A Road Map to Authentic Living

The Yamas and Niyamas are ethical guidelines or a map that help us make choices that are supportive and growth oriented. This is a two part post on how we can use these guidelines to support us in finding more ease in our lives.

According to the Yoga Sutras there are 8 branches of yoga that when practiced is designed to help the practitioner live a deeper and more fulfilled life. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two branches, followed by asana – what we know as the yoga postures. So in sense we can think of the Yamas and Niyamas as guidelines for how to conduct our lives day to day which is more important than the physical movement practice. Asana came much later as a tool to help prepare the body for meditation.

There are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas. The Yamas are guidelines for how relate to our environment and other people. The Niyamas are guidelines for how we relate to ourselves.

Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: non-violence
  2. Satya: truthfulness
  3. Asteya: non-stealing
  4. Bramacharya: non-excess
  5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

Today I want to explore the concepts of Ahimsa and Satya and how we might use these principles to step into a more authentic sense of being.

Ahimsa, or non-violence encompasses our ability to move through life with courage, compassion and love for ourselves and others. Satya, or truthfulness, goes intimately hand in hand with non-violence. To be truthful, asks us to live in a way where we express ourselves in a way that is real and authentic. It’s about expressing our needs in order to grow and act with integrity and purpose.

Ahimsa encourages us to be courageous, to be brave. Do something that scares you by taking a small step out of your comfort zone, in the name of personal growth. Small steps help us to grow our comfort zone while also maintaining a level of safety.  When we stay in our fear, we are small and limited, and are essentially harming our potential. Practicing compassion, forgiveness and being kind and loving towards ourselves, helps us to extend the same warmth towards others. We are really harder on ourselves than we are on our friends or family. Self-acceptance and learning to love all aspects of ourselves carries over into all other aspects of our life.

With Truthfulness we need to seek a balance between being “real” and being “nice”. We don’t have to sacrifice our needs to appear “nice” or perfect or helpful. Acting with integrity also prevents us from using our truth as a way of hurting someone else.

Satya also asks us to express ourselves. When we limit ourselves with shoulds or should nots (based on our beliefs or what we hear from others), redirects our attention to indulgence. We hide behind overworking or over-eating or over-exercising, rather than doing what we really want to do.

Satya asks us to grow! This might mean making changes to the group(s) we belong to. Look at how the environment of the people you interact with supports or conflicts with who and how you want be in the world. Speaking our truth  and acting on it, can be difficult at times. It requires courage. Sometimes the cost of our realness just seems too high. Be brave.

Have you ever had to reneg on a promise? Do you overextend yourself? Do you then avoid the person you agreed to help, because you just don’t have the time? What might life be like if you didn’t have to apologize or cancel or avoid? These things happen because we cheat the truth and then are left with messes to clean up. Being truthful with ourselves and what we can take on our plate grows us into someone who acts and speaks with integrity, someone who is reliable and trustworthy.

The compassion of non-violence keeps truthfulness from being a personal weapon. It reminds us to think about what we say and do and how it will impact those around us.

There are many ways we can use these Yamas in application to our life. We might look at these concepts and see how they show up in our lives and consider small things we can do to improve our relationships. A friend who went through a divorce last year, used the Yamas to support herself through those trying days, weeks and months. A colleague who wanted to live in a way that was more aligned with her values, use the Yamas to guide her choices. In my personal yoga therapy practice I reflect on one aspect of a Yama each week to grow my awareness and understanding of how I show up in the world so I can be more present with my family and my clients.

This week,  consider one aspect of Ahimsa or Satya that resonated with you and explore how it shows up in your life.

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

New Workshops Starting January 2017!

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My pain clinic workshops are open to everyone. However, if you’re not sure who these classes would be ideal for you can answer these 3 questions:

  1. Do you have chronic pain or long standing limitation of movement?
  2. Have you tried a number of different treatments but only found temporary relief?
  3. Are you ready and willing to be an active participant in your recovery?

If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, then my workshops are meant for you. Our bodies are amazing entities that have the ability to change and heal themselves, especially we take the right steps to aid the healing process. The truth is, you can improve your overall function and ease in which you move everyday with some very simple, easy principles and movements.

I have written a couple blog posts about the myths of Injury, Pain and Strain and the Truths of Healing. Now I want to give you an opportunity to put these truths into a practice. Starting this January, I will be offering monthly workshops to help you address your injury, pain, or strain. Each workshop is 2 hours where we will address pure movement, breath work, relaxation, and meditation. The first workshop, January 14th will focus on how to address low back pain, hips, knees and feet. In February, the workshop will focus on shoulders, neck and arms.

These workshops will be pre-requisites for future registered group classes that will continue to develop the principles learned in these sessions.

