If you've ever been to a yoga practice with me, you've probably heard the question,
"How do you feel in your body today?"
How do you feel in your body - right now?
More importantly, how did that question change what's happening in your internal dialogue, in your talky brain, in your emotions.... in your body?
While the fully trained Badlands Yoga Guide (BYG) is partly asking that question for information - I feel great, my knee hurts, I'm at ease, my tummy is off - that's only a small part of the intention behind the question, and only the first level.
Your guide will make adjustments to class plan and include specific practices that might soothe what ails and support what's working. And they'll do it for every person in the room, so it's a dynamic process.
But more than that, your guide is asking you to begin the process of turning inward, of listening. It turns out that as humans, the quickest way for your guide to begin that process is to ask a question, with the intention of starting something in your subjective (or internal) experience.
Your guide is asking a formulaic question meant to turn your attention inward, but also to create a routine at the beginning of your yoga practice, to mark space and time, to create a doorway to the attitude of practice and a transition from everydayness to a more timeless feeling of practice. This routine might manifest at the beginning of your home yoga practice as you hearing that question in your guide's voice, or you might just notice a tendency to stop and feel what's going on in your body. On that basis you might even adjust your own practice. This may be the most important part of your whole practice.
Because when you turn your attention to your internal sensation you change how your body is regulating itself in a subtle but profound way. You tap into the part of your automatic response brain (autonomic nervous system) that facilitates open awareness, ordered responses and can allow for feelings of safety and ease. This is facilitated by the insulated (or myelinated) vagus nerve (you have two - lucky duck ;> one insulated and another older uninsulated).
"But sometimes when you ask me that question, it doesn't make me feel calm - it annoys me, or makes me feel exposed and uncomfortable." This is a possible response for sure, and when your guide senses this, they might just acknowledge and move on. How you notice that feeling response and how you observe what that does in your body-mind is a deeper part of your practice. Does it bring up defenses, and if so what does that feel like? Isn't that interesting? How you respond to your response is the next step in the deeper experience of the check in.
If it feels difficult to be asked this sincere question, you might just put it to one side and then revisit it in your home yoga practice. One of the reasons we ask it is that in a world where almost everyone asks "How are you?" the level of inquiry and response is almost always at the level of doing, and it can be uncomfortable to drop into the level of simply being. But unless we do this - hopefully daily - we are missing out on our own lives.
So the next time you roll out your mat, begin with the question, "How am I feeling in my body right now?" Listen and feel where that takes you.
The next time you're having a hard day, ask yourself, "How am I feeling in my body right now?" Put a hand on your heart and listen.
And the next time your yoga guide asks you "How are you feeling in your body today?" know they're keenly interested in your answer, and even more interested in your experience and supporting your internal sensation.