How to Listen to Your Body

How to Listen to Your Body

Master mindfulness on and off the mat with these expert tips.

By Colleen TraversUpdated June 14, 2022


No matter what type of workouts you love, you’ve probably discovered that there’s a strong mind-body connection when you’re exercising. When you feel good, you work hard. The best way to feel your best is to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

That’s where mindfulness comes in. A common practice tied to yoga, it’s the act of slowing your mind to really pay attention to your body, even if it brings up uncomfortable feelings. Here, Peloton instructor Kristin McGee explains what mindfulness is, how to practice it and how it can benefit you beyond the mat, Peloton Tread, or Peloton Bike.

What Mindfulness Really Means

“We are so busy doing things throughout the day without our full attention,” Kristin says. “Think about how many tasks you accomplish mindlessly, something as simple as unloading the dishwasher. During a yoga practice, we make it a point to slow down and focus on our breath, pushing other thoughts completely out of our head. When we do this, we can clear up space to listen to the body.”

It can be all too easy to ignore the signs your body’s trying to show you. Beyond aches and pains, your body can also show growth and positive changes. For example, perhaps you’ve gotten stronger and more flexible or you’ve been meditating and appropriately dealing with stress in your life. Both things can help you feel better inside and out. When you take the time to slow down, breathe deeply, and pay attention, your body can point out progress and where you can continue to grow. That’s much harder to recognize when you’re mentally writing out a grocery list or what you plan to do when class ends.

How to be Mindful While Improving Your Fitness

If you’re just starting out practicing mindfulness, it can be easy to focus all your attention on staying present, leaving no energy to physically challenge yourself during class. Tackle both by focusing on your breathing, the secret weapon to staying mindful and pushing yourself. Remember: It takes practice to stay present. External thoughts will pop up at first. If you push them away and return to your breath, this will happen less and less.

“When we are present in our bodies, we can tap into inner strength,” Kristin says. “This helps us challenge ourselves a little more than we thought we could when we are exercising. To do this, you have to be mindful of discomfort and embrace it.” Rather than give up on a difficult pose, breathe through it to get stronger physically and mentally.

Being Mindful of Pain and Discomfort

While much of practicing mindfulness can be acknowledging you’re uncomfortable and doing it anyway, there’s a big difference between pain and discomfort. “Pain is your body telling you that you need to modify a pose or stop doing it,” says Kristin. “If your knee joint is aching in pigeon pose, then you need to modify. Discomfort is when you're in a pose, can still breathe, and don’t feel any sharp or shooting pain. Instead, you might feel a little uncomfortable as your hips release tension.” Continue to work on breathing deeply to get through that discomfort.

Mindfulness off the Mat

Kristin recommends incorporating a yoga practice into your weekly workouts to help boost other forms of exercise too. “Since yoga connects our mind and body through our breath, we can use that breath and connection to stay more present in any activity we do. We can be more mindful of how our bodies feel and what they might need more or less of.”

Use the same tools of being mindful during a yoga session for any workout. This will help set your pace and find that edge of discomfort. You can also try the technique when you’re not working out for a balanced mind and body all day long. That doesn’t mean you’ll successfully be mindful 24/7, but as you do each task, chore or to-do, try to pay attention to just that one activity, noting how you feel as you do it. Doing so can shed light on what you enjoy, what you don’t, and what you want to prioritize in your day.

“Listening to your body off the mat is a huge shift,” Kristin says. “It means you’ve stopped simply going through the motions. Instead, you are connected, more aware, and less reactive. For me, when I stop and feel my feet grounded to the earth followed by a deep breath, I can listen to what my body is telling me. This helps me move with intention or speak from a place that's more centered.”

Interested in a step-by-step of how to practice mindfulness? Try the Flow & Let Go Collection or one of Kristin’s flow classes, which links breath to each pose and movement. Check them out on the Peloton App!