July 13, 2012

Ssshh, Body! I’m Trying To Ignore You. ~ Helen Sutermeister

Apart from when my parents are talking at me, I like to pride myself on being a good listener.

I do genuinely take in and care about friend’s woes or even engaging in a conversation with a stranger. I have friends who have perfected the art of nodding and grunting in the right places—to show you they are listening—but nothing can hide the vacant gaze in the eyes. No one is that good.

So now I have admitted to the world that I hold a very high opinion of myself when it comes to listening.

What’s the friggin’ deal when it comes to listening to my body? My very own machine that carries me through life.

The body is a phenomenon.

It talks to us and tells us its problems—its worries and its pains—but often it gets ignored. My best friend in the whole world is shouting out for assistance, but I shut out it out and carry on.

Now, at the ripe old age of 30, I have finally decided to take note. No more ignoring or selective hearing. I am going to take it all in and try to help. The way I would help any other friend.

For starters, I bloat terribly after some meals. This has always been the case, but it passes and I move on, giving it little to no thought. I just subtly unbutton my top button. Surely my stomach extending past my toes is a clear indication that something in there is punching my tummy in the face, so I need to stand up for it.

By a process of elimination, it appears I am having an issue with wheat. I know a lot of people have issues with wheat, but never thought I was one of them.

So after a few changes—a bit of rye here and some wheat free pasta there—my belly is feeling happy and loved.

Next, after a crazy day at work, I am exhausted. It is only three PM, but I am so shattered that I could curl up on the couch and snooze. Why? I haven’t eaten any food since ten AM. This is a total rarity for me.

I have been starving my friend effectively and now it is seriously lacking in energy. It just wants to rest to conserve what little energy it does have.

Moving away from food, this morning during my yoga practice I felt a little twinge in my neck. It was a  tiny twinge, almost unnoticeable. Surly nothing to worry or think twice about. I totally ignored it.

So when it came to a seven headstand sequence, off I went and by headstand number three. I couldn’t lift up, but I kept trying, and then it happened. It went from a twinge into an exploding, searing pain. I was unable to move.

I could hear my body cackling, rolling about in hysterics snorting something like, ‘I warned you, you fool’.

Not long ago, a close friend of mine was experiencing some very strong pain in her stomach (its a sensitive soul, the old tum, tum isn’t it?). I suggested that she go and see a doctor and in the mean time, take some pain killers.

She eventually agreed to see the doctor, to she refused the pain killers. Her reasoning being that pills mask the pain and obviously the pain is there for a reason.

If her body is experiencing something, she wants to know about it, not hide it.

This was a real moment for me, in my quest to be a less selective listener. I’m not suggesting that we all boycott any kind of pain relief, but I think we can be a lot more comfortable in life if we try to be more cognizant of what the cause may be.

A headache is usually dehydration, which means your trusty friend is dying of thirst (not in the literal sense, obviously). Popping a pill isn’t feeding you a couple of glasses of water, its just helping you ignore something important your mate has to say.

Regardless of whether you believe that lower back issues are caused by emotional pain or spots in between the eyebrows are telling you that your liver is stumbling around drunk on red wine, we can’t deny the less subtle symptoms are our bods giving us a gentle plea to make a change.

By being more mindful of what our bodies are saying and asking, we get that little bit closer to leading a healthier, happier, more energetic life. A blissfully bloat free life, with top buttons remaining firmly fastened at all times.


Helen completed her yoga teacher training four years ago, on the island of Koh Samui. Having a penchant for glorious places, she then opened her own studio in Sydney but now resides in London. Helen is at her happiest travelling the world, meeting new people, being on her mat….and writing about it. 



Editor: Carolyn Gilligan

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