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Most typical mindfulness focus your attention on your mental, intellectual and emotional health. They ensure that you are aware of your instincts and your gut reactions to what is happening in your life. They make you explore the things that trigger you emotionally. They make you aware of your mental capabilities and they provide you with valuable skills for self awareness.
But a lot of the most common exercises forget to encompass the needs of the body. Mindfulness and body is important.
While a huge amount of tension can be relieved by regular mindfulness practice, it’s important not to neglect the stressors that are purely physical.
Practicing awareness of your bodily sensations will keep you on top of your physical needs, both in terms of the body’s daily demands and its more unexpected requirements. It will allow you to familiarise yourself with the way your body reacts to life. It can help you to learn the best ways to ease your bodily discomforts.
The techniques you use to understand your body’s needs are very similar to those you already use for your mind.
Find somewhere you can do this where you won’t get distracted, where you have the peace and privacy you need to be able to concentrate solely on you. Allow yourself to relax. Get yourself into a contemplative, almost meditative state if you feel like it would make it easier for you to focus.
Start by thinking about your breathing.
Consider the way each breath affects your body. It replenishes your supply of oxygen, it freshen the air in your lungs. Feel every little difference in your physical self that is caused by each breath. Feel your lungs expand, feel your body making room for the air. Feel it using it.
Feel the way your body reacts as you breathe out as well as in. Feel your lungs shrink and your body contract. Feel yourself relax.
Notice the slight rejuvenation your body gets from each inhalation, each fresh dose of oxygen.
Try to understand how your breathing affects your body as a whole from the way you experience it physically.
Then move onto other aspects of your body.
Start with simple physical sensations. Feel whatever you’re sitting on, feel anything else touching your skin. Experience its heat, its texture, any sensations it inspires in you – it might be soft or it might tickle or it might be starting to get uncomfortable. Consider its pressure, if there are any vibrations running through it, experience it as fully as you can.
Move onto the way your innermost body feels.
Feel any tension in your muscles. Feel any pressure on your skin, any pains or irritations – listen to the needs of spots or eczema or sores or blisters, understand the feeling of old scars and fresh cuts, try to get familiar with everything your body notices, even if your mind usually doesn’t.
Listen to what your organs are telling you. Practice understanding them at times when they ache, or when you feel ill, or hung over, or in any way unpleasant or abnormal. Practice being mindful of your body when you are hungry or thirsty, when you are digesting something. Know the way it reacts to these feelings and the best way to deal with them.
Listen to it as you are eating, let it tell you as soon as it is full.
Take the time to understand yourself fully as an organic creature, to be aware of your natural biological needs and functions. Know how to keep your physical self satisfied and it will make it a much more reliable vessel to carry you through life.