Lessons of a Yoga Teacher - My Body Never Lies
Yoga has taught me to quiet my mind and listen to what my body is trying to tell me. It’s easy to do this when your mind and body are on the same page.
What about when there is disconnect
in the whole self, and the mind and body are on separate pages?
What about when your mind thinks it knows what you want, and your body is trying to tell you the complete opposite? When it came time to tell my bosses about leaving for a new job, my mind kept telling me I should wait because I was scared, and it would be uncomfortable. My body, however, wanted to get the conversation over with because it knew it was the right thing to do. With the weight of the news I needed to deliver on my shoulders, my whole body was tense, my heart was racing, and I was short of breath. When the news had finally been delivered, my shoulders relaxed, I sat up taller, and I felt like could breathe again.
I have always had the idea of mind and body as separate beings, and as separate parts -- and I believed in a hierarchy in which the mind was on top, higher. I used my mind to force my body to feel and be what I thought my body should experience, not the other way around. For example, if my feelings were hurt by a friend, my body reacted by getting hot, sweating, becoming short of breath, and wanting to speak up. My brain told me the opposite -- to stay quiet so I wouldn't cause any conflict with the friend. Instead, the conflict that arose was inside of my body as a result of not doing what I knew to do.
For a major part of my life,
I viewed my body as an enemy, rather than as a trusted ally.
Because I've spent my whole life ignoring my body and trying to over ride her, it's been an interesting practice of learning to listen and really hear what my body is telling me. One of the very first reasons I felt a pull to the practice of yoga was the body-mind connection I experienced in a hot power yoga class (read about that here). Since that first class, as a teacher and a practitioner, I’ve been in the discovery of what it means to truly listen to my body and let her lead. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through this practice is that my body cannot and will not ever lie to me.
This past weekend I got sick: my throat hurt, my head was full of pressure, I was congested, and my whole body started aching. As we’ve moved through the fall months (and the up and down of Houston weather), people all around me have been coming down with everything from the flu to head colds to stomach aches. Until now, I've avoided it with a little bit of self-satisfaction. I figured since I got 7-8 hours of sleep a night, drank plenty of water, ate ginger almost every day, and kept a routine fitness and diet habit that I was in the clear of getting sick.
Even when I noticed I was sneezing more and my throat started to scratch a little, I pretended it was a figment of my imagination. I thought somehow, I could use my mind to prevent my body from becoming sick.
What was actually happening however,
was that in the fight with myself, I created more friction and resistance.
That friction and resistance was exhausting! When I'm in a constant battle with myself, it wipes me of my energy until I've got nothing left.
Finally, on Saturday, I chose to listen to my body, slow down, and give my body what she needed (thanks for that lesson, Beau!). At 3pm in the afternoon, I took a Nyquil, and slept for the next 15 hours. I woke up feeling significantly better than if I would’ve chosen to keep pushing my body past its limits. I’ve done it before – pushed myself to exhaustion. In those times, sleeping and taking rest is most likely my answer. When the body needs rest and the mind refuses it, the body will always win.
The body-mind connection is the most important thing to cultivate. Body and mind are one. Too often however, we tend to see them as separate entities and listen only to our minds. Listen to them both. Listen equally. Listen as if they are one and they will become one.
- What are specific ways your body reacts when you are stressed or anxious? What does yoru body do when you feel scared or nervous or worried?
- How does your body react when you are happy, excited or when you become really passionate about something?
Be specific in your observations. Notice how your body speaks to you when you experience different feelings and circumstances.