As life would have it, shortly after deciding to explore this topic I found myself vacationing in a new city and anxious to pamper myself, booked a mani/pedi. Upon arriving and seating myself in one of the battalion of chairs I had the uneasy feeling that this was not the kind of place where the body is considered to be a hallowed vessel for spirit but more an object to be subjugated, or at the very least, commanded.

Survival instincts heightened, I quickly gleaned that when the pedicurist “tapped” my leg it was her signal to either lift my foot up within her reach or to place it back in the foot bath. I would immediately comply with the tap signalling that I return my foot to the bath as this meant that I would no longer be subject to her poking and stabbing with her various instruments the extremely sensitive corner of my big toenail and the subsequent grating of the nail file back AND forth.

I allowed myself to relax somewhat gratefully as she proceeded to massage not only my feet but also my ankles by kneading then with her strong hands. I was somewhat taken aback however when she began to cheerfully pummel my lower legs with her sharp fists.

Having committed to the procedure by now, I decided to laugh instead of cry. The manicure was marginally less violent but I did receive a neck and shoulder “massage” akin to the kind of massage to which a child might treat their parent, with much tickling and karate chopping.

So what did this teach me about embodiment?

For starters, it reminded me that the body is a surprisingly unyielding structure. Several years of teaching yoga and adjusting various bodies had already taught me that muscles, bones and fascia put up a good fight. Firm insistence is often necessary before the body softens enough to open up.

And this firm insistence, in the form of a carefully executed yoga pose or the ministrations of a very determined pedicurist, while not necessarily pleasant, has the effect of bringing you back into your body.

I have spent most of my life slightly outside my body, evaluating, monitoring and correcting it. Even when I am completely alone I am still aware (and critical) of its position and appearance.

For a fully embodied person this monitoring would be impossible since the mind inhabits the body completely and does not consider it as “separate”.

No longer separate, communication is improved between the body and the mind. Better communication not only means more “listening” to the body but also more responding accordingly. (i.e. lying down when you are tired, eating when - and only when - you are hungry).

Another sign of embodiment is knowing where you end and other people begin. For the longest time I would project that my husband was me (and vice versa) since he was the first person that I “saw” upon opening my eyes in the morning and before closing them at night.

All of which leads me to conclude that embodiment is a quality of presence. When you look, it is you who sees. When you feel, it is you who is touched. When you speak, it is your truth. When it rains, it is you who gets wet.

You better believe that I tipped my toe-jabbing, body-mortifying and fully embodied pedicurist well for reminding me of all of this. And my nails look pretty good too.