What is causing my chronic back pain?
Structural patterns - Though out our lives we are building up patterns of movement that then go on to shape for our body, posture and habits. Our bodies respond to the stresses that we place on them by laying down greater tensile strength in the tissues where we place the greatest demand. If our movement patterns though out our days are restricted we may find that we lose flexibility in certain areas and our body becomes more bound in others, creating trigger points in our tissues. Tissues may become dehydrated by bound areas of fascia in places where demand for certain movements or holding patterns have been high. When the tissues are dehydrated they are less able to move freely or receive the nourishment that they need in order to glide freely over each other. This is turn creates tension and a directional pull throughout the body. As the fascia is connected in one sheet throughout the body these tensile forces can cause areas to feel stuck, restricted or compressed, all of which can lead to pain.
Emotional Stress and Nervous System Activation - When we are very stressed we are more susceptible to physical pain due to the heightened state of our nervous systems. When we have a big shock, face emotional trauma or are deeply triggered our bodies response is to activate the nervous system into a fight or flight stress response, an evolutionary trait to provide extra energy to deal with the situation. This response takes a lot of energy to maintain and if it goes on for a long time such as in phases of chronic stress and we may find ourselves feeling tired with low energy and yet unable to properly rest or relax due to the strong cocktail of activating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in our body. Over time or in times or complete overwhelm this can escalate to a state of inner collapse where the body starts to shut down these fight or flight responses in order to save energy known as a freeze response. These nervous system patterns speak of ongoing stress on the nervous system and whilst the nerves are highly activated they are more sensitive to pain.
Check in with your Doctor
If your chronic pain is new or severe, unrelenting and does not allow you to sleep at night you need to see a Doctor and get checked out so that other causes can be ruled out and you can receive the medical support you need.
What can be done about it?
Diversity of movement - If we are able to become conscious of our daily postural habits we can go some way to balancing them by diversifying our movements. We may do things to break up these habits and therefore the stresses that are creating fascial tissue to be laid down in certain ways throughout our body in response to these habits. For example we may vary the way we cross our legs, the hip we carry the baby on. the side we sleep on, the hand we use to brush our teeth or the way we take the stairs. It will also help to switch up the way we exercise, again to vary the demands on the body. This may mean taking a new class, learning new techniques and taking time to stretch out in a varied way and in response to how your body feels rather than sticking to a regime. Allow yourself to take breaks in your day to day life to stretch and think about how you can move differently and so that you are more diverse in your movements.
Relaxation and Stress management - Taking time to acknowledge how you are feeling can be challenging and often we stay busy to avoid doing so, yet this is the most important step on the way to recovery. We heal most effectively in community with others, when we are able to express what we are going through, receive emotional support and feel heard. It might be that you are able to talk with a trusted friend, start counselling, find a new creative outlet, take time in nature to reflect or a mixture of these things. By taking time to externalise your internal processes you are creating emotional connection and release, which in time allows your nervous system to regulate and return to a state of safety. As the state of our nervous system has such a huge role in our perception of pain, addressing pain on this level can be very beneficial.
Myofascial release and Massage - MFR works to improve the state of balance within the fascial system of the body, finding and unlocking areas of tension and bound tissue and increasing the amount of hydration and glide between the tissues. As some of the holding is due to emotional tension there can also be emotional release during a session which helps to relive the stress on the system and also improves pain symptoms and can also increase range of movement with the joints of the body. In this way MFR combines the physical and emotional and helps build awareness of the interconnectedness of how we feel mentally and how we feel physically.
A daily yoga practice is a keystone in keeping your body flexible and strong. Yoga is both a physical and emotional practice and can also bring a spiritual dimension to your life. Practising in a trauma-informed way is about acknowledging the needs of your body on all levels and responding to them with an attitude of kindness. This might be with movement, breath and meditative practices that feel aligned, helpful and lead to a more regulated and responsive nervous system. To be effective your daily practice does not need to be long but it will be more impactful if it is done regularly and is tailored closely to your own personal needs.
Getting the right support
Chronic back pain, or any type of chronic pain is something that can effect the whole of your life, limiting your activities, effecting your mood and how you feel about yourself. It is a holistic issue and needs to be addressed in a variety of ways to put you on the path to recovery. Getting the right support is crucial to integrate the changes needed in your body and in your life. If you would like to talk about how bodywork, MFR and trauma informed yoga can help you with your recovery please get in touch or book a session.
