Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Pain

A message from my butt…

Pain is weird. 

We often think that the cause of pain is due to something “wrong” with our bodies.  We blew out that knee in a skiing accident in high school.  We have “horrible posture” while we sit at our desks all day.  My dad had a bad back; his dad had a bad back; I therefore have a bad back.

All these things could be true.

And they could all be contributing to the experience of pain in your knee, your shoulders, your back.

But what else could be true?

Could you have knee pain because when you went to the doctor back in high school, he told you, “Someday you’ll get arthritis in there”?  Would you have pain if that thought seed had never been planted by a trusted authority figure?

Could it be true that you thinking all day, “Ugh, my posture is horrible.  I really should sit up straight” is causing unnecessary tension in your traps and jaw and gut, thereby increasing your pain?

Could it be true that since your lineage is riddled with back pain, at the first twinge of something… interesting… in your back, you start to restrict your movements, start to baby your back, and start to become hyperaware of any possibly dangerous sensations in your back?  You move less (and therefore lose out on the amazing benefits of exercise) and train your system to get really, really good at noticing pain.

Pain is weird! 

I had a first-hand experience with how weird pain can be a couple of weeks ago.  I am in a 3-year Somatic Experiencing Trauma Resolution training program, and as part of that program, I have to do several sessions with trained practitioner.  During my last session, with a woman named Erin Diedling, I asked if we could work on the pain in my low back.  As Erin helped me stay present with the sensations in that area, I noticed that while, at that exact moment, I wasn’t noticing anything in my back, I DID notice a slight area of discomfort at the tip of my tailbone.  We spent some time noticing the sensation, describing it (it feel like brown sludge), and then Erin asked something like, “What do you hear, what message do you get when you focus on this sensation?”

Well, first of all, I had to tell her that when I work with therapists, I have this huge impulse to try to figure out what they WANT me to say.  It’s SO hard to figure out how I really feel, what I really think.  I just want to make the therapist happy and give them the RIGHT answer – the RIGHT answer about how I am feeling and what I am thinking.  Yes, I know it sounds nuts, but well, that’s me. J

I told this to Erin and she assuaged my anxiety by telling me that wanting to please the therapist is actually a pretty common thing.  She added (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you DID know the right answer (and you do).  What would the answer be?  And remember, whatever answer you give is perfect and is 100% correct.” 

Well, that helped me dive under the shell of people-pleasing and become more open to what my body had to say.  And the message I heard was “Get off your ass.”

We spent the next few minutes talking about how “getting off my ass” by excelling in school, by being the good girl, and by doing what I was told and making my parents and the authority figures in my congregation proud of me served me well as a youth, and how that action-orientation helped me differentiate myself from the beautiful and talented group of ladies I hung out with. 

So, this Part of me served a vital purpose in my life – it got me attention and love.  But do I still need it?  Erin asked if I wanted to retire this part of me, and I noticed I was reluctant to let it go away completely. I decided to put it on the shelf, so I can bring it out again when needed – when I really need to get some Sh*t done!

And you know what?

At the end of the session my tailbone pain was gone.

I haven’t felt it again since that session on 6/8.

Pain is weird. 

What is your pain trying to tell you?  Why is it trying to get your attention?  What stories are you telling yourself about your pain that might not be true?  What would happen if you took a pause and opened a non-judgmental, open-hearted chat with your pain?  You might find out something interesting!

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you would like some help in figuring out what might be contributing to your pain, you can book a session with me here

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Yoga

The Magic You’re Looking For

Hello!  Remember me??  I took a couple of weeks off from writing due to vacation.  We spent a week in the Black Hills of South Dakota – biking, hiking, eating, watching X-files.  That last thing – watching X-files – kinda made me feel guilty.  Here I am, in the middle of absolute gorgeousness, and I’m sitting inside, butt on the couch, watching a TV show I have seen 3 times already.  But, then, I realized I AM ON VACATION AND CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT!  I  can choose to go outside and enjoy the Hills, or I can choose to relax, put my feet up, and enjoy some very high quality entertainment.
 
This trip was full of awakenings like that.  Here are a few of my realizations.

