With the rising popularity of practises like tai chi and yoga, we have witnessed a movement towards Integrated Body Mind Training meditation (IBMT).
Originally a health system devised in China in the 1990s, IBMT is now coming into its heyday.
The premise of these techniques is simple: That we are more effective when we have clear communication between mind and body.
What we do with the body influences the mind, and vice versa. Therefore, the best healing practices are ones that focus on both the mind and the body as one entity. And that is why IBMT is so effective.
What Is Integrated Body Mind Training?
Essentially, Integrated Body Mind Training methods that combine the mental with the physical. They make us more mindfully aware of physical sensations and the relationship between mind and body.
What happens in the mind affects the body and vice-versa.
Yet many people are unaware of this link between body and mind. And this causes erroneous ways of thinking. For example, when we feel tense in the chest, we relate it to stress and assume that something must be wrong. This is erroneous thinking. Correct thinking would simply be to acknowledge that there is tension in the chest and that that is all.
Do you see how sensations in the body lead to emotions that then influence thoughts?
To maximise our self-awareness, we must enhance the link between mind and body. And hence the need for IBMT.
Proponents of this field of medicine argue that the mind and body are one entity. And you can see this for yourself. Just consider how different emotions create different physical states. (You can read more about this in this article on The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
How emotions cause physical sensations:
- Happiness: Creates a sense of relaxation and readiness. When we are happy, communication between the body and mind is enhanced.
- Love: Love is closely related to physical desire. It creates sensations in the reproductive organs. Plus, because of affection, love creates sensations around the head and chest.
- Pride: Creates sensations of strength in the chest and head.
- Anger: Creates tension in the hands, chest, and head. Focuses attention on the body in case we need to act.
- Fear: Stimulates the “fight-or-flight” response, which increases blood flow and adrenalin.
- Anxiety: Causes tension in the chest and escalates heart rate.
- Depression: Does not stimulate the body. Reduces activation in the extremities.
- Self regulation
Note that physical sensations also lead to emotional conditions.
Molecular neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa says, “Awareness of bodily changes may subsequently trigger conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness.”
For instance, taking a bath creates warmth in the body, which makes us feel relaxed.
Overall, a stronger mind-body connection leads to improved health for both the mind and body.
Mindfulness is really the heart of IBMT and meditation, because it is all about awareness of physical and emotional sensations. [READ: Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners].
When we are mindful, we are more aware of physical sensations. We are also more aware of thoughts and feelings. However, we do not get lost in thoughts and feelings. Rather, we perceive them for what they are.
Mindfulness is heavily based on the Buddhist meditation Vipassana. When we practice Vipassana we observe the world via the senses. This reduces ruminating thoughts and provides a more direct experience of reality.
When we are mindful, we calmly, non-judgmentally observe the present moment with continual awareness.
Because mindfulness creates calmness, it is helpful for numerous conditions related to stress according to the American Psychological Association.
Plus, mindfulness helps with cardiovascular conditions and cancer.
Because mindfulness involves calmly observing our emotions, it trains us to have better self-regulation.
With mindfulness, we reduce the extremity of emotions. And this is beneficial for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
One of the best techniques is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. This is a course created by Jon Kabat Zinn. In it, we learn to be mindful of both external and internal stimuli. You might like to listen to these podcasts about it.
Here are the instructions for Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan
- Sit comfortably with good posture. When we have good posture, we naturally create positive emotions like confidence and inner strength.
- Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths to relax.
- Focus on the sensations in the crown of your head. What do you observe there? Is there an energy or sensation? If so, be mindful of it. Now take one deep breath and observe how the sensations in the crown of your head change as you breathe.
- Continue to your face. Focus on the sensations in your face. Take one deep breath as you continue to focus on the physical sensations in your face.
- Continue down your body gradually. Focus on one part of your body at a time. Notice the sensations. Take a deep breath as you continue to focus on the sensations.
- Continue until you have focused on each part of your body one step at a time.
2. Breathing Meditation
When we practise meditation, most of the time we observe the breath. And science shows that when we non-judgmentally observe the breath, breathing rate slows. In turn, this creates relaxation in both the mind and body.
Try this simple breathing meditation exercise.
