How does one "listen to the body" anyway?

April 18, 2018

Join us for free, all-levels, community yoga at Cactus park (39th Avenue and Cactus Road) for Earth Day this Friday from 7-8pm. Enjoy the sunset under the trees!

 

 



If you've done any yoga lately, odds are you've heard the teacher say "listen to your body." Let's talk about what that actually means.

Our bodies are complex, right? They're made up of so many different physical systems and elements that are constantly at work to help us function. On top of those physical aspects of our body, we also have the psychology of our body, including our thoughts, feelings, emotions... what's happening in the mind. Our bodies send us messages constantly. Our brains interpret those messages and then we get to decide how to respond.

Hungry. Tired. Stiff. Relaxed. Content. Full. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we teach the brain to ignore these messages. Like when you work through your lunch break and you just forget you're even hungry. Or maybe you have to use the restroom (Teachers! I see you!) and you decide to ignore it and wait ALL DAY. We do this on our yoga mat too. Ouch, that hurts, but if they can do I'll do it anyway. This practice is frustrating and hard for me, but I need to lose weight so I'll do it anyway.

We have to practice noticing the messages of our body, and then respond with kindness and sensitivity. This is listening to the body.

Maybe you're in a yoga class and your brain sends a message that when you move into Utkatasana (Chair/Fierce Pose) your thighs are sore from hiking the other day (hasn't the weather been amazing?!). How would you respond? You could go a little less deep, especially if it helps you hold your pose while also breathing and not tensing up all over! Or hold it for a little less long than everybody else; we all know can't get strong overnight!

What about when your lower back starts to bother you when you do a backbend in class? You could do a little less, you could hold it for a little less long, you could skip it altogether... but doing exactly what everyone else is doing and ignoring the message our body is sending could cause further aggravation and even injury. Backbends are a great opportunity to listen to our body!

When we practice listening to the body's messages on our yoga mat, we get better at listening throughout our day. Noticing the physical message in our body is the first step. Maybe at work, we're being technically challenged and stretched and you can feel a headache coming on from all the new learning. Maybe in a meeting you notice your shoulders are tense from the tension in the room. Use that information to guide how to best care for your body! You are in charge of this task. Not your yoga teacher. Not your boss. Not your coworkers. Not your family.

Listen to your body. Then decide... how will you respond?

 

Love and light,
Chantal

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