March 15, 2018

Did you know that you CAN exercise while pregnant, even if you haven’t really been that active prior to pregnancy? We just have to ADJUST what you will be doing.

Important factors to keep in mind while exercising:
✔️ check your intensity – target heart rate zones should be on your radar
✔️ your intensity should be somewhat hard
✔️ you should be able to carry on a conversation throughout your workout.

FYI: Target Heart Rate Zones based on your pre-pregnancy fitness level:
❤️ low or active- target 130-145 BPM
❤️ fit – target 140-160
❤️ obese – target 100-120

💡Remember: do NOT do Valsalva manoeuvre (holding your breath while you are exerting yourself ie, lifting a box off the floor) as it can increase your blood pressure and increase your chances of non-functional diastasis recti. Instead, exhale on exertion and inhale on relaxation.

‼️Important! You are not training for a competition, YOU ARE WORKING OUT TO MAINTAIN YOUR FITNESS LEVEL.

Working out during pregnancy will help you during your labour and delivery, but it has also been shown to have positive effects on your baby and their APGAR scores!

📣Disclaimer!! STOP if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, painful uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, gush of fluid, dizziness or faintness.

Click Here for more practical tips and helpful info on your pregnancy!

September 23, 2016

That Day in June, we had a conversation in the van.

“I think we should probably throw in the towel,” Husband Jamie said, “it’s been a long while and nothing’s happened. And I’m turning 40 soon.  I don’t think I want to start a whole fertility process.”

“It’s been almost five years,” I agreed, nodding, “and I don’t want to start a fertility process, either.”

We weren’t officially “trying”.  We hadn’t wanted to put a label on it, because it would have stressed us both out.  But the proverbial goalie had been out of the net since the littlest was born, and there had only been one pregnancy since: a five-week blip back in late 2012.  Since then, nothing.

I was pretty sure the Universe was telling us we were done.  And, despite being a little sad, I understood. I loved our family.  Three awesome kids, aged 14, 12, and 4. A great house. A wonderful extended family.  A business I loved. Life was good. It was just time to end this chapter.

IMG_4123

The gang

 

Flash back to That Day in June, Husband Jamie and I agreed that we would call our respective doctors to find out what was involved in the snipping/tying process. We went home to make dinner. I felt a little prickle of sadness, and then resolve; it was time to move on from the possibility of having another child.

There have been six pregnancies.  The first was a total surprise; we were living together but not engaged yet, with no plans to extend our family beyond the two from Husband Jamie’s previous marriage. And then, on the Pill, I conceived without knowing it.

 

pills

Whoops.

When we found out, it was a huge shock, but then it was over before the news had time to settle in.  There wasn’t even really time for sadness with that one – it had been so unexpected that it seemed surreal.

Once we got married, though, the losses were harder. We were planning to expand our family.  We wanted to do it in a hurry, before the kids got “too old.”  Kaity was 8 then, and Liam was 6.  I had three miscarriages that year, all before 8 weeks, and I felt helpless: why was this happening? Was it karma? Had I done something I needed punishing for?

Then, there was Molly.  A stronger plus sign on the test.  Fatigue.  Sore hips.  8 weeks came and went, then 9, then ten.  Ironically, despite my elation that the pregnancy was “sticking”, I was horrified at my changing body and resented my dwindling freedom. I felt fat, and cumbersome, and overwhelmed.

9-months-pregnant

So. Much. Belly.

My postpartum experience was full of anxiety and turmoil.  I told myself I never wanted another kid. Yet something inside me still insisted I wasn’t finished; I had an intense gut feeling that I would have another.

The years after Molly were filled with ovulation and pregnancy tests – at first to prevent pregnancy, and then, to welcome the possibility. I remained apprehensive.  There was that short short pregnancy in 2012 of only five weeks, and then nothing for four years.

~

That Night in June, I went upstairs because I had to pee. Husband Jamie was immersed in something on his phone, and Kaity and Liam were just heading to bed. I was due for my period the following day, but as a result of our conversation I wanted to do one last test, just to get it over with.

