How to Start Listening to Your Body

Woman meditating next to water
Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

We all have a sense called interoception. It’s the perception of the internal state of the body. 

Our bodies send information to the brain and our brains process that information and sense what’s going on in the body. It’s how we can tell our bladder is full or we’re hungry. 

When you feel your heartbeat speed up or you feel butterflies in your stomach, you know your’re nervous. Your body is always talking to you. These body-produced sensations are its way of getting your attention.

And we can then manage how we feel by taking action on these body signals. We feel hungry, so we eat. Easy, right?

Many times, the problem can be that we spend so much time in our heads thinking about everything we need to get done today and reliving all the tiny mistakes we’ve made in the past that we forget we even have a body. 

So we don’t recognize these messages or we just downright ignore them. And when we don’t respond to these messages, it leads to pain, stress, and frustration.

Awareness is the first step. You can practice a simple Body Scan to flex that muscle of noticing the signals your body is sending:

  • Find a quite place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes, and starting at your feet, bring your awareness to each area of your body.
  • For each area, without judgement, notice what you feel: cold or warm, tightness or ease. Notice whatever is present in that area of the body. No need to change anything. Just notice.
  • When you’re ready, move your attention to the next area. And repeat until you’ve scanned your whole body.

Listening to your body is a skill you can develop over time. To start building that muscle, you might commit to this practice every day for a week. Then at the end of the week, evaluate. 

Have you noticed any changes? Are you more aware of how you’re feeling moment-to-moment?

 

 

 

 

Move More, Feel Better

val-vesa-624638-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you probably already know that!

We as a culture are pretty sedentary. We sit at computers for work or school. Then we sit and binge Netflix at home.

Maybe we’ll go for a walk or head to our favorite local yoga class. Afterward we feel sooo good! We should do that more often! But it’s hard to get into the habit.

And even when we get into the habit, if we get sick or busy and get out of the habit, it can feel like a monumentally huge task to get started again.

I totally get it! I completely let my daily movement practice fall by the wayside over the holiday season.

I tried to force it. I know better. I should be doing yoga everyday.

You probably already know this too, but Should-ing yourself does NOT work!

So I went back to basics. I know I feel better when I move more.

It makes me feel free. And freedom is one of the things I value most in my life.

So when I don’t feel like doing anything, curled up on my couch, hibernating (which feels great and cozy in the moment, but doesn’t make me feel great in the long run), I started asking, what is one thing I can do today that will make me feel more free? And then I did it.

And it felt so amazing! I felt so free and open to possibilities.

And I keep doing it everyday. All it takes is one small thing.

I’d love to know, do you have a daily movement practice? If not, what’s got you stuck? (Responses will only be seen by Karyn and will NOT be posted publicly):

Four Great Reasons to Try Private Yoga

Person rolling up yoga mat
Photo via rawpixel on Unsplash

So you’ve heard good things about yoga, but the idea of going to a group class makes you nervous. I get it – it can be intimidating to walk into a group yoga class where everyone seems to know what they are doing.

Or maybe you attend a regular group yoga class, but feel like there’s something missing. Maybe you’re not sure you’re doing the poses “right”. Or you wait the whole class for your favorite pose, but it’s not included that day.

Group yoga classes can be awesome, but here are four great reasons to utilize 1:1 instruction as well:

Develop Confidence in Your Practice

“I wish I could do yoga, but I’m not flexible!” I totally get it. Walking into a group class when you can’t touch your toes and it seems like everyone else can twist themselves up like a pretzel is a touch overwhelming. First, the more you practice, the more flexible you will become. Second, the more you practice, the more confident you will become in moving your body in new and challenging ways without worrying about what the person next to you is doing.

Personalized with Your Goals in Mind

Often group yoga class students are at very different levels in their yoga practice. When you attend Private Yoga lessons your instructor can meet you where you are and help you get the most out of your yoga practice. We work on your personal goals, whether that’s increased flexibility, a calmer mind, or less pain in your neck.

Modified for Your Body

Many folks come to yoga with injuries or health concerns that make it difficult to practice certain poses in certain ways. When you work with a Yoga Instructor 1:1, we can modify poses so they work with your body, lessening your chance of injury. We can also modify the length of your session.

Fit Yoga into Your Schedule

Group yoga classes are the same times and days, week in and out. But many of us have inconsistent schedules and we can’t always set aside the same time or day every week to make it to our favorite yoga class. But with Private Yoga, you can work with your Yoga Instructor to set the schedule that works for you. Maybe this week, it’s Monday at 2pm, but next week it’s Thursday at 7am.

Ready to give it a try? 

How Flexible Do I Have To Be Before I Can Start Yoga?

We’ve all seen photos of super-bendy folks contorting their body into the shape of a pretzel. Pretty intimidating if you can’t touch your toes or have trouble turning your head to the right.

What is yoga?

Yoga originated as a practice to prepare the body for meditation. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, yoga is defined as the quieting of the mind. Yoga practice is composed of many things.  Breathwork, meditation, chanting. Your flexibility will not limit your practice of these aspects of yoga.

But mostly we associate yoga with the physical (asana) practice. When we’re talking about how flexible you need to be to start yoga, we mean asana.

The Physical Practice of Yoga or Asana

Let’s be honest.

When I say “yoga,” you picture this:

Women practicing arm balance yoga pose

Or this.

Am I right?

How am I supposed to walk into a yoga class when the folks are doing THAT and I can’t even touch my toes?!

