The Other Way

054: Navigating Mindfulness and Neuroscience: Unraveling the Power of Embodiment with Nkechi

November 28, 2023 Kasia Stiggelbout
The Other Way
054: Navigating Mindfulness and Neuroscience: Unraveling the Power of Embodiment with Nkechi
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wonder how neuroscience and mindfulness can harmonize to improve mental health? That’s precisely what we uncover, as we welcome Nkechi, an acclaimed neuroscientist and mindfulness expert. Nkechi shares her unique insights from fMRI studies, shedding light on the transformative benefits of mindfulness, particularly in managing mental health issues. Tune in as we navigate the less-traveled lanes of embodiment, discussing how it veers from conventional mindfulness practices and the tell-tale signs of disembodiment to look out for.

As we shift gears to discuss the transformative power of mindfulness, you will discover the astonishing physiological changes that take place in the brain and body amidst mindfulness meditation. Drawing from personal experiences, we dissect how mindfulness has been a vital tool for us in managing anxiety and depression. We go on to explore the profound mind-body connection and the promising role of mindfulness in managing stress and inflammation, both notorious for their association with chronic diseases.

Lastly, we delve deeper into the world of embodiment and its intriguing interplay with mindfulness. Learn about the true essence of being embodied and the perils of disembodiment, a state often induced by stress, trauma, and the mundane distractions of daily life. Nkechi regales us with her personal experiences of being disembodied, offering us a first-hand account of this state of being. We brainstorm various techniques to reconnect with your body, emphasizing practices like body scans and check-ins and even movement and dance as forms of emotional expression. Tune in to earn a deeper understanding of the significance of embodying different archetypes and cultivating greater awareness of our body's communication and support system.

To Connect with Nkechi, follow her on Instagram @ndnlifestylist or visit her website,  https://www.nkechinjaka.com/

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To connect with Kasia

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Hello and welcome to Nourish. My name is Kasha and I'm an entrepreneur, a longtime meditator and a student of Chinese medicine. My mission with this podcast is to share the tools and practices to help you integrate your whole self into every aspect of your world. As someone who is both a Taipei high achiever and a deeply spiritual, vulnerable and empathetic being, I know firsthand how it feels to be living a double life Showing up one way at work, a different way alone and struggling to reconcile the two. This disintegration of authenticity is one of the biggest causes of burnout, health flares and anxiety. For me, understanding how the mind-body connection is crucial to health and success, cultivating a strong sense of inner self and applying the healing philosophies of Chinese medicine and Zen Buddhism to my life has allowed me to lead from a completely heart-powered place, letting go of other people's judgments and finding peace in allowing my multi-dimensional being to shine. My hope is that this podcast may inspire you to do the same. I want to call out. It is a practice, it is a journey, but I believe it is the most important thing that we can do for our bodies, minds and our ultimate potential. Enjoy, hello, my friends, and welcome back to the podcast. Today, I welcome an absolute gem, . Nkechi is a practice-based researcher, neuroscientist, choreography artist, leading mindfulness expert and meditation guide. She is the founder of the Compass NdN Lifestyle Studio and co-founder of the Sleep app Dreamwell. She was a 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow, a 2021 Kennedy Center artist in residence, and she's currently a 2022 Garrison Institute Fellow, Esalen faculty, an advisor of chorus meditation and a Lululemon ambassador for her work in mindfulness. Her work and her expertise has been recognized by the New York Times, sf Chronicle, women's wear daily, black girl in home, blood and milk, Esalen, wanderlust, and Forbes, and the list goes on y'all. Today we are diving into mindfulness and neuroscience and a bit on the somatic side of mindfulness, including what is embodiment, how does it differ and how is it similar to more traditional mindfulness practices, what are the signs of disembodiment and what to do about them, and how embodiment is a key part of empowerment, especially for women, and so so, so much more. If you're looking to go deeper into your mindfulness practice, explore the intersection of science and mindfulness, or if you're just as obsessed with Nkechi as I am I'm pretty lucky because she's based here in the Bay Area, so I actually get to hang out with her this episode is for you Without further ado. Sit back, relax, enjoy and let's welcome Nkechi to the podcast. Welcome.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Me too. This has been such a long time coming. My gosh, I swear. From the moment I met you, I was just like ugh. This incredible human being needs to come on the podcast. I cannot wait, and then it's been a couple of months. I'm so, so, so excited. We finally got to do this and we have a lot to talk about. We have quite a packed agenda. But before we jump into all that juicy stuff, I want to kick it off with the question that I ask every guest, and that would be what are three words that you would use to describe yourself?

