Listen.

A woman wearing a long skirt, with long blonde hair, is dancing and praising God, while silhouetted against the evening sky

Today was my fourth Hot Yoga class. It was also the second time I have cried in class. That is 50%. I would say I am batting pretty good. I didn’t cry because I wanted to throw up. Or pass out. Or because I was dizzy. I cried because I realized something. I realized what a gift it is to listen to my body. I realized I need to pay attention to what it is telling me. It’s not like I don’t know how to pay attention. I pay attention to my husband, kids, friends, and everything else that is clamoring for my focus, love, and affection. My body is clamoring too. It desperately wants my focus. My love. My affection. It desperately wants me to listen.

As I look back over my 40 years, I can distinctly see that my body shouts differently and in a way that is hard for me to hear. It shouts in a way I don’t recognize at times, or simply don’t want to. For years it has silently screamed at me with signs for help. Stop doing that Niki, it hurts! Don’t eat that Niki, you will feel sick. Go to sleep Niki, you are tired. Breathe Niki, you are drowning. Say no Niki, you aren’t supposed to do that. But I, in my all-knowing wisdom for how my life should run, ignored my body for so long that finally even the shouting signs were complete and utter silence to me. I had methodically turned a blind eye. That is, until I fell. Until I broke. Until I spiraled down a black hole and landed in the hospital almost two years ago with a full blown anxiety attack. My body had finally found a way to get the message across. Niki. Stop. It’s time to listen. So I did.

Not because I chose to stop and listen, but my body had enough of my abuse and neglect and it made me stop and listen. It stopped itself for me, and changed my life forever. Thank you, body. The first Hot Yoga class I attended, I was a little nervous. Could my battered and still recovering body even do this? I didn’t know. But what I did know, was that I had to try. I knew exercise was a missing piece for me. It had been two years since I stopped my habit of running. I was too sick to run. I went walking with my husband which was wonderful, but not really a stress reliever or sweat inducer. I even tried running a few times (because I haven’t got the listening to my body thing quite down yet) only to have set backs until I finally played my cards of acceptance and saw running for what it was in my life. A nice piece of my past that had served its purpose for that time. Things were different now. I was different now, and that had to be okay. Eventually, I knew it would be.

I signed up for Hot Yoga class because I knew I needed to detoxify somehow (sweat) and strengthen my body. I needed low impact and I needed something peaceful and stress relieving. Why did I think I needed to detoxify? Because I have been struggling for seven weeks straight with full blown chronic hives. Obviously, my supplements, diet changes (which have been radical), probiotics, enzymes, prebiotics, etc. were not enough. I am still sick two years later (however, with some progress). Elimination isn’t cutting it. Elimination and supplements aren’t cutting it. How do I know this? I am covered in hives. Every day. Every night. Hives have made me listen. It took a few weeks of hives to tune in. I just thought I’d take my antihistamines for a while and I would be all better. But, I’m not. So now I’m listening. For some reason I am a hard learner.

About a week ago during church service there was a call for prayer. My heart leapt, and I knew what I needed to do. Go down to the altar and have someone pray for me. Recently, I was listening online to a very well know speaker who talked about how, yes, it is wonderful if God does a miracle, but our struggle through the problem is what causes us to grow. So far I hadn’t had any miracles regarding my health. But yes, I had grown and changed. As I made my way down to the front for prayer, I remembered a scripture that had been on my tongue often these past two years.

“If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

Standing at the altar I shared a fraction of my story and I asked for healing and wisdom. They prayed for me and I went back to my seat. The Word of God says that if you lack wisdom, ask Him. He will give it generously. I need wisdom to heal my body. I have no idea why I have chronic hives that can only be suppressed by eight antihistamines a day. Eight. A normal person with a hive outbreak will see them burn out in a day or maybe even a week or two. I am on week seven. I have eliminated all problem foods as far as I know and still, day after day, my body is covered in hives. I desperately need God’s wisdom and guidance. So I prayed, had friends pray with me, and I asked for wisdom.

The next day my scripture was:

“This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

He was going to teach me what was best for my body and direct me where I should go and how to take care of it. I didn’t have the answers. He did. The Bible tells me so. That day, as I was researching my symptoms, I came upon a site about histamine intolerance. My eyes widened in disbelief as I read on and on for hours about a condition that affects around 1% of the population. A condition that hasn’t been widely recognized. Was this why I was have having allergic like reactions if I was consuming nothing I was allergic too? I checked off symptom after symptom, a ray of hope beginning to burn in my soul. Is this what was wrong with me? Is this what was wrong with my body? Did I not have enough of the correct enzyme to break down histamine so it builds, and builds, and builds until my histamine bucket overflows? Do other people out there suffering with hives for weeks, months, and even years know about this condition? I know I didn’t. But God did.

