We are all given a body and a mind to drive it, but how many of us hear our body but are not really ‘listening’?
I was in the shower today, where a lot of ideas and processing seems to happen for me. I’d just done a short mindful movement to music workout for 10 minutes beforehand and this came into my head like a flashing light bulb! However it’s been evolving in my mind for a while.
Many things have been going on in my personal life as far as physical and mental health are concerned. Yes I am a Personal Trainer and Pilates/bodyART Instructor and yes my background has been as a professional ballet dancer. It struck me recently that I have never really thanked my body for allowing me to put it through all it has endured over the years. I certainly never consulted my body or checked in with how it would cope, I just did what I wanted to do at the time.
Ambition and passion can cause us not to ‘listen’ to our body.
My passion and love of ballet was so strong from an early age I certainly never thought about what the long-term repercussions of what I was doing would be. Besides, we think we are bulletproof when we are young, right? Looking back some 40 plus years ago, there was a lot less awareness, education or maintenance support for those undertaking such a physically and mentally demanding ballet career. As my life has been unfolding, I have put my body through hell one way and another, and it’s faithfully come along for the ride as best it could, sometimes trying to tell me it wasn’t really OK. This is when I heard it but I did not really ‘listen’.
A good example is ‘turn out’ as a ballet dancer; my hips are narrow and not made to turn out to a full open flat second position. For years I forced them to create the aesthetic picture I was so obsessed to obtain, no consideration for what that was doing to my hip joints. At 17, about to go to London to train intensively, I had major problems with fluid in one of my hip joints causing chronic pain. I was told at the time by an orthopedic surgeon, if I didn’t give up I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30. Of course I ignored him, went to London and was fortunate to be referred to an excellent Osteopath who helped me understand how my hips worked in the joint as well as giving me treatment that alleviated the problem so I could continue. The rest is history and I did become a professional ballet dancer. Fast forward another 25 years and my hips are telling me they are not happy to turn out and alignment is critical for them to function well. Fortunately the kind of training I do now doesn’t hinder my hips, it helps and maintains strength and mobility.
Are you are ‘talker’ or a ‘good listener’?
Think about how people communicate with each other, there are those that do a lot of talking but don’t really ‘listen’ to what others have to say. Then there are those that ‘listen’ intently and glean a lot of information and then have really meaningful, caring and considered responses to what they have heard. I believe I was the person doing a lot of talking with my body and very little actual ‘listening’.
I wanted so badly to dance as a child, it felt like it was part of me and being one with music was moving with it. But ballet is moving in a highly demanding unnatural way that looked aesthetically incredible, but was in no way kind or considerate to my body. I am now paying for some of this down the track but fortunately retired from professional dancing in my early thirties, which allowed for some recovery.
10 years ago I discovered my current passion to help people to become fit and healthy without ‘smashing’ their bodies. I love teaching people to challenge, strengthen and understand their bodies and the powerful connection our mind can have to allow greater mobility and joyful independence as well as longevity.
A New Awareness through bodyART
The icing on the cake has been the addition of bodyART training 2 years ago, it taught me the importance of Yin and Yang, of balance and of the fact that we not only need to control and strengthen our bodies we need to release and let go as well. I now realize only recently, that I have ‘held’ and controlled as much of me as I could to cope. This rigid strength translates into my physical being, yes I have a reasonably agile and fit body but it wasn’t until the last couple of years I understood that I was never really ‘letting go’. The bodyART German Master Trainer, pointed this out to me very caringly in 2016. That year just happened to be a pinnacle and super stressful 20th year of my charity, but in amongst it I undertook further Level 2 bodyART training and I remember her saying to me ‘Andrea, you are too controlled, you need to learn to ‘let go’. I knew this didn’t mean wild parties, I knew this meant the level of tension I was subconsciously holding in my body as well as my brain. I didn’t just hear her, I was really listening, it struck a new chord with me, she was absolutely right.
Finally I am learning to ‘listen to my body’
After a recent 9-month battle with Clostridium-Difficile infection and many doses of antibiotics I took with some resistance, but told there was no choice by my Gastroenterologist.I am now left with a depleted and unhealthy gut that needs to be re-surrected to a healthy state again. I am tuning into what my gut tells me, learning about low Fodmap food, having acupuncture and taking a pro-active long-term healing approach to this. My insides and outside are needing me to ‘listen’ – I have heard them but I realize I did not truly ‘listen’ until recently. My dance & theatre career, running my own business, being a single Mum as well as juggling the running of a charity close to my heart, has always taken priority and some recent events saw me fighting to be heard. I was finally putting my health first and shutting out all the noise so I could really listen and focus – when I did, the messages were loud and clear.
I know this sort of situation is likely to come into focus as our children grow up and this is the timing for me. I feel fortunate my body has been faithful and strong and I’d like to think I can still heal and repair it as much from the inside out as possible. It takes commitment, consistency and effort, but I think my body and I deserve it.
How can I ‘listen’ to my body?
Meditation is a great way to be present and channel into how you feel but it may not be the answer to tuning fully into your body when it moves. Mindful Movement has always been like an old friend I know and love. Today I put some beautiful calm music on, closed my eyes and focused on my breathe, slowly moving through some of the bodyART Earth and Wood elements I now know so well. I found myself really ‘listening very patiently to what my body was telling me’, it felt like a new level of awareness again. I was not trying to look or be a certain way, I was just moving as my body and breathe were telling me without visual distraction, influenced to flow by what I could hear. Of course this is what ‘bodyART’ is and yet after nearly 2 years of practicing it and being a little wiser from a bit more life experience, it felt somehow new and amazing, I was finally really ‘listening’ to my body.
We all become caught up in what we want and what we think we need, and there is so much ‘in our face’ information being thrust at us. I believe many of us, including me, have not really been ‘listening’. But we can.
The great news is, it costs nothing. It just takes awareness, patience, focus and time devoted fully to ‘listening’ to our bodies. The body that has served us our whole life to this point and really deserves our full attention often and regularly.
If this blog relates to you in any way perhaps you might be interested in learning more about bodyART Training ‘the art of movement’ with APT.
bodyART Classes are held weekly in Richmond, see www.aptandpilates.com/timetable
bodyART @ Burnley Backyard Term 3 starting 18 July: