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The Feeling of Being a Social Worker: Including Yoga as an Embodied Practice in Social Work Education

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As a social work educator and yoga teacher, I have found it curious that the body and embodied knowledge have not been the subject of more debate in the social work literature or focus in professional training. In general where and when the body is mentioned, authors either provide a note of caution warning the practitioner against relying on the body as a source of knowledge and/or a reminder that, as an object, the body has been the cause of much social oppression. Yet, much of social work practice is underpinned by the practitioner's visceral experience. For example, in the process of gathering data to complete a biopsychosocial assessment of a presenting issue that will both inform and guide any intervention strategy, the social worker must navigate both community and clients' physical spaces while negotiating their own somatic maps. Whereas social work education focuses on developing the cognitive and discursive aspects of self-awareness and reflection, recent neuroscientific studies confirm what has long been known in Eastern embodied practices, that the body is the ‘main channel for influencing the mind’. Drawing on the literature exploring the mind–body connection interspersed with my own experience using yoga as a reflexive practice, I argue that making the role of the body more visible in the professional discourse and placing a greater emphasis on embodied knowledge in social work education strengthens the reflexive capacity of future practitioners leading to a greater health and well-being of social workers and better outcomes for their clients.
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Keywords: Body; Mindfulness; Reflective Practice; Trauma; Visceral Experience; Well-Being; Yoga

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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