Prana Lotus contact details
Kristina - 07907508624
We are Spiralic Beings
We are formed from spirals. Spirals are present within our earliest beginnings in our genetic code. We were also formed with spiral patterns, as we grew inside our mothers as embryos our limbs were formed in a spiralic pattern, conferring strength and spring to our movements. Spirals are often seen in nature, from the pattern on a shell, to the spiraling movements of water to the vast expense of the milky way. They are also deeply ingrained into our lives within the changing of the seasons, the lunar cycle and echoed throughout creative cycles and menstrual cycles and ever constant cycle of our breath.
As we cycle through the seasons we can notice certain patterns that occur at each point that also have certain resonances with the menstrual cycle, lunar cycles and creative cycles that we may experience in our lives. There are times when we are called to deep rest and times when we are in full creative flow and many states inbetween. These cycles repeat over and over to form spirals. If we follow the dance of these spirals it can help us to feel more in tune with nature and what at the same time what is happening inside ourselves. There are cycles of the Wheel of the Year too as the Earth and has for own creative cycles which can also be experienced inside ourselves if we allow them to be.
Cyclic Yoga Practice
As spiralic beings our yoga practice can serve us differently at different times within the year, within our lives (such as pregnancy, recovery from injury or preparation for a sporting event), phases of the moon and menstrual cycles. A fiery yoga practice to work out inner heat and give full expression might feel delightful when you are at the height of a creative cycles and overflowing with energy, however a more restful, quiet and slow practice and yoga nidra could be called for during times where our energy needs to be supported and nourishment is called for. Adapting your practice according to how you are feeling in your body and your own creative cycles can help you to have an ongoing daily practice that supports you and feels right for you in that phase.
Building your Daily Practice
If you would like help to build a daily home practice with your own aims and needs at the fore and options built in around your own personal cycles, I am offering one on one yoga sessions at The Physiotherapy Clinic in Peebles. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.
'I first became fascinated with fascia during my training in Holistic and Therapeutic Massage as I experienced it's potential to promote positive change within the body first hand. It seemed to be the missing link that I was looking for, integrating physical and emotional wellbeing and bringing a sense of the body as a whole with it's own biotensegral structure. After my initial introduction and personal experience of the huge benefits of this therapy, I went on to complete post graduate training to become an Advanced Myofascial Release Therapist. I continue learn more in this advancing field of research all the time and am delighted to be able to offer MFR as a therapy in Peebles Physiotherapy Clinic and Knot Stressed Massage Clinic in Edinburgh. Often my clients want to know more about what fascia is and how MFR works and so I thought I would write a blog post on it and include some links to research for those who want to know more.
What is Fascia?
Myofasical Release is different to other forms of bodywork as it specifically targets the fascia of the body using specific techniques and an awareness of the fascial structures within the body.
Fascia is defined by John Barnes, a leading MFR therapist in his article 'Crushing Pressure' below,
'Fascia is tough, connective tissue that spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. The fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ of the body, all the way down to the cellular level. Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, surgery or inflammation can create a binding down of the fascia, resulting in abnormal pressure on nerves, muscles, bones or organs.'
Fascia has four basic functions within the body which are documented in by Robert Schlep in Fascial Fitness as, 'Shape: to encase, protect and give structure. Movement: to transfer and store energy, maintain energy and stretch Supply: to metabolise energy, transport fluid and carry nutrients. Communication: to receive and transmit stimuli and information. Keeping fascia healthy is therefore vitally important to maintaining the wellbeing of the body as a whole.
How is fascia related to chronic pain and postural patterns?
In our bodies we store physical and emotional tension and over time and if this tension is not released it can cause restrictions. In some cases these restrictions become chronic causing pain, changes to your normal range of motion and perhaps even start to impact on your daily life and the things you are able to do. Our bodies are constantly forming new connections within our fascial web, which responds to the daily demands we put upon it. If we habitually move or sit in a certain way then the body will respond and grow to adapt to it. This holds true if we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, out walking, rock climbing or recovering from an injury. As the body responds to these demands it lays down new fascial connections via cells known as fibroblasts. These adaptions may however cause their own problems as anyone who has sat at a desk all day and experienced tight shoulders and an achy lower back will know. It may also be that we have become injured or undergone surgery and whilst the body is healing it makes protective compensations not just at the site of injury but in other areas of the body too. All of these situations can lead to fascial restrictions whereby postural habits and tensions become long term patterns which can cause chronic pain.
