It might sound strange to some, but you are currently, and have always been, in a relationship with your own body. Like any relationship, you may have healthy and unhealthy patterns. But thinking in these terms is a very good way to get clear on whether your relationship could use some work.
Your body is full of information and wisdom. If things are going well between you guys, then you’re in a constant conversation, and you’re honoring each other. But for so many people, that’s not what’s happening. We aren’t taught to listen and respond to what we’re feeling. Sadness creates sensations in the body. So do fear and rage. Many of us grew up hearing things like, “Don’t be sad”, or “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t be scared”…as if we could just turn the feelings off. Make the sensations go away through sheer willpower. And we’re taught the same as far as feeding ourselves, too.
If you bought into the idea that you could just shut a feeling down, chances are you lost touch with your intuition long ago. Why should a kid not be sad? Because it’s making the adults around him or her feel uncomfortable or inadequate? Sadness is a normal human emotion we will all experience. When we’re taught to edit out our emotions, we become lost to ourselves. Where a feeling ought to be, instead we find shame, self-loathing and confusion. Thus the desire to numb out.
The more you relax, the more your body opens. I say this in the context of a yoga class, but also in the context of your life. If you’re gripping and clinging and “white-knuckling” your way through life, it’s going to be hard to breathe. You’re probably going to observe tension in your body, because it takes effort to hold on so tightly. The more you release the idea that you’re in control, the more your body releases tension. This doesn’t mean we don’t work and try and put our effort in, it just means that we watch the quality we’re bringing to the effort we’re making.
If your body is tired, are you listening and responding? For the sake of this exercise, think of your body and your personality as the two players involved. Is your body saying no, while your personality is saying, “hell, yes!”? Are you forcing your way through the world? Again, don’t misunderstand me. Discipline and determination are good; if you want to get things done, they’re necessary. But that doesn’t mean you beat yourself up.
How are you feeding yourself? Are you eating stuff with seventeen syllables and wondering why you’re exhausted all the time? Your body talks to you when it’s hungry, but it never asks for Aspartame or red dye #40. If you want your body to feel good, you have to treat it nicely, and give it fuel it can use. Try an organic fuji apple, they taste great. Or an avocado. Or a million other things that aren’t processed or bagged or shot full of chemicals. Give it a month and see how you feel. You’ll be amazed if this is new to you.
What kind of listener are you? When your body talks, do you take in the information, or think you have all the answers? Do you treat your body like it’s an object you own? Do you think it should bend to your will? Would you treat another person the way you treat your own body? Are you disgusted with it? Do you lament the way it looks and feel disappointed that this is the body you have? What if you expressed those feelings to another person? What if you told someone you hated the way they looked and that they were an enormous embarrassment to you? What if you called someone else names, or told them to stay up when they desperately needed to sleep? What if you told them they didn’t know anything and you had all the answers, and they should just be quiet? Wouldn’t that be a horrendous way to treat someone? If your body was your partner, would she or he want to break up with you? How are you treating yourself?
Your body is your home, it’s where you’re going to live for your whole life. You don’t want to terrorize it or abuse it. Like any relationship, the kinder you aren the more trust there will be. The more you listen and respond, the more your body will pull through for you when you ask. But if you want to open and release, you can’t force that. You know that’s true if you’ve ever had anyone scream at you to relax. We respond to love and compassion. That’s the stuff that opens and strengthens us. When we feel safe, we blossom. If you don’t know how to be kind to yourself, or you’ve lost the ability to be in conversation with your body, your yoga mat is a great place to work this stuff out. Wishing that for you, and sending you love, Ally Hamilton