unlovable.

Self Care

self-care-1 Embodied Self Compassion

Self care and embodiment practices are not indulgent, but necessary for maintaining mental and physical wellbeing.

Self care is the action we take and isn’t just about indulging in occasional luxuries like a bubble bath or spa days. It’s about cultivating practices that honour your mind, body, and spirit. By engaging in self care, you can reconnect with your body and embrace your humanity in a meaningful way.

Breath Awareness

Set aside a few minutes each day to engage in deep, intentional breaths. Inhale deeply, feeling the air full your lungs, and exhale slowly. Bring awareness to your body’s sensations. This simple act can calm your mind and bring you back to your body and the present moment.

Self-Compassion

Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Acknowledge your humanness, including your flaws and imperfections, without judgment.

Movement and Exercise

Exercise isn’t just about burning calories; it’s about moving your body in ways that feel good. Whether it’s dancing, jogging, hiking, yoga, or simply taking a leisurely walk in nature, move with intention and gratitude. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you move. This can foster a body-mind connection.

Mindful Eating

Savor your food. Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. Mindful eating can help you appreciate the nourishment your body receives.

Digital Detox

Set aside dedicated screen-free time to break away from the constant digital distractions and reconnect with the physical world, engaging in sensory experiences. Spend time in nature, have face-to-face conversations, or simply sit quietly and observe your surroundings. Feel the texture of objects, savor your meals, or listen to the sounds of nature. Allow your mind to rest.

Journaling

Write about your physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Journaling can be a powerful way to connect with your inner self and process your experiences.

Creative Expression and Movement

Engage in creative activities that allow you to express your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Consider dancing, painting, drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument, which encourages self-expression and self-discovery through creative processes.

Body Scan Meditation

Practice a body scan meditation where you mentally travel through your body, paying attention to any areas of tension or discomfort. This can increase your body awareness and help release physical stress.

Grounding Techniques

Whether through meditation, nature walks, or simply feeling the earth beneath your feet, grounding techniques can help you feel more connected to your body and the world. You can root in the present moment just by focusing on your breath.

  • Practice 1: Place your hands around your cheeks as you allow your face to rest in your palms. While holding your head in your hands, quietly say to yourself, “Even though I sometimes have negative or self-critical thoughts, I am willing to generate loving and kind thoughts toward myself.” Repeat these words two more times while resting your head in your hands.
  • Practice 2: Place your hands gently along the sides of your neck so that the heels of your palms come together in front of your chin. With your hands lightly placed over your throat, quietly say to yourself, “Even though I feel hurt, I can acknowledge these feelings while being gentle with myself.” Repeat these words two more times while gently supporting your neck and throat with your hands.
  • Practice 3: Place your hands over your heart in the center of your chest. With your hands over your heart, quietly say to yourself, “Even though I sometimes feel unworthy or unlovable, I recognize that all people including myself deserve compassion, love, and support.” Repeat these words two more times while holding your heart.
Dr. Schwartz Practices for Self Compassion