In this age of quantifiable health, fitness apps and measurable tech, more than ever, we’re told what ‘normal’ should be, what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is in terms of our health, and if you’re somewhere in the middle, that’s just fine and don’t worry about it.
What we’re not told is that, day by day, there’s a massive variation in our ‘measurables’ which means that we don’t really have a full picture of measurable health. And of course there are variations between ourselves – my normal isn’t your normal. Somehow, all this talk about the quantified self made me think that it was a little bit sad – we’re giving control of our lives yet again to someone or something else.
What Feels Right?
I was listening to a podcast from someone deep in the quantifiable measurable industry, and he said something really interesting, just as a throwaway comment, but which I thought summed up everything we need to know about quantifiables.
He said that although we should all monitor our own health, in fact, there was absolutely no substitute for knowing yourself, and doing exactly what feels right.
That was a real ah-ha moment for me. I have always known that one of the chief amazing things about my yoga practice is that I know myself a lot better than non-yoga practitioners. I know when I’m being lazy (often!) and when my body is genuinely needing rest. I know when I have eaten badly and am feeling lacklustre, and I know that sometimes a very tough movement practice combined with breathing practice will do me the world of good to combat this.
But sometimes I need a Yin practice – something much more grounded, nourishing and nurturing. And I know how it feels to be in my own body, on different days, different times of the month, on different diets. I know how I respond to lots of coffee (not a good person to be around) and I know what I need to do to get back into my ‘zone’ when I’m feeling jittery or disconnected.
I know that sometimes I can feel low – and I am so grateful that I have the tools to perk myself up now.
A Short Distance From Your Body
So the long and the short of it is, when we know ourselves, we really do have those secrets, those short-cuts which even the best tech solutions can’t fathom.
But sometimes we can seem a long long way away from ourselves, as the quote from James Joyce (and quoted by Yin teacher Norman Blair) ‘Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body’.
I think that a lot of us do live a distance from our bodies. Our culture doesn’t seem to encourage embodied living. When we’re feeling out of sorts, we’re encouraged to see a doctor, who is encouraged to give us pills.
To prevent our ill-health, we’re told to quantify our health, which again, encourages us to live our embodiment through an App. But really, each one of us is so different. Even when the doctor takes our blood pressure they won’t ask, is your blood pressure normally higher or lower at this time of day or before or after you’ve consumed food or coffee.
A Practice in Self-Observation
What yoga does so beautifully is that it helps us to get to know ourselves. We start to recognise patterns of behaviour on the mat, and then these can be seen off the mat too. And we start to notice the times of day we naturally need to move more, and then times of day we need to relax.
The world of yoga is an inner world. It is a process of getting to know ourselves, and taking note of our minds and bodies through our practice, before and after our practice, and is a practice so that each moment of each day is a practice in self-observation.
Be Your Own Expert
In a world so measurable, so quantifiable, and which is run by experts, I think that there can be nothing better than trying to become the expert of yourself. Be such an expert and no other expert will be able to tell you what’s healthy, what’s not or how you should be feeling.
Once you have this deep knowledge, you’ll be able to wake up deep in the knowledge of who you are, and what you need that day. And it may be that the day doesn’t serve what you want, or what you need – but you’ll have the tools to be able to right yourself and fall sunny side up, no matter what you face that day.
Embrace Your Essence
If you feel like you need some inspiration to get you started, then look no further than our Embrace Your Essence Challenge with Kirsty Norton. Specially designed to activate your inner wisdom, this seven day journey will help you feel connected, grounded and spacious.
Written with love