Episode 64: The Art of Healing through Movement


In this episode, you will learn:

  • The body’s capacity to heal itself.
  • Why she fired her medical team, and how she healed herself.
  • What is Feldenkrais and how does it work?
  • Somatic movement versus traditional exercise.
  • The healing power of martial arts.

Episode 64: The Art of Healing through Movement

Katie Wrigley  (KW) 00:49

Joining me today is the FemiNinja herself Cheryl Ilov, Cheryl is an author, dancer, martial artist, physical therapist and Feldenkrais practitioner, who began a journey of self discovery and self healing after her medical team declared her incurable from an incapacitating chronic pain syndrome. When she was 36. She fired her medical team healed herself, earned her master’s in physical therapy and opened her own physical therapy practice. She believes that everyone can be fit, healthy and vibrant at every stage of life. Love the way you think Cheryl. Cheryl also began training in an ancient Japanese martial art at the tender young age of 47. Although she did not go willingly because she knew she was going to hate it. 10 years later, she became her teacher’s first female Black Belt. She believes that there is an incredible amount of inner strength and power in each and every one of us just waiting to be discovered. Welcome to the pain changer podcast. Cheryl, I am so excited to interview you today. Thank you so much for joining me. 

Cheryl Ilov(CI) 00:52

Oh, thank you for having me here, Katie. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

KW: 02:03

Ah, me too. I’m so glad I have so much fun talking to you. And I learn so much every time we talk. So I wanted to start with why did you fire your medical team? And then how did you heal yourself?

CI  02:18

Well, you know, I should have fired them a whole lot sooner than I did. But I didn’t know anything back then. Right. I was in the medical field myself. As a respiratory therapist. That was my first career before I was a PT. And you know what started out as a little discomfort, my low back quickly spiraled into this incredible full blown chronic pain syndrome. So as a Western medically trained person, which I was, I did everything I was supposed to do. I listened to the doctors, I took the medications they prescribed, went to the physical therapist, did all the stupid exercises. As much as that they gave me did them religiously, even though they weren’t helping. I went to my massage therapists that they prescribed. I did every single thing to the book, I was probably what you would call the ideal patient, the perfect patient. And we can go into how I feel about that a little bit. So it was finally, I lived that life of a chronic pain patient for two and a half years. And you know, instead of going to ballet class and pilates and skiing, doing the things I love, I was going to the doctor’s visits, the physical therapists, the massage therapists, and I kept getting worse, instead of getting better. I kept spiraling down until I could barely function. When I remember I had that mental head smacking moment, when one of my doctors told me that I would never be able to do my grocery shopping and my laundry all in the same day. Because the spot in my head with arthritis in my spine was so severe, I would end up being bedridden. And it was almost like she was speaking a foreign language. It just didn’t compute in my brain. I didn’t understand what she was saying. And I said, You don’t understand, I’m planning on going back to ballet class. And she actually laughed in my face and said you don’t understand you are a chronic pain patient. Always be a chronic pain patient, you will never have the life view you wanted the life you had before. And you can forget about going to physical therapy school because even if you could do the work, which you can’t because you’re too broken. She says you’re way too old.

KW  03:17

I would love to Oh, I have so many visceral reactions to what you just said. And they’re like, Oh, that’s such bullshit.

CI  04:46

Amen and it was just so crazy. And I mean, I just looked at her dumbfounded and then she said, and I want you to start applying for disability because you’re going to need it and like I was 36 years old.

KW  05:00

What the fuck?

CI  05:01

Right? Thank you. That’s exactly what I was thinking. So what a horrible thing to do to somebody to take away their hope, destroy their dreams, you know, to demolish their spirit, and then pat them on the head and say, don’t you worry about it, though, we’ll take care of you. So I went home. And, you know, full disclosure, I hit rock bottom, of course, right. And a few days later, it was like, wait a minute, nobody’s gonna take care of me, I’m gonna take care of myself, I have got to figure this out. I have no idea what I’m doing. But I know, something is very wrong here. Instead of getting better, I’m getting worse. So I just fired my entire medical team, I stopped cold turkey taking the medications, because obviously, you know, again, it wasn’t making me better, right, I stopped doing the stupid stretches and exercises. And I knew enough about movement. Because, you know, I was a dancer. And I started late in life, I started taking ballet classes when I was 19, which is pretty old to start ballet considering that’s when most people quit. And I had done a lot of Pilates. So I already knew that. So what I did was, I started taking some of those movement patterns that I knew really well, some of the Pilates Mat exercises, and I dissected them and broke them down into little pieces. And then I would get on the floor, and I would just do bits and pieces of the Pilates exercises, and find out what made me feel better. What made me feel worse. So it was this long process that I went through. And along with doing that the only other thing, I added one thing, and that one thing was acupuncture. Yeah. And Katie, I gotta tell you, the first time I went in for acupuncture, I number one, I could not believe I was doing this western medicine, you know, person, this was “woo woo”, the acupuncture clinic was right close to the hospital where I was working as a respiratory therapist, and I thought, Oh, my God, if anybody sees me walking into this clinic, I wanted to wear some sort of disguise, or maybe go in the back door. So nobody would see me because it was so far out of my, my mindset or my belief system of how we heal and how we treat ourselves. I’m telling you, the combination of the acupuncture and my own self exploration was magic, it took about nine months, I’m not going to say it was easy. I’m not going to say that some of my acupuncture sessions were fun, right. But about nine, eight or nine months later, I was pain free, I was overweight, I was really stiff. But I was functional. And it was right at that time that I was accepted into the master’s program for physical therapy at the university Colorado.

