A L I G N M E N T

Michelle Nayeli Bouvier
8 min readFeb 18, 2024

What does alignment truly mean?

How do we know when we are there… or when we’re missing the mark?

Conceptually, alignment touches every aspect of our life. Alignment has multifaceted meanings that go beyond the external, reaching into the depths of our inner world.

Alignment spans every level of life — from our relationship with ourselves, others and Nature, to being in tune with our life purpose and the broader universe.

Alignment often refers to the state of:

  • the relationship between body+mind+heart
  • the connection to our authentic self (vs outside expectations)
  • congruence between our thoughts, intentions and actions
  • living in harmony with our core values and beliefs
  • the harmony within our relationships
  • our physical structure in movement practice
  • harmony or lack between our mind, emotions and embodiment
  • our alignment with Nature
  • feeling connected to our soul purpose

Navigating through these layers can seem daunting, yet there’s a foundational starting point: alignment within ourselves.

This internal harmony, connecting body, mind and heart each day is where life alignment begins.

Let’s look from a bottom-up perspective.

A frame I currently appreciate is to consider our Behavioral Stack, a take on evolutionary levels of the organization life within us. When I first listened to this episode of Nate Hagens’ podcast, it blew me away with its resonance to my own work, experiences and research… where ancient teachings like Ayurveda and living yoga meet modern bodymind and nervous system science. Truly, embodiment is where we must begin, in order to creatively face even the biggest challenges. Without the grounding in the body — regulated, present, open to bring intuition and imagination to bear on science and rationality — we won’t be able to bring our best to solving problems — personal or global.

Consider an evolutionary map of organization in (human) animals that goes from the microbiome to the cell, to the organs and then to various levels of our nervous system.

We can define four levels of our nervous system where we have agency and conscious control, generally through embodied tools. Each have a built in binary state switch:

  • Enteric system: digestion and physiological coordination — either stable or unstable (think about when your belly is either upset or starving, the impact it has on you)
  • Reptilian system: autonomic division of parasympathetic and sympathetic — either at ease or in stress (especially when stress is chronic or compounded)
  • Limbic system: mammalian emotions — either satisfied or dissatisfied
  • Cognition: beliefs, stories, facts, data, goals — either calm and peaceful or confused and agitated

We tend to think that our cognitive functions are in full control, steering all our other biological systems. We see our limbic, reptilian, and enteric systems as subordinate, merely following the brain’s lead. Yet, the actual scenario is quite the reverse. In reality, our cognitive abilities are just a small part of a much larger picture, with the limbic, reptilian, and enteric portions of our nervous system holding significant sway over our behaviors, each deeper layer exerting a stronger influence than the one ‘above’ it.

The body sends far more information to the brain than the other way around. Our interoception — internal felt sense via nerve endings in fascia-- sends 6–8x more information to the brain than our retina. Read that again. Our body is the ground of our sensing the world, and the ground on which all the other levels of organization begin: our enteric nervous system, our reptilian and limbic systems all rooted in embodiment… all the soil for clear, connected cognition.

In fact, our brain’s hardware — the actual neurological tissue — originated for processing information from the world and formualting a response through movement. Evolutionarily speaking, cognition came later on, overlaid on the architecture formed through movement. This is related to the importance of movement in development and learning, ongoing processing of emotions, neuroplasticity and even neurogenesis.

Modern bodymind, nervous system and movement science, alongside research in neurochemistry and circadian rhythms, points us toward the importance of embodiment as a superpower for managing our vitality, mental and emotional regulation, health, resilience, and ultimately, our alignment with our values, relationships and purpose.

Aligning the body lays the groundwork for a nervous system that feels integrated and secure. This helps foster good interoception — our inner felt sense to be aware of inner signals and needs — crucial for nervous system regulation and stress management. Interoception is also shown to enhance self awareness as well as empathy and compassion for others.

There’s more and more research on this fascinating connection. Take a look at the Association between interoception and empathy or how Empathy, interoception and social perspective taking are inherently linked.

On the other hand, disturbed interoception — either too much or too little — can cause a range of problems. This quote from Wikipedia really nails it:

Misrepresentations of internal states, or a disconnect between the body’s signals and the brain’s interpretation and prediction of those signals, have been suggested to underlie conditions such as anxiety,[7] depression, panic disorder, anorexia nervosa,[8] bulimia nervosa,[9] posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alexithymia,[10] somatic symptom disorder, and illness anxiety disorder.

Considering that this is a relatively new angle of study, as Joanne Avison once told me (in small talk after recording this podcast), it’s likely we’re only be at the beginning of a revolution in what science will discover in looking deeper into our fascia and it’s revelations around the linkage of our body and mind… and perhaps even beyond what we know of as ‘mind’.

