We navigate this earth in bodies that have amazing mechanisms to give us feedback about our moment-to-moment experience. Our ability to discern the meaning of this feedback and respond skillfully is a gift of our nervous system. The nervous system’s most basic job is to keep us safe by perceiving our environment, external and internal, and making choices about how to respond to these perceptions.
In 1983, the Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner, outlined the theory of multiple intelligences. Over the years, there has been much praise and some criticism of his theory by psychologists and educators. He was basically speaking to our varied strengths and tendencies as we take in information. Some of us are more proficient in verbal/linguistic tasks, others have good spatial skills, and others are particularly talented in music or math. Our kinesthetic intelligence is the brain/body processing that tells us where we are in space, enables us to relate to our environment through our body awareness, and translates this information into our “felt-sense.” When we observe a skillful and graceful athlete or watch someone magically fit a huge pile of stuff in the trunk of a car we are observing kinesthetic intelligence at play. And when we are able to listen to and follow complex instructions in a yoga class we are experiencing our own kinesthetic intelllgence first hand…
Whether we are innately kinesthetic learners or not, we can all grow and enhance our kinesthetic intelligence. We can truly get smarter about how to listen to our bodies, how to move in more graceful, effortless ways, how to be skillful inhabitants of the bodies in which we move. Paying attention, refining our movement in our asana practice, noticing what walking feels like, what the sensation of breath feels like, what the wind blowing on our skin feels like, what a hungry or full belly feels like, what joy, or fear or frustration feels like… all of these awarenesses grow our kinesthetic intelligence.
The more aware and intelligent we are in the kinesthetic realm, the more we can appreciate and enjoy the gifts and challenges of living in a body.
by Patti Lentz, PT