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 II

Today I am reviewing the talk by Tasha Stanton a neuroscientist from Australia who researches the complexities of pain. I learned that there are many biological variations in every person that could effect the mechanisms of any given treatment. Essentially, the higher the perceived danger is versus the perceived safety, neither of which is not always in our consciousness, can have on impact on our treatment for pain.

Tasha further teaches us that our senses play a key role in our experience of pain. Research has shown that one sense can modulate another. For example, vision plays an important biological role in the experience of pain. When we can see the body part that is experiencing the pain, the pain can actually decrease. Even our perception of how a body part looks can change how pain is experienced. Participants in one study who had rheumatoid arthritis were shown altered pictures of their hands where they look healthier and the patients reported a reduction or elimination of pain. This strongly speaks to how context is critical to how pain is felt.

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

1) You can become an advocate of your condition. Your recovery should be a partnership between you and your healthcare provider.

Recovery is significantly faster for people who actively participate in their recovery rather than people who passively receive care from someone else.

2) We need to rethink how we define the “causes” of pain. For example, pain in your foot is not a pain signal from the foot to the brain that the foot is hurt. It is a danger signal that something is not functioning optimally. This means pain may not be a tissue issue – this is why stretching away back pain won’t work.

3) There is hope: Our nervous system is often forgotten and the brain interprets in the context of what is going on in your life, your past experiences, beliefs about pain.

4) Surround yourself with positive people that believe in you and who support you. This is critical in how you frame your experience and your recovery.

5) A short reduction of pain or a sensation of pleasure means there is hope for long term possibilities. This means your nervous system/body is giving you an experience of pain that has been modified (no pain!). Worse pain doesn’t mean more damage either because we can have a pain experience without damage!

 

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…

Intentions, Feelings and Fresh Beginnings for 2018


Happy Holidays! This has been a year of tremendous personal and professional growth for me. As I dug into setting goals for 2018 I found myself basing these goals or intentions off how I want to feel. After doing some soul searching and looking at the different aspects of life from working and lifestyle, to health and wellness, creativity and learning, relationships and society and spirituality, I narrowed down my core desired feelings for 2018. My intention is to use these feelings to direct my thoughts and actions for the upcoming year. As a part of this process  I am excited to announce that in the New Year I am shifting my focus to teaching primarily therapeutic yoga. I will still be available for corporate classes and group classes but I am ready to shift my focus to long lasting, sustainable results for my clients.

I am looking to connect with individuals ages 40-65 years old, who perhaps have older children, are experiencing shifts in their careers or approaching retirement. They are beginning to feel a disconnect in their life in regards to their exercise and lifestyle habits that aren’t making them feel as good as in the past. Perhaps fitness classes at the gym are no longer having the desired effect on the body as they used to. Experiences with illness or injury have created challenges in how they relate to themselves and others. This person is looking for something more meaningful in their life and is ready and willing to invest some time and effort into making a sustainable shift in their well-being.

If this is you, let’s work together. It’s time to take your power back. I can help you close the gap between where you are currently, and where you want to be. Therapeutic yoga is a movement based therapy that empowers you to take control of your wellbeing with support all along the way. I provide the knowledge, tools and skills to help you elevate your current state so you can get back to enjoying life the way you were meant to.

The majority of health care and wellness professionals treat one part of the body or where they perceive the pain to be. The truth is, that we are more than a collection of individual parts that needs to be treated or manipulated by someone or something outside of us. We are a dynamic web of interrelated elements including our physical body, our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, past experiences and our environment. This is why I work in partnership with my clients to develop a customized program that meets them where they are for what they want to achieve.

Sign up now for 12 weekly sessions and we will build a framework for getting stronger, more relaxed and settled in our body and mind. With stability and ease comes strength, calmness, clarity, creativity and joy. Your practice will be progressive so you build on the skills as you master them. Think of yourself as the co-creator of your development as we work together to explore the possibilities.

With love and hope,

Lindsay Keefe

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.

Yoga Rehab: Workshop for Back Pain

yoga rehab photoPain and discomfort doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. Yoga Rehab is designed for yogis, those new to yoga and anyone who is curious. The aim is to help you live a more functional, effective and strain-free way that is unique to your goals. My principles of movement will help you get stronger and build more stamina, flexibility and balance without pain, strain or tension.

What can I expect in these workshops? You will learn simple (but not necessarily easy) movements that will help improve mobility and decrease pain. For yogis, you will discover a whole new perspective on movement and take your practice to the next level! There will be a focus on breath work, mindfulness and developing body awareness woven throughout the workshop. This is not a typical yoga class so yoga experience is not required.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next 2 workshops are called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, September 30th and October 14th at McMaster Fitness 2-4pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.

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!

Yoga Rehab

yoga rehab photoPain doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. When we learn how to effectively improve the function of our shoulders and hips we perform better in our athletic endeavours, we can chase after our kids with more ease and life becomes more enjoyable.

After the success of my first two Pain Clinic Workshops for hip and shoulders I’ve decided to offer a combo class specifically for yoga teachers, fitness instructors and students to learn the skills to get out of pain, improve the function of their hips and shoulders so they can feel great and get back to the activities that they love or even to excel at the activities they already enjoy.

Often times as a teacher, we see our students or clients struggle or hit a road block in their progress due to pain, injury, or lack of range of motion. As a teacher do you notice your clients cringing in pain? Struggling to breathe or holding their breath in a posture or exercise? Finding excuses? Cancelling appointments? Afraid to re-injure themselves?

Learn the skills to move better without pain, nurture relaxation and move optimally with stability and ease.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next workshop is called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, March 25th at Leslieville Sanctuary 1:30-3:30pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.

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.