Body awareness. Do you have it?

Throughout this journey, I have manoeuvred my body into all sorts of positions, (some normal, others which look as though I’ve fallen down 30 flights of stairs), and something which has only recently dawned on me is how ‘unaware’ I am of my body. On the surface, of course there are normal sensations like burning thighs, aching back and tired arms, but when you start to look deeper, there is SO much more going on.

Of course there are many examples for body awareness - a simple example is the placing of my feet when I move into Ardho Muhka Svanasana (downward facing dog). A basic asana which most people are familiar with. Usually, when moving into this asana, I would be quite comfortable with where my hands and feet are placed. We all know they are to be hip width apart, ankles to hips in line and hips to wrists in line. Pretty simple, yeah? Well - no. Turns out my ‘natural’ idea of shoulder width apart is quite off. Clearly I lack body awareness! Of course, with my teachers present, I can learn exactly where everything should be - head, hands, feet, hips - but I am now having to consciously work on this, to re-learn this so it will one day feel natural. So simple, but so easily incorrect. Tadasana (stable mountain / beginning and end of all standing asanas) is another. This is by far one of my most challenging asanas. To stand upright in a perfectly aligned position is ridiculously difficult for me. If my chest is out then my spine is curved, push my chest in and my butt sticks out… it’s honestly an ongoing battle for me. I actually spend about 5-10 minutes each morning working on this against a wall. In yoga, Tadasana is actually one of the most fundamental asanas one must perfect, because once perfected, you will have; body awareness, stability and will glide beautifully into all the other standing asanas. True story. But like I said, I’m not anywhere near there yet so I’m not gliding into anything at the moment!

Going a little deeper now, I have really enjoyed the moments when I can feel every tendon, ligament, muscle etc in a particular part of my body all working together to help me stabilise or control my movements whilst working through an asana. Only in this past month have I realised that I too have abs (still very much hidden I might add), and not only do I have abs, I can feel them activate and work in unison with my quads, back and neck muscles, even down to my little toes. I am really starting to feel, to witness, how everything works beautifully together. Engage the pelvic floor is another thing we must ALWAYS remember to do whilst practicing. I didn’t even know what my pelvic floor was until just recently! And to be honest, I’m not so sure I have the right ‘spot’ activated yet, but I’m working on it. All I know is, when I activate ‘something’ down there, my alignment completely transforms. Incredible.

All these things - parts of us, which we often don’t realise are ‘there’ (if that makes any sense). We take our daily movements for granted without actually stopping to think about the incredible machinery within us which is operating to make it all happen. I too am one of those people. Growing up with zero body awareness - eating crap, drinking and smoking as a teenager / into my early twenties - I had no hope of ever understanding my body. But through completely transforming my life in terms of diet and lifestyle, (and I mean completely!), I feel totally blessed to have this new opportunity to really explore ‘what’s going on in there’. What a gift. And the beauty is - you don’t need to come to India to learn this. All it takes is a commitment to be more ‘aware’. This can be at home, in a park, in a busy market. Just stop and take time to ‘notice’ what’s going on. That simple.  

So what can we attribute to this huge problem of poor body awareness? Well, for one, life is just so fast. Everyone is rushing to get things done - myself included. The pressure to ‘go, go go’ draws people’s attention from themselves and onto other things, other activities. This is why I am excited to teach yoga - to help people to bring stillness to their lives. Even if just for a moment. Also, as I mentioned before, poor dietary choices will absolutely block ones ability to be more self aware, as will self medication through alcohol or drugs. Back home, this is such a big problem. I certainly love a glass of wine or two on a weekend, but it’s interesting how much more I have ‘noticed’ since not having a single drop of alcohol since leaving Oz. My body certainly doesn’t crave it, that’s for sure. Come to think of it, in my first two weeks here, I had the worst skin I have ever had, and this would be absolutely linked to my body having the opportunity to expel all the toxins from within it. Now, my skin is fantastic. Again, such an amazing machine. Give it some love, and it will love you right back!

Each day I am committing to treating my body nicer - whether it be through noticing the deeper mechanics at work during practice, treating myself to fresh coconut water or simply having an extra glass of water in the day - it’s these little things which will do wonders to the body in the short and long term.

So remember - stop and take time to listen. You will be amazed at what you find.

Namaste xx

Some pictures from my day here in Gokulam