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October 31, 2017

Getting a massage can be both therapeutic and relaxing. Massage allows for time to unplug, tune in, take some time for yourself. And if you’re lucky enough to have a therapist that knows their stuff, you have the added bonus of fixing stuff while you’re there.

That being said, there are things you can do to make the massage experience better. Ready?

  1. Breathe

After the therapist has left the room and you are comfortable on the table, take the time to breathe. Not just normal breathing, but the deep belly-breathing kind. Focus on expanding your belly and filling your lungs. This will help calm you down, reduce your heart rate, and tune you in to what your body is saying.

Once the massage is in session, breathe if things get painful; this helps to release tight muscles and sore spots. Holding your breath will actually make the pain worse. Think of a labouring woman – she needs to breathe through painful contractions, and so should you.

  1. Communicate

You need to tell your therapist if the pressure is too much…or too little. As aware as therapists are to client’s bodies, we can’t always tell if you are in pain. Some people are great at showing it, some aren’t. But it may not even be pain that you are in, it could be as simple as you just like lighter pressure than what we are currently giving. Remember that they can’t feel what you are feeling. Communicating what you enjoy allows the RMT to treat you more confidently and lets you leave feeling your best.

  1. Tell us to SHUT UP

Therapists often get in a mode of talking with certain clients because that’s what we have always done with said client. So when you say “I just want to relax today,” we don’t necessarily think you mean your brain as well. So tell us to shut up! We are ok with it, I promise.

 

  1. Unplug

Ever notice how your fingers itch to check your phone if you hear a beep? Distracting. Turn off your phone so you don’t hear when a message comes in; this will help keep you in the space where your body needs you to be at that moment.

 

  1. See us regularly

Funny how your body hurts less when you see someone to treat all your finicky stuff regularly, eh? Seeing a RMT on a maintenance schedule can actually decrease your chance of injury and help prevent flare ups of pain.

BONUS!

  1. Be on time

Seems like a no-brainer, but being on time is a big deal. If you are on time to your appointment, we have ample time to treat what you need done and don’t have to rush through it. This will also help you feeling better longer. Plus there is nothing worse than being frazzled because you are late. As we said, massage is therapeutic, but if done right, it should also be a relatively relaxing experience.

 

Ready to book your massage at Whole Therapy? Give us a call!

Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.

 

September 4, 2015

Dictionary.com defines change as the following:

CHANGE
verb (used with object), changed, changing.

To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something)
different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone:
To change one’s name; to change one’s opinion;

To change the course of history. 

trapped

Not sure if this office setup has the lumbar support I need..

What a simple, easy to understand, straight to the point definition.  And yet, as simple as it is to understand, why then do we humans have so much trouble implementing change into our own lives?
I’m not talking about changing the tires on your car, or, the vacuum bag, or your little human’s diapers; although some of these things are dull, taxing, or unpleasant.  I’m talking about real change.  Meaningful life-altering change.

Four years ago I found myself in a terrible position.  I was stuck in a dead end job with no further room for growth.  I wasn’t learning any new skills or even really developing my current skill set.  The monetary compensation was less than adequate, and I was oh, so very bored.  I can look at that time now and easily identify these symptoms for what they were:  I was stuck.  I needed a career transplant.

I was trapped in this Grand Canyon-sized rut where it became easier to do nothing than to fix my situation. I had absolutely no idea how to get out of it.  I was walled in and (thought) I didn’t have the tools to get myself out.

But everyone has a boiling point, don’t they?  Everyone will eventually find themselves in a position where change becomes inevitable.  And sometimes, all it takes to initiate that change is a little luck, a little timing, and a little pro-activity.   Jamie, a co-worker of mine at the time, knew of my struggles with the daily grind and had often been a sounding board for me when I had to let off steam.  Jamie turned out to be the husband of my current employer, the incomparable Jen Wright.

Taking action, finally

Combine the fact I had recently returned to high school to obtain my diploma after a 17 year hiatus (that’s a change story for another time) with an increasing difference of opinion on certain matters with some of my co-workers led to me investigate a suggested employment agency here in the city. I set up the appointment to meet with someone in a fancy downtown office; I took their online office skills test, and went for the follow up meeting on a Friday after work.  I was told that they would be in touch with me and that was that.

It was the following Monday when Jamie stepped into my office and said to me.  “Jenny is looking to hire an office manager, are you interested?”  Boom.  All of a sudden, I had a lifeline.  It was like Regis had just given me an extra phone a friend and I was about to become a millionaire.

The next week when the employment agency called, I happily told them I had found what I was looking for and that their services would not be needed.

I don’t normally put a lot of stock in Karma or that kind of thing, but I can honestly tell you that I believe the only reason that the offer came my way was because I had taken the first step and had unknowingly asked the universe to give me the change I needed.

sea creature

“Try the Human, it’s delicious”

The reason people have trouble with change is because, not surprisingly, it’s really hard.

It’s like jumping into a lake you’ve never swam in before.

You know that moment when you’re standing on the dock, imagining all the hideous and murderous monsters that are right now swimming just below the surface?  That’s how change can feel.  Scary.  Scary, slimy and covered  in murder-y scales.

Change is difficult for me because I like things to be consistent.

Everything in their place and all that. The big win for me was learning to realize that things were broken and out of place.  It took me a long time, but I did it.

When I finally realized that I couldn’t keep doing things the way I’d been doing them, the universe responded with a giant “Well it’s about time.  Here, take this happiness and meaning.  Have a good day” and vaporized all the sea mutants waiting below the surface.

So yes, change is difficult.  But is it essential to survival?  Yes.  Is it one of the keys to happiness?  Probably.  Have and will I continue to look for opportunities to evolve?  Certainly.

 

We at Whole Therapy want to hear from YOU! Take a picture or write a post about your #ChangeOneThing experience. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #WholeTherapy as well. We’ve got some great prizes to give away!

 

Pat Moore is the office manager at Whole Therapy.  Pat works alongside a team of dedicated professionals and is here to help ensure that your visit at Whole Therapy is as pleasant as possible.  For more about Pat, click here!

Pat

August 24, 2015

Husband Jamie and I took the kids wilderness camping at Algonquin Park a few weekends ago; it was their first time, and they loved it.

Gorgeous weather as we set out. What's not to love?

Gorgeous weather as we set out. What’s not to love?

When camping, one has a singular purpose: to survive.  There’s no luxury to camping in the wilderness, save for a decadent square of dark chocolate at the end of the evening, or a luxuriously dry pair of socks when your body is damp to the bone.

We pushed on, canoed until our arms and shoulders ached, carried our canoes and packs on our tired backs, found a place to rest, set up camp and made food to fuel us.  We slept when it darkened.  Then we woke up and did it again.  In between, we swam and laughed, interacted with each other (without the distraction of electronic devices), made up stories, sang songs, and observed the wonder of nature.  It was amazing.

Yes, the pack IS as heavy as it looks.

Yes, the pack IS as heavy as it looks.

The rhythm of camping and portaging is simple, satisfying.  I felt better about myself camping (dirty, calloused and aching) than usual, and I didn’t touch a phone or look into a mirror in over 72 hours.

That’s not an accident.

I was able to really feel my body on our trip. I felt the strength in my legs and back as I hefted my 65-pound pack (and added Little One’s pack to it as well, when she tired).  I felt my hunger rise up as we finished setting up tents: a natural reminder to eat for fuel rather than out of habit or boredom.  And I sank into sleep each night, sardined in with Middle and Oldest, I felt heavy and worked, and grateful to be lying down, and even though a thermarest is hardly a plush mattress, I slept like the dead.

If only life were so simple, I thought as we travelled – a clear purpose, a drive and need to succeed.

Reflecting on life in my journal.

Reflecting on life in my journal.

But life is so many shades of camping – not quite urgent, or so much more so, not quite survival, but living “to the fullest” – whatever that means.

Everything in nature does its best to adapt.  Not like humans, who try and shape the world around us to fit our own needs.  In nature, even an acorn blown by mistake to the edge of a cliff will grow sideways and thrive as it reaches for the sun.

img_0198school

We need to learn to grow sideways.

