Decoding Yoga Jargon: Part I "listen to your body"

Yogis have a language all our own. Whether you've been practicing for years or you attended your first class last week, some of the phrases we all say can sound like a foreign language (sometimes it is a foreign language!). Even those of us who feel comfortable with the jargon may not always reflect on what it is we're really trying to say. These phrases are kind of like a shortcut language to explain huge ideas that have different meanings for different people. I want to explore some of these phrases and offer my understanding of how to interpret 'Yoga-ese'.

Photo by Tracy Hill Photography 

Photo by Tracy Hill Photography 

Part I: "listen to your body"

Think about the first time you heard that phrase. Maybe it made a lot of sense to you. Or maybe you thought something along the lines of:

"my body doesn't talk. my mouth does, is that what you mean? I thought we weren't supposed to talk?..... I don't hear anything...... my back just cracked, is that the noise you're talking about? am I supposed to know what my body is saying?"

So here are a few possible translations of the phrase:

  • When a yoga teacher says 'listen to your body', they may be asking you to respect any limitations you're coming across so as not to cause injury. Example: if you feel shooting pains in your knee during virasana and your yoga teacher says, 'listen to your body', best to do a different variation of that pose because your body is saying 'no, don't do that, you are going to hurt me'. Your yoga teacher is putting you in charge here and giving you permission to do what you need to do. Talk to your yoga teacher after class if you experienced severe pain in a pose and ask for modifications or prep postures for next time! 

  • Sometimes they are encouraging you to try a more difficult version of a pose. The idea here would be that if you could do one version of the pose and it felt pretty good, maybe you could use that awareness to try a different, perhaps more difficult version of the pose. The reasoning might be something like this: "Ok, I feel pretty confident doing chaturanga on my knees, my teacher says my alignment is good and I feel supported and safe here, I think I'll try doing chaturanga without the extra help of my knees and see how my body responds to that". In this instance, 'listen to your body' becomes a tool for exploration and expansion of asana practice. 

  • Other times your yoga teacher is asking you to tune in to more subtle sensation or emotional experiences. They may ask you to listen to you body during meditation or savasana. In this case, the idea is to stop thinking about your to-do list and what you're going to eat for dinner and start considering what's going on in your body. Does anything ache? Do you generally feel good and loose? Are there areas that seem like they need some attention, perhaps a stretch or some strengthening?

  • And so many more! How do you 'listen to your body' or what do you mean when you say the phrase? Leave your insight below!

In the end, this phrase is meant to remind us to pay attention to the feedback we get from our bodies and use that to guide the way we move and live. Listening to your body is one of the major goals of yoga asana and so it's a concept and a tool that each student must develop and understand over time. But hopefully these translations give you a start on how to interpret one of the most common yoga jargon phrases.

What phrases or words do you hear in class or from other students that don't make sense to you? Lets talk about what can at first blush seem non-sensical! Comment below!