"How do I feel on the inside?" This is a question of one's ability to access the inner state of oneself. Yoga is an excellent path to increasing one's ability to access our own responses at the physiological and emotional level.
Yoga absolutely shines when the practice begins to be understood by the practitioner as much more valuable than physical health. Not to downplay physical health as we all know that is very important. And yet, the path of yoga is one that can lead a person to knowing themselves much better from the inside which then allows a person to create space between the emotions and thoughts of events...just even a breath or two is sometimes enough...to allow objective viewing of what's going on such that we can monitor how we are feeling before we react.
This space that is created can give us the chance to feel our physiological responses such as our heart rate, the inner vibrations often felt in the solar plexus region, feeling flushed, and breathing rate more purposefully. This then allows us to take some deep breaths, pinpoint the source of change in our bodies response (often stressors), calm the nervous system (by breathing) and Then respond. Often the response is in a more appropriate manner - especially if the response requires a confrontation.
Interoceptive awareness is a lovely and big topic! I could write on and on about it. You can google it and read and read about it. However, on one level it is a simple practice, and it's a practice that can be accessed on your mat. We've all been to our yoga classes and likely experienced the teacher at some point say "check in" or "take 2-3 breaths and see how you feel". These are cues for us to close our eyes for that breath or two and feel your inner first physiological state - access it by feeling yourself breathe. Then what do you notice next?...feel the heartbeat? feel the physical body...whether you are standing? or sitting? or laying...feel the weight of the body on the earth? Do you feel a high inner vibration? Or the sweet spot of a relaxed and calm body?
We are encouraged to notice these things without "judgement". This phrase does not have to trip anyone up. It simply means to notice with curiosity the inner state...like a witness or third party. This is where the magic of creating space between You (Spirit, soul) and the physical, physiological, emotion and mental bodies happens.
When we stop even briefly in our yoga class to feel the body and the breath we are doing this practice of increasing our ability to access our own interoceptive awareness. With a regular and good practice one is doing this even if they don't realize it. Those of us who practice yoga for life understand (even if we can't verbalize it well) the value of this increased awareness. Because we all become just a little more calm, are able to distance ourselves from stressful situations more in the moment and respond rather than react. What we practice on the mat becomes accessible to us in every day life!
We've all felt our bodies nervous system kick up with just the thought of having to confront someone or something. Our psychology can rev up our stress response often faster than the actual experience in real time. Yoga is a natural mind body connection practice and the vehicle is the breath. When we practice reaching into our interoceptive awareness on the mat - in the calm of a lovely practice - then it becomes a tool more readily accessed by us in life stressor moments.
Interoceptive awareness is something that is innate to us and yet we have to purpose to know ourselves on this level. Yoga can help us. Taking the tine to develop yours is incredibly healthy. It will make you a stronger and more balanced individual. As we do this type of practice as individuals then we become a greater community of individuals practicing and it spreads beautifully like the proverbial ripple in the pond. We become a Community of stronger people, kinder people, more empathic people...all the good things.