Trying to describe to my yoga students what it is like–while sitting in meditation–to listen to and ask my cellular body what it needs to maintain well-being, I have to admit that listening to the body is one of the most difficult tasks a person could ever hope to master. Listening usually involves making, sometimes daily, adjustments to habits of sustenance, physical activity, degree of solo time and/or appropriate social action.
Gaining a clear perception on how best to honor the physical frame, especially where two or more of the body’s systems or vital organs may be in non-agreement, renders each of us body-listeners-in-training, no matter how practiced we may become at juggling the body’s sometimes disparate requirements. (i.e. The heart needs movement and exercise, while a sprained ankle needs rest and elevation in order to repair.)
Over the course of many years of practice, I have learned these things:
1. Most people need four to seven hours of dedicated quiet time or a personal practice involving a solo, repetitive activity each week in order to listen and “converse” with the body.
2. If we have set aside time, we may become quite adept at discerning when the body is out of sorts, though we may not always be able to name or determine exactly what is going on–to make a “diagnosis.” It is important to leave formal diagnosis to medical experts.
3. We should all be consulting with professional, medical personnel on a regular basis and using their expertise to corroborate or dispel personal notions about what might be out of balance within the body–via formal testing and consultation.
4. A thoroughly practiced body-listener may have a sense that the body is out of balance even before something might show up on an allopathic medical test, and he or she might have the opportunity to assist the body in rebalancing itself through timely lifestyle changes. So, keep listening.