Understanding the power of body awareness (includes a meditation)
My hands curled around the handles of the foreign weight machine. I take a deep breath and close my eyes before I pull down, engaging muscles I thought I didn’t have.
I didn’t feel like a stranger per se as I walked into the wellness center at my local YMCA. I had used the treadmill, and the bikes. But today was different. I was about to use machines I hadn't used since high school, and in high school I didn't care about fitness or strength. It was easy to forget the information I had learned under the assumption I would never use it.
As one of the trainers walked me through the equipment I began to understand a part of myself I hadn't yet explored.
I tried all the machines at their lowest weight to see where I would need to start before adding more. But as I was trying the machines I kept having to move that pin lower and lower. The weights kept getting higher and for every ten pounds I added I began to understand how strong I was.
40 pounds over weight and I was strong.
40 pounds of weight lost and I was strong.
After I had finished the circuit I was quite proud and ready to come to the gym again, feeling empowered. The trainer said she could see me upping the weights quite quickly. She said that because I was young and "quite fit".
That was the first time someone had called me fit. In all my life I was the fat girl that didn't care. I was the fat girl that was too slow, too weak, too big. I had never thought of myself a fit person but the more I workout the more I see how strong I am becoming.
I can feel my muscles expanding and contracting with each machine. I can feel my heart beat in my chest when I go running. I know when to push and when to pull back. I know when I can go into that yoga pose a little deeper...
The previous blogs I have written have been about the abundance and joy of eating plant foods. I even included some delicious recipes for you to try. This time I wanted to speak to the body awareness I gained by eating plant-based.
After removing the foods from my diet that were making me feel sick and tired everything changed. I became aware of how eating at different times of the day affected me. I began to notice what happened with my workouts when I ate the foods that energized me. I no longer felt the need to drink caffeine in the morning.
This body awareness came about by feeding my body foods that make me feel energized. I also engage in activities like meditation and yoga. I had finally taken back the control I was so desperate for when I was heavier. The awareness I speak to here came about over time. It wasn't something I was expecting to gain but I am grateful I have.
Body awareness can help you become a more intuitive eater. It can also help you understand when you need rest and when you need to get moving. There is nothing deeper than a connection with the self. It is something to cultivate however, and like I mentioned, it takes time.
Body Scan Meditation
If you would like to cultivate body awareness try practicing this meditation. It's known quite often as a "body scan"
Lay down in a comfortable position. This meditation is best done in the morning before getting out of bed or at night before falling asleep. Try to remove all distractions, this is a time for you.
Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the nose. If any thoughts float to the surface try your best to acknowledge their existence. then release them on an exhale.
Once you feel you have quieted your mind to the best of your ability turn your attention to your feet. What do they feel like? Are they throbbing from a hard days work? Are they soft? If you are tense take a deep breath and try to release the tension. Spend a few breaths there, really noticing.
After a few breaths you're going to continue up the body the same way. Going from the feet, to the shins, the knees, the thighs, the sacrum or groin, and the stomach and lower back. Then move your way to the chest, the hands, the forearms, the upper arms and shoulders. Finally finish with the neck and the face. Releasing any tension you feel as you notice each part of your body.
Once you are finished take a few deep breaths and then open your eyes. Go on with your day if you are doing this in the morning or prepare to go to bed if you are doing this at night.
It's okay if your mind wanders, it's okay if you have trouble noticing. Meditation is about being present, that's all that matters. With time it will get easier to quiet the mind.
Also keep in mind that sometimes our body can hold onto emotions. So if you feel the need to laugh, cry or feel angry or sad that's fine. Notice it just like you're noticing your body. Acknowledge it and know that sometimes meditation can bring emotions to the surface.
There is no right or wrong way to practice meditation. Try your best to be present and the rest will come. The body awareness will come.