Are you aware of subtle physical sensations or do you only notice when there’s a big pain or discomfort? Are you able to notice the small signs of hunger or do you only notice when your belly’s grumbling and you feel ravenous? How aware are you of everything that’s going on inside your physical body at any given moment?
We often experience a bit of disconnect with our physical body. Our minds are often totally overwhelmed with information and thoughts and emotions that our body takes a back seat and gets a little neglected.
Our physical body helps us to experience this world – it helps us to move around, we can use our senses to explore more depth, our bodies hold the potential to create life and some of ours grow that life. Our bodies are capable of a lot but we are not our body. My physical body is the place I inhabit, it helps me move through life but I am so much more than my body. Putting too much emphasis on how the body looks really doesn’t help very much, it can have more negative effects than positive. How the body looks does not always reflect health or capabilities. You can inhabit a larger body and be able to run a marathon, you can inhabit a smaller body and have a lot of fat around the organs. Instead of focusing on how our physical body looks it can be a lot more productive and beneficial to focus instead on what our bodies are capable of and how they feel.
Having a greater connection to our body can help us to notice little concerns before they become bigger. In the same way that we may check our breasts or testicles for any irregularities we should be checking in with the rest of our bodies to identify anything that doesn’t feel right before it becomes a bigger issue. Noticing if there’s a small ache in a joint, a niggly pain that we push to one side and looking after our body to bring it back into alignment and back to a state of comfort before it becomes a bigger pain or injury.
Having a greater connection to our body can help us identify when we are hungry and when we are not. Actually being aware of how much the body needs to eat and what it needs. Sometimes we get over-hungry and this is when we tend to reach for higher-calorie foods and overeat. Sometimes we don’t notice when we’re beginning to get full so we end up stuffed and uncomfortable bombarding our digestive system with food. Sometimes we override our hunger cues, getting used to ignoring them compromising our bodies but not providing them with the necessary fuel to run their basic functions leaving us tired, irritable and unwell. Having greater awareness of the needs of the body can help us self-regulate; our bodies are incredibly good at letting us know what we actually need and how much, we just lose the ability to connect and listen to those signals.
Some great ways to check in with the body and become more aware:
- Quick check in – sitting in a neutral position on a chair, closing the eyes and scanning the body, noticing how it feels. Maybe moving each body part to feel if anything isn’t comfortable or is a bit tender.
- Meditation – focusing on the breath, following it, noticing how the air feels entering and exiting the nose, noticing how the body moves with the breath: the chest and the belly, noticing where you feel the breath in the body, visualising what the breath does within the body as it moves from the lungs into the blood stream to all the cells, muscles, organs.
- Yoga – and other forms of connective physical practice where we move the body in connection with the breath with a greater awareness of the feeling of the body when we move it. A consistent practice can help us incorporate this into our general lives.
- Loving your body – changing the way you view your body. If there is a body part you ‘dislike’ focusing on that area thinking about what that body part does rather than how you feel about it (e.g. if it’s your stomach, thinking about how your muscles help you balance, how it houses all your organs which keep you alive. If it’s your thighs, focusing on how they help you walk, give you strength to climb stairs or hills.) Thinking about what your body is capable of and thanking it for how incredible it is. Seeing your body for how it actually is rather than the perspective you put on it.
- Getting naked – letting your body be naked and free and being ok with it. I’m not talking anything crazy, maybe just sleeping naked or getting naked and looking at your amazing physical body in the mirror and reframing the way you think about it and how you see your body.
There are so many ways we can connect deeper with our bodies. These are just a few but we experience the physical world in the body we inhabit – we need it to help us get around and it does incredible, amazing things: cells renew, it can get stronger, it can grow life. Could you be more positively aware of, and connected to, your body?