When I was at the height of my persistent pain condition and anxiety the key piece of the puzzle was having health practitioners explain and teach me about comfort. At the time my nervous system was so wired, everything hurt and health care revolved around pain. (Even putting my arms above my head to do my hair was excruciating.)
I was sent to an incredible GP who introduced me to mindfulness. I read the book ‘Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman’ and listened to the accompanying recordings. He was one of the first practitioners to educate me on the relationship between anxiety, my nervous system and my pain without advising “You just need to relax”. (Let’s be real all that does is make anxiety worse and leave you asking how?!?!?)
I found this GP through one of my lecturers at uni who I had started seeing for physio. She educated me on the importance of pain free movement. At that point, I was in constant, unrelenting pain. She taught me to tune into micro movements which for me started with breath.
By giving myself permission not to push into pain and stay within the comfort of my micro movement, my nervous system slowly learnt how to be comfortable in a larger range and variation of movement. (Now look at what my body can do five years in the making ->)
When you’re in a stress or pain state pushing only moves you further into a sympathetic state reinforcing neurochemical pathways leading to discomfort. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that, life is unpredictable af and so long as we are living we will have to calibrate for comfort. The scale slides with stress, trauma, pain, grief/loss, celebration, happiness and joy. Comfort is not a level in a game you unlock, achieve and stay within because well, life.
Learning how to calibrate comfort therefore is such an important life skill. Focusing on where the comfort lies and tools to augment comfort (not necessarily just focusing on decreasing pain) can assist with choosing more helpful coping strategies. The end goal is the same but the journey feels different.
So if you are up-regulated and would like to see if breathing re-training and hypnotherapy are pathways to more sustained comfort for you and your nervous system please reach out!
Enjoy your day and always be kind :)
“Last time I saw you, you had your legs wrapped around a pole.”
One sentence you never want to hear from your uncle and yet this is my life. I thought I’d write about why it is worth braving the stigma to be part of the incredible pole community and how it relates to my health being a physio/hypno/human.
I read a book called Dear Lover by David Deida. In it contained mystical wisdom and insight into me defining and understanding what being a woman means to me. This along with Brene Brown’s wisdom; the worst insult for a woman is she is less than beautiful and unable to attract, led me to one realisation.
Women yearn to be seen. I yearn to be seen. “So why do I hide my beauty and my talents?”
With the rise in the ‘me too’ movement I think most women can relate to being seen when they wished they weren’t and in my experience, this leads to women associating being seen with danger.
In the pole studio, the more skin you bare the safer you will be as you can grip the pole more easily. In the pole studio, women of all shapes, sizes, colours and cultural backgrounds are all running around in the equivalent of undies and bras doing the same epic things. In this environment, we are seen lumps, bumps, hairs and all. In this community, we are celebrated for the incredible things our bodies can do and supported in revealing as much or as little as we like. We are seen safely and celebrated!!
Not only are we seen by others safely, we learn to see ourselves with more love and compassion. How can you hate the incredible body that allows you to literally hang from the skin of your elbow/knee/inner thigh/hand etc? We are finally able to see ourselves beyond skin deep.
Strength becomes far more important than cellulite. Feelings of accomplishment and freedom of expression become far more important than tummy rolls (that every-body has!!). As much as our instructors’ yell, “point your toes!” it is understood the bigger goal is admiring your body for how you can feel in it not necessarily doing a move perfectly.
How on earth can you possibly not gain self-confidence when you get a dose of that every time you go to class?
If that weren’t enough, growing up we hear stories of superheros who become alter egos and, in a way, ‘perform’ their super powers on the world’s stage. Well, hello showcase! Hello stage name! Hello self-expression and authentic self we think society won’t embrace. Whilst I still haven’t competed or performed pole at a showcase (my time is coming), social media has provided a platform where I can celebrate this facet of my authentic self and connect to so many of my pole sisters worldwide.
Now to a more serious side of things…
Hanging upside down by the skin of the back of your knee is painful and a little adrenaline inducing because you could fall, hit your head and injure yourself pretty badly.
Now polers will know the first time you do a move it kills, you get a big bruise and you feel every ounce of it. Your system wants to protect you, it sends pain signals to alert you there is a potential threat to your safety. Pain=protection!
But it was so much fun you do it again next class and it hurts a little less until the move doesn’t hurt at all…why?
No, the nerves aren’t dying, they are just being conditioned this ‘threat’ is not actually dangerous so your nervous system, calms the eff down and doesn’t perceive it as pain because you don’t need protecting. This analogy is also related to how unprocessed trauma can lead to persistent pain.
I was seen by someone I didn’t want to be seen by when I was very small. This ‘trauma’ was too much for my little brain to process and so instead it decided not to. In a way I dissociated from the experience and my nervous system shut down to protect me. I felt numb and empty and didn’t understand why. In order to finally feel, I compulsively exercised and loved the feeling of pain from training as much as the endorphine high. I also tortured myself emotionally by telling myself I wasn’t good enough.
Whilst feeling pain was assurance I could feel. Without processing the trauma, my system could only ignore it for so long. I had a similar triggering event after which I experienced central sensitization (pretty much my nervous system was on high alert, highly sensitive and gave me sharp nerve pain, numbness and pins/needles in my limbs. Even lifting my arms to do my hair was painful!) I went for numerous scans and was told by medical professionals it was ‘just my anxiety’. Unbeknownst to me at the time, hell yeah it was my ‘anxiety’.
My mind could only escape the pain for so long until my body made me hear it. I suffered for four years went on heavy duty meds and went to so much physio that didn’t really work. It wasn’t until I found a physio who focused on de-sensitising my system through pain-FREE movement and started to process this trauma through mindfulness and hypnotherapy, the physical pain fell away. It wasn’t until I treated myself with more kindness and compassion my physical pain stayed away.
Pole is painful in the best way. It allows me to both feel and release. It teaches my nervous system to distinguish between perceived danger and perceived safety. It makes me hella strong. It encourages me to embrace every inch of my incredible body. It gives me the freedom to be seen in a safe way. It unites me with a powerful community of supportive women and it’s FUN!!!
I share this so perhaps next time a stranger asks me “What do you do for training?” They will act with the same enthusiasm given to any other physically impressive task and understand pole dancing goes so far beyond the stereotype for me.