Hey friends, do you have a favorite yoga prompt?
Oh, I certainly do. I have always loved it when a yoga teacher said, "Listen to your body." For my little Kapha heart, it was an invitation to do less, back out when things seemed challenging or when I started to sweat, rest longer in child's pose. (We Kapha's prefer groundedness and stillness). As a teacher, I have also loved this cue, for the same reasons, I have always felt like it gave students permission to do less.
But have you ever had that ah-ha moment when you're like, "Maybe there is more to this." I recently read an article over at Yoga International that did just that and ya'll, it's time to revisit this prompt; what it really means and why it's so important on and off the yoga mat.
First, we live in a world that often encourages us to ignore or push past our body's inner signals. We work, when our body says it needs rest. We sit all day when our body says it needs to move. We eat three meals a day when we aren't hungry or we don't eat when our belly growls incessantly. You get the idea.
As a result of this neglect, our ability to identify these signals gets blurred. So "listening to your body" is a great invitation to just pay attention, to be interested and to be ready to respond to those internal signals on and off your mat.
Second, is the permission to prioritize your inner signals over what your yoga teacher, fitness instructor, trainer, social media, etc. is telling you to do, or how they are telling you to do it. It is the opportunity to not be blindly obedient, instead, to try different options like yoga props, a different variation like figure 4 instead of pigeon pose(because that gives you more of the sensation you are looking for), or adding or decreasing weight. And off the mat, it could mean that you eat breakfast when you wake up because your body needs food first thing in the morning, even though all the rage is intermittent fasting or that you say yes to nine hours of sleep instead of staying up late on Saturday night to watch that movie with your partner.
And are you ready for my biggest shift in thinking around "Listen to your body"? Here goes. (Drum Roll)
What if we listen to the signal from our body, but then engage in a collaboration with our mind's good judgement before acting? Ask ourselves, is this message helpful or necessary? Have a conversation between mind and body. (silently of course so your people don't think you've completely lost your mind!)
For example, I can easily default to where something feels easy and stay there for ever. That's why Yin Yoga was so attractive to me. I could stay in a stretch for days! But my brain knows that I'm hypermobile and over stretched and staying in a deep stretch for long amounts of time is going to cause pain in my body. So, no more loooong holds. And how many of you if you listened to your body, might never get your cardio on! Girls, I'm shouting a big AMEN! over here. But my brain says, "Girlfriend, get off your ass and move! You know you feel better if you raise that heart rate!"
So there you have it, my WTH moment around "Listen to your body." I still have a strong affinity for this prompt, for this practice and if you take my yoga class you are sure to hear it several times. Off my mat, I will be continuing my work, allowing space for the conversation between my bodies cues and my mind's good judgement. I hope you will too, my friend.
Registered Yoga Teacher, Menopause Doula, health and wellness explorer, self care expert focused on empowering women over forty with tools for loving the midlife journey