“You said what?” (Actually, I didn’t)

I look at these flowers and wonder what happens between having a felt sense of freedom and space or that of feeling tightly clenched and constricted. What creates the dance between these two opposites in my my body, my breath, perhaps even my voice?

Recently I find myself rather tongue-tied, influenced each day by current events.

We celebrated Canada Day on Wednesday. Yes we did. Yet, this celebration doesn’t quite feel the same for me these past few years, given what I’m seeing and learning about our county’s history and what Canada Day might (not) mean for our indigenous population or others, unlike me.

I wanted to acknowledge how much I love this country. Having lived abroad for so many years I hold deep appreciation for not only the land, but the culture, society, values, all it’s people. Yet I didn’t want to not also acknowledge it’s dark history and so… I mostly said nothing.

I find uncertainty in knowing what to say, how I might use my voice regarding events unfolding, day by day. How #blacklivesmatter. The need to acknowledge the disparity and racism that exists. Which is not recent, but rather long standing. I still don’t know how to express my thoughts, even here, as I write. I have much to learn and therefore … I mostly, say nothing. Yet, that can’t be right, either.

There’s no way forward in standing still, or silence.

Usually I love to talk, to speak out, as noted in my last blog post. So this not talking does not come easy to me. However, I do notice times, places, situations where I expressly, consciously ‘hold my tongue’ as they say, for a wide variety of reasons.

What happens when there is something you want to say, but you’re afraid to say it? How does this happen in my body, this holding back, this silencing? How do I manage this? Surely, musculature is involved. Therefore my brain, my nervous system play a part. A thought or feeling proceeding it.

I wonder what happens to my breath, when I consciously hold back saying something? When there is a conflict between what I want to express but am unsure how to proceed? Or, perhaps if I don’t believe what I have to say matters. Or maybe this expressing of my self, is not welcomed in a particular environment or social context?

What effect might that have on physiology, my body, my breath? How do I even notice that in my body? What do I feel, how does that feel? Do I even notice when this occurs?

Do you ever notice for yourself, times when you don’t express yourself, hold back on your opinions, aren’t sure what to say? I can say there have been more than enough times when I have done so. In work situations, for sure. But also with family, friends, even strangers I encounter. For me, these are often situations when there is discomfort, conflict or uncertainty already permeating the air, circling into the mix. It is a pattern, I’ve come to recognize.

Today and over the weekend, try this: notice what happens to your breath when you speak with someone. Notice if you pause, give yourself time to think about your response. Notice if you allow others to complete what they’re saying or do you tend to interrupt? Can you feel your breath supporting your voice or does your voice or breath feel held, or tight? Can you notice any of this happening to the person you’re in conversation with? Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable in what you wish to express? Do you hold back?

Or the opposite. What do you notice about your breath, your voice, when you’re singing your favorite song or in easy conversation with a trusted friend or partner?

What allows one to open up, speak freely? What might not? How might paying attention to your breath be an indicator of this?

I’m interested, to hear how it goes for you. Anything you notice about your breath, your voice. Your thoughts as you begin to speak or decide not to speak. What happens? How does it feel?

Let’s circle back on Monday and consider how our breath might have some influence or relationship to discomfort, and perhaps the experience of pain.

“Your graduation exam for this exercise is to practice breathing during an argument or confrontation”. – Donna Farhi

If you’re interested in diving into this type of exploration or other practices and how they might influence your experience of pain, I offer online 1:1 private sessions.

Reference: This exploration, these practices that I’ve been suggesting are from Donna Farhi’s The Breathing Book.

Eating, breathing, naturally?

@thedailypalette Vancouver, BC

Such a beautiful tray of food. No wonder eating comes naturally to me. Rather like breathing. But it may not be so for you and I suggest that perhaps our breathing is not always natural either, but is rather responsive and adaptive.

I experience this in other areas of my life, as well. For instance, everything about being a mother did not always come naturally for me. It began with a struggle to breast-feed our first born. I became anxious, stressed and upset when this did not go according to plan. I had to make a call for support and learn from someone. All was well, soon enough.

