What if showing up boundaried meant standing solidly in the truth of who you are without the responsibility of caring for others through their discomfort as a reaction to you?Read More
I deeply, deeply believe that we are here to witness ourselves and express the authentic being we find within our bodies and our hearts. I deeply, deeply believe that we are here to witness each other too. I honestly can’t come up with any other reason than this one: love.Read More
December for me was a month for befriending grief. Experiencing grief isn’t a new experience for me but the intention to which I chose to dive in to it was. Leaning in to and expressing my grief has been a powerful catalyst for growth, and in allowing the grief to move through me there continues to be what I deem as sacred space created within me to continue to move toward my truth with conviction and reverence.Read More
“Reforestation is the #1 climate change solution in a landmark 2017 peer-reviewed study that was led by scientists from over 15 institutions, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which expanded and refined the scope of land-based climate solutions previously assessed by the IPCC. Conservation, or the “avoidance of forest conversion” was 2nd.”Read More
Much of my meditations lately have consisted of me hanging out with my child self. It’s been a celebration of where we’ve come, what we’ve done to get here, and how we did it. Together.Read More
Often in working with people, I hear them express their emotions in a way that suggest there isn’t enough space for all of the ways they feel. This often elicits confusion around how they SHOULD feel, and an unknowing around whether they’re allowed to move forward embodying their new found freedom from old ways of being that weren’t serving them anymore.Read More
I had the opportunity to be a guest on the podcast Love Always, Jo. Read more about my experience and listen to this episode to hear more about the wisdom of the body. You’ll also hear first hand how I coach Joanna, the host, about something that’s been going on with her body recently.Read More
I often wonder what the world would be like if we all could just be who we wanted to be. If we all could do what we wanted to do. If we all found solid gold within our being.Read More
Over the weekend I took a continuing education class called the Fascial Pelvis.
It’s a course offered through the John F. Barnes approach to myofascial release which is the training that I received that elicited my transition to doing myofascial release work almost exclusively.
The weekend felt profound in many ways for me and I am surprise at the amount of information and new skill set that I came away with.Read More
“How do emotions show up in the body?”
I hear this question all the time. There is no generalized answer as you and your associated stories are complex. Often it is not just emotions but unconscious belief systems, patterning, and sometimes trauma all wound together affecting the shape of your body, how you feel, and how you show up. There are classic responses to your emotions from the endocrine, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and nervous systems that can cause obvious reactions such as tension, flushed skin, or butterflies in the stomach. For many, however, the process is not so cut and dry. Emotional repression is all too common in our society and those emotions can and often do manifest in other physical ways to get our attention.Read More
Part I: What is fascia and myofascial release?
I’ve been a massage therapist for almost eight years. For some of that time I felt as though I wasn’t truly accessing the root of most of my clients’ dis-ease. While they were experiencing some relief and my technique was celebrated, they returned time and time again for the next appointment saying the same thing: “I felt good for a while but after so many days or weeks my symptoms returned.” I was frustrated that it seemed I was only able to put a "bandaid" on their symptoms, they were tired of being in pain, and I knew I could do better for my clients. I knew deeply that there was more to their pain and tension than just localized symptoms and general stress.
As I committed to and continued my own personal work of reconnecting to myself and healing old wounds I realized the connection between the body, unconscious belief systems, emotions, and trauma was the most important thing I could bring to my clients awareness in their own process and begin to bridge a gap between their symptoms, old stories held in the body, and their consciousness. It was then that I was introduced to the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach.
To understand myofascial release it’s important to firstly understand the fascial system itself. Modern medicine has largely ignored the largest living system in the body yet recent research has shown that fascia may actually play an important role in health prevention as well as the relief of chronic pain and tension. Fascia is incredibly tough connective tissue that forms a three-dimensional web throughout the body. It literally connects your head to your foot without interruption. It makes up all of your tissue, organs, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and every cell in your body. It is so continuous and connected that, just like that of a spider web, restrictions or pressure to the fascia in one are can have an adverse affect on the rest of the structure. Everything truly is connected.
Not only does fascia weave itself through your entire structure but it also houses the fluids and structures integral to our survival: blood vessels, the nervous system, ground substance and lymph. Ground substance keeps your tissue hydrated and determines the pliability of your tissue and can exist in a gel or sol state depending on the health of the tissue (this is why you will always hear me talk about water in-take at every appointment). When restrictions occur our body cannot function optimally and puts pressure on these important structures and systems creating pain, inflammation, and tension. I believe that these restriction can even create blocks that prevent our consciousness from freely flowing, actively creating a disconnect between the mind and body (more on that in part two of this blog series!).
