Connecting with your body

Mindful steps to help you connect with your body

“Learning to listen to your body is vital to improving yur health and quality of your life”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

When I started practicing maindfulness first Irealised how disconnected I was from my body. While I had always been aware of minding my back due to having titanium rods fused to my spine at a young age - I was still disconnected. Most of us go around each day operating from our shoulders up - detached and unaware of how we feel in our bodies.

We can then make rash decisions from our heads without sensing into and feeling how the decision is actually making us feel. We can also hold tension and stress in our bodies without being aware that we are holding tension. Then we wonder why we suffer with back, shoulder and neck pain when we do actually sit down in the evening!

To follow are a few easy steps to help you stay connected with your body on a daily basis. Steps that work for me and help me daily in managing stress and physical pain and have strengthened my mindful practice - keeping me more present, focused and at ease.

1. First thing in the morning and last thing at night

Connect with your breath. When you wake up rather than placing your hand on your phone place it on your chest instead and feel the rise and fall of your belly and the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body.

2. Getting Up

When you go to get out of bed instead of mindlessly getting up, take a moment to place your two feet on the floor and feel the connection between them and the floor beneath you.

Notice how the ground feels and ask yourself “How does my body feel today?”

3. Stretch Your Body

When you go to stand up take a moment to stretch out your body. Notice how it feels to s-t-r-e-t-c-h before you begin your day.

Now before you think - I wouldn’t have time for that in the morning just do a little test next time you reach for your phone and see how easy to waste 10 minutes scrolling - those 3 little steps should take less than that!

4. Meditation - 10 minutes

If you can, see if you can get up 10 minutes earlier for a morning meditation. Meditation not only sets you up for the day by bringing clarity and calmness to your mind, it also connects you with your entire body as most meditations include a scan through your entire body.

If you have never tried meditation try joining a meditation group or there are also great apps now available to download such as Headspace and Calm. If trying meditation for the first time start with 3 minutes and build yourself up and above all be patient with yourself. I will speak more about meditation techniques soon in a separate post.

5. Be Present preparing for your day

When you are getting ready to start your day, see if you can pick at least one thing to stay fully present doing whether it’s brushing your teeth and noticing how your hand holds the toothbrush, unscrews the top of the toothpaste, how your fingers clasp the top of the tap to twist it to allow the water to flow, how the toothpaste smells, and the sensations you feel in your mouth when you taste the toothpaste. Or how the cold water from the tap feels... Notice the sensation of the toothbrush as it cleans your teeth... those wonderful teeth that allow you to chew your food! Staying present brushing our teeth, showering, brushing our hair or applying our makeup can keep us fully present instaed of letting our minds wander off into the future or what we have to do that day. Knowing what you are doing while you are doing it is the essence of mindful practice. Doing this simple exercise can help us stay calm and relaxed - and it still takes the same time!

6. Notice your posture

As you sit down to eat your breakfast notice your posture, notice how your body connects with the chair. And if you don’t sit down to eat your breakfast ask yourself why you don’t - are you treating your body with the kindness and love it deserves by eating your breakfast standing up?

Could you allow yourself to get down for breakfast 5 minutes earlier so you can sit down?

7. Use your breath as an anchor

If you are running a bit behind in the morning notice how your body feels. Rather than thinking ahead or letting your mind go into panic mode thinking about being late and getting parking or your children being late for school take a moment to breathe and tell yourself that getting stressed out isn’t going to get you there faster! When you are aware of holding stress in your body it becomes easier to let it go. Return to your breath by feeling the rise and fall of your belly or chest or simply feel the cold and hot air entering and leaving your body through your nostril as many times as you need to throughout your day.

8. Sitting at a desk

When you sit down at your desk notice how you are sitting.

Are you sitting in a way that’s kind to your body?

Is your chair positioned in a way so that your body isn’t strained?

9. Small Moments Often

Take small moments often throughout your day to check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling. Stretch out your body as best you can. Even if you are sitting down, stretch your arms up from your chair and breathe. And if your job means you have to stand - see if you can take small moments to sit - even if you only get to sit on your break or lunch use that time wisely to rest or go for a walk and if you have to get something done on your lunch hour ask yourself the question - do I really need to do this now? Is doing this best for me?

10. Gentle Exercise

At the end of a long day at work a great way to connect with your body is through your preferred choice of exercise. As some exercises are based on striving and getting from a to b or endurance when choosing an exercise where you want to connect with your body try an exercise that is perhasps more gentle in it’s approach. You can always do the full on cardio classes too but it can be good to mix this up with an exercise where you are fully present and in your body as opposed to thinking about the results you’ll get afterwards.