Next, however, was being home alone all day in the dead of a cold Canadian winter with a baby, requiring so much time and attention. Not only exhausting (compounded by sleepless nights) but the social isolation I experienced was new to me as well, and did not come naturally. Knowing what to do, how to best raise this human being was a challenge. Parenting as being ‘natural’? In some ways, yes, of course. In many ways, not so much. When it didn’t feel natural, I felt like I failed, somehow.

Back to food and eating though. As I said, it does come quite naturally to me. In fact it comes to me far more often than I might need. Hard to resist when images like the one above, presents itself.

Mostly, we don’t pay much attention to these natural things we do until they become a problem, an issue somehow, in how we might like to live our life.

For today’s exploration let’s combine breathing with eating. How might that go?

Much to my family’s dismay I have a tendency to choke, fairly frequently, when eating. Part of it, I’ve noticed, I’m often rushing. Second to that, I’m often talking. Our dinner time is ‘family time’ and usually consists of our coming together prepared for much debate about the events and/or news of the day. When given the opportunity, I do as well, love to talk. Rather similar to the eating thing.

Meanwhile, what’s more important to survival than breathing?

Breathing is going to sneak in ‘as needed’ whether we want it to, whether we make time and space for it, or not. Whether we’re conscious of it or not.

I wonder how eating might go for me if instead of paying attention to what I eat, how much I eat, or when I’m talking, I might just notice how I breathe when I eat.

What might that bring to my awareness?

Perhaps there is something around eating that might be noticeable for you. Maybe instead of choking like me, perhaps you have a tendency to over-eat, or it could be you under-eat. Or perhaps you have some digestive issues.

Try this: Set aside one meal a day in which you do not feel any time constraints. Let yourself breath slowly as you eat. Notice how it feels to allow your belly to release as you chew and swallow your food. Monitor your breathing if you can. Notice what you feel during and after your meal. Again, try not to judge anything. Perhaps there is nothing to notice or perhaps there is.

Curious, isn’t it?

Check back on Friday when we’ll do one more exploration and it is a worthy one, I think. Also, I wonder how the movement and breathing exploration went for you, from earlier this week. You can sign up below to get all these posts.

Also, just to let you know, I’ll soon be announcing a new 6-week online course where breath is one of the things we’ll be exploring and working with. One piece of the puzzle, when we explore various aspects to consider if you experience pain. You can learn more about the ‘Creating New Pathways’ program by clicking the link below.

What might be needed in this moment?

When looking at this picture, I imagine I may have been holding my breath in the moment. Quite a natural response, if I felt I didn’t have quite the stability and balance required to make it to the other side without falling. Perhaps I did feel able, comfortable, and so my breath flowed easefully at the time. For the most part, whatever occurred was probably not something I noticed or was aware of at the time.

It’s interesting to note how our breath might fluctuate throughout the days based on different needs or experiences.

Last week I suggested rather than bringing awareness to how your breath moves, which is often what we’re asked to pay attention to I suggested we might also focus on when it doesn’t. When you might be holding your breath. I wonder how it went for you? Did you notice anything?

This week, let’s explore this a little more.

Today and tomorrow, why not pay attention to your breath while you’re moving or doing an particular activity. It might be during a time or activity from last week, when you noticed this momentary breath-holding.

Choose something where you are not pressured or rushed for time. Maybe it’s when you’re making your bed in the morning, or perhaps brushing your teeth. Another might be when your moving from sitting in a chair to standing up. Practice, allowing your breath to move freely as best you can, as an integral part of the activity. Notice, if the activity or movement is made easier or more difficult when you breathe freely. Try not to judge it as good or bad. Just be curious.

I’d love your feedback about what you notice.

Then on Wednesday, we’ll explore this in another specific activity in our daily life. You might be surprised. Check back then, or sign up below to regularly receive these blog posts.

Let’s Get You Moving Again

Back facts

The Editorial in the British Journal of Medicine (BJM), begins

“Low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is often associated with costly, ineffective and sometimes harmful care.[1]

I’ve written about this before, here.

What drives disability and poor care?[2]

Unhelpful beliefs about LBP are associated with greater levels of pain, disability, work absenteeism, medication use and healthcare seeking. Unhelpful beliefs are common in people with and without LBP, and can be reinforced by the media, industry groups and well-meaning clinicians.”

