Yoga and the Art of Listening To Your Body
Learning to listen to your body is a process that requires patience and compassion.
I taught yoga to a marathoner recently and explained that the physical practice of yoga is not mind over matter, like pushing yourself to excruciating lengths to cross a finish line. Yoga is mind in matter, the focus on synchronicity between breath and movement. It's a holistic process.
If our hamstrings say, "this feels too tight, this is my edge," we learn self-respect by listening to them, and back away a bit. We learn to distinguish from an array of sensations as we decipher pain from discomfort, which is not always straightforward.
Pain can be sharp or dull, an ache, a NO and it can be quite uncomfortable. It can be a symptom of a health concern you should get checked by a doctor, and it can be psychological and emotional, stored in the body and masquerading in your neck, lumbar spine, hips...
Discomfort can feel like tightness with possibility. With a bit of stretching, focused breathing, an intention to move into comfort, some discomfort can shift. It is really personal as well. You may see glimpses until you get the full picture, as it is a process.
People initially confuse listening to the body with listening to the mind with all its frenetic I shoulds... With time, you become inwardly sensitive, a connoisseur of sensations. How deep you go is relative to what you feel, and to what you know.
How to hear the messages from your inner guidance system can be a practice on its own, with rewards that spill over into daily life, as instincts are key to positive, nurturing choices, to our health and to our safety.
Here are some tips to start listening to your internal guidance system:
1. Make notes of anything in your life that is difficult, painful, joyful, and notice how your breathing, heart rate and other bodily sensations respond to each of these.
2. Pay attention to what your body feels like. For example, do you feel fluid, numb, or stuck? These feelings are your body's wisdom; clues in your inner guidance system.
3. When you experience a bodily sensation such as "gut reaction," back pain, a headache, a stomach ache, pay attention to it. Are emotions such as anger or fear connected with any areas of your body? When a sensation arises, stop, lie down, breathe and wait with the emotion or sensation - what insights come up through this process?
4. Notice how you routinely talk to yourself. Do you chastise or appreciate when you look in the mirror? Are you hyper critical or do you give your body positive messages, and gratitude. Your body digests meals, breathes in and out, and your heart beats 24/7... Cultivate a positive chain between your inner mental dialogue and the rest of you.
5. Understand that you risk your health when you consistently undermine your body. Burning the candle at both ends, worrying incessantly, food choices, activity choices, friendship choices...it all affects our system as a whole.
Here are my top three tips to begin to accept and love yourself unconditionally:
1. Standing in front of the mirror, affirm: "I accept myself unconditionally right now. I love my body and I love myself just as I am". Try this mantra two times a day for 21 days.
2. Learn how to breathe to create inner calm. A simple practice is to inhale to a slow count of 3 or 4, exhale to a slow count of 6 or 8 (adjust as needed). Try this minimum 5 minutes per day for 21 days.
3. Remember that the "attitude of gratitude" is what brings an inner and outer smile. About 90% of our bodily functions take place without you the personality telling it how to do the job. Acknowledge that your body today grew from a glint in your parents eyes, and is quite a miracle.
You are beautiful inside and out, let me know how you progress!