I used to have poor body awareness. That together with a bigger ego kept me working beyond my physical abilities, leading to one pain and ache after the other. The angel on one shoulder was the body awareness; little and softly spoken. The devil on the other shoulder was my ego; big and loud. The process these two have gone through the past few years have resulted in reverse roles. I’ve had less aches and pains and have performed better as a result of understanding how to move.
My current understanding of the term “Body awareness”:
One’s ability to be aware of current bodily sensations and what they might mean for how you can move.
Speaking from a physical point of view; Having a good level of body awareness is greatly beneficial. Many things can improve in a more powerful and sometimes quicker way if one has good body awareness because you do with better quality. I can only speak from experience in this matter as body awareness is an internal process of which it seems you need to use intention, breathing, presence and attention.
It is not something that happens overnight, in fact it takes months and years to work on these things and it’ll go through many different stages along the way that further makes this skill “stick” in the body.
Fundamental tools for building body awareness:
First you read about something called “body awareness” which draws your interest and you want to know more, and here we are!
Let me use a hip flexor stretch as the example for how this can be done.
You need the intention – This is your will to do. Behind the will to do you have enough interest pushing you towards acting, to do this hip flexor stretch. Perhaps you have lower back issues, so it is in your interest to keep your hips moving well.
You need to breathe – Breathing in and out through the nose deep into the belly sure has a remarkable way of centering ones’ senses and relaxing the body via tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system. When breathing is done well, being present and paying attention comes easier. Breathing also seems to help the body to accept things so when you put yourself into this hip flexor stretch and you feel the stretching sensations it’ll be more likely to accept the situation. If you keep breathing the body relaxes, if you hold your breath the body will likely tense up.
You need to be present – You need to be in the room, not in the past and not in the future. Your mind needs to be here and now, as you take on the task of stretching your hip flexors. If you’re not, you might get way too far into a position leading to undesirable outcomes or if you’re really far away from that room you might enter a different stretch all together! Being present helps to keep on task.
You need to pay attention – Paying attention to any loud or subtle messages from your senses will be important for this hip flexor stretch to be a successful one. You might get an inkling that you could go further or that you should hold out for a little while longer, which could create interesting changes that you might miss out on if you don’t listen.
The work towards better body awareness is only initiated with these four tools. The actual long-lasting work is in doing, over time.
Here’s the process:
You have received the tools now it is time to do, and lots of it! Adequate intention will keep you going. Practicing the above four tools together + time = change will occur.
After some time, you’ll reach a critical stage where you’re “seeing” that the practice is indeed doing something, you can “feel” being body aware. This will make you commit to the hard work it requires. Persisting with the practice will lead you to a stage where it comes easier to access the right state.
Later again you’ll experience less resistance, it is easier to enter and keep awareness on the body both more often and for longer periods at a time.
This leads you into another critical stage where you eventually can keep it continuously, the whole stretch. Things have become more permanent and you’re now able to practice the same state in other postures and activities than the hip flexor stretch. The body awareness will carry over to the rest of your life as it is a common state for the body to be in and balance is restored, so it seems…
This process is what we’re looking to have happen. Keeping awareness in any general part of your life is of importance and you may as well start practicing in the physical realm as it can be easier to grasp. If done well awareness will seep into the many areas of your life.
Changing your angel to devil ratio is a worthwhile endeavor.