My Self-Care Story

Self-care is a hot topic that is getting a lot of attention in the news and social media right now. We know self-care is important but what is it really? Are you doing it right? How can you make the most of the little free time you already have? As I go through my yoga therapy studies and the evolution of my own practice my perceptions around self-care has changed and I want to share with you what I have learned.

In this blog post, I share my views on self-care, my daily routine and how I managed to have the best winter ever despite it being long, dark and cold, AND how self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.

This Fall I will be hosting a day-long Self-Care workshop to help you design a self-care practice that will work for your lifestyle. You will also learn how you can be accountable to maintaining a self-care program that is supportive and nourishing to YOU!

What is self-care? In my experience, self-care is going to be different for everyone. There may be some similiarities and there will certainly be differences. For me, self-care is more than checking off an action on my to-do list. It is something that is becoming a lifestyle, a series of choices that I know are nourishing and supportive. What this is for me, may be completely different for you. And it didn’t happen overnight. It was as series of choices that have evolved over time. Things taken out of my life and things added. Let me share a couple of examples. There have been some toxic relationships that I had to let go of if I wanted to thrive and have a lifestyle that was free from drama and guilt. I cut out drinking alcohol because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I thought this was going to negatively impact my social life but it only made it better. Some things I’ve added: I’ve started to include some Ayurvedic dincharya practices into my morning and bedtime routines (learn more). Some things that evolved: my diet and how I practice yoga. These lifestyle choices nourish me, they help me sleep better, I have more energy, I handle stress better, I am better at my job. What works for me, might not work for you. Let me give you an example. Some people might find that playing with or petting a dog to be extremely comforting and relaxing. They find it re-energizing and supportive. Someone who is allergic to or afraid of dogs might find petting a dog extremely agitating and therefore not nourishing or supportive. This is why we need to assess what feels good for us, what is sustainable, and what is the outcome of the self-care practices we choose.

My experience of Ayurveda and self-care began in ernest last summer. I began integrating the Ayurvedic practices of Dinaycharya that I learned in my training. I gradually introduced these practices into my daily routines, with consistency. They are now a natural and organic part of my lifestyle.  What I noticed, and what I attribute to these practices is that I had a really excellent winter.

Let me explain:

Winter has always been a troubling season for me.

I get cold and stay cold and find myself shivering all the time. Going outside is extremely uncomfortable.  My happy place is piled under blankets with an electric heating pad.

The long dark days are depressing. No amount of Vitamin D could pull me out the seasonal funk.

I had no desire to go outside, to exercise, to be social. I literally hibernate.

Winter was a real struggle that never seemed to end.

Does this sound familiar? I also worked on going to bed by 10pm each night, waking up early every morning, eating at regular times during the day – which I still find challenging.  But what I took away from these seemingly benign practices was so much more than I though was possible. We can all agree that here in Ontario we had a long, cold winter. Everyone, and I mean literally everyone complained about how terrible winter had been, how long it felt, how there was an urgency for spring for to arrive. While, yes, it was long, this was the first year I didn’t feel negatively about it. I felt like I had weathered the winter well. The snow and the cold didn’t bother me the way it had in the past. I had energy to do more things and try new stuff.  I would even go so far as to say this was the best winter I’ve experienced. When I share this, people look at me dumbfounded. I don’t have any other explanation as to why I didn’t experience all the symptoms I typically do in the winter. When I considered what I was doing differently, it was my self-care routine.

If we want to experience to a different outcome in our lives – whether it’s how we feel, the outcome of our businesses or our relationships, we have to do something differently. Same actions, same outcome. New actions, different outcome. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t start this self-care routine thinking it was going to make my experience of winter better. I was curious. I was willing to try something new if there was potential that it could help me feel differently and in a very general way. There is very little time spent or cost associated with these practices.

I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of how I can create balance in my life. Balance does not mean more of something and less of something else. For me, balance is the outcome of how I am able to be with a situation without being thrown out of whack. It’s about how I relate to stressor or a bad driver or a negative comment. Balance is a state of being that you can cultivate when you are nourished from the inside out.