- Sit comfortably with good posture. Make sure your spine is straight but relaxed. Slightly lower your chin to elongate your neck.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in through your nose. Observe your breath moving through your body.
- Breathe out through your mouth. Again, watch your breath moving through your body.
- Continue to 108 breaths.
This IBMT meditation uses our own ability to concentrate as a means to relax. When we focus on the breath we relax. This promotes the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Plus, it reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
3. Zen Walking Meditation
We can use many different types of meditation for IBMT. However, the best ones involve awareness of the body.
For instance, try Zen Walking Meditation, or “Kinhin”.
When we do this, we walk slowly while meditating on the movement of the legs. The key is to be conscious of the complete movement of the legs and feet.
Here is a simple guide.
- Find a path about twenty metres in length.
- Stand at one end of the path.
- Take ten mindful breaths to relax.
- Begin to walk very slowly. While walking, observe how your legs move. You should be aware of the entire process of moving.
- You might find it beneficial to label movements. For instance, say, “Left foot rising.” And then. “Left leg swinging forwards.” And so on.
- When you reach the end of your path, turn around and repeat.
This exercise makes us more conscious of bodily movements.
Research by Paul D. Loprinzi [University of Mississippi] shows that Zen Walking reduces anxiety. And research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that it reduces depression.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a wonderful exercise for relaxation. When we practise this method, we develop body intelligence. That is, body awareness, body knowledge, and body engagement.
When we practise PMR, we systematically tense and then relax different parts of the body. Meanwhile, we observe the change in feeling between tension and relaxation. This helps us learn to relax our muscles.
Research shows that Progressive muscles relaxation:
- Reduces anxiety.
- Improves sleep.
- Improves systolic blood pressure.
- Helps with numerous pains, including neck pain.
If you’d like to try this, I recommend this guide on Anxiety Canada.
One of the fastest rising techniques is biofeedback. This method uses technology to enhance bodily awareness. Electromyography (a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles) is used to allow people to change their body state.
Research shows that biofeedback can help with blood pressure and migraines. Plus, it improves self-direction. Finally, it can help with various pains as well as sleep disorders.
Here is a full video about biofeedback from the University of California, San Francisco, Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine.
If you have ever studied the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you will know that yoga is about more than just physical poses.
In fact, yoga incorporates many exercises for the mind. For instance, meditation and Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal).
When we practise yoga, we shouldn’t just move the body. We should mindfully observe the body in different poses. This enhances self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a core component of Yin Yoga, created by Paul Zink in the 1970s.
In Yin Yoga, we get into an asana (pose) and stay in it for up to 45 seconds. While in the pose we focus on bodily sensations. This enhances self-awareness and the mind-body connection.
Here is a simple example.
- Get into Downward Dog pose.
- Tune-in to the sensations in your body. Observe how you feel in different parts of your body.
- Slightly adjust the pose. For instance, tilt slightly to one side. Observe how you feel now.
- Continue to make very small adjustments to the pose and observe the sensations in your body.
- When you’re ready, continue to the next pose.
- It is best to focus on simple yoga poses when doing this. For instance, Child’s Pose, Warrior I, and Mountain Pose.
7. T’ai Chi & Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient healing practises used in Taoism. When we do tai chi and qigong, we slowly advance through a series of postures. In this way, it is similar to yoga. However, movements are slower and there is more emphasis on mindfulness. Indeed, traditionally, tai chi is meditative.
The slow and graceful movements help us to relax. Plus, they reduce physical stress. They can be particularly useful for arthritis. And I personally find that they slow my mind and increase my self-awareness.
A Harvard report shows that these methods can help to reduce anxiety and depression.
If you’d like to learn Tai chi, I recommend this video by Paul Lam.
Mind and body are one. Yet for centuries in the West, we have treated the mind and body as separate things. For instance, we have counselling and therapy for the mind, and medicines for the body.
We have missed one of the most important parts of healing. That is, the mind-body connection.
For total health and wellbeing, we should train the mind and body as one. And that is why IBMT is so helpful.
When we become more aware of bodily sensations, we increase overall self-awareness.
I’m optimistic that the trend towards mind-body healing will continue. Because this truly is the future of health.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison