Body awareness is a form of mindfulness that helps you take better care of yourself, maximize exercise time and minimize risk for injury. The more in tune you are with your body, the more optimally it functions.
While yoga, meditation, massage, Pilates and Feldenkrais can all help enhance body awareness, you can also do the following quick and easy activities on your own—anytime, anywhere—to incorporate body awareness into your daily routine.
Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Close your eyes and notice your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall. When you take a deeper breath, notice how the air seems to move downward into your belly. This is your diaphragm muscle stretching and contracting as you breathe.
It’s nice that we don’t have to think every time we take a breath. However, focusing on it brings extra amounts oxygen in and enhances all body functions. Mindful breathing is also a great way to take your attention away from the outside world and into your own.
With your eyes closed, imagine each part of your body glowing, one segment at a time, as if looking at it from the outside. Visualize each finger, your palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, etc. Keep working your way through every part you can think of. Doing this before going to bed encourages systemic relaxation and deeper sleep helps rejuvenate your body.
Look at Pictures
Enhance the first two activities by looking at a diagram of the human skeleton and imagining the bones beneath your skin. Dancing in front of a mirror is a fun way to experience your body with fresh perspective. Move your arms and legs around and notice the joints and parts as they change positions. If you don’t move it you lose it, so see just how many ways you can move those muscles.
It’s tough to focus on anything but your body when trying to balance. Stand on one foot and see how long you can stay there. Then switch to the other side. If you’re comfortable, try balancing with your eyes closed. Next, place one foot in front of the other so the heel of one touches the toes of the other, as if standing on a tight rope. Do you have the same stability on each side? If not, what feels different? To improve, practice balancing in these positions for a few minutes each day while tuning into the muscles in your core and legs.
Take your body awareness to the next level by paying attention to your right and left side balance even more closely. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Close your eyes and slowly shift your weight to the right and left. Take note of how it feels to put your body weight over each foot. Are there any differences in which muscles are tightening or how stable you feel?
See if you notice right to left side differences when typing on your computer or when walking. Do you feel the same muscles and sensations in each side? Can you get your body to move the same way on each side? Many of us have side dominance that can lead to muscle aches and injuries. Learn more about what causes imbalances in this article and use body awareness to help overcome them.