A restriction places 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch on these blood vessels, nerves, lymph, organs, bones, and muscles and surprisingly these restrictions do not show up in any standard testing. Xray and MRI machines are not picking these up; no wonder so many people continue to suffer despite continuing to seek out therapies that are only addressing symptoms, not the person as a whole.
1. Physical Trauma
Physical trauma to the body such as falling off of your bike, breaking your arm, or getting in a car accident and incurring whiplash are examples of ways your tissue can become restricted. Inflammation dehydrates the tissue causing it to become dense and tight. Often as the body recruits collagen to repair damaged tissue, restrictions are formed in the healing process.
The inflammatory process actually dehydrates the tissue causing it to become scarred and dense.
3. Poor Posture
Sometimes poor posture can be caused by restrictions but when it is the other way around, repetitive activities of daily living accumulating over time create restrictions and shorten muscles and tissue.
4. Surgical Scarring
Inflammation from damage to the tissue paired with scarring of the tissue creates obvious restrictions.
5. Emotional Stressors/Trauma
The body stores emotional trauma and stress in the tissue which often causes unconscious armoring and hardening of the tissue. More about this in part two of this blog series!
The purpose of myofascial release is to address these restrictions in order to restore function to your body. While it is a hands-on modality, it is much different than typical massage therapy. There is no emollient (lotion or oil) and rather than gliding across the superficial layers of the skin, muscles, and tissue, the practitioner holds sustained pressure in your tissue in order to slowly release restrictions in the body’s fascial system layer by layer. It is a therapy that works WITH your body and its innate wisdom to get to the root of your chronic pain and tension. Your body already knows what it needs and if you can be quiet and listen it will tell you.
Jenny Bork is a licensed massage therapist at Remembered Practice in Grand Rapids, MI. She specializes in chronic pain and tension management through mind body integration using massage therapy, myofascial release, and holistic counseling. She is currently accepting new clients.
I love fall because of its invitation to let go of the things that are no longer serving us. It’s a time to take inventory of our lives and to ask ourselves “what is working in our lives and what isn't working?” then adjust accordingly. It’s an opportunity for us to connect to nature and embody its example of practices that can benefit us on a deep level. It's nature's approach to minimalism.
The idea of minimalism fascinates me. Minimalism is a growing movement that invites people to find freedom from overconsumption and their material “things”. I visited the website of some well-known pioneers in the movement The Minimalists and they describe the phenomenon as when we “…give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.” The movement undoubtedly offers an incredible opportunity to reclaim your life from consumerism that would benefit any modern person in our society. But to me, minimalism is much more complex than that. Minimalism can have a profound affect when applied to other areas of our lives, not just our consumer habits. We can apply it even to the things The Minimalists say we often sacrifice in their statement above. One thing I’ve noticed in my own practices personally as well as professionally is the affect minimalism has when applied to health and wellness.
When I first began venturing in to the world of exploring my inner self and healing myself naturally on a physical and emotional level, I tried it all and all at once. I spent literally shitloads of money on appointments with several different practitioners, supplements, books, oils, yoga, yoga supplies, yoga clothes, crystals, smudging tools, and more. At one time I was seeing 3-4 practitioners PER WEEK. I was confused and exhausted, I didn’t see a huge improvement on what I was working on, and my bank account had seen better days. That’s when I realized overconsumption can occur not just in regards to material “things”, or even food, drugs, and alcohol, but in any aspect of our complex lives; that spiritual overconsumption is real and that it is a form of escapism from what is really happening within us. I realized that even though I thought I was doing all of the right things and seeing all of the right people, I was ignoring the one thing that I had known all along that I needed: my intuition. I was putting all of my trust and searching for my answers in the external forces. The same void I was trying to heal with all of those spiritual “things” was actually just continuing to falsely be filled rather than getting to the root of why it was there in the first place. It was then I knew something needed to change.
