February 11, 2017 Liza Swedarsky, MD FacebookTwitterPinterest Honoring Health Vow #2: I Vow to Stay Connected to My Body to Hear and Feel Everything it has to Say Our bodies Speak, not by chance… and if you learn to listen you may be guided to greater possibilities for yourself. In the year 2012, I had been a runner for 28 years. And that’s when everything changed. At that time I was living in Florida taking a five-year hiatus from the Midwestern and East Coast climates I had become accustomed to for the purpose of pursing a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Surgery. My career path led me there for a short stent. But the life lessons learned during those years were priceless and endless. By that time, I had moved five times in 10 years. To pursue my fellowship training we decided to leave our jobs and move from Boston to Florida. Besides financial stress, and work challenges I started running more. What I finally realized…. My entire life, running had been my meditative practice. When facing life stressors or if I needed time to think, I’d run instead of “getting quiet.” But my body decided to show me that there are other ways to find peace. After two years of regular running I had never looked so good. I started training for a half-marathon when my son was just 6 months old. Still breast feeding, I had my concerns but noticing my back side still moving when I had long ago stopped walking…I felt it was time. I found a running partner, increased my fluid intake, and my milk supply was fine, so I continued to run. Although I had good intentions, I wasn’t giving my body the time it really needed to become stronger in light of running 20-35 miles per week. I underestimated the importance of strength training. Unlike in my 20’s when I took time to regularly lift weights at least three times a week. I found myself just “fitting in” my work out. As a full time working Mother with a demanding career, I felt I didn’t have the luxury to lift weights adding more time away from home in addition to my long runs. I didn’t have two hours to spare to use at the gym. I’d wake up at 4 am, meet a running partner and run 3-7 miles, sometimes more, and try to be back home before anyone was awake so I could help prepare for the day before going to work. Problem is, my body had changed. Mentally I still felt like the young woman in her early 20’s. My body soon began to tell me otherwise. I developed chronic left hip pain. The pain was so intense; it started to affect even my ability to sit down for more than a minute. When I found myself in pain during even performing an exam on a patient, I actually left the office that day to see an Orthopedic Surgeon. After an x-ray and MRI I was diagnosed with gluteal medius and minimus tendonosis and tendonitis. What?!! Who gets that? My prescriptions were fourfold: Stop running Physical Therapy Strengthen Your Hips with Exercises that you will learn in Physical Therapy Don’t do Yoga So after 9 months of working with an amazing physical therapist, I only felt 60 % better. Forty – five minute Gluteal massages (heavenly), strengthening work, and excellent conversation twice a week only got me so far. I had been suffering from chronic hip pain for almost a year and a half. What would any good patient do? …Ignore the Doctor’s orders. Something in my mind told me, you know that little voice that just knows… “Try yoga” So I did. There was a yoga studio just down the street from my house, and lucky for me, an amazing instructor named Chuck. My first Yoga class was a hot mess. I was all over the place, watching everyone… completely clueless. Let’s not even talk about breathing or an Ujjayi breath. I had no clue what they were even talking about. I had spent most of my life congested, sounding like I was perpetually recovering from a cold. I moseyed on into that first class, Liza style, like I knew what I was doing. I was thankful Chuck was the instructor. In hindsight he was exactly what I needed. A gentleman of experience, he was more mature, likely in his 50’s. So he had more patience and nothing to prove. It wasn’t a power class, but a true Hatha class. He honored movement, breath, and every asana. He was amazing and after only a couple of months, my pain was gone. Not only that, I was breathing clearly, felt considerably more grounded and at peace, and had learned about the importance of slowing down, getting quiet, being still. Yoga became a blessing, and my yoga mat, a peaceful sacred space. I started attending classes at least three times per week. The lessons I learned reached far beyond any long run. My days of being able to enjoy any cookie or pastry I chose to eat without gaining a pound were soon to be a distant memory. However I learned how to quiet my mind, be present, and use my body in a meditative way while practicing yoga. These skills propelled me into a sound daily meditation practice. And my meditation practice then began to help my yoga practice. And there I was, pain free, more grounded, and full of grace, but yet, still a major work in progress… I began to focus on gratitude. A sense of gratefulness filled my being. I felt grateful for having my career and family, instead of overwhelmed. I felt gratitude for having a misfit experience at work so that I would be inspired to find the right fit and therefore fulfill my life’s mission. I felt grateful for ever having hip pain in the first place. Because I chose not to ignore that pain, and honor my inner voice, which guided me to yoga, my spiritual awakening continued to spiral to new dimensions. This experience was just the beginning in teaching me a valuable life lesson… That everything is as it should be at any given time. The experiences we have in life are to teach us, so we can continue to grow and evolve. Whenever I’m feeling out of alignment or having pain, I’ve learned it is a call to action. A calling to wake up, pay attention, make changes. We all have that power. It all starts by being able to listen, then take action. Be grateful for every experience.