I went into the bathroom, peed in the cup, and dipped the stick, knowing that it would be negative, just like all of the months leading up to this. Relief suddenly washed over me as I waited; no more monthly testing, no more back-of-my-mind wondering if this month would be The Month.  We would be done this chapter, and I could focus on other things. I took a deep breath.  Yes. This was a good decision.  It was time to move on.

pregnancy test

Seriously, Universe?

Except there were two pink lines.  Then the second line got darker; it was unmistakable. I clapped my hand over my mouth to keep from exclaiming out loud.  Warmth flooded me.  Was I hallucinating?

I’m not sure how long I stood in the bathroom before numbly walking downstairs. Husband Jamie looked at me inquisitively.

“So… guess what?” I said.

He blinked. I didn’t even have to say it. “Are you &*%$ing kidding me?” he asked.

And then we laughed a little, for there wasn’t anything else to do. He put a hand on my belly.  “It’s a really good thing we bought a van”.

 

 

 

 

dafodil

Oh hi, #BabyDaffodil.

 

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

March 8, 2016

Today is international women’s day, and we wanted to ask our own Tara Hagan-Fields, RMT a few questions about what it means to be a Women’s Health focused practitioner.

Why did you decide to focus your practice on Women’s Health?

I chose to focus my practice on Women’s Health because at the time I truly felt that there were too many therapists that were focusing in on general health and wellness.  There weren’t enough therapists with a voice and a specialization in anything specific, especially not in the women’s health field.

I was a new grad in a world of many RMT’s.  I graduated with 30+ fellow colleagues in 2006, we all had the same level of training and the same knowledge base that we had learned while in school.  I immediately needed to separate myself from the group as an individual who understood something more then the rest.  I had developed a passion for the treating of pregnant women while in school, so after graduation, I immediately went after more courses! I felt I needed to learn more!.  Along the way I grew as a therapist and as a woman.  I recognized my passion was more then just treating pregnant women;  It actually was more about treating all women, and women’s health related issues.

Today I am completely centered on Women’s Health.  I am different than most Massage Therapists in that I specialize in Myofascial Release and use those protocols to help every single woman who enters my treatment room.

Why does women’s health need a category of its own?

For years, there have been “fringe” conversations about women’s health related issues, but it has always been a very whispered conversation.  The topic seemingly taboo.  NO MORE! We as women have very specific health issues and they should never have to be whispered about.  Incontinence, painful intercourse, mastitis, endometriosis,  and infertility just to name a few. The list is long!  Women should continue to demand better advocacy and better research on these and other important areas of Women’s health.

More practitioners are starting to dive in to niches and truly specialize in specific fields like Women’s Health, but more are needed.  I look forward to the day when no woman needs to medicate because of conditions they are experiencing, where they can self treat and or go see their RMT to help rid of the source of pain.

What kinds of treatment do you provide specifically for women?

I do treat women of all ages, from babies to geriatric.  Most of the women I see are looking for another kind of care.  Something that will help them with conditions that they are currently experiencing, or ones they have had and suffered for years with: Chronic pelvic pain, jaw pain, headaches, endometriosis, infertility, breast pain, chronic back pain, scar work (laparoscopic, c-seciton, mastectomy, augmentation), pre- surgical care, fibromyalgia, incontinence, painful intercourse, post partum care, latching problems.  My approach to massage therapy through myofascial release will help!

January 15, 2016

breast cancerPain and tightness suffered post mastectomy/ lumpectomy can limit one’s life drastically. Myofascial Release can help create vast changes by softening dense scars and fibrosed fascia that remain unchanged with traditional therapy and stretching.

 

Axillary Cording

Axillary cording is a web of thick, rope-like structures under the skin of your inner arm. These cords usually start near the site of your scarring in the underarm region and extend down the inner arm to the inside of the elbow (sometimes they can continue down to the palm of your hand, or in to the chest wall instead of, or in addition to, the inner arm.

Traumatized tissue can have a cascading effect on the body.  Locally, tightened and fibrous fascia can restrict blood flow and lymphatic flow resulting in lymphedema.  Auxiliary cording can also occur, causing a significant loss of range of motion in the shoulder, leading to a loss of function.  Pain and weakness can occur in the shoulder, arm and chest wall.  Burning, pins and needles, numbness, or spasms can also occur in these areas.

