Episode 23: Yoga for Chronic Pain
In this episode, you will learn:
Learn why and how yoga can help lower physical pain
Learn how yoga can help you release the emotions that are attached to your physical pain
Learn about a different type of yoga called Kaiut
Learn how Kathy’s joint renewal program has helped many people develop stronger and more flexible joints
Get information about Kathy’s online joint renewal program!
Episode 23: Yoga for Chronic Pain
Katie Wrigley 0:08
This is the Pain Changer Podcast, episode 23. This week, I have another amazing guest joining me. If you’re someone who’s struggling with pain and you want to move more, but you’re afraid you may make your pain spike, then this episode is for you. Joining me today is Kathy white. And we’re going to let her take the floor and tell you a little bit more about herself and her background. Welcome, Kathy.
Kathy White 0:41
Thank you. Yeah, great to be here. So my background in yoga started way back in the 1990s when I took my first yoga class in 1992. And I think, for me, Yoga has always been an amazing place of connection to the body. And that continued all the way through my journey with yoga, as I said, started in 1992. I did my yoga teacher training in 2000. I’ve done many different trainings since then. I started teaching after I did my first yoga teacher training. And in the last four years, I’ve been teaching out of my studio in the basement, the studio is in the basement of my home here on Vancouver Island. And I pivoted four and a half, five years ago, I pivoted to a new kind of yoga because I was finding that I did have pains in my body that were coming through menopause, were coming through it’s like an arthritic this but my hips were sore, my this was aching. And so with that, I was searching around for a new kind of yoga. And I came across this type of yoga called Kaiyote yoga, which comes out of Brazil. And from that I developed what I call my joint renewal system.
Katie Wrigley 2:38
So I’m really fascinated with your joint renewal program. But if you don’t mind me backing up for a moment, was there anything in your life that was going on in the early 90s when you first went to yoga? Or what was the precipitating factor that led you to start to study it in the first place and that clearly sparked your interest? You know, 30 years later, you’ve come up with a joint renewal program. So I’m just curious, if you don’t want to share I totally understand but if there’s any part of that that you’re willing to share as far as anything that may have been going on in your life when your yoga journey initially kicked off?
Kathy White 3:39
Yeah, I think when my yoga journey initially kicked off, it was all in the era of aerobics and people were going to the gym and dancing to lab music and workouts. And I remember going to a few aerobics classes and just getting very hot and sweaty and my face would be beetroot at the end of it. And I was just like, Nah, not for me. Not my thing. So it was more of “I don’t want to do that, what can I do?” that kind of veered me towards yoga so it felt kinder and felt more gentle. However, it was years later when I actually lost my first baby, he was stillborn and that tragedy… I disassociated from my body to be honest. It was a traumatic birth, it was a C section, then he died, and then I had to recover not only from the grief, but also physically and I was really out of my body. It was a traumatic experience. I dissociated, I left my body. And it was yoga that brought me back in. And I can remember, you know, I have images of me just gently getting on my mat crying, crying, and crying, just because I moved a little bit and then moved a bit more. And it was painful physically, but the biggest chronic pain I had was the grief. And it was really yoga that gently, gently led me back into being able to move and be alive and feel good about my body. Because part of me rejected my body and was like, Oh, I’m the woman that produces dead babies. And you know that sounds really harsh but you know that’s the kind of negative self talk that we get into. That was like a really horrible thought that I thought about myself, you know, I don’t have the capacity to bring life into this world. I’m no good, I can’t do this. And my body failed me, my body can’t do this, either. So that journey was very much how yoga really anchored itself into my body and into my world because it became this lifeline that pulled me out of that time of my life in such a kind way. And so when I had my two subsequent children, for my second, my son, it was my yoga teacher who came with me into the birth room. She was like my doula. So I managed to have, although, you know, medical opinions were all saying “No, you’ve got to have another C section. Once you’ve had a C section, that’s it, you’re signed up for C sections.” I was like, “No, I want a natural delivery, which I managed to have. And it was the yoga that helped me get back into my pelvis to release and gain core strength and be able to trust that that area of my body was vibrant, was alive and could birth children.
Katie Wrigley 7:20
Wow. First I want to acknowledge your vulnerability to share that. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing part of your grief. And, you know, I talk about on the show a lot that emotional pain is pain. And grief is some of the strongest, deepest, most complex pain to work through. You know, and you did a wonderful job there with describing your story in a lot of the pieces earning trust in yourself again. Any opinion or thoughts that come up on yourself, because you’ve gotten through this tragedy, and then not to mention the courage to get pregnant again. And then to do something different that fell in alignment with you. That is a massive perspective shift there and I really want to pause and commend you. I know that was over a series of years from what you had just said. But that is an incredible amount of work that you did there. And thank you so much for doing that. I have no doubt that your children are wonderful, amazing human beings out doing incredible things in this world. Because of your courage to try again after you lost your first child.