The purpose of the editorial (made free due to popular demand, read it here) and the infographic is to “identify 10 common unhelpful beliefs about LBP and outline how they may influence behavioral and psychological responses with pain”.

The authors are also “calling on clinicians to incorporate these into their interactions with patients.”

This is so important. It’s why I always include a touch of education and information as part of my Pain Care Yoga classes. When people are in pain, it’s difficult to understand why it might be safe to move, how important it is to move and how movement “doesn’t mean you are doing harm – FACT #5”.

I hope these FACTS will bring some curiosity to your beliefs. I hope you might consider what you believe and how they might influence your experience of pain, either positively or negatively.

Sometimes, however, information is not enough. I, we, can give you all the ‘FACTS’ but often until you experience that you CAN move without pain it’s difficult to change beliefs.

As called for in the editorial, I am personally committed to bringing evidence-informed information and education to the people I work with and hope to provide a new experience to get you moving again, with confidence.

  1. Foster NE, Anema JR, Cherkin D, et al. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. The Lancet 2018;391:2368-83.
  2. Buchbinder R, van Tulder M, Oberg B, et al. Low back pain: a call for action. The Lancet 2018;391:2384-8.

 

You are not too old. It is never too late, for your pain to change.

Yes, it’s my 58th Birthday today!

Like many people my age, we’re not looking so much to get more stuff. Rather, we’re hoping in some small way, we might make a contribution. Help others.

What does this mean for you?

Here’s the thing,

Do you suffer from persistent or chronic pain? Or know someone else who does? Are you tired of finding only short-term relief from pain?

Most people think that pain is inevitable as we age. I used to think so. Now, I know that pain can change. I see it all the time in the people I work with. Science, also tells us this is true. You can learn a bit about my own story of pain and how it changed a little later, but first here’s the deal FOR YOU!

Starting today November 25th until December 2nd, receive 30-40% off my regular pricing. See how you might change what is getting in your way, limiting your life, the contributing factors to your experience of pain. Check this out!

$58 for an initial 90-min session (approx. 40% discount) if you book this week!

$58 for a follow-up 60-min session (approx. 30% discount) if you book this week!
(All appointments to be scheduled between Nov 25th, 2019 and Jan 15th, 2020)

  • Book your first 90-minute session for $58 (regular price is $95)
  • Book a follow-up 60-minute session for $58 (regular price is $85)
  • Book a package of 4 sessions, 1-90 min and 3-60 minutes for $280 (regular price is $335)

BONUS:  You’ll also receive a FREE audio recording of a slow, guided awareness practice. With the usual busy, stressful holiday season soon upon us, this can be used for relaxation, to help guide you into to sleep or rest or just notice what you feel, what you might need on any given day.

GIVE BACK:  I will donate $5 to *Chrysalis House for each session booked, whether a first or follow-up session. Chrysalis House provides a safe and secure shelter to aid in helping and support those affected by domestic violence. Which tends to escalate around the holiday season. Together, helping others.

Email me at info@yogatoolsforlife.com or you can contact me here to book a session or for further information. To learn more about individual sessions, click here.

NEW LOCATION I have a new location for my private 1-to-1 sessions. Various opportunities presented themselves but when I heard about this space called “Comfort Corner” it sounded just right. Thanks to my local community for providing all the leads and contacts in/around the West Ottawa area when I went looking for recommendations. People helping people.

Pain is surely complex. Which is why looking for the ‘thing’ to ‘fix it’ usually doesn’t work.

You truly are unique. Each person I work with comes from a unique background with unique experience and their own history, body, circumstances and environment. We’ll work together in partnership to

  • explore what might be contributors to your pain,
  • how you might change things up,
  • create new patterns of moving without pain,
  • learn to move with more ease,
  • experience how YOU CAN modulate your pain

My goal is to help you learn to ‘be your own best resource. So you don’t have to rely forever upon me, or other health care professionals. You’ll have the tools, resources, information and practices to help you through the inevitable journey of life’s ups and downs. To live a meaningful and purposeful life, no matter your situation or condition of health.

I would love to work with you!

Group Classes are helpful for chronic pain but this 1-to-1 work can make all the difference. Why not see if it’s right for you? Or if you have family, friends or colleagues who you think might benefit, please share with them as well.