KW  07:59


CI  08:01

So that’s when the real healing and this lifelong journey of learning and exploration began.

KW  08:10

Thank you for sharing that. And there’s a couple things I want to circle back on that you said in there. So when that doctor was sitting there just slapping you with lemon after limit, there are so many people who are listening right now who have been in the same place that did not give themselves permission to give the doctor the middle two fingers, fire them and go find someone who says something else. So thank you for sharing that because I’ve heard similar things, oh, this is never going to get better. This is how it is going to be, you need to do x, y, and z. Screw that. No, you don’t listen to your body like Cheryl did. So thank you for being an example of what is possible there. And I love that you took what I love to say, okay, like maybe, maybe I in air quotes can’t do this. But what can I do, and that is breaking down the Pilates piece by piece because your body probably couldn’t handle a full Pilates class at that point. But little bits and pieces to strengthen you were able to do and then that probably I’m guessing gave you enough knowledge along with the acupuncture, which you know, for anybody who isn’t familiar, like it’s a whole bunch of needles, they put along different meridians in the body and it helps your body release the energy that is stuck in there. Not a traditional medicine. And I was rooted in traditional medicine myself. So I had that same kind of when you run out of the limits of traditional medicine, you either get more stuck, or you do it you didn’t do it. I did and you say Fuck this, what can I do? And then you go do that.

CI  09:48

You know and I want to be gracious about like the medical people who were working with me that oh well maybe they don’t know any better. And you know a lot of times they have such a limited scope of practice. But the other part of me, the fighter in me, the one that wants to go and slap them upside the head. Yes. Like, you know, keeping me in pain actually was a benefit to them. I was their patient and they could, quote unquote, take care of me. They were in charge of me and my entire life. And like you said that double middle finger it Okay, so that was 30 years ago. And there are still times when it’s like, oh, I don’t want to go to this class or I don’t want to do this. And it’s like, oh, yes, I do. Because every time I do things like that, if I take a vigorous ballet class, or I, you know, go to my martial arts and get slammed around, it is that big double finger to all of the people who told me, You cannot, And you will never be able to do anything like that, again,

KW  10:58

I’m going to use that motivation. The next time I’m feeling lazy about doing something, thank you. It’ll be my own version of the double middle finger. I love that you pointed out the grace for the doctors, because you’re right, like the limits don’t come from the doctors that come from what they’re being taught, which is fed by an incredibly profitable system that we call health care. Notice the word profit in there, your disease is for profit. There’s a whole other episode on that earlier in this series. But that is one of the issues with what we call health care. And I’m using that neighbor quote because it’s not about health. It’s not about caring, it’s about looking for sickness, which you’re always going to find if you’re going looking for it. It does feed into the system, but they are also limited by their instructions. Like I run into that with my primary care as well. Like, no, oh, well, you need to do this. I’m like, Yeah, I’m gonna do it this way. And they’re like, Well, that may not work, like, for your way. Sure, shit isn’t gonna work, like giving me synthetic medication, that’s not going to do dick. Like, let me just go see what my body can do on his own. And I’ll get back to you if I need more help. So she doesn’t really like me all that much, but I don’t really care.

CI  12:06

I’m fortunate that I have a PCP now, who really listens to me. And I think he’s, he might be afraid of me, I love this guy to death. But you know, if I have something going on, I’ll go in and he says, Okay, what’s going on? And what do you think? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Nice. So I will tell him what the symptoms are. I’ll tell him and I, you know, give you a great example. This is really funny. It was several years ago, having terrible heart palpitations, to the point of, you know, go do my martial arts class. And on the way home, I’m like, Oh, my God, my heart’s gonna explode my chest. And I had an idea that I thought I knew what it was. But just because I was at that point in my 50s. And it’s, you know, cardiac, better get it checked out, right. So I go in and I tell my doctor, what’s going on. So he goes, you know, listens to my heart does an EKG hit, everything’s fine. He says, If you want to see a cardiologist, you can, but they’re going to tell you the same thing. And I said, No, I just wanted to clear it to make sure that there’s really not a problem because that’s, you know, your your scope of practice, right now that I know everything’s fine. I can take matters into my own hands. So the next day, I went back to the dojo, and I said to my, my sensei, who is an acupuncturist? And I said, Okay, so I’m having these horrible heart palpitations, and they’re getting worse after class. Vanessa and I have really been working on something called our Hoshi points, we’ve made these nerve bundles. And they’re also acupressure points acupuncture points. I said, could that be it? Because I’m letting her do these? Oh, she points to me, you know, for like, 30 minutes at a time. Oh, god, yes. He says those are the heart channels. That’s the pericardium channels. Those are the channels that we attack when somebody’s punching us. And we, you know, oh, that’s, that’s what we’re attacking. And he said, to get out, stay after class, if you can. And so I did. And he did one session to, you know, reestablish the electrical circuitry of my heart, and all of those cardio cardiac channels and pericardium channels, and boom, they were gone.

