Does Your Self-Awareness Include Body Awareness?

Note: This is part 4 out of 5 of the Morning Routine Series. Take what serves/resonates with you. Leave behind the rest.

This body is our one body, the one vessel that allows us to navigate the world around us.

Yet we knowingly treat it with disrespect. We deprive our body of restful nights. We eat excessively with unnourishing foods. We hunch over laptops for hours and stiffen our joints. We know how to treat our body well but we don’t. Because common sense is not common practice.

This disregard leaves us constantly feeling tense, heavy, and sluggish. Then add a constant stream of materialistic and consumerist messages promoting quick fixes for us to feel better. Get six-pack abs with this quick 15-minute workout! Kickstart your day with this ultimate super strength smoothie! Keep hustling and maintain concentration with this energy drink!

But the reality is - our body doesn’t need a quick fix. Our body needs care. And care starts with awareness. In this case, body awareness.

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
— Jim Rohn

You Won’t Do It Until You Feel It

Many of us live our day to day in our minds, often in the past or future. We get so stuck in our thoughts that sometimes, we forget that we have a body. We disconnect. From our senses, from pain, even from our emotions, because we’ve physically. numbed. out.

When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we grab a cup of coffee. When our head aches, we take an Advil. When our shoulders tense, we get a quick massage after work. Or we just keep working.

We check out. We avoid sensations. Our body tries to tell us something about its unfulfilled needs and instead of asking, “Hey, I’m noticing this discomfort. What are you needing right now?”, we disconnect. We rarely take a minute to fully listen and care.

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.
— George Sheehan

No matter how many fitness ads, inspirational videos, or role models remind us to be healthy, we won’t do it until we really feel how it feels to deprive ourselves. We won’t eat well until we really feel the discomfort of our bloated tummies. We won’t exercise until we really feel the tightness of our muscles. We won’t sleep enough hours until we really feel the overwhelming exhaustion. We won’t act until we sit in that discomfort, and recognize that our body deserves so much better.

I know you already know what to do to increase your physical energy. I know you know it in your mind so let’s get to know it in our bodies. Learn to become aware of how your body feels day to day, moment to moment. Let us reconnect to our home.

Start With A Body Scan

You may use a guided body scan meditation (like this short one or this longer one), or you can just do a quick scan on your own. It doesn't have to be a form of meditation if you don't want it to be. Take 2 minutes out of your morning to sit or stand still. Close your eyes and breathe one or two deep breaths. Then slowly move your attention down your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Observe with curiosity.

  • Does your forehead feel tight or relaxed?
  • Are your shoulders heavy?
  • What does your chest feel like? Does it feel open and spacious? Does it feel constrained?
  • How does your back feel? Strong and stable? Or stiff?
  • Does your belly fill up with air when you breathe?
  • Are your muscles feeling extended or tight?
  • What do your toes feel like?

And then, based on your observations, ask yourself,

“what is my body needing?”

If your eyes are heavy and droopy, you might need a quick nap during lunch time. If your hips feel stiff, you might need to stretch or move a little. If your chest feels constrained, you might need some fresh air or breathwork. If your body feels heavy, you might need some water or a 5-minute sun bath. To take care of yourself is to take responsibility and act on your needs. Listen to your body and give it some care.

Increasing Physical Energy Each Morning

Every morning, I wake up with my joints and muscles feel quite stiff. Understandably, because my body was lying still for the past 8 hours. And so I start my morning routine with a bit of movement. You know when you turn on your laptop, and you hear the parts inside buzzing, getting the tech goodness started? That’s kind of how I see this little bit of stretching and yoga. Turning my body on. Reactivating the vessel through which I will experience my day.

As soon as I finish brushing my teeth and chugging down a litre of water, I wake up all of my joints from top to bottom with dynamic stretching for 3 minutes: neck, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, ankles and wrists. About ten reps for each direction.

Source: GIPHY

Then I do a quick 5 minute yoga flow for flexibility and activating some muscles. It’s composed of sun salutations, wild thing, and warrior 2. I’m not much of a yogi. I learned a few poses at a few yoga classes a while back, so I transition from one pose to the next (of the simple ones I can remember) in alignment with my breath.

And that’s it. That’s all I do for physical energy in my morning routines. Though sometimes, I’ll end my morning routine with a solo dance party to a quick song.

Other things I do to increase and maintain physical energy:

  • I make a restful sleep non-negotiable. I use the app Sleep Cycle to make sure I wake up during light sleep. Being forced awake during deep sleep makes me feel extra groggy in the morning.
  • I set boundaries for my caffeine intake. Yes, I do usually drink coffee in the morning but I make sure to drink it after 9AM. I also make sure to keep under 2 cups of coffee per day, and no coffee after 2PM. For myself, I’ve noticed that at 3 cups, I get jittery and coffee after 2PM affects my sleep for that night.
  • I dedicate time to movement 3-4 times a week. Movement is composed of acroyoga, handstands, swimming and  heart-racing solo dance parties (it's a thing). I used to powerlift for several years but I’ve recently stepped back. The current mix of movements still work my flexibility, cardio, balance, and strength.
  • I eat out a lot less and I eat less processed foods. I used to eat out 4-5 times a week when I was a student. Now I make sure I don’t eat out more than once or twice a week (including food on-the-go or a quick lunch). Not only do I eat a lot healthier, it saves a TON of money (yay financial energy)!
  • I only take the stairs when I'm commuting alone. And I sprint the way up, two steps at a time. I’ve found it’s usually faster than the escalator or elevator.

Take care of your body - not to “look good” or because you should. Take care of your body if you want to SHOW UP for life. If you’re willing to take responsibility for yourself.

NEXT STEPS:

  1. Let go of mental thoughts of “you should exercise/sleep/eat well because it’s good for you.”
  2. Breathe. Do a quick body scan right now. Give it a try. How does your body feel? Sit in any existing discomfort and comfort.
  3. Journal on the following sentence completion prompts (note the first 6-10 things that come to mind):
    1. If I don’t get enough sleep…
    2. If I do get a restful sleep…
    3. If I don’t take care of my body…
    4. If I take better care of my body…
  4. Decide on 1-3 non-negotiable self-care practices to build/maintain your physical energy. Your energy is sacred. Sacred as in worthy of devotion.
  5. Every morning, do a quick body scan and ask yourself “What does my body need for me to show up as my best self today?”

Practice body awareness. Feel what your body feels. Do what feels good for your body. Stop doing what doesn’t feel good for your body.

And as always, move through the knowing and doing gap.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Morning Routine Series. To make it easy, subscribe to my newsletter here. And if you could you use some guidance on building body awareness or on burnout prevention, reach out and let's make it happen.


Much love,

Ji-Youn

 

P.S. Bonus points if you get your heart racing today with a solo dance party. Here's my playlist.

Nothing, in all of the Universe, is more delicious than to be in this physical body allowing the fullness that is you to be present in the moment.”
— Abraham-Hicks