What are body sensations? Are they useful?
I am not taking about our five senses, which connect us to the outside world. I am talking about those body sensations that happen within us. Being hungry is one of them. We all know what to do about that. But what kind of sensations do we feel when, let’s say, we sense that we are in danger? Or, when we face the unknown? Or when we are in the presence of someone we really like? More to the point, what do we sense from our body when we stop reading or working, and scan the body? Or when a beloved person says something that appears to hurt us? The fact is, that most of us simply don’t stop and don’t scan our body for sensations and feelings!
Yoga includes scanning our body for sensations
I came into this practice of going inward when I started practicing Kundalini Yoga. Each ‘kriya’ is composed of a dozen or more specific exercises. The yoga teacher stopped after each exercise and instructed us to sit in easy pose and go through our body: what do we feel? At first, other than slightly overworked muscles protesting the exertion, I felt nothing. It took me a year even to take the question seriously. The yoga teacher gave us a hint here and there: “Concentrate on your breath.” “You are in the present moment when you scan your body for sensations!” Then one day I sensed a pleasant feeling in my shoulders. It was not merely the victory of persisting and finishing the exercise. It was a definite pleasure, as if the muscles were thanking me for exercising them.
Outer world, inner world
The outer world is what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste. We are mostly comfortable with sensing the outer world. At the same time, there is another world, perhaps even another universe, within us. Do we pay it any attention? Our bodies have anywhere between one hundred and three hundred trillion cells. Each of those cells has consciousness. The biologist, Bruce Lipton, proposed that our consciousness may be the sum total of the individual consciousness of each of our cells! He argues that each of our cells gives up control of its own consciousness in order to create our unique personal consciousness. In that transfer, each cell also creates a trust that we, as conscious, living human beings, will do our best to maintain our health: eat toxin-free foods, drink clean water, exercise just enough to maintain our muscle tone and have a good night’s sleep.
The inner body, however, has been conditioned through millions of years of life to know that the world is full of danger; that we will ingest toxins; that we will drink stale or dirty water; that we will be injured and cannot exercise; that we might not get our eight hours’ sleep. More than that! The body is totally prepared to deal with stress. The body is prepared to heal itself.
Scanning our body is helping it heal
Scanning our body is like connecting our consciousness with the consciousness of our individual cells. We are actually paying attention to our body, sensing both balance and well-being on one hand, and out-of-harmony feelings on the other hand. Scanning our body and picking up its sensations, its cues, is priming it for optimal healing.