Listen to Your Body

I've noticed in my own practice and in teaching that we are sometimes mistaken in thinking that we are being mindful, when in actual fact we are being cautious. The state of caution is a mind state that sometimes limits us from exploring our edges. And I'm not talking about the 'fancy pants' poses; sometimes it's just returning to a normal practice after an injury. So how do we get out of our mind and more into our body. Maybe this blog will guide you into a little self enquiry that will guide you back into listening to and trusting your body, and letting go of some of the stories that limit you..

About a year ago I was discussing with a physio/yoga teacher colleague.. who said how unfortunate it was that students struggle so much with keeping there awareness based in their body, during their practice. This stayed with me and I've reflected on it quite a bit... my first thoughts were yeah, I agree. Infact, even after 20yrs of yoga, I think very often my awareness is not based in my body in asana... in meditation yes, but in asana.. nope! And time moved on and I thought about the related topic of practicing by listening to your body and I think I'm better at doing this.. so anyway wanted to explore this further to inspire readers practice.


Listen to your Body...

Through my personal experience and listening to thousands of students and physio clients, I've concluded that most of the time when think we are listening to our body, we are still very heavily filtered by our mind.


The conversations that alert me to this are:


Most obviously, when a student says I can't do... and at the same time they are doing it... at least they are overcoming the mind filter... but actually if you are conversing while you are practicing you are not listening to your body... your awareness is in your thoughts about the pose.


In my inversion class I started to ban conversation when students where assisting each other into handstands... instead they were encouraged to watch their thoughts about what they were doing.... all reported the benefit as they really saw their apprehension about what they were doing and owned the thoughts that were undermining them. Sommetimes you just know you are thinking too much before you do!


If you are a little defensive when a teacher is encouraging you to have a go at something or if you find yourself thinking of a 'diagnosis' that you think precludes you doing what is asked. A good teacher will have assessed your physical capacity and will not invite you to try something you are not capable of by their objective view. Of course you need to know that teacher is qualified to make that assessment. Emotionally, energetically or because of acute injury (that you haven't told the teacher) you may not be up to it.... but have you ever surprised yourself? If you are really listening to your body, most of the times, you will be able to have a go at something and you might find that what the teacher is encouraging is actually beneficial not injurious....


Small tangent... I only ever encourge a student to do something if I feel pretty sure as a physiotherapist that they will gain physically from it and become more empowered in their experience of their body...because of their injury, not in spite of it... THERE IS NO OTHER REASON!!!... And of course as a yoga teacher this experience helps us to bring our awareness into our body and out of our minds/ conceptual understanding of our body... and in time that brings us into presence in our practice.. what my colleauge was referring to.


So finally if you are practicing yoga, you will be witnessing the internal monologue that filters your practice .. this mindfulness allows us a degree of consciousness where we can make choices.. we can continue to believe our thoughts about our body or we can experiment and see if things are they way our mind thinks... bodies get stronger, more flexible, pain and tension fluctuate... and everything can change greatly in the next moment (or day)... sometimes that moment's awareness of our body will tell us to stop, to rest, sometimes it will give us access to an energy to move the body into a new experience of movement capacity that will be very liberating...


So anyway, see if you can enquire into your practice and really listen to your body and rest with your awareness in your body, while you are practicing asana. It's not all or nothing... there is infinite grey area in our yoga practice.


And to guide you, get suspicious when automatically

  • you don't even try something.. that you anticipate that something will be a problem because it was before... this is listening to your mind, not your body.... ou think yesterday it hurt so i won't do it today

  • when you are defensive... you come up with lots of unchecked reasons for not trying

  • when a diagnosis pops into your mind... or something like the doctor said... not to do...that's listening to your physio's mind, not your body..


Build up you confidence by doing things that are easy, without thinking... just enjoy the sensation of moving,.. move slowly, move quickly... letting your awareness be immersed in sensory delight.. then notice what happens when you do things that are more challenging... try not to be overly cautious... be attentive to technique and sensation but soften when the tension of caution kicks in...

If you've had a history of injuries or incapacity due to pain it's a long road back to enjoying complex and challenging movements.. but this is true healing.


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