As a result of this self-care lifestyle that I have cultivated over time,  I have more clarity and awareness around how my diet impacts different aspects of my life. While winter was wonderful for me, I found there was some struggle going into spring, which sparked a new curiosity for me. What do I need to change during the winter, to support myself going into spring? Now I get to explore. Self-care in and of itself evolves and changes over time and for me, across seasons.

Through my yoga therapy training we learn a lot about Ayruveda and how we can support ourselves. In my physical yoga practice there are practices I can do that help me feel more grounded and supported when I feel unthethered. There are practices that are energizing or calming. Movement, breathing, and meditation all factor into my lifestyle and supports and nourishes me. These might look different everyday too.

Check out my earlier blog post about Dinacharya practices. If you’re curious, pick one or two that feel like they would be easy to incorporate, notice how it feels for you and go from there. If you want to introduce a movement, breathing or meditation practice into your life, let’s talk about ways I can support you to get started.

This Fall I will be running a day long self-care workshop that will explore a variety of self-care practices that you can build into your routine that is manageable and supportive. We will create individual plans to help you measure whether or not your self-care practices are supporting you. If you are not on my mailing list and you don’t want to miss out upcoming events and new blog posts, sign up today.

 

 

How Our Body Communicates – Understanding Yellow Lights


I was giving a 10 minute presentation last week and I was talking about what yoga therapy is, what to expect in a session and the concept my teacher Susi describes as Yellow Lights.

This post is going to seek to explain what yellows lights are and how you can start to recognize them. My follow up post will describe an example of how you can translate your yoga experience into business/life.

A yellow light, much like a traffic light is a warning signal. It is something that is telling us to slow down because a red light (danger) is coming. The Yellow Lights concept is a key piece in the healing process if we want to have long lasting sustainable results. Sure, we can seek a quick fix solution where we feel good temporarily, but unless we can get to the underlying issues that are feeding the problem, we are going to stay stuck in the cycle of pain.

Imagine driving down the road and you see a road sign that says, “danger ahead” then a little while after, “road closed,” then, “caution” then “slow down,” then “STOP!” Each sign is a little bit bigger and clearer.

Now imagine that you ignore the signs and speed past them. You don’t stop on time and find your car teetering on the end of a cliff, or you go over the cliff altogether.

Like pain, it’s obviously not an ideal situation to be in. It’s going to take a whole lot of effort and intervention to get your car back up and over the cliff and back on the road than it would have been if you had listened to the signs.

Each sign is a yellow light. These yellow lights are warning you that something dangerous is coming up.

Another way to describe the yellow lights or warning signals is a whisper. In yoga therapy, I talk about how the body is constantly speaking to us. The warning signals are little whispers that are asking you to do something. When you ignore a whisper, it gets a little louder and more frequent. If you continue to blow past the whispers, they will become screams (the red lights) of pain or discomfort.

Our body is constantly giving us feedback. Everything, both inside of us and in our environment, creates a physiological response in our body. Our brain is constantly scanning our environment for safety and danger so it can respond accordingly. It provides information to our nervous system so we feel either relaxed and at ease or on high alert.  We see someone we like and we are filled with a sense of warmth. We hear our inbox ding and we are filled with dread. Our tummies rumble and we know we are hungry. Our knees twinge and we know if we keep going our knees will start to hurt then our hips and then our backs.

The twinge in the knee is a whisper (it’s time to slow down). The hip discomfort is a louder whisper (I told you to take a break). The excruciating back pain that doesn’t go way is a scream (you didn’t listen and now I’m forcing you to pay attention).

When we start to listen to our bodies’ language, we can start to decode and understand how it is communicating with us. The concept of the yellow lights helps us listen. We can use our bodies as a barometer to move towards things that make us feel safe and healthy and keep us away from things that invoke a sense of danger (interpreted as stress and pain). (side note: Pain scientist and researcher Lorimer Mosely from Australia talks about how Safety and Danger can modulate pain).

