Tag Archives: yoga

What’s Your Body’s Message?

anatomy-254120_960_720I’m still reeling from a week earlier this month in which a fellow swimmer died, a neighbor had open heart surgery, and my husband suffered from lower back pain and spasms.

My swimming buddy (we shared a lane during an adult swim class) had taken about a month’s break from exercise in between sessions.  I swam with him twice before the next round of classes was to begin.  He said he was having a hard time getting his breathing back.  He was using a heart rate monitor and I recall him taking long rests whenever his heart rate got too high. I may have been one of the last people to see him before he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving a wife and three children.

My neighbor was fortunate to also be wearing a heartrate monitor when he began having some cardiac symptoms. An ambulance took him right to the hospital for tests which identified the problem. He was lucky to have a successful bypass surgery in time. They were told that with the type of blockage he had, people often just drop dead of a heart attack. Looking back, he and his wife have been able to identify earlier signals, such as pallor, chest pain, and shortness of breath when exercising (which doctors thought was exercise induced asthma.)

My husband, Bill, went into back spasms the day after celebrating his 60th birthday with a party with his mountain biking friends. He’s always been very active and enjoys challenging himself. For example, he recently did a “tri-peak” event where they rode up and down three mountains in one day.  His back pain may have been from his mountain biking or lifting a heavy rock while trail building. He’s never been one to stretch much or do yoga, but he’s becoming more open to it now. He has already benefited from a “yoga for back pain relief” practice that a yoga teacher friend of mine shared with me.

Our bodies are constantly giving us messages.  Sometimes we fail to notice them.  Other times we choose to ignore them.  What I’ve witnessed over and over again is that if we don’t pay attention to the whispers or subtle signs, our bodies will keep turning up the volume until we finally hear the messages.  For instance, I ignored headaches and resisted admitting that alcohol, (even just one drink or glass of wine) is like poison to my body.  It took routine blood work revealing elevated liver enzymes and a thermogram (which I do instead of mammograms) showing a lot of congestion to finally make me serious about healing my liver.

What’s your body’s message?  I invite you to take a few moments to tune into your body:

Close your eyes and slowly begin to scan your body from head to toe.

As you bring your awareness to your body, listen.  Where are the whispers or shouts?

Focus on one area at a time, beginning with the one that’s clamoring for the most attention. What sensations are you feeling in this part of your body?

What emotions might that be expressing?

If this area was trying to tell you something, what might be the message(s)?

What does your body want you to do?

Repeat the process for any other areas of your body that want to be heard.

I highly encourage you to then heed your body’s wisdom!

Open Hearts

 

hearts

How do you hug? I know this is a rather odd question, but think about it for a moment. Do you put your arms around someone with your head toward the left and their head toward your right, or is it just the opposite? Perhaps because I’m right-handed, it’s always been my habit to hug toward the left. However, I’ve learned that hugging toward the right is best because that aligns your heart with the other person’s. While it may feel awkward to change your hugging habits, you’ll likely find that heart-to-heart hugs foster a deeper connection. The next time you go to hug someone remember, “Right is right” and hug in that direction to open your heart to the other person.

You may be thinking, “Whoa! I’m not going to open my heart to another. That’s too risky.” We’ve probably all experienced the pain of a broken heart at one time or another. In order to keep from being hurt again, you may have chosen to protect yourself by not allowing your heart to be open and vulnerable. While a certain degree of guardedness can be a good thing, for instance, not getting into a car with a stranger or taking on someone else’s misery can be wise self-preservation. However, closing your heart off pushes people away and can lead to loneliness and lack of intimate, meaningful connection.

Opening our hearts can make a positive difference in our lives and relationships. An open heart increases our ability to love, to forgive, to be generous and compassionate. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, when your heart is open to love, when you feel worthy of being loved (all love must begin with self-love), when you come from a place of love, that’s what you attract.

In addition to hugging the “right” way, there are a number of other practices that can create open hearts:

An easy place to start is with your posture, drawing your shoulders back and down while raising your sternum.

Praying on another’s behalf both opens and uplifts the heart.  Plus, it’s much more positive than worrying.

If you practice yoga, there are many poses that are heart-openers: Bridge, Wheel, Cobra, Upward-facing Dog, Fish, Bow, Camel, Gate, and Crescent.

The meditative practices of Loving-kindness and Tonglen increase your level of compassion for yourself and others.

What have you found most helpful in opening your heart?