  1. Doing hard, uncomfortable things can be super energizing and life-affirming.  The day after we arrived in Custer, we did a 35 mile bike ride, with a 260 elevation gain on the way out and a 947 elevation gain on the way back.  This was done on my new Surly Ogre, which is MUCH heavier than my road bike.  The tires are also about twice as wide, and we were riding on crushed gravel.  So I was biking a lot more weight, over a stickier surface, at a much steeper grade than my sea-level legs are used to.  It was ROUGH and beautiful.  On the ride back, I was kinda hating life (just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling), but once I got done and sat down with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, banana, and peanut butter toast, I was totally loving life.  I CAN DO HARD THINGS!
  2. It takes a while to decompress and slow down, so if you can swing it, taking at least a week off is SO nice.  Usually when we go on trips, we just spend a couple of days at our destination and then move on to a new spot (Have to cover as much territory as possible!  Have to get home and have some time to recuperate before starting work again!  Can’t spend too much money!), but this time we stayed at the same place for 8 full days.  We had time to settle in, settle down, establish a home base and venture out.  We started to sink deeper into the vibe of the area – not just skimming along the surface and checking sites and activities off boxes, but really starting to get a feel for the area, getting to know the weather, getting to the know the moods of the skies. 
  3. Watch the stories you tell yourself.  I packed SO many activities to do in the cabin – 3 books (The Enlightened Marriage, Mists of Avalon, and Understanding Human Design), colored pencils, watercolors, my journal, and 5 Pubmed articles about the importance of therapeutic touch.  I did write every day, so I could remember what we did, and I did read a good portion of Mists of Avalon, but I didn’t touch the rest of the stuff.  But, you see, here is the story I always tell myself, “If only I had more time, I would be an amazing artist.  If only I had time, I would be SO well informed on all things mindbody.”  Yet, I DID have time.  But I did not even attempt to create any art, and the articles never got touched.  It reminds me of a quote I saw on Facebook yesterday, “People romanticize their plans but dread the execution.  The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.”  Wow.  That really hit me.  I just want to be an amazing artist and an amazing therapist, but I want to avoid the discomfort of GETTING GOOD and of PRACTICING (there is no doing something perfectly in the learning stage).  This ties back in to point #1 – I HAVE to do the uncomfortable things in order to experience the joy and satisfaction that I want. 

Shoot, I had all sorts of stuff I wanted to write about – the amazing Somatic Experiencing session I had this week, the importance of looking at the Adverse Childhood Experiences you have had (and how they affect your marriage), and how Presence is a fundamental requirement for us both as individuals and as a collective.  But, I will need to explore those topics in future posts.  This is my SUMMER OF FUN.  I’m really trying to focus on enjoying life NOW instead of when I accomplish my To Do list (aka “never”), so I am going stop here.

Space to be Human Lab

  • I am taking the second class in my Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma-resolution training on June 24-27.  I am really excited to bring these trauma-resolution skills into our sessions.  So much of our chronic pain comes from nervous-system dysregulation that’s a reflexive response to various types of traumas (defined as events that overwhelmed our ability to deal with them) we have experienced in our lives.  Our responses to these events enabled us to keep functioning and surviving (so THANK YOU, Body!), but those responses can get stuck in our nervous system after they’re no longer needed and affect our ability to THRIVE.  But SE can help us process those through and find more space for presence
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can easily book a session here.

I hope you are enjoying this hot, humid Sunday!
 
<3

Hlo
 
P.S.
It is Sir Huehue’s 6 month birthday today, so I have to share a picture.

Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Yoga

A bad case of The Clench.

Hello There!  If you are in the Quad Cities today, you are experiencing probably the MOST beautiful day we’ve had this year.  Nature is a great reset for our minds and bodies, and as I am feeling very…sucked up inside myself (just breathe, Heather!), I am going to take massive advantage of it today.  So, today’s post will be short, so that all of us can go outside and play.  Also, I am going to be on vacation (South Dakota, here we come!) starting next weekend, so you will be newsletter-free. 😛
 
Since today I need to hear some advice on how to regulate a spun-up nervous system, that is precisely what I am going to share with you.
 
Side note:  Why am I wound up today?  WHO KNOWS?!  It could be hormones.  It could be what I ate and/or drank yesterday.  It could be dehydration.  It could be indecision about a decision.  It could be all the things I want to/need to get done before we leave for our trip.  Maybe it’s contemplating the cost of gas and food and fun whilst on vacation.  It could be the 60 to 80,000 thoughts, stories, and internal narratives assaulting me daily.  And it’s most likely a combination of all of the above.  But I guess The Why really isn’t the important thing. The Important thing is, I’ve noticed I’m feeling a bit tense, wound up, and fast.  So.  What next?