Kathy White 8:36
Thank you. Yes, I do feel that his death made me a much better parent. That, you know, things come up with my kids today that I’m just like, You know what, this isn’t worth fighting over. This isn’t worth losing contact or connection because it’s just too painful to go there. My main thing is like, stay with them, because you never know how long they’re going to be around.
Katie Wrigley 9:08
Yeah, that mindset, it can either be empowering or it can create a lot of anxiety, you know, this knowledge, we don’t know. But again, it’s very easy to commend you on your courage and what an amazing thing that you did to turn this into a gift and allow that grief to become a superpower so you’re a better parent and you had that awareness of how fleeting life can be and there’s no guarantees. Part of what I understand is the grief that parents go through when they lose a child is that and I am not a parent. I was never actually physically able to have kids and actually making me realize I want to do an episode around pain that’s specific to females, especially or with around this idea of being a mother or if we choose not to be a mother. But the amount that you did to be able to shift that, let go of that, move forward in your life, and one of the things that you mentioned there was yoga got you back in touch with your body. So why do you feel that that was such an important part of your healing process? Or what do you know about that communication with the body? That’s, that’s so important?
Kathy White 10:24
Well, I think what happens with pain is that it gets stuck in the body. And the main thing we can do to help shift it is move, whether it’s emotional pain, whether it’s mental pain, whether it’s physical pain, actually, we need to move. Yeah, because pain is just locked energy, and it’s become stagnant. And so being able to move, that’s why whether, if it’s mental energy, talking about what’s going on for you, you’re moving it because you’re changing your thoughts, you’re thinking differently. emotional energy, if you’re crying or laughing, you’re shifting stuff. And so physical energy, moving the body, even if it’s tiny, little movements, is shifting it, it’s not having it lock in. And that’s the main thing for me with pain is don’t let it lock in.
Katie Wrigley 11:30
That makes sense. And I love that it’s just locked energy. And when we can unlock it, we’re going to change the pain state by being able to do that. A yogi that I had studied over when I first started yoga, which was about 10 years ago, now. He had suffered extreme grief as well, his wife, he had it three days of thinking, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.” And then his wife’s son killed her. And at the time, it just so happened, I was in the same loft complex he was in. And he’s done TED Talks. His name’s Mike Fecht, for anyone who wants to look him up. He’s been very open about his journey. And he had said that yoga and biking, he needed that cardio piece of it too. But the yoga is what kept him here and is what kept him grounded and allowed him to put one foot in front of the other again, after enduring such a level of grief, because no part of you was expecting your son to die, I would imagine, and no part of him was expecting that he was going to get a phone call that his wife was no longer with him. And not only that, her son had been the one who had ended her life very tragically very early, when he was at the peak of his game. And I’ve experienced that when I’ve been going through grief and some of those emotions, like you can’t help but you’re going to start crying on your mat, because your body is asking you to release that. And it’s, well, if you’re someone who has resistance to releasing emotions, just be worn that may happen in yoga, you may be more comfortable doing it at home with a YouTube video, or something, instead of going into a studio, if you know that you have some grief, what would you comment as far as that and I really wanted to shift gears going into this new type of yoga you found in your joint renewal program. But as far as the emotional aspect, what would you recommend?
Kathy White 13:31
Yeah, for emotional release, I would say, I think, depending on the kind of person you are, I mean, I’ve been in trainings, I’ve had people in my studio and trainings, who are quite happy expressing emotions if they arise. Many people don’t expect emotions to rise in yoga, they because the Western concept of yoga is so much that it’s like, either you do your spin class, or you do your boot camp, or you get on your bike machine, or you know, running machine or you do yoga, you know, it’s in a category of fitness. And so to actually understand that yoga is about connection, and that’s the root of the word to yoke, is to join, to unify, to connect, then, of course, you’re going to connect to all the different parts of you. And some of those parts are hurt some of those parts need love. Some of those parts need kindness, and that touching those parts can stimulate some emotional response that can be tears. Yeah, I’m more of the type of person who likes to cry on my own. And so I’ll be listening to my teacher on a recording in my studio on my own, and I’ll just start crying, I’ll whale. And that will be, that will be my my kind of healing my release. Beautiful, beautiful movement. And you know for other people they’re much more comfortable with tears much more comfortable with expressing and it’s okay to express in in a group setting as well.
Katie Wrigley 15:30
Absolutely love that permission
Kathy White 15:32
It all depends on the individual.
Katie Wrigley 15:36
So you mentioned that yoga is about connection on a deep level. So if we look at it really conceptually like what are the things that we’re getting out of it? And then I want to go directly into the new yoga you found and your joint renewal program specifically, but just looking at it conceptually, what is everything that we’re getting out of yoga versus just a subset of fitness? You know, because one of that I’ve heard a lot of different ways. And I think the way that really gives the least credit to yoga is it’s great for your joints to counter all the horrible stuff you’re doing to it. That may be true, but it is only a fraction of what you’re really getting on a conceptual level. So can you talk a little bit more about everything that yoga is giving you as a human being?
