In today’s fitness and athletic training environment, we’re taught to push harder, push through, brace against load, ignore the pain, fight through to the finish. These are admirable skills, and absolutely necessary for any kind of elite athletic performance. But there are costs to consistently training this way: we learn to turn off the body’s early warning systems for dysfunction and pain, we dissociate from ourselves to reach a goal, we ignore our own needs until the body screams so loudly, often in the form of injury, that we can’t help but listen.  What would it be like if we could learn to train at intensity, but listen to the body’s cues along the way; guiding us in a sustainable way toward our goals? How would it feel if we really paid attention to the body’s needs as we move, as we rest, as we live?

Every second of every day, our senses provide us with a multitude of messages; information we receive and process in the moment. In each split-second, we choose (consciously and unconsciously) either to act on that information, or to file it away. Our senses give us immediate and ongoing information about ourselves, and our environment. Our sensations offer us an experience of now, unfettered by what was or what will be. What we do with that information will colour how well we live in our own bodies and in the world around us.

In terms of movement, there exists an amazing spectrum of sensation which allows each one of us to get in touch not only with what hurts and doesn’t hurt, but with the greater sense of ourselves as physical beings – encompassing the subtle nuances of everything that we are. When we can attune to our senses as we move, we enrich the experience beyond measure. We can simply enjoy that that richness, or we can use it to help us move well, for longer, in a greater range of activities. We can use sensation as a guide to help us find our best physical selves.

When we can open ourselves up to whatever our bodies are telling us in the moment – without judgement, without expectation – the information we receive gives us a neutral starting ground. When we sense where we truly are, right now, we can move forward in physical training with a real sense of when it is possible to push limits, and when a more conservative approach may be necessary. Yesterday is different from today. Today is different from tomorrow. The clearer our individual perception of our incredible range of sensory information, the better our ability to ask our bodies to perform for us on demand (or not), during our workouts and the myriad of activities that make up our lives.

Deep connection to the body can open resources within us for intense athleticism, create an innate understanding for the maintenance of general physical health, and offer potential strategies for healing and self-care. Developing an awareness to sensation in movement can:

  • Bring clarity and focus to physical training
  • Facilitate a state of attentive calm, enabling the body to be responsive, rather than reactive
  • Create a frame of reference for the “work” of the day, in the context of training
  • Provide clues as to levels of energy/fatigue, stamina/strength and the presence/absence of challenges to movement in that moment
  • Allow acknowledgement of mental, emotional and spiritual states and their effects on physical performance
  • Create a context/container for pain, transforming it from purely negative energy to an informative sensory language
  • Open doorways to release

All this sensory data can then inform: 

  • Pace
  • Intensity
  • Appropriate level of loading
  • Range of motion
  • Degree of mastery
  • Opportunities for new directions
  • Roots of challenges/inconsistencies
  • Level of interaction with others
  • Patterns and Pathologies

Attention to sensory information creates relationships in the body – and relationships are what an integrated approach to movement is all about. Each one of us has a unique flow to the movement in our bodies, coming from very deep within us. Follow your sensation. Make a practice of maintaining a conscious awareness of what is happening in your body. You may find satisfying quality of transformation in the process.

How do you connect to your sensation in your physical activities & movement practice? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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