From Doubled Over to Back Bends
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
I used to depend heavily on probiotics and other things to help me get through the day without my stomach aching and cramping up. I would lay on my stomach after work, trying to explain to my body that it only had ten minutes to feel better - at least a little normal - so I could put on regular clothes again and make an evening meeting or event. I’d mess with my breathing; I’d spend a little time rolling to one side and then the other side. I knew my chances of feeling better depended on how the first couple minutes of laying down went, whether I could calm myself and if the kids would allow me to just lie still. But so many times, I wanted nothing more than for my stomach and any other related organs to leave my body. I was sure I could get along better without them. The discomfort and frustration be reflected in my mood and my face, as countless times my husband would ask, “Are you going to be ok? Should you make an appointment with someone?” It even got so bad that I left work one afternoon, and after an hour of laying on the floor in excruciating pain, I took myself to immediate care. The cure? An enema and probiotics. Well, it was the cure for that day anyway. But that didn’t prevent my stomach from feeling awful again the following week.
In my state at that time – stressed out, intense, sleeping little, eating “ok” and getting to exercise a couple times a week when I wasn’t traveling – there would be no cure for my stomach pains. Back then, the strong probiotics helped, but the pains were still there. Back then I saw no other means of feeling better than what I was already doing. And the stomach issues became more frequent and more prevalent.
Today, I don’t take probiotics. I can’t remember the last time I laid on the floor in pain. I view Greek yogurt not a necessary evil to help my stomach – instead it’s ingested as a source of protein (with granola, of course :-)
What changed? How could I go from one extreme to the other?
For me, wellness could never start with diet, I just don’t have the willpower. All my will is spent on other things, like business ownership, clients, and family. I knew myself well enough to know that the road to feeling better could only begin with exercise. But while the boot camps and running made me feel better that day, after a few times I’d have other problems. My knees or hips would hurt from the impact, and then I was back to where I started from. Besides, I always felt under pressure to perform better, so I really didn’t want a boot-camp-style class where someone would come over and tell me to push myself harder. So I tried yoga. A CorePower opened up near my office, so I thought I would give it a try. It was a bit of a shock for me – the room was silent and at the end of class we had to lay there and do nothing (a.k.a. savasana). I definitely was not used to that. My husband often joked about the number of minutes he could get me to sit still, watching me get antsy. If he got ten minutes out of me, it was a major victory! I realized yoga worked my muscles and made me feel good, just like the exercise classes before, with the added bonus that my body didn’t hurt from any impact. And no one told me to work harder. I could just come to class in whatever state I was in.
I started going more frequently and began to notice other things. For example, I was actually taking real breaths – at least they seemed to be real breaths – especially compared to the way I was normally breathing – those short, shallow breaths, that may have reached the first third of my lungs. I also became more aware of how my body felt – like actually making that connection to smaller, more subtle feelings. Maybe most importantly, I would have a little time to escape from thinking about all my responsibilities - and doing - and doing more - because I never quite seemed to think I was enough. And in those minutes that I escaped, my body and mind transformed. The stress was still there, but it didn’t have me in such a tizzy.
It’s amazing how much better I felt when I detached from life, took a breath and moved my body.
Slowly my stomach didn’t hurt as much or as often. Slowly, I started practicing more and more – even when I was traveling, I would try to sneak in a few minutes in the morning, or I’d take ten minutes less to get ready for dinner so I could fill those minutes with yoga and breathing.
By accepting that approach, I realized I didn’t have to have 60 consecutive minutes of yoga, followed by 15 minutes of meditation to be legit. If I could find two or three 10-minute slots in the day to connect breath with movement, and breath to intention, my state of mind would be so much more positive, and calm. While client, business and family demands still stressed me out, I began to see them from a different perspective.
It’s taken a few years, but I now hit my mat nearly every day of the week and know that I must also include a little meditation, chanting or breath-work, ending in a prayer, to kick off my day right. I’ve also made other changes in my life – lifestyle and work changes. My days look quite different from before, but then again so do I. Most importantly, I feel better and my family likes being around me more.
Making changes for the better can be tough, but I can tell you that things work themselves out – sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly – but they do work out and you are all the better for it. Consider this quote from former Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolin, who asked “What about your health is preventing you from living the life you want to lead?” My stress and stomach aches prevented me from getting through the day, let alone considering anything greater! Now at least I can plan for that life without being doubled over.