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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Apr 14;8:205. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00205. eCollection 2014.

Movement-based embodied contemplative practices: definitions and paradigms.

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  • 1Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA ; VA San Diego Healthcare System La Jolla, CA, USA.
  • 2Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth Lebanon, NH, USA ; Research and Development Service, Veteran's Administration Medical Center White River Junction, VT, USA.
  • 3Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth Lebanon, NH, USA.


Over the past decades, cognitive neuroscience has witnessed a shift from predominantly disembodied and computational views of the mind, to more embodied and situated views of the mind. These postulate that mental functions cannot be fully understood without reference to the physical body and the environment in which they are experienced. Within the field of contemplative science, the directing of attention to bodily sensations has so far mainly been studied in the context of seated meditation and mindfulness practices. However, the cultivation of interoceptive, proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness is also said to lie at the core of many movement-based contemplative practices such as Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi. In addition, it likely plays a key role in the efficacy of modern somatic therapeutic techniques such as the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique. In the current paper we examine how these practices are grounded in the concepts of embodiment, movement and contemplation, as we look at them primarily through the lens of an enactive approach to cognition. Throughout, we point to a series of challenges that arise when Western scientists study practices that are based on a non-dualistic view of mind and body.


Qigong; Somatics; Yoga; contemplation; embodiment; mindfulness; movement; proprioception

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