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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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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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Uncategorized

On Getting a New Perspective

I’ve written before about Balance and how the theme of balance keeps surfacing in the ocean of my experience – the need for balance in thoughts and opinions, balance in work and fun, balance in movement practices. Eventually everything needs to wobble back to center – it’s just that we don’t know the timescale!

I took a manual therapy training class recently that is helping me embody more balance in how I think about manual therapy and in how I practice hands-on work.

I was trained in a school of thought that was very much posturally focused. We were taught how to analyze someone’s posture and note where the patient was twisting or shearing or in some other way moving out of “neutral.” These deviations from neutral provided clues to what muscles or organs or systems needed some attention.

It was/is a useful analysis, and many people WAY smarter than me are using it every day to literally change people’s lives. But, the more I read and learned about other modalities, the more I realized that posture is only part of the story. And in my own personal practice, I noted that many of my clients were feeling much better after seeing me, yet their posture remained essentially unchanged. How to reconcile this??

To further confound myself, I worked on an article for Tune Up Fitness on the importance of posture. I had the privilege of talking to several experts in the field of human performance and well-being, and most of them stated the same thing – posture is just a piece of the puzzle of pain. Oh. And the research says there really is no “perfect” posture. The really important thing is being able to move through a variety of postures depending on your need in the moment.

This whole exploration of the importance of posture helped me practice the skill of believing almost mutually exclusive things to be simultaneously true. Is posture important? Yes. And also No.

So to further develop the skill of becoming comfortable with uncertainty, I took Walt Fritz’s class, Foundations in Manual Therapy. Walt also comes from a therapy lineage that focuses on posture as a primary indicator of pain. However, after taking several classes in several different modalities (that all worked), he realized that while they all worked, their explanations were often not founded on scientific literature. YET THEY ALL WORK!! Why??

Essentially, his answer is, because of the Therapeutic Alliance – that connection between the client and the therapist – the exchange of energy and attention and intention – that communication between two nervous systems – that is really where the magic of therapy happens. It’s not that the therapist released a trigger point or freed up a restricted nerve, or unstuck some fascia. It’s that the therapist jibed with the client.

The core of his approach, “Rather than using a protocol or trusting your knowledge and experience, you’ll instead listen to your patient.”

I so love this.

I am ever grateful for what I learned at the Center for Neurosomatic Studies. But, man, the human body is all sorts of complex, and when my brain starts trying to follow the twists and turns and flexes and extensions found in a body, my insides start to get all wound up too, and my brain gears start overheating. And guess what happens then? I get all up in my brain instead of my in my body, present and accounted for with my client.

BUT

When I have scientific “permission” to focus instead on what the human being in front of me is telling me with their voice, their eyes, their body language, and I can focus on that instead of solving a puzzle, wow – then I can be present, aware, and open to possibilities that the client/therapist partnership can open up. And there is so much beauty and freedom in that.

So that is what I am experimenting with – taking all I know, all I don’t know (SO MUCH), all of what the client needs and wants and expects – and putting all that together into an experience for the client that helps them find more space, freedom, and ease. And, oh yeah, trying to have fun in the process. 🙂

Come join me on the exploration, if you want to see what opportunities for healing we can discover together!

Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Yoga

Why do YOU need Space to Be Human?

I created Space to Be Human to provide people with bodywork, meditation, and mindful movement tools as a pathway to rediscover space for positive change.

Why would I need this form of therapy?

  • You want to feel better in your body.
  • You have nagging pain that won’t go away no matter what you do.
  • You want to learn self-care tools to address “issues in the tissues.”

What should I expect in a session?

  • We will chat about about your story, symptoms, and patterns.
  • Heather will do a postural assessment to identify areas of the body that may be constricted and use that info + your story + your symptoms to design a treatment plan that will help you reach your goals.
  • The treatment plan will address disregulation in your nervous system, muscles, and organs via manual therapy, breathwork, and movement.

Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

On Humility

I am reading a really beautiful, thought-provoking book, “Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain” by Matthew J. Taylor. I was first introduced to Matthew Taylor when I read, “Yoga and Science in Pain Care.” He wrote a chapter on the history of pain science, and it literally made me laugh out loud. Not the reaction you would guess to a chapter on pain science! But the chapter tickled me so much that I looked up Mr. Taylor and sent him an email thanking him for writing such a fabulous chapter.

And lo!

HE WROTE ME BACK!

Come to find out, this PT, PhD, C-IAYT (and past president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists), lives in Iowa City, IA – literally 45 minutes from me. As we chatted back and forth via email, I found out that he is friends with Jill Miller (my teacher and founder of Tune Up Fitness), he lived and worked in Galena, IL for several years, his wife graduated from the same college I did (St. Ambrose University). His grandma had a house 2 blocks away from where Tim and I lived for 10 years. She was also a bank teller at Davenport Bank, which essentially became Quad City Bank & Trust, where I now work. #syncrhonicities

This super brilliant man was so kind, curious, and humble. I called him Dr. Taylor, and me told me to call him Matt. 🙂

Fast forward a couple of months, and I was asked by Tune Up Fitness to write another article. They suggested that I interview Matt, and I jumped at the chance. I emailed him, and within a few hours, he emailed me back with a “Yes, I would love to!” and we settled on a date and time.

He spent 45 minutes sharing his insights and perspectives with me (more to come on that, when my article gets published). During our conversation, I found out that he had written a book. I was so intrigued by our conversation and his very inclusive, open, humble approach, that I quickly added his book to my collection.

It’s an amazing book. He is teaching me about philosophy, systems thinking, holding space for paradoxes and uncertainties, and at the same time, drawing connections between all these things and yoga. There is enough in this book to keep me studying for years, but one concept really caught my attention, as we are going through this very divisive time. On page 83 he talks about 3 forms of humility:

  • Agential humility – that recognizes that there are some things we simply cannot change.
  • Epistemic humility – that recognizes that we can never know all the factors involved in a situation.
  • Predictive humility – that recognizes the uncertainty of the final outcome and all the ramifications of our actions.

Practicing these forms of humility opens up SO MUCH SPACE for compassion, understanding, and patience. While I may believe something 100% and have NO DOUBT of its veracity, I can never know all the factors involved. I cannot judge you or your opinions as “wrong” because I don’t know all the relationships (context) involved. Also, let’s say I could somehow know that you are “wrong.” Well, I don’t know the final outcome of any actions you take based on that “wrong” belief. As Galadriel says, “Not even the wisest can see all ends.”

The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing for sure. If we could all approach life and each other with that foundational belief – just think of the space that would open up for new ways of thinking, new ideas, new connections. Differences of opinion would be food for conversation and exploration instead of vitriol and dissension.

As a therapist and a life-long perfectionist, I really struggle with feeling inadequate. I have felt as though I should be able to tell a client, “Oh yes. I know the problem. Here is what you need to do.” But that is not me. I have a big long jumble of ideas of things that could possibly, maybe, hopefully help, and I share those ideas with an invitation of “Let’s try and see.” In reading this book, Matt reiterates repeatedly that our role as therapists is to 1) Create a safe environment and 2) Empower clients to create new responses.

So maybe I’m NOT doing it wrong??

What’s the point of this whole post? Well, firstly, if you are at all interested in yoga and pain management, you must read this book. And then you must contact me so we can digest it together (it’s DENSE). And secondly, don’t be so sure. Don’t be so sure you have the answers or that you don’t have the answers. Don’t be so sure you are wrong and someone else is right or vice versa. The answer is always “Yes and no, maybe, and it depends.”

Hold space for the unknown – there is space to play and create and connect there!

Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Uncategorized

On Balance

“Everything flows out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right, is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates”

― Three Initiates, Kybalion: A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece

And that, my friends, explains everything – Life, The Universe, and Everything. Oh, and Neurosomatic Therapy too.

The universe, our bodies, our lives – we all strive for homeostasis, for balance. In NST, we look at the body and observe where it’s tipping, tilting, twisting away from balance. Not that any of these movements are bad, in and of themselves. But over time, done repetitively, the body starts to adapt. It shortens and lengthens muscles (Davis’s Law), it grows and destroys bones (Wolff’s Law). It adapts to be more efficient at the positions you put it in most often. Unfortunately, this means that if/when you want to move and hold your body in a different position, your muscles and joints doth protest, and that protestation can manifest as pain.

In NST, we do 84 measurements of bony landmarks in your body to see where you have made accommodations over time. Based on these measurements, we can target muscles that need incentive to relax and let go or that need stimulation to get the attention of your brain, so that the brain can start operating them better.

I have been listening to a great podcast, The Optimal Body, which is hosted by two physical therapists who have an easy-to-understand balanced approach on getting people out of pain. They introduced me to the concept of 30 for 30. For every 30 minutes that you are in a static position, spend 30 sections doing the EXACT OPPOSITE thing!

For example, if you are (like me right now), usually sitting, hunched over your computer, wrists extended, shoulders rolled forward, head craned toward your computer, eyes focused intently 2 feet in front of you, then ===> Stand Up. Extend your spine. Ramp your head back so your ears are stacked over your shoulders. Flex your wrists. Stretch your arms out to the side and point your elbow pits up to the ceiling. Look out your window and at the farthest, farthest tree. Do that for 30 seconds.

This is SUCH a simple exercise – no fancy cueing, no complicated instructions to remember. Just DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU USUALLY DO. You remember that episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza does the opposite of everything his instincts tell him to do, and his life suddenly turns around?? Well, in this rare instance, follow George’s example.

I am in the process of figuring out when/how to return to NST practice. Miss Rona is being very difficult. But I will get it all figured out soon. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, suggestions for what you would like to hear about next. Thanks SO MUCH for reading!!!

Take care, My peeps!