Like most of us, I learnt to meditate in the traditional way of sitting in silent observation. This a very appropriate way to learn to meditate and helps to build a strong foundation of awareness which expands out into our everyday lives. But after a while I began to feel like a naughty Yogini! I felt like a fraudster not disciplined enough to sit every day. No matter how much I tried, I could not commit to a daily practice. Then I was shown how to listen to the array of sensations and feelings in my body in response to everyday interactions and situations. This new found skill made every moment an opportunity for growth. It also felt more exciting and more sensual and I discovered that I am a sensual being. Since then I have established a range of practices that I can choose daily, depending on what FEELS right that day. Each practice brings me back to my center, re-connected to my intuition, provides ground for growth, nourishes my senses and causes me to smile from head to toe, and most of all they make me feel feminine.
Of course these are not really exclusive to women, men should totally get involved! I’m encouraging the ladies because to get ahead in our culture women have had to exercise the masculine aspect of themselves and many of us have lost touch with our feminine wisdom and sensuality.
Here are my favourite ways to come back to myself…
- Body Scan
What if your body was actually the outer layer of your mind? The part which senses the world around you and feeds back to the inner layers of your mind to produce an experience? And what if those inner layers sent messages back to you through your body in the language of feelings?
And what if the yearnings you feel around your heart were guiding you towards a life that would be much more fulfilling even if you felt fearful of the road you would have to take to get there? What if the constricted feeling in your throat was the clue that you had a habit of letting others dictate to you and that you needed to speak up about what is true for you? What if feeling empty and listless was the clue that you are in an unhappy situation, and what if you observed your anxiety instead of it taking you over?
Begin by learning to body scan, either laying down or sitting, bring awareness to all parts of your body and their sensations. Then start to become aware of how your body feels in different scenarios. Notice how you feel on average. Give your feeling a name.
- Take a long, hot, candlelit bath
This is my number 1 most favourite thing ever. My journal is literally packed with stories about baths I’ve taken! We all have different needs and preferences but here is my version of a heavenly bath.
I like it real hot at the beginning. I have that inner battle of whether I should just quickly soap up and leave, or stay. It might sound masochistic but often sitting meditation starts off uncomfortable. Your back hurts, then your nose itches and then you realise you’ve forgotten to reply that an email from so and so. When you get past all the fluff, the rewards come. It’s the same with a steaming hot bath.
I consciously deepen my breath feeling it move through my body and my nervous system starts to wind right down. I add Epsom Salts and 20-30 minutes later I zone in on the feeling of that solid, self-protecting muscle between my shoulder blades melting. The palms of my hands begin buzzing from the absorption of the salts. Water lapping on my skin. The child in me often likes to take a cheek swelling breathe and stick my face under water. Partly so I can test how long I can hold it of course, and partly to feel the stillness of holding breathe in my lungs.
When I get out, I keep everything real slow with relaxing music, candles and incense as I prepare for bed.
- Write about your feelings
Women like words and it’s well known that women talk to each other to sort out their problems. For me recording my thoughts and feelings in a journal is a practice I have grown to really love. Years ago, I used to only write when something bad happened and it would be a monotonous outpouring of this happened, and then that happened. Now my journal is a sacred space, containing my deepest heartfelt desires, my limitations and how I can overcome them, my profound insights, inspiring quotations, and the writing itself leads to further observations that can lead me to a breakthrough. I have noticed that I like certain types of words, words that are sensual and invoke feelings of beauty or magic. Playing around with what you write, how you write and simply writing is a beautiful practice of self discovery.
For centuries women have danced. Dancing allows you to lose yourself in your own body. Forget how good you look, focus on your internal experience. Try Tango’ing and feel the romantic and sexy you awaken, or maybe your prefer Swing because it brings out your playful side. If you’re really brave, head to the woods with a group of ladies and dance naked in the moonlight – I dare you!
If you feel frozen when you dance – like your body won’t move the way you want it to, or that you are self-conscious, that is an area of exploration. Ask yourself why?
- Get out in nature
If I feel low, numb, groggy or anxious, I head straight up to the top of the hill behind where I live. I find a peaceful spot and take in the glory of nature all around me. If it’s warm enough, I get my shoes off and nestle my feet into the earth. Feeling the Earth underneath me grounds me. I can guarantee after 30 minutes, my mood and perspective will have shifted to a much better place. If I’ve got time, I bring my journal too and that makes for a double whammy fab practice.
There are many more beautiful things we can do for ourselves than this – we are all unique in our needs and what makes us feel Awesome. Set time aside to discover what makes you feel good. Put self care at the top of your list and I guarantee you everything else will flow much better. When it doesn’t flow, it is ALWAYS an opportunity for learning.
written by Rachael Wharton www.yogawithrachael.com