Yoga has become a mainstream addiction in the North American culture. Many seek it out for its life enhancing, body image enhancing, or just plain feel good appeal. Some have the impression that yoga is easy, others experience it as hard, and others see it as an opportunity to challenge oneself mentally and physically. Even the billion dollar weight loss industry has become obsessed with the promise of Yoga to trim inches and tone, especially if you practice diligently, and all the better in a hot room, 105°F/40.6°C with a humidity of 40% to be exact, each and everyday.
When I was asked to speak to a fitness instructor and weight loss expert's audience about Yoga, I was clear that I wasn't going to pander to that market's obsessive beliefs about quick weight loss as the path to lasting happiness and fulfillment, simply because I know it isn't. Instead, I do believe that what we feel and think about ourselves gets expressed in the form that our body takes; shape, size, health, agility, etc.
My approach, more specifically, is that Yoga is a path to sensually inhabiting our body vs objectively using our body. That may result in weight loss, toning and feeling better in our body, however, what makes the practice of Yoga unique and distinctive from other exercise regimens, is precisely that Yoga is about being in our body, instead of behaving inspite of it. What does that mean exactly?
Well, when we use our body/behave in spite of it, the body becomes a tool or instrument that caters to the mind's agenda. We are functioning within a hierarchical construct where the body is subservient to the mind's dominance, leading to separation and suffering. On the other hand, when we inhabit our body, we are acknowledging and tapping to into the wisdom of the body on par with that of the mind. This approach to Yoga, an ancient science of body/mind/spirit union and sophistication, validates the value and power of each the body. mind and spirit dimensions of our being for greater harmony inside and out .
So how can you Inhabit your body instead of using your body. Have a gander at the 3 tips below to help you distinguish between inhabiting and using and make an informed choice.
1. Spend more time caring about how your body feels (inhabiting) instead of how it looks (using). Use your inner sensing instead of how you look in the mirror both during your practice and throughout the day to identify how you are on the inside, versus how you look on the outside.
2. Re-pattern your feeling/thinking/sensing processing of life experience. Instead of going from your feelings to your thoughts (using), go from your feelings to your body sensations (inhabiting).
Here's an example:
Using your body
Feeling: I feel stressed
Thought: Because I've got too much work to do
The above pattern keeps you trapped because the thought perpetuates the unpleasant feeling.
Instead try this
Inhabiting your body
Feeling: I feel stressed
Sensation: I sense the stress in my gut
Hang out in the stressed sensation in your gut and watch that sensation dissolve when you inhabit it.
Yoga encourages the experience and dissolving of the unpleasant sensation instead of the chronic avoidance of it that the mind seeks which only perpetuates the suffering.
This new habit of feelings to sensations will not only help dissolve unpleasant feelings and sensations, it will actually also help amplify pleasant feelings and sensations. When you become more self resourced for positive feeling sensations, activities like Yoga, that have feel good appeal, start to show up in your life more naturally.
3. Develop daily rituals of honoring and celebrating your body to support your Yoga practice. A great way to do this is by choosing pleasing yoga tools like the Plank Yoga mat and bags, and choosing sensually pleasant fabrics and lotions on your body.
Here's a great practice: Instead of just rubbing in body moisturizer (using your body), spend time massaging your body, discovering more of what your body loves (inhabiting your body).
Discovering more ways that help you authentically inhabit your body will encourage more Yoga in your life on and off the mat. Identifying when you're more in the using/behaving inspite of your body, and choosing instead to inhabit your body, will bring you home to your body as a temple instead of a tool.
Leela Francis is an embodiment expert and the founder of Vividly Woman; A global community of women and women's circles. She helps women embody, live and dance their power, rocking the world with their passion for life.