Are You Really Connected to Your Body?

Like most of us that choose to live in Colorado, I’m sure you value getting outdoors and exercising. And you likely believe you are in tune with your body. However, there is a difference between being in tune with your physical body and being attuned to the emotional cues your body are telling you.

Do you ever notice what happens to your body when you feel anxious or sad? Do you know how your body cues you that you are repressing a feeling or feeling ashamed? Do you respond to the cues your body is sending you or do you stay in go mode or numb out instead?

We are not taught in school or as children in our family environments the importance of listening to our bodies. Yet, our bodies are powerful truth tellers.

As a college student I went through a period of intense anxiety. I didn’t know what was happening to my body and the slightest trigger (and sometimes seemingly no trigger at all) would send me into a panic attack. At first it was just confusing and random bouts of anxiety. Then I began to be afraid of the anxiety and would anticipate the anxiety so intensely that I would send myself into an anxiety attack for no reason. It took me several years of working with therapists to find one that helped me to slow down and finally LISTEN to my body. I worked with her to begin to understand my body’s unique pattern of anxiety and then how to respond to my fear through my body and settle back down to a state of peace.

Fast forward to my late 20s, I began working with women as a psychotherapist and training in body based methods for healing. During this training I began to learn about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways we hold ourselves based on our experiences in life and how we defend ourselves against pain in relationships. AND how our bodies hold unresolved trauma and can be the agent for healing old traumas. I learned during this training that I, the woman who had been a dancer her entire life, who did yoga, rock climbed and was at times in her life, hyper-focused on sensations of anxiety felt in her body, knew very little about the way I held my history, fears, and relationships in my body.

Turns out that my shoulders live in a state of forward motion because I defend against my fears of worthiness through hustling and “go-mode.” And my belly and rear stick out a bit because I hold a defense of being “cute” in my body to give off the non-verbal message that I am immature and need help navigating the world. Oh, and I lock my knees because there is a part of me that feels like a burden!

Of course, these were startling discoveries for me. I had thought I was attuned to my body. I knew how to not push myself too hard exercise and avoid getting hurt. I knew what foods my body preferred. I knew how to exchange my weight and match my weight with a partner while dancing. I knew how to calm my body down from a panic attack! I knew how to respond to my body to prevent panic attacks. But this was new. I learned how my emotions and soul’s path were showing up in my body now. Now, I could begin to heal the deep fears and pains that held me back from healthy and long lasting relationships. Now, I could release fears that held me back from feeling worthy of love and acceptance and belonging.

Turns out there was a lot of information my body was waiting to share with me about my fears and defense against these fears. Since then, I have started listening much more closely to my body. I have learned to hear the cues and respond to my body’s needs on a deeper level. I am now able to follow my body to wellness and my soul’s true path. I hope you will too start to reach beyond just the physical experience of exercising or the surface of knowing your body and begin to examine what your body can tell you about your fears, needs, hopes and dreams.

Kimberly Ottinger