If you do guided meditations or yoga, you are bound to be instructed to “check in with yourself” at some point. Most commonly, teachers use this as a starting point for a mind-body practice because it makes sense to start the practice where you are. The only problem is, of course, that not all teachers offer additional guidance to tell us how to check in with ourselves. This post is offered to clear up that mystery.
For those who know about interoceptive awareness, checking in with yourself may be the norm. But if you have never heard the word “interoceptive” before, then some additional explanation may be needed. The term interoceptive means awareness of your inner experience. While this might be second nature to many of us, it may feel weird and new to those of us accustomed to living busy and worldly lives. When someone instructs you to “check in with yourself”, they are telling you to activate and note your interoceptive awareness.
This gives you a general idea about how to begin checking in with yourself, but you may still need to know specifically where to focus. Ideally, when you check in with yourself, you can scan your mental, emotional, and physical states. First, this would require a pause and then a simple acknowledgement of the physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that may arise for you.
Now, if you are new to this process, it may be challenging at first to interpret what you note in your interoceptive awareness. You may not immediately be able to put words to sensations or clearly identify all emotions. That’s okay. The point isn’t to self-diagnose on a deep level, but instead just to touch in with your inner experience and see what’s there. If you stay open-minded and make the practice of checking in a habit, you’ll soon notice patterns that will help you understand more about what your mind, body, and emotions are telling you.
Why is checking in important? If you are using it at the start of your meditation or yoga practice, it may help you understand what kind of practice you need. Do you need a rigorous practice or a gentle one? Do you need to stretch yourself or give yourself a break? Do you need a specific focal point or can you just rest in open experience? When you can more regularly note where you are, you are more likely to give yourself what you need and have a better experience with practice.
In much the same way, making a habit of checking in with yourself throughout your day is a great way to manage your energy levels and needs so you can be proactive about self-care. This may help you head off emotional reactivity caused by fatigue or hunger or notice the signs of loneliness, anxiety or growing anger. You can do this by briefly pausing for a few breaths, scanning through your body, asking yourself “how do I feel,” and listening to what arises.
My favorite way to check in with myself is first to look for rushing or pushing forward. If I notice it, I try to pause or intentionally slow down. Then I do a quick body sweep by scanning for sensations in the most emotionally reactive parts of my body: eyes, brow, jaw, neck, shoulders, hips, and hands. If there’s tension, I scan my mind and emotions for clues about what’s going on with me. This usually takes about twenty to thirty seconds at most but it’s enough time to change the way I’m relating to my day and myself.
The important thing about checking in with yourself, however, is not the procedure you follow but the habit of checking in regularly. One of the reasons that mindfulness practices can be so transformational is that they create mental space to check in with your inner experience regularly. Now you know what the teachers mean when they tell you to “check in with yourself” at the beginning of your guided meditation or yoga practice. You can now use these steps to check in with yourself to improve your meditation experience and bring more awareness to your life.
If you want to learn more about the body sweep technique mentioned in this post, check out this two-minute video from our YouTube channel:
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.
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