Most of us have one. Some of us have more than one.
The canary is that spot in our body that will complain/hurt/show discomfort first. Not the happy hurt of a well-worked muscle, but the unhappy hurt of something being ‘wrong’. We may not be able to describe the wrong or say why it’s wrong, we just know that this is a sensation that we want gone from us.
And this isn’t the direct and immediate pain of a stubbed toe or broken bone. This is not a direct pain resulting from an immediate cause. This is a recurring pain without obvious source.
Phrases that point to a canary are:
- “Oh, there goes my <canary> again, hurting”
- “Figures, <canary> is sore again today”
- “I tripped and sure enough my <canary> hurts now”
- “Man, my <canary> is always sore, but today is so bad”
You know this, you get it. It’s the first place to hurt, the last to feel okay. Everything else in the body may be fine but not that place. Or everything starts out good all over but you overwork or over play and this is the spot that has the bad kind of hurt the next day.
We often hate our canaries. After all, our canaries are a frequent or constant place of pain and discomfort. And we can’t shut them up or make them stop screeching.
I use the label canary in honour and in reference to the canaries that were used in the coal mines by the miners as an early warning system on air quality. Or at least early warning enough to possibly get out before they died. Canaries are sensitive to air quality. They would get sick and potentially die before any miner would notice a problem directly themselves; but seeing the sickening canary, the miners had time to get out before it was too late. Canaries saved lives by being an early warning system.
Our body canaries are our body’s early warning system. That sore spot isn’t trying to make you crazy. It’s telling you something wrong. But. The problem is NOT the canary. The problem is the environment. Let me say that again.
The problem is not the canary, it is the environment.
The canaries in the mines weren’t making the miners sick, they were just the warning system that there was something in the air that was dangerous.
The canaries in our bodies are not the so-called problem. They are the warning that something in the system is wrong.
The sore spot in my right lower back is not the problem. The alignment of my pelvis and the weakness in my front right low belly are core sources of the problem. That sore spot in my back is just my canary telling me that my bones are shifting out of place; that a necessary muscle is failing to do its job.
The canary is a result of a toxic (or if that is too strong a word, then let us say sub-optimal) environment. I say environment because it is almost always not one singular direct cause for a canary. Or if there is on cause, we haven’t discovered it yet. It is the system, the environment that the canary is in that is causing it to cry out.
And this is why that canary is your greatest ally.
Your canary, no matter how frustrated, angry, crazy, hurt it may make you feel, is your best guide.
Listen to your canary. It will be the first (or certainly the loudest and best at getting your attention) indication that the environment of your body is no longer healthy. It is calling out to you that something has gone wrong in the system. Listen to it.
The sooner you listen and the faster you respond to your canary by re-balancing the environment to a healthy state, the less it will need to screech.
So don’t be mad at your canary. It’s just trying to warn you. We are the ones who are responsible, through our patterns and habits, for the place we’re in. If we never change how we move, we will never be able to silence that canary (and may end up with a chorus of birds screeching at us).
The joyful news is that we can change. While we live we can change. Let your canary guide you. Let it help you realize when and where you need to change. It is trying to help you.