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

I would describe myself as creative, I would describe myself as intuitive, and I was curious if you would share the third one with me.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

So this might be a strange one, but it's the first one that comes to mind. Magical.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

I don't know what.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Yeah, I mean from the moment that I met you and you just have, like this really unique and very present aura about you, and it's just so special. So, yeah, that's what I would choose.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

No, that's very sweet, thank you. I always like to know how people you know experience me, so I was like hmm, it'll be kind of fun to see what your word would be.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

I love that. I haven't had anyone ask me back, so I'm into it. That's. That's a first time situation for me, but I will say I mean based on your background and Keiichi sorry that was my bad and Keiichi, the magical part, I feel like, is almost pretty obvious because you are both a choreography artist, leading mindfulness expert, a meditation guide, but you're also a practice-based researcher and neuroscientist and that combination is just so unique and fascinating and I think that there's just that element of something so magical about kind of integrating those two aspects of knowledge and experience and the world. And, as I'm sure I mentioned in the bio at the beginning, your portfolio is so impressive. But I kind of want to take a step back, because that intersection of neuroscience and mindfulness I find to be so unique and I heard you briefly talking about it on a Lululemon Ambassador video where you talked about how some of your neuroscience research actually brought you to the practice of meditation and mindfulness. So could you talk a bit about that, because this podcast is deeply rooted in kind of the art and the science and mindfulness is such a key component of that.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Thanks for that question and that language around the art and the science. I often talk about the art and science of the practice of mindfulness and even the art and science of embodied presence and with the research that I did as a neuroscientist right out of grad school. So some of that research was looking at fMRI studies of different cognitive differences in people with various mental health issues. I moved into a clinic that was looking at different populations chronic pain, addiction, anxiety and depression and we were using mindfulness as a treatment method and we were also looking at their brains in real time through fMRI and through real time fMRI. The behavioral data showed that and also the brain data and the scans showed that there were changes in the brain that happened over time and also people experienced treatment outcomes. So people who were depressed experienced a decrease in their lower mood, so they were feeling better. People who had anxiety had a decrease in their anxiety. People who had chronic pain had a decrease in their pain and people who had addiction also stopped having cravings. So through that research and through interacting with these people, I started to think about okay, well, if mindfulness, meditation is able to help people in this capacity, what if everyone had access to this, and myself included. So I fell into two of those clinical population groups. I had depression and anxiety. I was treating those things with other things and not mindfulness. And it really was the research that kind of pushed me into thinking of another way, particularly in thinking about treatments and placebo. And there's just a lot of conversations around like, well, why is this working and how is it working? But also having the brain imaging to sort of support the behavioral data and behavioral experiences of these individuals. And then I decided to sort of leave the research lab and begin my own personal practice of mindfulness and then wanted to teach mindfulness because really mindfulness is an antidote to stress and a lot of the populations we were looking at, those illnesses or those conditions, are stress related. So it's like if we can just find a way to deal with our stress, we'll be healthier, we'll be happier, we'll have higher moods, we won't be depressed, we won't have pain, et cetera, et cetera.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Well, first of all, I mean I'm so excited to even hear about you know, I think at the time that you were studying because this was a couple of years ago that stuff was so novel. I remember it was hard to even talk about or find any sort of research that had to do with the impact of meditation and mindfulness on the brain, and that is just so exciting that that was actually is being measured and that that's being kind of considered as part of the research that you were doing as like a viable treatment alternative for the conditions that you mentioned, as well as, I'm sure, so many more. I'm curious could you share a bit about what exactly happens like when somebody has a regular practice? And also does it matter the kind of practice? Right, because meditation at this point has kind of evolved into a practice of many different things, and then there's like breath work and there's, you know, like vipassana meditation and zen meditation and all the different kinds of things. So I guess that's like a two part question. But what happens when you do maintain a regular practice? And does it also matter what it is that you're doing from all kind of the buffet of mindfulness options? I'm curious.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Yeah, I mean lots of things to speak to in that question. I want to be clear that I'm really only speaking from the perspective of a secular mindfulness practice. We were trained when I was doing that research under MBSR, which is John Keppitzen's practice, out of Boston and and this was a while ago, it wasn't a couple years ago, I would say it was over 10 years ago- you are the OG, like the original. No, they're definitely many, many, many, many, many people before me. But yes, I, yeah, I mean, I was like so young, I was like 20, 23.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

