Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Yoga: Learning Body Awareness

"Concentrating on poses clears the mind, while focusing of the breath helps the body shift out of fight-or-flight mode." ~Melanie Haiken
Tell me how your body feels right now.  Do you have a headache?  Kink in your shoulder?  Are your feet swollen?  If so how long has it felt that way?  Do you even know?  Did you have to stop and think about it before you answered?

This is something I have been working on a lot over the last couple of years.  Body awareness.  At some point I realized that I was pretty disconnected with how my body felt.  I would have a headache for days and not really realize it until someone pointed out I seemed to be in a bad mood.  I would notice that my teeth felt a little sensitive and only then would I realize that I had been clenching them all day or maybe even longer.  I would have a kink in my neck all day and not really notice it until I tried to fall asleep.  I was just disconnected with what was going on with my body.  Living my life in auto-pilot without listening to the signals my body was trying to send me, 'you are stressed, calm down'.

Is you body trying to tell you something?  Maybe it's not a message about stress (although I bet this is a common one).  Maybe your body is trying to tell you to slow down, or not eat such large portions or go so long between meals, or to get more sleep, or to take some time off your feet.

Something that has helped me cultivate body awareness is yoga.  I can't think of a better tool to help you listen to the messages your body is trying to send you. 

Why Yoga Works:
  • Breath work- the simple process of slowing and deepening your breathing does wonders to help bring your attention to what is going on with your body
  • Asana/Pose- holding a yoga pose for an extended period of time forces you to focus on your body.  It seems like holding a set pose would be mindless but it is just the oposite.  Holding still is the surest way I know to focus inward, everything else will just fall away.
  • Active being- even the slowest and calmest forms of yoga require you to engage and be active.  You can not do yoga passively.  The process of moving from one pose to another forces you to engage your whole body and as a result bring your awareness to the body.
Yoga is potent and powerful stuff!  It does not take much to make a big difference (but the more you practice the more natural body awareness will become).

If you are interested in trying yoga, check out a local studio in your area or try it at home!  Yoga Journal has some wonderful free short yoga videos you can download and practice at home.

Do you practice yoga?  How does yoga help you cultivate body awareness?


  1. Half-marathon on Saturday!! Woot woot!!! :) I'm excited for you! I think mom and I are planning to come cheer you on after I get out of yoga.

  2. Oooppps. That comment was supposed to go on your next post, about running. (Can you tell I've been catching up on your blog this evening?) :)