During every yoga class I leave space for students to guide themselves through any movement their body is requesting, even if it doesn't resemble a familiar yoga pose. We come back to this intuitive movement several times in class, and it's the last thing we do before relaxing in savasana, corpse pose.
Every once in a while, an interesting thing happens when a new student comes to my class. When offered the opportunity to explore their body's needs with total freedom, they seem stuck. A few have even asked, "How do I know what my body wants?"
It makes complete sense. As adults, we're conditioned to live outside of our bodies. This may seem like a strange concept since, to an outsider, we don't appear to have vacated the premises. Yet over the years we can feel disembodied from our own inner workings.
We get so absorbed with whirring thoughts, obligations, and expectations, that we lose touch with our one true home and vehicle: the body.
There are many ways that we live outside of our bodies. Here are just a few:
We don't notice the gripping of the muscles of our shoulders, our faces, and our bellies.
Scan your body right now. Are you holding tension somewhere that you previously hadn't noticed? Does the tension creep back in as soon as you stop focusing on relaxing it?
We don't hear hunger.
Do you ever get through most of the day and suddenly realize that you forgot lunch? Or maybe you ate but didn’t feel satisfied, because you couldn't hear, or maybe even chose not to listen to your body’s requests.
We eat how we think we "should", instead of listening to our body's intuition.
Dieting rhetoric is really efficient at separating us from our bodies by telling us what, how much, when, and how we should eat. What we learn in the process is to distrust our body's cues and wisdom.
Our 9-5 dictates how we move.
We can lose track of the body while we're at work, particularly in rigid company cultures. If your boss expects you to be at your desk at all times, it seems thoroughly practical to tune out your body's innate cravings for movement, deep breath, and rest during the workday.
Sometimes we fight our body's requests for an early night, and other times, our ability to sleep feels thoroughly out of our control. Our alarm clocks and full lives demand that we shut out the resulting fatigue.
Ignore it long enough, and the body will resort to shouting, be it physical illness, emotional breakdown, or spiritual distress.
We eventually start to see the body as a stranger. Or worse, we grow to resent it so much that we make poor use of our precious time in this temporary vessel.
We have to bring our awareness back into our bodies because, and this is the truth:
When you are compassionately awake in your body, caring for it becomes second nature.
When you become really present to the experience of having a physical form, you'll want to move it, feed it, rest it, and celebrate in it.
So, what if you could come home?
Imagine how you'd feel if you could slow down and tune in to your body's voice.
Imagine that you trust its wisdom and respond to its requests with care.
Imagine how it would feel to look in the mirror and instead of seeing an "other", see a loyal companion.
After years living beside, or even miles away from your body, moving back in won't happen overnight. So this week, start by moving just one box.
Here's a practice of coming back home.
Close your eyes and think about one area of your body that doesn't feel emotionally charged. For example, you might choose your forehead or your left foot. Focus on that one area for a few breaths. Imagine it's filled with warmth and light.
Now, quietly ask that area of your body, "What would you like right now?"
It may answer in words, in a visualization, or you may simply feel pulled into action. Don't worry if the answer seems fuzzy or silly! Keep listening to that area of your body until you have an answer.
Then, when you respond to its request, do it with your full attention. If your foot asks for a massage, notice how your skin feels underneath your finger tips. Notice what happens when you stop.
Try this practice for a few minutes every day this week. Each day notice how easy or hard it is to hear your body's requests.