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Becoming a Little Laboratory

By: | Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Comments 6

Many of us have crinkled that white paper beneath our seats as we wait for a doctor to enter an exam room and deliver their diagnosis of our health through tests, history, etc. This common experience is likely one of our most un-embodied in life – we are literally displaying ourselves for examination as just a physical body and waiting for a verdict. Often, doctors dismiss patient reports as uneducated – they rely on tests, facts on paper, rather than the human directly in front of them and, at times, this is unfortunately necessary. But with a practice of self-care, I believe that people can bring a scientific approach to observing their own physical experience of symptoms, fluctuations in performance and pain, to provide an essential window of information for doctors.

Self Care and Health Care

 This intersection, where health care and self-care can join hands to forge a clearer path toward overall integrated health, will be critical going forward. Requisite in this partnership is the patient’s willingness to step toward responsibility for their health, and inject a practice of caring for themselves in the service of making life both longer and better.

The word partnership requires that both parties contribute – the doctor, having spent years in study, contributes the knowledge of THE human body, coupled with potential treatments, experience with other patients and research, while the patient can add insight into their individual body, including symptoms, alterations in function and, pertinent observations. I have a student, just beyond middle aged who has tackled some health concerns in his time that exemplifies the awesome potential of this partnership.

After a bout with the flu, Adam had intense calf pain and difficulty taking deep breaths. He was able to report these specific symptoms to his doctor as a result of the careful and various methods of self-care he employs on a regular basis. Diagnosis: blood clots in his calf muscles and those clots collect on the surface of the lungs creating the difficulty in breathing. He was prescribed blood-thinning medications and he augments this treatment with a focus on self-care.

Move, breathe, and become embodied

He attends yoga classes, practices soft tissue massage with therapy balls and a vibrating massage tool, runs, and uses his inversion table twice daily. These tools, including grippy, pliable, Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls, inspired him to describe himself as “a little laboratory – I explore the effects in my body and try to trace back to the causes, and treat the causes.” That sense of exploration and curiosity informs the choices he makes, from food to movement to stress reduction. Partnered up with his doctor’s advice, this strategy has empowered him to take charge of his health and the quality of his life. That is quite an alliance – an alliance for good living!

Becoming Embodied

Bo Forbes elucidates the power of interoception in her work as a clinical psychologist and yoga therapist. Through a system of self-care, in the form of mindful movement and inward awareness, Bo Forbes believes that we can train the mind to release the story line that has been put in place through past experience and pain’s leftover legacy in the body. We develop a “sensory awareness of the fluctuations within (the body) from moment to moment,” as opposed to following the same old story and getting what we expect in return. She refers to the practice of “entering the body without a sense of mastery,” which I believe is shared with Adam’s description of his body as “a little laboratory.”

When we are able to stop re-writing the same old storylines of our past and fully experience our bodies, in both health and illness, proper function and injury, we see and feel what is truly present. This skill makes us, as patients, more reliable reporters for our health care providers and enables us to witness the subtle changes that occur within as treatment progresses.

Dr. Adam Wadel, a chiropractor with a bustling business outside of Boston, reiterates this by saying that patients who employ self-care practices ranging from mindful healthy eating to meditation retreats, “are more apt to seek out assistance in their health challenges as well as being more open to making the needed changes to reach their health goals. These patients regularly heal faster and more efficiently.”

The best part of this partnership is that power is in our own hands. There is vast information regarding the introduction to self-care practices that we can welcome into our lives and experiment with as potential welcome mats into our individual “little laboratories.” These practices, when well vetted, can reintroduce us to the internal panorama that we lose sight of in our busy daily lives. This personal panorama holds a powerful key to overall health and contributes to a true partnership between doctor and patient, where both offer vital and informed data to best serve the patient in a long, healthy, mobile, and integrated life.

Liked this article? Read Your Movement Medicine Cabinet: What are Roll Model Balls, and How do They Work?

About This Author

From the start, the practice of yoga did it all for me – fitness, awareness, breath, alignment and clarity of mind. My YogaWorks 200 hour training, with the divine Natasha Rizopolous, provided an exceptional foundation of yogic knowledge from which to learn, teach and cast a wide net for continued study. Yoga Tune Up teacher training refined my lens of understanding to shine it upon the anatomical and corrective aspects for practice – helping students, alongside myself, identify and address postural habits that impair efficient, effective movement in the body. Smooth joints, lean muscles and boosted proprioception make each visit to the mat an individualized, satisfying and fun exploration of the human body in motion and stillness.

Becoming a Little Laboratory

  1. Annette Allen says:

    ” I explore the effects in my body and try to trace back to the causes, and treat the causes.” – I love this quote because it can move us all past words and thoughts of “good or bad, right or wrong” and towards “cause and effect”, and building a body road map.

  2. Regina Varos says:

    I love how you talk about a partnership with the Doctor. I have always worked to find a doctor that will listen to what I have to say. I know how my body feels and I know when something is not right. Getting and finding a doctor to listen is the biggest job. I also have found that once they know my background that seems to be a game changer. I recently had a issue with my foot. I saw the Orthopedic doctor, we did conservative treatment but the funny thing was the yoga tune up balls were the best treatment for my foot. The issue is not completely resolved but I am working on it with the YTU balls and the lower leg to continue to release tightness. The best part is my Orthopedic doctor is totally onboard with this treatment plan.

  3. Alisa Murray says:

    This is so important to consider. As a psychologist, I also tell my clients that we work as a team – that they may be seeking my expertise in mental health, but they are experts on their own subjective experience of living with themselves 24/7. Sometimes I work with clients with somatic preoccupation of various sorts (what is commonly called “hypochondriasis”, for example). A crucial part of their therapy involves establishing a more intimate and compassionate connection with their physical selves so that the body is not perceived as alien and threatening. Yoga and self-massage are two ways to improve the relationship with the physical body so that typical sensations can be regularly observed and physical changes can be accurately reported without anxious preoccupation.

  4. Diana D says:

    Agree, we are seeing a trend towards self-care and preventative methods, Ball rolling is a must in our house to keep us injury free.

  5. amy mccusker says:

    This is awesome Kate, I’ve got to look at my own lab…my hip is acting up after a hot yoga session, ugh not sure what happened??

  6. Such an important topic! Thank you for sharing your insights.

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