KW  14:06

Wow. Wow, that’s so cool. It’s amazing what our body can do when we allow it. The freedom to do it.

CI  14:13

Exactly. And we have to really listen and learn how to listen to our bodies and listen to the signals that it’s sending us and not ignore something that’s bothering you, but explore it a little bit more. And when you do have to go to the doctor, if you are armed, you know, “nice little armor” of information because you understand your body, you have been doing your research, and you have that self awareness then you can go to your practitioner with information making their job easier. Unless the doctor is real like you said Dick. And they don’t listen to you that it might be time to look for somebody else. Yeah, well, but yeah, every time I walk it I mean, I went to him. A few months ago, I was having significant chest pain. And again, it’s like I knew it wasn’t the dojo. I figured it was something that I did. I think I pulled a muscle called the anterior serratus, which is in the chest. And doing something crazy in one of my other classes. That’s it. So when I went to see him and I said, you know, we’ll just pay blah, blah, blah, and he’s looking at my chart. He goes, Oh, so is this the same chest pain you were in here? We’re in here with you last time and I said, Yes, this is I’m sure it’s musculoskeletal. But I just want to make sure now I’m in my 60s to make sure it’s not cardiac related.

KW  15:39

That’s really smart. I love that you’re going in and getting that check. And I just want to say since this is audio only, like Cheryl does not look like a woman in her 60s. I was wondering earlier, I’m like, Okay, if she started to do this at the ripe old age of a mic, because you look like you’re in your late 40s, early 50s. Cheryl, you look amazing. I love you.

CI  15:59

Okay, so I have a really great camera. As a matter of fact, I interviewed a gentleman last week, and he said, What camera do you use? I think a combination is the camera. I have a great life here. And I think I might have some kind of add something on Zoom like a filter. I have no idea but I look at it like, yeah, I look pretty good. But then I go upstairs in the magnifying mirror in the bathroom. We go, Oh my god.

KW  16:23

Well, that’s a magnifying mirror and you left out one other thing: you take very good care of yourself.

CI  16:28

I work very hard at it. Right?

KW  16:31

Right. So that has a lot, no one looks good in a magnifying mirror. I didn’t look good in a magnifying mirror when I was in my 20s Let alone now. Like now I just magnify for where I like to touch up my eyebrows. And I ignore everything else because I will just like it will be a rough day for me if I spend too much time there.

CI  16:49

My husband actually cleaned that mirror a couple of weeks ago and didn’t tell me ahead of time. So you know, I just walk into the bathroom and I look in the mirror like oh my god. So apparently the mirror must have been really dirty. And I just walked out. I said, Hey, honey, thanks for cleaning that mirror, but we’ll warn you ahead of time. No, he says I was just shocked when I looked in the mirror. Little that’s just a little public service announcement for the audience there.

KW  17:21

Beware of magnifying mirrors, especially clean ones. So going back to your story. So you had mentioned that PT previously for you had been stupid little exercises and stretches but then you went to go get a degree in physical therapy with a specialty and Feldenkrais. So tell me a little bit about what shifted for you to actually get your degree in physical therapy and why you focus on Feldenkrais in particular,

CI  17:44

Okay, that’s a great question. Well, when I went to physical therapy school, I still had some hope. You know, I really wanted to be a PT, I felt like, you know, with my respiratory therapy background, with my experience of being a chronic pain patient, I knew a heck of a lot. My background was a dancer, and as much Pilates that I had been studying, you know, I felt this was really the way to go. And when I got into PT school, and I started in it, oh, my gosh, this is I hated it. I hated it. And all I could think of is the three and a half years of studying and doing prerequisites and jumping through hoops to even just get to apply to PT school. And then finally, you know, getting accepted, where it’s really, really competitive. And then going through all of this grueling program, and I hated it. And then when I graduated, the job market for physical therapists back then, was terrible. So the only jobs I could get worse, they were just, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. So I struggled in that system for about two and a half years, got another boom, a mental head smacking moment. And I thought, You know what? I can go out, you know, I’m a physical therapist. Now. I had taken two professional Pilates instructor training programs and from my own information, and I thought there were idiots out there teaching Pilates, I can open up my own practice, right. And so that’s what I did. I opened up my own practice. I didn’t call it a clinic, I called it an office or practice. I didn’t have patients, I had clients. And I had a lot of clients who had similar stories to mine. And when they would come to me, out of desperation, the first time somebody told me that she said, You were my last hope. And that was after we had been working for about a month and I was like, Thank you for not telling me that ahead of time, right? I just would have curled up in a ball. I didn’t I couldn’t handle the pressure. But it was basically so simple. And I would tell them, I’m not going to fix you. I’m not going to heal you. I am going to teach you how to heal yourself. Yep, how to fix yourself. And it was just wonderful. And it was later on in my practice because I specialized in Pilates based rehabilitation and conditioning And then it was several years later that I started to add the Feldenkrais. When I discovered Feldenkrais and I started going through the training program and became a practitioner. So that came a little bit later. But it was a perfect fit, you know, the Feldenkrais and the pilates and the PT. But the funny thing is, when I was in PT school, I would sing the praises of Pilates to anybody who would listen to my clinical instructors, to my professors, to my classmates, and now that was back in the late 90s. Okay, so like 90, I graduated in 1996, I got the exact same response from every single person. Well, Pilates is nice for dancers, but not for anybody else.