God, that's amazing.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

And so it's actually like 15 years ago anyway. But one thing that I always love to speak on is like how I even got into neuroscience and why that was my major in college and why I went to grad school for neuroscience. Because when I opened the textbook I don't know 20 years ago, over 20 years ago actually, at this point one of the first things that I read was well, we don't really know what we're talking about. Like we don't really know the brain is complex and like we don't really fully understand the brain, and I was like this is the perfect kind of science for me, is this kind of amorphous, like we don't really know perspective and it's sort of. I mean, I think that was a neurophilosophy class that I was taking and that was like my introduction to neuroscience and I loved that, and so I just want to preface that like this is an evolving space and an evolving field and the brain is very complex, and so the effect of mindfulness on the brain can vary from person to person and different researchers are looking at different things, obviously, but some of the things that are pretty generally understood in terms of like changes in brain structure. Something that's interesting is Gray matter density changes over time with a regular mindfulness meditation. So the increase of gray matter in the brain is related to attention, emotional regulation and self-awareness. These all seem obvious because that's what you're practicing in mindfulness is self-awareness and a witnessing of emotion and attention, and these areas include the prefrontal cortex and the anterior and cingulate cortex and the insula. Also, the part of the brain that's impacted is the hippocampus, and that brain region is involved in memory and learning and, again, emotional regulation, and some studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can increase the growth of the hippocampus. And then there's other things too. I mean, I could like continue on, but I think that those are the ones that I think are the ones that I like to talk about the most. Just, high level emotional regulation is something that we can see over time with mindfulness, and then there's also physiological changes that happen too, where we become a little bit more regulated in terms of our breath and our ability to not reach high states of stress and anxiety as well.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

I mean that is huge, and it's kind of ironic that the same, so to speak, practice can help with both anxiety and depression, which feel like the opposite sides of the same coin, and I can so relate to that experience as somebody who has suffered most of the time with anxiety. I'm now a regular mindfulness practitioner. But when I stopped practicing, not only does my anxiety spike, but I went through this period of time where I experienced a bout of clinically diagnosed depression, and the thing that really snapped me out of it was like a seven day meditation retreat where I remember having an experience and I swear this was just meditation, not shrooms of actually like witnessing my thoughts as they were happening, some of the lower thoughts that I had been looping on constantly in the background, that I wasn't even aware of, and just that kind of shift in perspective, almost as though I was witnessing myself, just offered such powerful relief. I don't know how else to describe it. I'm sure I'm not even explaining the experience correctly, but it's fascinating to actually know that behind what is such a real experience is a lot of data to now support the effects that that has on our long term health. That is just so powerful, wow.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

It is. I mean, I think that your experience really speaks to, yeah, some of the inner workings of what's going on in the brain, and particularly with our hormones and cortisol, which is, like, related to stress, and there's research that shows that, you know, mismanaged or unmanaged stress is a pre-supratory event for anxiety and even depression or low mood, and so one of the things that mindfulness does with our default mode network is that we get the connectivity there, so that is our reduction of rumination or our mind wandering, so it's like one of the things that's happening in meditation. So then there's also amygdala activity, and the amygdala is the brain region involved in the processing of emotions and our stress responses, and so when we are engaging in mindfulness meditation, we're actually reducing this activity in this area of the brain and, as I mentioned before, with hormones and cortisol, our cortisol levels are managed better. With mindfulness, it's been associated to decrease our levels of cortisol, which is our stress hormone, and this physiologically reduces how we experience stress in the body that is so huge.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

