The next several sutras direct the yogi’s attention to her subtle body. By meditating on specific energy centers (part of the subtle or energy body), the yogi can get to know her physical body.
Sutra 3.30 highlights an energy center that’s situated near the navel. Meditate on this center to discover the mysteries of your own physiology.
sutra 3.30: … on the very centre of the body brings understanding of all bodily systems.
Translation by Kofi Busia
As neat as this idea of navel gazing sounds, I’m going to assume that I need to take it a step further to get to know my body.
First, what does it mean to know your body?” I see three avenues for tackling this question.
3 ways to know your body
- You can know your body through experience and what you feel. This is your personal interpretation of what’s going on in your body.
- You can know your body by learning how it works. This requires you to rely on scientific evidence for your road map.
- You can know your body with an amalgamation of what you feel and your knowledge of how it works. This merging of fact and fiction will end up doing one of two things for you:
- Obscure one from the other and leave you in a state of blissful but inaccurate self-knowledge.
- Establish an internal monitor that scans what you feel for coherence with how your body works (according to science). This may make it easier to change your mind about your body as new information comes along. It may also create frustration at lack of concrete evidence.
How do these avenues help you to know your body?
what you feel
Our world may exist only in our minds, but it’s not like we just make it all up willy-nilly. There is some rhyme and reason to it, and it’s in this reason that you can often rely on your feelings. (And even when your feelings don’t provide reliable information, your feelings still matter. You should still be aware of them!)
Listen to your body
Practice listening to your body and what you feel will get more specific and helpful over time.
Get to know your own sounds, smells, aches, joys, and movements. Pay attention to every last little thing, even the stuff that disgusts you.
Get curious! Ask yourself questions about what you observe. At some point, you’ll end up Googling yourself, and not by name.
If all this paying attention feels weird, just tell yourself it’s someone else’s profession to study each and every one of the things your body does. Those professionals don’t think any of what makes you you is weird or gross. They think it’s neat! and exciting! and worth looking into.
Maybe you can be not weird in your eyes too.
Learn about your body
One of the quickest ways I know to feel better about something that seems weird or icky or scary is to get some facts.
Not everyone loves learning through science and facts the way I do, but most of us lean on them at some point. Even if you don’t gravitate towards looking stuff up, you can embrace what you learn from science when it comes your way. At least, I hope you will!
Below are some trusty resources for information.
- National Institute of Health
- Medline Plus
- Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library
- A physician or scientist you trust to give you solid information
Try to corroborate anything you learn through multiple sources. You can also review this slide share and read this article on how to vet online sources of medical information to arm yourself against hooey.
Bridge the gaps
When you can reconcile what you learn with what you feel, your experiences will take on new meanings.
Imagine this: You’re on a massage table. It’s the first chance to rest you’ve had all week. The pressure is familiar and the atmosphere is comforting. Finally, you feel yourself fading away from your worries. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, your abdomen raises a loud gurgle of protest!
Does it shock you back to the present and make you squirm? Because at some point you got the notion into your head that your body isn’t supposed to make noise?
Well, I’ve got a small surprise for you. Your body makes noise and that’s normal!
In the above scenario, that gurgle most likely signals that you’re deeply relaxed and digestion is proceeding normally. Those are both very good things!
Knowing this about the sound, you may learn to enjoy hearing it. It’s confirmation that you’ve let go of your stress!
On the other hand, if you think the gurlge is weird and embarrassing, your concern about it may cause enough of a stir to interfere with your digestion. Embarassment is a stressor. When we’re stressed, our physiological maintenance doesn’t flow as smoothly as when we’re relaxed. (Unless, of course, you’re in a genuinely stressful situation that requires a stress response. When a bear is chasing you, you better hope your stress response kicks in to fuel some superhuman speed!)
There’s no right way
I hope you find your own way to knowing your body –how it works, how it feels, and how much it does for you!
Your body is just as awesome as you are, and don’t ever forget it.
hari om tat sat!