“Listen to your body” is mostly bad advice.
Our body factually does have great information. When we were children, we moved with ease to follow our body’s cues. Children eight to twelve generally have quite detailed information about body sensations: what hurts and where and why. They move with ease and joy and do activities they love.
And then we grow up.
Listening to your body gets blunted by years of sitting at a desk, typing on a computer. If you listened to that body, it would be screaming to stand up and it would be shouting in pain.
Listening to your body gets blunted by having children. The nerves in the lower body literally turn off, or a woman would feel her pancreas move to accommodate the baby.
Listening to your body gets blunted by fitness classes where we copy the teacher and do what we are told, where we are conditioned to “feel the burn” and the subtle sensations get drowned out.
Listening to your body gets blunted by pain and injury and underused and overused tissues.
It gets blunted by a need to get through the day or get through the night with stilettos or get through the marathon.
It gets blunted by the repetitive strain of sitting.
Eventually, we often can’t hear much from the body in terms of holistic, useful data.
To listen to the body, we usually need to be more present in our body. We need to be calmer, quieter, less achievement-focused. We need to dial in to what our anatomy looks like and how it’s supposed to function.
Most of us need to dial back into subtleties of sensation. When we need to “stretch,” do we need to compress the tissue? Do we need to traction the joint? Does your body need a rotation? What does a muscle stretch feel like versus a connective tissue one? Can you experiment with your body to find out?
In terms of strength, do you know if your joints are restricted muscularly or congenitally? Can you tell the difference between a global mobilizer and a local one? Can you experiment to find out?
Can you ease the requirements of your body and listen to the whispers instead of the thumps or the screams? Can you try to relax your workouts and see what you notice?
Are you doing real, natural movements such as lifting, pulling, squatting? Do you spend time barefoot outside? Do you sit on the floor? Can you make lifestyle changes?
Can you go inside to find the data instead of just doing all the things with your body on the outside?
The best advice of all is ignoring the advice to listen to your body until you can quiet your body enough to hear what it’s really saying.