One of the most important and foundational parts of my work with women lies in learning how to listen to the body.
Do you know how to listen to your body? Tune into it?
For some, this may seem lofty and unattainable, and I say this because it’s where I was a few years ago.
I kept hearing yoga teachers preach and wellness blogs repeat the importance of listening to my body and I was just left thinking, the heck does that mean?
Well as it turns out, there’s some real substance and power to this listening.
Many people listen to their bodies on an as-needed basis. What I mean is, most people are able to recognize body messages like a throbbing headache or a bad stomach ache, but how easily are you able to pinpoint what may have triggered anxiety or figure out what your body needs at lunchtime?
Our bodies are giving us messages all the time! All it takes is learning how to listen.
There can be a lot of roadblocks to listening to our bodies, and that’s OK. Most, if not all, of us come up against these roadblocks often. That’s why I’m sharing with you 4 ways to start listening to your body, so it can start to become something you naturally do.
1 // clear the clutter
First thing’s first: clearing out as many diet culture and body negative messages as possible. I wrote about decluttering in last week's blog, and I’m mentioning it again because it’s that important!
When we rely on outside sources to tell us what we should do and think when it comes to our bodies and eating, our inner voices can get squashed down, little by little, by all the noise. Clearing our lives of these messages opens up space for our inner voices to speak up.
Here are some suggestions around where to hit pause or what to say ‘no’ to for the time being:
Magazines - fashion, entertainment, fitness
Newsletters/blogs/books/podcasts that promote specific ways of eating or exercising
But isn’t nutrition and exercise important?
Yea! As a holistic nutritionist, I’m 100% on board with educating ourselves on how certain foods act in the body and how exercise can impact our physical and mental health. It’s empowering and important for our overall health. However… being inundated with diet culture and body image messages can make it way more challenging to listen to your own body especially if you’re new to this.
So, for the time being, you may find it helpful to nix all the noise in order to start turning inward.
2 // simplify + slow down
If you’re too “busy” to take a few minutes to yourself each day, it may be time to simplify and slow down throughout your life.
I’ve heard so many people say they’re “too busy” to do XYZ (myself included), but I’m a firm believer that if we want to do something, we’ll find the time. If you want to practice self-care and start listening to your body, it’s possible, but it might mean slowing down on purpose; taking stock of your commitments and paring down.
Running around and keeping “busy” may all-too-easily leave your body on the backburner, and while slowing down isn’t really glorified in our society, I can tell you from personal experience: it can be pow-er-FUL. And, it allows us to truly focus on giving our bodies what each needs.
3 // mind-body movement
Mind-body movement has been a game-changer for me. I also refer to it as mindful movement -- any sort of movement/exercise/workout that feels mentally and physically aligned with your body’s needs on any given day.
Yoga and long walks tend to be my go-to recently, because both leave me feeling energized and alive and help me quiet my mind, sort of like a moving meditation.
Mind-body movement can look different for anyone though and can vary day-to-day! Maybe today you don’t feel like a hardcore sweat session because you’re feeling tired, so you opt for a gentle yoga class instead. Or vice versa!
With this practice, you’re learning to give your body what it’s asking for at any given time, which helps strengthen the listening muscle.
4 // practice listening
You can also literally practice listening to your body. Two of my favorite exercises are:
1. Body scan meditation: Sitting comfortably and preferably in a quiet space, close your eyes. Starting at the crown of your head and working down to your toes, scan each body part or area of the body. See if anything is coming up: pain, relaxation, tension, ease, etc. Although I prefer a quiet space, this exercise can be done anywhere -- even in line at the grocery store.
2. Checking in with yourself daily: For just 5 minutes a day, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about? What’s your energy like today? How’s your digestion? Asking these simple questions allows us to better understand the status of our body and mind in any particular moment, and it can be done anywhere.
Listening to your body is a practice that tends to get stronger and more habitual over time, so experiment! There’s no right or wrong. Stick with what works for you, and stay curious about it.
Reach out with any questions or comments!