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  • Writer's pictureRenae Molden

Choosing your focus: Use sensory perception to detach from emotional and physical pain

Regular Kaiut Yoga practice has profoundly influenced my daily life, especially how I perceive and manage anxiety. I've developed a noticeable skill in separating my anxious thoughts from the present moment. For example, a situation that frustrated me in the past was when someone at the grocery store took an extended time to get items out of their purse or wallet. It’s easier for me to create some distance from such situations, almost as if the camera's lens is zooming out, making the scene appear much smaller and less impactful.

In moments like these, I experience a heightened sense of presence, allowing me to observe situations without immediate emotional or mental reactions. One remarkable aspect is my ability to see things more objectively, accepting them without judgment. This is because of  my practice.

According to Francisco Kaiut’s most recent newsletter on focus, feeling is a phenomenon that occurs through perception, not intellect. There are eight main types of sensory perception, each playing a vital role in how we experience and interact with the world around us. These are:

Exteroception: Perception of stimuli from outside the body, including the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

Interoception: Perception of the body's internal state, including signals related to heart rate, digestion and other internal processes.

Proprioception: Perception of the position, movement and tension of body parts, which helps in coordinating movements and maintaining balance.

Nociception: Perception of pain helps identify and respond to potentially harmful stimuli such as a hot stove.

Thermoception: Perception of temperature, including the ability to detect heat and cold.

Equilibrioception: Perception of balance and spatial orientation helps maintain an upright posture and stable movement.

Chronoception: Perception of time, including the ability to perceive the duration of events and the passage of time.

Magnetoception: Perception of the Earth's magnetic field, which some animals use for navigation and orientation.

Practice and perception

In practice, we use a few of these perception mechanisms with more focus: exteroception, interoception and proprioception. By developing the brain's increased perception through these three main sensory perception mechanisms, connection increases to the different areas of our bodies that have been lacking attention for a long time, therefore reestablishing the brain-body connection profoundly. 

Exteroception refers to the perception of stimuli from outside the body. This includes the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, which allow us to perceive and interact with the external environment. Exteroception is essential for understanding light, smells, temperature, pain and sounds.

Proprioception is the sense that allows us to perceive the position, movement and tension in our body. It helps us understand where our body is in space without looking at it. Proprioceptors, specialized sensory receptors in muscles, tendons and joints, provide information to the brain about the position and movement of our body. This sense is crucial for coordinating movements and maintaining balance.

Interoception refers to the sense of the internal state of the body. It involves the ability to perceive signals from internal organs such as heart rate, digestion and breathing, as well as sensations like hunger, thirst and pain. Interoception plays a crucial role in regulating physiological processes and emotions, and it is thought to be closely linked to self-awareness and emotional awareness.

More productive perception

For me, a consistent practice that includes interoceptive awareness has helped me distance myself from emotional and mental states. Before engaging in this practice, these elements were intertwined in an unproductive way, keeping me closer to a more reactive state than one that can view a situation more objectively. This new awareness in my daily life is becoming more natural and clear.

In addition to improving emotional responses, practices that enhance sensory perception have been known to improve our relationship to perceived pain. According to physician and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, who helped develop the modern mindfulness movement, research has shown that detached observation seems to separate the sensory experience of pain from the emotional and evaluative reaction to that pain, reducing the experience of suffering through cognitive reappraisal. A meditation practice known as detached observation can facilitate a mindfulness posture toward proprioception.

Perceiving the body using sensory perception takes a specific focus developed through this practice. From the beginning of class, the student’s work is to allow the brain to move toward a more perceptive state and away from its reactive state. The student works to keep this focus clear in poses, transitioning between poses while taking breaks and even walking to reset. 

One thing that differentiates Kaiut Yoga from other practices is how we use sensory perception to our advantage. It takes time for the brain to attune to this type of awareness, but it pays off as we learn a new skill that carries over into daily life.


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