Email me at info@yogatoolsforlife.com or you can contact me here to book a session or for further information. To learn more about individual sessions, click here.

*Chrysalis House is a safe and secure 25-bed shelter in Western Ottawa. It is a place where a woman can go to protect herself and her dependants from violence and abuse. In this supportive environment, a woman can focus on her personal needs and choices, as well as on her dependants’ needs.

Taming the Beast, that is pain

Professor Lorimer Moseley explains how pain scientists are making amazing discoveries that can help you understand your pain, the first step in taming the beast.

As you’ll see, pain always involves the nervous system and how your nervous system can be retrained.

  • “How do you know if your pain system is being overprotective?”
  • “How do you retrain your pain system to be less protective?”
  • “How do you know if you’re safe to move?”

Learning a little about pain neuroscience education can be helpful. [1]

What complements this is not only learning but experiencing how YOU can change or modulate your nervous system.

Use the tools yoga has to offer; gentle movement, breath and awareness practices… to soothe and calm the system. To ‘Tame the Beast’.

You can find more information and resources at TameTheBeast.org.

[1] Louw, Adriaan & Zimney, Kory & Puentedura, Emilio & Diener, Ina. (2016). The efficacy of pain neuroscience education on musculoskeletal pain: A systematic review of the literature. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 32. 1-24. 10.1080/09593985.2016.1194646.

The Person in Pain

Often, when someone has persistent or chronic pain, what’s almost forgotten amidst the assessments, tests, diagnosis, and treatments, is the person. This person is not just a body with all these parts. Rather, someone who has a unique story, history, perspective and perception about what is happening with them. How pain affects almost every aspect of their life. Their worries, concerns, uncertainty about the future.

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) launched it’s Global Alliance of Pain Patient Advocates in 2018, stating “this initiative seeks to better integrate the patient voice to inform pain research and its translation into new interventions to treat pain.” Below, Joletta Belton, tells her story:

I’ve been following Joletta for a long while now. Not only an advocator for the person in pain, she writes a blog over at mycuppajo, and co-founded Endless Possibilities Initiative (EPIc), which is a “nonprofit organization intent on changing the way people get access to science-based information about pain.”

Joletta also wrote the first chapter in Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain which I’ve mentioned here before on the blog.

She writes “My protective responses not only affected my breath, but my movement too. My muscles would tense up, my joints would become stiff, my movement braced and rigid. Being rigid and stiff affected the way I moved, the way I walked, the way I sat. The way I existed in the world. The tenser and more guarded I was, the more pain there was, so I started moving less. The less I moved, the more painful movement became. Fear of more pain, of more damage, made me move even less. A vicious cycle.”

She goes on to share what helped her most over the years. The first two, on her list:

  • “feeling heard and believed, supported and empowered
  • feeling understood, as well as understanding and making sense of my pain.”

“When we live with pain, it changes who we are as people. It changes how we see the world and how we relate to that world. We protect ourselves through isolation and withdrawal, through guarding and tension, through altered thoughts, beliefs, and movements. We disconnect from the people, places and activities that are meaningful to us.”

“It is hard.”

In her conclusion, she also goes on to say “… I want you to know it takes hard work to get out of those dark places, too. I want you to know that change is possible, but it’s not easy. It takes time and persistence, compassion and courage.
… there is so much that is possible, so much that can be done, no matter how long someone has lived with pain, no matter how many limitations they may have.”

Jolette also recently contributed, wrote, the first chapter in the Meanings of Pain, Volume 2, released last month. The interdisciplinary book – the second in the three-volume Meanings of Pain series edited by Dr Simon van Rysewyk “aims to better understand pain by describing experiences of pain and the meanings these experiences hold for the people living through them”.

In my work as a yoga therapist and Pain Care Yoga teacher, probably the most important part of my work is to listen to what the person in front of me is saying about their pain, their story, their life. Provide safety and support, work to empower the person in pain as they might learn to move, breathe and renew their own sense of meaning and purpose in the world.

If you are someone who suffers from chronic pain, know that there are people out there willing to listen. There is hope. Your pain CAN change.

Let’s all continue to advocate for, educate and push for more services and support for the 1 in 5 Canadians who need it most. Each and every person, in pain.