Histamine is a normal part of our body. We create histamine during digestion. Pretty much all food has histamine. So what was going on with my body and histamine? As I read on over the week about this subject, I learned that some bodies can’t handle histamine like other bodies can. I don’t even know the size of my bucket yet but considering how sick I’ve been I must have been blessed with a small one. My hope grew as I researched more about this fascinating intolerance. I pored over article after article, noting low-histamine food lists and emailing myself information about foods to avoid and all the places histamine can be found. I memorized high histamine foods, which were (not shockingly) all the foods I am either allergic to or have major food sensitivities too. Things began to come together for me. I recalled about half-way through my hive outbreak that I cut out processed foods and all natural sugars (fruit) and my hives did improve, they were only half as bad. They were still there, but better.

A missing piece to my elimination diet puzzle fell into place as I rid my diet of the last few high histamine foods I had been consuming daily (tomatoes for example) and began to focus on replacing what I had eliminated with highly nutritious, low histamine foods. My world tilted and I saw things differently. My lotion, shampoo, conditioner, nail polish, make-up, etc. were all adding to my histamine bucket. I bought fresh foods like organic chicken, fresh basil, cabbage, etc. and began to feed my body healing foods. Nutritious foods. I still steered clear of allergen foods and especially foods I had a huge intolerance for. My thinking shifted to eating to heal my body, not just eliminate what was hurting it. Nutrition to heal my gut and cleansing, detoxifying, strengthening exercise was clearly the next step in my journey back to health.

One week. One week of Hot Yoga, low histamine food consumption and high nutrition diet and I am down to one antihistamine at night (sometimes two if I have a big stressor). One. I was on eight last week. I would say I am pretty confident that I have a histamine intolerance. I asked for wisdom and God was faithful. For two years I have stumbled and eliminated getting a little better, and then a lot worse. Not very encouraging for someone who has struggled, eliminated, cut-back, etc. You are supposed to get better, not worse, right? Today, I feel like I have solid direction. A path to go on, if I so choose. I know I won’t heal overnight. But I know, I can heal. I know God has a major part for me to play in finding total health and wellness. It’s clear in the scriptures I shared. I need to ask for wisdom. Then he will teach me (and I need to do) and he will show me the path (and I need to go). This is a very active relationship here. God didn’t zap me with a miracle. But he is guiding me every step of the way. That to me is my miracle.

My scripture at the end of this past week was:

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 AMP

He showed me the path. So, as I laid quietly on my mat in Hot Yoga for my last five minutes of class, the tears came. The yoga position I was in, is called Shavasana (or, the corpse). You lay on your back with your arms at your side with your palms up and you breathe through your nose and relax. You can also lay on your stomach with your head turned to the side and your arms resting at your side. This position, on my stomach with my head turned to the right is where the cleansing tears came. Shavasana is meant to regroup and rest yourself. As I rested and listened to my body, I was gently reminded that my body had been trying on its own to help me. You see, at night, over the past couple of years when I fall asleep, I fall asleep in the Shavasana position. Tummy down, head turned to the right, and arms at my sides with my palms up. My body knew. My body was seeking peace and rest. Something I wasn’t giving it. My body was trying to let go of anxiety and stress, even if I wouldn’t. I have never done any type of Yoga. I knew nothing about the practice before this week. Yet my body, gloriously created by God, was trying so hard to help me. I just wouldn’t listen.

Well, I am listening now. I may have ignored and silenced my body for years, however, I have my whole life ahead of me to listen. To listen when I need to stop. To listen when I need to go. To listen when I need to rest. To listen when I need to say no. The lie that would like to take root is that I don’t have time to take care of myself. The truth is, I don’t have time to not take care of myself. Not taking care of me resulted in a major anxiety attack that I have been slowly crawling back to life from for the past two years. Who has time for that? So today, I am going to do what I am supposed to do. Whatever that may be, and in order to do that, I need to listen. I am going to seek God, I am going to take care of me, which in turn will flood new life in to my home, my marriage, my children, and my relationship with others in this great big world. Today, I choose to listen. – Niki

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