How To Listen To Your Body And Why It’s Important… And Meditation
If you have ever heard the term ‘listen to your body’ it may have been from a yoga teacher, fitness instructor, physiotherapist, doctor or some form of healer, or maybe you have said it yourself.
It might sound odd but it IS possible to do. Most of us are so stuck in our own minds and busy lives that what our bodies need is often put on the back-burner.
Sooner or later, the body wins by shutting down with a cold or flu, a pulled muscle, possibly, from working out while being tired, or simply feeling tired and lethargic and feeling like a nap.
The latter is how I was feeling yesterday… tired, heavy, lethargic and unsociable. I took this as an opportunity to listen to my body and give it what it needed…. Relaxation, a nap and staying away from people.
In my twenties, I would go to the gym when I felt tired. Naps usually left me feeling worse after, and they made it hard to sleep at night. Now, in my forties, going to the gym tired is high potential for pulled muscles or hurting myself in some form.
About six months ago, I followed my husband’s lead and gave naps a try. Most of the time I don’t fall asleep, but I lay there and let my body rest. Occasionally, I have the best sleeps that are so satisfying! Either way, it is helpful and rejuvenating.
How do I listen to my body? you might ask.
You know, you just have to pay attention. It’s the same as when you feel tired or hungry, maybe just less obvious. You might feel like you need a break, to stand up and stretch or walk around, to breath some fresh air or put some water on your face.
- Get out of your head for a minute, or ten. Take a moment for yourself in a quiet space, or outside in nature to observe the beauty around you. Listen to the sounds, take in all the colours, feel the air on your skin.
- Go to a yoga or pilates class and actually focus on how your body feels as you move.
- Just breath. If you can’t leave the office, sit at your desk and focus on your breath. Count each inhale and exhale and become aware of where you feel the breath the most… the rise and fall of the chest or abdomen, or the air coming and going through the nostrils. To heighten concentration, count the length of each inhale and exhale.
- Go have a nice coffee at a relaxing cafe and observe the sights and sounds around you.
- Focus on the subtleties of each sip of your coffee, the hot liquid on your lips, the flavour, how it washes through your mouth.
All these examples are forms of meditation, and something called ‘active rest’. The label ‘meditation’ can make some people feel uncomfortable, so just call it what it is…. Time for yourself, listening to your body, or call it nothing at all.
Meditation is simply focussing on one single activity for a period of time, whether it’s one minute, ten minutes or one hour. It is not about ‘not thinking’, that’s impossible. It is to simply quiet the monkey-mind, the constant chatter that goes on in our heads.
Many other forms of meditation are writing, fishing, knitting, sewing, drawing, playing an instrument, walking and many more. Truthfully, anyone can meditate while doing most things, such as brushing your teeth, driving, cleaning, washing dishes, organizing, etc. It means doing each activity with awareness and being in the moment.
Meditation, in whichever form you choose, also helps you listen to your body. It becomes easier with practice, like anything else.
At every yoga class I teach, I tell my students to listen to their bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, instead of pushing through, don’t do it. We can get lost in competitive behaviour or fear of being the odd one out, but that is all in our heads, overthinking it. Listen to your body.
Call it the voice in your head, your gut feeling or your intuition, that is your body talking to you. It is what keeps us safe, keeps us from hurting ourselves, makes us slow down when we need a break, prevents us from getting run down and getting sick.
The next time you’re feeling like you need a minute for yourself, pay attention to it. Your body is telling you that you need something….. Listen to it.