Kathy White 16:27
I mean, I think one of the key components to yoga is the way, as I said earlier, it connects you back to yourself. But how it does that is because it’s all about calming the nervous system. So many of us are dealing with a heightened, sympathetic nervous system that’s in fight, flight, freeze mode, 24/7, we just never stop being stimulated. And so to have a practice of yoga, that is the place, the time where you’re still awake, where you haven’t just collapsed into sleep, but you’re actually still conscious and aware. And to feel the effect of just simply being with the breath, not trying to change the breath, not doing breath work. But just simply being with the inhalation, the exhalation, and then gently moving your body, the movements, the postures in themselves don’t actually matter so much, in the sense that yes, of course, you know, physically, it’s good to have ankles that work and feet that are alive, because we want to stand up, right, and there’s a sort of practical application to it. But actually, if your nervous system is relaxed, if you’re calm, that is the place in which the body heals.
Katie Wrigley 18:10
Kathy White 18:11
We need to be in rest and digest and restore mode for the body to do its own natural thing, which is to get itself back into optimum shape. And we forget that we get busy in our healing. And so we’re not actually ever resting enough to heal. So yoga is that place where we can for an hour, I try to guide my students when they work with me, for an hour to yes, we’re moving the body. And yes, some of the poses can be fairly intense, but I keep bringing them back to the breath to the present moment and to relax and rest into each pose and rest into the sensations of the pose, which is, you know, talking about pain as we do. I really try to language my classes where I talk about sensation rather than pain because as soon as I say, “Oh, if your hips are painful”, people go “Oh yes, my hips are painful, and they’ve been painful forever. And I’ve always had a painful hip and my mother had painful hips and I’ve got arthritis and I’m gonna need a hip replacement, and yada yada yada.” If I simply say okay, breathe and then just feel any sensations in your hips. It’ss very different. It keeps people focused and it keeps them present to what is there because pain is really sensations. That’s the language of the body. The body is communicating with us.
Katie Wrigley 19:59
I love that. And you just reminded me of something last week’s guest said that she had heard that pain is an opinion. And what I just heard you saying is, as soon as we call it pain, we’re judging it, we’re giving it an opinion of what that sensation feels like. Whereas what could change in that experience, just alone with what you said, instead of “Oh, notice any pain in your hips?”, it’s “Notice any sensation in your hips?” You’re not automatically assigning any judgment or any opinion, there, it is a sensation, that is a judgment free word. We don’t have anything else around it, it’s not positive or negative, it is a sensation. Describe it. And you may find it doesn’t hurt when you look at it that way.
Kathy White 20:50
Yeah and creating space around that pain. So I also invite my students to approach those sensations very mindfully so that, you know, if we’re doing a Succasunna, which is a cross leg position, and I have them with quite a wide open leg, so that you don’t tuck your heels into your groin, but your feet are quite far away from you. And then you just sit in that position and drop the spine forward, drop the head forward. Now some of my students need a wall behind them, because their spines are so delicate and fragile. Some of my students need to be on a chair. And some of them can simply drop their head and nothing more. But it doesn’t you see people get so fixed in like, oh, that cross legged position? Yes, my feet need to be like this. My, my spine needs to come really far forward. Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t do yoga. The number of times people said to me, “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga.” No. And what it is, is yes, of course, you can do yoga, because yoga is about connecting. Whatever position you’re in, you just simply, you know, if it’s just dropping your head and noticing that at the back of your neck, there is tightness, tension, there’s a restriction, there’s sensation, then you hang out with that sensation, you touch the first layer of it, you don’t push past it, you don’t try and put your head into some other fancy position. No, you just drop your head and notice that sensation, and be with it.
Katie Wrigley 22:38
Love that. Be with the sensation and observe it. And it may differ from day to day, you may have one day where your chin goes right down to your chest and you’re touching, you may have another day where you move at a fraction of an inch. That’s all you’re getting that day. And that is okay. That is where your body is in that day. And it sounds like you know, as you were talking I was coming to mind and thinking of some of my favorite Yogi’s, the yoga instructors I go to and one of the things that they all do so well is let your practice be what it is today. Don’t compete with yourself, don’t look at what someone else is doing. This is your time on the mat to go within. And allow it to be whatever it is that day. That is what your body needs, and push you past it. That’s I’ve torn a rotator cuff in yoga because I wasn’t paying attention. I got into the human aspect. And oh, they’re doing that I want to do that. My body was not prepared to do the pose that I did that day, and got hurt as a result. And that was the last time I hurt myself and yoga because I really started doing exactly what you said connecting with my body. And sometimes I don’t like the answer like oh, I that’s not for me today. Okay, what is for me, you know, but it may be something that I really want to do. But my body is telling me, we’re not ready for that today.
