• T
  • H
  • M
  • Developing Full Body Awareness
    A Flexible Approach to Learning to Feel (and Control) Your Body

    A few years ago I got into a heated discussion on the best starting place for learning full body awareness. The author's contention at the time was to start with the feet since they are the foundation for most of our upright activities.

    While I agree that the feet are an excellent starting point for developing body awareness (I use them often as a starting point when teaching balance) they aren't the only option.

    As an example, you can start developing full body awareness by first focusing on the pelvis in a seated position. From there you can expand your awareness to include the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, ribcage, neck and head.

    Students can learn to feel their spine first (or elements of their spine) while sitting or they can focus on feeling their feet while standing.

    Posture awareness (and body awareness) can start with your spine and radiate outwards, or it can start from your feet and radiate upwards.

    In either case they begin to learn to feel their body.

    If There's A Problem, Start There!

    But what if someone has flat feet, miss-aligned ankles or knees?

    Then in that case the feet, ankles or knees would be a good place to start. However, it isn't the only place you can start. It may be that it will take a while to straighten out the feet knees and ankles. Or a student may need a rest from working on them.

    The point is, there are options.

    Possible Starting Points for Becoming
    More Body Aware

    • Pelvis/Spinal Awareness (Sitting or Standing)
    • Spinal Twisting (sitting or standing)
    • Scapular Awareness (Sitting or Standing)
    • Foot Activation (standing)
    • Weight Shifting (standing)
    • Neck Stretching (sitting or standing)
    • Spinal Erector Activation (Prone)

    I've got flat feet (collapsed arches actually) and one of the exercises that I often teach as a prelude to standing poses is how to activate feet and use the feet to feel where one's center of gravity is.
    However, I often have my students start sitting.

    While sitting I teach them to feel their pelvis first, then their spine, then their ribs, then their head.
    Then when they are standing I have them feel their feet.

    Context Matters

    Sometimes context matters.

    If we are going to be doing handstands or arm balances or other inversions, like headstand, I often have them learn to use their shoulders first. I'll start with scapular awareness execises.
    However, prior to that I'll start with thoracic awareness execises.

    The point is that if we learn to break the body down into bits we can learn or teach any piece we like first. And if we are working towards a particular pose or action, then that action can guide how we start becoming more body aware.

    • Some people start with the feet first because it makes sense.
    • But for others it may make sense to start with the spine.

    What's most important for becoming more body aware is that you start your body awareness exercises somewhere.

    While the context of a class can help guide that decission, ultimately, the goal is to be able to swich body awareness on at any time, not just in a yoga class.

    You could start a body awareness execise session by first focusing on the neck. It's what babies start of learning.
    I'm not saying here that everyone should start with the neck because babies do, but it is a reasonably starting point.

    I often start a class of with neck bends and twists and while doing those neck stretches have students focus on feeling and moving the vertebrae of their neck (as well as the head or skull itself.)

    Breathing as a Body Awareness Execise
    (And Options or Substitutes for Breath Awareness)

    Another starting point for becoming more body aware could be breathing.
    Again its not the only starting point.
    It's not the most important starting point.

    It's one possible starting point for becoming more body aware.

    I sometimes use the breath as a starting point for really good posture by teaching students to breath by controlling the movements of their spine and ribcage.

    It's not the perfect type of breathing method but it teaches people how to feel their ribs and thoracic spine and better yet improves mobility of them both too.

    More recently I start of by teaching students how to feel and move their spine and ribcage, independent of their breath. By bending the spine backwards and forwards slowly and smoothly the breath tends to follow naturally. And then to make the breath smoother, and slower, I simply instruct the students to do the spinal movements smoother and slower.

    Posture and breath awareness then are bonuses of this simple body awareness (and body control) exercise.

    One of the nice things about teaching people how to feel their breath is that they can then radiate that awareness outwards to the rest of their body. But what if people have difficulty learning to feel their breath?

    Then I start them off with learning to move slowly and smoothly.

    As an example, I might first start people shifting their weight from both feet to one feet. Or even simpler, have them start of by leaning forwards and then returning to center.
    And so that this becomes an exercise in body awareness and a foot awareness exercise I have them focus on feeling their feet and ankles as they move.

    Why? Because when you shift your weight back and forwards or from side to side, their are changes in sensation in the feet.

    Shifting weight forwards the fronts of the feet and toes have to become tense to keep you upright and you can learn to feel that increase in tension as you rock forwards. If you rock back so that your weight is between forefoot and heels or just in front of the front of your heels, you feet can relax.

    And so if you rock forwards and backwards slowly while feeling your feet and ankles you can notice these changes in sensation. And then having become more aware of the feet this awareness can then be expanded or moved to other parts of the body.

    And that is the point of starting a body awareness exercise anywhere within the body. Once you have a starting point, a beach head, then that awareness can be expanded from that point outwards to include the rest of the body.

