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. 

 

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

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

Tara3

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.

Bailey