Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Body of Wisdom

"Trust your gut. Listen to your core. Know that lives within you and interpret it. That's your job here." -Cheryl Strayed

Yoga has given me so much, and changed me inside and out. This yoga drug does indeed work. A common experience in the practice is that yogis gain a stronger sense of the subtle sensations of their bodies. We get tuned in to the place where the mental/emotional/spiritual selves meet the physical; our bodies begin talking to us and the further you dig in to the practice, the harder it becomes to ignore. I like to say that Kundalini yoga made me quit my job because within two months of beginning the practice I woke up to how horrible it felt to go there everyday, sit in a cubicle with no sunlight and have so much contact with paperwork. I had a sense of this before, but the feeling suddenly became so acutely uncomfortable that I had to get out.

Since then, yoga has "made me" quit relationships, habits, living in San Francisco and many other jobs. As soon as I start to get a funny feeling in my body- sometimes in my heart, sometimes in my gut- it's only a matter of (sometimes very brief) time before I'll be gone. Of course, you don't have to do yoga to receive information in your body about a situation or person. Knowing something in your heart or having a gut feeling are common expressions used by many people to describe this experience.

Yogi or not, it's up to us to pay attention to the inner wisdom that gets communicated through our bodies. Our Highest Selves are taking the time to share what we need to do in order to stay safe, healthy and in line with our destiny; shouldn't we listen to them? This is sounding esoteric so let's think about a time when you've experienced anxiety over something you were thinking about doing. The typical indicators of the stress response kick in; your mouth might dry out, your breathing might get shallow, maybe your blood pressure rises. The anxious feeling and the response that it's paired with are information. Being in tune with this enables us to stop and ask ourselves, "Why am I feeling anxious?" Perhaps this anxiety is indicating that the thing you're thinking about doing is not right for you in that moment, or at all. Or maybe you're facing a big decision that you know will have a positive but highly transformational effect on your life. Regardless of the reason for the feeling, it's there, and giving it some time and attention can help us clarify what is right or so totally wrong for us.

There's a therapeutic technique called Somatic Psychotherapy which integrates the mind and a conscious experience of the body. I've been seeing a somatic therapist for a while now and am finding it to be a natural, highly beneficial complement to the work I do as a yoga teacher/student, and in massage. My therapist calls attention to what is happening with my body as I talk to glean the mental/emotional information on offer. If she sees a change in posture, facial expression, tone of voice or speed of talking, she'll point it out and we'll process what's happening internally.

My massage experience thus far has taught me that the body holds our history and will tell all our secrets to those who are trained to hear. Anyone can train themselves to listen to and interpret the messages delivered to their physical body from the realm of mind and emotion. It's as simple (and alternately complex and exhausting) as becoming very sensitive to changes in the body- temperature, breathing, heart rate, posture, etc. Once you have this awareness, you can begin to interpret it and to see the way that your body changes based on how you feel on the inside.

We all have powerful, clear, natural wisdom grounded in our bodies. Shh, listen! What is your body trying to tell you?

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