Tightness, with time, can start to effect areas not associated with the scar even if these areas are far removed from the local site.  Symptoms not “normal” to mastectomy, lumpectomy, reconstruction, or augmentation can start to occur.  Headaches, jaw pain, low back pain, pelvic pain, digestive issues, postural changes, hormonal imbalances, etc, may become a “common” occurrence for you.

The inability to move, or the pain suffered with common range of motion and activity can become debilitating.  This might happen immediately, or it might occur 6 years down the road.  In real life it might look like the inability to wash your hair in the shower, get dressed in the morning, pick your child up out of the crib, hug a loved one, carry your groceries, drive your car, work at your computer, or reach up and grab the sugar out of the cupboard.  No matter the role you have as a woman – mom, worker, grandma – your life is impacted.

breast mfrPain management and rehabilitation using Myofascial Release can help.  Gentle and slow work done at the fascial barrier (on the scar and surrounding areas) can assist in restoring functional patterns by decreasing the restrictions.

Whether you had surgery, chemo, or radiation last month or 10 years ago, Myofascial Release should be added to your recovery process.

 

 

IMG_8104cropbwTara 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 or find her on Facebook Tara Hagan-Fields RMT

 

September 10, 2015

Every April, I pull out my Slo-pitch ball bag.  Curse at myself for not having done it in October… Curse some more because that’s where my shirt went, or my favorites socks…. and then….curse some more because I left everything in the bag wet…. OOOOPS!  I start the process of airing out the equipment, oiling up the glove, make sure there is a ball for every league, 11 inch for ladies, 12 inch for mixed.  My warmup balls, one heavy, one regular weight.  My bats are all cleaned up. My cleats cleaned and sprayed to rid of the smell.  That’s my routine.

I am a full time athlete only part of the year, because I only play ball from May to October.  But, during my season I go all-out. I play on 3-4 teams, leagues and tournaments…. then the rest of the year is for rehabbing nagging injuries that happened during ball season.

BUT… this year has been a little different.  This year, instead of worrying about old injuries or worrying about a tweak here or there, I have been very worried about a new injury.  One that impacts my game so much, that I have pulled myself from my line ups, just so I can rehab it to play in the year end tournaments. One that prevents me from lifting heavy objects, or thinking about how might I move my body during a treatment so I don’t feel this discomfort I am constantly feeling.

I am often asked “who takes care of you?” and jokingly I reply “I get around”. The honest truth…I struggle to even get my own treatments at times.  Until recently! I have had to make it a priority to get in and get treated.  And I’m not being easy in just finding any therapist to treat me, I am being very specific in who I see.  I fully believe in Myofascial Release and how everyone needs it and that it will help everyone.  I also know the people I work with are awesomely gifted in what they do.  So in the past four weeks, I have been seeing my fellow colleagues here at Whole Therapy and some other MFR therapists here in the city, and I have also been self-treating!

4 weeks in a row, I have focused on getting someone else to touch and treat me.  And 4 weeks in a row, I have focused on treating myself.  Two weeks ago, after a great treatment and some self care that night, I felt a shift.  I woke up for the first time and the pain wasn’t a burning sensation in my forearm and elbow.  For the first time, I felt a good heat in my elbow rather than a horrible one.  I’m feeling less nerve pain and I can hold my own coffee mug (you all know how much I love my coffee!).

My lessons are many this year…I need to take care of me (so our #ChangeOneThing challenge could not have come soon enough)! I need to make the time to get my own care even if I have to push something else aside to do it.  I’ve always been a believer that no matter what it costs, we should take care of ourselves.  This ball season, I feel it has cost me a lot; I have missed out on playing the sport I love with the people I like most.  I have even come to the point that I don’t want to play ball because it hurts too much and my play has been impacted.

I am not invincible. I really need to practice what I preach about self-care and maintenance.  I really have to be that athlete that gets treated regularly because my fascial restrictions have prevented me from doing what I love to do.

So my first #ChangeOneThing is to look at my schedule and put treatment into it for the whole rest of the season.  That’s happening today.

What step are you taking in the name of positive change?

