Typically when your yoga teacher encourages “listening” to your body, what he is actually suggesting is to “notice” what is happening. Instead, what if you choose to truly listen to a conversation partner that is aching to be heard? Read on for 5 steps that you can use anytime from the holiday shopping to the New Year’s Eve party that will help set the foundation for an intriguing conversation. Even in the midst of the season’s crazy wonderful, your breath, your muscles, your connective tissue, your joints – they all have actual words to share with you.
You may now be wondering, “What is she talking about?” It’s okay. If you’re getting this via my monthly newsletter, you’re probably used to sticking with me in class to learn more. If you’re not and you’ve found this post on my website, have faith and continue reading.
The holidays are upon us. We aim to find gratitude for our health, families, friends, food, shelter, ability to travel, and countless other blessings. I have no doubt that many of us feel the joy of the season with grace and lightness.
Some of us feel the holidays a bit differently. ah-hem… that’s me. I aim to find gratitude in all of those things AND also tend to get caught up in the churning of the season. There is inherently lots of stress for me in balancing what I want for the holidays with what my extended family wants, thinking through gifts for kiddos and family, and preparing lots and lots of food. Not to mention that our day to day does not stop. While the holidays roll in with the guise of a plush passenger coach, the freight trains of jobs, school, and the amazing baby growing keep flying through the station as well.
All of this stress – blessed good stress for me right now – can lead to the body tensing up to try and protect us from the forces of our external world. We have sticky spots not because they HAVE to be sticky but because our brain thinks that holding our shoulders up or tightening that hip or squeezing the right shoulder blade up to the sky (that’s me!) provides a safer place for us to navigate our day to day. Are we really physically or emotionally safer? It’s highly unlikely. But it is a long engrained holding pattern that our brain cannot let go of consciously. We can’t just say, “Hey body, stop doing that. I don’t like it.”
The great news is that there is another way to change our patterns of tension. It starts with awareness. The more we quiet the more we hear. It can be tricky to find the quiet within the holiday season. The external and internal chatter can provide a bit of a cacophony. But as we find time to settle and notice, we have the potential to hear what is underneath. There is a symphony awaiting our patience.
In the midst of the holiday crazy wonderful, next time you have that same old tight spot start to tense up on you, give yourself 3 minutes. Just like you have to excuse yourself to the restroom sometimes, excuse yourself now to the “reflect” room. Step out of the bustle and the holiday joy and find the complimentary peace of quiet… like on a cold snowy night as you sit in the glittery moonlight.
When you feel your tension going up, find pause. Do not try to force your shoulders down or your chest open (or whatever it is for you) in that moment. Instead…
1. Find a place that you can be alone – if all else fails, you can normally find a restroom pretty much regardless of where you are.
I’m in the living room at my in-law’s house right now.
2. Find the most comfortable position for you in that moment – standing against the wall, sitting, wherever makes sense.
Right now, I’m sitting in a straight back chair with my feet flat on a stool.
3. Take a few natural breaths; where are your inhale and exhale moving? Again, change nothing; no need to deepen the breath. Simply notice where you feel your body moving when you inhale and where you feel it moving when you exhale. Stay with this for about 15 breath cycles.
Right now, I feel my breath in my left ribs and belly and a tad in the left side of my throat.
4. Consider, what one word you would use to describe your breath in this moment? Smooth, choppy, disconnected, rapid, shallow, etc.
In this moment, my breath is “sustaining.”
5. Then wait. And listen. For the moment, be with the pain, the tension, the strain. Release the fight against it and be within the center of it’s storm. It has something to say to you but first we’ve got to get quiet enough to hear the whispers, or, as it may be for you right now, the screams.
Shhh… I’m listening. See the “Do Not Disturb” sign?
Then what? Well, let’s get past the holidays and at the end of December we’ll talk next steps. Until then, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to me in class about how the exploration is going for you.
This structure of a body – it does more than connect our bones, give our muscles a web to surround and our skin a soft landing. It is a universe in itself. There is both peace and war within my body right now… the same is true for you. But as in our world, there can be more peace. There can be more ease. There can be more love. There can be more joyful celebration. Give yourself permission to quiet, listen and hear what your breath has to say to you. There is an intriguing conversationalist lying in wait.