Graceful Warrior: Learning to Trust Your Gut Feelings

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In the last century or two we have come to believe that all of our intelligence resides in the mind. While much of the higher thinking, reasoning and theorizing comes from our mind, it is not our only intelligence center. Actually ever part of the body has intelligence, specifically as to how and when to function.

We have three core intelligence centers: brain, heart and stomach /intestines (gut). It is important to be connected to all of them. The brain is the rational center for intelligence. If trying to make a serious decision in your life, such as to move or to switch jobs, your brain can only reason the good aspects and the bad aspects of the decision. You can make a decision based on pros versus cons, but it just doesn’t encompass all the aspects of your life and how it will be affected. Sometimes the decisions we make aren’t rational and can’t really be rationalized, but we just know that they are the right decision. This is where your other two intelligences come into play.

Recently a friend of mine started looking for a new job and immediately became a top contender for a job that on paper looked great: work from home, grow a new segment of a business (i.e. be her own boss), and do something that was slightly different, meaning she would grow her contacts in her current industry. The job would cut out her 45-minute-plus commute each way and give her freedom to search for her first home in a less expensive part of town (further from her current job). After a weekend of fretting over it (and her husband and all her friends saying go for it), she just couldn’t do it. She decided that she couldn’t ethically work on the products associated with the potential job.

Her decision was made using her mind, heart and gut and she was quite happy after she made her decision, and ended up making a few other changes in her perspective and life that made her current job better.

Over the past several decades, Western science has shifted toward the belief that our hearts have a central nervous system and even memories. There have been multiple tests on how brain waves and heart rhythms begin to sync up when we focus on our breath. Though there is no testing currently going on to prove that we have an intelligence in our gut, it is actually the most rational system we have in the body. Our whole digestive system is constantly managing what we put in it and labeling each molecule as useful for life or not and depositing each for processing or elimination. And think about it, how many times did you just get a feeling in your gut that you should or should not do something?

My most memorable example was the honey incident with my dog Belle. I love honey on my oatmeal every morning and at one point I got tired of having to constantly buy more at the farmer’s market, so I bought a gallon jar. I live in a small space and it wouldn’t fit in my cabinets, so I left it on the counter. My husband told me several times that I needed to push it to the back of the counter since Belle was such a counter surfer. One day, he was out of town and I was rushing through the house getting ready to leave for work and a little voice inside told me to move the honey back. But I was too busy to listen. When I got home from work, the honey jar was tipped over and a half-inch layer of honey coated my counter. The cabinets had drippings all the way down and the floor was sticky from where my dog had been licking the honey up. Fun times!

So how do we avoid having to clean up a big mess of honey? Learn to listen to the intelligence in our hearts and guts more. Yoga helps to sync up all three of our intelligence centers. By focusing the mind through moving the body with the breath, we naturally begin to interconnect our intelligence centers.

Here is of my favorite breathing exercises for connecting in to your heart and gut:

Lie on your back either with a pillow under your knees. Bring one hand onto your heart and one hand onto your belly. Begin by drawing your inhale down into your belly, feeling your belly rise under your hand. As you exhale, feel your belly draw down. Do this for 5-10 full breaths.

Next begin to shift the breath, feeling your heart/ribcage expand (more out to the sides that up toward the sky) under your hand. The breath still draws down toward your belly, but your belly movement is a fraction of what it was. On your exhale, feel your ribs start to knit back together. Spend five minutes breathing slowly this way allowing your hands to sink down and connect with your heart center and gut. Listen to anything that arises, take note and use this intelligence in any decisions you have to make in your life.

About Gina Shelton

We live in a dualistic world, or really a multi-istic one. As a woman, you are expected to be smart, caring, creative, and dedicated at your job, with your significant other and your family, plus you are supposed to make time for yourself in order to stay healthy and sane. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start thinking of all the aspects of your life that you are constantly juggling.

For me, this is where yoga comes in. In the West, we mostly view yoga as a physical practice and that is definitely how I got into it. But what I’ve realized in my 10+ years of practicing yoga, is that it has become more than just something I do to stay in shape, it has changed the way I view myself and the world and consequently how I interact with others.

Over the years, yoga has helped me meal my crumbling marriage, my low back and hip pain deemed chronic by my insurance company, and is now supporting me through my next ventures: trying to start a business and a family.

My love of yoga (I knew it was for me in my very first class), led me to begin training to teach after a year. I took my time learning all I could and finally became a YOGA ALLIANCE registered teacher in 2005. Since then, I have become a certified yoga therapist through Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Therapy program and will soon have my Yoga Alliance 500-hour teacher certification.

This blog will cover topics related to yoga poses and breath awareness that will help you to find the graceful warrior hidden inside you: Strength to manage the everyday stresses in your life as you gracefully create new habits and patterns that allow you to find comfort, health and hope in all areas of your life.

Gina Shelton is a Yoga Alliance registered teacher and Loyola Marymount University certified yoga therapist. She lives in Venice, CA with her husband and weimeraner puppy Fleur. You can read more about creating a healthy lifestyle on her blog