Add to this that hundreds of studies reveal a related powerful truth: that our inner emotions are contagious, affecting those around us on a physiological level, as evidenced by heart rate variability and neuroendocrine markers. It’s a profound reminder that our stress, feelings, and the entire spectrum of our inner experiences indeed ripple out, touching all our interactions and closest relationships — like our children, friends, partners, pets, clients and colleagues.

Our personal practices are, in essence, practices of community. The state of our inner world doesn’t just stay with us; it radiates outward, influencing everyone in our orbit. Any idea of separation is simply that, an idea, not reality.

Part of this deep interconnectivity between mind+body, the physical+emotional is the way we’re wired to digest life experiences and emotions through the body.

The sensory pathways (all five senses plus our interoceptive sense) take information into the brain, where it’s then processed, translated into meaning for our response, and the only way out of the brain is through the motor pathways, aka through movement of some kind. This may be moving the mouth to speak, closing the eyes, opening the arms for an embrace… or moving to avoid, run, or protect. The completion of this cycle is fundamental to staying in balance and health on all levels — emotionally, mentally, physically. In fact, the disruption of this cycle is key to the patterns we identify as trauma.

Thus, mindful embodied practice supports the processing of our inner lives and helps us find clarity and meaning in the twists and turns of our unique path — through our embodiment itself. Keeping this cycle in flow allows us to find our inner alignment, which is a living, changing dance of intimacy within.

Aligning with ourselves is the essence of various forms of daily practice, whether it be meditation, movement, prayer, ritual, or simply being present to the dawn of each day. Embodiment — tools of the body, breath and brain — is one of our most accessible, no-cost, always available resources for personal connection and alignment that begins within… and ripples out into the world. Personal transformation and the cultivation of leadership, clarity and purpose — especially in times of global transformation — begin with alignment of ourselves through mindful embodiment.

Of course what we choose to practice matters. There’s no one way for anyone, and no one way for any of us throughout our lives. Our needs change with time, season, life demands and circumstances. Variation is the norm, as my teacher Frey Faust would say. For movement lovers, we’ll have to revisit the levels of alignment in movement in a future blog, but let’s leave this for now: it’s not about the outer form, where we are in space, or a shape to fit ourselves into. Embodied alignment is an inside job of neuromuscular coordination, biomechanical relationships, fascial integration, force transmission and distribution, balanced stability and mobility, appropriate tone, tension, compression, relaxation and awareness.

The way we move is how we move through the world.

The microcosm of our inner experience ripples out to influence our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, communities and work in the world. When we are aligned with ourselves, our values and purpose, we know our true selves and can express our authenticity with confidence and joy.

Living in alignment with our ‘why’ brings motivation and meaning. It ignites us to pursue goals with passion. The inspiration is contagious to others along the way, magnetizing others who share our values.

Living in alignment with your soul purpose and contributing to something larger than yourself brings some of life’s greatest fulfillment. This contributes to overall wellbeing, physical vitality, mental clarity and emotional radiance. Feeling that we are contributing in a meaningful way brings us inner peace and satisfaction and a greater sense of making a positive impact.

So, how do we align within ourselves?

My personal journey has shown me that embodiment is a huge part (if not the most important part) of the answer. Through upheaval, uncertainty and times of immense growth, the path of embodiment has been my number one resource for maintaining a clear mind, a strong spirit, a devoted heart, and a soul aligned with its mission. Embodiment is our gateway to unlocking our gifts and purpose, inspiring the courage to stand by our beliefs, adapt to change, navigate the world’s transformation, and ripple these effects out to others.

It’s not just about physical vitality and co-regulation, but also about grounding our leadership, clarity, energy and purpose… especially in a world undergoing massive change. Alignment through personal practice is a path to transformation — not just for the individual but for the collective good.

Ultimately, alignment isn’t a destination but a journey, a continuous process of self-reflection, learning and action. It’s about striving to live in harmony with oneself, others, and the planet, contributing to a future that is more just, equitable, and sustainable for all.

And yes, we’re in it together. Thanks for being here.

Thanks for reading this far! As you may notice, I’m very passionate about these topics. There’s so much more I’d love to share with you, and if you’d like to come along for the journey, you’re invited to join me for ALIGN: Evolutions in Embodied Practice happening live, online, March 20–23, 2024. No one turned away (that’s me aligned with my values:).

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Michelle Nayeli Bouvier

Interdisciplinary movement educator, living Yoga & Ayurveda. Bridging ancient wisdom & modern science. Founder of the Kutilaa School of Embodied Resilience.