KW  20:44

Now, one of the best physical therapists I work with integrates Pilates into her exercises. Like she had me on my knees, she had me doing the hips set, I don’t even remember what it’s called. But you basically lay on your side. And it’s been so long since I’ve been in a Pilates class, but you’re like you’re kicking your upper leg forward twice, and back once the sideline kick. Yeah, yeah, it was doing that. And then I don’t I don’t even remember it all. But that’s what she gave me for knee rehab. And it worked. And I still do that today when I’m and plus, you know, it makes my hips look so much better when I do it consistently.

CI  21:24

Yeah, absolutely. It shapes and tones your entire body. And it works in a way. I think that Pilates has kind of been hijacked by both the fitness industry and the physical therapy rehabilitation industry as well. Because shortly after I graduated a few years later, all of a sudden, all of these gyms Were coming out with Pilates classes, and you’d go in and they’d have like 20 reformers and that is not the way that just nobody set this up. Or they would call power Pilates, you know, if you’re not grinding and grunting and groaning, you know, you’re not working if that is not Pilates. Right? And then of course, the rehab community figured out hey, they can make money off of this stuff, too. And then they kind of hijacked it. But it’s definitely not the way Joseph Pilates intended it to be.

KW  22:10

Yeah. And that happens a lot of times. So what exactly is Feldenkrais? How does that work differently than traditional physical therapy?

CI  22:21

Feldenkrais is the way I describe it is a highly sophisticated form of neuromuscular re education, based on the scientific principle of neuroplasticity, which as you of course know and your listeners probably also known as they’ve been following you that it just simply means that our brain, our nervous system, and hence our bodies are capable of learning new methods, new pathways, new habits of sensing, moving, feeling and thinking during our entire lifetime the entire course of our lifetime. And we do this education through movement, we focus more on not muscles. We don’t focus on strengthening. We focus on integrating our nervous system and our skeletal system to be able to move with ease and grace and effortless movement. One of Moshe Feldenkrais, he’s the guy that created this wonderful method. He used to say that Feldon, Christ makes the impossible possible. The possible, easy, and the easy, elegant. Oh, I love that. He also has another quote that I absolutely love. And he would say that what he was after, he was not flexible bodies. What he was after was flexible brains. To each person, their human dignity. Oh, isn’t that lovely?

KW  23:44

Yes, that really is. I love that. Oh, my mom actually does Feldenkrais PT. And if she was more consistent it, she would make more progress. But I mean, she’s, it’s helped her comeback so much. And she does Cognomovement too. And the combination between the two of them is like, yeah, she still has some rough brain days here and there, but she’s leaps and bounds over where she was two years ago. Like it’s incredible. And she’s in her late 70s.

CI  24:13

I thought of you the other day.

KW  24:14


CI  24:15

I just had to tell you this story. Because I went to a colleague of mine and took a Feldenkrais class last week, and it was the first Feldenkrais class I took for myself. I mean, I teach it and every now and again, I’ll get down on the floor and do 15 minutes of it. But to be immersed in that hour-long, you know, session was really lovely with a few other people there. And I’m writing another book, and I have been so stuck with this book. I mean, it is, as I like to describe it, a great big Palestinian crap. I could not break through, it’s like, gosh, this is horrible. And, you know, it’s not like my other books weren’t a mess, but this was so it was, I’m so stuck. And we were doing this one movement, where, you know, we’re kind of going side to side with our art. I was lying on our backs and our head was going the opposite direction of the movement of our hands and our arms. And all of a sudden, boom. I thought, I know what I’m doing wrong. I know what I am missing here. And all of a sudden, all of this creative juices just came flowing out of me. Nice side of you with the condo ball. Yep. And how you demonstrated it when you were on my podcast. And I thought that’s exactly the same thing. And like, yeah, it released this blockage in my brain, this wall that I had built. And all of a sudden, I went home and ended up writing another 9000 words, and it’s great guns going.

KW  25:41

Woohoo. Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, that’s the cross brain activity. So when the eyes and the body are all moving in different directions, and unleashes all kinds of cool stuff out of our brains. It’s so awesome.

CI  25:55

Right? So it was just an incredible experience. So like, I don’t want to just email Katie. Oh, no, I’m talking to her.

KW  26:01

Oh, thank you for sharing. That’s so awesome. And I can’t wait to see that book, too. We’re gonna get into that in a little bit. But I have one other question before we start diving into that. So you’re rooted in dance. You did Pilates, you found a way to find physical therapy to work through Feldenkrais. So why in the world did you start to embark in martial arts? Especially when you went into it thinking you were going to hate it?

