‘Become fluent in your body’s language. Listen and learn to discern the subtleties of its tone and the meaning of its phrases. If you must speak, speak kindly or speak not at all. Let your conversation be that of a close friend – intimate, honest, encouraging and playful. But listen more than talk, observe and know. ‘ – Yoga Expression Spirit – Tools for Authentic Living.
In my last post, Yoga: Listening Deeply and Responding Kindly, I wrote about the pressing need for reconnecting with the body and aligning our mental activities with our physical being. As an anecdote to the wildly destructive ‘gerbil-on-a-wheel’ mental chatter, yoga breathing and postures, called asanas, can be powerful and readily accessible tools for quieting both body and mind, bringing them together in this moment for a collaborative relationship.
But what if yoga is not your thing? That’s just fine. Here are a few steps to start your journey inward.
STEP 1 – AWARENESS OF YOUR THOUGHTS: Everything begins with awareness. We cannot change that which we do not see. And, ironically, in this case we begin by closing our eyes for greater seeing. Sit quietly for a few moments. Initially, even one minutes will suffice. Bring your awareness to your thoughts. Notice, with out judgement, the patterns of your mind. Watch it run rapidly here and there. Listen to the tone of the dialog. Be kind to your self. Just notice. Jot down what you hear. Do you notice repetitive or circular thinking? That’s alright. This is about your awareness, not judgement. Or, more aptly, awareness of your judgement. Pause and listen as often as you can. Start with five deep breaths and turn your awareness inward. The practice of noticing deepens the skill of awareness. With awareness, you can choose differently.
STEP 2 – TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY: As you sit quietly and comfortably, breathing deeply and slowly, draw your awareness inward. Slowly scan your body, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Scan slooooooowly, pausing often. Notice sensations in your body and any thoughts that accompany these sensations. Take your time to become keenly aware of a limb or set of muscles. Listen, from the corners of your eyes to the tip of your toes. Notice. What is your body saying? How do the many parts move together? Is there fluidity or brittleness? What have you decided about your body and its state of affairs? Be kind. Just notice. Capture the insights of your noticing with the tip of a pencil.
STEP 3 – CONSIDER A NEW THOUGHT THAT DRAWS YOU TOWARD A KINDER RESPONSE: When you come across an area of your body that triggers a strong thought or response, verbally repeat aloud what your mind is thinking. Mirror the tone and volume of the inner voice. Say it again and notice how it makes you feel. Are your words kind? Likely not. Nor is this thought likely new. You may be very familiar with that voice or this may be the first time you have heard your inner dialog spoken aloud.
Now consider how you might think about that body part or muscle group differently. For example:
‘I feel so stiff and uncomfortable! I am such a slug!’ can become ‘I notice it is time to gently move and stretch my body.’
‘Ugh, I hate my fat belly!’ can become, ‘I am aware that my tummy reflects my eating habits and stress levels. Perhaps it is time to look at that and do something different.’
You may not immediately sing a love song to your body, but try for something more neutral to soften the exchange. Notice how this new thought pattern feels. Is there less judgement? Perhaps place a note on the mirror with your newly fashioned phrase and say it aloud – KINDLY – next time you look at your reflection.
STEP 4 – TAKE ACTION KINDLY. THEN TAKE ACTION AGAIN: The most lasting change begins gently and consistently. Consider the powerful force of a glacier or the carving actions of a river. New thoughts and behaviors can feel foreign and uncomfortable. Since the body and mind seek familiar deep and strong patterns, know that you will be uncomfortable in your new behaviors for a while. Until you are not.
Let your changes be gentle. Perhaps this week is simply about standing up from your desk periodically, stretching, breathing and noticing for just one minute. Or how about taking 3 minutes somewhere in your day, breathing deeply and noticing your body, listening closely. Remember you are learning a new language. Be patient. Study the messages and listen as you would to a new friend. Eagerly. Respectfully. Asking curious questions.
STEP 5 – DEVELOP YOUR YOGA PRACTICE. Yes, we are back to yoga. While some think of yoga as something only for lithe bodies in tight clothing, guru-like teachers and impossible looking postures, I believe yoga is for everyone, from children to octogenarians (and beyond). These are the gifts that my very basic but faithful yoga practice provide me each day:
- A spring cleaning for the body and a good sweeping of the mental cobwebs.
- A tool for suppleness in my muscles, for agility, posture and flexibility.
- A quiet, calm, and vibrant body.
- A still, focused and peaceful mind.
- Inner spaciousness both physically and mentally.
- A readily available preparation tool for meditation and creation.
Does that sound enticing?
Developing your yoga practice can take many shapes, such as finding a class, a DVD or a teacher that fits your objectives and abilities. Or it may mean simply dusting off your yoga mat and recommitting to your practice. Whatever form it takes, be kind to your body as you begin, gently moving and breathing.
There on your yoga mat, or doing gentle stretches while seated in a chair, let your outer world fall away a bit and your inner world come into focus. Become aware of your thoughts and the language of your body. Breathe deeply and draw yourself into the present moment, in to your breath. Stay here a while and notice as the voices fade and a gentle quiet seeps in. The severed cord between mind and body is repaired and your greatest resources align in collaboration, right here and now.
What I know for sure is that yoga helps me return to myself, calling my mind home, making for a more peaceful, balanced and healthier me. Yoga, with Expression and Spirit (Y E S), brings the QUIET deep into my being and into my bones. It is there that I tend the magic seeds of my authentic life. I wish this for you.
Sound too good to be true? Just give it a try and let me know what happens.