There is a new understanding in health that reflects the abilities of the body to understand and take care of itself if it is listened to and supported. The term used for our ability to feel the inside of ourselves is interoception. As we move through the day most of us think of ourselves as the mind/personality that uses our robot/body to do our bidding; get to the next meeting; drive us to the store, and reach for the object. The body is here to serve, to be at our beck and call and stay out of our way otherwise.
When the body makes a request for sleep, good nutrition, or a change in habit it is generally ignored. For many people, the only way the body can get more attention is through pain. Pain gets our attention. The stronger the pain, the more we are willing to comply with the body’s request. Consider that pain is the body yelling at us. Before the pain got so strong there were many other messages being sent from the body to alter course. We just are so used to ignoring these messages most of us claim we never get them in the first place.
The parts of the brain that keep the body alive function regardless. Most of these functions are in the autonomic nervous system. We cannot will ourselves to stop breathing or to keep the heart from beating. But other areas of the brain can be overridden. The body will do anything to survive but can be blocked from thriving. If we are used to survival, it may take an active decision to thrive.
When we decide that the body and our health is a mystery for someone else to figure out, we don’t pay attention to what our body tells us. When the pain gets too big to ignore we solicit the help of a professional. We may or may not comply with his suggestions, especially if it means we have to change a habit or engage in activities that would improve our health.
Perhaps because so much midbrain activity takes place in our subconscious mind there is the habit not to pay attention to anything the body does, unless perhaps we walk into a wall, or fall. I am not suggesting we take our bodies to a spa once a week (sounds good though, doesn’t it?) or make it the center of attention, I just would like you to consider letting it come to the table and join in the choices we make in our lives.
I guess I’m making the suggestion that we remake our consciousness map to give a larger proportion of self-awareness to the body, a bigger area to communication with it and a deeper sense of trust in ourselves. This will result in a whole being that works better. Systems that communicate, integrate and support all of what makes us, us.
Just learning to listen to our body and know its preferences begins to open communication among the parts of who we are. As we integrate the different systems so they work better together, we begin to understand ourselves and a larger sense of health. We stop enslaving the body to the desires of the ego and function more efficiently with a greater depth of understanding what each part of us needs to thrive in this world.
There are practical applications to shoulders, feet, ankles, hips that you can do when you get home from work, or when you step away from your desk, to help the chronic areas of your body restore themselves. A good reference to use to achieve this is Luanne Overmyer’s handbook Ortho-Bionomy: A Path to Self Care. Since Ortho-Bionomy looks at the body based on ease and comfort, it is a perfect modality for self-care.
Another aspect of self-care is TRE, using the exercises as needed, helps you release stored tension and trauma in your body giving you freer joints and an easier access to your parasympathetic nervous system. This enables us to rest and digest. By integrating the healthy neurogenic response through the use of the exercises brings the autonomic nervous system’s self-care back online.
Never forget the most important part of self-care: breathing. When we become frightened or nervous we may forget to breathe. A good way to bring this to your awareness is to do breathing exercises regularly. Using our lungs many different ways allows us to become more aware of our lung’s capacity and abilities.
Anyone who takes yoga is familiar with belly breathing and that is a good way to begin. What I have found is the people who learn many different ways of breathing are able to break down bad habits of holding our breath when stressed. I even followed a person through belly breathing and it all looked perfect.
Many of us do not breathe in and out regularly throughout the day. By using a variety of breathing exercises we can bring more awareness to our breathing, and may begin to notice when we hold our breath during the day.
Thinking about self-care and how you can integrate it into your day is the first step.