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Archive for January, 2019

PostHeaderIcon Managing Pain and Injuries

Last September, I hosted my first DIY alignment and pain relief workshop, where I taught some basic corrective exercise concepts to help people with their chronic pain. While self massage and exercise techniques can cure and relieve many muscular weaknesses and pain issues, looking at our lifestyle and what has caused this pain is a must for success. Here are some things to keep in mind:

 

HABIT AWARENESS:
Chronic pain can often be attributed to overuse injuries. One example of this is running way past your pain threshold until the tendons start to fray, causing knee pain or shin splints. Another example is hunching over a laptop several hours a day causing impingements in the neck. When we overuse muscles without allowing them to recover or move them in a dysfunctional way, overtime, we may start feeling pain.
Corrective exercises are implemented to counter damage caused from unhealthy patterns. However, if you keep doing the things that cause pain, corrective exercise may not be enough, we need to change our dysfunctional habits.

During our workshop, I asked the class to be very aware of their patterns and habits. We are often unaware that what we do everyday adds up to pain. One thing you need to ask yourself is if there is an unhealthy physical pattern you are doing, such as hunching over a desk (steering wheel, texting device etc.), wearing inappropriate shoes, doing an exercise with improper form or working one muscle while neglecting the opposing muscle (ie.building up the chest but not the upper back)?

For tips on proper lifting click here:

General Tips For Proper Lifting

Habit research shows that the best way to be successful is to replace that habit with something else. Ask yourself what you can do to change this habit and visualize yourself doing it. You might have to change the ergonomics of your desk, learn to lean back and put your head on the head rest of your car when you drive or even change your exercise routine. Maybe you just need to make time to rest and recover.

PSYCHOSOMATIC PAIN:

Is there something in your personal life that may be a source of pain (a relationship, job situation or grudge you refuse to forgive?) More often than not, physical pain is just masked psychological pain.

Have you been ignoring it? Can you change your situation?
If not, change your mind set.

Sometimes our pain is just telling us that its about time we change our situation. Is there a career change you have wanted but have been putting off? Are you in a dysfunctional relationship you should have ended long ago? Have you been lying to yourself or someone else and its about time you come clean? Do you have a medical condition you have been ignoring and its about time you get medical help? The solution may be right around the corner but you have unconsciously chosen to live in pain instead.

But if there seems to be no logical solution, research on mindset has shown that simply changing your perspective can relieve mental anguish. For example, believing you are the only one who has trouble fitting in can cause anxiety but when a psychologist started a study that convinced college freshmen that they are not alone in their insecurities, these students did better in school and the drop out rate went down. Our point of view on how damaging stress itself can be can make or break us. Mindfulness meditation experts have found that simply accepting that there is pain can at least ease some of the anxiety that makes the struggle hard. For more information on this research, click here:

Great News About Stress

NUTRITION:

What we eat can build and nourish our body or it can poison it. Are you eating in a way that nourishes your body and mind or are you slowly killing it with a junk food diet? For example if you don’t have enough carbs to fuel an intense workout, your muscles will fatigue which may cause them to use improper form, adding pressure to your joints.

We need adequate protein to repair and build. If you are doing strenuous exercise but not consuming enough protein to build back your muscles, bones and connective tissues, then you are just breaking down your body.

Micronutrient deficiencies can be the cause of pain. For example, muscle cramps can be the result of a vitamin B or D deficiency. It is also the side effect of a lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium. If you are not sure about your diet, talk to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin deficiencies. For more on diet, click here:

The Best Diet for You

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED

During the DIY Pain Relief Workshop, we learned how to assess common postural and muscular weaknesses in the body that could be causing pain. We learned self massage techniques, various stretches and other exercises that help to fix these deviations. For example, if your pelvis tilts forward, it can cause lower back and hip pain. Exercise and a change of habit can fix the problem. I encouraged my students to take the one most important thing they learned from the workshop and apply it to their lifestyle.

The DIY workshop covered a lot, so I am having another workshop on this subject in February. We will review the basic tenants of the last workshop and maybe add more exercises for those who have been applying what they learned and want to take it to the next level.

For More information on the next DIY Pain Relief Workshop, click this link:

Special Events

For more information on how to relieve hip pain, click here:

Much a do About the Hips

For information on relieving shoulder pain, click here:

Release Neck and Shoulder Tension

More related articles:

What Pain Has Taught Me

What To Do In Case of an Injury

How I Cured My Muscle Pain

PostHeaderIcon How Discipline (Yoga) Brings Freedom

The literal definition of “Yoga” is “Yoke.” A yoke is the harness that attaches Oxen to the plows that they pull. It is the thing that attaches them to their work. Some define Yoga as work. I think “discipline” is the best translation. The yogis and most of our greatest philosophers believe that discipline is the only thing that can free us from suffering.

Yet how can a harness possibly free us? Well, without the yoke, the oxen are wild and uncontrolled. They fail to benefit us. They will roam the farm, trample the crops and create more damage. If we can’t harness our impulses, they will destroy us.

 

Think of it this way, if you want freedom from your physical limitations or pain, you need to do hatha (physical) yoga. This consists of physical therapy, mindful exercise and proper breathing. All of these actions, if done diligently and habitually have been scientifically proven to reduce pain, increase strength, increase endurance, lower the risk of disease, lengthen one’s life and prevent mental illness. If we want these things, we must discipline ourselves to do our hatha yoga. I will use the term hatha yoga very broadly as I believe that any exercise done with  mindfulness can be seen as hatha yoga.

