(an abridged excerpt from the book)
How often do you think about your body in a day? Are you aware of it at all, except for when it is painful or tense?
And how would you define body awareness? Would you say it is:
- good proprioception
- knowing how healthy we are
- sensing tension or hydration
- taking care of our bodies
- keeping our bodies good-looking
- keeping our bodies youthful?
The truth there are many different aspects to body awareness including the above and more. Connecting to our bodies lets us know about movement and health, but also allows us to connect to instinct, intuition and emotion.
If we know how to listen, our body can tell us what food it wants, what exercise it likes, what posture is good for it, what people it likes, how much rest it needs, where it is comfortable, what feels safe and more. Our bodies have a kind of intelligence of their own and in order to get in touch with it them we need to be able to hear what they are saying, rather than just letting the mind run everything all the time.
This is very different to the mind-over-body approach most of us are brought up with – the body just serves anything we want to do. We make it exercise, rest, slouch, sit – it is our servant. A body-centred approach brings our bodies into the forefront and with that we can learn a lot more about ourselves, including how to keep ourselves happy and healthy.
In my book there are a few different exercises for connecting to our bodies, but for this excerpt we will focus on just one. I will also discuss some other ways you can work on increasing your physical connection below. This is a journey that will not happen overnight.
Learning to listen to our bodies (and other people) takes patience and humility. I recommend that you enjoy it, rather than trying to rush to a result. The connection happens while you are aware of and experiencing your body. Take your time.
As with all of the exercises on this site, please only do it if you are feeling well enough, and if you start feeling overwhelmed at all, take a break and if you need to seek professional help please do so before continuing.
Physical Movement and Appreciation
Loving our bodies is very hard for many of us, and culture does not always support a full-on love affair with our bods, so we will be actively working on this in this section.
Before we dive into an exercise, I’d like to point out a few things that may seem obvious:
- Our bodies have carried us through our whole lives, often without even complaining very much. Think of how much airtime our minds get. Now compare it to how much attention our bodies get – for most people this is not even close.
- Our bodies have dealt with all of the late nights, early mornings, sudden workouts, long workouts, hours on the sofa, horrible stress, hours hunching over phones or laptops we have inflicted upon them. How much gratitude do we give them?
- Every time we damage ourselves or get ill our bodies work to recover; they try as hard as they can to be healthy and strong for us. Do we appreciate them?
Can you think of a time you were ever as dedicated and tirelessly hard-working as your body? I think for many of us some appreciation is long overdue!
The following exercise is designed for use when you are fit and healthy, if you are not able to do it relatively easily then just do the appreciation side of it, and leave the physical side until it is safe to do it.
Exercise: Body Awareness and Thanks
For this exercise you may want to be somewhere private and wear comfy clothes.
- Just stand and move your body a little. Notice any tension, pain or restriction and gently move in a way that helps (but do not push through any pain).
- Let a general sense of love and appreciation spread throughout your whole body as you think of everything it does for you.
- Ask your body if there is any movement it would like to make and make it. Keep and open mind and do it with the intention of listening to your body and making it feel heard and appreciated. Enjoy the sense of connection to your body.
- When you feel like it have a moment of stillness. Be comfortable in yourself and stay aware and open to your body. Let a feeling of warmth and love grow in your heart and spread out to your whole body, bathing it. Feel your whole body fill with a feeling of appreciation and gratitude.
- You can take this opportunity to say anything you want to to your body. You may think “sorry for being so down on you for having a bit of cellulite/ not having enormous biceps” or “thank you for keeping me safe and letting me go anywhere I want to go”, for example – anything you really feel. I suggest you keep it positive, as this is about creating a better connection between you and your body, but if you need to express anything negative feel free to let that out too.
- As you continue to sense this feeling of love and appreciation with your body, you can ask your body what it would like to have more of, or what it would like to change in your day-to-day life, and wait quietly with an open mind for the answer.
Take a moment to notice how you feel. Does your body feel happier? Told you it had its own kind of intelligence! Keep working with it to keep strengthening your connection.
There are loads of great ways of enjoying and connecting with our bodies, I urge you to find one or several you enjoy and make them a regular part of your life. Here are a few, but I recommend just trying a couple out, especially ones you feel drawn to:
|Frisbee||Boxing||Tai Chi||Kung Fu||Qi Gong|
|Circuits||Cross Fit||Ju Jitsu||Karate||Taekwondo|
There are also some great therapies that can help you to access more of your body and have a deeper connection to it:
|Many types of Massage||Acupuncture||Assisted stretching||Craniosacral|
|Somatic Experiencing||TRE||Osteopathy||to name a few|
It is important to tune in to our bodies often enough to keep our connection strong. If we create a partnership with our bodies I believe we will stay a lot heathier and have much more fun, so a little regular effort is well-worth it for the benefits we will get. Enjoy your body!