Kathy White 24:08
I’m noticing, Katie, that push that we can have and so many people have that push to try and do something in the way that we think, is it needs to be done. And to back off or back away from that and say, This isn’t about doing a particular shape or creating a particular outcome. This is simply about moving now. And in one what my one of my best students is my 91 year old father who started yoga four years ago, and he is like the least flexible person you possibly imagine but at 91, Katie, he gets up and down off the floor, he gets up and down off his yoga mat. And four years ago, he could barely get off the floor.
Katie Wrigley 25:09
Kathy White 25:11
Now he still doesn’t do the poses to any great degree, you know, like, he just sort of sits there needs a lot of support in many, many different aspects. But he does what he can. And the results of that is he is more mobile at 91 than he was at 87.
Katie Wrigley 25:32
Wow. And that’s proof right there. It is literally never too late to start. If you are breathing air, if your heart is beating, you can start Yoga, you are here today. Cathy’s 87 year old father has been practicing yoga. Now he is 91. I love that! I have the biggest smile on my face right now. And you’re right, it’s letting go of that judgment. Like he’s probably not, you know, doing back bends and going into Dancer Pose and all this stuff. But he’s honoring where his body is. And he is able to benefit his body where it is because of his awareness and acceptance of where he is physically. And he’s able to improve where he can do physically because of that acceptance. That’s just that’s beautiful.
Kathy White 26:25
So you know, having that sense of this, isn’t people go at things and they expect results in seven days or within 21 days or within whatever it is. And when you’ve had a lifetime of sitting with your hips in a certain position, and then you start to move them in other positions. That’s a lifetime of stuck energy. Yes. And, and so it’s gonna take months years to shift that, but it will shift to have a long term perspective. I think yoga really lends itself to that. And certainly my joint renewal system is all about that. It’s like, Please give yourself the time the space for transformation to occur, it will occur because I’ve seen it with so many of my longtime students. However, it’s not going to occur overnight.
Katie Wrigley 27:32
No, it’s not you, you could have a breakthrough day where you feel like you went 10 miles in a day. That’s not the expectation for every day. So tell us more about this joint renewal program. Like what does that look like? And and how are you seeing it benefit people?
Kathy White 27:55
Yeah, how I’m seeing it benefit is that most people, whether it’s chronic pain in their spine, that back low back, especially whether it’s hips needing a hip replacement, whether it’s knees, whether it’s shoulders, rotator cuff injury, or neck, it could be wrist elbow, but most people when they come to yoga have some history in their body, and it could be an injury, it could be just years of misalignment and hereditary patterns. Most people come with a joint or several joints that are not working properly, that are causing them pain. And so the joint renewal system is about addressing that first layer of access. The first reason why people want to come to yoga is like okay, yes, I can meet you there. Come in. And we go through each of the joints systematically through an hour’s practice or through, you know, a month practice, you’ll get to experience each of the joints in your body. In this mindful way. We’ll be in a pose, you’ll be extending, for example, extending your elbows extending your arms out. Now, many people will think of yoga stretching, and I just say erase the word stretch from your vocabulary, because stretching actually makes the joints unstable. And we’ve kind of got it backwards, because what we want to do is build the mobility in the joint and once the mobility in the joint has been established, then the muscles, ligaments, and tendons all around that joint go, “Oh, we better be limber here, we better awaken up, we better be able to move in all sorts of different directions, because that joint is going to demand of us that we do”. So going right into the joint, first of all, is is the place to start. And then the muscles and everything come as a consequence of working the joint. And having the joint as the focus changes. Also, that whole notion of trying to get into a certain shape, because you start to understand that the shape of the pose really doesn’t matter. It’s the feeling inside the joint. So it’s the feeling inside the hip is the feeling inside the sacrum. And so many people don’t even know these joints within themselves. I remember when I first started this practice, there’s a certain kneeling pose of Rasna, where we’re asked to press our ankle joints together. So you’re on all fours, you’re pressing your ankle joints together, pressing your feet together. And then you lower your hips to the degree that you can, making sure that the ankle joints don’t separate. Now, I couldn’t even feel whether my ankle joints were touching or not, I had so little awareness of that area of my body. And I didn’t have the neurological connection, the brain wasn’t reading that area of my body because it was fast asleep, I just had never really built up an awareness. Now my ankles are really wide awake, really aware, I can feel the ankle joints when they touch instantly, after four years of practice of this particular type of yoga. But in the other yogas I was doing for three decades beforehand, I was much more engaged in the kind of stretching, changing my body into certain shapes, because that’s how that posture works. So you put it in this shape, and then you hang out in that. This was so different. It’s like, “No, feel the joints. And I’m going to give you some cues to move your body. But you’re going to just feel the joints as you move. That’s your foot.”
