True story: my back went out last week. I’m lucky, it doesn’t happen often (once every few years) but when it does, wow! It’s immobilizing.
It started small – I noticed that the new chair I was sitting in for work wasn’t supporting my lower spine, so I was slumping back against the chair for long stretches of time.
I ignored it.
After a day or two I started feeling some stiffness as I was standing up, sitting down or bending over.
Again, ignored it and continued to slump.
A few days in, I lifted my dog into the car and felt something shift in my low back in a definitively Not Good way.
I kept going with my day.
Until finally, after a good 5 days of increasing discomfort and warning signs, I tried to force my way through a yoga class – and wound up the next morning barely able to sit up out of bed.
Rather than a good stretch and a better chair, which would have been the solution on Day 1 of the pain, I needed days, Advil, ice packs and a trip to the chiropractor to undo the damage I had inflicted on myself.
On the plus side, having no choice but to lay flat on your back all day waiting for your body to relax gives you lots of time to think!
And it occurred to me that what I did to my back was exactly what many of us do with our health – physical, mental or emotional – all the time.
Something happens – we skip a workout, have an unhealthy eating day or get into an argument.
And our beautifully intelligent body sends us a subtle signal – we have less energy, our stomach doesn’t feel so good or we carry around a bad mood for the day.
It’s not the end of the world, and we’re busy, so we ignore it and move on.
But then a day later, it happens again. Another skipped workout, more poor food choices or another instance of losing our temper.
And the signal from our body gets a bit louder – we feel tired going up the stairs, we start having cravings for unhealthy food, we lose sleep to our stressful thoughts.
When we are out of touch with our body’s signals, or choose to ignore them entirely, we miss opportunities to catch problems early, and we wind up with health issues like being out of shape, having terrible eating habits and cravings, or suffering chronic stress and unhappiness –
issues that not only take longer to resolve but can trigger a cascade of other symptoms or bigger problems down the road.
So my question for you this week is: What is your brilliant body trying to tell you right now?
If you were to take a moment and turn your attention within – closing your eyes, slowing down your breath and scanning throughout your entire body – what would you notice?
Are you holding pain or tension anywhere?
Does any part of your body feel exhausted?
Do you notice a particular kind of hunger or thirst?
What’s the overall quality of your thoughts and your mood?
This kind of inquiry can take as little as one minute but delivers powerful insights we might otherwise miss.
It allows us to open a dialogue with our body and become more aware of what we’re needing on a daily basis –
whether that’s fitting in more movement, cutting back on sugar or finding a healthy outlet for stress.