  1. Spend 90 seconds just sitting and noticing the sensations I feel in my body.  According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the vibrations associated with an emotion last just 90 seconds.
  2. Locate the sensations (I feel it in my throat and belly) and see what happens if I inhale and exhale through the area.
  3. Acknowledge that I am feeling anxiety.  Ask myself, “Is that a problem?”  What happens if I just allow it to be there instead of fighting it and pushing it away (which adds a layer of suffering on top of the layer of anxiety)?
  4. Lay on my back in Constructive Rest and take some long, slow smooth breaths.
  5. Write.  Get all the thoughts out of my head and on paper and look at them objectively.  Preferably this should be done in a Moleskine journal with a nice pen.  Just sayin.
  6. Take a walk, encourage the furrow between my brow to relax.  Open up my peripheral vision.  Notice all the shades of green.  Notice the sounds of the birds and the wind in the leaves. Notice the smell of the lilacs.
  7. Take an Epsom salt bath (FYI – my sister-in-law’s sister told me that taking a hot bath with ½ cup of Epsom salts, ½ cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of kosher salt can be a mind-opening experience.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to tonight!).
  8. Pet Huehuetenango Schneiderjohns.  Here is a picture of him playing with his new Chewbacca toy. 
  9. Roll my abdomen with the Coregeous ball (this would also help that pesky low back pain).
  10. Do something fun!  Tim and I plan to bike over the new I-74 bridge this afternoon.

There’s my top 10 list of self-advice.  Oh shoot. I just thought of another one.

11. If I’m forbidden to call what I am feeling “anxiety”, what would I call it?  Anxiety can be a “cover” emotion that hides something deeper going on. What emotion am I hiding from by saying I feel anxious?  (This also comes from the podcast linked in #1).

Ok.  Now I’m really done.  Hopefully if you struggle with that fast/spinny/unable to exhale sensation, this list will give you some ideas to experiment with.  And I’ll remind both of us that:  MAYBE FEELING ANXIETY IS NOT A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED.

Space to be Human Lab

  • The Lab will be closed 5/28 to 6/5.
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can purchase a 3 pack of 60 or 90 minute sessions and save $10 per session!  Link here (click on Products and Packages link at the top).

Happy Sunday!  I look forward to regaling you with stories from South Dakota when I write again on the 5th. 😛
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Habit Change, Mindset

I’m lazy, and you should be lazy too

When you want to make a change in your life, do you have a tendency to go balls-out? For example, going from not lifting weights at all to going to “I’m going to start lifting weights 4 days a week for an hour each day.”  Or “Starting this week I am going to plan, prep, and cook ALL of my meals at home!” (when you typically eat out 3-4 times per week).
 
I am one of the aforementioned humans.  I have a tendency to overestimate my motivation and drive, and as a result, I go like gang busters for a few days, or even maybe a few months, and then I peter out and return to my original set point.
 
My friend and teacher Dinneen Viggiano had a great newsletter about “MVA”  Minimum Viable Amount.  She verbalized something I have noticed but ignored when it comes to my own life – even though I know “X” is super good for me and will help me become the person I want to be, if “X” is hard, boring and/or time-consuming, I will do it for a bit and then give up.  And then I will feel bad about giving up. And that will make me even LESS motivated to do ANYTHING – even something small – to improve my wellbeing.  And thus begins a pity party that ends with me wondering who do I think I am and why do I think I am qualified to help ANYONE improve their life.  Things get dark pretty quickly in Heather-Head-Land.
 
Dineen offers a solution to this nip this negativity spiral in the bud:

  1. Start out doing something that you seriously think you would honestly really do.
  2. Do it regularly for a while and see how you feel (see how your pain responds).
  3. Start to pare it back a bit and see if you still feel benefits while doing the smaller amount.
  4. If you get to a tipping point where the pain starts to return, titrate back to the slightly higher dose.

Here is how I am implementing this advice in my own life:

  • I am working on getting my low back feeling better, and I know that working on my breathing would help.
  • I worked with an Athletic Trainer awhile back who gave me several breathing exercises to do.  I was supposed to do them 2-3 times a day, and they take about 15 minutes each time.  I kinda did them for a while, and then, well, you know.  I humaned and stopped.
  • SO, I am starting with doing 2 minutes of Constructive Rest whilst breathing from my diaphragm every night before I go to bed.  Two minutes is so easy that I have a hard time convincing myself that it’s a burden.
  • I’m finding that at the end of the 2 minutes, I often have started to relax and breathe more deeply and I want to go longer, but I’m not!  I’m just doing 2 minutes until I feel as if the habit is ingrained.