Some folks are naturally flexible and super twisty poses come naturally for them.  But some of us can’t touch our toes. And that’s okay.

I’ve been practicing yoga for years, and a lot of the time, I can’t touch my toes in a forward fold. And that’s okay. Yoga’s not about twisting your body into the perfect pose. Yoga is breathing better, calming the mind, and yes, increasing your flexibility. Even if that means just coming a millimeter closer to touching your toes.

How flexible do I have to be before I can start yoga?

Not. at. all.

You can start breathwork to deepen your breathing at any time.

You can start meditation to calm your mind at any time.

And yes, you can start the physical practice of yoga at any time, even if you can’t come close to touching your toes. Maybe you will be able to one day. Or not. Either way is perfectly okay.

Wanted to get started? 

New Year, New You!

healthy cooking
Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Is there any time of year when people are more obsessed with health habits than the New Year?

Even the “beach body” craze of late May doesn’t reach the same level of hype.

Every time you turn a corner, somebody else is trying to get you to try a class, a supplement, a shake, a piece of equipment, a diet, a lifestyle … and it can be exhausting trying to figure out what’s bona fide and what’s bogus. It’s perfectly normal to look forward to a fresh start in January (or not!), but here’s a little guidance on whether to put money down on that hot new habit after the holidays.

Does it promise quick fixes?

If whatever you’re thinking of trying swears you’ll get the desired result in no time at all, you can be pretty sure you’re entering into scam territory. The human body is based on homeostasis. It can change, and it does, but most of those changes occur over time. There’s a reason why most things that cause fast changes in the body (like surgery and drugs) require a physician to administer them; they can be dangerous if not used carefully. If you’ve been out of shape for five years, don’t expect to get back in shape in five weeks. That’s just not how the body works.

Does it promise a panacea?

There are diets that can help you lose weight. There are exercise routines that can help you gain muscle and strength. There are massages that can help you relax and manage your stress levels (you might want to get on that one soon). But if someone is selling One Amazing Thing that will evaporate your fat, increase your happiness, straighten your posture, whiten your teeth, cure your cancer, and send your sex drive through the roof? You can be pretty sure it’s not worth your money. No, that essential oil will not prevent ebola, but it does smell nice and could help improve your mood if you like it. Don’t pay a Magical Thinking Tax for exaggerated claims.

Does it rely on conspiracy theories for marketing?

Conspiracies can be fun to read about, but if the main selling point is that “doctors hate it” or “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about this,” it’s probably not the best addition to your life. Why? Because you and your physician (and your dentist, your massage therapist, your counselor, your personal trainer, your nutritionist …) are part of your health and wellness team. If any one of them refuses to be a team player, they’re not doing what’s best for you. Casting aspersions on some of your VIPs? Not cool. If you haven’t heard much about a particular tool, it’s probably not because your health team is trying desperately to get you to stick to being sick. It’s much more likely that the thing just doesn’t work at all.

Does it fit your life, your budget, your goals, and your understanding of reality?

If yes, then this is something worth looking into, whether it’s a gym membership, a cookbook of heart-healthy meals, or a habit tracking app. Ultimately, we try things out and see how they work for us over the long haul. Not everything will be a perfect fit, but at least we can weed out some of the resolutionist marketing malarkey and move forward with our best efforts into the new year.

Here’s hoping you have a happy, healthy, and stress-free New Year!

Decrease Stress with Breath

Breath
Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

Breath.

Such a simple thing.

It’s essential to life, but yet how often do we think about it?

It ebbs and flows throughout our days and we barely give it a second thought. 

Are you holding your breath right now?

(Fun Fact: when I was in Massage School, we had to put together a business plan complete with a business name. I was going to name my business “Just Breathe,” because I was pretty stressed at the time and was always catching myself holding my breath.)

Deep breathing can reduce anxiety

Implementing a deep breathing technique when anxiety strikes can make the difference between a full on attack and an unwelcome blip in your day. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, improves circulation, and promotes clearer thinking.

You can use your breath to calm down

Let’s face it, when tempers flair it seems almost impossible to think about anything other than the current situation that set you off. Practicing simple breathing techniques can encourage calmness and help reverse the physical symptoms of anger.

TECHNIQUE for Anxiety and Calm

  • Isolate yourself from everyone for 15 minutes
  • Inhale slowly for the count of 4
  • Exhale slowly for the count of 8
  • Notice the space in between the inhalation and exhalation
  • Repeat until you begin to calm down

Take breathing even deeper with pranayama

Pranayama is the practice of regulating the breath. If practiced right, pranayama can bring harmony between mind, body, and spirit. It boosts your ability to be mentally and spiritually strong. There are very specific breathwork techniques that we’ll cover in future posts (or videos!), but here’s one to get you started. If you attend yoga classes regularly, you’ll probably find that many yoga teachers include pranayama. 

Use with meditation

Breathwork can be a fantastic addition to your mindfulness or meditation practice. 

TECHNIQUE for Meditation

  • Quiet your body and mind
  • Observe your breath as it is
  • Slow your breathing to a calm steady level
  • Concentrate on the air that moves in and out of your lungs
  • Focus on how your body feels and moves as you inhale and exhale

Much like massage, there is no doubt that breathing can encourage relaxation and healthy habits. It keeps the body/mind functioning and curbs stress. Your muscles naturally relax and you can go about your day a little easier.

Breathing may seem insignificant. It happens naturally, so we may not think about breathing all that much, but maybe it’s time we should.