 

In this way, the simplicity of the wild is so much more advanced than our technologically brilliant society; we, in the acorn’s position, would look for a better, more advantageous spot to grow, and though we may grow straighter, taller, we would miss out on that amazing view. Not to mention, we would miss finding out what we are made of.

I thought about that acorn, and survival, a lot on our trip.  Obviously we were close enough to civilization that most emergencies could be easily rectified.  But most of our creature comforts were taken away: no couch to laze on. No phone to surf Facebook.  No coffee maker, no takeout, nothing quick. If I wanted a meal I had to work for it. If I wanted to be entertained I had to use my imagination.

Little One hams it up in the tent.

Little One hams it up in the tent.

There was no passivity, no boredom.  Only a deep sense of appreciation for the skills and strength I possess, my family, and all the beauty nature has to offer.

And now that we’re home, and continuing our journey here, I’m more than content with some wine, some good conversation, and a sunset.  More rolling with the punches, less trying to shape the world to my whims.

I want to see the view from the side of the cliff.

 

About the Author: Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

Jen

July 22, 2015

Got my red belt in karate this weekend. My first coloured belt; I’m no longer the lowest on the totem pole! My gi has pizzazz now: and I’m proud fit to burst.

Celebrate!

Celebrate!

So often, in the dojo and out in the world, I see people brushing off their achievements.

“Yeah, I just ran a 10k, but it’s not like it’s a marathon or anything.”

“I did just work for 5 years to lose that weight, but it’s no big deal; I really shouldn’t have been fat in the first place.”

“I got my red belt, but it’s just red – I have a long way to go before my black belt.”

Seriously. Can we cut out the false modesty?

Seriously.

Seriously. Cut it out.

Achieving things makes me happy and fulfilled.  As it should.  I work deliberately to get things done. I’m not the kind of person to whom things come naturally.

My fitness level? Worked my ass off (literally) to get here. I still work extremely hard; if I didn’t, I would be much weaker and flabbier.  My pear-shaped body likes to be softer; I was never the skinny kid, and I never will be able to just eat whatever and not gain weight.

So I take pride in completed workouts in which I did my best.

My business? I went through a lot of change and learning to open it.  Then a lot more to transition it to something I truly believed in.  It’s been tough – rewarding, but really tough.  Some days it stresses me out, and other days I revel in the smoothness of operations. But it’s never easy.

So I take pride in the new things I learn and the firm decisions I make.

And now, my red belt. In March, I had never done karate before. 4 months later and I’m committed to weekly (or more) classes in the dojo, and practice with Sensei Jamie outside of that. You’ll often find me brushing my teeth in shiko dachi, a wide-legged stance.  I have to repeat movements about a million times before I’m even serviceable at them (choreography of any kind is not my friend). I love every minute of each comfort-zone-pushing class.

karate red belt

It’s NOT just a red belt! It’s the culmination of my hard work so far. 🙂

So you’d better believe I’m not brushing these successes off.  You shouldn’t brush yours off, either!

Little triumphs can make the difference between a fulfilled life and an unfulfilled one.  If I work hard, I celebrate. I don’t need to win a gold medal in the Olympics to be proud of myself.

It’s not, contrary to popular opinion, arrogant or overconfident to celebrate your achievements, rather it’s a necessary component of living a happy life.

Did you exercise today? Pat yourself on the back.  Did you check any items off your to-do list? High five! Notice I didn’t ask you if you’ve hit your goal weight or completed your to-do list; those are bigger celebrations.  The little ones count too, though, and should be recognized.

Whether it’s a belt in karate, getting my shopping done, eating well today, or something else, I’m going to continue to live deliberately, working towards and celebrating the milestones, whether they are big or small.

Life’s too short: celebrate every bit of this journey.

 

About the Author: Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

Jen

July 13, 2015

Méana Franco does things on purpose.  The 23 year old powerlifter and personal trainer cuts a decisive path across the gym floor as she heads to the bench press.  Without any preamble or small talk to those around her, she bounces on her toes a few times, shakes her muscular arms out, and assumes an arched position under the bar.

An average gym-goer watching the scene would not be able to appreciate the complexities of Méana’s lift.  To the uninitiated, a bench press works the chest muscles.  To the powerlifter, it is the culmination of the entire body flexing and directing energy into lowering the bar to the chest and back up.