Listening to our bodies requires some quiet and stillness which can be really challenging because we live in a culture that values hustle and doing, pushing through, driving hard, and giving it our all. We end up ignoring our bodies innate intelligence about what we need because we are so busy chasing after something else. The awesome thing is, it can be learned. Our bodies never lie. Our minds will lie.  We know our minds play tricks on us but our bodies are pretty reliable in their feedback. This is why I love yoga therapy. It slows us down and provides opportunities to feel what is happening in the body.

Where we go from here may be different for everybody. Maybe our starting point is learning how to feel. As we go through a trajectory of movement, from point A to point B, consider what happens and what changes along the way.

Try this: notice what the soles of your feet feel like against the floor. Feel sensation in your hands. Notice what your breath is like (Is it fast/shallow, deep/slow? Are you holding your breath? Can you feel it in your chest? Can you feel it in your belly?).

We can begin to notice a lot just by paying attention to different parts of our body. Once we start to notice, we are growing our awareness, which is awesome, because we can’t change anything we aren’t aware of.

If you are interested in exploring your own red lights and yellow lights here is another way you can start to explore on your own.

  • Take note either mentally or make a list (I love lists because later we can go back and see what’s changed) of what your red lights are.
    • What is happening either physically (pain, headaches, stress, anxiety, fatigue, anger, irritability, insomnia, flare ups, etc) that you consider a scream or red light?
  • Then, and it may or may not be immediately apparent, start to notice what activities or events are correlated with the red lights.
    • Can you identify 1 or 2 yellow lights or whispers that lead up to or contribute to the problem?

The more yellow lights we can become aware of, the faster we can resolve the issue. When you recognize the whisper this is your opportunity to notice what red light is correlated to that yellow light and decide what you’re going to do so you don’t have to hear the scream if you were to continue along the same path.

Can you see how you will start to resolve the issue? If the pain or problem recurs, it just means you missed a yellow light, which is an opportunity for more noticing. It is a new layer of awareness that had become available to you. It’s another interesting data point that something else is contributing to the problem.

So cool right?! Sometimes it can be really challenging to identify the yellow lights if we are experiencing chronic pain. Yoga therapy can help you reduce the pain so you can find those correlating pieces as you work to build stamina around new movement patterns so pain eventually stays away.  If you need more support send me an email and I’d love to chat!

Stay tuned for part two, where I will guide you on how to use the yellow lights to make work more enjoyable.

Mindfulness Practices for the Holidays

Over the last few years I have been working on simplifying and amplifying my work and my life, focusing on what is essential to help me feel connected and whole. Part of this work has included getting to the core of what’s working and what’s not working.  What I have learned is when I truly honour what I’m feeling and allow those feelings to guide my choices, I am happier, my relationships are healthier and there is more clarity, more energy and more joy to spread around. The foundation of the work I do for myself and the work I share with others is rooted in mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice of growing awareness and developing presence. Why do this? Studies show that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has a host of health benefits including helping to decrease stress, worry, pain and anxiety and improve sleep. When we are present and aware, we have more options, we move better, make better choices rather than being reactionary and our nervous system as an opportunity to help us heal. For a calmer, more relaxing holiday season I invite you to try these mindfulness practices as you go about your day.

3 Mindfulness practices for the holidays

  1. Breath: Take a minute or more to notice your breathing without trying to change your breath. Feel the inhale coming in. Feel the exhale going out. Be totally present to what each breath feels like and where you feel it the most in your body. Notice what it is that takes your attention away from your breath. (this is normal and expected. Just notice.)
  2. Body Scan: starting with your toes and working up towards your head, feel sensation in each part of the body without judgment or analysis. Some parts will be easier to feel than others. Some sensations will be stronger. Take your time and explore what is present at that moment. (add #1 afterwards if you have time).
  3. Presence: Throughout the day pause and notice sensation in your hands (palms, fingers and whole hand). Similarly notice sensation in the feet. Feel each separately, and both together. Notice how easily you can hold awareness of sensation of the hands and feet at the same time.

Have a great holiday!