Katie Wrigley 32:42
And that alone is a big shift. And I see that a lot in my own work is you know, I’m encouraging people to stay in the body, feel it. Describe it. And I’ve also experienced, you know, when someone is doing something similar in a yoga class, like, what are your feet doing? Like, what are my feet do and where do they go? Like, you know, they’re there. But why have feet? Oh, yeah, oh, they’re still there. How did that happen? You’re so focused somewhere else, or task focused, like you’d mentioned earlier, we get so fixated on fixing our pain. And I was working with a client yesterday. And they’re coming off of a week-long pain spike. And he’s like, “I’ve been fighting. And I’m like, “This is gonna sound counterintuitive. But the next time you have a pain spike, I don’t want you to fight it. I want you to accept it. And I want you to feel whatever is there. And let’s see what happens with that pain spike.” because that’s going to completely shift it because now the message is his body is telling him. Now he’s hearing it and his body’s going to say “Oh, you’re hearing me. Oh, cool. Now what do I do? All right, well, now I’m going to start giving you some relief.” Or maybe he gets more messages. But it changes that experience in there just by that focus. So, you mentioned, this is a type of yoga that comes from Brazil. So what’s what’s the biggest change? And if you don’t mind repeating the name again, I’ve forgotten it and someone else listening may have forgotten it as well. But the type of yoga and how does it differ from Vinyasa or Ashtanga or some of the other yoga types that we may hear about out there?
Kathy White 34:41
Yeah, so the yoga was developed by a man called Francisco Kaiut. And Francisco Kaiut. He developed this system, he did a training. And as a chiropractor, he did polarity therapy training, and really worked with the Tibetan Buddhist teacher who also taught a yoga practice. But really his main teacher was his own body because he had a childhood accident. He was shot in the hip. And from what I understand it was, two boys playing and one of them got hold of a gun and didn’t realize, you know, it wasn’t a toy. And it was just one of those terrible, terrible things. Anyway, he has this lifelong injury in his left hip, that he has approached and chronic pain, he grew up with chronic pain. And he also had memory amnesia, so he couldn’t remember the accident, he had no idea that this accident did even occur. And for various reasons, his family chose not to tell him as well. And so he grew up with this pain, and it was referred pain. It was his spine. So you know, he was lucky that the whoever the medics were didn’t say, Oh, you need back surgery, because a lot of people would go, Oh, surgery, I’ll do it, which actually is not true. Most back surgeries fail, unfortunately. But he’s managed to, I mean, if you see Francisco walking across a room, it’s like watching a gazelle, he has a beautiful walk, beautiful gaze, you would never know he has like half a hip on his left side. Wow. He has built this awareness and this strength of how to move fluidly through his yoga practice through years and years of yoga. And so this, the joint renewal system that I developed based on what I know from the Kaiut method is really founded on this idea that no matter what shape you come with, no matter what injury you arrive with, you just meet yourself on the mat, and you meet yourself with kindness, you meet yourself with awareness, with the breath, and you move gently, you move gently with it, into it, and drop your stories drop that mental, “oh, this is wrong with me. And I’ll never get better. And I had this accident or this injury. And my doctor says blah, blah, blah”, it’s like, yeah, I mean, I don’t deny what your doctor might say. But for the hour, you’re on your yoga mat. Just leave all that aside. If that mental chatter aside, gently drop in, drop into your body, breathe, and be with whatever shows up. And if you have a hip injury, for example, if you have a restriction in one area of your body, I’m often reminding students to be aware of the whole of their body, as well as that one area. It’s not like you just focus in on the one joint that’s that stiff, it’s like, no, take your awareness out, feel all the areas of your body that are soft, that are moving, that are free, that give have spaciousness around them, because then it gives a context for which yes, there might be this one, tightness or restriction. But actually, there are many, many, many places where you can hang out within your system, that are light that are free that and you can learn from those you can educate, you know, take the awareness, the neurological connections to those areas where there is freedom, and bring that freedom back into the areas where there is restriction.
Katie Wrigley 39:16
Yeah, that is one of the tricks I like to do. And that was actually, I did a variant of that with the client I had just mentioned. Kaiut’s story is incredible. And you said a lot there that really spoke to what you’ve already said about the energy gets stuck in the body. If he had no conscious memory. All of that is staying stuck until he consciously “Oh my gosh, this happened.” Now he’s aware of it and he has the opportunity to do something with it. But until he had that awareness, it’s going to stay stuck. And that’s an a similar part of my own body is I repressed and I hate that term because people immediately go oh, you know, that’s not real. It is real. Repressed simply means your conscious mind is not ready to deal with it yet. But I had a repressed trauma that hung out in my nervous system for 40 years before I dealt with it. And people were like, “Wow, you’re still healing?” Well, yeah, I’ve been healing on that for four years, I’ve been aware of it for three, I still have 40 years of ignoring it that I’m plucking through, it’s going to take a minute, and I’m okay with that. Because I’ve made amazing progress. And a lot of it is doing what you’re saying and checking in with the body. And now Oh, my gosh, I want to do a yoga session this afternoon. So bad. Now I’m totally picturing myself in my living room and whipping out a YouTube because I’m in I’m in quarantine again, for COVID. So it’s not safe for me to go to my studio right now. So much of what you’re saying, I really hope that people are hearing and taking notes, because this is a lot of wisdom in here from, from experience, from study, from evidence, empirical evidence, showing these benefits and allowing yourself that space for it to be a process, you know.
