Build body awareness all the time (not just on your mat)
Our yoga practice teaches us to be mindful about our movements; drawing our awareness inward and listening to our bodies' cues. We become aware of and strive to balance tension, and perhaps our practice even becomes a moving meditation to honor our bodies' needs.
Why should this sacred place be reserved solely to our mats?
A few days ago (from the time I wrote this), I sprained my ankle. It's on the mend, but the injury has forced me to become mindful about my body's movements at all times, not just on my mat.
Living a mindful life means living with intention. It's easy to go into autopilot without giving much thought, if any, to our bodies' cues. Our bodies are trying to talk to us all the time. Are you listening?
Here are three ways to get into the habit of having body awareness in everyday life — simple reminders to listen to our bodies.
1. Phone reminders.
If you're like me, you check your phone too many times to count. Technology can be the villain that numbs us if we let it ... or we can turn it into a tool for mindfulness. Try using apps such as Mindfulness Daily that check in with you and provide simple questions such as, "What sensations do you feel right now?" Or use your morning alarm as a mindfulness reminder. I awake to the simple question, "What are you grateful for?" Yes, technology and mindfulness can co-exist.
2. Add a meditation to your shower. Or commute. Or anything.
Meditation can be intimidating. But it doesn't have to be a rigid practice in the wilderness with a zafu and sacred music. We can meditate anywhere. In fact, I find it hugely beneficial to meditate during mundane, daily activities. While we shower, for example. As we wash our day (or night) away, we have the perfect opportunity to close our eyes and just be. We can check in with our bodies and notice how we feel, giving ourselves permission to let go of tension with each exhale. This can also be done during a morning commute (public transportation, of course), first thing in the morning from bed ... anywhere, really. Just not while operating machinery. ;)
3. Check in during mealtimes.
Meals are ideal times to check in with our bodies, especially for those of us practicing mindful eating. Before we eat, we can check in and ask ourselves questions like: Am I hungry? What would satiate my hunger? What am I craving? Many new mindful eaters are surprised to discover how often they are eating out of habit or boredom rather than true hunger.
The key in all of these methods is that we need to be curious. If we want to honor and respect our body, we must be genuinely interested in what it wants. Our relationship with our body is much like any other relationship. If we want to show our significant other love, we have to be curious and understand their love language. Buying roses when they are actually allergic to roses is not the best gesture. Just like feeding your body donuts when it really wants yoga is not the best gesture.
We are only given one body, and it tries to talk to us all the time. Let's listen.