New Group Yoga Class at Living Waters Therapies

Starting Wednesday’s this November I will be offering a new group yoga class at Living Waters Therapies. This class is slow paced and gentle so you can start to develop a deep physiological awareness to be able to respond to the signals your body is sending you at every moment. You can also expect to experience breath work, mindfulness, meditation and functional movement based in Yoga Therapy aimed at helping you to move better. As you develop awareness of your movement habits and learn how to quiet compensations your body will begin to release from cycles of pain and tension, then flexibility, stability and strength arises.

LIVING WATERS THERAPIES – 1114 QUEEN ST EAST

WEDNESDAYS 7:15-8:15PM – STARTS NOV 7, 2018

YOGA FOUNDATIONS

This class is perfect for anyone who wants to learn the foundations of yoga in a safe and non-judgemental environment. People with chronic pain, healing from injury, or restricted range of movement will also benefit from this class. It is ideal for both beginners and experienced yoga practitioners who want to advance their practice. My aim to help you become your own best teacher.

Rates:

  • Introductory class $10
  • Introductory package of 5 $75
  • Package of 5 – $115 ($23/class)
  • Package of 10 – $220 ($22 a class)

Sign up at Living Waters Therapies

Toilet Meditation

As I mentioned at the beginning of my 3 part series on Ayurveda routines for better health that I would share my colleague Shelly Prosko‘s Toilet Mediation with you. Shelly is pelvic floor physiotherapist and yoga therapist.

Whether you are a yogi or not, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of mindfulness. We try to mindful with our words when speaking to our kids or colleagues. We think carefully about what we choose to eat, how we spend our time, etc. We practice mindfulness in our everyday activities so why not when we toilet?

First of all, how we position ourselves is important. You want to have your knees higher than your hips. To do so you can purchase a squatty potty  or bring your feet onto yoga blocks or a small garbage can. This is a better position for elimination and helps to release pelvic floor muscles.

Shelly shares an acronym called A.I.R.B.A.G. – use this acronym the next time you toilet:

AAwareness: start by feeling your feet on the floor, feel your pubic bone, sit bones, tailbone. Become aware of any physical sensations you are feeling – in your belly, low back, spine, do a quick scan of your arms, are you clenching neck, jaw, eyes?

IImagination: next, visualize your pelvic floor and the muscles that connect your pubic bone to your sit bones and tail bone at the back.

RRelease/relax: see if you can let go of tension. Notice if holding anything.

BBreathe: become aware of how you’re breathing. You don’t need to change it. Notice how your body is moving with breath. Go back to imagining the pelvic floor – visualize how it moves as you breathe – descends/widens as you inhale, recoils back up on exhale.

AAllow: without straining or pushing. Notice if more needs to come out. Surrender and trust, let go. Trust that your body knows what it needs to do. Do you need to activate or push a little bit without straining? Stay with your breath, revisit the other letters.

GGratitude: when you’re finished, take a moment to send some gratitude to your body for the amazing, sophisticated system that just did some work.

If you have difficulties eliminating daily, consult an Ayurvedic counsellor or Naturopathic doctor. Our diet and exercise can have a huge impact on how well our entire digestive and elimination systems work together. As a yoga therapist I can help you address physical limitations that lead to tension or tightness or holding patterns. You can schedule a session with me at Living Waters Therapies.

 

Part 1: Ayurvedic Self-Care for Cold and Flu Season

This blog is the first of a 3 part series on Ayurvedic self-care practices you can build into your routine for better health. In part 1 you will find morning self-care practices you can start building in your daily routine. Part 2 will discuss evening routines for a better sleep. Part 3 will have details for digestive reset program that I am participating in this Fall and I will invite you to join me.

This year it felt like Mother Nature flipped a switch and the weather changed from the hot humid summer to a cool brisk Fall. When the seasons change we are at risk for lowered immune function. I see people all around me getting colds already.

As a student and later as I began my first career as a classroom teacher I would get sinus infections like clockwork as the seasons changed. It wasn’t until I began a regular yoga practice that my nervous system started to become better regulated and my immune system became stronger and the infections stopped.

