It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized how disconnected my mind and body were. I was working at a gym at the time and really struggling to get a workout in. I started with one exercise but felt so weak. Frustrated, I switched to a different workout but continued to struggle through that one too. “Why do I feel so weak?” I yelled. A thought popped in my mind, “Meditate about it.” I tried to ignore the thought as I began setting up for my next attempt at a workout but the thought persisted, “Meditate about it.” Frustrated, I put my weights away, grabbed a yoga mat, laid down and closed my eyes.
I took a deep breath and said “Why do I feel so weak when I workout?” Immediately an image of me exercising appeared in my mind. I could see my physical self doing burpees. But I could also see myself hovering above me. It was as if my mental self was floating above me, watching my physical body do the work. I realized that my body and mind were completely disconnected. I realized that this wasn’t the first or only time that I was completely disconnected- in fact, I lived the majority of my life physically in one place while my mind was somewhere else completely. I was exhausted all the time because, without a mind-body connection, it was as if I were trying to push my car to wherever I was going instead of sitting inside and driving to my destination. I realized that disassociating had become an everyday habit. The scary thing was I hadn’t even realized it - the scarier thing was, I didn’t know how to stop doing it.
As a personal trainer I started recognizing how disassociated clients were at my gym, especially women. Like many women, I hit puberty hard and fast. It felt like I went from a girl to a fully-developed woman overnight. My body completely changed into something I didn’t recognize or know how to move. “How do I even run with these boobs?” I thought. While I grew increasingly unfamiliar with my own body, boys in my class, as well as adult men, started noticing my body and looking at me in ways that made me even more uncomfortable. That, in addition to the abuse I was already experiencing, made me feel as if my body was the most unsafe place to be in the world, so I left it. Of course, I was still living in my body but, mentally, I was gone. Whether women have experienced abuse or not, I do believe that disconnecting from our bodies at some point in our lives is an experience most women are familiar with. As a result, many of us struggle to feel strong and connected while moving our bodies.
I know, it's not always the most fun thing to commit to - especially if you're antsy and a little impatient like me. But taking time to meditate for even just 3 minutes as a part of my warm-up before a workout has made a huge difference.
Check In With Yourself
There are times when I am doing kettlebell swings and I catch myself writing my grocery list in my head. In those moments I simply ask myself, "Hey, where are you? I thought we were working out?" That simple check-in gently pulls my mind back into the present moment with my body.
The Lego Reflection
There are times when I really struggle to feel grounded. No matter how much I try, I can't stop feeling as if I am floating above myself. During these times, I do what I call the Lego Reflection. I imagine gently pulling my floating mental self into my body and connecting each part of my body as if snapping Legos into place. I imagine the head of my floating self connecting with the head of my physical self. The shoulders of my floating self snap into place with my physical shoulders. Then my floating elbows connect with my physical elbows. Then my hands, hips, knees, and feet. Once I get to my feet, I imagine the earth pulling my feet into the ground, the soil gently holding my in place.
Be Gentle With Yourself
We've all spent years subconsciously learning to disconnect from out bodies. So full and long-lasting connection is probably not going to happen instantly. You may feel connected for a few minutes, then find yourself floating off again. That's okay, gently call yourself back again.
Just wanted to remind you.
I am always looking for ways to strengthen the mind-body connection. Please share any tips that work for you and check out our Mindful Movement classes!