I realized I could match almost all of  Méana carefully places her hands in the proper position on the bar. She presses into her feet, steeling her upper back and shoulders into the bench, and… liftoff. People around her stop to watch as she skillfully lowers close to double her body weight onto her chest and back up again.

They should be impressed.

Already, at 23 years of age, Méana Franco is one of the best in the world at her sport.  And would you believe she first got into it by accident?

“Originally I was a wrestler and rugby player, but I wasn’t great. I loved it and I enjoyed playing, but I was never going to go far with it. When I started working at [GoodLife as a trainer], I tried benching a plate and it was easy.  People were like, ‘oh, that’s really impressive’, and I was like, ‘what do you mean?’ I didn’t understand that the weight was heavy.”

A little research proved that her raw skill was, indeed, impressive.  “I realized that I could match almost all of the current national and some of the international bench records.  So I thought, ‘well maybe I should do this.’”

Don’t let Méana’s nonchalance fool you; while her start into powerlifting may have been by chance, her training since its inception has been anything but.

-My goal is to be top five in the world. (1)
She and her boyfriend, Mark, who is also a Personal Trainer and powerlifter, structure their whole lives around training.

“When we cook, it’s almost like we’re making food for five families,” she jokes, “We’ll go to Costco and get fish and meat and cook it all at once. Sometimes we cook once a week, sometimes twice.”

And what kind of food fills a powerlifting couple’s fridge?

“It’s about trying to mix what’s convenient and what’s healthy. We do a lot of frozen veggies, a lot of lean meats and fish, a lot of salads. I’m predominantly low-carb, because carbs don’t sit well with me. I try to keep foods that bloat me out of my diet.”

Méana has another reason to eat healthfully – she has polycystic kidney disease, which means she has to be careful with diet and hydration. “I can’t ever get dehydrated. I can’t have caffeine. I can’t take a lot of the supplements that other people take to improve their performance; my kidneys can’t handle it.”

And she also has to be careful to get enough recovery, because she is prone to adrenal fatigue.

Goal setting is a big part of Méana’s life.  Although she didn’t attend World’s this year, she is planning on going next spring. “My goal is to be top 5 in the world. Right now I’m in the top ten; I’ve got some work to do.”

How does Méana set her training schedule? Currently she is training with Elite FTS, an online source for strength training, equipment, gear and seminars.  “To get sponsored by Elite FTS, you need to have an elite total,” Méana explains, “when I went to my first competition last year, I got some attention because I was squatting over 300lbs and benching 200.  The owner of the company was watching me, and I asked him what I could do to get better. He said, ‘Get an elite total today.’ I needed 280lbs deadlift to get an elite total. I deadlifted 300.  He handed me an Elite FTS shirt after that, and I cried. I’ve been with them ever since.”-If you’re strong, and your attitude is

Elite FTS promotes the tagline StrongHer, which describes not just powerlifters, but strong women in general. “If you’re strong, and your attitude is strong, then you’re strong. It doesn’t matter what your totals are, either. Strong is strong, to them.”

But staying strong is not just lifting, according to Méana.  “I have to stay well, because if I burn out I’m not lifting anything.  I’m proactive about recovery: I take some supplements to help with inflammation. I get myofascial release with Tara at Whole Therapy every three weeks.  I do a lot of mobility, stretching foam rolling, and I always get 8 hours of sleep. I rarely go out drinking or stay up late; it’s just not where my interest is.”

I alwaget 8 hours of sleep. I rarely go

With that down-to-earth attitude, it’s easy to imagine this girl heading straight for the top in anything she tries. Does she have any advice for would-be powerlifters?

“Seek help from people who are better than you. Try and surround yourself with people who are positive and will support you. If you’re going to be successful, you have to live with humility, integrity and passion.  There is no other way.”

Check out Méana’s blog here.

Know someone who would be great in the Wellness Spotlight?  Send us an email! info.wholetherapy@gmail.com

 

About the Author: Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

Jen

Posted in Blog, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wellness Spotlight by Jen Wright
May 14, 2015

MEL’S MEANDERING MASSAGE MIND: BETTER, STRONGER, SMARTER. DON’T BS MY SMARTS

This month we are talking about “Being Above Average.” I’ve been thinking about what this concept means to me. What does it mean to you?