A lot of what we talk about here on this podcast is there's definitely a theme around that mind-body connection and the power that you know. Obviously we're not in charge of or have autonomy over all the experiences that we have in our life, but to offer a tool to be able to cope a bit better is like such a powerful powerful kind of I guess perspective on how to navigate some of those difficulties. And we have a lot of researchers come on and also doctors of alternative medicine and researchers that have kind of worked with some of those physicians talking about the power of how inflammation is so deeply tied to so many different kinds of chronic diseases. I for one, for example and everybody here who's a listener knows this, but I suffer from eczema. Long-term. It flares with certain kinds of stress, and it was so crazy that on this seven-day retreat I kid you not it was completely cleared up by the end of it, which is just nuts right, and a lot of the drugs that I would previously take for this condition were literally just anti-inflammatories, right. And so I think there's something so powerful to think about actually being able to regulate yourself and kind of give yourself that gift of like kind of bringing yourself back into that state of healing through different mindfulness practices. I know a question that probably everyone is wondering, myself included, so I'm selfishly going to throw it in here is how much, how much time do we need? I mean, obviously more is better. I'm seeming I wish I lived. Sometimes I wish I lived on a monastery or like a retreat center. But like, really what? Do you have any thoughts around the amount of practice and the regularity once a day, twice a day, a couple times a week? Where do we actually see the impact and the effects?

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

This question gets asked so often and normally my answer is it depends, and I mean it does. I think it depends on the person and I think it depends on you know what it is that they're wanting to achieve with their practice. And I think you know, in over 10 years of teaching mindfulness, I mean I would get I get this a lot when I would teach corporate meditation. You get high performing, high achieving individuals coming in and they're like okay, when am I going to see the effects and what's, how much do I need to do this in order to like get the state of flow that I want or whatever it is? And I'm just like you know, it's not really about the destination, it's like my knowledge truly is a practice of like the experience of being present. And I would say regular practice. I mean if we want to be like giving time amounts sure, what is time? Even we could ask but I would say a regular practice could be five to 10 minutes a day when you think to do it, you know anytime morning, evening and in terms of seeing impact I mean an experiencing impact you'll have that immediately. It doesn't even have to be a minute, it could just be in a transitional moment when you're moving from one meeting to the next and you notice your breath or you notice the space that you're in, or you take a moment to feel your feet on the earth. Those are moments of mindfulness that aren't a sitting meditation practice and air quotes, but also I mean to see changes over time. I haven't really studied that. I haven't studied, you know, someone who's done a three minute practice over time or a five minute practice over time or 10 minute practice over time one day, five days, three days a week. So it's really hard to answer that question in terms of like, when do you start to notice? But I think anyone who's paying attention to their experience when they're doing a practice will start to feel different. And that's kind of when I think the changes happen is when you start to feel them. And so, yeah, it's really hard to answer what does a regular practice look like? And for me, because people also ask me, well, what does my practice look like? It varies from day to day. Sometimes my mindfulness is a sitting practice, but there are many practices that I do in a day that allow me to be present.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Yeah, I think that's a very important distinction, right? That if you're perhaps like a yoga teacher, practicing yoga all day long and demonstrating yoga, or a surfer or something like that where you surf regularly, your kind of experience of experiencing the present moment is probably so different than somebody that's on a Zoom call, back to back to back and not getting up all day and completely in their minds, completely disconnected from the present moment and instead like worrying about the future or something like that. So I think that's a really powerful distinction. So, speaking of your practice, one of the other things that I know that you're very passionate about is the practice of and I don't know if you would call it a practice, but embodiment, and I think this is really interesting because we haven't quite we haven't dove into that topic on this podcast, and I'm curious to know, first of all, what is embodiment and would you consider embodiment a practice, or are there like embodiment practices that you incorporate into your overall practice of mindfulness?

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

This is a wonderful question, one that I'm really excited to answer. So I am currently researching embodied presence, which is something that I don't know. I mean, I've never really Googled it. Maybe someone else has a definition of embodied presence. But how I came to sort of clump that together to be a point of research is because I've noticed in mindfulness over the years of sitting that the practice of mindfulness is quite embodied. Contrary to the word mindful, it's a body fullness practice. Maybe I'll coin that too, but it's really. I mean, if you're paying attention to your breath, your breath is, it's a moving practice, it's a practice that is a sensation in your body and there's actually organs that are moving in order for that to happen. So if you're just paying attention to your breath, but there's so many things happening in your body, but to answer your question, embodiment, I would say, is the concept or kind of our perception or our cognition around, or even an emotion of what is happening in the body and knowing that it's happening in the body. So it is a consciousness around the body and then it is a choice, I would say, to be present with that and we might hear that be with the body, being in the body, and that's just having awareness of your body in space. So I know that I'm sitting here with you and I can feel my ankle and I can feel my foot, and it's a little tingly on the left side. That's an awareness that I have because I'm paying attention to my body in this moment, and that is a practice of embodiment. There are many practices of embodiment, though, but that's just one.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

