cA recent video by a yoga teacher I follow said “interoception is everything!” In my yoga practice being in harmony with yourself is everything, that’s my end goal–to be in touch with how my body moves, my breath, and how I feel as best as I can, to let the outside thoughts drift away. I also know that’s not everyone’s goal with yoga. My gut reaction to hearing “Interoception is everything” was that the teacher had just shut the door — no, slammed the door — on the neurodivergent community. Because there are numerous groups of people who have difficulties with interoception. Let’s break it down.
First, interoception is broadly defined as having a sense of your internal body. This covers everything from your emotions to physical sensations and even the functioning of your organs and tissues. If you sense a knot in your shoulders, you’re using interoception. If you aren’t sure if you’re sad or tired or both, then that’s where your interoception may not be as strong as you’d like. Conversely, if you recognize a sudden rush of grief, then you’re using interoception.
Think of interoception as the joining of two words: interior + perception.
For the work this teacher does, I get it. I really do. I know what she’s trying to accomplish, and YES, interoception is vital. I’m not denying it isn’t. But you CAN practice yoga without it and you CAN have other aspects be front and center to your practice.
Who does have problems with interoception?
Neurodivergent people. The neurodivergent umbrella encompasses more than ADHD and Autism. It also encompasses mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, obessive-compulsive disorder,panic disorder, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and cPTSD (complex or chronic post traumatic stress disorder). Other conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and somatic symptom disorders, also have issues with interoception.
In general, work has been done with mindfulness, meditation, and the subtle body (all things I discuss here) to help with interoception, but there is no fix or cure. And I’ve long argued we should use the word remission, just as we would with any major illness like diabetes or cancer. (We don’t say someone cured their diabetes with medication, diet and exercise. We say they’re controlling their diabetes, or controlling their blood sugars, with medication, diet and exercise.) Obviously that’s an issue for another blog, but I think it’s important to bring up.
When a yoga instructor says interoception is everything, what she’s really saying is that it’s everything for how she practices and teaches yoga. This would be the same as a hot yoga instructor may say that calorie burn or sweat is everything to their practice. That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be for yours.
I may ask you to check in with yourself. There may be time when your body isn’t listening, ready to give feedback. There may be times when you can’t find words to explain your emotions or the sensations. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong” or that your yoga practice isn’t valid. There’s no judgement in my yoga classes. Whatever you choose to do, however you choose to tune into your body (or not) is your choice. It’s your practice. I’m just a guide, and just as when you’re taking a hike and decide to try a new path, there’s nothing wrong with practicing yoga your way! Don’t let anyone tell you differently.