That is not to say I haven’t periodically come down with the flu or felt under the weather. As I delve deeper into my yoga therapy studies for the C-IAYT certification, I have started some new routines based on Ayurvedic science. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga that developed thousands years ago. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depends on the balance between mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. This is a proactive approach that we can assimilate into our routines which becomes an ongoing self-care practice or lifestyle, rather than an antidote you receive in order to fix a problem. As a part of my daily routine I have started to implement some new practices. As I begin to find ease in my routine I will continue to add more and more.

Why is a daily routine so important? Without going too deeply into it, our doshas, or qualities that are inherently in us, influence our body-minds and environments in a particular way throughout the day. When we can align with the natural rhythms of the day and the natural rhythms of our body, we promote optimal health. Starting with our morning routine is a great way to begin because it sets the stage for how our day unfolds.

Our bodies naturally work to clear out excess toxins while we sleep. This is why having a full nights sleep is so important. These toxins find their way into our colon and skin which is why personal hygiene needs to be taken care in the morning. First thing when you wake up drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by elimination. My friend Shelly Prosko, a physio/yoga therapist designed a toilet mediation which I will share in a separate post.

Here are a few things you can build into your morning routine (choose 1 or 2 things then add more later). The key is to be able to create more ease and not feel overwhelmed by a to do list of things.

  1. For your Mouth:
    • Gargle: use sea salt and warm water for a sore throat or to clear the throat of potential infections. To reduce soreness or dryness use sesame oil. To reduce inflammation of the oral tissue use milk.
    • Scrape your tongue with tongue scraper or spoon: it removes accumulations from the tongue and stimulates the fire quality (that we need for energy and digestion). Rinse the mouth after to clear any residue.
    • Brush teeth: astringent, bitter or pungent tooth powder or paste are used to keep the gum tissue firm.
    • Oil pulling: the state of the mouth is thought to reflect the state of the entire gastrointestinal tract. Lubrication is of the utmost importance for a well-functioning digestive system, especially for elimination. Take tablespoon of oil (sesame for fall/winter, coconut for summer) and swish it in the mouth for 2 to 10 minutes. When I started 30 seconds was the most I could handle. It helps to strengthen gums, teeth and tongue. Reduces dryness of the lips and tongue and helps to promote elimination.
  2. For your Eyes:
    • To freshen the eyes, rinse with cool clean water or organic rose water (hydrosol).
  3. For your Nose:
    • Neti: this is my favourite part of my morning routine. This is a technique used to clean the nasal passages using sea salt, water and a neti pot. It is great to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. It reduces the build-up of allergens, dust and other debris in the nasal passages and promotes clear and easy nasal breathing.
    • Nasal Oleation: oiling the nasal passages helps keep them lubricated and nourished and prevents dryness. It is especially important with environmental sensitivities like animal dander and pollen. Use 2-4 drops of plain oil like sesame or coconut in your palm. Rub your pinky finger in the oil and gently swirl in your nostrils.
  4. For your Skin:
    • Dry brush: using a raw silk glove or a brush specifically designed for the body, gently brush the skin to remove any dry skin and promote lymphatic circulation. Depending on your need, it may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Brush gently over your face and genitals. Long strokes over the long bones, and circle strokes over the joints.
    • Self oil massage: a technique used to nourish and protect the skin, harmonizes the flow of energy and promotes circulation and soothes the nervous system. Depending on your need, oil massage may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Use sesame, sweet almond or jojoba for Fall/Winter. Use similar strokes to the dry brushing. Sit and breathe for a few minutes while the oil is absorbed by the skin. The skin is a very important organ of digestion therefore using organic cold pressed oil is recommended. From an Ayurvedic view, you would only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth.
    • Shower or Bath: after self oiling, a bath or shower is taken to remove excess oil before getting dressed. They are also invigorating, refreshing and release negative energy. Soap can be used for the arm pits and groin area. The remainder of the body is simply rinsed – unless there is dirt of course. Too much soap removes the natural oils that maintain the health and strength of the skin.
    • Sweat: the skin benefits from sweating daily. A little perspiration beneath the arms and at the low back – about 50% of one’s capacity. This can be done by going for a brisk walk or visiting a sauna. The intention is to liquefy any toxins and allow it to release through the open pores.
  5. For your Ears:
    • To keep the auditory passages from drying, we put a few drops of oil (sesame or coconut) into the ears by either putting oil on the pinky fingers and rotating them around the aperture or using a dropper to put 2-3 drops of oil into the ear canals. You can also oil the outer architecture of the ears if you like.