So it's pretty fascinating because, as I reflect on you kind of sharing that definition, it occurs to me that I'm probably spending a lot of my life disembodied. I'm wondering, if I don't know if, through some of the students that you work with, if you hear the same, and what exactly? We talked about the awareness of your body being embodiment, but are there also signs of being disembodied, and what does that experience look like? Because I wonder if people are not even really aware of it. Right, I kind of understand what you're describing because I've practiced the MBSR body scans and there's something so unique about feeling like a tingle in your toe. It's like you never even think about that sensation. But what about disembodiment?

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Disembodiment can occur as a result of various factors. Just living life in this time and in these conditions it's like a very stressful situation. There is the stress and trauma of everyday living and those are things that one mindfulness is the antidote to, but those are the things that keep us out of our bodies. It's frantic, having to be in multiple places at once, whether you're physically somewhere and thinking about something, and getting distracted and getting interrupted. These things pull us out of our body. I would largely categorize those as stress and trauma and anxiety and depression and just this frantic, chaotic, catastrophic space. We all feel these things day to day, and sometimes more than day to day. It's hour by hour. There's something that feels like a fire needs to be put out. The body actually experiences maybe a missed phone call as an actual fire to be put out. That same level of stress and adrenaline can show up in our bodies, which is very hard for us to manage if we're not paying attention and we're not taking the time to be with that energy, release that energy, tend to it and acknowledge it and have compassion for it. Ways that we might find ourselves disembodied in a day to day might be just ignoring cues that our body is giving us, like thirst or hunger or needing to go to the bathroom or just things that we all have done because it's inconvenient or whatever else. But yeah, these are ways in which we're not connected to our body or listening to our body in ways that could be really helpful to develop a relationship with our body. But then there's other ways that disembodied can show up depersonalization, disowning your feelings and experiences of things, detaching yourself from things, compartmentalizing as a way of being disembodied. Maybe you meet somebody and you don't have a good feeling. Or someone says something and it doesn't feel good in your body. It just doesn't feel good. Maybe in your body sounds a little esoteric, but maybe just you don't like it because that's not feeling good in your body. I'd say those things are the same thing, but you don't like it. And then you just bypass it and you just put on a smile and move forward. That's a way of detaching from yourself, reducing sensory awareness. Again, just ignoring things. Maybe something that doesn't feel good maybe it's a temperature, maybe it's somebody touches you in a way you don't like and you just ignore it. That's a way of being disembodied or a practice of disembodiment. Then there's things like numbness and loss of physical awareness and losing sensation, which can happen again in stressful situations or traumatic situations, painful situations that we're trying to avoid. Then, of course, there's the bigger out-of-body experiences that we have when we experience a really big physical trauma. Fun fact, my first experience, or my first memory as a child is me having an out-of-body experience. I floated to the top of the hospital room. I had hit my forehead. I was trying to fly, ironically, from the couch to the fireplace. It was like a reverse Santa move. I was like well, I'm going to jump off the couch and into the fireplace, but I hit my forehead and I don't have any physical pain memories from this experience. But what was so traumatic for me was going to the hospital and being at the time they strapped, jacketed me to do the stitches. That was like my soul did not want to be straight jacketed. I literally left my body and watched everything happen from the ceiling, which is really weird because that's my memory of it. I can see everything down and then I was making this up. Then I asked my parents about it and they're like no, that's I described what I saw, because if I was in my body I wouldn't be seeing this aerial view of this experience, but sometimes this happens when we just can't deal with what's physically happening.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

That is nuts. I mean it's crazy that you also remember that. I mean, as you were going through the list, I was pretty shocked to reflect just how many of those examples I can resonate with personally, like bodily cues. I mean don't even get me started the entire construct of all diet culture is just literally an act of disembodiment. If you think about some of the other things, like the oh, don't say that because X, y and Z don't feel a certain way. Don't set those boundaries Like so much of what I mean, frankly, I think a lot of women have been taught throughout the ages is literally a practice of disembodiment.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