CI  26:25

Oh, I didn’t think I was going to hate it. I knew. Okay, so long story. I? Well, it all begins with a man I told you about in that book. I’m reading right now, before we were recording, you know, a woman walks into a bar. Yeah. Well, the other you know, good story is it all begins with a man. So I was 44. And I was looking for a new acupuncturist. And one of my clients who I really trusted explicitly recommended this guy, Mark, to me. And I figured, you know, I know this woman, she’s very picky. So if she’s recommending somebody, he’s got to be good. So I went and saw this guy for the very first time. And he’s just a few years older than me and seems like a nice enough guy. And as he started putting needles in my legs, he got a very far away look on his face. And he said, you know, with your legs, and by coaching, I could teach you how to kill with these things. Wow. Right. How do you respond to that?

KW  27:22

I, I don’t know that I would have a response. I’m not really looking to kill anyone. Not right now. Not on most days, not.

CI  27:31

Maybe deep in the recesses of my brain. Think of where my purse is? Who in the world thinks like that. Let alone say it out loud. To a stranger.

KW  27:44

Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s not someone you want to meet in a dark alley.

CI  27:49

Right. And it’s like, I couldn’t grab my person to run. Because I was literally pinned to the table. So he had a captive audience. So I just kind of looked at him. And I said, No, thank you. But thanks for the offer. I think I’ll just save my killer legs for ballet class. Thanks a lot. And I thought, Man, this guy’s nuts. Maybe I shouldn’t see him anymore. Well, I did go back to him because I liked him. You know, there was something about him. Yeah, he was a little bit boring. Sometimes he’d stick the needles in and then he’d stand there and talk to me. And, then he and he would talk about his martial art. And he would say it was called Ninpo taijutsu. The art of the ninja Nico, blah, blah, blah, he I couldn’t get him to shut up, leave the room, let the needles do the work. Let me just relax here, here. And then he could say you would be so good at it. You would love it. It’s so as a dancer, you’d be so good. He just kept trying to get me to train with him. And I kept telling him mark, that is never going to happen. That is not in my DNA. Martial Arts is not on my radar. I don’t care what you say. It’s never going to happen. Well, what Mark did not know is that just a few months before I met him, I had had a trauma. It was a medical trauma of a sexual nature. Through imagination, I walked into a doctor’s office, a healthy, vibrant, 44 year old woman because at that point, I had lost the weight I had gained while I was, you know, in my pain syndrome. I was healthy. I had started my practice. I was on top of the world. And I walked in as a healthy, vibrant 44 year old woman and I lucked out as a statistic. So my first reaction, so yeah, I have a very jaded, jaded.

KW  29:33

I chose to my bones from what you just alluded to there. I’m so sorry that that was part of your experience.

CI  29:39

Thank you. It turned out you know, okay. But the first thing my first reaction was absolute shock. Yeah, if this could happen to me, a medical person I consider myself very savvy at that point. I had two medical degrees and at that point and had probably 25 years invested in the medical field, if it could happen to me what’s happening to the other women? And why hasn’t anybody reported him? Right? Why is this man still in practice? So all I thought was, I’m going to report him, get help for myself, get over heal from this and move on with my life. So the first thing was to get support, some help, how can I do this? So step one was talking to my very best and dearest friends and all the world who we told each other everything and, you know, we knew the world and bodies were buried, etc, etc. And instead of getting the love and support and outrage that I was expecting and looking for, I got the pattern slap across the face. That cannot happen. You’re making that up? Do not say such things. You know, blah, blah, blah, you complain. You exaggerate. I couldn’t believe it. Wow, it was almost worse than the actual assault itself. Yeah, I have somebody so near and dear to me, treat me that way. I mean, I was just horrified. And, you know, after that, I just went home numb, took a few days. And then I thought, Okay, my next step is to talk to my husband. The minute I tried to talk to him, he just put his hands over his ears. And he said, This is girl stuff, you need to talk to Kate. Oh my gosh. So the two people closest to me. So then it was like, okay, obviously, I can’t tell anybody. And I lost a tremendous amount of weight. That’s a tremendous amount. And I would have the ballet dancers, the recovering anorexics chasing me all over the ballet studio. When I was sick, you needed to do this. And you know, like you I know, you’re anorexic. And it’s like, no, I had this horrible experience. I’m really traumatized. I need some help. And they’re like, oh, no, that can’t be it. So I got enough. dismissiveness, I got enough. I was marginalized. I was insulted. I had people even say you’re looking for attention. You’re looking for money. You had something happen in your childhood that you’re just not admitting to. You need to go home and search your memory. And if you need help, I have several mental health people, I can help you do that.

KW  32:21

All because no one could believe a medical professional would do that. So that’s why he wasn’t reported.