I invite you to pick one or two things to incorporate into your daily routine this week and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for my next post on evening routines and bed time hygiene.

Happy exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

Pain and Healing – Part VII

There are many paths to helping people.

Moving with more ease and more movement is the best long term recovery strategy.

As we continue to shift your thoughts and beliefs about pain, consider this: pushing through pain will not make you stronger or more flexible. It actually increases risk to sensitizing the nervous system even more.

The goal of movement should be more ease now. You should be thinking afterwards, “I don’t regret doing this movement.” Our breath test will tell us we are doing the right thing for our systems.

The neuro-immune system is impacted when you push too hard. The commonly held belief that pain is all in your mind is the main reason people push themselves. You don’t have to live with it or despite it. Starting with the belief that pain is not changeable goes against the research. We have to believe that change is possible. We don’t know the degree for each person but we know it’s possible.

Let’s look at the analogy of cook and how it relates to pain. If you make a chili and add too much spice, you don’t add more spice to make it better, you add tomatoes or something else. Pushing through the pain is not going to make the pain go away.

As we have learned over the last two months, pain is highly complex, and we can’t understand all of it. But it is possible to move with ease and understand pain better.

Evidence of increased safety in movement is related how pain is experienced.

SIMs and DIMs can be explored in yoga. The ritual of yoga and breath, calms the physiology and nervous system. Layer breath with ease of movement. Body tension is danger (fight or flight/DM) and you can’t let go and experience fast, shallow breath. You may not know how tight or how to let go. Start with breathing calmly then add benign movement, then move towards more “dangerous” or complex movement. Progression turns a DIM into a SIM. Navy Seals go through a similar process in their training – that’s how they can achieve intensely incredible feats by remaining calm while working through progressively more dangerous situations.

Process. Persistence. Compassion.

Often times we experience euphoria when pain is gone. Then we quit our practice. Consider this analogy: If you were playing darts and hit the center, you might think “whoo hoo! I did it.” You feel great. You did it. But, imagine if you tried it everyday for two months. Imagine how good you’d be.

What if you throw a dart and you don’t hit the target? What does that tell you? Doing something once doesn’t tell us much about what could happen in the future with practice. Repetition is key. Start simple with breathing. Try it everyday 5 times for 5 minutes and see in a week or two weeks.

There is also the common sports analogy. Practice makes you better. Imagery and visualization can stimulate movement that is not yet possible. Watch yourself doing it. Feel yourself do it from the inside out. Yoga Nidra is a practice of guided imagery. If you are someone who keeps pushing yourself, this might be a good place of peace to start from.

Facial muscles even feed into the parasympathic nervous system. Research suggests that when we clench our eyes, ears, mouth, tongue it sends a danger signal to our brain. Softening around these orfices is a SIM. Setting an hourly timer to consciously relax the muscles in our face for 20-30 seconds helps us to develop our neuroplasticity.

Pain can be so wound up that little things can have a big influence on it. One system can change another system. We don’t know the degrees and complexity.

Neil Pearson, physio and yoga therapist shares 5 steps for pain care and can be found on his website.  Here are 2 things to consider when looking for a practitioner to help you heal:

  1. Feel heard. This can change our pain.
  2. Someone who is a helper, a part of the process, not doing something to you. The client is the doer. This is key to the whole process. The practitioner should applaud lowering of pain in the session. Then give something to do to work towards maintaining that lowered pain.

