Let Your Breath Be Your Guide (Self-Care Check-In)

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When I watch kids, I see that they are completely at one with themselves.  They are learning to move in their bodies and are playfully aware of all their shapes.  They are full of questions and actively learning.  They can share their anger, frustration, tears, laughter, joy… all in a matter of minutes.  They are profound in surprising ways, not afraid to share of their deepest selves to others.

We all start that way.  And yet through life, I have learned to cover up, protect, hide, and clean up all these areas to be “enough” or “presentable”.  And in the process, I’ve forgotten how to listen to my body, my mind, my emotions, and my spiritual self/soul.  So I’m beginning the work of listening, of checking-in with each part.  To hear its soft whisper deep within me.  To learn this internal, intuitive wisdom and allow it to guide my choices.  To check in with myself and my self care.

Here is a short exercise from my yoga training that I use to practice checking in with myself:

Find a comfortable seat – on the floor, in a chair, or on a couch/bed.  Close your eyes and feel your breath as it moves in and out through your nose.  Feel the slight movements in your nostrils because of the flow.  Feel the temperature change as your breath moves against your skin.  Become completely absorbed in your breath.

Then, feel your breath across the length of your body – from your tailbone to the top of your head.  As you inhale, grow taller.  As you exhale, hold your height and relax.  Continue this for a few breaths.

Next, feel your breath across your width.  With each inhale, expand through your sides and feel your ribs grow wider.  With you exhale, hold on to as much of this width as you can and soften.  Enjoy a few rounds of breath here.

Finally, feel your breath move into your depth.  Your deepest self, your core of values and passions and purposes for your life.  Allow your inhales to breathe life and strength to your depth.  With each exhale, contemplate how deep you truly are.

After breathing into your fullest sense of yourself, we’ll ask two questions to each layer of ourselves.

Physical self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Mental/intellectual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Emotional self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Spiritual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Allow enough breath and space to listen for an answer.  I don’t always find answers to all of these each time.  It requires practice and patiences for my layers of self to know that I’m listening and that I am going to respond with care.

What does your breath lead you to discover in your body?  What areas are easiest to hear from?  hardest?   Why might that be?  How can these answers influence your self care practices?