CI  32:27

Exactly. So I did what women and men do in circumstances like that. I just stuffed it deep inside myself and just passed the biggest smile on my face and pretended Everything was just fine and obviously was not right. And about that I stopped doing a lot of things. I stopped seeing Mark for acupuncture, because I didn’t know what was the point. Nothing was the point. I mean, it was in a really dark place. Yeah, especially a year later when I was retriggered. And then it just all came flying out of me. And I don’t know what a nervous breakdown is like. But if I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t want to know because it was bad. And still, nobody, nobody was nobody to go to. But intuitively I knew I hadn’t seen a mark in months and months and months. But something inside me knew that he would listen to me. And I don’t know why. So I made an appointment and went to see him and when I told him the stories, I always knew that there was something but I didn’t know what it was. So he started treating me through acupuncture points and Chinese herbs and shiatsu which was so heavenly if you’ve never had that it is wonderful. And he said to me, you know, when he was doing that the first time after I told him he says, you know, it’s no secret that you’re one of my favorite people. Oh, and the thought that somebody did this to you makes me want to go and find him and hurt him and hurt him so bad that he doesn’t get back up again. Yeah, I’m going well, okay, that’s a little scary. But on the other hand, that’s so sweet. Buddy gave a rat’s ass right,

KW  34:11

Someone hurt you. Yeah.

CI  34:13

And somebody listened. Well, from that moment on his campaign to get me on the mat and start training went into high gear. But Katie I kept saying no. Because I would say to him, I do not understand how hanging out in a smelly Dojo with a bunch of sweaty men is. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. Okay, let me hang out in the ballet class and we are with my girlfriends and the guys who are a completely different energy than wanting to slap me around and yeah, pick me and punch me. It took a total of three years. Until finally I was so lost. I was so broken. I had nowhere else to go. And finally, you know, he wore me down and I said okay, I will take a few classes. hopefully learn a few self defense techniques which are really needed. And to prove to you how much I’m gonna hate it, and then I’ll quit. And the rest, as they say, is history.

KW  35:13

So did you actually hate any of the classes? Or did you realize how much you liked it as soon as you dug in? Well,

CI  35:21

I was terrified for the first two years, I’ll be perfectly honest, I used to sit in my car and go, you could get it just kind of like rocking. Because most of the time, I was the only woman in class. And even my very first class Mark said, Oh, tell us, I don’t want to be the only girl. Because I would see, you know, his students going in and out of the dojo because his martial art school was right next to his clinic. And I never saw a woman go in and out of that door, right? And he says, there are plenty of women, don’t you worry about higher ranking women and they’ll take you under their wing, and they’ll teach you the art of the ninja the woman steals perspective? Well, I showed up for class, my first class right after ballet class, my hair was still in a bun. So into ballet class and I went to the dojo, not only was I the only woman in class, I was the only woman in like a three mile radius. Even more uncomfortable, and I kept looking for the backdoor. I do not belong here. Why am I here? This is just crazy. And then I had to work with a black belt. Didn’t know back then. But the black belts would teach the white belts, the new students, I mean, and it was just a crazy experience. But when I finally, you know, it was over, it was the longest hour 15 minutes of my life, let me tell you, and when I was driving home, I giggled the entire way home, and I had not giggled in a really long time. So there was something deep inside of me in my nervous system, something that I cognitively or you know, rationally could not understand. Something had touched me. And I ended up going back to class the next week. And at the end of the month, I shocked myself by signing a check for the next month’s tuition. And I just kept going into class. And sometimes it was good. And sometimes it wasn’t, but I never really got I never got hurt physically, I did get hurt emotionally and psychologically later on down the road. But at that point, I was stronger, I had the techniques that I needed to be able to take care of myself, it’s been one heck of a ride. And I am telling you, for all of your listeners out there, you have no idea how empowering it is to know that you can take down someone twice your size and half your age. And to do it without even smearing your makeup, or breaking the nail. You don’t have to get into a martial art, you don’t have to get into one that’s really hardcore, like karate, there are softer styles, but I highly recommend it. It’s a feeling that I’ve never had before.

KW  37:58

Wow, that’s how I was gonna ask what the healing was within martial arts. But you just answered that question. It’s that confidence, you know, and you I think Tony Robbins does. Someone has a quote out there about how confidence is the antidote to anxiety, it is the antidote to fear. And so when you know that no one is ever going to be able to violate your body without your permission, again, I can think of very few things that are as empowering is that

CI  38:30

not only violate your body, but they cannot violate your mind, they cannot violate your spirit. And that’s one of the things that we work on. As we’re training in our art, and I’m sure this is similar to other martial arts as well. But as we’re, we’re doing the physical movements, and we’re training our bodies, we’re training our mind, we’re also training our spirit, as well. Yeah. And I believe that the spirit of the warrior is in each and every one of us. We just need to have the tools to be able to access that power. And that inner strength that especially women, it is so strong in us. And Mark used to tell me that when he was trying for those three years that he was trying to get me on the mat. You know, I like to think that I am incomparably stubborn, but I have never met anybody as stubborn as me until I met him. So we are evenly matched. But he used to tell me he says, you know the spirit of the warrior is so strong in women. He says you have something that men don’t, you have this incredible intuitive power. You have this sensuality, this ability to move through dangerous situations. Because I mean, the female power, the female ninja, were so feared because they were so powerful because of their ability to infiltrate the enemy and to be able to take men down very easily.