My intention to teach you how to move properly so healing can begin to take place. Pain doesn’t need to be a part of our “normal” day to day life.  After each workshop I will give you a video of the key movements so you can continue to practice at home. Unfortunately we can’t take one yoga class and walk away healed. It is a practice and requires ongoing dedication and effort from you to continue the process.

Class sizes for my workshops have been kept purposefully small, so you can get the most of our your experience.

The first workshop will be:

  • Date: January 14th 2017
  • Time: 1:30pm-3:30pm
  • Location: McMaster Fitness at 1820 Bayview Ave just north of Eglinton. (FREE Parking)
  • Cost: $45 plus HST – to be paid in advance to secure your spot.
  • Focus: Low back pain, hips, knees, ankles.

Book Your Spot

 

Myths about Injury, Pain, Ache and Strain & The Truths of Healing – Part 2

Tree Handstand VariationIs my last article I discussed Susi Hately’s* 5 myths about pain and truths about healing. Here are 5 more to convince you that life without pain is entirely possible. It is all up to you.

Healing from pain should be a multi-disciplinary team effort. Going to just one healthcare/wellness practitioner may provide some ease from the discomfort but the pain keeps returning.  Often what we fail to realize is that the problem doesn’t lie in the same place that feel the pain. Restriction through the hips can be the source of knee or ankle pain for example. Elbow or wrist pain from the shoulder blades. That being said, to address the issue of pain is to treat the whole person, not just the “spot” of pain.

Along with your yoga therapist you may wish to see your chiropractor to relieve subluxations, massage therapy to relax and calm the muscles, physio, osteo, acupuncturist, naturopath, aromatherapist, reiki, healing waters,  etc. Diet too, is often overlooked when it comes to the healing process of physical pain. The food that we consume can impact how we think, feel and act. It is important that you also take this into consideration and get tested for food allergies (I won’t go any further into this today).

Here are 5 more myths about pain the truths of healing:

Sixth Myth: Acheyness is normal.

Sixth Truth: Physiologically, yes, it is. And, it doesn’t have to be a normal part of your life.

 

Seventh Myth: Being achey is a part of yoga.

Seventh Truth: Nope. Ease is part of yoga.

 

Eighth Myth: Pulling the shoulders back, belly in and chin in/back is part of improving posture.

Eighth Truth: A well-functioning body surrenders upward. This creates a calm, steady, and strong posture.

 

Ninth Myth: Once pain is there, it will never be resolved.

Ninth Truth: Tissue can change. It is a matter of listening and being aware and then acting on what you hear and perceive.

 

Tenth Myth: Pain is just a way of life.

Tenth Truth: For now, maybe. And if there is a compelling reason for change, and the right professional/team of professionals to guide you, anything can change.

When you work with me in rehabilitative yoga, I can refer you to excellent healthcare/wellness providers in Toronto to help you get out of pain fast.

(*Myths published by Susi Hately – Functional Synergy)

Myths about Injury, Pain, Ache and Strain & The Truths of Healing

TrikonasanaI’m going to let you in on a secret. Tell everyone. Seriously. You can live pain free and it’s super easy!

Often in conversation, whether it is in a yoga class or a passing conversation, I hear resignation to pain caused by injury, illness or stress. As a society we have taught ourselves to accept our physical imbalances, our fatigue, chronic stress, rigidity and tightness in the body, and our inability to move in the same way we did when we were younger. All these things I have just listed do not have to be your reality, despite what you think or may have been told.

After I was in a car accident in 2008. I thought I would have to live with at least a certain level of back pain for the rest of my life, despite my regular yoga practice and chiropractor visits. After studying therapeutic yoga with Susi Hately, I learned that I could have a pain free/discomfort free life. So let’s get clear on  some of they myths of injury/pain/ache/strain and the truths of healing.*

First myth: Pain is part of getting older.
First truth: Tissue can change and function can improve at any age. It all depends on the stimulus you give it.

Second myth: Nothing has worked.
Second truth: Nothing has worked, yet.

Third myth: Feeling pain means being overwhelmed by pain.
Third truth: By learning to move in a range that doesn’t increase pain, your pain will decrease.

Fourth myth: It took 40 plus years to create this problem, it will take a long time to resolve it.
Fourth truth: If your reason for resolving the issue is compelling enough, the speed of healing can be quite mind blowing.

Fifth myth: True change is impossible.
Fifth myth: True change is entirely possible. The first and second steps are awareness and self-care.

If these myths are resonating with you, consider getting in touch with me to chat about how I can customize a program specifically for you.

Pain Clinic workshops will be coming soon. Stay tuned for more details. Contact me to be added to my newsletter or to schedule a consultation or class.

(*Myths published by Susi Hately – Functional Synergy)

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.