What is feeling? In yoga we describe this as an inner awareness of our body.
As we turn our attention inwards we start to become aware of our breathing; we may sense our heart rate; we become aware of ‘gut feelings’; we may become aware of the temperature of our body.
When we start to draw our attention inwards to the interior space of our bodies we start to move towards relaxation. This is because we start to relax our senses and in yoga this is called Pratyahara.
Our senses are connected to our sympathetic nervous system our ‘fight, flight and freeze’ response. When our senses are alerted and our attention is outwardly focused, the sympathetic nervous system is switched on and the cortisol is pumping around our body, in this state we are ready for action, we are not relaxed or healing. When we relax our senses and move our attention to feeling from the inside out we start to access our parasympathetic and enteric nervous systems. This is the place where true relaxation takes place. This is sometimes called the ‘rest and digest’ response.
What if we don’t like what we feel? Feeling can be hard or uncomfortable as there are may be things we don’t want to continue to feel. Feeling takes courage and an open heart. When feeling is hard or uncomfortable I would invite you to notice this, and try to accept what you have found. Allow whatever is there to be there fully. This creates space around the pain or uncomfortable feeling and helps it to resolve.
The opposite of feeling is numbing, which is defined as ‘depriving one of feeling or responsiveness’. It’s very easy to ‘numb out’, we all do it. We do it with work, social media, food, drugs or alcohol. When numbing we are not really relaxing or healing.
I invite you, the next time before you start to numb out, to set a timer for 5min and turn your attention inward. Take a deep inhale and a slow smooth exhale then turn your attention inwards and really witness the body, notice your breathing, notice your heart rate, notice your gut feeling. Observe if you can accept what is there and be with it. If you can’t that’s ok too, it’s all a practice.