'The Body Keeps The Score'
It is well documented that emotional stress and tension is also stored within our bodies.In 'The Body Keeps the Score' Bessell Van de Kolk writes, 'We can get past the slipperiness of words by engaging the self-observing, body-based self system, which speaks through sensations, tone of voice and body tensions. Being able to perceive visceral sensations is the very foundation of emotional awareness.' Our bodies store tension in our fascial network as a way of holding on to a charge created by our nervous system when it is highly activated in a stressful situation. If we are unable to release and process this tension then the body will hold it until it feels safe enough to be able to discharge it. We can all relate to the feeling of tight shoulders at the end of a stressful day or having the weight of the world seemingly lifted after we are able to laugh or connect with friends or nature. However, sometimes stress and nervous system activation can take place over a long period of time and become chronic or we might experience a traumatic event that we are unable to process or release. This emotional stress is then held in our bodies in our fascial network and causes chronic tension and restrictions which manifests as long term pain and postural adaptions. Very often restrictions in the fascial system will have both a mechanical and an emotional element to them as the event, injury or experience that caused it was both painful to the body and emotionally stressful. If you are holding emotional trauma within your body, it may be that speaking with a qualified counsellor or EMDR therapist would be helpful alongside bodywork.
How can Myofascial Release Help?
During Myofascial Release the therapist moves, stretches and holds the body using techniques which release restricted areas of fascia and helps to bring awareness to allow for new postural movements and changes within the fascia to take place. Myofascial release techniques start to unpick the areas of restrictions caused by bound, dehydrated tissue within the fascia to allow more gliding between tissues, increased hydration of the tissues, increased cellular exchange and improved structural balance within the body. During a session you might experience feelings of deep relaxation, tingling, hot or cold sensations, emotional release and neuromuscular release as the body feels safe enough to release old holding patterns and the associated charge they hold. New more helpful postural patterns can be taken up as fibroblast cells lay down new connections within the tissues leading to profound changes within the facial structures of the body. These changes can lead to increased freedom of movement in the body, reduced pain and an increased amount of available energy for life.
Studies and Advancing Research
There is currently much interest and research into fascia by scientists and bodyworkers alike. It is a very exciting area of discovery and I am delighted to be working within this field.
Below I have included some links and resources for further reading/watching for those who are interested in going deeper....
Anatomy Trains - Myofascial Meridians for Manual Movement Therapists - Tomas Myres
Dr JC Gimberteau video of our fascial network using endoscopes to look inside the living human body
Robert Schleip - Fascial Fitness Lotus Publishing 2021
Where can I find MFR treatments?
I am currently offering Myofascial Release at Knot Stressed Clinic in Edinburgh and at Peebles Physiotherapy Clinic. To book a session use the booking page on this website.
Yoga is inherently hypnotic. It moves you into a state of relaxed focus where you can connect to a deep part of yourself. There are lots of words for this state, and different ways of arriving in it. This state of awareness belongs to all of us, it is part of ourselves that we can access either intentionally through practice or sometimes unintentionally it just occurs. Sometimes we don't even realise we are doing it, but perhaps afterwards we may feel clearer, fresher and more ourselves somehow.
In pregnancy a deeper connection to your own body and its amazing capabilities can be forged. It is a time of great change, both physically and mentally and it can be so nourishing to have the space and time to be present to this and explore it. In hypno pregnancy and birth classes, there is an opportunity to find your own power, wisdom and creativity in this midst of all the flux and change happening in your body and mind and life at this time. By using the breath, flowing postures, deep relaxation and focus this opportunity can be harnessed and the pathway to this connection is made clear, so that it can be found again outside of the class. In this way I foster trust in each women's own intuition and self belief. I believe that each women knows what is best for her own body and baby at a deep level and this inner awareness can be so useful to support a healthy relaxed pregnancy and an informed and calm birth.
If you would like to come along and try a hypno yoga for pregnancy and birth class, here is the timetable:-
Monday 6.30-7.30pm The Arts Centre, Bideford
Thursday 7.30-8.30pm St Brannocks Church, Braunton
Please use the contact form to book your place.
I have recently moved down from Edinburgh to Devon and after a few months of figuring out where we would like to be as a family, we have settled in the lovely village of Braunton. I am delighted to be teaching some new classes here, including yoga for pregnancy, children and two general hatha yoga classes. I hope to start a post natal yoga class when the time is right. If you are lucky enough to also live in North Devon please check out my new schedule for open classes, which will be effective as of 6th June.