Kathy White 41:14
Exactly. One thing I should say, Katie is the thing about referred pain in terms of somebody might present to me with a knee, and they tell me about their knee, and they’re all focused on the knee. And if they went to a doctor, or a chiropractor or physiotherapist, they would be talking about the knee and they will probably be working the knee. And I’m really interested in the whole body. And that’s why for me, yoga addresses this: that knee could be a culmination of a foot/ankle issue, it could be that it could be the left shoulder that just had an accident or injury years ago. And then the body just shifted to put more weight on that knee to compensate and lift the shoulder in some way. So you never know you and you can’t trace because the body is so remarkably intelligent. It’s always trying to help you avoid those tightnesses or restrictions and keep you moving, it’s always trying to keep you moving, because we need to move to live. So that wisdom of the body to move and take on compensatory patterns, means that when we’re unraveling them, when we’re trying to get rid of that knee pain, you have to also move your shoulders and your neck, you have to also move your feet and your ankles, you can’t just focus on the area that’s presenting as the issue because that might not actually be the source of why that issue is there.
Katie Wrigley 43:09
That is so wise. You know, and we talk a lot about the whole body and nothing in our body is running in a silo, nothing. Everything is connected. And it’s not just connected just to you, you are connected to everybody out here in the world, all of us are connected. And I love that wisdom that you just shared, thank you, of, it may be your knee, but look beyond that. And what else is going on like as I learned myself to tune in more to my body, I could actually measure the progress of my nerve damage healing because I had a physical sensation that was moving up my leg that was in line with the dermatomes that I can see clearly I’m like, oh, and much to your point before that level of healing. I knew when my back was inflamed because my left knee would get more sore because it’s one of the nerves that’s damaged or was damaged in my back goes across my knee. But my brain read it as my knee. And it’s like but that’s not actually what’s happening right now. That’s only where the sensation is. The root of it, the core of it, the cause of it is in my brain. And that means I can change it. It doesn’t mean that my experience is not real. My knee hurt that day. That absolutely happened. But it wasn’t my knee that was the problem. And that’s something else that we start to get access to when we when you have a regular yoga practice as you start to tune into your body much more quickly, much more easily and your body talks to you. You understand so much faster what your body is saying to you, as you’re connecting to it, and it becomes easier
Kathy White 45:05
Building those neurological connections all the time, keep re scanning each area like sending the messages receiving the messages from body to brain. And keeping those pathways alive and renewed and restored as well.
Katie Wrigley 45:26
It’s like a muscle, you know, you when you, if you’re doing weight training, you can’t expect to be doing 100 pound curls the first day, that’s not going to happen, you’re going to be building that muscle up over time to get to the point where you can safely without wrecking your body, do 100 pound curl, if that’s part of what your your goal is for yourself, I can’t imagine, but that may be your goal and more power to you want to go there. Same thing with the nervous system. Same thing with calming the mind. Same thing with learning how to talk to your body, it is a muscle, it is going to take time and it is most likely going to be fairly uncomfortable. The first few times you do it or you may feel like am I doing this right? Probably yes. If you’re questioning it, probably yes. And it’s gonna take time. And one of the visuals I love to do in yoga, like I tried to do a shelf. And that doesn’t wasn’t freeing enough for me. So now like part of the visualization I do. And I’ll do this one number, regardless of where I am, but it really works best on the yoga mat, because I can just, you know, put myself into that scenery when I’m on the mat. And I like to be by a river. And if there’s a thought that just keeps going, oh, there’s that thought again, I just put it in the river and I watch it go away. And as I watch it go away, it leaves my head. And so I mentioned that to just encourage anyone listening to come up with your own visual to help calm that racing mind so that you’re back in the body. And you know, another one is just talking to the breath. Inhale, exhale, even just seeing that sometime to get the focus on the breath like that can help me really calm that monkey mind, that squirrel mind, that that overactive mind that comes from being in a state of perpetual fight or flight, which is incredibly common with anybody in pain. And especially if there is a trauma somewhere in your story as well that your body in your subconscious mind starts to look for problems all the time. Because it just is what it thinks is going to be easier. And you can start to unlearn that practice, take the power out of that muscle, put it into the muscles that are for you that are going to calm you that are going to help your neurology settle down and the more research I do, all of its pointing to the nervous system. That was one of the first things you said Kathy was, this is accessing the nervous system, it is calming down the nervous system, it is relaxing the nervous system. And when we are able to do that, we shift our experience of pain.