Initially I thought to myself So I have to talk about me and how I think I’m better than everybody else? That’s a little conceited. But upon reflection, Being Above Average has nothing to do with everyone else, and everything to do with myself.

Allow me to explain.

I’m a Massage Therapist (duh). I love weight training and competing in Powerlifting. But this wasn’t always true.

When I was in Massage school, I felt extremely weak. It was hard to get through an hour treatment and I felt I gave no pressure. Being the type of person I am, I knew that I didn’t want to be a “Spa” therapist, but I would rather be able to get in and find those sore spots on people and have the knowledge to help them out.

I started lifting some weights, and guess what – I tore my pec the first time I tried the bench press. Not a good sign.

After my chest muscles healed, I went back to the gym; I knew that getting stronger would help me in the future and with the career I had chosen (or rather, that had chosen me).

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that I think I’m the strongest person I know, that I am fully confident in my ability to move weight around, or even that I know the most about training or treating injuries/imbalances. My inner voice routinely tells me I am the weakest person ever, that the weight will beat me, and that I know nothing and have to scramble to find words to try to explain something to a client when they ask “Why does this hurt when I do that?”

BUT there is a silver lining to these thought processes. I may not be “strong” compared to others like me, but I am stronger than I was last year, both mentally and physically. The weight might beat me today, but I will try again tomorrow, next week, next month. I might not have the answer for you right now, but I will do my best to find it.

Every day I’m in the gym or at work I learn from my training partners, my coworkers, and my clients. Every day I am bettering myself as a whole person. Every day I am working my butt off to be better at what I do and how I do it.

So I’m not being conceited when I say that I am above average, I’m saying I am above MY average. I am better than I was yesterday, the day before that, and the years before that.

Be better…be stronger…be confident in you! Don’t worry about the rest of the world.

 

Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.

Melissa

May 11, 2015

I’m on a mission to “create space” in my head.  That was part of my homework when I had my nutritional consult with Karen, and I’ve been searching for it ever since.

Meditation is the obvious choice for opening the mind, but meditation, it should be said, is like stabbing myself in the eye with a fork is not really my thing.  I can’t picture myself sitting cross-legged doing nothing but contemplating for any length of time.  Actually, thinking about it now makes me laugh – my three year-old, Molly, would be like, “Cool! Mum’s a jungle gym!” in about five seconds.  Plus my mind wanders incessantly, and my inner monologue would no doubt have a field day: Why are you doing this? This is boring.  This is stupid. You have an itchy leg. What’s that noise outside? I wonder if that laundry’s done.  What is Molly up to? Is she colouring on the wall again… and so on.

So no meditation.  But space is still the objective.  Running helps, but I need something more.

A few weeks ago, our family joined a local dojo.  Husband Jamie has studied martial arts since he was six years old, and his old Sensei practices nearby.  He thought it would be a good experience for all of us to join together.  So off we went.

karatemolly

I was nervous at first.  Even with all of my fitness experience, I have never delved into the world of martial arts.  It was an entirely unexplored arena for me; a thought that both terrified and excited me.

My first few classes, I followed along tentatively as we punched, kicked, and learned the white-belt katas.  My choreography skills and spatial perception are crap, let’s just get that out of the way. It’s a wonder I can tie my shoes in the morning. Thank goodness I don’t operate heavy machinery for a living.

Sweat, eyebrows scrunched up in concentration, more sweat, repeat this move, repeat that move. And again. And again.

Soon, I realize, I’m starting to get it.  I’m moving in the right direction! I can high block and low block and even kick a bit without falling over.  It isn’t pretty yet… but I’m realizing that it won’t be unless I repeat those movements thousands of times over.

I watch Sensei Jamie in his black-belted magnificence, doing the same movements as I am, yet with an assured confidence, and an air of absolute mastery around him.  He has practiced these moves for thirty years. I’ve been practicing them for thirty minutes.