Now that I type it all out, I’m kind of following Dineen’s advice backwards.  I am using a “tiny little action step” to build the habit, and then assessing the effects, so I can potentially do more, but the overall gist is the same:


FIND THE DOSAGE THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO AND THAT ACTUALLY EFFECTS SOME CHANGE IN YOUR SYSTEM, AND DO IT CONSISTENTLY.


If you are overwhelmed, bored, or frustrated with your exercise plan, maybe you could experiment with doing a little less and see if a smaller dose will get you the same results.  I think it’s a universal truth that doing less and doing it mindfully and consistently is better for our mindbodies.

Lastly, I want to put in a little plug for a fundraiser for the QC Yoga Foundation.  This is a local non-profit organization that is trying to bring yoga to as many people in our community as possible.  They (or maybe I should say “we” because I’m on the Board) are hosting a super fun event on 7/9/22 called Fireflies and Flowers.  Music, tasty food, flowers, mid-summer vibes, picnic, and connection to your community – what more could you ask for??

If you are interested, you can “Buy a Blanket” of 8 tickets here or individual tickets here.  I would love to see you there!  I am trying to put together a group of 8, so we can get a blanket.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you have a family member, friend, or coworker who has been sidelined by pain or tension, I would be so grateful if you refer them to me, so we can see how massage, meditation, and movement can get them back to doing what they love.  For every Referral who books with me, you get a coupon for $10 off your next session!  Your friend can find more information about Space to be Human here.

I hope you are having a delightful Sunday and can find some space to do nothing and be okay with it.  🙂
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Uncategorized

A Break from routine

Good morning!  Perhaps you noticed that I didn’t send out a newsletter last week.  The Sunday got away from me, honestly, as Sundays have a tendency to do.  This Sunday, at 7:50AM, is already wriggling, slippery, and cunningly trying to bolt, so I’m going to try to catch it while I can.

I wanted to share with you a theme that’s been surfacing in the ether – that of the necessity of breaking from routine (um, maybe that’s why I skipped a week of newslettering last week…).

Having good routines and habits can be SO useful and beneficial.  When we can just follow the same path every day, we don’t have to expend precious energy on redeciding every moment.  We don’t have to decide to brush our teeth, we don’t have to decide which roads to take to work, we don’t have to stop and think, “what’s my password” when we unlock our phone.  We just run the program and effortlessly  and unconsciously do most of these things.

But, have you noticed how a whole day can go by, and you weren’t really there for it?  Your teeth are brushed, but did you notice how fresh and clean your mouth felt?  You arrived at work, but did you notice the magnolia tree on the corner that looks as if it popped right out of a Japanese woodblock print?  You’ve unlocked your phone a bazillion times, but did you ever once notice the ridiculous cuteness of your puppy pic on the lock screen?

Habits and routines, while saving us energy, do so by putting us in a well-worn rut.  And often times the secret to changing our pain experience lies in breaking out of that rut and TRYING SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

When we do something new, our brain wakes up and takes notice.  It comes online and starts to recalculate the massive amounts of input constantly streaming it.  Different inputs mean different outputs.  And guess what – PAIN is a an output from your brain.

I listened to a really interesting podcast Mindful Strength: Why Strength Training Helps this week.  Kathryn Bruni-Young and Nikki Naab-Levy are two cutting-edge fitness professionals who incorporate current biopsychosocial pain research into their fitness programming.  In this podcast they talk about how important strength training is, especially for people who are super mobile and stretchy.  They also talk about how important it is to break up the routine of strength training – the body is SUPER adaptable, so you need to constantly be throwing new stuff at it.  From a strength-training perspective this can look like:

  • Changing the tempo of your lifts.
  • Pausing at the top or bottom of your lifts.
  • Changing the number of reps and sets.
  • Taking rest days when your body is like, “NOPE.”
  • Changing the position in which you lift (e.g. instead of always doing pushups with your hands directly under shoulders, experiment with setting your hands super wide, or with one hand close to your shoulder and one hand really far away, or with your fingers pointing in different directions, etc.).

When you play and explore like this, not only are you sending some new and attention-grabbing stimulus to your ol’ brain pan, but you are building strength in a variety of positions – meaning that when you need to crouch down on all fours and reach waaaaay far under the dresser to grab your baby’s wubba, your shoulders and wrists will be like, “Hey. I gotchyou.  We’ve trained for this.”

A side benefit of breaking the routine is that you start to notice your days, you start to have more fun, life gets more interesting.  What could you do to nudge your way out of ruts that are no longer taking you where you want to go?  An easy thing to play with is to try to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.  Give it a go and watch your body be utterly confused about how to accomplish this simple task.  And notice how HARD it is to resist the urge to go back to using your dominant hand.  That urge to return to comfort is insanely strong and persuasive.