It’s a Butterfly effect: 1 small change can change the relationship of the whole system. 

I’d like to conclude with a Summary of what is known about Pain and Healing.

Persistent pain is pain that is often undiagnosed from tests and not an infection. Doctors don’t know what to do. The complicated part is taking ownership of what’s really going on (eg. Hating your job, childhood trauma, diet). Are you coping in a healthy way? We acknowledge it is scary to nudge your comfort zone.

What we know is pain is subjective based on the individual. Your brains interpretation of what is going on is a protective response of a trigger. Further, emotional pain can manifest physically. It can be related to the environment, structural, sensory input, gut, thoughts, support systems, what you’ve been told or haven’t been told. When we feel helpless or out of control, that is danger. When we feel danger it can strengthen the fear, tension, sympathetic nervous system and pain. Where pain is, is not the problem. Pain is saying, pay attention to me. Low vs high pain tolerance is an interpretation by the brain of what is going on. We can work on flipping the script on how we use words. Finding the positives (SIMs) and retraining safety in our body/mind.

Remember, change is possible! Explore these on your own to develop your awareness:

  1. Educate yourself on pain science. 20 minutes a day can decrease pain. Knowledge is power. When you are empowered, you are in control.
  2. Stress exacerbates symptoms. When quiet, symptoms go away. Notice the quiet moments – change has happened! We can’t think clearly when we are in pain, we ruminate, get irritable and can’t recognize the good moments. Journal and plot out the good and bad moments over the week. Then make a decision about what they can do about it.
  3. Recognize, Reduce, Eliminate. Try Pain Train or Symptom Tracker app if journaling is producing too much anxiety.
  4. Support Groups can be a danger if members complain all the time and increase fear.
  5. It takes more than 1 time with a practitioner for a shift/healing. Be patient. Don’t resist. Own it. Ride the wave. Keep in mind that the first visit the practitioner could be having an off day or you could be having an off day. By the third visit some shift should occur. Could be any number of reasons why you don’t vibe with a practitioner. There is no fault, just that relationship in that moment didn’t work (context). You may or may not be in the right headspace to hear or listen. Instant gratification can’t be the expectation. Keep working through everything under the surface.
  6. Self development: create a web of support. You don’t have to do it alone. If your friend was in the same situation what advice would you give them? All the things that we do, is because we said yes. Do you need to take something off your plate? Do you need to say no? Walk more? Drink water? Stop smoking? Are you ready to take the next step? What do you already have? Contemplate that it might not be people, it could be animals or music or writing. Healing comes from within. No one is going to do it for you.

In health,

Lindsay

Pain and Healing – Part VI

Over the last month and half I have writing about pain science research to help us broaden our scope of understanding pain and how we can begin to heal ourselves. Today’s review comes from a talk by yoga therapist Matthew Taylor from the United States. He teaches from the perspective of the Biopsychosocial model. This brings all the parts together to make a whole. For example, if you roll your ankle, you experience pain physiologically in the sympathetic nervous system, but also psychologically, your active mind is upset that your weekend plans got ruined and you feel unsupported spiritually. This means we can’t look at the ankle in isolation. When we look through different lenses we help the mind shift perspectives.

Yoga is the science of transformation. Through yoga we seek to shift our state  into the parasympathetic nervous system and by doing so we unlock creativity, clarity and calm. Simply taking 3 sets of 10 deep breaths for a given movement (such as during a yoga pose) shifts the nervous system and turns the solution seeking inward rather than outward.

Yoga asana (the poses) is a process of the how, no the what. In yoga we use attention as a tool to notice how you feel and to gain insight.

Applications for persistent pain: Most people with persistent pain don’t trust their body because the pain is in the body. Try some of these suggestions from Matthew:

  1. Explore your identity around pain.
  2. Pain education and language. When we say “the damn knee” we are talking about it as something other but it’s actually you. 20 minute of pain education can help us to reduce our pain.
  3. Legs up the wall with weight on the belly can create a SIM situation.
  4. Build stamina around hope = possibility.
  5. Have compassion for yourself.
  6. Social media diet – content can raise sympathetic nervous system activation.

