where’s your head at?

If you have read my blog you may have figured out by now that I have struggled to surrender and soften my efforts.  I have had a tendency to be too disciplined and sometimes ‘overdo’ it.  I have started this blog in part to help myself take my own advise to be more self-compassionate, truly listen, and believe in my own intuition.  This takes incredible trust and love of self!

I believe that by writing this blog, I have become a better listener, but still, it is an evolving and imperfect journey along with everything else. 

More recently, approximately March 2021, I over stretched, strained something in my neck.  Fast forward to now, November 18, 2021, I am doing much better!  I do still struggle with muscle tightness depending on what I am doing but do feel equipped to navigate my discomfort with the many lessons I have learned from being in relentless pain these past several months.  

My husband, Pontus, who is an osteopath, was able to work on me which no doubt is, pretty special, but with everything else, it also has its’ challenges!  I know it was hard for him to deal with me especially after having to care for his patients all day long.  He was tired and impatient and I was also impatient, in pain, and wanting clear answers to explain my uncertain state.  Regardless, I am very lucky to have my husband.  He knows my story, my body, and my tendencies and was undeniably helpful in my healing & recovery.

Pontus believed ‘some’ of my incredible discomfort was most likely caused by a rotation at the base of my cervical spine where I had my disk replacement b/t C6 and C7 in 2017.  I must have exasperated this rotation.  I could speculate forever on why?…but understand that it is simply a consequence to my tendencies to ‘do.’  At times, my pain sometimes was so bad that it encompassed my whole right side body, from my right side occiput to my right low back, but sometimes I was such in a flare state that I had irritation that continued down all the way to my right foot!  Continuing to breastfeed through my pain was a blessing and a curse.  Pontus was and still helps me de-rotate my upper thoracic/cervical spine with muscle energy technique, where I get stuck rotated to the left.  He also advised that I practice some daily muscle energy work in my upper spine to help strengthen and stabilize this very unstable area of my body.  I still perform muscle energy in my neck daily!!  In addition to Pontus manually working on me, I did accupuncture and/or massage weekly at times.  Although these modalities helped short-term, they were not able to stick and help long term. 

Due to my pre-existing conditions in both my neck and my old compression fracture in my low back I had MRIs of my lumbar and cervical spine, a bone scan, and blood work done to make sure the pain I was experiencing wasn’t more serious.  Luckily, the tests showed no significant information to explain my discomfort.  This was also  a blessing and a curse!  Sometimes I thought, is it all in my head!?  Quite possibly!  I do know that my head played a significant role, both in how I positioned it physically and also metaphorically speaking.

Are you wearing your head in front of your heart? Or are you holding your head with your heart?

From as early as grade school I can remember being taller than most everyone in my class including all the boys, I was very insecure about this, this continued all the way into high school, where I would purposefully slouch and hang my head to one side so I would be a level to my other peers. I look back at this and wonder why I didn’t stand tall and be proud of my height?  As you already know, I know the answer to my own question!  I was not secure in who I was, felt powerless and unworthy to be me.  Fortunately, after experiencing a tumultuous couple of years in all facets of my life, I hit rock bottom my freshman year in college, but in the end, I was able to choose me!  I truly did a full circle, my self image changed drastically for the better and I started to love myself more and more.  Interestingly, not only did my self image transform, but also how I held myself changed, including how I positioned my head.  My posture wasn’t perfect however, and its been evolving (I believe) for the better ever since, of course along with my own self image.:)

Currently, my posture has suffered with the demands of caring for a new baby and also my tendencies to “do” and neglect what my body is telling me.  Pepper is now 14 months, and although she is still quite petite …23 Ibs, its been a lot of holding, breast feeding, bathing, feeding, twisting turning etc etc.  The steady demands of caring for  Pepper and the stress I put a on myself has definitely taken a toll on my posture!  This coupled with loose ligaments and general instability especially at L1/T12 from my old compression fracture and disk replacement between C6/C7 has been difficult for me to sustain freedom and ease in my spine!

I am writing this post to reflect on my experience these past several months in hopes that what I say may help you, if you find that you are struggling with neck, shoulder, back, body pain.   I hope that you will read this feeling some hope that your pain will go away and that there are simple things you can do to help yourself.  