If you need help in figuring out how to add some novelty to your workouts, I really recommend the Mindful Strength Membership.  It’s $35/month (CAD), and you get a really interesting and fun assortment of classes – yoga, restorative yoga, strength training, crawling, etc.  The crawling classes are super fun and super challenging. The weird stuff is always more fun. J 

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you are in pain and are interested in exploring how some new inputs (organ massage, cranial mobilizations, movement, breath, cupping, etc.) could affect your output of pain come see me!
  • Hours:  Monday and Friday 2PM-5PM; Tuesday and Thursday 2PM-7PM.  Occasional Saturdays from 8AM-12PM.

I hope you are having a bonkers good Sunday and can do just ONE small thing that could shift your experience today.

<3


Hlo

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Uncategorized

And your foot bone is connected to your…belly bone?

Mobilizing the liver

I took Friday off work.  I had a few errands I wanted to run, a corporate yoga class I wanted to draft up, and a day off just sounded super nice.

I looked forward to it all week.  I was super excited on Thursday.

And then Friday came.  And Oh Boy.

All this free space, all these To Dos.  Where should I start? What should I do?  Should I be productive?  Should I relax?  Should I clean the house?  Should I chuck the whole list to the wind and just hang out with Huehue?  Doesn’t a living being deserve more attention  than updating my check register?? SO OVERWHELMING.

What did I do?  I know you’re on the edge of your seat.

I did the One Thing I really had to do for the day – I wrote a super spiffy yoga class for my corporate client (I am calling the class “Undo The Cube(icle)” which just truly tickles me.  And then I kinda just floated with the day. 

I got my nails done and had a great conversation.

I took a bath and tested out whether meditating in the bath tub gives me super powers like when Eleven used her powers in  the sensory deprivation tank in Stranger Things.  (I don’t think it did, but it was just Try No. 1).

I took a walk and listened to a podcast.  And in the podcast I heard a Chinese saying from Martha Beck that struck me:

“When nothing is done, nothing remains undone.”

Ahhh.  So I don’t have to push and get it all done.  I can just do what I choose to do, and that is OK. It is possible to have peace – again by changing how I look at things instead of changing my circumstances.

And with that, I’m choosing to just rest a bit more on my deck, read a fiction book (Mists of Avalon), and quit f@cking trying so hard.

Space to be Human Lab

  • The Feet Belly Connection – As part of my LTAP class, I’ve learned assessments that provide clues as to which organs could use some massage, movement, or focused attention. Why is this so cool??

This is super cool because your muscles main job is to protect your organs.  Yeah – they also move your body around, but job numero uno is organ protection.  Organs are vital to this.  This means, that when you have a pain in your what feels like your muscles, it could actually be stemming from your organ!  Isn’t this list of referrals interesting??

  • Liver- right shoulder, neck, sciatica
    • Stomach- left shoulder, mid-back
    • Small intestine- mid-back, low back, feet
    • Colon- hips, sciatic
    • Kidney- knee, hip, feet
    • Bladder, Prostate, Bladder, Uterus- Sacrum, hips
  • Come see me if you’re interested in exploring how your organs could be factoring in to your pain experience!

I hope your weekend was full of the sun kissing your cheeks and the wind playing with your hair.

<3


Hlo

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Mind Over Tension (aka Jedi Mind Tricks)

Hiya.  Care to get a little curious?

Where are you breathing right now?  Is the air coming in through your nose or your mouth?  What is the temperature of the air?  Where do you feel your body move with the inhale and the exhale – your shoulders, your ribcage, your shoulders, all of the above?  What happens if you just notice?  Just notice the breath coming in and going out, like ocean waves sliding up a sandy beach and slowly retreating back to the deep.  Perhaps you would like to start to slow down the breath, taking looooong sloooow sips of air.  What do you notice next?

I’m curious about your eyes. What happens if you take a pause from reading this, look up, and let your eyes gaze on something in the far distance – the furthest thing you can see without straining.  How does that feel?  If you invite your eyes to take in more of your surroundings – start to notice what arrives at your eyes from the periphery, how does that change your experience of your eyes?

And what about that belly?  I invite you to take a moment and just notice if you are holding your breath, holding your belly, bracing.  What shifts within you, if you allow yourself to soften in this area, maybe even inviting the breath to sink down low and expand the low belly?  How does that feel?