I strongly believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself and that if we take the space and time to go within ourselves and feel we can, over time, achieve true homeostasis, health, and wellness. At this point you might be asking “why is it so important to feel what is going on in our bodies?” Great question. Our bodies tell stories. The stories we’ve stored there are traumas, wounds, belief systems, and patterns that we’ve embodied throughout our lifetime based on our experience and environment. These stories have shaped who we are, how we show up in the world, even how are bodies exist and take up (or don’t take up) space. In order to make real lasting change in our lives, feeling in to the sensations, emotions, pain, or other chronic issues we’ve experienced will allow us to become aware of it. Once we become fully aware of it and discover the root, we can work toward shedding all of the things that limit who we are and our ability to trust ourselves, giving us the freedom to be our truest selves.
That’s not to say that we don’t need the help of a trusted practitioner or two throughout our process. In fact I recommend it. Many of our past hurts and patterning were birthed out of our closest relationships. Therefore working closely, sharing with and connecting to a trusted and skillfull practitioner is so important in retraining our brains and shedding those traumas from our bodies to then be able to show up for ourselves and the world as our truest and freest self. They can often offer insight in to our process and compassion for us as human beings. It is a relationship and collaboration that can be truly transformative and support us for however we show up and wherever we are in our life and process.
Just like The Minimalists talk about finding freedom from consumerism by practicing materialistic minimalism, I am embracing and advocating for something I am now calling spiritual minimalism. Remember, you don't need to work with 29 different practitioners, buy all the essential oils, take all the supplements, do all the yoga, meditate 24 hours a day, or use all the crystals. Those things aren’t enlightenment and won't miraculously heal your wounds and traumas. All of the things I listed above are great for supporting you in your journey, I use or have used them all myself. But the most important asset to your healing is yourself.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSET TO YOUR HEALING IS YOURSELF.
Forget all of the other 'stuff' when you're feeling overwhelmed. Just feel your body. Allow yourself to emote. Stop believing what we've been told all our lives that we're not good enough, that we can't trust ourselves or our intuition. Take your power back. You know what's best for you better than anyone. You just have to feel.
Our individual healing journeys are never like anyone else’s. They’re not part of the typical life plan – things like go to college, get married, have kids. Our journeys are a venture into uncharted territory.
And it can be intense at times. On my own path, I often try to make sense of it all. Sometimes it seems like there’s no progress, and I question whether I’m doing it “right.” But there’s no textbook to healing and feeling and growing through things, so I have to simply trust that if I’m doing anything at all, then that is what’s right.
For me, it seems that wounds open at a continual pace that I have no control over. I imagine these places as wooden boxes tucked deep inside my core. Each box contains a memory, event, relationship or some form of pain that needs my attention and love. So I open that box, shake out its contents, and figure out how to sort through and deal with its reality. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry…and cry…and cry. I do the work I feel is best for this box and just when I think I’m ready to make peace with it, return its contents, close it, and declare the work done, I realize the next box is waiting with its lid wide open. I’m one box deeper and facing what’s inside, whether I’m ready or not.
Again, I do the work. I laugh. I cry. I learn new ways to have compassion for myself. I learn new tools to help me navigate this world. And before I feel ready to place the content back into its rightful box—when I’m still feeling fragile and raw and vulnerable—once again, I’m thrown deeper into the next.
All the contents of the previous boxes are still floating in the space around me as I continue unboxing these integral pieces to my healing journey.
In a society built around structure and rules, it didn’t make sense to me to continually be going deeper and deeper on this path without closing each box. I wanted to wrap each one with a golden bow of completion, reach some sort of resolution before moving on to the next.
Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Boundaries exist, and most of the time they are healthy, but sometimes they can actually hinder our growth. When I reflect on this philosophy in regards to healing, I began to understand this process. Healing parts of us that run deep—parts of our being that are so engrained in us—is messy.
It takes no specific shape or form and follows no rhyme or reason. And as much as it sometimes feels chaotic or unstable, it is unfolding perfectly imperfectly, with all the contents of that box seeming to float randomly about. In the grand scheme of things, with a little bit of faith and a sense of humor, these pieces will align, just as the stars did into constellations, revealing my own truth.
These boxes to me are stacked the way they should be, even though I’m not sure why. And maybe their contents don’t need to be neatly or intentionally returned to their place, wrapped up and topped with a bow. Maybe just the fact that each box and its contents—that each layer is revealed at all—is what the real work is. Maybe the bow is just a metaphor for being granted the strength, courage and choice to continue on.
That is the conclusion that gives me comfort in this process and gently lets me know that, yes, I am doing it “right”.