Pain: The Body Speaks!

Before slab heating, when folks carried firewood on their backs to heat earthen dens, and pregnant women birthed squatting in fields, there wasn’t an osteopath or pre-natal yoga class in sight. People became bent, twisted and core-floppy, and learned to live with it. Today, drug companies inject analgesia by the billions of dollars into a pain-killer familiar culture. The moment the body grunts, we pop a pill. What would happen if we stopped drugging our bodies for speaking up, and listened instead?

Australia’s thousands of yoga practitioners are listening ̶ to body, breath and mind ̶ for better health. According to RMIT’s 2006 Yoga in Australia survey of 4,000 practitioners, many “self-prescribed” yoga to address specific health issues such as back pain and stress management. But with the number of osteopaths tripling in Australia between 1996 and 2006 according to Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data , plenty of us still seek intervention for issues that might be managed through lifestyle change.

There’s loads to be learned from sitting with discomfort ̶ I don’t mean dribbling sleeplessly into the pillow with toothache, or enduring a javelin-behind-the-eye headache ̶ I mean the familiar pains of office-induced back aches, stiff necks, tension headaches, irritable bowels, tired vision, RSI.

I had a physiotherapist of spectacular patience ‘release’ me as his client because he could no longer support my tension headache habit (what did I expect, working 15-hour days?). But one day, a chiropractor (and provocative philosopher), suggested I “sit” with the all-consuming clump gripping my spine, for one week. Mysteriously, the knot morphed, then softened. I began observing the shadows of countless back/knee/neck/head/gut pains moving through my physical landscape. My costly reliance on health professionals dropped away. I’d spent adulthood as a strung-out worker bee landing on one practitioner’s table before buzzing off to the next.

Talk about Revelation. When I actually sat with my dis-ease and learned my body’s language, each discomfort signalled a collapse under stress, underpinned by some errant belief system ̶ “If you work hard enough, you’ll find purpose in life”; “You’re only interesting because of your job”.

Beneath my tension headaches was a perfectionist slaving rabidly for acknowledgement in the iron-eating media machine. Chronic tiredness was remedied by more protein, lighter exercise and fresh air. Lower back instability and a plague of boils unleashed the anger suppressed in a toxic relationship. Chronic RSI became the antidote to undue angst over money while freelancing.

One night, while teaching back-to-back yoga classes, my gut squirmed in an entirely new way. My body whispered calmly: “Cancel the next the class.” And I did. Within hours, I was in hospital with appendicitis.

By listening to my body’s language, I’ve been able to manage my health largely with diet and yoga, seeking advice from savvy health practitioners when necessary.

But perhaps the most valuable lesson came from my dear mentor and friend, Marie-Therese, who, after 11 years of studying the body-speak of her breast, lung and bone cancer, taught me that despite all discomfort, vitality can be found in every day. Marie-Therese simply focused on what was going right, not what was wrong.

Sure, there’s pain you can’t ignore, and drugs are useful for that, sometimes you need a break to catch your breath. But if you observe closely familiar discomfort, and even chronic pain, it can dissipate when we explore whatever load we’re carrying and start to engage with Life in a meaningful way.


  • Back in Action, Sarah Key – Aussie specialist shares excellent back-care knowledge for beginners.
  • You Can Heal Your Life, Louise L. Hay – beginner’s guide to moving beyond physical causes to heal.
  • Ageless Body Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra – ditto, but more technical & scientific.
  • Why People Don’t Heal & How They Can, Caroline Myss – exploring your energy systems to heal.