The Importance of Community II

The woman on the other end of the telephone is crying. Between sobs, she says, “Thank you for looking out for my adult son, Dylan.  When he told me that he was not feeling well, I ignored him–his complaints.  He felt something was wrong with his body, but he complains so much of the time that I did not listen to him.  I didn’t believe him.”


Dylan has been attending my yoga classes for some time.  As part of the requirement to check-in with the instructor at the beginning of class with health concerns, Dylan had mentioned to me that he felt there was something going on with his body, though he did not know what.  He wanted me to know that whatever it was seemed to impact his sense of balance.

“Have you seen a physician?” I asked at the time.

“The physician treats me like I am a complainer…like it is all in my head.  He is not hearing me,” Dylan responds.

After several classes.  Dylan and I talk about his balance issues.

“Dylan, I think you need to go back to the doctor and become your own best advocate.  Tell the physician that there is something wrong and that it is showing up here in class as a serious balance issue.

“Remember that, to some extent, the physician’s hands are tied on the issue of ordering more tests because, without additional ‘evidence,’ he cannot justify ordering more tests to the insurance company.  But this additional information from class should help you,” I attempt to reassure him.

Dylan is not in yoga for a few weeks.  Then, suddenly, he reappears.  After another set of class absences, Dylan comes back to yoga class with a diagnosis.  And, a few days later, Dylan’s mother calls to extend her gratitude for my encouraging Dylan to listen to his body and advocate for himself.

Listening to the Body

Trying to describe to my yoga students what it is like–while sitting in meditation–to listen to and ask my cellular body what it needs to maintain well-being, I have to admit that listening to the body is one of the most difficult tasks a person could ever hope to master.  Listening usually involves making, sometimes daily, adjustments to habits of sustenance, physical activity, degree of solo time and/or appropriate social action.


Gaining a clear perception on how best to honor the physical frame, especially where two or more of the body’s systems or vital organs may be in non-agreement, renders each of us body-listeners-in-training, no matter how practiced we may become at juggling the body’s sometimes disparate requirements. (i.e. The heart needs movement and exercise, while a sprained ankle needs rest and elevation in order to repair.)

Over the course of many years of practice, I have learned these things:

1.  Most people need four to seven hours of dedicated quiet time or a personal practice involving a solo, repetitive activity each week in order to listen and “converse” with the body.

2.  If we have set aside time, we may become quite adept at discerning when the body is out of sorts, though we may not always be able to name or determine exactly what is going on–to make a “diagnosis.”  It is important to leave formal diagnosis to medical experts.

3.  We should all be consulting with professional, medical personnel on a regular basis and using their expertise to corroborate or dispel personal notions about what might be out of balance within the body–via formal testing and consultation.

4. A thoroughly practiced body-listener may have a sense that the body is out of balance even before something might show up on an allopathic medical test, and he or she might have the opportunity to assist the body in rebalancing itself through timely lifestyle changes.  So, keep listening.