Learn to Give Your Body What It Wants
Intuitive movement is the practice of honouring what you feel and listening to your body’s needs.
Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure are inherent. To prevent pain in the body, we instinctively breathe, move, and perform activities to lessen tension and aggravation. Refining how we listen and respond to the body’s demands is an important aspect of wellness. Similar to how we react to thirst and hunger, intuitive movement is essential to the body’s physical health.
Intuitive movement is moving with the body’s natural rhythms; it responds to the body’s needs by listening and responding to its sensations. It’s a way of connecting to the body to address how we feel. Standing up when we feel stiff, neck rolls to release tension, and stretching the arms overhead upon waking up are all forms of intuitive movement.
Unlike exercise, intuitive movement isn’t concerned with burning calories, building strength, or enhancing flexibility. The benefit of intuitive training is that we get better at listening to our body’s needs to prevent injury and burnout.
Your body wants to move, and it will let you know if you’re listening and receptive!
The caveat of intuitive movement is if we’re unaware of our bodies and push the feel-good sensations too far. The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, works with the idea that like attracts like, and the opposite heals.
In yoga, we work with two types of students: those hypermobile who need to strengthen and those strong who need to lengthen.
It’s important to remember that what feels good isn’t always the best for us, such as certain foods and substances that make us feel good at the moment but terrible later on.
These classes are slower-paced and feature lots of breath and flowing transitions.
This style of yoga allows you to connect to how your body feels and learn the foundational poses in a vinyasa yoga practice.
Tips to Embrace Intuitive Movement:
Do what feels right in your body.
Work with the sensation you experience instead of focusing on how the pose looks. Explore what stretch is being offered and create the shape that provides the sensation without strain.
For example, in pigeon pose, if the purpose is to stretch the outer hips, you may also take 90/90 legs or reclined pigeon. Such modifications are helpful especially if you experience pain at the knee or low back in pigeon pose.
Move with breath.
Maintain a long, deep breath as you move through your practice and hold the postures. Your breath will let you know if you’ve gone too far by becoming restricted and short. Your breath should move into all four parts of the lungs throughout your practice; the front, back, and either side of the rib cage should expand with each inhale.
For example, if you have trouble breathing or find that you’re breath is constricted, come out of the pose or slow down so you can breathe deeper.
Take days to rest and recover.
Allow the body to rest between bouts of exercise and excursion. This creates space for the muscles to relax and heal from strain. Savasana is the most important posture in practice as it’s where we rest to receive and integrate the benefits of the practice in the mind, body, and nervous system.
Switch things up.
Do different forms of exercise to target all parts of the body. This will enhance your ability to move, breathe, and intuit what your body needs as your mind, muscles, and nervous system respond to change.
Create a ritual.
Make movement a part of your daily routine. The more we integrate mindfulness practices and exercise into our day-to-day, the better able we become at responding to stress. We experience stress in many forms; at work, in relationships, and during a yoga class when we stress our muscles. As we develop a more mindful response to stress that isn’t rooted in emotion, we create space to listen to our body’s needs and our intuition.
Developing a sense of body awareness is essential to the body’s longevity and health. It’s advisable to work with a trainer as you develop an understanding of your body and what you specifically need.
Even advanced yoga practitioners and the best athletes have injured themselves from not listening to their bodies. It’s why the Ayurvedic practice of like attracts like, and opposite heals is so reassuring. Sometimes, we should do the opposite of what we crave to create balance. A hyper-flexible person may desire more lengthening, but they need strengthening to balance the two forces in their bodies.
Yoga for injury with modifications to maintain your practice
The classes in the How-To Guides to Align in Your Practice are meant to assist you with injury, sensitivities, strain, recovery, and offer tutorials on how to move through basic asanas.
How to use props (and make your own), how to perform basic pranayamas/breathwork and postures, and how to modify for injury tutorials are featured in this playlist.
In this short tutorial, you’ll see how to modify for a wrist injury and sensitivity in a vinyasa yoga class, plus some great wrist stretches to warm up your hands and forearms for arm balancing practices!
Protecting and preserving the spine is one reason we practice yoga; this tutorial features the modifications for low back injury and sensitivity in common poses offered in a vinyasa yoga practice.
If you have low back pain, even mild low back pain, or aches, be conscious of forward folding and any poses where the spine is rounded. Be sure to bend the knees in your standing forward folds to relieve compression at the low back.
In this short tutorial, learn the various modifications for knee sensitivity or knee injury in a vinyasa yoga practice.
If the knee goes past the ankle into deep flexion, it is very unstable for the knee and may cause instability and further injury.
One thing to think about if you’re recovering from a knee injury is how to engage the muscles surrounding the knees to provide more support to the area. Engaging the hamstrings, quadriceps, and inner thighs helps create more stability around the knee join