KW  39:55

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense that oh, I’m totally gonna go look for a local martial arts class after this because I’m like I took kickboxing for a while. And that’s not an art. That’s the best for my body. At this point. It’s a little bit more impact in my 48 year old joints desire, but Tai Chi softer ones,

CI  40:18

Look into Aikedo. You look, you could look into jujitsu. And if you need some tips on how to find a studio or a school that works for you. Just let me know I’m happy to do that.

KW  40:32

I actually took jujitsu for a little while and had a funny story. My instructor accidentally sprained my ankle. And the rule was, if you because I’ve really loose joints, and so he was showing me why you don’t want someone to get a hold of your foot. And there was this popping noise in his eyes that got all big and this was like the early 2000s. He’s like, are you okay? I’m like, Yeah, I’m fine. Like, I literally didn’t feel it until I went into the next class, which was like, I think it was some weapons class or something like that. I loved this dojo when I lived in Ohio many eons ago. Wow, almost 20 years. Oh, but anyway, the deal was like you owed someone a drink when you hurt them in practice. And so we started dating after that. But it was that form of jujitsu was a little bit more than what my body could handle at the time. But I’m actually one of the facilitators in my recent retreat, he practices jujitsu, and like, I think he practices a different form than what I learned. But yeah, I loved martial arts and I, I loved how strong my body got, I loved how good I felt like it cleared your mind out much to what you’re saying. You know, and something else that you mentioned, that I just, you know, and I had mentioned on another episode of just did an Ayahuasca retreat. And that was where the facilitator was. And one of the things that came through as a really clear message is that it’s up to each one of us to protect our physical bodies. And we do that through boundaries, physical, mental, spiritual, energetic, and it is up to us to protect this body. If we want to be comfortable in our body. It requires boundaries, it requires understanding where to say no, and you’re telling us that martial arts is a fantastic way to actually get very, very clear on what is and is not okay with you, and you have the confidence to uphold those boundaries, whether they’re energetic, physical, mental, spiritual, whatever it is, so that no one is ever able to screw with you again, on any level at all like that. It’s just, you know, and I try not to swear too much, even though I already did a few times, but the phrase that comes with that is your unfuck with a bowl. And that is the power of really, that is when you have fully and completely and truly stepped into your power as a sovereign soul on this plane, who is in full command of and it doesn’t mean that life isn’t gonna keep happening to you, you’re just going to be much better resourceful, so many more resources to deal with life happening when you have those kinds of skills.

CI  43:14

And I blow your mind a little bit right now.

KW  43:17

But sure, go for it.

CI  43:19

Okay, because this is going to sound counterintuitive, or you know, like paradoxical or whatever, or an oxymoron. But Feldenkrais is a lot like martial arts.

KW  43:30

That actually doesn’t surprise me at all.

CI  43:34

Martial arts is woven through the practice and the method of Feldenkrais. And Moshe himself was a Judo expert. He was the first non Asian to earn a black belt in Judo, and from the guy who actually created judo, so a lot of the ability to create boundaries, stand up for yourself, oh my gosh, I’ll never forget the day I learned how to say no, it’s a great story. And the day that I realized I wasn’t fat, ugly and stupid, that was a really big one too. But all of these things, just, you know, it’s all of the layers and the crap that you’ve heard by either society, the media, the things you tell yourself even or you know, other people for your own good. That all just melts away, it falls away in a way that is so beautiful, not traumatizing, but it’s just like, all of a sudden, you’ve lost all of this, this shell that you’ve had around yourself, so that can do the same thing if you don’t want to go and spend 20 years in a smelly Dojo with a bunch of sweaty men like I did.

KW  44:39

I am single right now. So that’s not completely unappealing. I gotta say.

CI  44:44

Actually, it’s really quite fun and it’s so funny because when I first started, of course, I was this little prissy, very fussy lady. And the guys just looked at me like I landed from another. Like, I don’t know why you’re taking this crap so seriously, you know, you need to lighten up and get a life, but they never had a woman who would have to excuse herself to, you know, leave the mat to either fix her lipstick or stop for a hot flash or whatever. And it’s like, what do we do with this person? So it took about six months or so for me to get used to them, because I didn’t have any men, friends, any male friends, all my friends were girls. And you know what hanging out in ballet class with all of these women and the few men that were there was not as intimidating as the ones in the dojo. But once we figured out how to communicate with each other, they became really, really great friends of mine. And they used to pull me aside to give me little secret tips, how to use my feminine wiles and my feminine power to be a better ninja. And then that also pulled me aside if they had any questions or problems, especially as I was climbing up the race and getting out ranking them, both in martial arts and the techniques they’re working on, but even personal things in their lives, because I was safe. Yeah, you know, they didn’t have to go to Sensei and say, Well, you know, this, this happened, or somebody kicked me too hard, or that they could tell me, and they knew I would laugh at them.

KW  46:09

Ah, that’s so awesome. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing. So we had touched on this earlier, you mentioned that you’re writing a new book, but you already have a couple other books. How could you please share a little bit of information about Cheryl?

