Category Archives: rest

Listening To What The Body Has To Say

I posted an article on WoH’s facebook page the other day about the difference between listening and hearing. It explored how hearing is a safety mechanism so we can decipher if something is about to fall on us or if a burglar walks in at night. Even in the deepest parts of sleep our body is censoring what it thinks we need to listen to and what we can ignore. Take for instance the end of my long savasana this morning when I realized that there were three enormous trucks digging a whole in the pavement right outside my window. Hmmm. Missed that.

But that isn’t the type of listening I was thinking about this morning when I decided to skip the early morning yoga class I like on Wednesdays and instead stayed home to practice. I was literally two minutes away from leaving when I heard this rather confident, strong voice inside of me call up, don’t go to class stay home. My inner monologue immediately called this voice lazy. To which the voice challenged do a more vigorous practice at home and do the postures you know your body needs.

There was no arguing with that. So as soon as my husband left I rolled out my mat gathered my props and sat down. Immediately the voice started throwing out pose names. It wanted to start in supported supta baddha konasana. It wanted to take a long headstand and shoulderstand. It wanted a significant amount of twisting and all the big hip openers. It turned out to be a glorious practice.  At the end I jumped up to shower and the voice swooped back in and insisted on a long savasana stating that I needed to rest for a full afternoon of patients and an evening workshop. So I did and felt more rested because of it.

I use the word “listen” when I teach my students how to check in with their bodies. Yet, this recent article on the difference between listening and hearing makes me wonder if I’ve been hearing what my body needs and fully ignoring what my body wants.

Be careful before you immediately censor the messages from your body, maybe they are healthier messages than you think they are. Maybe your body is actually desperate for something that would make your day easier and you miss out on that opportunity.

Taking Care of Yourself

Sunday morning I woke up with a sore throat. I had the little headache, the little cough, and the sneezes. My body was coming down with something. So I skipped biking to yoga class, which sounded like too much for my sinuses and my chills. I drank throat soothers tea with tons of honey and I sat on the couch all day.  I thought I was taking care of myself.

What was actually happening was what looked like taking care of myself. I did the things that came to mind if I was just going to skim the top of the list. I didn’t bother really questioning my body for what it needed. I did what I wanted to do. No, let me rephrase that. I did what I thought I deserved.

Yes, folks, here it is. So much of taking care of ourselves is the allotted amount, not the necessary amount. It is like buying organic. I’ll buy organic food as often as I can, but every once in a while I end up with something a tiny bit horrible in my cart because the organic costs $2 more, not just $1 more. Why am I drawing lines in some places and not others?

Right now I’m getting lots of bodywork for back pain, I get weekly or biweekly acupuncture and I’m on a slew of expensive vitamins to recover from grad school. Most people would say that is really taking care of myself. Today, with this fourth day of a sore throat, I’m less certain.

All of that would be enough if I hadn’t put myself through the ringer for the last three years. Truth has it grad school + commuting + planning a wedding = longer than two months of recovery.

Today this really dirty word came into my mind. Pampering. I was in the shower exfoliating months of dead skin off my body and hardened feet and feeling fabulous. That is when it happened, the thought slipped through my mind—you just needed a little pampering today.

It almost ruined my whole shower. For three years I occasionally showered, I occasionally washed my hair and the closest thing to pampering was cutting my fingernails, which is technically an obligation for someone who pushes on people’s abdomens for a living.  I did not pamper myself and I certainly didn’t allow my mind to dream up ways that would make my body feel less chaotic, more appreciated.

That’s what I’m getting at today. Appreciation. This word feels less dirty and a little more aggressive.

Are you appreciating yourself?  Really it is a challenge.

Think of the way we take care of plants. We water them when they start to droop. Think of the way we take care of our cars, we wait until a light comes on. What if we didn’t take care of our bodies, we instead appreciated our bodies every day.

What if we asked our bodies every morning what they wanted from the day and listened? How would that change our little worlds?

When asked, my sore throat wants to neti, it wants to rinse with salt water, it wants to stay better hydrated and eat salty foods. It wants a nap sometime this afternoon and a little fresh mint in my water. I haven’t tried any of those things all week because I didn’t ask. Now I’ve got a treatment plan.

Sick Day(s)

One of my husband’s greatest strengths is how well he gets sick. When he gets sick his body goes to war.  I can almost hear his immune system rising up and fighting from within him. He gets high fevers easily and sweats profusely like the body is not just pushing, but propelling out the germs. He stays home from school and doesn’t leave the bed, sleeping in four to six hour stretches during the day. He lets his mind shut down and his body takes over. It is a sight to be seen.

I, on the other hand, am not very good at being sick. For the last two days I have been home sick contemplating the immune system and how to rest deeply to make the body heal faster. After two days of being in the house and watching an absurd amount of television I have nothing to report, no brilliant lessons learned. Rest is hard.

