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.
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!
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.
I really appreciate the language around a “little laboratory” because it makes the practitioner the scientist. I believe this helps increase accountability for feeling our own bodies, making adjustments to feel more comfortable, and to confidently approach challenges (physical, mental, emotional) that are appropriate for all layers of our being.
I think it is very important to use tools that allow us to ‘check-in’ and bring awareness to how we are feeling from the inside out. I’ve had a few instances wherein doctors have prescribe strong pain killers/muscle relaxers for myself and I only had them as last resorts — often times movement and self-care alleviates the sensations.
I really enjoyed this – with “interoception” you put a specific word and body of work to a practice I have begun to do more and more, with greater success. I am the only one who knows how my body and mind feel and work together – thus I am an expert as well. Thank you for the thoughtful article.
Totally agree we need self care to maintain our health. How many times do we check up with our doctors in a year? However, you have your own body everything day. Even you go to check up with your doctor, you need to answer the question and doctor bases on your symptoms to order a lab test & makes diagnostic. The more information you provide, it will help the whole process much easier.
This is a great article. So many of us go through life without even noticing the subtleties of how our bodies work or when we need to seek consultation. Taking an intensive anatomy course really changed the way I live and care for my body.
Interoception is so important in healing yourself not just physically but mentally as well. It’s so important to be able to notice things in your own body. Somethings are very obvious but other things take very careful observation. YTU has added this element to so many facets of my life. It seems to touch everything.
THis reminded me of Kelly Starrett saying “be your own experiment”, either way, it encouragespositive changes and increased awareness of choice.
This article definitely resonates with me. I feel like adulthood has been and continues to be a process of undoing and discovery, of listening and feeling more subtly. It’s amazing how much potential for insight and awareness we have when we give ourselves permission. Thank you for sharing, Kate.
Curious how we get doctors on board with more eastern approaches to holistic healthcare? do we need to find new doctors, or can we get current doctors on board and respect this aspect of ” medicine? “
This article rings true to me. I have always listened to my body’s cues, and have taken interest in what I can do at home myself to either prevent it from happening again, or to treat it until I have healed. Being a “student of your body” is important, it empowers you to recognize when something has changed with your health, or well being, and be able to talk to a health care professional sooner than later about it. It empowers you to learn more about yourself, and how to take better care of yourself. I believe in working with a doctor, or other health care provider as well, one who is a good listener, and able to provide useful information on how to take better care of yourself , it doesn’t have to be a path you take alone. This may give you more information on ways to take better care of yourself at home. I love the yoga tune up balls for part of a self care treatment, the physiological and physical benefits they have provided me on my journey to a stronger and healthier body have been amazing.
A common theme that’s been flowing through my life recently has been self empowerment & self love… both of which I find challenging, but both of which I refuse to give up. Love that these little rubber balls & YTU give me the tools, opportunity & space to explore, connect & understand both power & love. With every roll out I am able to go deeper into my own personal “little laboratory”.
” 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.
I love this article. Self-care and self-assessment is so crucial and holds the key to our overall health. For years I went to a doctor and the two of us were unable to figure out what was going on inside me. After tests and plenty of visits, I began assessing my own symptoms and logging what I felt in my body at certain times. It wasn’t until I went back to the doctor a few weeks later with a full log of my symptoms that we were able to connect anxiety to what was happening internally with me. It opened the floor for us to head into the right direction to address my symptoms. Thank you, Janelle
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.
I really liked this article – it seems so intuitive that the more you used your body (mindful movement, breath, exploration) the more “familiar” you are with the sensations of your body. This heightened awareness helps you identify changes that you experience, and you may have a better perspective if the changes are good or bad (and should be cause for concern).
I really liked this article – it seems so intuitive that the more you work with your body (movement, breath, exploration) the more “familiar” you will be with sensations and the more you will be aware of them when they change (either in a good way or a bad way)! I think the “little laboratory” analogy is perfect – we are our own laboratories and the testing is continuous.
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.
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.
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??
Such an important topic! Thank you for sharing your insights.