Kathy White 48:03
And the body heals and restores. Yeah, one of my teachers, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, talks about what seeds are you watering? So I like to think of that when you practice that when he was speaking about practicing by a river like by an imaginary river, or practicing with the sky and the clouds passing and you can just put your thoughts into the river or put your thoughts as clouds and the wind is just going to blow them away. Thich Nhat Hanh would talk about what seeds are you watering? So we all have the seeds of compassion, of love, of kindness. Can we water those in our practice? Rather than we all have the seeds of anger, of nervousness, of fear of anxiety? Are you watering those seeds? What seeds are you watering? I think for me yoga is that gardening time where you water the seeds of self love and compassion and have this amazing renewal, restoral, and grow, you grow as a human being.
Katie Wrigley 49:15
Oh, I love that the clouds that’s that’s another good one I may start to have when the mind is really racing. I’ll be in the river in the crowds and just throw them all over the place in the water and die. Because there are days where my brain gets going like that and I can easily go okay. Oh, stop, stop, slow down and it’s faster but it used to race like that for days on end. Gosh, there was something as you were talking, I wanted to go back to it again. And I love that you mentioned, in that relaxation state you start to access your body’s ability to heal again too and start to repair. So for someone who maybe has learned through their own pain experience that even a couple of minutes of yoga may result in pain and as such, has a really high level of fear. What would you recommend as a place to start like how many how many minutes like and and where is a good place to just start to prove to that brain that it’s possible to move without a pain spike, because I’ve seen that before with more than one person where, and myself too, where you have a good day, and then you automatically overdo it on the movement. Because much You said it’s our instinct to move. And so you’re like, Oh, I feel good. You overdo it, and then you go, Oh, that makes me hurt, I can’t move. And then we become trapped. And then that energy in our body, which is trapped, energy, converting, as pain is going to stay there. So where would you recommend for someone who has a really high level of fear to start tip toe in?
Kathy White 50:58
I would probably explore where do they feel safe in their day to day movements? Like are they do they feel okay, sitting on a stool or a low low stool or a chair, rather than trying to get down to the floor to the mat, you know, just okay, if it’s, if it’s a chair, let’s let’s stay on the chair, that’s where you feel safe. That’s where you feel it’s doable, in terms of a forward flexion, if they’re very fearful about their spine and coming forward, and, you know, unfortunately, some medics will tell you not to do forward flexions, which I don’t want to go against the medical profession. But you know, after 30 years of teaching yoga, I’m kind of like, that spine needs to move forward, your spine is designed to move forward, you know, why would you tell someone not to, and I understand, I understand that, the movement has to be very mindful and very careful. And it can take months years to actually get the spine moving forward in a way that is free, it might not be free, but looking for the places that they can move and that they do feel secure, and start there. And that as I say might be in a chair, it might be just sitting gently in a chair, feet flat on the ground, and then just turning turning the neck, the head to the left to the right, maybe turning the spine as well as maybe lifting your knee towards your chest. So yeah, that movement is you’re just exploring, being curious and open. And then what I always always teaching my classes and whole joint renewal system is based on this is find that first layer of sensation, if you can, the first layer and and just hang out there. So it’s not like you’re going to trigger a pain response. Because, you know, maybe there’s a low level chronic pain that’s always there. But even with the pain, they’re just moving and then noticing when it shifts. And that should first shift that layer that that change, just stay there, what shifted, how did it shift, what’s the texture that shake the feeling of that pain right now, and see if you can breathe and, and calm the breath in that shift, and just hang out there for a minute or two, and then, you know, move back into a more rested position. So very gentle, very slow, very mindful. That would be my my advice for somebody who’s dealing with that fear.
Katie Wrigley 53:50
I love that and then just staying there. So like with the example you said of, you know, maybe you turn ahead one side, maybe you turn to the other side, maybe you start to do a little spinal twist, maybe you start to lift a leg. And that’s it for the day. It may feel like nothing, but the point of it is to just see if you could do it without making pain worse. And if you did great, then the next time you do it, try a little bit more, but give yourself permission to tiptoe in or whatever way you want to, you are still moving. So congratulations, you are still moving. And that’s going to benefit you. So if I’m actually asking for myself and I know other people have this as well. So before I had gotten into a lot of this, I had a knee replacement and my body is one that creates a lot of scar tissue. So that meant I created a whole heck of a lot of scar tissue and that knee replacement actually is what really led me to start to get into this work is the surgery was picture perfect, but I wasn’t healing. And so it demanded me taking really hard look at why. And, wow, I found a lot. The only place where I really notice the restriction in my knee is in yoga I, as of this point, my flexibility isn’t yet there to do a full Child’s Pose anymore. So if someone does have a joint restriction, and that can come from arthritis, it doesn’t have to come from scar tissue. But if someone has a restriction like that, kind of a similar question to what I was asking, but what do you suggest to start to get those muscles in those parts of that joint? Especially if it’s a fake joint? You know, it’s different, It’s not, it doesn’t have the same level of consciousness that your live bones and joints had before? Do you have any recommendations on that?