Monday evenings at Bideford Arts Centre
6.30 - 7.30 Pregnancy Yoga
7.30 - 8.30 Hatha Yoga
Thursday mornings at Kendra Pilates, Braunton
8.30 - 9.30 Hatha Yoga with Meditation
I would also like to add that I have some availability for private yoga classes, which are very useful if you need to focus on a certain aspect of your practice, you are recovering from an injury or have limited mobility.
If you are interested to come along to any of these classes, please text me to book in on 07907508624 or use the book yoga classes entry form on this website.
Here is a simple, yet one of the most effective ways of staying in a more balanced and upright posture all day, even when sat at a computer.
First of all, put your hands on your collar bone and then feel down underneath them to find your first rib. See if you can imagine the structure of this rib running around your rib cage horizontally, how it connects via the ribcage to your and to the rest of the ribs below. I have included picture below to help out work this out. Notice how interlinked it is to the whole of the rest of your body. Now your can use it to anchor yourself in to a more helpful posture that is beautiful in its simplicity.
Just think of your first rib as incredibly light, as if it were full of helium and trying to float away from your spine both forwards and upwards. Follow through with that instinctive lift of the chest both upwards and slightly forwards that results. Notice how this also makes you sit or stand taller through the whole of your body and how your shoulders are at the same time easing down your back freely. Amazingly, this little posture adjustment can have a massive effect which radiates around the whole of your body including impacting positively on your pelvic floor health and the way you use your feet to walk upon the ground. Take your time to feel how different it may be for you to sit or stand in this way as opposed to how you were a few moments ago. I hope that it may also make you feel more spacious both in your body and mind and can help to brighten your spirits.
Please let me know if this worked for you.
I must credit the inspiration for this postural adjustment to Eric Franklin. I have used my own imagery and developed it further but the idea was found in his very informative and highly recommended book Pelvic Power.
This weekend I spent the day walking round the woods and beach near Tyninghame collecting wild plants, flowers and seaweed and learning how to use them in cooking and for healing in herbal medicine. I was taught to look a fresh at many weeds that are abundant in their healing properties and numbers. Who knew that nettle seeds can be plucked right off the plant and eaten for a mental boost of energy, just have to be careful to avoid getting stung! For loads of interesting recipes and foraging inspiration take a look at Wilde in the Woods website. Connecting to our own traditional herbal knowledge gave me a sense not only of a deep history of the uses of plants but also to the infinite ways in which human are connected with and can be healed by the Earth.
The air is rich with Autumn smells, damp earthy leaves, bonfires and ripe apples . Longer nights, cozy jumpers and a slower more relaxed yoga practice are welcomed back. In the ayurvedic system Autumn is the season of vata, which translates as wind. This means the qualities of vata dominate at this time of year.
Vata is a drying force and you can feel this in your hair and skin. Vata is cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life. It is the element of elimination and change, which makes autumn an excellent time to detox, to clear out your life, to start something new or decide what you want to preserve.
In this season of change and transformation, too much vata can leave you stressed out, restless and unbalanced. You may experience dry skin, anxiety, insomnia, an inability to make decisions and cold hands and feet. Here are some suggestions to regain your balance:-
If you need some inspiration for something seasonal to preserve, here is a lovely recipe for beetroot chutney as well as some other tasty beatroot ideas mmmmmmmmmmmm.
Whenever I wonder through paths in the woods, (as I have been doing all weekend this weekend whilst staying at Marthrown of Marbie in a Yurt). I think of this poem that I discovered whilst travelling in India. It was written on the back of a old compass that was being sold on a street stall. And I am glad for all of the times that I have followed my heart and 'took the road less traveled by...'
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Gormaukasna is known as the head of a cow face. The arms are the horns, the space between the knees is the mouth and the feet are the ears! Make sense?!
It is a pose that I hold a certain fondness for not only because of its bodily benefits - which are huge - a powerful hip and shoulder opener! But also because of this resemblance to the face of a cow. During my travels in India I grew to love the sight of the sacred cows roaming the streets, standing in the middle of the streets whilst traffic whirled around them, horns huge and often painted, with an unshakable calmness amongst the constant chaos. If we can learn to practice that awareness, as the cows do, to observe the madness that is going on all around us - either on or off the mat, and stay centered in our own sacred space, holding our ground and embodying our truth then we are in yoga.
Kristina is a Massage, Myofascial Release and Yoga Therapist who lives in Peebles in the Scottish Borders with her husband, two children and two cats. Kristina teaches One on one yoga, Pregnancy yoga and Sacred Cycles Yoga and offers massage and MFR bodywork in venues in Edinburgh and Peebles.