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Listen to Yourself

Recently, I’ve started doing yoga. (I chose the above pic of not-me doing yoga because it’s not an impossible pose — it’s one I could reasonably do — and it kind of captures the messy feel, huzzah.)

*insert joke here*

I’m a bit of a messy creature. I eat chocolate constantly. I’ve had maybe two smoothies in as many years. I don’t run. Early is 8AM. That yoga lifestyle is so incredibly far away from anything you might think of when you think of ‘Aimee’, but here we are. About a year ago I was looking at being more active and working out some so I didn’t feel like such a pathetic weakling when I went to my karate classes, but I was also...kinda too lazy to go to the gym or do anything too hardcore. Enter yoga, which, in my head, was something I could find on Pinterest, didn’t need an instructor or equipment for, and wouldn’t actually be too much physical effort but would still make me feel like I was living that #fitlife

As it turns out, yoga has its own challenges, and if you have the core strength of a small goldfish you’re going to have to figure that out before you can do some serious poses without dying. (I’m much better now, of course. *coughcough*) But that’s not the point of this reflection today.

The main point and focus in yoga is breathing and focusing. ​Most of the movements to get to a certain pose involve inhaling as you move, exhaling as you move again. Holding for the space of a few breaths, pulling out of the pose on the exhale. It times your breathing and forces you to regulate, to get your limbs and lungs to work together. You have to focus on specific body parts: on your breath pulling in and out, on your arm stretching outward, on the muscles burning with the fire of a thousand suns in your thighs.

You learn to listen to yourself; to stop when you feel like something’s pulling too much, to will yourself to hold a pose for another breath, to know when to back off. If you’re impatient and twitchy like me, it’s hard, but learning to listen to yourself in that way is incredibly valuable. When you take the time to listen, to focus to the individual parts of you and what’s going on, you find a lot of stuff you didn’t notice. You’ve been breathing shallowly, there’s a lot of tension in your shoulders, your stomach hurts because you’ve been tense all day. You listen to one thing at a time, and you have the chance to address and correct it. With something like yoga, you can’t just automatically force yourself into the pose. You have to figure out what’s going on in those tense shoulders and learn how to relax, how to breathe, how to let the problem fix itself.

This doesn’t just apply to yoga.

“But Aimee,” you say, “this is a cheesy life lesson.”

Yes. Possibly.

But I think it’s true anyway, and it’s not just a physical thing. We get into the mindset of pushing through, fixing things or steamrolling over them entirely, and in doing so we just smooth over the problem instead of listening to what’s actually wrong. It’s easy to slap a bandaid over a problem and keep moving. It’s much harder to sit down and untangle the mess of what exactly you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, what the true problem is. People aren’t kidding when they say knowledge is power. In this cheesy instance, having the actual knowledge of what’s going on with your body or mind gives you the power to, y’know, do something about it.

Sit down for a second.

Set down all that bubble bath and tea and self-care stuff for a second.

Listen to yourself. Listen to what’s in your head, or what’s in your body, whichever it happens to be. Really listen. Focus on the parts and where it hurts, how it hurts, what’s going on in that whole freak show of a mess.

Don’t try to smooth over. Don’t try to disguise. Don’t try to fix.

Don’t dwell on it, but listen and understand.

We don’t want to think through things. I never want to really think through things. I definitely don’t want to feel the things, to feel them in their aching entirety. No one wants to go over the reasons behind stress and hurt and feel that stress and hurt without trying to suppress it. But sometimes, you have to feel the thing. Sometimes you have to tune in and let it run its course.

It’s not pleasant, but it’s always better than ignoring yourself.

Be willing to listen.

You don’t always need to do something about it.

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