I’ve been practicing meditation as long as I’ve been teaching yoga – ten years this year. On paper, my two passions appear very closely linked yet I’ve mostly felt that they were separate.
The type of meditation I practice is from the Buddhist tradition known as Vipassana or Insight meditation. As my love for Buddhist teachings as a whole expanded, they naturally made their way into my yoga classes and teaching. Making room for more Buddhist and meditation themes in my classes, left me using just enough cues to get students into poses safely and bumping anatomical teachings.
This happened quite gradually and while I still felt very confident when I was asked a question about the movements of the mind, I was very unsure when a student asked me a question about an injury or condition. I would glaze over the questions replying vaguely with things like “Oh, that sounds like your shoulder muscles,” and then quickly refer them to a body worker or more anatomically fluent yoga teacher.
It seemed fine to do this for a while, yet I felt powerless the more I did it. In my eighth year of teaching, I decided to embark on the Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Teachers path, and from the get go, I’ve gained a proficiency in understanding the body that has empowered me to no longer be vague and uncomfortable when approached with a question.
Want to know the most amazing thing about this newfound proficiency? The Buddhist teachings of meditation are so intertwined with the anatomy of the body, they’re really not separate at all! As a result, my understanding of both has profoundly deepened and my teachings have become more complete.
One of the most obvious ways the two practices overlap is with the teaching of mindfulness of the body. This refers to being aware of the body from the inside out (e.g. how does this or I feel?), as opposed to from the outside in (e.g. does this dress make my hips look big?). The doorways with which our body relates to the external world is through the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). In Buddhist meditation, there is a sixth sense with which we relate to the world – the mind.
Science is beginning to define this sixth sense as interoception – a sensitivity to stimuli originating inside of the body (Lab of Action & Body, Royal Holloway, University of London). The Buddha taught that this awareness should be cultivated in the four classical meditation postures – sitting, walking, standing, and lying down. To make this possible we’d need to be aware of our body during transitions and while in movement and when we add movement to interoception, it is known as proprioception.
Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. To put it in layman’s terms, proprioception is a body-sense and allows you to more easily multi-task or and be coordinated. Having body-sense or being able to propriocept allows us to walk without needing to tell our body how to take each step, drive while being able to change the radio, or better yet, drive while being able to break up a fight in the back seat between kids.
If you’re reading this and are worried about your lack of body-sense given how well (or not so well) you followed along in your last step class, the good news is that this is a skill that can be cultivated. Come back on Friday to learn how you can improve your proprioception!
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I am doing the ytu teacher trainer course at the moment and this is my 3th homework blog reading about the breath and proprioception I can realate to the authors frustration I to have found heaven in the ytu training,as a bonus the article also talks about mindfulness also a big interest of mine thank you good job
Understanding the how of a pose is crucial to the a proper implementation of a pose. However as some yoga trainings skimp on the anatomy aspects of teaching it is not hard to see why many instructors shy away from embracing these principles.
I am grateful to Jill for providing the environment where exploration is welcomed with open arms and learning about anatomy isn’t the scary, dark place that it has the potential to be.
This blog post is so true…doesn’t mindfulness of the mind also encompass awareness of the body? The two absolutely go hand and hand. Is it not prudent to be fluent in both mindsets?
YTU shows us that we can straddle both worlds with grace and humility and reminds us that we don’t need to be perfect in any way to start the journey.
Great post, Dawn. I’m always interested in how people talk about the ‘mind-body connection’ as though there’s some mystical force at work. Of course there’s a connection because they are LITERALLY connected. There are so many ways that we can recognize this in everyday life, that we should move beyond discussions about the existence of a connection between mind and body and focus on techniques that help us improve the relationship between the two. Mindfulness practices are a great to tool to bring to everyday life including how we relate to and understand our physical self. Improving your sense of interoception can be a life-changing skill.
Thank you Dawn for making the connection between meditation and Yoga Tune Up. I like your term ‘mindfulness of the body’.
I love your post. I like to keep in mind that body and mind is sooo interlated. Too often we go far in one side or the other, but the big part of life is to live to connect those two and decide what to do with it. But before that, you have to experiment, be open, and try and fail 😉 It takes a life to learn to live.
This is exactly where I am right now. Feel your body, be the pose not doing the pose.
I love this article. I love how the body awareness that comes with practicing Yoga Tune Up® lends itself so seamlessly with mindfulness. I’ve heard fellow students in Yoga Tune Up® classes comment “I can’t meditate” and I giggle to myself because they don’t even realize that they just meditated for 90 minutes! We invite awareness and mindfulness into class by inviting students to pay close attention to a particular part of their bodies with Therapy Balls or in focusing alignment in poses, like trying to depress their hip in leg stretch #3.
I love this article! I’ve practiced mindfulness meditation for a number of years, and yoga for a long time. Yoga Tune Up definitely gives so much knowledge to help combine the two practices in an amazing way. Increased proprioception is changing the way I approach all movement.
I love this, Dawn! I’ve recently been practicing a sequence of YTU poses leading up to Baddha Konasana to make my meditation seat more comfy.
great idea to weave mindfulness meditation with Yoga Tune Up, especially for folks who can’t sit still and/or have little body and breath awareness
Wonderful post! As I have become more mindful of how my body moves and feels, I have been able to make profound postural changes. Thank you!
