10 Tips to Tune-In to What Your Body is Telling You by Improving Your Mind-Body Connection
It’s crazy all the ways we’ve conditioned our bodies to over-ride our mind-body connection. Too many people these days don’t listen to what their body is telling them and act accordingly. Sadly, we’ve been told that we need to “push thru the pain,” or “go for the burn” to get benefits from exercise. When we’re tired, we reach for a high-caffeinated beverage or sugar-filled snack to boost our energy instead of catching a quick cat-nap or planning to get to bed earlier for a better nights rest. Who do you know that has to start their day with coffee, and end it with a sleeping pill? It’s not normal that this is what we need to function! And food… our portion sizes are out of control and the fast-food, pre-packaged, processed foods being consumed are too high calorie and low nutrient to give us the fuel we need for a healthy body. We’re starving for nutrients and eating more and more “empty calories,” and the population as a whole is getting fatter, sicker, and dying at a much younger age.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Making a change to tune in to what your body is telling you starts with YOU. Honor yourself. Be brave. Learn to listen to that small, inner voice inside you. Improve supportive conversations with yourself. Trust that what you feel, or sense that your body needs, IS what it needs – and provide it without doubt or question.
To really live in a healthy body we can’t zone out, but instead need to zero-in on DOING what supports our health. Improving our mind-body connection is the first step in actually noticing what we’re doing good, bad, or otherwise.
Years ago I had a Pilates client Dr. Dave, (not his real name) who would show up for his weekly private sessions like it was the movie Groundhog Day. We had been working diligently together for a long time, but every session he was clueless about what to do, how to support himself and find the right muscles, or even what the exercises were that he had been doing over and over again in his weekly workouts. I like to think I’m very patient with my clients. It’s ok if you don’t “get it” right away; I’m going to hang in there with you and support the process of learning new skills and figuring out what you need to improve your health. But one day with Dr. Dave I lost it and blurted out, “You realize that Pilates is about developing the mind-body connection? Ultimately, that means you should be able to remember what you’re doing, know your exercises by name, the breath patterns, repetitions, equipment set-up, and be able to make corrections to your technique when you notice that it could be improved. All without me telling you what you need to fix, right?”
And at that moment the sea parted…and we both had a revelation. His reply to me, “I’ve always exercised to tune-out, and get away from having to think.” And believe me, his form and body mechanics clearly demonstrated this fact! But Dr. Dave now clearly grasped the importance of needing to pay attention to what he was doing to really improve his health during exercise and not get hurt. He “got” how important developing the mind-body connection was. AS a result, our training sessions shifted from a Groundhog Day experience, to really making strides for improving his mind-body connection and progressing his exercise program. In my mind, it was a miracle! For him it was life-changing because he finally started getting real benefits from his exercise program.
- Sometimes we’re just not aware of what we’re doing, and having a helpful mentor or teacher help point things out to raise our conscious awareness level can make the difference.
- Sometimes we are aware, and make the choice to ignore, over-riding what might have been the best choice for our body.
- And sometimes “baggage” from past traumas can be in the way, blocking our ability to tune in.
I had another client, Becky, (not her real name, either) who was a sweetheart. But as much as we worked on developing her core support, she could never “feel” that she was using her abdominal muscles. I’d have my hand on her belly, telling her “that’s great, your abs are working.” But Becky just couldn’t seem to make the connection to feel what was going on. Then one day, as she was lying on the Cadillac, she paused and said, “If it seems like I’m a little distracted…I’m still working on integrating my multiple personalities.” And then she proceeded to tell me a very small part of her story. Learning what she’d gone thru and the coping mechanism she developed to survive, explained to me why it was such a challenge to “feel” anything in her center! Of course it was going to be a challenge, she had chosen to disassociate from her body, and that was her primary defense mechanism.
But you know what, she continued to show up for Pilates, and it was a great asset in her healing process. Together we worked on searching for her center, strengthening her center, and gaining confidence in feeling it support her.
There is a lot of power in improving your mind-body connection. Whether the trauma you’ve experienced was emotional or physical (car accident, sports injury, falling out of a tree as a kid), compensation patterns accumulate until we take conscious steps to change habits and shift both our thinking and our actions.
When I’m stressed, I like to eat! When I’m emotionally drained, stressed, and upset, I like to eat specific foods… (Chocolate: Oreo cookies, Little Debbies, Twix/Reeses. Cheese: Mac and Cheese, Cheese Curls, Cheese Curds, Cheesecake, Chips, French Fries and Cheese…). How do I know this? Because one day I went to the grocery store in a really bad mood, and the only things I put in my cart were “comfort foods.” As I was checking out, I realized what I had done. So I purchased everything anyway, took it home, ate a few bites – and ceremoniously threw everything in the trash. When I crave these foods, I now know that I have two choices: 1. Deal with the issue that is stressing me out, or 2. Avoid the issue and cram my guts with crap that will make me feel worse instead of better.
Are you aware of the habits you have that might not be serving your good health? How often do you tune-in to what your body is telling you, and harness the power of using your mind-body connection? It’s not always easy, but it is possible to develop your skill set in learning to listen to your body.
My first Pilates Mentor, Romana Kryzanowska, had a great phrase about this. It’s all about using the 5 Parts of the Mind. I believe this applies to exercise, eating, and everything we do in life!
Guided by Your WILL,
Fueled by Your IMAGINATION,
Assisted by Your MEMORY,
And Enhanced by Your ESP (or INTUITION)
These 5 Parts of the Mind are what we need to be using to develop our Mind-Body Connection!
Still Reading this and wondering, where the heck are my 10 Tips to Tune-In and Improve Your Mind-Body Connection? Here we go:
- Use your INTELLIGENCE – Your brain is the “master computer” to guide your every thought, movement, and action.
- Let your WILLPOWER guide you to make good choices. (Won’t-Power will never get you results!)
- IMAGINE what it feels like or looks like to achieve successful results.
- REMEMBER what works and do it over and over to reinforce positive results.
- LISTEN to your Inner Voice – INTUITION is a powerful force.
- Be PRESENT – Be in the moment, and stay in your body to notice what it needs.
- HONOR yourself – You are Worthy.
- Be BRAVE – What you need is what you need. Stick Up for Yourself!
- It’s OK to Talk to Yourself! Improve supportive, loving, communication, and conversations.
- TRUST that what you feel or sense IS what you need – and provide it without doubt or question.
With Pilates, the goal is to make the last repetition of each exercise the best one possible; leaving your muscles with the memory of how to work well for optimal form and function. I’d like to encourage you to take this philosophy and apply it to your exercise program and your LIFE. Make today, and every day, better than the last by paying attention to what your body needs and improving your mind-body connection.