Maybe in a gym or yoga class, you’ve heard the teacher or trainer say “listen to your body”, but what exactly does this mean? Today we are going to talk about how to learn to listen to your body.
The human body is an incredible machine that also has a deep sense of intuition. Listening to your body means tapping into what your body is saying and how you are reacting in each of the poses.
Yoga is not a race, there is no prize for the most flexible, the strongest practitioner. It’s also not a performance! Many injuries are caused by the ego, the sense of competitiveness that we feel when we enter a class and compare ourselves to others.
Yoga is conscious movement and the benefits of yoga can be really integrated when you start to bring your awareness to your body, your sensations and enjoying the journey of engaging and really feeling every muscle required in the pose.
So how do we listen to our body?
1) Slow everything down – faster doesn’t mean harder. Slowing everything down will allow you to be truly aware of each of the muscles that are working in the pose, observe any sensations of pain or discomfort and make micro-adjustments to deepen the position of find ease in it.
2) Listen to your breath – the breathing exercises in the beginning of class establish the pattern of breathing that you should be able to maintain throughout your practice. If you are huffing and puffing, this is a sure sign that you need to pull out of the pose, maybe not go so deeply into it. The breath is a tool that can help you go deeper into a pose as you exhale and relax, signalling for your muscles to do the same. That’s why when teachers say to breathe into any discomfort in a pose, the slower and more relaxed you breathe and the more you focus the intention of where you want the breath to go, the more ease you will find in the position.
3) Practice Ahimsa or non-violence - The yoga philosophy of Ahimsa in Sanskrit embodies the philosophy of not doing harm to others or ourselves. In yoga, listening to our bodies means being kind to our bodies. Maybe yesterday you could go deeper in that stretch and today your body is not up to it… we all have good and bad days. Your body will tell you. If a posture is hurting or you’re too tired, ease out of it. There is no shame in taking a rest in child’s pose and rejoining the class when you feel ready.
4) Close your eyes – Closing your eyes during your yoga practice allows you to block out distractions and really listen to your body and pay attention to all the movements that you are doing. Forget about the bendy student to your left and use your sensations to guide you, are your hips feeling tight? Do you feel stuck? Do you feel fluid? This will allow you to make tiny adjustments to find your own expression of the pose.
5) Trust your body – Trust that your body knows what it needs and will tell you through laboured breathing or pain whether you’ve gone too far.
6) Love your body – Think about your internal dialogue with yourself, do you criticise your body? Do you look for only the flaws? Accepting yourself as you are and learning to change the negative self-talk to positive will help you become more in tune with your body and be able to listen to it better.