The Yoga of Self-Responsiveness: Text Messages From the Body.
I want to start by asking a question. First, though, we need a set-up:
You’re thinking about a friend. Maybe it’s someone whom you really love connecting with, hanging out with or chatting to. You miss them; wonder how they are. So you pull out your phone and compose a text:
‘Hey. Been thinking of you. How are you? Are you free for dinner on Thursday night?’
You hit send and put your phone away, half listening out for that beep that will inform you they’ve replied. You wait. You check. The beep doesn’t come. You can see they’ve read your message (ah, the double edged-sword of clever tech) but there’s nada response.
The question: How do you feel?
Pissed off? Annoyed? Worried? Lonely? Unseen? Ignored?
Now let’s take a Sliding Doors moment.
Rewind and let’s play this scenario out differently. Same text, but this time, you get that beep informing you of a response. It reads like this:
‘Hey! Been thinking of you too. Things have been hectic, but I’d love to catch up. Can’t do Thursday, but is Friday any good? I’ve been ok. A little overworked maybe, but otherwise fine. How are you? How is that project of yours going?’
How does this make you feel?
Connected? Understood? Seen? Acknowledged?
I just finished reading a wonderful book called The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. One of the stand out concepts for me was that of responsiveness.
“According to the psychologist Harry Reid, what deepens individual relationships is “responsiveness”: mutual understanding, validation, and caring.”
This could be any relationship - with your partner, friends, children, colleagues, clients etc.
If we back up to consider the two scenarios above, the second is clearly the responsive one, yeah? It communicates that your friend has heard you, responded to your need for connection and a response to a specific question, and it shows they care (how are you?)
Without doubt this sort of response deepens our connection with our friend. It helps us trust them and makes us feel seen, heard and important.
I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve experienced both responses - and likely from the same person/people in your lives! We’re all guilty of missing a text here or there or replying flippantly in the cracks of time we can spare in the day. This isn’t intended to make you feel crap about it - but stay with me here, because I want to flip this idea around in a minute to demonstrate something I talk about in yoga and pilates all the time.
Responsiveness builds relationship. It inspires trust. It makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. In short, responsiveness is important.
Now here’s where I want to swivel this concept to look at our relationship with self.
What happens if, instead of talking about responsiveness in relationships with others, we talk about responsiveness in our relationship with ourselves?
Let me ask you another question: How skilled are you at being responsive to yourself? Or to put it in yoga-speak, how good are you at listening to your body? Actually, that doesn’t take it quite far enough. What I’m really asking is how skilled are you at acting on the messages you get from your body? Not just hearing them or noticing them, but taking it to a place of action where you are responsive to your own needs? Because that’s quite a different thing, yeah?
I’m going to use the text message analogy again for a moment here. Imagine, if you will, that you and your body talk to each other via text. It’s late and your body sends you a sloppily-constructed message: ‘tired. Please go 2 beeed. Need sleep.’ You hear the beep, check the message. You read it but don’t reply. You sigh. Quite frankly, you’re sick of your body’s whinging texts. You open Facebook instead. Then Instagram. Email. Flick through a book. Clear out the shelf under your bathroom sink. Stress out about your tasks for tomorrow. Meanwhile, your body is anxiously awaiting your reply, wondering why you’ve seen the message but haven’t responded. It wants to know that you hear it and understand its needs.
That response isn’t coming.
You see where I’m going with this, right? I’ve been toying with this idea of responsiveness to self and how it relates to a yoga/movement practice on the mat, as well as in our everyday lives off the mat. And what I believe is this: We’ve gotten ourselves to a place where we are so unresponsive to our body’s messages that we’re behaving like that friend who simply doesn’t have time to reply. As a result, our bodies are feeling neglected, misunderstood and as though they can’t trust us anymore. Depending on what type of ‘person’ our body is, we’re about to get a very angry text indeed, or radio silence.
How often do you rest when you feel like you need to rest?
Move when you feel like you need to move?
Drink water when you’re thirsty?
Feed your hunger with nutritious, delicious morsels?
Get that ache checked out or that wonky knee treated?
How often do you feel like resting but instead wring one more hour’s worth of work out of your tired mind?
Feel like saying ‘no’ to a particular movement or exercise in your yoga/pilates/gym class but keep going because you don’t want to be different or cause a fuss?
Resist the urge to try something ‘hard’ because you might get it wrong?
In short, how often do you ignore the messages from yourself?
I know I do, all too often.
It’s a constant practice to both attune my ear to the messages and then make the conscious choice to respond with kindness.
To respond with responsiveness - signalling that ‘I hear you, I will support you, I respect you, you can trust me.’
It’s not easy.
But it is important.
Because you are important.
You are worthy of responsiveness.
So respond to that message, ok?