esther m palmer

what is body awareness?

Body awareness and being you

You might be here because you want to feel joy in moving in your body --and in being yourself. One way to recognize joy as such is through cultivating your body awareness. So what is body awareness?


Defining body awareness

There’s the body and then there’s the awareness.



Body can be “a body,” a specimen of the human body. The kind of body we study through many lenses (science, medicine, sociology, history, art, and more). Collectively, humanity knows a good deal about this body!

Body can also be your body. Unique, experiencing, being. Individually, you can know a good deal about this body, too.



Awareness can come through your knowledge of something. Like what we collectively know about our bodies (and any one of us can then look up or study). Your knowledge affects your awareness, which is why I’m including it as a kind of body awareness. Body knowledge is part of how you can be aware of your own body.

Awareness is also your sense of, or consciousness of something. Awareness is what you can tune into and feel or notice or hold in your mind's attention, either while it's happening or after it’s happened. You don’t need to be able to label or define or understand an experience to be conscious or aware of it.

Some sensations guide our basic survival behaviors (hunger, shelter, sleep, community). If we feel them, we usually understand them instinctively. Without anything else to get in the way, if you feel tired, you will rest, if you feel hungry, you will seek out food. Of course, there is plenty that gets in the way, including our own history of experiences and our meaning making.

Because we are all meaning making creatures. When we become aware of sensations we don't understand instinctively, or can’t explain through all we’ve learned, we tend to seek meaning. Sometimes it’s an urgent quest, sometimes we come to that exploration gradually.

Making meaning is not body awareness. It comes after. It's the stories we use to make sense of what comes into our awareness. It's the individual contribution or connection to the collective. It's the knowledge building that we do. Of course, once the knowledge is learned, then it can become part of our capacity for feeling, for being aware through our own senses.

For most of us, body awareness is a blend or blurring of felt sense and learned knowledge of our body. Where that blurring can happen I’d like to unpack further in a future post and for now simply share some examples of what might be just one type of awareness or the other.


Felt sense
  • Sensations coming from within
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Fullness
  • Emptiness
  • Sex drive
  • Pleasure
  • Pain
  • Being warm
  • Being cold
  • Being hot
  • Feeling stiff
  • Feeling sore
  • Feeling numb
  • Wholeness
  • Separateness
  • Belonging
  • Being
  • Being you
  • Stillness
  • Movement


Learned knowledge
  • What part of me are bones
  • What part of me are muscles
  • And all my parts in anatomical terms
  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Shape
  • Size
  • How I fit in
  • How I stand out
  • What I look like
  • Belonging


What can you do with body awareness?

Does all that we’re aware of need to have meaning? Do we need to explain all that we can sense in our bodies? Of course not.

Being aware of being, of sensing without explaining --or being aware with curiosity and patience-- can be a gift.

When I’m meditating, my sense of my body, how my body feels, is unique to meditating. As a novice, I sought labels and explanations for the feeling, but that search yielded more mysticism dressed up as science than solid information, so I let it go. I try to just enjoy the experience, understanding it in myself -- even if I can’t explain it to anyone else.

On the other hand, pain in my body, in my muscles, bones, and organs, tends to drive me to seek meaning, and persist in the search. That’s why I study anatomy, teach yoga, and love helping others move out of pain and into healing. When I’m hurting, I want an explanation or cause, so I can either understand and accept or accept and heal.

I’ve learned over the years strategies for cultivating awareness --and being ok with whatever it can teach me. Movement and meditation practices have been key in my own education, which I love to share here, and of course there are also many, many other ways to go about it. I encourage you to explore what works for you, and let awareness of your body, of yourself, be part of being you.

Be moving, be true, be you,

photo credit lisa yount, found on unsplash

Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear them.

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