body awareness

If your body could talk, what would it say?

People living in western civilization are chronically disconnected from our physical selves. We live in a world where intelligence is cultivated and prized above self awareness. This isn’t helped by the prevalence of eastern philosophy teaching that enlightenment comes from transcending the physical self (not all eastern practices spread this message, but it is often interpreted this way).

Fitness and sports impart physical disconnection in a different way. Americans in particular love their power yoga and fitness bootcamps, none of which cultivate body awareness. Their hard-core, blood, sweat and tears approach to training instead pushes people to the point of injury without ever deepening their understanding of movement.

So many people exist essentially as walking heads, completely unaware of sensations below the throat and unable to discern subtle movement within their bodies. But your body would like to communicate to you. It wants to tell you what it knows, and its knowledge is profound.  After all, it has the wisdom of the ages wrapped up in its very DNA.

Here are the messages I hear whispered quietly from within my own skin, and the messages that my clients’ bodies would like for me to convey…

I am not a machine

Please stop analyzing my movement as though I were a machine. Please stop counting calories in, calories out, and feeding me precisely measured grams of bottled nutrients. I am not a machine, I am not an artificial carrier for your spirit. I do not function the way a car does, transporting your body from one place to another with no inherent expression. While my joints are miraculous feats of engineering, I do not move in angles and planes, but rather in spirals, undulations, and waves. I move to express you.

I am a living, breathing organism filled with fluid. Did you know that I carry the sea from which we emerged eons ago inside this skin? And just like the ocean, I have tides. I do not exist in a static state, but rather flow gently along a spectrum. If you pay attention, you will notice these subtle shifts over days, weeks, months and years and see that it is not a process of aging but of evolving.

We’re partners!

I am here to help you live your life. I want to do what you want to do. If you want to dance, or play basketball, or run marathons, I want to do that, too! Please do not beat me up and berate me for my weaknesses. Refine my strengths and glory in them while you gently hold my hand and guide me over the mountainous challenges. Treat me with kindness and patience, and we will go far.

Let’s play…

Remember when we were small and we used to roll in the grass, delighting in the feeling of the earth under our skin, bubbling with laughter and joy? I miss that. I do not want to go to the gym and perform mechanical movements over and over again in an artificial environment with artificial lighting. Let’s try something new, or maybe we should go run amongst the trees. Let’s jump over logs, roll down hillsides, climb mountains, and see new horizons. Let’s be creative!  This world is too big to spend life inside a box.

Please breathe!

Sometimes life is really hard for you, and you forget to breathe. I understand; life can be scary. But I really need that oxygen! My cells need it to live, my brain needs it to think and solve problems, and we both need it to relieve all that stress.

Did you know that stress is truly damaging to me? It’s more than an airy-fairy phenomenon…when you’re stressed out for long periods of time, it changes my biochemistry, unravels my chromosomes and makes it impossible for me to burn fat. Stress even shortens our life.  So please remember to pause and take deep breaths!

I’m here to support you

This message comes directly from your feet: We want to support you, but you’ve forgotten we are here! I know that we are the furthest thing away from your head, but we need your attention, too. It’s okay to wear those cute shoes once in a while, but for every time you cram us into 4″ heels with pointy toes, please spend three hours walking barefoot on sand, dirt or grass.

Our delicate construction with 26 tiny bones working together over 33 joints to create a flexible yet strong supporting arch is the foundation for your entire structure. Too many hours spent in confining shoes makes us tight and stiff. That means we can’t be adaptable. Like a suspension bridge, to maintain our strength, we must be firm but flexible.

We are also really important for your neurological health. Keeping us in thick-soled tennis shoes and cutesy heels makes us pretty numb over time. That means that every time you step, when you should be getting a firestorm of neurological input stemming from our sensory nerves, you don’t get much info at all. If you’re an athlete, this is bad news for coordination. It also spells b-a-c-k-p-a-i-n.

Do us, and you, a favor…walk barefoot, a lot. Pay attention to how we feel on the earth. Roll us out with a tennis ball once in a while. Even better, take a walk on a reflexology path!

What message is your body sending to you? Leave me a comment below and tell me the things you hear when you stop and listen!