Without a habitual exercise habit, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, weakness, disease and pain set in. We become a victim of our own lack of discipline.

Look at the most skilled dancers, athletes and acrobats. Its as if they can fly. We often wish we can move with just as much freedom. We forget to account for all the hours of discipline it took to achieve that level of mastery. Athletes of this caliber did not mindlessly move to achieve this level. They have had to focus on every element of their art and use their minds as well.

This brings us to Jnana (mindful) yoga. This is the yoga of knowledge. We must constantly be educating ourselves or fall in the trap of ignorance. Ignorance, our inability to know what is real; can harm our relationships, make us more susceptible to scams and ruin our opportunity for a better life. Disciplining our mind helps us focus which is great for alleviating stress and helping us improve any skill. Lack of knowledge or mindfulness might cause us to act stupidly and do things that we regret which brings me to the next type of discipline or yoga.

Karma (action) yoga teaches us to be mindful of what we do as everything has a consequence. If we want to be free from poverty, we must discipline ourselves to work at a job that pays us well. We must also watch that we aren’t spending more money than what we earn. if we want people to like us, we have to take actions that are kind and not rude. Knowing which actions to takes a certain level or jnana yoga. After all, most people don’t intend on doing harm. Many do it unconsciously.

Karma yoga can go much deeper. Ghandi came up with a method of karma yoga called satyagraha. This was a way of resisting unjust authority without enacting any violence. Ghandi disciplined himself to accept going to jail and even abuse as he worked in his quest to end racism and free India from English rule. When the government wronged him, he did not retaliate in violence, he instead allowed them to victimize him until they they realized their own wrong doing. This path of action was very well thought out and it took a ton of discipline to see it through.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a follower of Ghandi and used this exact same method to end segregation in the U.S., disciplining his people do peaceful protests. They trained themselves never to fight back. As a result, the media was able to record many blacks being abused at the hands of white law enforcement without them fighting back. It made the government look awful, the way they abused peaceful people and it brought sympathy to the blacks, who were once thought of as the barbaric race.

Ghandi was the only one who succeeded in overthrowing a government without having to go to war. This is a tremendous achievement as it taught us that violence isn’t the only answer. MLK used this same method of Karma yoga to bridge the great divide between whites and blacks and to make our laws more just during a time when everyone thought that civil war would break out.

In order to achieve “freedom” from an unjust government, these men had to be extraordinarily disciplined in how they acted and reacted, so disciplined that they didn’t even fear death.

The fourth style of yoga is bhakti (devotional) yoga. This is the yoga of the spirit. Sometimes the only way to overcome great odds is to connect with our own spirituality, whatever that may be for you. Ask anyone who has had to battle addiction or found hope  under extremely trying circumstances. Life can be terribly complicated. We are often plagued with questions we may not have the answer to and we have to rely on a higher power to find them. Whatever your spiritual views, we all have to meditate on our values in order to make sense of our lives. Without our moral foundation, we succumb to our lower selves. This can be a trap that can lead to unhappiness. We can’t always control the slings and arrows that life throws at us but we can control how we respond to it, as Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

In the classic Yogic text, “The Bhagvad Gita,” Arjuna was lucky enough to get the advice of Krishna, the human carnation of a Hindu God. Arjuna was very hesitant and unsure of what he was about to do, go to civil war as a last resort against a very corrupt government. Krishna told him that he should freely follow his path. He could do it because he had been practicing yoga. Because he diligently practiced strong physical health, mindfulness, right action and spirituality, he had the tools he needed to make the right choices.

Without discipline, we are lost. We live in a culture where it is so easy to let go of one’s health, to lose touch with one’s loved ones and where the incidence of mental health is skyrocketing out of control. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are unhappy and have fallen into terrible physical health because they stopped being mindful of what they were eating or how they managed their lifestyle. I’ve seen people lose their families because they failed to be mindful about what was truly important to them. We have tools such as smart phones to help us sort through our lives yet I’ve seen people become slaves to the very tools that were supposed to free them in the first place. Without mindfulness, yoga and discipline, we become slaves to our own culture. Freedom is possible, but it takes diligent practice and great discipline.

If you can’t come up with a resolution this year, a good idea is to look at the different paths of yoga practice. Are you still mindful about your physical health (hatha yoga)? Are you doing your best to keep your mind focused and learning new things (jnana yoga)? Are the actions you take day to day benefiting your life and those in your sphere of influence (karma yoga)? Do your thoughts and actions vibe with your deepest spiritual values (bhakti yoga)?

Someone once said that regardless of your beliefs, the definition of a “spiritual person” is someone who is just trying to be the best they can be. When I teach class, I’m fully aware that everyone is at different skill and fitness levels, but I encourage my students to just to their best. This is why I take some time to be mindful of my practice especially at the end of the year. I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. Every year, I chip away at myself and try to be the best I can be and I’m hoping that this encourages others to do their best as well.

Happy Holidays. Looking forward to an awesome New Year!

If you are interested in learning more about the different paths of yoga or learning more about the deeper philosophies of yoga, check out these blogs:

What is Traditional Yoga? (The Original Styles of Yoga)

Yoga and the Eight Fold Path

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Demystifying the Chakras (from a hormonal perspective)