Still, I see what is possible, watching him.  The katas are beautiful, thirteen ways to artfully kick your opponent to the curb.  When I practice, I see each movement as it comes, and I struggle to remember how to execute the next one.  When Sensei Jamie practices, I see no struggle behind his eyes: just a space in his mind that is both peaceful and full of warriorship.

I want to get to that place.

And so I go to class. I practice at home. I’m dreaming about karate, and my body is learning and adapting to new movements and mindsets.  I never would have dreamed I would love it so much in such a short time, but I do.

As the journey continues, I for once am not focussed on the end result. I don’t really care to get a higher belt, or more recognition, or really ever lay a hand on an enemy for real.  I’m focussed on getting to that place of serenity that repetition brings; that bubble of nothingness that I’m on the edge of grasping.  I’m almost there.

Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

Jen

May 4, 2015

I’m standing naked in front of my full-length mirror. This is my exercise in exiting my comfort zone today, and boy, is it ever working.

Having grown up in a rather liberated household, I’ve always been comfortable disrobing in front of others in a change-room, or around family. Disrobing in front of myself for the purpose of affirmation, however, seems terrifying by comparison.

During yoga training this weekend, we spoke a lot about our comfort zone, our ego, and the things we tell ourselves. Here’s the gist:

If I go about looking at my body from a place of hate, disgust, or shame, I propel those feelings into the future and am guaranteed to live them. I know this. We all know this. But it’s easier said than done to love yourself all the time and look at your body from a place of love, acceptance, and pride.

I wrote a blog recently about how everyone’s body is perfect, and I really meant it. I meant it about myself, too. But living that “perfect imperfection” daily is about meaning it when I’d actually rather cut myself down. Hence the nakedness in front of the mirror.

I deserve to be happy in my own skin, though, so I try and change my mind and look at myself from a place of love. I choose not to think this a hard task. My inner monologue goes like this:

I don’t look like I used to look. I’m softer. My first thought is to hate it, but I’m not going to hate the softness today. Today, being softer is ok. Women are curvaceous and beautiful. I am curvaceous and beautiful! I look strong, still, and even though there’s cellulite there and more fat than I’d like, I look good. Husband Jamie hasn’t kicked me out of bed yet 🙂 

I smile at this, laughing at my thoughts. My smile is nice. I have wrinkles beginning, but they’re from laughing, not frowning. Hey, this is easier than I thought. I have nice hair. My shoulders are muscular. My tattoos are all so me, I love them.

And then I try an affirmation, and to my surprise it seems like the next logical thing to say, rather than the awkward, touchy-feely sentence I had originally thought it was:

Really seeing oneself requires courage.

Really seeing oneself requires courage.

I am worthy of receiving love and happiness. I am beautiful and strong. I can, and should, think good things about myself.

The world doesn’t end. No one comes barging into my room to stamp me on the forehead with “You’re such a cliché.” Amazing.

One of the big lessons I took away from yoga training this weekend was that I have to be vulnerable in order to really connect: with others, as well as with myself. If I let myself be vulnerable, there is always the risk that I will have my heart stomped on, but there is also the risk that I will find a place of happiness within myself that I never knew existed.

So today, I stand vulnerable in front of the mirror. Totally exposed and wholly myself. Today, I have succeeded in both exiting my comfort zone and believing that I’m worthy of love and happiness; that’s a big win. Some days I will undoubtedly find this exercise more difficult, but at the end of the day, change is about programming positive thoughts into my head as much as I can.

Because after awhile, thinking: I’m such an idiot. I’m so fat. I’ll never look/act/be the way I want will come true. If I say it enough, I’ll believe it. My body will believe it. My energy will reflect it. Isn’t it more productive to program the good stuff instead?

More of using my body to train my mind. The journey continues.

Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

Jen

April 23, 2015

My first experience witnessing our body’s natural ability to move freely, unwind, and heal from our past was in Chicago over 4 years ago.  The course I was taking was offered by John F Barnes, a Physiotherapist known all over the world for his work in Myofascial Release.  Seven years earlier I had read about Barnes during Massage school; now I was finally learning from him.

