Seselelame: Holistic Integrated Interoceptive Training

If you look up the classes I teach on the gym schedule, you’ll find them listed under “Body Mind Classes” as opposed to “Group Exercise Classes.” After 20 years of having my work categorized in this way, I find the arbitrary distinction sometimes hilarious, sometimes exasperating. Catch me in the right mood, and I can go on a serious rant. I mean seriously: what Body Pump or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class isn’t using both body and mind and what yoga or Nia class isn’t group exercise? Don’t even get me started.

If I got to describe the practice we do together, I would call it movement, not exercise or dance or martial arts. I would say it is systemic, whole-body and sensory-centered. I would say that it is about presence, awareness and responsiveness. I would say it creates health through integration and is as much about what we do outside the studio as it is what we do in it.

I might call it Seselelame.

Seselelame is a West African word that a genius coach friend taught me not long ago. She learned it from Philip Shepherd’s book Radical Wholeness in which seselelame is described as “an inner realm in which all the world is felt.” I haven’t read Shepherd’s book but this term captures my imagination.

Kathryn Geurts’ academic work and her book Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community
describes the holistic quality of seselelame and how it encompasses sensation both internal and external, physical and emotional, everything in the world inside and out.

Our western view of the senses, on the other hand, is utterly external. From our “five senses” perspective, we see what is outside us, hear what is outside us. Taste, touch, smell what is outside. Other cultures think of balance as a sense and physiologists know that proprioception and interoception (see my post about these here) are senses that are essential to our human functioning. But we westerners are all about what’s out there.

Seselelame is translated as “feel feel at flesh inside” which recognizes that the entire human experience is felt in our bodies. The approach is used by dancers to balance choreography with improvisation, training with intuition, cooperation with competition. I loved watching this video and considering the question it poses, “How does dance enable you to understand who you are?”

Maybe if I was asked to describe the practice we do together, I’d call it HIIT: Holistic Integrated Interoceptive Training. Maybe I’d call it Seselelame: Feel Feel At Flesh Inside While Moving To Groovy Music. And maybe that’s why I’m not in the marketing department.

This week, let’s dive into the question, “How does movement enable you to understand who you are?”

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