It's kind of crazy.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Then you think about all the traumatic experiences layered on there, physical and whatnot. That's nuts. That's actually just crazy to reflect on. I think that was pretty eye-opening for me, honestly.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

It was a great question. Thank you for asking it. I don't think people really and I personally don't ever really think to talk about what does it mean to practice disembodied meant, but like all of these things and you know we probably do them every day Like I'm thirsty right now, but you know I'm going to wait till after our conversation to drink water.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

I mean, how many of us just wake up tired and grab a coffee and go. I mean, that's just the reality, I think, at least bringing some awareness to it. There's something really empowering about that. So I do want to leave people with kind of some hope around, re-embodied meant, and so I'm curious what is that? Some of the ways that we can practice that, and also if you'd be willing to share what you do personally as a kind of mindfulness teacher and choreographer. I feel like this must be like 100% your wheelhouse right.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Yeah, I mean, of course, there's ways to like be reacquainted with your body and with yourself and what it is that you're needing in any moment you could just ask yourself, like what do I need in this moment? And also just where am I in space? So I think one of the things that mindfulness has taught me that I've really appreciated and you mentioned this as part of MBSR which is just the body scan. It's like just going through the body and if that feels like you don't have time to do the whole body, you could just do a check in with the heart, like how is the heart doing or how is the body as a whole doing, and you could check in like am I tired, am I hungry? You know, just a quick check in, that's like you know less than two seconds. And then, of course, there's like deeper practices of embodiment. Really, you know thinking about, I guess, if you're in your sitting practice, that's a way to be embodied, by just noticing, taking a little bit more time to be with everything that the body is experiencing, whether that is soreness or stiffness or discomfort, or openness or spaciousness. I also find that, you know, for me, one of the most embodied practices that I do, I'd love to do and have loved doing this since the age of two and a half is dancing and moving my body in space and moving at my body in space in a way that feels expressive to me in that moment. So really connecting emotionally, like how I'm feeling, with what can be expressed and what can be moved through this. You know channel, this entity, this body, this flesh, you know like what can be expressed through that and you know that could be like really slow movement or it could be really big cathartic movement, but it doesn't really matter what it is. It's still very present thing to being in this body in this moment, which is a beautiful realization every time I have it.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Hmm, the random question, kind of related to the choreography aspect and like dancing to express emotions, because I feel like for a lot of people, myself included, sometimes expressing things through our bodies can kind of feel awkward and uncomfortable and obviously, as a I'm assuming, not obviously- but as a choreographer you probably kind of come head to head with this earlier on in your life here. But there also is this aspect of if you've worked professionally as a choreographer, right, like your body and the expressions there in many ways are like part of what you do for work. And the reason why I mentioned this is like I think there's something that so often, like, we treat our bodies as machines, right, and so how do you, did you experience kind of a struggle with context, switching from, let's say, doing something that was part of a kind of choreographed activity or event to then switching gears to using your body in a way that is very emotionally expressive, like how can people bridge that gap if they struggle with that, you know? And that applies to bridging the gap between, like, using your body as like just a tool to get through your work day, through, to getting over some of that awkwardness that might come up because you perceive your body as, like you know, a sex object or whatever. Right, we have been programmed to see it as.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