On our first day, as I watched a fellow therapist walk up to the stage, I thought I had walked on to the set for America’s Funniest Home Videos.   After a quick evaluation, she got on the table.  We all sat there listening to what John was saying and watching him stay in one place holding the barrier (meeting the tissue resistance and staying there) on this therapist.  As we watched, she started to shake as though she were cold and she began to move without any encouragement or assistance from John.  Her movements were quite graceful, almost like a dance.  Then she froze in space, not moving from a v-sit position.  She wasn’t there long, maybe 2 breaths before her body relaxed again on the table.  The whole time, John was holding the barrier never moving, never changing his pressure.

A few thoughts went through my head: 1st, OMG, what the hell have I just got myself into? 2nd, Are these cameras here for these prank shows? And 3rd, Have I just wasted a lot of money to be here?

I then got on the table; my partner held out at the barrier of our first instructed release.  Her hands were at the base of my neck barely touching. She stayed there and waited.

Just as my colleague minutes before, I felt a sudden shift happen in my body:  My breathing stilled, and then got smoother.  I felt cold everywhere.   My pelvis got heavy and I was no longer aware of my legs.  I was however, very aware of my right arm.  I felt an intense heat and pull through the front of my shoulder.  It scared the living daylights out of me, and for good reason: The last time I felt so much sensation in my shoulder was 15 years prior.

I had been throwing a ball from 3rd base, and as I released the ball, I grabbed my shoulder in pain; this was the same pain I was feeling laying there on the table.

Without consciously doing so, my arm started moving through this sidearm throwing range, the same range that I once had but hadn’t been able to execute since my injury.

More thoughts: 1st, OMG what the hell have I got myself in to? 2nd, who is this man, and what kind of course is this? 3rd, I need to throw a ball!

That night, I threw a baseball, sidearm, for the first time in over 15 years.  It felt amazing! I felt like a teenager again! I felt like I was going to try-out for the Blue Jays and be their first female 3rd base-woman!  I sat down on the golf course where we were and cried because it felt so good!  And yet I was so angry that I had missed out on so many years of playing competive ball because of this injury.

Part of me still had no real clue what the hell happened on that table, but if I could throw sidearm again, I was going to keep my butt in the chair and listen to everything John Barnes had to say.

From that moment on, I opened myself up to the experience of true Myofascial Release.  Although at times my body did strange things on the table, I avoided judgement and just went with the flow.  After all, these movements were familiar to me; my body had once done them before.

I felt at home and at peace with the healing that was I was going through personally.  I had finally found something that resonated with my impression of healing, physically, mentally and emotionally.  There was this energy in the room that vibrated through me and I loved it.  I felt strong.

I realized that my body knew how to heal itself from all the traumas I had suffered from through my life: I just had to listen.

fascia man

This tissue, called fascia, is not linear in our body, so why should its release be linear?

 

Over the course of a week I learned that when we hang out at the barriers long enough, a state of UNWIND can happen.  What does that mean?  Well, for each individual it is very different.  Take a moment and look at your body.  What you are actually looking at is a 3 Dimensional web of connective tissue.  This tissue, called fascia, is not linear in our body, so why should its release be linear?

When your therapist engages tissue that isn’t moving or functioning well, movement can start to happen.  This movement is called unwinding.  Movements can be large or small, sometimes so small as to be imperceptible from the outside.  Unwinding can begin as a feeling within the body, or an emotion uncoiling.  It could be local to the therapist’s hands, or it could be in your belly, or in your foot.  Whatever the feeling, it is powerful, because it is healing.

Unwinding is our body’s ability to move through positions of trauma so it can fully release.

As your body goes through these positions of trauma, moments of pause, called still points, might happen.  These still points are your way of dealing with the restrictions from the trauma you’ve been through.  Physical symptoms may arise: sweating, nausea, shaking.  Emotions may come up: crying, vocal sounds.  Quite often memories surface.  All this is a process of healing, and it is trapped within you until the barriers release.

Since that week in Chicago, 4 years ago, my perspective as a therapist has changed.  I strive to create a safe environment where clients can heal in their own way – an environment that feels safe to let go. I no longer believe that deeper is better, but rather longer is key!  I no longer have an agenda when I walk in to a treatment room; I treat each client to their individual needs of the day and moment in time, keeping in mind long term goals.  The need to fill the space with conversation to make clients feel comfortable is no longer a priority; instead, I encourage quiet, so we both can listen to what your body is saying.  My firm belief is everyone needs Myofascial Release.