CI  46:23

I do. My first book was released in 2016. The title is forever fit and flexible, feeling fabulous at 50 and beyond. And yes, I know there are a lot of F’s in there. Okay. And it’s a book about fitness over 50. But it’s more a book about healthy aging. It’s about mindset, it’s about self awareness. It’s about paying attention, it’s about taking your power back and listening to your body. And it breaks health and fitness down into several different building blocks. You know, building the structure, posture, core strength, flexibility, balance, functional, strengthening all of these things that you can, you can get strong, healthy, more flexible and fit. Without even you’re leaving, you’re leaving your house doing everyday tasks, you know, activities of daily living, if you want to go to a gym three times a week more power to you. I personally am allergic to gyms and the thought of running makes me break out in hives. So I don’t do stuff like that. But I’d love to move. And so it just encourages you to find ways that you can stay fit and healthy with a lot of different tips in there. There’s also a program in the book of movement. I don’t call them exercises, movement explorations to help you get that mind-body connection. My second book is The Reluctant ninja how a middle aged Princess became a warrior queen. And that’s more my it chronicles my journey into the strange new world of men and martial arts. And it’s a real roller coaster ride because I take you through the entire process of you know, it’s funny, it’s not really dark and heavy, because it does include the trauma and a lot more detail than what I shared with you guys today. But you know how I got started. And it just takes you on this incredible journey of finding my power, climbing the race, getting the legs cut out from underneath me again and having to start all over. It takes you on the whole shebang. And then, you know, finally becoming sensei’s first female black belt.

KW  48:23

Oh, so cool. So cool. That book sounds like it’s right up my alley. I’m sure it is to other readers as well. And then I also understand that you actually offer complimentary consults through your website, can you give us a little bit of an idea of what that looks like? Cheryl?

CI  48:38

I do. If anybody has any questions about going to fitness injuries, and need a little bit of guidance, want to learn more of how I work. You know, I do see clients online, I do see them in person here in Denver. But I do work with people online. And typically, it’s just really, this is gonna sound crazy. But if you’re having an issue a lot of times, it’s a really easy fix. So I can kind of guide you through that process. If you have questions, steer you in the right direction. If you need to be seeing somebody if you want to talk about maybe studying martial arts, I can help you through that process to get into the right school because it would be a lot worse to get into the wrong school than to get into none at all. Yes. So 30 minutes, you know, you can set it up on Zoom. You know, I’m a talker, and if somebody’s having issues, I really do want to try and help them so it usually goes longer than 30

KW  49:34

Yeah, I Yeah. Well, I mean, then you’re listening to my podcast. I think everybody knows I’m a talker too. That’s pretty obvious at this point. So where can people find you Cheryl and we’ll make sure that we link to the books and also to your complimentary console, but I think all of that is on your website. But please tell us more.

CI  49:51

All of that is on my website. So if you just go to www.CherylIlov.com and I love how everybody wants to put an E on the end of I love, I even do it sometimes. It’s a habit. I love it. It is a great name and it really is my name. It’s my main name. My dad was born and raised in Czechoslovakia. So it’s Eastern European. So yes, just go to my website, you’ll have a ton of information there. You can go to my blog and I have, if you go to Cheryl’s fit tips, you’ll get a lot of free information on Fit tips. I’ve got a whole ton of blogs on that. I have a category of Feldenkrais if you want to learn more about Feldenkrais, I also have Cheryl’s kitchen where I take normal exercises, pull up my ninja dice and cut the fat and calories in the bad stuff. And that’s kind of been fun for me to do. So you can get anything there. You can schedule a consultation right there on the website, you can shoot me an email, if you want to do that through the website. It is info at Cheryl i love.com. And yeah, I’m here to help anybody with any questions, guide you through anything that you need, because I know you have the power to heal, you have the power to heal yourself. Your body is absolutely magical. It was built that way. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Because now the ninja spirit is starting to get a little bit hot in me. Yeah, and I can also help you find that warrior spirit. It’s deep inside of you and don’t fear the warrior. People think of the warrior as fighting a more fair confrontation. That’s not it. Warriors are kind and loving, have a generous heart, generous spirit, and they just want the world to be a happy place.

KW  51:34

Yeah, I love that. That’s such a great note to end on. Thank you so much for joining me today. This has been even more fun than I was expecting it to be. So thank you for showing up being vulnerable. sharing your story being absolutely hilarious to you had me legitimately laughing several times as people got here. So thank you so much, Cheryl, I really appreciate you being a part of this today.

CI  51:56

Oh, Katie, thank you so much for having you on your show. And I want to let the audience know that you have been on my show. So do go to the feminine show project. And look for Katie’s wonderful episode. It’s a beautiful episode. It’s just I’m so grateful to have you as part of my little circle of healing,

KW  52:16

Likewise, and to the audience. I hope you’re gonna join me again next week. If you especially if you are someone who suffers from headaches, whether they’re migraines, tension, headaches, whatever it may be. There is a headache expert who is going to be joining me next week and she’s going to help you on earth with the real cause of that so that you can have some freedom. And in the meantime, please always remember, chronic doesn’t have to be permanent. 

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