    I should point out here that I focus on teaching people to feel and control their body and I also take the time to explain what they have to do.

    As an example, if I tell a class to rock forwards and back but then notice someone isn't doing it then I'll explain to that person or stand beside them and show then what I mean.

    If it is obvious to me that someone doesn't understand then I try to clarify the explanation or I modify the exercise to the point that it is something that they can both understand and work towards. (Sometimes I have to just leave them alone and let them figure things out for themselves.)

    When teaching beginners to become more body aware, I make the exercises simple enough that they can focus on doing them.

    If they can't do the exercise then I re-explain it or redefine it to find an exercise that they can do.
    Some people are more sensitive and have better body control than others. However, in all cases it can be something that continues to improve over time.

    And so depending on the people, I'll start with the feet in some cases, the spine or the breath (or something else) in others.

    An important point for becoming body awareness, once a starting point has been decided on is to move slowly and to move smoothly.

    Return to Home Page from Full Body Awareness

    Conscious Muscle Control

    Improve Strength and Flexibility

    What's New?

    Yoga Routine Video for Strengthening Arms and Legs Via Friction and Pressure

    This yoga routine video is designed to help you strengthen your arms and legs via the use of friction and pressure. It also teaches you how to become more aware of your body.

    Continue reading "Yoga Routine Video for Strengthening Arms and Legs Via Friction and Pressure"

    Quad Stretching Yoga Poses

    Kneeling, lying, standing and wall assisted quadricep stretching yoga poses with tips for making these stretches more effective.

    Continue reading "Quad Stretching Yoga Poses"

    Transverse Abdominal Exercises

    The transverse abdominis muscle can be broken down into three parts. Transverse abdominal exercises can thus affect the SI Joint, lumbar spine and the lower portion of the ribcage.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominal Exercises"

    Knee Strengthening Exercises

    To improve the resiliency of your knees it can help to exercise them in a variety of positions. The following yoga poses can be used as knee strengthening exercises. The trick is to activate your knees while doing them.

    Continue reading "Knee Strengthening Exercises"

    Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn to consciously control your quads and hip flexors with Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors. This downloadable video course teaches you how to feel and activate your quadriceps (the vastus muscles) as well as the rectus femoris, tensor fascae latae and sartorius muscles.

    Continue reading "Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Calf Stretches

    For any calf stretch you have to bend your ankle forwards to stretch the soleus and/or gastrocnemius. How you bend the ankle forwards can make the stretch more or less effective.

    Continue reading "Calf Stretches"

    Yoga for Flexibility

    Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Yoga for Flexibility"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn how to activate your quads and hip flexors so that you can use them at will. Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors not only teaches you how to activate and relax your quads and hip flexors at will, it also teaches you how to feel when they are active and when they are relaxed. This clearly defined awareness can help you get more in touch with your body.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Stability in Yoga Poses

    Make your yoga poses less wobbly with less effort. Grounding and centering are two techniques for creating stability in yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Stability in Yoga Poses"

    Arm Supported Yoga Poses

    Arm supported yoga poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Includes plank, chaturanga dandasana, downward dog, dolphin pose, side plank, wheel, reverse plank, table top pose.

    Continue reading "Arm Supported Yoga Poses"

    Exercises in Muscle Control

    Exercises in muscle control 1 teachers you how to activate and relax your knees, hips, front and back of the leg and also inner and outer thighs. These activations can be used in standing poses as leg strenghtening exercises and to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Exercises in Muscle Control"

    Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers

    The transverse abdominus muscle can affect the SI joint, lumbar and lower thoracic spine stability, used in various diaphragmatic breathing techniques and act as a tension adjuster for the rectus abdominus.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers"

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus can mean better stability for the SI Joint as well as for the lumbar and lower thoracic spine.

    Continue reading "Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus"

    Joint Pain Yoga

    Rather than fighting through joint pain here is an overview of the approach that I've used to help alleviate hip pain, knee pain or shoulder joint pain while doing yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Joint Pain Yoga"

    Feeling Your Center of Gravity

    Make balancing easier. Use pressure sensitivity to feel your center of gravity.

    Continue reading "Feeling Your Center of Gravity"

    Camel Yoga Pose

    Camel Yoga Pose or ustrasana is a kneeling pose that can be used to stretch the hip flexors. One key action that may help in getting your pelvis forwards more is pushing your hands forwards, either against your feet or against the floor.

    Continue reading "Camel Yoga Pose"

    How to do Squats

    A yoga approach to how to do squats including how to stay balanced, and avoiding knee or hip pain even while going all the way down.

    Continue reading "How to do Squats"

    Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability

    The transverse abdominis can have an affect on sacroiliac joint stability as well as stability of the lumbar spine and the T12/L1 junction.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability"

    Dealing with Pain and Poor Posture

    Basic Awareness


    Actions and Exercises

    Basic Principles for Yoga Poses