 

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 or find me on Facebook Tara Hagan-Fields RMT

 

tara_bio

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

June 1, 2015

I’m watching Jessica Kanstrup run a bootcamp class.  At first glance, the 26 year-old is an intimidating figure, even at 5’4”; she paces slowly back and forth across the studio stage in her black tights and red GoodLife Fitness shirt, stopwatch in hand, brow knitted, watching her crew of ladies sweat it out in their circuit.  It’s clear from the stern expression on her face that no one is going to slack off under her watch.  Then suddenly, she looks down at the stopwatch, clicks it, and shouts a command: all of her ladies come to a relieved stop and stare at her with expectant expressions.

Jess’ face breaks into a huge grin and her hands fly into the air in victory.  The rest of her crew does the same; the class is over.  They’ve done it!  The exhausted and relieved expressions on all of their faces say it all: they are both ecstatic to be done and delighted they came.  Jess congratulates each lady in turn as they leave the studio.  It’s evident she is someone who loves her job and cares about her clients. IMG_1423

“Having a trainer is so important for success,” she says as we sit for the interview, “It’s definitely been important for me [training for this fitness competition].  My first show, Chris [a male colleague] trained me, then I trained myself for the second one, and this time I wanted a female perspective.  We correspond every week, and I see her once a month so she can measure me and take my body fat, and take a look at me to see how my body is coming along. It’s been great so far.”

I believe her.  Training for a fitness competition is definitely hard work, but this beautiful blonde hardbody seems to have it all together.  What’s her secret?

“Not a lot of cardio!”  She laughs.  Jess is weeks away from her third fitness competition.  Last summer, she competed for the first time in SAF (Serious About Fitness), as well as in Physique Canada.  She took home first place in both shows, blowing her competition out of the water with her balanced physique and elegant stage presence.

“It was the most IMG_1431exciting day of my life,” she says, “I discovered my passion for competing and pushing myself to the limits to be the best I can be.  I competed again in the SAF Elite Pro Championship last October, and also placed first again with Physique Canada and became a Tier 1 Pro.  It’s been a whirlwind.”

A whirlwind to say the least, but Jess is used to a lot of activity.  “Growing up,” she says, “I was always an active kid that loved to be outside and moving around. I never played any specific sports, [but] I took acting classes and loved to sing and dance and be in front of the camera.”

Jess is definitely great in front of the camera.  From her pictures, it seems as though she was born to be in the spotlight.  Is it hard for her to stay grounded in such a vain industry?  “It’s hard sometimes.  It crossed my mind, getting implants, but it was more just a thought.  I compete naturally in an industry full of enhancement – drugs and plastic surgery – and while that’s fine for those competitors, I realized it’s not my style.  So I enter natural competitions so I can compete on more of a level playing field.”

And what led her to a career in fitness in the first place? “I come from a family with a history of alcoholism and drug addiction; my family has suffered a lot of loss and tragedy.  As I grew up, I realized I never wanted to end up down that path, like my two half-sisters who I have lost.IMG_1420

“In grade 11 I discovered weight lifting and fell in love with fitness.  I realized I wanted to help others discover this love for fitness and decided to pursue a career as a personal trainer.  I attended Algonquin College in the Fitness and Health Promotion program and then started working at GoodLife when I was 18.”

With ssidebar jessuch a demanding schedule (she works 7am to 7pm at the gym, plus works out five days a week), how does Jess
find time to unwind? “Wellness for me is taking time for myself to rest; I’ve been doing yoga once a week, and I always try and get enough sleep.  In this sport, recovery is almost more important than the workout.  It’s a little extreme, so you need to make sure you balance the hard stuff with enough rest.  The team at Whole Therapy have helped me as well; I see [Jen] for massages as often as I can.”IMG_1425

In light of her success thus far on stage, I wondered if modelling was in Jess’ future career plans.  “I’m not sure if I could or would make modeling my entire career.  Right now it’s something I do on the side that compliments my training.  In the future I’d love to do more of it, and get into coaching other competitors as well.”

Look for Jessica Kanstrup at next weekend’s SAF and Physique Canada shows, taking place Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13 at the Canadian Museum of History.  Get tickets to the show here.

Interested in knowing more about Jess?  Check her out on twitter @JessikaCan and her website http://www.jessikafitness.com/

 

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

 

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 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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