I enjoy reading articles that recommend I get a massage…
Our bodies hold all of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore their messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us. Because most of us are taught from an early age to focus on external demands, we frequently ignore what our bodies are saying.
More often than not we treat the physical symptoms rather than looking for the internal cause of pain, depression, and weight gain. We take another extra-strength aspirin, rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. We use caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than listening to our body’s message about needing rest. A look at our pets may be all we need to see the value of naps.
Our bodies communicate thousands of little messages to us every day. For instance, is your mouth pinched and tight? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Do you feel a knot in your stomach as you promise to do something? Your body is telling you that you are tense, stressed, and over-extended.
As a society, we notoriously put deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. Your body is a sophisticated, intelligent machine, but too often we fail to understand them because we don’t value them as highly as we should.
So, what do you do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?
Start with the breath
Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Allow your thoughts to come and go in the background while breathing in and out. As you inhale and exhale, think the words “In. Out. In. Out.” Lovingly make a note to yourself how and where you are failing to breathe. Many of us breathe only in our chests when we should be allowing the breath to expand down into our abdomens. Perhaps you are denying life by taking in shallow breaths, and your body is asking you to stop and breathe more deeply. Practice this daily for five minutes to start, and soon it will be easy for you.
Allow yourself quiet time
Sit for ten minutes each day, or even five if that is more manageable. This will give you a chance to listen to your body. Begin by sitting while breathing and become the conscious observer of your thoughts. This would be a great practice, especially in the middle of a busy day. This time can also involve taking a walk or a nap or soaking in a hot tub.
Get a massage
Use your journal to dialogue with your body
Ask your body how it’s feeling, what it wants, what’s going on. Give that sore wrist, or stiff lower back, a voice and let it tell you what its message is.
Eat when hungry, sleep when tired
Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Do your real rhythms for eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, ask for help changing them.
Do a body inventory to relax
Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside, tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension. Tense your feet first, then your calves, and so forth, until you reach your face. Relax your entire body.
If your body suggests rolling down a grassy hillside, taking flight on a playground swing, or skipping down a winding path—why resist? It knows what it needs.
If you want to truly be happy and healthy—begin listening to your body. Body awareness is part of a healthy lifestyle, just as much as eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Its impulses hold the key to your well-being.