Je suis d’accord avec ce qui est dit. Tout est relié, le corps et l’esprit. Et je suis d’avis que lorsqu’il y a une tension dans la tête, c’est qu’il y a aussi une tension dans le corps, d’où l’importance de faire le lien entre les deux.
Je suis en accord avec ce que tu dis. Tout est relié, le corps et l’esprit ne font qu’un. Selon moi, lorsqu’il y a une tension dans le corps, il y a une tension dans l’esprit, d’où l’importance de faire le lien entre les deux.
I loved this post. I have a really hard time in sitting meditation, and I have always felt that “meditation” was missing from my practice. YTU integrates mindfulness practice right into the practice. Of course all yoga does, but YTU gives you an extra nudge through the use of the balls, the pauses, the test poses before and after rolling. I practice meditation during my asana practice when practicing YTU. Thank you for helping me to make this connection.
Wonderful post! Our culture is often so focused on external measures of success that focusing on our awareness of the self/body from the inside out can seem radical (yet oh-so-necessary). Cultivating this inner felt sense and curiosity continues to be the biggest gift of my yoga practice and precisely what i hope to inspire in every class I teach.
Proprioception is a new concept for me. Thank you for making the link between meditation and anatomy. I feel like these two things are often separated in the yoga world and it’s interesting to consider the two together.
Proprioception is such an unknown concept for most people…althought it shoudn’t! Keeping up with your innerself is such an important part of being a healthy, self-actualized and fulfilled human being. We often forget that our body is a precious tool that we should listen more often!
I’m familiar with proprioception but hadn’t heard the term interioception. I suppose interioception facilitates proprioception. Becoming aware of ourselves from within, we can expand to feeling space around us. The balancing of breath, mind, body. Grace.
I couldn’t agree more with this post as it pertains to the importance and reasons why mindfulness and meditation will change your world. I love that the author talk and defined the term interception. Proprioception has been talked about for years but most people have never heard of the term interception. GREAT READ!
i love that you made the connection between the 5 SENSES of the BODY and the 6th SENSE of the MIND for me. Makes so much sense that these are interrelated and complimentary.
Hi Dawn !
I doing now my YTU training teacher lever 1 in Qc with Mimi and Todd, and before I was thinking, before to begin, that I would miss spirituality…..But more it goes in the class and more I read, I realize that everything is connected……WOW !!!!! Reading your blog is like finding my place in all this……
For someone how begin in all of this, I only do yoga since 2 years, YTU level ! is my first training, what would you suggest to do to introduce this and to learn about meditation ? Do you have training / certification to suggest me ?
Thank you !!
This article is the first time I have heard of interoception, and I am intrigued. As I have matured into adulthood I have found a fascination with the sophistication and interconnectedness of our world. I have had issues that seriously affected my spinal column and have felt almost entirely disconnected from what was going on inside my own body. I amazed that my senses can rebound and getting in touch with them intentionally can bring even more awareness than I thought was possible.
I really appreciate your insights in terms of connecting the meditation practice, which can many times seem to be a mostly mind only adventure, to a physical practice such s asana.
Along my own journey, first as a dancer now additionally as a yoga teacher, my meditation practice was for years similarly separate from other activities.
Ive since fallen in love with and been teaching ideas around “moving meditation” for years combining both into a beautiful harmonious experience.
Reading your post really struck me and helped me realize that although “I” often get very meditative about my own anatomy and the discoveries Im making within, I rarely share those epiphanies and encourage that same meditativeness in my students toward their own bodies.
I love anatomy and learning about this amazing vehicle were given to exist in!
Thank you for offering another brilliant way to think about incorporating anatomical education into my work.
Thank you for getting me excited to create a new path to explore as a teacher!
I love how you linked anatomy with meditation! I just finished taking a yoga tune up training session and I feel so much more confident that I am able to give my students proper answers to question they may have about their bodies but more importantly I feel even more confident that I am ale to refer them to someone who might know better.
LInking meditation and anatomy is a fascinating concept. I look forward to reading more!
Amazing post. And the idea of combining these three is great. We used to give massage therapy for a great relief and will surely suggest this idea to my team to incorporate it.
Love, love, love this! My YTU and music practices have profoundly changed my awareness of the body and breath, and meditation has really helped expand that learning. Movement is not only a question now of how something looks, but also how it feels inside and out.
Dawn this is a great concept! I love the idea of using our anatomical awareness to increase our mindfulness in our bodies. My next meditation session I will see how I can link the two together more harmoniously. Thank you!
This is a very exciting and informative blog for me! I was thrilled to open up this blog site for the first time and see your blog first!
I’ve just completed training in Mindfulness/Meditation and a certification in Yoga & Mindfulness for Teens.
I was curious what you thought about the idea of integrating some of the Yoga Tune-Up into the Teens practice sessions?
The connection of “being aware of our bodies during transitions” and how our” body relates to external world” is one that should be explored by teens yes? What would be your recommendations for implementing YTU into a Yoga/Mindfulnees class for teens?
Thanks so much – I look forward to reading more of your blogs!
light & laughter
Susan P Mendoza