Next time you go to see your Massage Therapist, consider taking the time to just listen, not to words filling the space, but to what your body is saying.

Give yourself permission to feel: feel what emotion, or memory, or dis-ease might be trapped beneath the surface.

Feel what areas of your body are talking to you, or not talking at all.  Be curious about these feelings, but don’t be judgemental.  Don’t feel the need to lay blame, but rather, give permission to yourself to heal.

I promise you, your experience will be that much greater, for both you and your therapist.  The value you put on care, on living a healthy lifestyle and healing yourself, might just change.  You have the power within you to do it, just let go and trust in yourself!

Tara Hagan-Fields is an RMT with Whole Therapy.  Tara is a Women’s Health Specialist and Myofascial Release Therapist.  She focuses on the body as a whole and teaches you to do the same.  More about Tara here

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April 17, 2015

So the theme of April at Whole Therapy is “letting go.” I struggled with coming up with a blog topic to compliment this theme. This past week, however, I came across this article on the web and thought to myself, Eureka!  This is my teachable, “letting go” moment!

I want to preface by saying that medical imaging technology has developed into something amazing. The amount of stuff we can see without actually cutting into the body is phenomenal. Sounds morbid, I know, but it’s true! Medical imaging can be very valuable in identifying serious medical conditions such as fractures, dislocations, etc. That being said, it is often difficult to discern what findings on imaging are related to natural aging processes or rather a pain-provoking injury? Words like arthritis, degenerative discs, disc bulges, tendon tears all sound very scary! And the fact that they sound scary is a problem in itself. They can create fear- a lot of fear. But, what if I told you that the above are all minor findings and do not really add much value to your plan of care?

Confused? Let me clarify. Mrs. A came to see me at the clinic for a “MRIdisc herniation.” On my subjective intake, I asked Mrs. A about her pain. Mrs. A had NO PAIN. Confused, I asked Mrs. A about her ability to perform her day-to-day activities. Mrs. A had NO DIFFICULTIES performing any of her day-to-day activities. Now very confused, I asked Mrs. A about this suspected “disc herniation.” Mrs. A had a hysterectomy in which she had some complications. She had to undergo repeat CT Scans to make sure all was well and healing appropriately. It just so happened that a disc bulge was seen as an incidental finding on one of these CT scans. Nervous about this finding, Mrs. A sought out physiotherapy to treat her disc herniation, for which she had no pain, no loss of function and for all purposes, NO impairment!

The fact is, arthritis, degenerative discs, disc bulges and tendon tears are usually just a natural result of aging against gravity. Don’t believe me? Check out this recent article (2015!) summarizing a cross-sectional study looking at abnormal findings on MRI in the cervical spine (a.k.a. neck) in 1211 asymptomatic people (a.k.a. NONE of the 1211 people had ANY neck pain). You can find it here: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/25584950\

Three things you should know about neck imaging:

  1. Everyone has disc bulges. This study found that 87.6% of the 1211 had disc bulges and no neck pain. So for every 10 people, 8.76 of them have disc bulges! And remember, none of these people had any pain!
  2. You even have disc bulges in your 20s. They found that 73.3% and 78.0% of males and females in their 20s had disc bulging. Yep, even your 20 something co-worker who barely seems out of the womb probably has a disc bulge.
  3. A small percentage of people even have spinal cord compression and no pain! Sounds unbelievable eh? But 5.3% of people, generally over the age of 50, had evidence of spinal cord compression with no pain. That’s not to say that the compression shouldn’t be monitored, but it goes to show you that the perception of pain is a lot more complicated then we may give it credit for!

Pain in itself is a complicated construct. I’m not trying to undermine anyone’s pain experience, but it is important to recognize that the scary-sounding results on imaging may not be so scary at all. Giving these words power over your life, however, has been shown to lead to more doctor’s visits, more pain, more disability, and a poorer quality of life. The only way to overcome this is to let go of the power we give these words and understand that they are probably just a natural result of aging! Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine!

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

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