If you have ever been to a yoga class you have probably heard your teacher say “listen to your body” or “pay attention to your breath” or “honour your body” or something of the like. To be honest when I first started participating I had no idea what these nutty teachers were talking about. Listen to what? who? where? I was so focused on looking the way everyone else looked or figuring out how to do one of those crazy push-ups (chaturanga) to realize that I had no idea how to listen to my body.
I approached yoga like I approached my running. Grin and bear it to get to the end! Initially it was more important to make it through a class and get a good sweat on than it was to pay attention to any of those “fluffy” things my teacher was saying. I mean really how do you “listen” to a body anyways it can’t say anything. Then one day it happened I heard it! I was doing my best at forcing my body into some crazy hand balance pose (Bakasana or crow) when I realized I full on wasn’t breathing. I was holding everything in so tight that I didn’t realize it was this misdirection of effort that was continuously knocking me out of the pose. I wasn’t listening to my body!
Many years later I began teaching yoga myself. I would find myself giving the same direction about listening to your body and your breath, while encouraging my students to find their personal edge. Then it occurred to me…do they have any idea what it feels like to listen to their body? do they know what I mean when I say “find your edge”? or are they doing the exact same thing I was doing trying to do…win at yoga?
It was through this realization that I allowed me to modify my queuing, and *fingers crossed* this has helped my students. Yoga has afforded me the opportunity to not only explore through my solo practice but I have also been given the gift of teaching others and learning through their experience, breath and postures. It is during these times of exploration and learning that I have found yoga to open me up to exploring alternative ways of absorbing new material and allows me to actually understand what my body is saying.
Now after that huge lead up…time to explain what I mean by our bodies talking. Through my life as a runner and a poor food choice maker (is that a thing?) my body has told me things weren’t right but providing me with achy knees, eczema, a sore stomach, irritated bowels, and now you probably know more about me than you probably ever wanted to. It was by not listening to these discomforts that I drove myself down deeper into this spiral of pain and unpleasantness. However, not sure if you are or ever have been on one of these spirals, over time my body stopped telling me what it didn’t agree with (probably because I told it to shut it so much with the use of antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.). After my body found its equilibrium again I started to feel “normal” so the next time I had some type of unpleasant flare up I once again blamed it on my body instead of what I was doing to my body.
How did yoga help with this? It gave me one single second. It gave me a second here or there to just sit with my body. It gave me the opportunity to learn that pain isn’t some type of punishment that my body is dealing out, but it is more like a memo. Once I was able to start slowing down, getting out of the mind set of winning at yoga I was able to listen. Now, please don’t be mistaken, I am still a fairly competitive person (and in the worst way…you know one of those people that says they aren’t competitive but are) but I respect that part of me and use it to motivate me but understand that it isn’t always the right voice to listen to all the time.
So what, right? Who cares if I can understand what is up right? Well for one really care. It is awesome to know that when my stomach acts up I should probably lay off the dairy or that when my yoga teacher is telling us to push deeper but listen to our breath I know what my breath should sound like for me. It is awesome and empowering to know that achy knees means I need to build strength, that low energy means I should check how many veggies I am eating, that moving deeper into a pose might be right for some but it’s not right for me. Yoga has taught me how to use those precious seconds in my life to learn a little bit more about myself and what my body needs.
So next time your yoga teacher says listen to your breath or your body use those seconds to listen and hear what your body is throwing your way, and then ride the wave of the positive benefits of the new connection.
Happy Thursday Everyone!