"Intelligence is present everywhere in our bodies . . . our own inner intelligence is far superior to any we can try to substitute from the outside." - Deepak Chopra
Have you ever been completely knocked on your ass by an illness that came out of nowhere? << Me 2 weeks ago. Mastitis hit me like a ton of bricks, almost 10 months into breastfeeding my son.
But it wasn't the mastitis that you typically see or hear of that results from insufficient milk removal. Mine started as a bite...a small human (aka little teething vampire) bite to my nipple to be more precise. The bite got infected and the infection then spread to my breast tissue and then I couldn't remove the milk because of the horrendous stabbing, shooting pain every time I hooked up to my pump.
And I couldn't nurse. So the milk wasn't removed from that breast which caused clogs and made it hurt worse. Yea. It was as bad as you can imagine and my supply tanked.
I tried to fight it for 2 days on my own then once my fever spiked to 102, I ended up in Urgent Care begging for antibiotics. For 6 days, until the nipple completely healed and the antibiotics kicked the infection, I had to hand express into a bottle.
It was time-consuming and as much as I told myself it was worth it, I felt like I was being used...like my sole purpose was to provide milk for my child. Then I felt guilty and selfish because I was so exhausted from the whole ordeal and I desperately wanted my body back. I wanted to quit nursing, feel connected to my body again, to live in my own body just for me, not to grow a baby, not to feed a baby.
On top of the physical pain, chills and exhaustion, I was anxious about losing my supply and wondering how I was going to soldier on with my daily life. You can relate...I don't have time to be sick! I raise 2 children, I work, I run my own business and I manage a household. None of which stops when I'm sick.
So I kept life humming along, albeit at a slower pace. I kept my normal teaching schedule of private lessons and group classes, only canceling when I had a fever. I kept mothering (obviously), but I said "no" to anything extra, including cleaning, laundry, my email box, social media (mostly) and admin tasks. Thankfully my amazing husband picked up my slack around the house.
Then something happened as a result.
I realized that I take my body for granted. I felt completely disconnected from my body when I was sick. I felt like a stranger viewing my body from the outside. I felt stuck, I couldn't practice yoga and was exhausted just by walking a few blocks.
Our bodies are full of wisdom and it was only when I couldn't access that wisdom that I felt disembodied and unable to access my intuition. I couldn’t tap into how I was feeling or what I should be doing because I was so disconnected, plus I wasn’t doing my yoga or any movement practice or my sitting meditation practice.
After my fever went down, I focused on my morning meditation practice and re-connecting to my body. I did a body scan meditation every day. I asked myself "how is my body feeling today." Then, "given this, how am I going to take care of my body today?”
Then I gradually healed, my supply started coming back, I started to feel like myself again.
We can watch our young children and learn from them. My baby cries when he’s hungry or whines when he’s tired. My toddler son gets cranky and throws a fit if we stay out too long or if he’s out of his comfort zone. Young children use their intuition to guide them, always.
Somewhere along the way, we lose that intuition.
Many of us disassociate with our bodies as adolescents. At some point we start looking at it from the outside, as an object, not as part of us. I struggled with my body image, with seeing my body as an object. If you’ve ever struggled with unhappiness with your shape or your size or your weight, you’ve been there.
As adults, we often ignore the signs our bodies give us. We work hard, sit too long, don’t move enough, over exercise, push ourselves to the limit, don’t rest, don’t fill our bodies with the nutrition we need and ignore pain.
As a young teenager, I danced until my feet were bleeding and my muscles and tendons ached. As a young adult, I routinely stayed up all night writing papers for college and graduate school. I worked two jobs while going to school full time, sleeping for 3 or 4 hours at a time. I binged on alcohol and ate food void of any nutrition. In my late twenties, I continued to work and exercise to exhaustion, but also became obsessed with tracking the macronutrients of everything I ate. Instead of paying attention to my intuition when it told me to rest, eat and when I was full, I used a calorie calculator, measurement tape and a scale to tell me how my body was feeling.
It was only when I got deeper into my yoga practice that I realized that I could tap into my intuition by connecting to my body. I started noticing when I felt anxious or down, tight or constricted, depleted or sad. Then I could take the actions (or inactions) necessary to move forward in a more aligned and balanced way.
I (re)discovered that the intelligence that communicates how I'm feeling resides in my body, not in my mind.
What are you holding in your body? Your body doesn’t lie. Your mind can tell you that you’re fine or push you to soldier on. Your body will tell you when it’s tired, when it needs to rest, when it needs to move, when it needs to stretch or when it needs to get stronger. The key is to tap into that inner wisdom so you can listen to it. Beyond injuries and illness, anything going on with you emotionally will show up in your body. Let yourself feel. Notice how you can tap into your intuition by noticing what’s going on in your body.
Here are 2 simple practices you can use to tap into that inner wisdom of your body. I’m not going to give you a long list of things to do because let’s be real, you’re growing and/or supporting other humans and don’t have time for all that.
Check in. Take 2 minutes in the morning to sit quietly and ask yourself (If you keep a journal, you can write these down):
- How is my body feeling today?
- Given this, how am I going to take care of my body today?
Body Scan Meditation. You can do this anytime throughout the day, but I find it easiest to do while lying down in bed before going to sleep. It’s an effective and scientifically proven way to help you connect with your body, release the tension from your day and settle your mind.
Take a full scan of your body, starting at your toes, bringing your awareness up your legs, to your back body, to your neck. Then bring your awareness to your head and down the front of your body from your face to throat, to chest, to ribcage, to belly. Then bring your awareness to your shoulders and down both arms to your fingers. Then bring your awareness to every muscle and every bone in your entire body at once and enjoy a feeling of rest, relaxation and lightness.