I feel like we could talk about this for five hours Like the body is so interesting and I'm not sure that I have fully unpacked, like everything that I've learned about being in this body from the perspective of being a trained dancer. And you know my training started at two and a half years old, so like barely walking, you know, like I think I mean I don't know if I'll ever know the answer like of what conditioning, but I will say that in terms of switching or in terms of like the body is a machine, or, you know, switching context, or even the difference between technical training and moving a body in a particular way versus a more express, more intuitive, more organic way of moving, I feel like both of them kind of exist for me in a way. I mean, I think a lot of my choreography these days looks less like dance and more gestural. However, I would say too that, like I very much needed my training not needed. I appreciate my training because it allows me to do things that are difficult to do and it looks like they're easy because I've, like you know, have several decades of doing them. So my body just remembers how to do it and I can sort of deconstruct it in the moment if I'm like at an ecstatic dance experience. Or if I'm just dancing in my kitchen, like I don't care what I look like and I don't not performing anything. But on the flip side, and even with the word performance, we can actually, you know, inhabit different archetypes like, or different ways of being in her body by, like, thinking about embodying not other people but like let's call them archetypes, like embodying someone who's confident. You know, if I was going to do that I mean for those watching like I can raise my you know chest and open my, my, my shoulders and I appear to be more confident if I do that, and that's embodying confidence. And I can also do the opposite and hunch over and look down and have a different energetic quality. And we feel this in our body and we do it. So it exists, whether we're conscious or performing or whatever. So I find it very natural to move in between them, because I have a deep awareness of my body and what it feels like when I'm doing different in my body. And I think that I really don't think of the body as a machine. I think of the body as a gift. It's like this really intelligent entity that is communicating with us. It's it's supporting us, it's it's it's hosting us, like it's hosting our soul, our spirit, whatever, whatever energy that is us are true essence. It's, it's hosting us for this time being and it's. You know, it's a beautiful thing to express and I know you've had so many other questions in there, but I'll I'll leave it at that.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

No, I think that I think that you're offering such a powerful perspective for people who perhaps can struggle to maybe reconnect with their bodies in that way, to express through the body, because I think that you know a lot of the time. First of all, like disembodiment, I really believe and I'll see if I can see some stats and I'll put them in the show notes but I think a lot of us live disembodied. So then like to kind of re-embodied and then also to kind of look at expressing yourself in these different ways that utilize the body in a means to express emotions, or to kind of plug into different archetypes, like I can imagine that to feel intimidating and I say this from my own experience as well but I think that there's something really. I think that the way that you explained even the notion of embodying an archetype feels like it kind of bridges the gap a little bit, like yes, it is a part of me to move in this certain way, but at the same time I think that organic movement for people could be perhaps a leap at first, kind of going from some of the experiences that at least I know I myself have with my body. So I think you provided some incredible examples, and I'm sure we could talk about this for hours, but we are literally coming up on time, so this is going to have to be like a to be continued. I love so much of what you covered today. Thank you so so much. This was such a beautiful conversation. Before we wrap, I know folks are going to want to know how to find you. What do you have coming up? Could you please share with our audience so that way they can follow you and hopefully perhaps even join in on some of the workshops? that you're hosting and the cool things you have going on, and I know you have several brands, so please tell us what is going on in your world and how can people find you.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Well, what is going on in my world is for those people that live in the Bay Area. I host with my music partner, Tau Wu, something called Resonance, which is a guided music and mindfulness practice. We do that every month and we have a couple happening in September and then hopefully in New York as well. If you're listeners in New York, the best way to stay up to date on those things is just Instagram. I post everything to Instagram and my Instagram is ndnlifestylist. And for those people interested in cultivating a practice of embodied presence, I offer a variety of courses through the Compass, which is my curriculum based on neuroscience and research and movement practice and sitting practice and writing practice. It's a way to really comprehensively and holistically integrate, like the everyday, and how to live well and live embodied. So that's what the Compass is. And for people who want mindfulness at the comfort and convenience of their devices, I'm also a co-founder of an app called Dreamwell and that's in the Apple Store and in the Google Store and we have mindfulness practices and hypnotherapy and sounds, and resonance actually also has a couple of practices in there as well and that's intended for mindfulness for your waking and sleeping life. And I think that's it for Resonance, the Compass Dreamwell, and then there's just me and my projects making dances and things like that.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Oh, just a day in a life right there. Oh, my gosh. Well, everything will be linked in the show notes. Folks and KG, thank you so, so much for joining us today, for joining me. This was such a joy, thank you.

Nkechi Deanna Njaka:

Thank you so much for having me.

Kasia Stiggelbout:

Thanks everyone for tuning in. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Nourish. If you enjoyed this conversation, please leave a review. Five Star Reviews help the podcast grow and I'm so grateful for that. I publish new episodes twice a month, so hit the subscribe button to be notified and, if you want to stay connected in between episodes, join my community on Instagram and TikTok at nourish underscore podcast. All right, that's all I got for you today. See you next time.

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Mindfulness Effects on Brain and Body
Understanding Embodiment and Disembodiment
Exploring Embodiment and Movement Expression

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