Sensations: Speaking the Secret Language of the Body

Today, we are going to play with speaking Sensation. Yes, it’s a language. Yes, you will be able to speak it by the end of this post.

But first, why? What’s the point?

Sensations are the language (the words) of our bodies. They are how our bodies communicate with us.

Speaking Sensation allows us to interact with our bodies in a way that is gentle, non-invasive, and that promotes an increased sense of ease and wellbeing.

Our bodies are always communicating with us whether we are aware of it or not.

They are constantly letting us know what is going on with them: I’m hungry, I’m full, I’m hot, cold, thirsty, in pain… Sometimes the messages are very clear “That hurts!” Sometimes, they are quite subtle.

Today, we will begin to explore the infinite ways your body communicates with you through sensations. And, believe me, the vocabulary of your body extends far beyond full, thirsty, cold, hot, pain, and hungry.

So, just what *is* a sensation?

A sensation is a physical feeling in the body.

Sensation Language describes these physical feelings using words based on the five senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight).

It is important to not confuse sensations with emotions. While emotions do have accompanying sensations, the emotions themselves are not sensations.

For instance, think about fear. Fear is an emotion that, for me anyway, comes all wrapped up with the sensations of extreme clenching in my stomach, constriction in my chest and pressure in my throat.

Here are some more examples: tingling is a sensation. Anger is not. Queasy is. Longing isn’t. Relaxed is. Happy is not.

For a partial list of sensations to help you get into Sensation Speak, click here.

In short, speaking Sensation involves using words based on the five senses to describe whatever you are experiencing in your body.

What does ‘good’ really mean?

A friend asks you how you are. Without really thinking about it, you answer, “Good!” In that moment, you mean it. You really do feel good.

But, what does ‘good’ mean? How do you know that you feel good?

Enter sensations: TaDa!

Scan your body… what do you notice? Is there a sense of expansiveness in your chest? Perhaps you feel an overall sense of lightness and space throughout your body. Perhaps you are experiencing something entirely different that to you feels good.

What word other than ‘good’ could you use to give a more body-based description of how you are?

Sometimes, starting with pain makes speaking Sensation easier.

Although it may sound strange, it is often much easier to speak Sensation when describing pain. In general, most people have a fairly extensive pain-based sensation vocabulary–extensive compared to words describing a state of wellbeing and comfort, that is.

So, let’s do a quick exercise. And yes, I’m doing it too. :)

Step 1: Scan your body and choose your favorite tension-holding body part. For the purposes of this exercise, choose an area of chronic, lower-grade tension. Avoid areas of recent injury or high-intensity pain.

Ex: I’m tuning into my right knee.

Step 2: Allow yourself to just notice what is happening there on the level of sensation. You can refer to the list here for words if you get stuck. (And, yes, stuck is a great sensation word!).

Ex: Initially, I noticed a pulling in the back of my thigh, a tingling going down my shin and this dullness directly under my kneecap.

Step 3: Give yourself 3-5 minutes to continue noticing and watching (witnessing) that part of your body. As you pay attention to it (without trying to fix or change it), what happens? Does the sensation stay the same or does it change? If it changes, what sensation word would now describe it?

Ex: the pulling sensation dissipated; the tingling in the shin increased momentarily and then decreased; the dullness became more of an ache and then I noticed a gentle pulsing beneath the kneecap. Interesting!

“The very act of paying attention to your body changes your experience.” –Diane Heller

Sensations give us a very concrete way to interact with and listen to our bodies. It is through this listening, this interaction, this communicating, that our bodies (we) change.

Remember, learning something new takes time.

Do you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? I recall feeling very overwhelmed initially. There was so much to keep track of, so much to do all at once… turn on your blinker, check your mirrors, check your blind-spot, speed up (or slow down), hands at 10 and 2… all that just to change lanes!

I also recall thinking: Soon, all of this will be second nature. Soon, I will be doing all these things at once without even thinking about them. And soon (very soon) I was.

It’s the same process with learning to speak sensation. At first, it may feel overwhelming. You may find yourself getting frustrated and wondering if you will ever be able to

  1. notice/be aware of sensations in your body and
  2. be able to describe them in a meaningful way.

That’s ok. That’s normal. Just give yourself time, keep practicing, and eventually you will be able to speak Sensation without even thinking about it. Eventually, you will be fluent in the language of the body.

For you (if you so desire):

Over the next week, play with speaking Sensation. You can repeat the exercise described above with the same or some other part of your body.

Or, when someone asks how you are, pause, notice the sensations in your body, and see if you can find a sensation word to describe what you are experiencing in that particular moment. You just might surprise yourself!

Want to take it even deeper?

Sign up for my newsletter and receive my free Owl Eyes ebook. It describes one of my favorite self-care techniques that just happens to be oh-so-very helpful when learning to notice and track sensations in your body.

Send me…


  1. I love this. Thanks for another awesome e-zine and post. I’ve decided to add ‘speaking sensation’ to my morning ritual this week (and maybe permanently).


  2. Leila says:

    OOo this is lovely. Totally my thing.
    Feelings, sensations and self care.
    Steps towards. Back n forth. Softnen. Dissolve. Harden, tense, observe.
    Love it!
    Twitter: LeilaLEvelyn


  3. Larisa Koehn says:

    @Roslynn Tellvik
    That’s terrific! Your body is so going to love you. :)

    Thanks for stopping by. Yay for feelings, sensations and self-care! Three of my favorite things as well.
    Twitter: larisakoehn


  4. Charles says:

    This reminds me of something I have questioned for a long time. How do we make decisions? I would like to think it is by analysing the pros and cons and coming up with the best logical choice. Apparently this is not the case and instead can lead to immobilization. I wonder if the sense of knowing that a person can have is sensation or if liking one option over another is part of the same spectrum of sensation? If so can a person learn to recognize it? In other words does the body tell us what we really want if we listen?


  5. Larisa says:

    Wow. I love where you are taking the conversation. Great questions. I wonder… What might you discover if you begin to pay attention to sensations as you make decisions? If you play with this, let me know. I’m curious to hear what you notice.
    Twitter: larisakoehn


  6. marla says:

    Excellent! I needed the reminder, thanks


  7. Rosi says:

    Thank you, Larisa for another great article.

    I have found recently that decisions work best if I use my body as a sounding board. For example: I know where is a good place to live, or work, by how I feel when I check it out. It used to be more of a head thing: evaluating, judging, comparing. Now it is wow! I feel alive and energized here. Or, I am reminded I have a sore arm, my throat is closing off, it smells perfumey, or my stomach hurts. I guess that’s why they call it “gut instinct”. My guts do tell me what is good for me if I listen.


  8. connected and wants to continue


  9. Olivia says:

    Hi, I wonder if you have suggestions how can I unfreeze my emotions of love, joy and/or enthusiasm. I understand that our feelings are the result of our thinking. I was never able to feel or receive these emotions. I don’t have problem with negative emotions, though

    Thank you.

    I’m not familiar with your work. I found your site just by accident.



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