Your body is a barometer. Try the Breath test – our breath tells us if something was wise idea. Compare before and after. Fast/shallow breathing is a system in danger (DIM). Think back to the Protectometer. If your breath is long and deep and even you likely feel safe, calm and relaxed.

Salience and interest drives neuroplasticity. Want a stable enough nervous system to non-react to pokes/prodes without looping back into old patterns? A stabilized nervous system lasts 24 hours. So when you practice yoga therapy every day with awareness and attention the results might surprise and shock you. We are complex, we can’t predict anything and we are always changing.

Next week will be the final post on Pain and Healing. See you then.

In health,

Lindsay

Pain and Healing – Part I

Mid November I attended an online Pain and Healing Conference hosted by my teacher and yoga therapist Susi Hately of Functional Synergy. There has been a lot of research in recent years on Pain Science and the implications that has for people who suffer from pain.

Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to work at unpacking some of this vital information in a series of blog posts so you can be more informed and empowered to take back your control from pain and move with hope towards a brighter, pain free future.

Of the 10 speakers from the conference there were underlying themes and concepts that kept arising. My intention is to summarize some of the findings so that you can have a better understanding of the paradigm shift that is occurring with modern pain science research findings so that you will feel more informed and empowered to take back control from the pain that you or a loved one is experiencing.

The biggest and most important findings are four-fold. One, pain is not where the problem is. Two, pain is a protector. Three, pain is complicated and we are complex beings with complex systems so don’t give up. Four, hope is essential and possible.

There is an incredible trifecta of pain researchers in Austraila that are focusing on pain education. Pain research findings teach us that pain is a warning signal or a protector. This means, rather than perceiving pain as something being broken in our bodies, our brain is perceiving danger that something is not functioning quite as it should. This provides hope. Danger means we can get out of danger by doing something. By perceiving that something is broken. We are more likely to give up and see it as something that is long lasting and can’t change. Luckily this simple isn’t true.

Movement is critical in reducing pain at both the level of tissues and the spinal cord.  It is at the tissue and spinal cord level that our body communicates with the brain. Like Skinners salivating dogs, we too can condition movements to be either painful or not painful. Simply by imagining desired movements in our minds, we can reduce our pain and promote recovery.

Movement and visualization starts by reducing our stress. Many of us don’t even realize we under stress. It has become so normalized we don’t recognize it. When we are in pain and/or our body is in a state of stress – there are protective agencies at play.  We need to return our systems to a non-protective state by tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system through breath and movement. Therapeutic yoga is an excellent way to train our nervous system.

The research teaches us that we bioplastic human beings. This means our systems are adaptive. Pain can go. When we change the context, pain can come back. Like I said before, pain doesn’t indicate something is broken. This is really good news!

Here are 5 things to know if you or someone you know experiences persistent pain.

1) Pain is real to the person experiencing it.

2) Pain is a protector. Pain acts as a warning from the brain of what it thinks you might do if you keep going.

3) There are many contributors to pain. There is lot of research that shows pain can come from all over your life – people, places, things external to you can be a trigger, as well as thoughts and beliefs.

4) The good news is we are fundamentally adaptable and recovery is possible. We can train our systems to be less protective.

5) The less good news, it’s not easy BUT everyone has the resources. It’s doable but it’s a journey.

In health,

 

Lindsay

 

My next post will be about neuroscience researcher Tasha Stanton who discusses the complexity of pain…

Private Yoga Downtown Toronto

From February 13-16, 2018 I will be teaching private sessions at The Coach House at 7 Admiral Road in the Annex. 

Schedule:

Tuesday (Feb 13): 11am – 3pm

Wednesday (Feb 14): 2pm – 7pm

Thursday (Feb 15): 11am – 3pm

Friday (Feb 16): 1pm – 6pm

Sign up now for a one hour introductory session and find out how rehabilitative yoga can change how you move, how you relate to your body, and unlock your healing potential for long-term sustainable results.