• Dr. Patty Hlava

Your Body is Speaking. Are You Listening?

Every day, our bodies are talking to us. They give us valuable clues and powerful messages as to what we need to find balance. Most of us don't know how to tune in and hear what the body is saying.

When it comes to health & wellness, we are each on our own journey with a unique story to tell. For some, the wellness journey begins early, for others it doesn’t arrive until early adulthood, or even later. 

Mine started early, but not taken seriously until I was well into the adulting stage of life. 

I was the kid who always had some tissues nearby. Bronchitis was an annual experience in childhood, which swiftly transitioned into chronic allergies by the time I was an adolescent. When I reached my late twenties, the allergist persisted with the added element of recurrent sinus infections, sometimes up to 6 per year! Antibiotics, supplements, acupuncture, sinus surgery, and a dairy-free/gluten-free diet did little to offer relief. Nothing seemed to help. Something was clearly out of balance in my body and I had no idea how to make it better. I felt defeated by my body and disempowered in my life. If I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t “figure out” my own body, how was I going to figure out anything else in life? 

Fortunately, I was introduced to the practical science of Ayurveda by a dear friend and colleague. At first, I mistook it’s simplicity for lack of depth. Over time, I came to learn otherwise!

Through Ayurveda, I learned about my body type. This insight helped to understand  what specific foods and self-care practices my body needed to stay healthy. This was a stark contrast to the hundreds of one-diet fits-all approach that I knew so well. What was the most beneficial for me in learning Ayurveda was that I learned how to respond directly to my body and its needs. For example, if I felt congestion building in my body during, I could respond by increasing daily movement and opting for lighter meals of warm, well-cooked vegetables served with rice and lentils to nourish me. I started to discover direct links between my external world, stress, sleep, and my sinus passages.

It was as if I was receiving essential clues to solve the mysteries of my health concerns, every day!  

In other words, by understanding the underlying principles of my own mind-body type and the way emotional, social, and seasonal factors affected me, I was empowered to take charge of my health in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I learned that my sinuses were not punishing me, or betraying me. They were sending out warning signals to let me know that my lifestyle was not sustainable to my health.

At its root, I believe that living Ayurveda is about developing your inner compass, listening to your body’s signals, and learning how to use food and lifestyle choices to restore balance to your whole being. While that may sound like a tall order, it’s actually simple. Everyone has this innate ability--it just takes time, intention, and attention to develop. 

It’s All About Noticing:

The first step to creating a sustained state of balance is to pay attention to how you feel. This is not something that many of us are taught to pay attention to, yet it is an incredibly valuable habit to develop! Getting in the habit of doing a quick body scan, or centering practice can go a long way in helping you understand how your body communicates with you.

Start by checking in with your body at key transition moments throughout your day. For example, pause and notice:

  • how you feel in the morning after eating a light meal in contrast to a heavy meal.

  • how you feel after different kinds of movement or exercise.

  • what is your mood and energy level like the day after you go to bed early? ---or late? 

  • What is your mood and energy level like after you eat fresh foods? --or processed foods?

Becoming aware of how your body responds to your food and lifestyle choices is your first step toward empowerment. It’s about learning what really nourishes your body. Armed with this powerful insight, your body becomes your self-care guide, and it just might surprise you!  

Ayurveda offers many guidelines around daily routine, seasonal care, and how to best support your body during the transition periods between seasons. These principles apply to all of us living in a human body. What I really love about Ayurveda is that it then looks at the subtleties of how these guidelines shift depending on your individual body type, what is happening in your environment, the season, and in your own mind/body at any given moment. In other words: the answer to “what do I need to do to feel better” questions is, “It depends.” 

Ayurveda teaches you to tune in to the nature of the world within you--and around you. What I learned was that, with a kapha-vata body body type, increasing movement and limiting dairy is vital for me in the spring for healthy sinuses. Consistent sleep and a reliable routine helpful for me year-round, but absolute necessities in the autumn months to keep myself feeling balanced and breathing clearly. 

Three Practices to Help You Tune-in:

So how do you develop that ability to really tune in and listen to your body? How do you fine-tune your inner compass and start to regain balance? Begin simply. Here are three practices that can help you plug back into your inner resource--the wisdom of your body:

  1. Use Reminders: I can’t express how powerful this can be in developing a new habit or skill. Select one you want to start, then set a reminder (or two) at the time you want to check. Experiment with the noticing questions listed above. For example, you could set a reminder on your phone to go off with a message that asks: “how does your body feel?” Set this reminder to coincide with your alarm clock. You could write a paper reminder and wrap it around your toothbrush asking: what do I notice in my body right now? You can put a sticky note on your lunchbox asking, “how do I feel before and after I eat this?” Consider what you are wanting to focus on, and start there with one body/mind check in daily. Make notes of your observations in a notebook or on your phone.

  2. Invite Silence & Stillness Daily: One of the key habits that my members practice in Awaken is the habit of Sitting in Silence. For many, it becomes a keystone habit--the one habit that helps hold all of their other supportive habits in place. Why is this? In a world that is all about activity and input from podcasts, video clips, social media, and television, it's no surprise that we seldom realize that our bodys are trying to speak with us! Before you grab your phone or turn on any electronics, close your eyes and let yourself become aware of your body, free from external input. I have found that my daily practice of meditation helps me do much more than release stress. It helps me to connect with intuition and attuned to my emotions and needs. Meditation continues to help me be self-aware on and off the cushion. I find myself spontaneously choosing foods and behaviors that bring me more happiness, without second-guessing myself. There are many ways to start a meditation practice. You can start by setting a timer and sitting in silence for one minute. You might be surprised how much difference a full minute can make! There are countless forms of meditation. Experiment and see what resonates for you. THere are hundreds of meditation apps and timers available. My favorite is Insight Timer. I use its timer feature to support my daily practice, and sometimes use one of their thousands of guided practice. See what works for you! 

  3. Practice Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga. In this practice, we hold posture for longer periods of time, dropping into the connective tissues, facia, ligaments, and bones. While holding the postures, we have a unique opportunity to witness the mind’s chatter and really hear the body. We can become closely acquainted with patterns of tension and holding, and experience the sensations of releasing tension more clearly in the body’s tissues. I have found that adding yin yoga into a consistent rotation within my movement practices to be of incredible benefit. It’s become part of a nightly routine, helping my body prepare for sleep. It also helps me connect with how my body communicates with me. I’ve learned how to identify patterns of tension, and notice how closely connected that tension is with my thought patterns and emotions. You can find many great yin practices in online yoga resources such as Gaia or Glo.

Whatever strategy you choose, tapping into your internal resources and learning the language of your body is a critical step in finding balance and empowerment. The more attuned you become to your body, the more you will naturally be inclined to make choices that are aligned with your health and wellness goals. Over time, as you become more attuned to what a balanced mind and body feels like, it becomes easier to choose foods and practice that support that balanced state.  

These practices gave me freedom from sinus infections and allergies. It’s been years now since I’ve had one, and I no longer suffer from allergies or carry tissues with me everywhere I go. Not because the practice of meditation, yin yoga, or using reminders healed me--but because these practices reconnected with my body and helped me to understand the messages it was giving me. With the wisdom of Ayurveda at my side and my body as a guide, I was able to experience balance.

What is your body telling you?

Why do you want to know?

Because you matter: You matter a lot. 

If you're looking for more support and are ready to develop skills using the gifts of Ayurveda in your life, let's chat! Schedule a conversation today.

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