The Healing Relationship

So recently I’ve started to experience some really intense back pain. Between 4-6am every morning I am awoken by intense muscle spasms on the right side of spine, mid-back. It’s excruciating. I can barely move when it happens. My breathing is limited. Certain movements made it worse and finding relief usually involved taking a hot bath. Yesterday my sister who is a registered massage therapist identified the issue as facet joint irritation, she did some manual mobilization of my vertebrae and told me to get to my chiropractor asap.  

Since I’ve been experiencing this for a couple weeks now, I’ve also really started to pay attention to patterns…. What makes it better? what makes it worse? and explore different movements to relieve some of the tension and keep the area mobile. Since I have a well stocked yoga therapy tool kit, I’ve been managing and finding ways that the early morning wake up won’t last too long so I can go back to bed and feel rested for the day.

Last week I also started working with a woman who is doing her yoga therapy practicum. Not only am I a good case study for her, it’s really nice to be in a therapeutic relationship with someone guiding me. Working with someone eases fears, helps manage expectations and provides some novel experiences that aid the healing process. Sure I can do it on my own, but I’ve noticed that my experience of movement, breath and relaxation is heighted when someone else is assisting me. I am able to relax a little bit more deeply and heighten my awareness of what’s going on in my body and mind. I have a tendency to do things a little quicker than is necessary, and working with someone else supports my desire to go slow, to take my time, to notice, to feel and to deeply rest. 

I think now, more than ever, being a therapeutic healing relationship with someone is crucial. We are already suffering from physical isolation and touch which can exacerbate any new or existing conditions.  

If you are experiencing chronic/persistent pain, find someone who can help you navigate through it. Pain can change. We are not solitary individuals meant to go it alone. There are tons of healers out there waiting to help. 

Slow

This is my word for 2021. I need slow after the shit show of 2020. When lockdown started in March it was a rush to transition to teaching online. Then when we decided to move it felt like a constant rush during renovations. Now we are moved in and I can start thinking about work again. My pattern would be to rush to start a new programming in my community. With the limitations to movement, space and communication, I have to remind myself that it’s not a race, there is no rush, I have nothing to prove and I can pace myself in my endeavours to create.

For me, slow also manifests, not just as speed, but as an opportunity to take care. Taking time to thoughtfully respond, to plan, to set boundaries and re-assess expectations. Slow means not requiring to take immediate action but smaller, baby steps over a longer period of time. It means eating well, being gentle and kind, doing gentle yoga, going for walks, taking baths, reading books, connecting with friends – in short, taking care of myself in ways that charge my batteries, that fill my cup. So, while slow still requires a lot of doing, it is the quality of doing that is different. It feels more sustainable and more easeful. 

My slow might involve stepping back from yoga therapy a little bit and explore some supply teaching at the local school or getting a part-time job. I’m not sure yet. 

What I do know for sure is that I am still offering a couple evening group yoga classes, limited private session and monthly Restorative Yoga & Soundbath classes with Nicole. 
What I’ve learned from the lockdown so far
Having space limited and social gatherings restricted has taken a big toll both emotionally and physically on me. One effects the other. 

I have maintained a couple clients over the last 8 months and we have addressed chronic pain issues and burnout. I love this work. I love facilitating experiences where folx get to experience their life in a whole new way that guides them out of what ails them. 

I appreciate conversation. 

Shitty things and good things can happen simultaneously. 

Everything is temporary. 

Everything is temporary.

I want to work with individuals who are unsatisfied with how they feel emotionally, physically, spiritually. Who feel stuck. Who feel burnt out. Who are in pain. Who want to feel better. 

Healing is not linear. We experience some progress, we might stall or get stuck or have a set back, but it doesn’t mean all is lost. While I think this year is going to be similar to last year in terms of restrictions, there is a new optimism and better understanding of how to navigate. There will be progress and there will be setbacks.  Let’s come out of this pandemic better than we were before.

For more information on how you can work with me contact me here.

3 Techniques to Cultivate More Ease and Manage Stress

This past week I gave a 10 minute presentation on stress management to my fellow networking colleagues. It’s so secret that stress can be debilitating and lead to burnout. In 2010, Stats Canada found that 1 in 4 people say they are effected by stress and 60% of those are work related stress. Burnout is highly prevalent amongst teachers, doctors and executives. So essentially the message is this, if you want a different outcome (less stress or at least be able to be in a stressful situation with more ease) then something needs to change. I think it is clear that we can’t expect a different outcome if we don’t change our behaviour. It may be impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives and yet we can do small things with consistency to cultivate more ease. Imagine what your life would be like if you had even just 10% more ease!

First, ease comes in bits and pieces. This arises from precision and consistency in what we do. In other words, slow and steady wins the race. Creating more ease also requires us to become aware of the signs and signals that preceed stress. Once we become aware of what these are, then we are able to intervene sooner and be with that inevitable stress in a different way.

Whether we are recovering from pain or managing stress we know that healing is non-linear. And I think this is where people often get stuck. If you have “set back” or a flare up of symptoms, it doesn’t mean that that the techniques didn’t work. It just means that you don’t have a lot of bandwidth or stamina around that new pattern yet. Neuroscience confirms that our brains and systems are bioplastic. This means we are continually making new neural connections in brain to support new learning. Learning takes time and practice, so in order to groove out a new pattern in our system we need to practice with consistency and awareness. So, back to my point, we make the mistake of thinking we are going back to what we had before stress or the injury or the pain. When in fact, we are actually getting better than we were before. There is a memory or imprint in your system so you don’t have to lose what you gained. I think this is really awesome.

To demonstrate how we can cultivate more ease and groove out a pattern that helps us be with stress in a new way that is more supportive I had my networking team try three techniques that they can practice anytime, anywhere. In the first exercise, participants closed their eyes and brought their index fingers together. I guided them to notice where their attention was at that moment, then again a moment later, and so on for about a minute. What people noticed was that they were no longer thinking about things in the past or the future. They were focused on body sensations in the present moment. They noticed their mind was not racing and thinking of a hundred different things, they felt more present to the moment. Further reflections someone noticed how “busy” their life had become and no longer had time for activities they enjoyed. This realization sparks an opportunity to think about what they will do with that awareness.

The second technique was Alternate Nostril breathing – this can be found online in a quick Google search or try this: block your right nostril with one finger and inhale through the left, block the left nostril and exhale out the right. Inhale right, block the right and exhale out the left. That’s one round. Repeat 4 more times. For limitations of time we started with 5 rounds and then noticed how that experience made them feel. Experiences of calm, peacefulness, cleared breathing, increased focus and feeling both more relaxed and energized came up as results.

The third technique I shared was a short Body Scan. I had participants close their eyes, notice sensation in the palm of their right hand, then each finger. I repeated with the left hand, then each foot, and sensations in the face including the jaw, mouth, nose, eyes and forehead. (message me for a free 5 minute recording you can follow along to).  Simply by paying attention to bodily sensations tension starts to melt away. It is also a great way to start to learn the language of your body. If you’re not used to feeling sensation or the physiological sensations in the body as you experience the full range of emotions and life experiences that you have, then this is a good technique to help you become more familiar with yourself.

Now I need to add a disclaimer. These techniques, like anything else, are not a one size fits all. Depending on your health conditions and life experiences, any of these practices might increase feelings of stress or anxiety and should be at least initially be practiced with an experienced yoga therapist or health care provider. The moral of the story is that stress doesn’t have to be in control. Remember, ease comes in bits and pieces and baby steps will take you there. Ease begets more ease. If you have any questions or you are ready to start your own stress reduction program don’t hesitate to get in touch.