Learning to listen – intuitive yoga

It was my 26th birthday yesterday and unfortunately I was pretty unwell. I had felt myself coming down with a cold over the weekend and the last couple of days I have been pretty much stuck in bed all day with a box of tissues and hot cups of tea. I’ve been craving extra time in bed for weeks but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind!

I knew this month would be tough as I decided to do a yoga teacher training course alongside my full time job and my nutrition degree. But it was my decision as I didn’t feel ready to take a huge risk and quit my job and I do still think it was the right one. Getting sick did give me time to reflect and I realised that I have been pushing myself so much the last few weeks it’s no wonder that my body isn’t on top form. It’s like that with anything, you can use will power and motivation to say no to your body’s needs for a while but eventually it will fight back. It is exactly the same as dieting. When I did crazy restrictive diets in the past I would squash down my hunger and cravings for days, weeks or even months at a time but inevitably the drive to eat would take over and I would empty the cupboards.

My friend Angela, who is a colon hydro-therapist, talks about this as saying “no not now” to your body. It has become a habit to ignore our bodies’ signals whether it be hunger, tiredness or going to the bathroom. I went through a phase of getting recurring UTIs and the nurse told me that it’s pretty common in women because we often delay peeing when we are in the middle of something. Angela said a similar thing, that many people are constipated because they ignore the urge to go to the toilet because when we are busy or because of embarrassment in a public place.

I think it’s pretty common to be living in our heads and neglecting our bodies. One amazing benefit I have found from practicing yoga is that it brings my attention down into my body. In my physical asana practice my focus is on the alignment of my body in the poses or finding stillness and balance. I feel like I am much better at listening to my body, knowing where my strengths and limitations lie. I sometimes get frustrated that I seem to be getting ill more often since I started to transition to a healthier lifestyle but actually I think I am just becoming more aware of issues that were already there but under the surface. Even though it is annoying in the moment I think learning to listen to your body and adjust your actions is a pathway to long term health.

So here are some photos from my practice this weekend. I have really been working on foundation poses for the last couple of years as a sort of rehab for my body after illness and injury. Now I am slowly starting to move forward with my practice and get some flexibility back. It’s disheartening at times when things I used to do easily seem so far away for me now but I am seeing improvements and getting stronger so I am really happy and proud of myself! As you can see I am incorporating lots of props into my practice – yoga blocks and straps are a great way to challenge yourself and improve whilst staying in tune with your body as it is in the present moment.

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