Sensation: Awareness Leads to Ease

Why should you care about sensation?

My belief is that sensation is a gateway to healing an injury. Coupled with movement, sensation plays an integral role in our lives by communicating to us what feels good and what feels painful, allowing us to consciously move toward pleasure or pain. Sensation is the perception or awareness of a stimuli providing a form of communication from the body to the brain. The more you understand the nuances of your body’s sensations and your ability to adjust your body’s position, the more you can create ease in your body.

Here’s a look at the structures that produce sensation in our bodies, and a note of how that relates to people experiencing energy in their bodies.

What structures in the body produce sensation?

Our education on the sense of touch tends to focus on our ability to feel things with our hands, although the human body has structures that allow us to feel many levels of sensation in our skin, muscles, organs and bones.
Below is a list of structures in the human body that provide sensory information:

General Pain Receptors

  • Nociceptor: sensory receptor that responds to damaging stimuli and sends pain signals through the nervous system. Located in skin, muscles, joints, and organs.

Skin Sensation Receptors

  • Merkel cells: low frequency vibration, sustained touch and pressure
  • Pacinian corpuscles (lamellated corpuscles): pressure
  • Meissner corpuscles: light touch, texture
  • Ruffini ending (bulbous corpuscles): stretch skin
  • Krause end-bulbs: sensing cold

Other skin sensation receptors

  • Hair follicle plexus: minute sensation like a gentle breeze or an insect crawling on skin
  • Thermoreceptor: senses absolute and relative temperature
  • Chemoreceptor: detects hazardous or toxic chemicals in or on the skin

Muscles sensation receptors

  • Muscle spindles: detect changes in length of muscle, muscle stretch receptors
    • The body will automatically inhibit movement if it detects over stretching
    • Example Sensation: the feeling of internal stretching in a muscle from ease to discomfort to pain.
  • Golgi tendon organs (GTO): detects tension in muscles
    • The body will automatically facilitate or inhibit movement if it detects ripping is about to occur.
    • Example Sensation: tight sensation at muscle attachments while holding a heavy box.
  • Bulbous corpuscles: angle change in joints
    • Example Sensation: the ease or discomfort of bending and extending the elbow

Bone Sensation Receptors

  • Periosteum: a membrane that wraps around bones containing nociceptors
    • Example Sensation: getting kicked in the shins. Fun!

Organs sensory receptors:

  • Visceral (organ) pain is sensed by various pain receptors sensitive to inflammation, stretching, or oxygen deprivation.
  • Visceral pain may feel spread out and hard to locate, and can be described as dull, deep, nauseating or compressing.  Visceral pain is often referred to (perceived in) distant parts of the body and often on/near the body surface.

What can you do to feel more sensation in your body?*

It’s easy to start bringing more awareness to sensation in your body. Chose one of following exercises that feels the easiest for you, and start practicing it for 2-5 min, several times a day. Adding it to part of your routine will help the practice stick. Remember everyone’s relationship with their body is different and it may take some practice before you start to notice the benefits. But trust me, it’s worth it.

1. Breath Meditation:

Ugh, meditation! I know, I know, meditation is so boring, right?! If I wanted to sit around to do nothing, I’d quit my job!

Meditation a fundamental tool of awareness. Close your eyes and bring an awareness to your chest as you breathe. Notice the expansion and collapse of your ribs. Bring awareness to an area where you feel the most ease in your breath. Any time you notice yourself thinking or chatting to yourself, just gently bring your awareness back to your breath and let the thoughts drift away (forcing thoughts away tends to reinforce a stigma that thoughts are bad, rather than are an integral part of being human, but we are practicing listening to our bodies without distracting thoughts).

With practice you can start bringing this breath awareness while on walks, during conversations, or while working.

2. Focus on posture while working

Whether working at a sitting or standing desk, check in periodically with your body and ask what feels good in your body and what feels uncomfortable. Make small micro-adjustments in your body, following movements that create the most ease in your body. You may find yourself in unique position or contorted in a weird way, that’s okay! Once in that position, gently move your body towards an upright posture while again focusing on what feels the most ease in your body.

3. Feeling emotions

Next time that you become aware that you are in a heightened state of emotion (happiness, anxiety, anger, sadness, elation, excitation, etc.), take a moment to recognize where you feel it in your body and witness how it feels. Does it feel tingling, stagnant, electric, expanding, contracting, etc? Does it have a texture or unique quality about it? By continually checking in you can experience emotional intelligence on a physical level.

How are sensation and energy related?

Some people talk about feeling energy flow through their body. My belief is that the energy they feel in their body is actually an awareness of all the sensory information the body provides in their skin, muscle, organs, and bone. How someone describes their internal experience is a matter of personal perspective and language.

* Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided “as is” for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are familiar with your individual medical or mental health needs.