Tapping Into Intuition for Your Fitness and Wellness

by Ellen Barrett and Kate Hanley

We’ve all heard a version of the story where a guy is supposed to get on a certain plane but at the last minute, feeling creeped-out, decides against it. Thirty minutes later, the plane crashes over the Pacific with no survivors. The guy calls his wife to tell her he’s alive and that he didn’t get on the plane because it didn’t “feel right.”

This is an extreme example of intuition at work. Our society expects intuition to come into play only during big moments, such as when we’re choosing a mate, or in a life-or-death situation. While these stories are exciting, intuition works for the little moments, too: choosing what workout to do, deciding what to eat, and determining when you should go out or when it’s best to catch up on rest.

We think of intuition as making decisions from the inside out—not relying solely on external circumstances, but trusting hunches, gut feelings, and insights that arise seemingly from out of the blue. When you apply your intuition to making fitness, diet, and lifestyle choices, you stop relying on experts or best-selling diet books—which ultimately only disconnect you from your internal experience, and disempower you from making long-term changes—to help you decide, and instead, start trusting your body and your truest self.

There are two steps to following your intuition: taking the time to hear what your inner voice (which resides in the body, not the mind) has to say, and then trusting it enough to heed its advice. It sounds easy enough, yet most of us don’t take the time to listen to our bodies, much less use our intuition for wellness purposes.

Meditation also helps. And we want to emphasize this: Meditation takes many forms. Not everyone has to do it like the Buddha. Every moment of your day can be a meditative opportunity.

The biggest gift meditation brings is the awareness that no one—not even Dr. Oz—knows what’s best for you more than you. You are the leading expert on YOU. Yet if you don’t take enough time to access your intuition, you doubt your own expertise.

Fitness Should Feel Good

The concept of “No pain, no gain” is so twentieth-century. Losing weight and staying well doesn’t have to hurt. (This is hard to believe if you’ve been brainwashed by The Biggest Loser). When you allow your body to be your guide, exercise always feels good. There is no running on heavy-flow day or bouncing on a trampoline when you feel extra bloated. Because when you’re forcing yourself to do a level 10 on the elliptical, or your upper body is so fatigued after a workout that you can’t drive your car home from the gym, it’s the opposite of true wellness.

Here’s when you know exercise has done you well:

  • You have more energy post-workout than you had pre-workout.
  • There is no pain or discomfort.
  • Your self-talk during exercise is positive and uplifting. 

  • You lose track of time. 

  • You don’t feel as though you have to “recover” from your workout. 

  • You are not mad hungry post-workout. 

Some days, your body will crave more intensity, while other days it will need to be mellow. When we listen to the body’s whispers, exercise feels good. Really good. 

Find out about upcoming programs with Ellen Barrett at Kripalu.

Excerpted with permission from The 28 Days Lighter Diet, © 2014 by Ellen Barrett and Kate Hanley.