Your Body Knows You Best
Every moment of our lives our bodies are communicating with us. If we feel a little closer, a little slower, we can find the answers to the questions we most desperately need to ask ourselves.
Sometimes, the message is simple. Hips are and shoulders are tight because you hunched over a desk all day, or your hamstrings are sore because you ran 10K. Emotions are also physical, you can tell from how we speak about them: nervousness knots the stomach, our hearts pound, shivers run down the spine. Scientists have even mapped emotions onto bodily sensations.
Bodies know what’s what, we just don’t always know how to listen to them. We say yes but there’s a tightness in our chest. As much as science can illuminate where emotions lie, those emotions aren’t always easy to interpret. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score speaks of the lifelong impact of trauma and the journey to feel safe with, and eventually befriend, what’s going on inside us:
“The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
The Chakra system serves as a practically useful tool to connect physical sensations with deeper emotions. I’m going to use it to show you how your body can act like your best friend, and help you connect with what you’re feeling.
INTRO TO THE CHAKRA CHECK-IN
If you don’t know where to start, here’s how I scan my body. Remember it works both ways. If you know the emotional issue, rather than the location, you can work with that part of the body to find relief. Finally, this is not a definitive guide to where you feel things or what that means, however, it can be a useful starting point for paying attention. Additionally, if you are recovering from any kind of trauma, I recommend taking things slow and working with a specialist if any sort of vulnerability work or touching feels too activating.
ROOT - pelvic floor, legs, feet
The root chakra is the most primal and deals with boundaries and safety. As a teen, I struggled with vaginismus (or as a call it, Gandalf vagina). My vaginal muscles would tense up so severely, nothing could get through. Turns out, I also struggled hard with boundaries. In fact, I had none. I moved around a lot so I only temporarily nested in a single space. Learning how to create boundaries, feel at home, and generally feel grounded was a big struggle for me. Understanding that was crucial in overcoming my vagina’s tight lips and eventually feeling solid and strong on my own.
Practice: diaphragmatic breathing into the pelvic floor muscles, self-massage of the feet and legs, walking barefoot in the grass.
SACRAL - pelvis, genitals
Known as the seat of emotions, desire and pleasure there are many reasons why this part of the body can be loaded for many of us. Whether we have issues getting wet or up, the problem typically has emotional roots. Often, our body may not want to cooperate at sexy times because we’re anxious or stressed about intimacy itself, work, or the dystopian state of the world. This chakra sits right on top of the root, making them very connected. Finding ways to express our emotions while still feeling safety (even through the fear that vulnerability can stir up) is vital to truly opening up, creating a space for better sex, better orgasms, and deeper connections.
Practice: dancing (especially something with a lot of hip mobility), letting your partner massage the area around your genitals slowly before touching you sexually, working through the lower back and hip tension with a lacrosse ball.
SOLAR PLEXUS - abdomen
Known as the power chakra, the solar plexus rules how we exert our will upon the world. It deals with privilege and power and is way out of balance for many of us, in one direction or the other. Working with this chakra invites us to pay attention to how we take up space in our relationships and in the world. Noticing an uneasiness in the stomach may give us clues as to where we stand in a dynamic.
Practice: planks (I’m both joking and very much not joking), power stance, speaking from your stomach when you’re on the phone with a stranger (if you tend to pitch your voice higher… I call this the little girl voice and if you do it, you know what I’m talking about), intuitive eating.
HEART - chest, arms
The heart chakra rules how we give and receive love. It can be useful to note how we carry the bones and muscles surrounding it, like the shoulders. As those muscles contract, we tend to feel guarded, low energy, even a little sad. I think a lot about how typing on a computer causes us to hunch over like our heart is being strangled. Maybe that’s why people say such trash things to each other on the internet! In any case, noticing tension in our chest and shoulder blades can show us where we’re not allowing love in, or shutting down from old wounds. When our shoulders cave in, there may be fear or grief. Alternatively, sticking that chest out too far may imply a shallowness to what we have to offer.
The hands serve as an extension of our heart chakra. How precise and generous with our touch we are can be a direct extension of how generous we feel with our love. This is a department where those of us who are less energetically sensitive may be able to “feel” into a little more naturally, truly giving or withdrawing as the sensations arise in us. How do your hands gravitate towards or avoid your partner? How do they expose or protect you?
Practice: restorative backbends with props like two blocks under the shoulder blades or child’s pose with a bolster or pillow under your chest, placing a hand over your heart with your collar bones wide, heart to heart hugs with your partner or a friend
THROAT - neck, mouth, jaw
Ever had a conversation where your jaw tenses and the words get caught in your throat? The throat chakra rules communication and when we experience tension here, it can lead to holding back words. Some of us have the tendency to withdraw, others bulldoze conversations. In a relationship, an exchange of speaking and listening is essential.
Practice: neck rolls, jaw massage, singing
THIRD EYE - eyes, forehead (brow)
There are many reasons why eye contact is so important to us. The third eye lives in the brow centre, but we can communicate wordless connection through those glassy balls in our sockets. It rules our intuitive mind. Avoiding our partner’s gaze, or having them avoid yours, is a major clue to slow down and check-in.
Practice: keep a dream journal, write morning pages, meditate
CROWN - above the top of your head
The only chakra without a physical location on the body, the crown deals in transcendence and our higher self. While it’s beyond the parameters of our inner body, when we start to go deep and listen, we can connect to the overall awareness of our infinity. Let the sensations of your body expand beyond the molecules of your skin and listen. Receive. Be.
Practice: inversions, gratitude reflections, tantric energy work
GETTING PHYSICAL WITH OTHERS
In a relationship, there are two (sometimes more) bodies communicating. Those messages can be difficult to decipher if we don’t listen, first, to ourselves, then, to our partners.
FULL BODY CONSENT
As I’ve said before, slowing down forces us into our bodies. It allows us to listen and communicate clearly. When we are fully engaged, paying attention and listening, there is no confusion about consent. We can have the patience to wait for that enthusiastic YES. We can see if the verbal yes is reflected in the body, too.
Whilst you shouldn’t rely on somebody else’s body language to signal consent, being aware of shifts in your partner’s body can help you to know when it’s time to check-in.
WHEN THERE’S HESITATION, RESISTANCE, OR TENSION
Being turned down can feel like a blow. Instead of taking it personally, learn to find out what your partner needs instead. Maybe they ask for a little tenderness, in a safe non-sexual way so they can de-stress and feel valued. Outside the bedroom, you could offer to take a task off their plate or allow them the space to sit with their feelings. Sometimes these acts of kindness can be the best foreplay you can offer.
Similarly, if you find yourself evading a partner's advances more often than not, it’s time to figure out why. Is it simply “not being in the mood” or is there an emotional reason? Often a lingering grudge with our partner or an emotional reaction based on previous experience can shut us down. Start to poke at the threads that may have tangled your heart closed. Notice where in your body it lives. Try journaling or meditating on it. You could even talk it through with a partner, friend, therapist or coach.
Further reading: To read more about the chakra system, check out Anodea Judith’s book, Eastern Body, Western Mind