There are many reasons why someone might start to do yoga. For me personally, I turned to my yoga teacher training as a way to get in touch with my body. Fibromyalgia separated me from my body. It was this achy, painful thing that I really didn’t want to deal with. I just wanted to go about my day on the homestead, spending time with my chickens and horses, and communing with the land and forest around my home. But I also realized that in order to do that, in order to feel good about my body and my abilities, I had to start having a conversation with my body. So gingerly, I did a few poses, Warrior II, Tree pose, some of my favorites. And then I listened.

I heard a soft, “I like this. Can we do more of it?” So I turned to cat and cow before moving to a sun salutation and downward dog. My back stretched. And I heard every fiber in my being say–YES. That’s my yoga journey, and that’s why I became a yoga teacher and use it in my work as a spiritual life coach. Because when we listen to our bodies we start to get in touch with what we really want, we start to get in touch with our souls.

Like I said, there are many reasons why people start yoga. Fitness and losing weight, strength and flexibility, those are all really good reasons. Whatever reason why you’re here, why you want to start to learn yoga, all those reasons are valid. For the vast majority of us, being able to get in touch with our bodies is the highest and best benefit.

How do you get in touch with your body, especially if you haven’t had a conversation with it before?

1. Start slow. It’s easy to think you have to go all out, as hard as you can, as fast as you can, to gain results. Starting slow gives you time and space to listen to your body, to see how things feel for you. It also helps you avoid burnout or injury.

2. Be willing to listen. I think, especially for those of us in the dynamic chronic illness community, it’s easy for us to put judgments on our body. We already think we know what we can do or what it will say. Being open and willing to listen is a great first step.

3. Be willing to take action. If our bodies tell us that it wants a change, we need to be willing to make that change. Even if it means giving up coffee, or some other beloved food. Our bodies will speak to us only if our bodies know that they’re going to be listened to.

4. Observe the changes. Finally, observe the changes. Maybe this is through something as formal as a journal, or perhaps its simply being aware of how things feel. Make sure that you are noticing the changes and acknowledging that they’re happening.

Listen to your body. Slow, gentle movement is a great way to do this, and I’ll be delving into some of my favorite yoga sequences for doing this soon.