Pain and Healing – Part IV


Today I am reviewing the session with Dr. Tracy Jackson to discusses opioid addiction and pain. She says that anyone who experiences addiction feels a sense of isolation, feelings of failure or a need to be put their dependency in a positive light. They feel stigmatized.

When we are in pain, we are under psychological and physical duress. Our sympathetic nervous system, also known as our fight or flight system is stressed.

A big piece of the puzzle about pain is unpacking assumptions. The first and foremost is that the experience of pain can be different for everyone. Second, often times, patients are not in the doctors office long enough communicate and to be heard. You have your 10 or 15 minutes and are given medication of your symptoms. Having to go back to the doctors multiple times is inefficient and unhelpful. Third, there is little in the way of pain education in medical school. Doctors are not well versed in understanding pain.

So a part of this conference that I attended and what I am hoping to impart to you, the reader, is to empower you to understand what is going on in your body. What we do is not complicated, we just do it often, over and over again. This means we can re-train our bodies and our minds! We are incredibly resilient and the results are durable. yay! Experiencing a reduction in pain mean it can be long term (hope!) (yay!) (double yay!)

Medicine ads tell us to take this drug or that drug to keep going and enjoy life but this doesn’t address the issue or the innate intelligence of our body. While medicine can be life saving short term – it should be temporary while you learn how to retrain your body. Research findings tell us that no pill or surgery that is going to “fix” a body part that is just responding to a brain that is on high alert. We have to calm the underlying stress to be a better ______(fill in the blank).

When we feel unsafe we are pricked with the highest capacity for pain. We experience symptoms like insomnia, adrenal fatigue, depression – we are on high alert. When we feel safe we have a lower capacity for pain. We feel more energized, happy, alert, and creative – we are calm and relaxed. For someone who is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, there is a certain stigma (DIM) but at the same time, the person can feel better just from the diagnosis (SIM). Anyone can endure an illness – we want to be able to channel the “enduring” to make changes.

The challenge is that it is hard to see while in the thick of it. It takes a long time to develop pain or addiction but recovery can be quick.

If you, or someone you know has concerns for addiction, Dr. Tracy Jackson offers these steps to take:

  1. There is hope. It won’t be as bad as you think. Have compassion for yourself because relapse is high.
  2. If you are given a prescription for opioids ask for a referral for treatment.
  3. Keep trying. People are desperate to help you if you want to be helped.
  4. Mindfulness and movement are the most effective ways to cope with pain and addiction.
  5. Self-care. Put your airplane mask on first. This is the same for family members who see another family member in pain.

Opioids can actually make the experience of pain worse. Once you come off dependency, the capacity for pain will be improved and the body will function better (better immune, more energy, etc). If you are taking opioids, come up with a coping plan for withdrawal – make sure your support system is in place.

A part of the coping plan is looking at your diet. Diet is critical because there are lots of inflammatory foods that impact all of our body systems. It is also important to unplug from technology and go out in nature. The Japanese have a term called “forest bathing” for the therapeutic effects of walking and appreciating nature. Dr. Jackson also recommends at least a 150 minutes of yoga a week that is calming.

Next week, I will explore the topic of diet and gut health from the perspective of Ayurvedic medicine and how it relates to pain.

In health,



Summer Yoga Sale

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for my blog. I’ve had a surprisingly busy summer between spending time at cottages with friends, family events and travelling to Yellowknife for a wedding. Aside from travel I’m taking two online courses for my yoga business and professional development, I’m the vice president for a Business Networking International chapter in Toronto and planning fun and creative ways to bring yoga to individuals and corporations in city. Despite it all I still manage to make time for my own daily yoga practice. Making self-care a priority means I’m physically, emotionally and mentally in a space where I can manage all the other things in my life with relative ease and minimal stress.

Many of us take longer holidays in the summer, spend more time outdoors and are more active in general. With the extra time and energy you have this summer, consider starting a yoga practice to prepare your body and mind for the changes that come in the Fall and Winter. To help you get started, this summer I am offering $60 private sessions to all new clients in Toronto until the end of August. You can add a friend for only $15 more. Whether you are looking to deeply relax, start a meditation/mindfulness practice or are looking to get out of pain or improve mobility I can customize a practice that is unique to you and give you the skills necessary to start your own home practice. Contact me today and mention this article to get the sale!

3 Easy Steps to a Personalized Home Yoga Practice this Summer


I hear all the time, “I love the idea of practicing yoga but I just don’t have time to go to a studio. I can’t afford regular private yoga classes, how can I have a yoga practice without the cost and time commitment?”

I hear you!

Now that summer is almost here, the days are longer and we are spending more time with outdoor activities and travelling. As much as ever, it is important to dedicate certain activities to a regular routine or schedule. If yoga is on your radar as a part of your self-care this summer, I can help you get there without having to commit to regularly scheduled classes or dragging yourself away to a studio for group classes. Like any skill or good habit you want to develop, you do need to set aside some time and dedication to practice. It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

The 3 Step Process:

Step 1: Book a complimentary consultation with me (10-20 minutes) to discuss your goals and what you would like your personal yoga practice to look like.

