What Does "Listen To Your Body" Actually Mean?

We hear this all the time: Listen to your body! We should follow how we feel, right? But what does this really mean? And how do we do it?

Maybe I feel like eating cookies instead of going for a run right now. Good, this is a plan I can follow! But I thought this was supposed to get me healthy. And as much as I love cookies, I'm pretty sure my cookie-tarian diet isn't going to get me there.

So now what? To what kinds of feelings am I listening? Maybe physical feelings, like stomach pain and tired feet? Or emotional feelings, like worry, doubt, or indecision?

There are two layers of feeling at work here. One is feeling in your body, your core, your nature. The other is your surface psychology, imprinted on top of it all.

Following our psychology—our mind—can certainly keep us busy. We run about collecting all kinds of information and advice. We think it's critical to proper decision-making! But sometimes the decisions don't come. We get trapped in worry, self-doubt, second-guessing. And if we do make decisions, we don't believe in them enough to let them live.

Luckily, there's this other kind of feeling. It's not paralyzing, it's activating. And strangely enough, it's a bit closer to the pain in your belly!

You've heard of trusting your gut? It's good advice! So how do you know when your gut is talking to you?

How can you tell the difference between your intuition—the part of you that creates an avalanche of healthy and inspired acts—and the part of you thinking about how to find that part of you?

Stop thinking about it, for a moment. You need to get quiet. You need to get sensitive, to you.

That feeling in your body is where you'll find your intuition, and your capability to act. You already know it's not on your shelves of how-to books, or waiting for you in the next guru-convention. So it's time to look somewhere else.

Your body is sending you messages, core, gut feelings, all the time. You don't need to reason them, logic them, or intellectualize them. You just need to act on them.

When your foot hurts, you pick it up and give it a squeeze. Stomach ache? Rest your hands on your belly. Unsure what to eat, say, work on, or create? Take a very deep breath, relax, feel, and then do it. Just like giving your foot a squeeze: don't think it, just do it.

Your body pays attention to you. It thinks you're important! If you've spent a whole lot of time ignoring how you feel, just bulldozing along - your body has probably decided you're not interested in listening to these lines of communication. It hits the mute button. That's OK, you can turn your volume back on.

Here are 3 steps to get you listening and moving easy in your body and life:

1. Slow it down.

When a submarine is running all ahead full, it can ping away with sonar, but it won't hear much of anything. It's making too much of its own noise! We're about the same.

Don't worry, you'll still be able to pick up the pace when you want. We all have plenty of practice in this department. If we want to slow down enough to hear something, we need to practice this, too.

2. Relax and breathe deep.

When you breathe normally, you don't create unusual sensations in your body, so this readily translates to virtually no sensation at all. Breathe as deep as you possibly can, even when you're not running up a mountain, and you'll have something new. You'll feel. It will be interesting!

Remember to relax. When you're stiff and tense, you'll just feel stiff and tense. You want something more than that. Use your inhales to expand and feel into everything you've got. Use your exhales to soften everything you can feel.

3. Move without thinking or deciding.

Let your breath do this for you, and practice first in your body. When you're relaxed, your inhales will give you a lift, and your exhales will make you more movable. So let it move. No decisions required, just breathe and go along for the ride.

Practice this with your body. Now practice it with everything!

Just breathe, give it time, and watch what happens. Your body is already re-wiring itself, based on exactly what you're doing, right now. You're making you!

Have fun, and make it good.

Michael Taylor

Co-Founder Of Strala Yoga & Tai Chi Expert
Mike Taylor is the co-founder of Strala along with his wife, Tara Stiles. He studied mind-body medicine at Harvard and complementary medicine at Oxford. Mike has practiced Eastern movement and healing, including tai chi and qigong, for more than 30 years. In his younger years, Mike challenged centuries of reasonable and well-tested martial traditions in hundreds of competitions by applying unruly imagination to a world where rules were unbreakable. His record established the strength of finding your own way in your own body rather than copying the techniques of other people’s traditions. As he got older, Mike continued on to medical applications of the mind-body connection in university. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the United States and England, he left his health care roots for a little while. As the first internet boom was getting started, he joined the startup team of one company, then founded a couple more. Now through Strala, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, enable their lives, and become their own best caregivers.Mike has climbed some of the world’s largest mountains in Alaska, the Alps, and the Himalayas. He’s now a cyclist and runner and spends as much free time as possible exploring the backcountry on foot, skis, and snowboard. He lives in New York with his wife, Tara, and baby, Daisy.
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Michael Taylor

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