Waking-up Your Body Wisdom
When was the last time you took the time to really feel your body – your entire body? Not just the muscles that might be screaming at you from an over enthusiastic workout or too many late nights in front of the computer screen. Or the tightness in your throat or chest, when you feel a pang of sadness or a flush of anger. When was the last time you took the time to drop into the intricate world of sensation that we carry around with us every day, and used this internal guidance system to help you navigate the slippery slope between ease and dis-ease, joy and suffering, health and ill-health?
While many people have come to know yoga as a helpful tool in: activating the relaxation response, managing stress, and enhancing physical flexibility. Those of us who have been practicing for a while understand that one of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it helps us learn to feel our bodies more deeply; something that scientists have recently coined interoception. While research into the benefits of developing interoceptive awareness – the sense of the physiological condition of the body – is still new, early studies suggest that developing this ability has a significant impact on the treatment of chronic health conditions, stress management and complex trauma.
B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the great Masters and teachers of yoga in the West describes this process as “developing such an intense sensitivity that each pore of the skin acts as an inner eye”. Very skilled yogis learn eventually to utilize this inner awareness to not only guide their practice on the mat but guide their lifestyle, work, relationships, and overall health management off the mat too.
So how do we, the occasional drop-in yogi and layperson, get to this place of practicing such attunement and mindfulness of the body? In Kripalu yoga we talk about moving through three consecutive stages of our yoga practice.
The first stage is learning to form our postures (asana) to be in proper alignment for our unique bodies so that we are able to fully relax and and breath deeply in stillness and movement.
The second stage is learning to quiet our over-active mental mind in order to tune-into and follow the sensations in our body that emerge as we form, hold and release each posture in synch with our breath and felt sense.
And the third stage is being so connected with your breath and the sensations that emerge in each posture that you allow your felt sense to guide your practice. You become one with each posture and you find yourself moving spontaneously from one posture to another in synch with your breath, flowing into increasingly deeper states of sensation awareness. In these moments you loose track of yourself as a separate entity doing the practice of yoga and feel your practice emerging from within. Breath by breath, your body is guided to move spontaneously to wherever it needs to go to feel release, opening and increasing states of expansion. It’s an incredible state of being.
Imagine the empowering possibility of developing such a clear connection with your breath and felt sense that you could use this awareness to guide yourself off the mat as well as on it.
To start you on this journey, take a moment every day to do the following exercises and see where it leads you:
- Drop into the sensations of your body, slowing down your movement into tiny micromovements and feeling the symphony of muscles contracting and releasing in relationship with each other.
- Practice isolating each body part one by one, from your feet to your head, feeling each body part contract and release and the wave of sensations these produce.
- Follow the sensations of your breath as it moves from the tips of your nostrils, through your nasal cavity, trachea, lungs, and diaphragm. Feel every organ, muscle and cell being nourished and revitalized with each inhale and exhale.
- If you’d like some guidance through this, tune into my recorded Body Awareness meditation:
After a few weeks of doing these exercises consistently notice how this developed awareness of your body begins to sneak into your day spontaneously and begin using it as a feedback system, guiding you away from what detracts from your health and wellbeing and towards what enhances it.
Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, n.d.