Step 2: Book a 1 hour private yoga session at your home with me. You will learn a personalized yoga sequence that you can practice as often as you want. I will write out the sequence for you with diagrams. I will break down how you can use it for shorter practices if a full hour isn’t an option for a daily practice. How awesome is that? Only 1 private yoga class and you are all set!

Step 3: Dedicate time daily or as many days of the week as you want to practice the sequence I taught you. The more often you practice the better you feel, the more energy you will have and the better you will sleep at night.

yoga sequence

Step 4 (optional) – Book a follow up session. I will go over your sequence with you, check your alignment, answer any questions you might have and help you add to or modify your practice as needed. (Bonus: If you book a follow up session at the same time as your initial session I will include weekly accountability calls (up to 4) to check in and see how your practice is going.)

When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to take care of others and the world becomes a more beautiful place.

Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Planting the Seed

Yoga_Photoshoot_Hany_easy pose 2Hopefully you have not become too overwhelmed with your weekly mindfulness practices. Remember that you do not need to do all of them everyday. If you find that a particular exercise resonates with you, stick that one. We learn to observe and become witness to our thoughts and actions we begin to notice those tricky little desires that pop up all the time. The desire to rush or speed up the task, the desire to tell ourselves stories and over analyze, the desire to make excuses and procrastinate. I bet you are smiling to yourself right now, if you recognize one of those habits in yourself. Becoming aware those desires, is the first step in the process of working through them.

When you begin to notice the anger rise up, you can catch that anger, watch it, observe it. How it makes you feel, how you choose to react or watch that anger. Don’t push the anger away or try to hide. Sit with it, feel it, recognize it. Be aware of the anger in you. Try not to analyze or justify they anger. Just let it be.  Over time, the anger will fade. You will see that the anger no longer serves a purpose. It is tiring, it is no longer worth it. You decide to stop suffering from your anger because it’s not worth it. You begin to notice when other people are angry but you now have this new understanding that perhaps they are unaware of their anger and their pain. You feel compassionate towards them. You are grateful you have been able to process through the anger you feel.

This is just one small example of how Mindfulness can manifest in our lives. It doesn’t happen instantly overnight or in a week. Perhaps months or even years of dedicated mindfulness practice can help us to let go of deep seated emotions or feelings that have be growing for years.

We are constantly talking to ourselves. There is what psychologists call a ‘feedback loop’ of chatter that we say to ourselves all the time. Unfortunately our mind tends to focus on the negative. Perhaps you have hear, “I’m not good enough” “No one loves me” “Your so ugly”. We all have triggers that set off this self talk which ultimately keeps us from living our life to its fullest. Each time you say to yourself “I suck” you are watering a weed that is growing and growing and becomes hard to control. We all have a garden in our minds full of weeds. We know that from research, negative self talk can lead to poor self-esteem, low body image, depression, anxiety, stress and even physical health ailments. Our mindfulness practice can help us to clear out the weeds and start planting new seeds. Once the seeds are planted we need to keep watering those seeds so that they too begin to bloom.  The challenge that we face is many of our weeds have been passed down from our ancestors through the generations having cultural and ethnic complications. Through each of the Mindfulness Practices you can begin to develop your perceptions and your awareness of your own self-talk. Remember, awareness is always the first step. Now it’s time to plant the seeds. Whether is it through a seated breathing meditation or a walking meditation, choose your mantra, “I am kind” “I am helpful” “I am worthy” “I am enough” “I am loved”. Repeat these words to yourself everyday. Express gratitude to the universe or to god for granting us these capabilities, these gifts. We believe “I suck” because we’ve heard to hundreds if not thousands of times. When that “I suck” seed was planted in you years ago, the person that said those words was wrong. Perhaps they were suffering from their own negative weeds, they could be the very same words spoken to them years before. They said those words lacking awareness of how they would impact you. In your own time, forgive the speaker of those words, because they said so with out awareness or understanding of the power of those words.

The thing with “Awareness”: awareness develops differently for everyone. Some people are ready and open to it. Awareness requires us to do some hard work and often we discover some shadows that we don’t like. Others prefer to live a life of ignorance, “I don’t know, what I don’t know” and they are okay with that. We cannot force awareness on anyone who isn’t ready for it. Also recognize the desire in you to pass judgement. It is natural. We are taught to judge others through comparison. Without judgement or comparison we wouldn’t be able to make sense of our world. The wisdom that I pass along here, is to catch yourself if you find yourself judging someone else for their apparent lack of awareness. Recognize you are on a different path from that person. It is okay. Smile and be grateful for your process.

If you have children, teach them how to plant their own seeds of kindness and compassion. Teach them that every person in the world shares the same desires: to be loved unconditionally.

Next week, Mindful Eating.