“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.” -Kevin Trudeau
I couldn’t sleep on my right side anymore. In yoga my right knee couldn’t do yoga poses anymore. I tried therapies of all kinds, I bought a new mattress… no relief. Finally I went to a physical therapist and was diagnosed with gluteal amnesia, which is apparently a common syndrome, in which the muscles of the butt are asleep on the job. For me it is my right butt muscles that are weakest, which strangely is also the side that I favor. Without any awareness, I am always leaning into my right hip, demanding the weakest, least responsive muscles to carry my full weight. Body patterns are often invisible, they begin out of necessity, for me it probably began when I was carrying babies around on my right hip for a decade. But however it occurred, it has evolved into a complex pattern of over compensating and under performing that has finally gained my complete attention; pain always wins.
Pain comes in two distinct forms; we either suffer from the pain of ignorance or we choose the pain of effort. With our the body when we spend our time suppressing and self medicating, trying not to feel we end up with increasingly higher levels of pain and eventually increasing lower levels of mobility. If on the other hand, we work with our pain, paying attention to how we use our body, working at strengthening our weaknesses and feeling the pain of changing dysfunctional habits, slowly things improve. Now, every day, I think about my sleepy right butt muscle, coaxing it awake, teaching it to fire in all kinds of inelegant poses while encouraging my left side to do its share. As I am learning to focus my attention inside this body which is the only real home I have, I am struck by how easy it is to not pay attention to so many sensations of living in the body that we miss, so busy in our head. I have come to appreciate my pain response as a mechanism to wake up, and trying to listen closer and more deeply so I don’t wait for the acute screaming levels as frequently.
When it comes to waking up to pain in the body and choosing whether to work with or ignore, how we move and what we eat are soul mates. Try as I might to give up my addiction to warm toast or another helping of dark chocolate, it is again through listening to how it feels to eat that always wins out over trying to force my will on what I eat. When we begin to notice how we feel after we eat, it is surprising just how loud the response can be. And yet, it is remarkably and ridiculously easy to not pay attention to the acid reflux, the metallic taste or just the overfull, bloated feeling that crappy food generates. We can become so accustomed to feeling bad after we eat that we think that is how food is supposed to feel. I know I am echoing a large and swelling crowd in the reminder that we are, literally what we eat, but it bears repeating in a culture that offers an abundance of fast processed foods in a hurry. Here again we get to choose between the pain of ignoring what our bellies are telling us or the challenge of seeking out healthy food which can both heal and fuel our life.
There are hundreds of really good reasons to re-think your relationship to your body’s habits- and even more studies which demonstrate about how waking up and paying attention to the amazing resilience of the body makes it possible to reverse illness and prolong a healthier life, but what tops my motivation list, is that it’s impossible to really maintain a thriving sex life with a body that is unhealthy and gripped in pain. First, orgasm has no room to flourish in the brain that is anxious and when you feel bad physically you tend to be anxious. Bad health of all kinds restricts ease of movement and how can you have fun in bed when moving hurts? And really sickness isn’t that sexy, it’s definitely more work to jumpstart libido when you don’t feel well. I used to teach cancer patients and even though orgasmic sex would be healing for them, most couldn’t quite access the desire.
The most potent argument of all when it comes to bringing intention to living inside the body and choosing the pain and challenges that come from working with instead of suppressing is that cultivating the physical awareness of feeling into your body is both the foundational practice and emotional primer for living a feeling life. What can you do today to feel what your body is telling you?