What is listening to your body, and how can I practice it?
There are a lot of articles about mindful eating, listening to your body, honouring your body’s energies, needs and wants. It’s all pretty confusing and at times easy to succumb to the, “I really don’t feel like going to kick boxing class or going on that run so I will stay in and drink tea, eat cake and watch TV”. Then there is the inevitable crash and burn from either the sugar high and corresponding low or feeling pretty bad about yourself because this is not the way to a healthy lifestyle.
So listening to my body isn’t working is it?
Well maybe we need to take a deeper look at listening to our body. Every moment of every day our body is talking to us. Our body shows us what it needs to be healthy, happy and to keep moving with comfort. Unfortunately, our modern life schedules our day with, eat, work, exercise, sleep and repeat. Some of this is non negotiable. Most of us need to work to pay our bills, we need to sleep and we try to fit a bit of exercise into our week to keep healthy.
Unfortunately, our modern life has trained our brain to eat certain foods at certain times. One modern ethos is to push through the pain to reap the reward. There is a sense of honour to be busy, to work or exercise to exhaustion and to be stressed out. I really don’t think that way of life is working. We are now on more medication than every before. Many of us suffer anxiety, overwhelm and feelings of shame for not being enough.
Can listening to our body help us overcome some of these issues? Will this lead to a life that gives us more fulfilment? I believe it can, if we listen quietly with honesty and non-judgement.
There are two layers of feeling to be aware of when first practicing listening to your body. One is our surface psychology, our learned behaviours and beliefs. This is also the one that labels, categorises and judges what is good or bad. The other deeper one is our core nature the feelings deep within our body. This core nature is, our inner being. It knows how our body works what it needs and when it isn’t functioning as well as it could be. Your body will send us signals to you when it needs your help. This core or inner being, is the one we need to tap into. It is prehaps the one that we have been pushing down, ignoring or bulldozing over, possibly most of our lives.
How to Tap into the Inner You
This may take a bit of practice hang in there it is well worth the effort. It will become easier with time and patience, be kind to yourself. Here are 4 steps to get you started tuning into your body
1. Stop and breath.
This is one of my favourite breathing exercises, one that is great to practice when you feel overwhelmed by emotions or pain.
I call it the power of 7.
Take a deep breath in for the count of 7.
Hold that breath for the count of 7.
Release the breath emptying the lungs completely for the count of 7.
Hold the empty breath for the count of 7.
Repeat 7 times.
Gently ask your body what it is feeling or why. Really the question is up to you. Speak it out loud or to yourself, what ever you are most comfortable with.
Really listen to the answer, without judgement or labelling it good or bad. Just listen, the first thing that comes into your thoughts is the answer.
Trust the answer and try not to supress it mask it or label it. It may be difficult to acknowledge to start with. However, give yourself time to sit with it and look at how it is making you feel. Contemplate how ignoring it will show up in your body and behaviour.
This technique can be practiced anywhere at any time. Practice it when you are feeling overwhelmed or when you are about to engage in an unhealthy activity. Use it when you have cravings such as smoking or eating a packet of chocolate biscuits. Often the urge will pass by the time you have finished the breathing exercise. The answer may be you just need some fresh air, a glass of water or sit in the sunshine.