Kathy White 55:48
It’s the same thing, Katie, in terms of its awareness, of how does this joint actually move? Knowing that it’s not my original joint, it’s a different one. And being okay with the fact that it maybe doesn’t have the full range of motion. And I use props a lot. In my teaching, my yoga studio is full of bolsters, blocks, and extra things, stools, chairs, because I say to people, you know, if you can’t reach the floor, then bring the floor to you. Don’t, don’t try and think, Oh, I can’t reach the floor. It’s like, no, raise the floor up, of course, raise the floor up. And, you know, it’s, it’s kind of like when people go and try on a pair of jeans, and they’re like, Oh, my body’s not right, you know, it’s like no, the jeans aren’t right. We’ve got this idea that our body should change for a manufactured pair of jeans, it’s like no, hello. Find the jeans that are for you. And it’s the same thing in the yoga studio, go find the props that are for you that are going to help you access your body in whatever mobility level it has whatever tightness or tension is there, there’s always a prop that can support you so that you can do that mindfully.
Katie Wrigley 57:24
Thank you. That’s a great reminder. And I love that, don’t look at yourself as the problem.The problem may be what you’re trying to do. What can you do that is problem-free for you?
Kathy White 57:37
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Katie Wrigley 57:40
I’ve learned so much and I understand the benefit of movements but I love having experts like yourself come in and really discuss everything that someone gets out of doing this on a deeper level. Where can people find you? Do they have to be on Vancouver Island to work with you? Or do you offer anything virtually or what is available for people out there to connect with you?
Kathy White 58:05
Thankfully, for the pandemic, I completely pivoted online. So lots of offerings online, as well as my studio is open here on Vancouver Island. But if people want to find me online, then they can go to www.kathywhiteyoga.com. That’s all one word kathywhiteyoga.com. And on my homepage, they can sign up and get a free joint renewal guide.And that just walks you through and gives you access to a free area of your mind membership site, gives you a couple of videos to try out. It gives you access to a guide, you can read and just have a better overview. I mean, I’ve given a lot of information here. But if you want to recap because some of it is new, some of it is a little radical, some of it is different from what the mainstream narrative is. So reading that guide just helps anchor the information. So yeah, Kathywhiteyoga.com. Go there. And I do have from time to time depending on when this podcast comes out a seven day challenge. And so if you join, sign up for the joint renewal guide, you’ll get notice of that challenge when the next one’s happening, and they happen fairly regularly. And that’s a free seven day opportunity to join me on Zoom and do some of these poses and practices and have me talk you through how to breathe, how to be mindful, how to approach your body with this awareness.
Katie Wrigley 59:42
Beautiful. Thank you for that. I am definitely going to be signing up for your mailing list Kathy and you’re going to be seeing me again, because everything that you said today just really resonates with me. From what I understand, the tools that we can build, to start to get this muscle to relax our nervous system, to be able to tap into the nervous system, and to be able to access our bodies in different ways. I have a wonderful studio very close to me. But like I said, I can’t go right now. I hopefully can go back again next week. But this, the way that you’re talking about the body, I feel there’s a lot I can really learn from you directly. So I will definitely be going to Kathywhiteyoga.com. I’m going to be putting this in the show notes as well. And I am going to be signing up for your next joint challenge for sure. So that seven day and this is great timing, my partner is all excited. He just went and bought all new workout clothes and everything this morning. He really wants to put a lot more effort into his fitness and yoga is one of the things that he wants to learn how to do because he’s never done it before. And I’m really excited to introduce him to your website and be like, here you go, this is a great place for you to start. So thank you so much, Kathy. And I just want to leave it, what’s one note that you want to leave with the audience today for wherever they may be in their journey, coming out of pain.
Kathy White 1:01:26
I would say be kind to yourself, meet to yourself with kindness, meet yourself with compassion. That’s, you know, we all suffer there is suffering in the world. And you know, to be aware and acknowledge your suffering with kindness is the first step of healing.
Katie Wrigley 1:01:51
I love that water those seeds of kindness and self compassion start with you. And then you’re going to have more to share with the world. That’s a wonderful note to end on there. Thank you again.
Kathy White 1:02:04
Well, thank you, Katie, for having me on the show.
Katie Wrigley 1:02:07
It’s been a pleasure. So thank you, to you my listeners, as always for joining me today. I hope you’ll come back next week to hear from another expert. Magic Barclay is going to be joining me from Australia to talk about mind body and holism. So what exactly does holism mean and why does it matter when you’re talking about pain? Join me next week to find out.