And the hands, and the fingers – are they clenched tightly around your phone as you read this, are they resting in little tight fists on your lap?  What if you tried to hold your phone with just the SKIN of your fingertips?  What would it be like to slowly uncurl each little bone of each long elegant finger and allow the fingers and palms to rest with ease on your thighs?  What is it like if you imagine bringing more space into the INSIDE of your hand, like inside the fingers and inside the palms?

How do you feel after a few minutes of exploring your inner world?  Did you notice a shift in your overall tension?  Your mood?  The pace of the hamster wheel of thought-generation?

We’ve been taught, since the time of Rene Descartes, that “I think, therefore I am,” insinuating that there is some sort of separateness between the mind and the rest of us.  We now know due to reams of research that the mind and body are not separate.  As human beings, we are a mindbody.  Our thoughts effect changes in our body, and our body effects changes in our thoughts.  Perhaps you noticed how your thoughts helped your body feel more calm, ease, and expansiveness?

Our minds have a documented “negativity bias” which means we are always scanning for the bad, what could go wrong, how things could fail.  This has kept humans alive so far, so it’s a vital predisposition, but it can make for a shitty lived experience!  We can consciously work with this negativity bias, by inviting in the opposite thought – give equal airtime (or maybe even MORE –  research recommends a 3:1 ratio) to scanning for the good, thinking about what could go right, how things could succeed.

How are your thoughts contributing to your tension?  How could they contribute to more ease, flow, and space instead?  Just some food for thought on this day of Rebirth.  Maybe we could give birth to a mindset that helps us find more Space to be Human.

Space to be Human Lab (where we invite in an attitude of exploration, experimentation, and curiosity)

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: The reviews are in “It’s so soft!”  “It’s so comfortable!” “My face isn’t smushed.”  Yay for the new cradle!
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that we are heading off to Armored Gardens for some lunchy poo.  Also, if you don’t currently get the Tap On It texts, I highly recommend it.  This week we got a coupon for BOGO draft beers at Armored Gardens.  I mean, I don’t drink beer (Hellllooo bloated belly), but that’s a really good coupon. J

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Confessions of a Wounded Healer

Pain is weird.  In a nutshell, that is about all that Science and Experience (and my personal N=1 experiment) knows for sure.  This becomes especially true when you get into chronic pain territory, meaning if you have persistent pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months.

And guess what.

I have chronic pain.

I’ve had persistent low back pain for ages.  I remember going to physical therapy for it when I was working at HNI in Muscatine.  Let’s see, that was…15 years ago.  So, yup, I am in chronic pain territory.

It’s embarrassing to admit that, as a massage therapist, yoga teacher, and studier of the human mindbody and condition, I have been unable to resolve my own main complaint.  I’ve seen PTs, chiropractors, the founder of neurosomatic therapy, myofascial release specialists, acupuncturists, functional medicine docs, yoga therapists, breath specialists.  You name it; I’ve likely tried it. 

Does it help?  Sometimes and for a little bit, yet the pain returns.  And I’m starting to get a sense of why.

  1. I don’t do my homework.  I don’t do my breath exercises, stretches, etc. consistently.
  2. While I KNOW that humans are multidimensional beings, made of physical bodies, but also energy bodies, mental bodies, and spiritual bodies, I still revert to a default belief in a biomechanical model and reliance on Someone Else needs to fix this.  This is amusing to my Higher Self, as my main driver/motivator in doing the work I do is because I want to help others realize their potential to heal themselves via a wholistic mindbody approach.  Oh – THE IRONY!!

And so, as I slowly start to examine my Shadow Self (the side of myself that I don’t REALLY want to look at too closely), I am beginning to realize the strong connection between the low grade low back pain that’s been my constant companion these 15 years, and my habit of living life at Speed.  This speedy living manifests in clenching – tightening up my shoulders, holding my breath while executing tasks, clenching my butt, and not processing feelings/emotions as they arise (I don’t have time to deal with this now; I’ll do it “later” when I “have more time”  and when it’s “more convenient” (meaning never)). 

It’s become evident to me that the reason none of these external therapies have worked is because my habits of daily life (daily clenching), immediately facilitate tension in my back.

I know the work I need to do to feel better.  I need to FEEL BETTER.  Meaning, I need to take the time to notice what is arising within my inner domain, turn toward it with openness, notice exactly WHERE I am feeling it and WHAT it feels like.  It looks something like this:

I feel a sensation like a ball in my throat.  As I watch it, it starts to shift up into the back of mouth and out toward my ears. I say “hi” to it and let it do what it wants to do.  I take a moment to breathe long, slow breaths and the feeling and I just hang out together for a bit.  Sometimes it stays, sometimes it moves on.

