One of my dear yoga teacher friends emailed me about a student she is working with who is on a diet and is looking for coaching and yoga philosophy to help him be “less miserable” on this diet. I wanted to say SO much to this totally disordered way of thinking/eating but I realize that radical viewpoints often shut people out. Since that’s never my goal, I gave her some tools and suggestions that ultimately involved tuning into the body and it got me thinking….

“Listen to your body” is something I say all the time to both yoga students and nutrition clients. The simple sutra like phrase is actually quite complex and there are a lot of different ways this shows up in our day. So, instead of me telling her to tell the student to simply “listen to his body,”  is there a clearer way to say what I mean? What do I actually mean? And how can someone start?

Before I share some straightforward techniques, I fully acknowledge that “listen to your body” can sound like some new age hippy dippy wisdom, but I promise it’s not. It’s based on the physiological process of introspective awareness. This process of listening can be described as actively noticing. So you may notice one moment, one sensation and then get thrown into a big sh*t storm (aka life) to notice something different an hour later. That’s ok. The process is biological, scientific, and an art all at once. It’s an experimental practice that can be simple and profound or complicated and overwhelming. Note: Keep the process simple by allowing whatever “is there” to just be, without fixating on it. Listen with curiosity, not with expectations or judgement. I like to encourage people to tune in with one particular part of the day to start. Perhaps it’s the beginning of the day, before a meal, after a meal, mid afternoon, before bed…etc…basically whenever is going to work for you. Once you’ve set out your tune in time, commit to noticing, to listening for three days in a row. Then a week. Then different times of the day. Then a month…. you get the idea.

If you’re wondering why you should listen to your body in the first place…people who are more mindful tend to have healthier relationships with food, family, themselves,  and the people around them. It directly affects how we move in the world. Listening to my body has helped me avoid injury while running and in yoga. It’s helped me grow my yoga practice. It’s helped me nourish my body. And here’s the thing…anyone can listen no matter where you are physically, mentally, or emotionally. Some points of our day or life are just a bit more challenging! 🙂 Either way, it’s an invitation to work in total collaboration with your body (instead of fighting against it).

Here are four easy ways to listen to your body (starting now until forever):

  1. Understand what sensations feel like. For example, if you’re hungry you could feel anything from general crankiness (hangry), a headache, dizzy, lightheaded, and tired to a rumbly belly. If you are being physically active, aim for a comfortable challenge. So it might be difficult to have a conversation but you feel a sense of ease. Outside that it may be “beyond your limit” if you feel very uncomfortable or like you’re over efforting and gripping. Recognize when you need to chill. There are a ton of other sensations but know they will become more pronounced and clearer the more you are open to listening and noticing them.
  2. Think of your entire body as a car gauge. Would you run your car on empty? No. Would you fill up before a long trip? Yes. Then do the same with your body. If your energy is at a zero, do what you need to do to recharge your battery. Are you hungry? Eat. Are you tired because you went to bed late? Nap if you can or go to bed earlier tonight. Do you have a big work project coming up? Tackle self-care, meal prep, time with friends, anything that brings you joy right now to fill up your tank before the mental/energy drain. Or, are you really energized today? Tackle one thing that remains on the back of your to-do list, bump up the intensity in a work out, or use that energy to inspire someone else. Your ENTIRE body is that car and everything works together synergistically so fill up the tank accordingly. Tune in.
  3. Get really curious about the sensations you do feel.  We like to compartmentalize, but your headache might actually be related to the fact you haven’t eaten in the last three – four hours and you need food not ibuprofen. That low back pain may actually be related to super tight/overstretched psoas muscle (a major hip flexor). There are so many possibilities with each sensation but the more often you notice, the more often you can get curious. And you have to be willing to get curious to listen and shift. Unconditional curiosity.
  4. Ditch the external cues. This is a BIG one that I want to highlight, underline, and put in all caps.  It’s last because it is THE most important one in my book. External cues are anything that pull you away from recognizing how you feel or what you feel. For example, calorie counting/portion size tools, diets/people that influence us to look/eat/move a particular way, notifications from social media apps, influencers that tell us “this is the way.” I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. Also, if you’re like, “but I love ____{fill in the blank}___” and if the thought of ditching any of these “tools” makes you feel uneasy, there’s a good chance you’re relying on them too much.

Listening to your body involves introspective awareness. It’s actively noticing (awareness) and turning up the volume (sensitivity) to internal physiological sensations. This physiological process can get cumbersome explain in a yoga class or in a nutrition session, so you’ll likely hear me (plus other dietitians and yoga instructors) say, “listen to your body.” It’s the all-encompassing golden standard, but now you know how that may look for you.

If you found this helpful, comment below and let me know or share with someone who may be interested too. As always, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your world.

Hugs and Love,

Morgan

What “Listen to Your Body” REALLY means + 4 Ways To Start

8 thoughts on “What “Listen to Your Body” REALLY means + 4 Ways To Start

  • January 17, 2018 at 12:20 am
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    Very helpful!

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    • January 18, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      wonderful! SO happy to hear that 🙂

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  • January 17, 2018 at 1:37 am
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    ❤️ just the read I needed with the start of the new year and new goals for the body, mind and soul. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

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    • January 18, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      Absolutely – so thrilled to hear that it was helpful!

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  • January 17, 2018 at 1:47 am
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    ❤️ this read! It definitely gives me a different look into how I will look at my 2018 goals and how I listen to my body. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

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    • January 18, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      Yayyyy!!! That’s AMAZING Shaira! Made my day 🙂

      Reply
  • January 17, 2018 at 3:11 am
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    I have taught mindfulness and you explained it very simply and to the point.

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    • January 18, 2018 at 3:09 pm
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      Awesome! Yes, it can be so much more detailed but sometimes we can get carried away with detail and it’s important to reel it back into center. 😉

      Reply

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