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.

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

Yoga For Pain

img_5901Healing should be a holistic, multidisciplinary approach. We are a sum of our parts, and there is not just one healthcare provider that provide the solution.

I am drawn to yoga because it embraces a wide scope. It can address the physical, the mental, emotional, spiritual, and energetic elements of healing. Aryuveda, the sister science to yoga, addresses diet, constitution and how it relates with the other elements. Yoga teaches awareness and develops our relationship to our body-mind so that we can learn to intuitively listen to our bodies and know what it needs to be well.

Yoga for Pain begins to address these layers with simple movement, breath work, developing awareness and meditation. Skills are built incrementally moving from simple to complex based on the needs of the individual. Yoga for Pain workshops are one way you can begin to address pain within a wide scope, in one modality.

In my workshops  you will learn 8 principles that will help to guide you on your journey to wellbeing.  You will learn foundational poses that you can practice everyday, and even apply to existing yoga practices or other athletics or day to day activities. When you attend a workshop, you will also receive a video of the key poses so you can continue to practice at home.

I also work with a team of chiropractors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, facial stretch therapists, personal trainers and naturopathic doctors and psychotherapists that I can refer you to for a balanced, holistic, approach that will  speed the rate of your recovery.

There is no pain too big or too small that doesn’t warrant care. Small pain eventually become bigger pains if we ignore them. Pain is not something physical we must endure. It affects us emotionally and psychologically as well. It effects our relationships and how we live or don’t live our lives. Pain is not a “normal” part of life. Pain just doesn’t show up in our lives for no reason. It’s a sign that something in our lives needs to change.

Learn more about Pain Clinic workshops here.

Redefine Your Life with Yoga Therapy

FullSizeRender-7We all experience pain to different degrees throughout the course of our life. Often when pain is ongoing we begin to view ourselves as damaged or fragile. Luckily, this is not true. We can get out of pain. After an injury or diagnosis of illness has someone told you to reduce your physical activity or stop all together? Sometimes there is a good reason to stop for a short time to allow healing to happen but often this advice is coming from a place of misinformation or lack of specific knowledge. Unfortunately the advice we receive from our doctors  is being offered because they don’t know about options like Yoga Therapy. This perspective only maintains fear if you are being told to remain rigid or broken, and may even increase the pain you are experiencing.

Maybe you have heard the phrase “it’s all in your head”? There are some people who claim that overcoming pain is about mind over matter and that pain isn’t real, it’s all in your head. The reality is, perceived pain is real and it needs to be dealt with in a very real way. Trying to ignore the pain, push through the pain or distract yourself isn’t dealing with its underlying issues. Accepting pain as “normal” is just as much of a dis-function. Perhaps you have already seen numerous doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists but nothing seems to be working. For many people yoga is a last ditch attempt to feel better and they find that it works. So whether this is final try to feel better or your first step, yoga is a very tangible solution. Yoga Therapy addresses the whole person, body, mind and spirit. When you are experiencing pain, it affects how you think, feel and respond to day-to-day stressors and activities. You are not your pain. So wouldn’t it be nice if it stopped dictating how you live your life?

So many people suffer from pain. This pain can come from a variety of sources including sports related pain or injury, illness, other injury, stress or simply from inactivity. I believe that everybody can get well and get out of pain and experience a whole new degree of functioning when they learn how to move appropriately.

In our Yoga for Pain session, I will develop a personalized program for you that will help you reduce and get out of pain. As we know with chronic pain it won’t disappear over night and it will require you to dedicate the time and effort necessary to heal your body and mind. Remember change is possible. Getting better takes practice and persistence. Let me help you create a safe place for ease of movement to re-train the nervous system, create new movement patterns and heal the body. Your body has the ability to heal itself with a little bit of nourishment. It’s time to choose acceptance of what is and do things that give your life meaning. Shift from the view that your body is broken or damaged, to the view that movement is good for the body. You can learn to trust to move in a stable way and rebuild your confidence. Pain if modifiable – you can take control!

Find out if yoga therapy is right for you.  Contact me. I can meet with you at your home in the GTA  or via Skype.