I think the secret to unwinding the tension in my back is in unwinding the tension in my emotional and mental layers.  I realize that can sound a bit woo-woo, but there is actual proof that this is true.  The biopsychosocial model of pain indicates that ALL of the following can contribute to our pain experience:

Injuries.  Hormones.  Metabolism.  Neurochemistry.  Nutrition.  Sleep.  Circulation.  Breathing.  Immune functioning.  Personality.  Behaviors.  Age.  Gender.  Race/ethnicity.  Socioeconomic status.  Social network/Relationships.  Life stress.  Treatment satisfaction.  Readiness to return to activities of daily life. Spiritual practices.  Meaning and purpose.  Autonomy/Self-management. Beliefs.  Thoughts.  Our ability to feel our inner state (interoception).

HOW does one go about doing the work of examining and processing their emotional and mental layers?   I work with a life coach, and I’ve also worked with mental health therapists in the past.  I also journal daily and get the stories out of my head and on to paper where they are more obvious and manageable. I meditate to build my “attention muscle,” so that I can get less triggered by my own thoughts.

If you would like to learn more about the different factors that could be contributing to YOUR pain, we can chat about that in your next session. Here are also a couple of interesting and helpful resources.

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: OMG.  I AM SO EXCITED!! Today my new cradle from Oakworks arrived.  It is a specially designed face cradle to reduce pressure on the eyes and sinuses and reduce congestion when you are face down.
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that, I’m signing off.  IT IS FINALLY SUNNY!!!!!!!  I hope you can spend some time in the sun and warmth today.

See ya next week, My Peeps!

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

The Golden Shadow; The Good We Hide from Ourselves

Last week we talked about getting to know your shadow.  The term “shadow” just inherently has a negative connotation to it.  Interesting aside – Huehue got spooked by my shadow this morning when I took him out at 4:15AM.  He kept looking intently under our neighbor’s deck, which was starting to really unnerve me, when I realized he was staring at the shadow of me, cast from our other neighbor’s floodlight.  My shadow IS pretty threatening in the wee hours of the morning.

ANYWAY – back to what I was saying, we default to thinking that our shadow is negative or bad. BUT, the shadow is composed of all the parts of ourselves that we didn’t feel safe to display.  And that means that the shadow also contains parts of us that are good and interesting and unique and special. Our “golden shadow” is made up of our gifts and talents and abilities that we suppressed because we were given the impression that they were NOT ok.  Maybe it was our exuberance and liveliness (“Can’t you just be quiet?/Why can’t you NOT set the shed on fire?/Why can’t you be behave?”).  Maybe it was our imagination (“Stop daydreaming.  You’re old enough to get your head down out of the clouds.  Start keeping both feet on the ground.”  Never Ending Story).  Maybe it was our unique perspective on life and God and why we are here (“We look to the Elders/Authorities to tell us what is right and good.  Who do you think you are to question that?  Thinking like that is dangerous”).  Many “positive” qualities can be dismissed, minimized, and rejected, depending on the circumstance we are in and the influential people in our lives.

Sure, our shadow self contains the negative traits we want to hide and ignore, but it also contains the positive traits that we find equally difficult to acknowledge and own.  This “golden shadow” needs to be met and integrated in order for us to return to wholeness.

“We see in others those positive traits which are our very own, but which, for whatever reason, we refuse to allow entry into our consciousness and are indiscernible to us.”  Meeting our Shadow.

Personally, I find it a lot easier to acknowledge and own up to my negative shadow traits than to boldly embrace my golden shadow.  Thinking negatively of oneself is oh so comfortable but oh so ruinous!!

Meeting our Shadow suggests listing the qualities we deeply admire in others and noticing what we think and feel when we use those qualities to describe ourselves.

I deeply admire:

  • People who stay very calm no matter what is blowing up around them.
  • People who try new things and are adventurous.
  • People who are experts in the field of mindbody flourishing.
  • People who don’t gossip about others.
  • People who are authentically generous and not self-centered.
  • People who write beautiful stuff.
  • People who put their energy into making a difference in the world.

And, yep, I feel so much resistance when I think about me emanating those qualities.  As my friend Angela says, “How fascinating!!”

How about you?  Is it easier to acknowledge and accept your dark shadow or your golden shadow?

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am now at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232. The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool. 
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I have started a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP).  This class is based on osteopathic and the Barral Institute techniques that teach the therapist how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide the therapist on where to start treatment. 