I learned somewhat quickly that alleviating my pain temporarily was as simple as taking the time to align where my head was at, both from a metaphorical and physiological standpoint. It’s interesting how the 2 affect one another.  Furthermore, My pain significantly lessened when I physically reminded myself to hold my head with my heart, instead of forward of my heart which is where it wants to go.   My head also, naturally aligned more with my heart when I committed more time for self care.  This is not a simple action to take when you have a newborn!!  I found it to be very beneficial to work from my “head” first, not only physically with my posture, starting at my head and allowing the alignment benefits to cascade down, but also in my own thoughts!  I definitely had my moments of playing a victim to my pain…especially in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep!  However, this attention I would give to my pain lessened the attention I would give to taking the steps to feeling better and seeing the joy and beauty that was in me and that also surrounding me. 

Below is a brief summary of some ideas/practices that helped me feel better!  Remember the following are practices and ideas, and most if not all of the below are things I still work on and practice daily to keep me feeling better…

PHYSICAL PRACTICES – First you need to align and “wear your head over your heart!”  Then do the following…

-practice muscle energy from all sides of your skull with the heel of your hand to strengthen & stabilize…isometric exercises.

-“wear your smile from ear to ear” practice keeping the base of your chin in and down towards your throat.  Slight chin tuck.

-extend the roof of your mouth to the crown of your head

-“Stand your ground,”  Stand tall and be proud of who you are.

-in general, make smaller more precise movements.  Progress takes time and steady practice – little by little, bit by bit…!

MENTAL PRACTICES – 

-“What is the lesson?” What if I am experiencing this pain to help someone else not have to experience pain?  How can I use this experience to help and serve others?

-“Less ego and control, more universal and flow.”  Soften, relax, breathe and let be

-“Forgive, no self judgement”

-“Do less and Be more”

Lastly, if you’re hyper mobile, unstable, have pre-existing conditions, and a mover like me, you may want to consider doing prolo-therapy or PRP(platelet rich plasma) for your vulnerable areas, especially if you have good, healthy blood.  I did undergo PRP in both my low back around my old compression fracture and also more recently around my disk replacement in my cervical spine.  I know it has made a positive impact.  I am noticeable more stable in my ligaments and joints and therefore, experiencing less pain and persistent irritation caused from the instability.

I have a class on my Vimeo account – “upper body tune up” I recently made that shows some of the physical practices I would do to help me with my pain.

I hope this helps and please reach out with feedback or questions.

Aloha,

Brooke

ON DEMAND PRENATAL PILATES

On Demand Prenatal Pilates Mat classes, available to view at Community Fitness

Introducing “Sideways Pilates”

Feel good Pilates flow targeting opening up the sides of our body to unravel and relieve our low back.  Pilates class that empathizes strengthening and opening the side of the body, working our transverse and oblique abdominal muscles!   This Pilates class will still include several “classical moves,” however, limiting the amount of time spent on our backs and also lying prone, therefore making this class suitable for individuals with stiffer upper backs and prenatal women!

Below shows the DATE & the FOCUS of  each class:

5/12 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal  CLASS #1, week 22

Standing warm up is 15 minutes, followed by an additional 10 minute ‘plank variation’ warm up on the mat.  Expect a Mat Pilates sequence that accents more work and fresh variations on side planks and lying on your side.

5/19 – ”Sideways Pilates” – prenatal  CLASS #2, week 23

Standing warm up is about 10 minutes, followed by a 20 minutes of plank and forearm quadruped work.  Expect to feel your whole posterior chain as I will feature small deliberate movements that create serious heat targeting our upper back, glutes, and hamstrings. 

5/26 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal Class #3 week 24

Standing warm is 20 minutes.  this warm up opens up the chest as we stretch strong through the arm bones, shoulders and wrists as well as the lower body with some nice low lunges and stretches to open up the sides of our body.  The mat work included the hundred, series of 5, side lying kicks, kneeling side kicks, and planks to close the workout.  Feel more supple and spacious  after completing this balanced practice.

6/2 – “Sideways Pilates” – prenatal CLASS #4 week 25 

In this class, I do not do the hundred!!!  I do a light warm up, strong standing arm sequence, followed by some single leg lunges and squats.  On the mat I present a challenging quadruped sequence, followed by a  side lying sequence, leg pull front, modified STAR on knees, and end with some forearm side planks, before coming back to standing.