Last Friday I taught an entire yoga class on the concept of yield. We did some partner work sitting back to back with another yoga student in the class and practicing yielding against each other. Yield by definition is relational. It is not a giving over completely, but a resting against to feel what comes back to meet you. In order to yield to a partner’s back you have to be able to support their yield and give equal yield back. The meeting halfway creates a safe place to rest. That is yield. It is fundamental piece of embodyoga,TM the style yoga that I practice and teach. If we first find the earth and can yield to it, we can begin to push away and find the support of the earth in more challenging postures.

Canceling class and staying in bed all day is not necessarily yielding. The last two days have included more grumbling and fighting of the cold and not much yielding.

So what would yielding look like? What would it feel like? Yielding would be canceling my afternoon appointments right now instead of waiting a few more hours to fail again. I’m not going to be strong enough to treat patients in a few hours. I know that now.  Yielding would be using a gentle soothing voice in my head when I talk to myself and say it is okay to be sick. This morning on this third morning of sinus pain and body aches I need to hear that I’m going to continue to take very good care of myself and will continue to as long as it takes. If I have to be out sick all week, that is okay. My students and patients will understand.

I love how difficult it is to tell if pictures of the sun low in the sky are sunset or sunrise pictures. This is a sunset picture. I’m using it to tell my body that today I am still sick. We took this picture through a dusty, scratched old window and I love the graininess of the view. That is how I feel with my sinuses fully clogged and this lightheadedness that threatens to tip me over every time I stand up. I am not emerging from this illness today. If I take very good care of myself I may or may not feel better tomorrow. I’m not going to be attached to any outcome. Today the sun is setting, the sickness is still in deep. I can be okay with that.

To the rest of you home sick—may you recover quickly and peacefully and remember for the body to falter it must be warring against something very powerful. Have faith in the strength of the body to overcome, it will.

Rest

I blame myself. All those days I taught class with a drippy nose, barely any voice or came in late to class without any neck rotation. Those classes were all mistakes. But I’m learning, I’m growing up. I am trying to be a better example.

It took me a few years of teaching to realize that I’m a role model. If I come in with my back thrown out and teach from a chair (I have so done that) I am telling my students to go to work in pain. I am telling myself that my students’ one day of practice is more important than my overall well-being. Or worse that the money I would make teaching an hour class was worth the pain or sickness.

In January 2011, we bought a new car. I had been driving my beloved, but challenging, Saab for years and over Christmas vacation it broke down on us twice, each time on the Mass Pike. I lost it. It was a full and absolute turning point. I decided we were not going to be starving-artist-type-college-students anymore we were going to be respectable adults. I walked into the local dealer and bought a brand new car that week. I came home and calculated that my cute little Saab had put me back $17,500 in the six years I had owned it, most of which had been while I was in grad school. No wonder I was always strapped for cash. During grad school I broke down more than ten times maxing-out our AAA account for towing both years. Not to mention inconveniencing several friends for trips to and from garages. Owning that Saab was not taking care of myself.

It was a downhill slope from there. First it was the new car with the 100,000 mile full warranty, then it was skipping school when I was sick. What a concept? Get the notes from a friend, stay home and rest. I started canceling class if I woke up and had a fever or felt lousy. I figured people would prefer to stay home than to leave class sick. It was a big mental shift.

On the opposite side of grad school I don’t have the ability to run myself ragged anymore and I am fully devoting this entire fall to rest. Even in the midst of starting a business I planned how many days a week I wanted to see patients and how many days I wanted to be home to rest. I’m making a concerted effort to shower every day, brush my teeth better, eat when I feel hungry, drink more water. I’m trying after years of breaking down my body, to spoil it. This is more than rest. This is making recovery a priority.

I am astounded at how many of my yoga students don’t know how or don’t know when to rest. I will always throw students out of class for showing up with an injury.  If you sprain an ankle over the weekend or throw out your back, I don’t want to see you in class Monday morning at 7:45. I want you to rest at home. That is how recovery happens. Almost all small injuries will be better if properly rested in the first 48 hours. You don’t get to go back and rest a sprained ankle three weeks later. By then the injury is deep in the body and causing lots of difficulties. Ideally I would love for you to make an acupuncture appointment for the little aches and pains before they become big ones, but I hope you already know that.

Rest is the secret medicine to almost any ailment. But we would rather take cold medicine or put a bandage on something than give in and let the body heal.

Do you get the metaphor of the new car? Does that make sense to you? We have these little stressors in our life that we don’t fix because we don’t think we deserve to rest. We don’t brainstorm options because we feel trapped. Here is a new option for you, write it down if you need to. You are the only one taking care of you—you had better do a good job. Be proactive about your needs, not reactive. Look for the solution that creates energy and reduces stress. You will know you are on the right track when you continue to feel giddy about the decisions months later. I still love my new car.  It is the cutest car ever.