I am excited about this class as it will help me tune in to what your body really needs and use all the fun, interesting, “weird” stuff like visceral massage, cranial mobilizations, and neural resets to address pain in all areas of the body.  It sounds crazy, but sometimes just doing a breath technique can be the key to getting rid of that pain in your big toe!  According to my teacher, starting treatment in the right place is crucial to an effective treatment.

If this piques your interest, and you would like to embrace curiosity with me, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

Happy Sunny Sunday!  I hope you can rest and recover.  Here is some inspiration from the Huehue-Monster.

With love,

Hlo

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Yoga

Meeting Your Shadow

It’s sunny and warm and summery out today, so in true yogic spirit, I’m bringing in a bit of the opposite – The Shadow.

I first was introduced to The Shadow when I took Dr. Betsy Rippentrop’s Yoga for the Mind course last year. Betsy is a psychologist and a yoga teacher, so she brings a really interesting, enlightening integrated perspective that combines yoga philosophy, scientific research, and psychology.  According to her notes, the “Human Self” is made up of the Ego, the Shadow Self, the Inner Child, and the Pain Body.  The Shadow Self is made up of parts we’ve repressed – unconscious parts of ourselves that we see as undesirable.  This is the Mr. Hyde to our Dr. Jekyll.

The Shadow Self seems like something we would want to avoid and push away, but turning the light of our attention to it is actually the key to elevating consciousness.  When we don’t look at what is contained in our shadow, we are not wise to its influence.  We unconsciously project what is hidden in the Shadow onto the people and circumstances around us – blaming others, blaming circumstances, blaming The Other for everything that is wrong in our lives, when in actuality, our perception is inaccurate due to the veil of the shadow through which we are unknowingly peering.

Creating a right relationship with our shadow self not only helps us gain more insight into “Who Am I, really?” but it also can “lead us back to our buried potentials.”  Through “shadow-work” we can develop more self-acceptance, as we are accepting who we really are, not just who we want to be or who we want others to think we are.  “…Only by making friends with the shadow do we gain the friends of the self.”  (Quotes are taken from Meeting the Shadow:  The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature)

Meeting the Shadow suggests an interesting exercise to help you start to get to know your shadow: describe a personality type that you find unbearable and impossible to get along with.    This produces a list of your own repressed qualities.  I did this exercise this morning, and it was quite uncomfortable.  Here is a snippet of my list of qualities I find really annoying:

  • She is confrontational.
  • She is unpredictable, unreliable.  You never know where you stand.
  • She willfully misunderstands.
  • She lacks confidence and needs constant validation.
  • She is sneaky.
  • She talks too much and should listen more.
  • She is a know-it-all.
  • She wants to be care of.

I then took this list and, and pulling a page from Byron Katie’s The Work, substitute “I” for “She.”

  • I need constant validation.
  • I willfully misunderstand
  • I am sneaky.
  • I lack confidence and need constant reassurance
  • I talk too much and should listen more.
  • I am unreliable.
  • I want to be taken care of.

Ugh.  Some of that hit very close to home.  I can see why I find these qualities so annoying, as these are things I least like about myself; the things I have tried to hide and ignore and pretend are not there.  But by bringing these qualities to light and examining them with compassionate acceptance, I can start to integrate my Shadow Self.  “Whatever has been repressed holds a tremendous amount of energy, with great positive potential.” (Meeting the Shadow).  Also, realizing that other people annoy me because of qualities I myself hold helps me be a little bit more patient and kind with them.

What personality type really annoys and frustrates you?  Is there some gold in there for you?

The need to examine The Shadow is a theme that keeps reappearing in a variety of different areas lately (books, Archetype cards, Instagram, podcasts), which usually means it’s a current that’s flowing through others’ minds as well, so I figured I would share this exercise, since I found it uncomfortably insightful.

Also, Huehue, with the advent of the full moon this week and his 9th week of life on this planet, has become the doggo version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  He is all sweetness and puppy kisses one moment, and then BAM – all shark teeth and barking zoomies the next.  It’s super bonkers.

To offset this slightly darker-than-usual post, I am going to share an amazing gluten-free cookie recipe with you:  Coconut Flour CookiesThese cookies are BETTER than the gluttony ones, IMHO, and they are super easy to make. I was going to take a picture of them so that you can see how tasty they look, but they look (and ARE) so tasty, that I ate them before I took the picture.  They are SO GOOD.

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am now at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232. The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool.   

Thanks for reading my friends!  If you discover any interesting insights as you do your own shadow work, and you care to share, I care to listen (I DO need to listen more!).