Understanding Compassion Through Our Bodies & Yoga Practice

We all have stories that our mind tells us about our body. We somehow believe that the mind and the rest of the body are not one. We talk about our body to ourselves. “I am not pretty, my hair is too short, I am too short.” Then there is the famous, “I am fat and I am ugly.” When did we start to see ourselves this way and why? These the stories we created over years based on many well-intentioned comments, product advertisements, perceived expectations from those in our family groups and many other societal innuendos. The only way to change a story is to write another. This can only be done by spending time listening to our bodies and creating compassionate space.

What Story Does your Body Tell?

We didn’t write these stories from a few conversations with ourselves so it will take more than a few conversations to begin to feel different. Finding the source of these stories isn’t always as important as knowing that the stories are not true. As adults, we may understand (after much exploration) that what we say about ourselves may not be our fault. We have the capacity to sit, explore and remember. BUT what about our children? What if we could prevent our children from forming these stories to begin with or at the least teach them how to recognize the stories when they start? What if we could teach them to write positive stories? And for those children who have already formed not so positive stories, learn strategies using movement and exploration to palpate the story and rewrite it.

So where do you start?

Well if you are a parent and you want to understand how to use these strategies to help your children, you first must spend time with your stories. Understanding what they mean and finding them in your body. Then you can use what you find and know to be true about you to recognize and implement strategies for raising a young person who can help themselves either deflect the stories or recognize them and begin to understand. Noticing the where in the body any particular story lives is how you begin the journey of healing.

How well do you know your body?

First question to ask is do you spend time with your body? Now this is not a trick question but like every friendship you have to foster that relationship. Do you ever really just spend time feeling what is there? Maybe naming what you find. Is it a positive name or a negative one? Or maybe you just notice something arising, contemplating what is there.

Next, ask yourself if you listen to your bodily needs. Do you stop when your body is tired or do you wait till you are exhausted and you physically can’t move or your brain can no longer function? Do you stop to use the bathroom or do you stand when it hurts to sit any longer?

Our bodies are so smart. They are designed to give you feedback as protections for your wellbeing. Lastly, ask yourself if you feel something in your body and go straight to a story. Maybe you are not even aware that you feel something but a story seems to come out of nowhere.

An example of a conversation I have had with myself at work before a meeting as I notice my stomach is upset. First thing I say to myself is my common sense kicking in, “It is way past lunch time and you would probably feel better if you ate.” Then my stories kick in. And I am off…... “I know what will happen if I eat now. I will have to go to the bathroom.” And then I say to myself “I can’t go to the bathroom because I have a meeting.” Then I add this nonsense, “If I leave the meeting I will look like I am not dedicated to my job.” Then of course that story turns to this doozy, “If I look like I am not dedicated enough so and so will get the promotion and not me.”

The story to my simple biological need to eat was I was not good enough. Wow! All of that because of a stomach ache. There is a story in that somewhere. You can change your story or at the very least learn to recognize them and embrace the possibilities of the origin.

Kids need to spend time out of their thinking brain and in their body brain. We, as adults do not model this well. We expect our children, as we do ourselves, to always be thinking, problem solving, learning, projecting to the future and remembering the past. Exploring, with our children, these places in our bodies of our earliest existence can help to unite the self with the body. Hanging out in our organs, our respiration and our basic infantile movements can create a lifelong understanding of us as one person not two separate entities fighting for a dominance.