The Science of Compassion: Nature Vs. Nurture

The Science of Compassion: Nature Vs. Nurture

What’s your most important goal/s?

What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?

Why does it matter so deeply?

Are you living your purpose?

How will you overcome the obstacles?

How can we answer these questions with sincerity, mindfulness and compassion and proceed with integrity?  While at the same time setting in motion the steps towards personal transformation?

It all starts with letting go of the fear and establishing a greater connection with ourselves, our values and our beliefs towards personal change.  In my own personal journey this is a two pronged path – one deeply rooted in the wisdom of ancient energy healing and meditation/movement practices and the one deeply engrained in the nature of the science and my obsession with Darwinian Theory. They both hold powerful portals to better understanding my own internal GPS, my position in the world, and my relationship to time and purpose. In my own process of what Brene Brown called “Gremlin, Ninja, Warrior Training” my personal resilience to suffering, (dis)ease, (heal)th, and stressful life challenges all stems from a greater understanding of my brain (even though pea like in mass), my relationship to time and my ability to always put compassion as the underlining foundation of my overall value system.



Train Your Brain:

Our understanding of the incredible power of the human brain and what it is capable is at an all-time high, in both the fields of science, as well as movement mechanics and energy healing. These new emerging fields of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and psychophysiology are opening new possibilities for greater health, happiness, and freedom from suffering, as well as a deeper understanding of our connection to the world, to technology and  the ever evolving fields of innovation.

This connection to the organ that is responsible for taking a third of our caloric daily intake; is even opening up connections to our brain’s biochemical and biological make-up with the current research in compassion and empathy.  A few months ago I wrote on the topic of “compassion” and how our brain is wired to be empathetic towards others – humans and the world around us. We see this not only in the homosapein sphere, but in our animals as well.

The Compassion Nerve:

The vagus nerve (or wandering nerve) is one of the most important nerves in our body. This nerve carries axons of type GVE, general visceral efferent, which provides parasympathetic innervation to glands of mucous membranes of the pharynx, larynx, organs in the neck, thorax, and abdomen, and all our skeletal muscle, as well as our aortic body and arch (known as our heart). The Vagus nerve is the biological building block of human compassion, because it’s connected to everything in our structure.

Since the dawn of time, we have been led to believe that humans are selfish, greed is good because it brings power and power rules the world. Altruism is an illusion and cannot be attained in our lifespan. Cooperation is for suckers and kumbaya singing hippies. Competition is natural, survival of the fittest.  War is inevitable. The bad in human nature is stronger than the good. And so on.

These kinds of claims have reflected age-old assumptions about emotion and who we are as a species. For over millennia, we have regarded emotions as the fount of irrationality, baseness, weakness and at times sin. Nothing good can come from being over emotional.  Hell, the idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted and splays them out for all to witness.

Yet, biology tells us something different and it begs us to look at another age old question; which is are we a buy product o f“Nature or Nurture.” Usually it’s a little of both.

What if we have been looking through the wrong lens? What if perhaps, we have just led our brains down the wrong path, trained them wrong.

What if we chose to look at it this way: we were born into this world with pure love and joy and through the struggles of our ages, we “dis”evolved to believe that we are all alone, we have to fend for ourselves, etc. What if we accepted that this all crap propaganda and in fact –  This is “nurture” NOT “nature.”  These “beliefs” are learned skills, and thoughts, not our actual biological blueprint and thus – a new door opens.

FACT: The brain has neuro-plasticity and can be re wired to think and act in ways that benefit humanity and personal power. Ways that align with a more compassionate way of living. This is nature AND nurture.

The brain, as we know from research seems wired up to respond to others’ suffering—indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering, dispelling the so called ideology that “all humans are selfish.”

At Princeton University a study was done on children and victims of violence – and what they found was astonishing. Take these two very different subject demographics and we find they are united by the similar neurological reactions they provoke when asked to contemplate harm to others. This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains – this is “nature.”

Yet, feeling compassion is one thing; acting on it is another. We can see and now understand the human propensity for compassion and science has shown us the effects compassion can have on behavior and to the relationship to the world around us, but can we actually cultivate compassion, or is it all determined by our genes?

At Berkeley, Dacher Keltner  wrote in his article called “the Compassion Instinct;” “Recent neuroscience studies suggest that positive emotions are less heritable—that is, less determined by our DNA—than the negative emotions. Other studies indicate that the brain structures involved in positive emotions like compassion are more “plastic”—subject to changes brought about by environmental input. So we might think about compassion as a biologically based skill or virtue, but not one that we either have or don’t have. Instead, it’s a trait that we can develop in an appropriate context. What might that context look like? It is based on our values, ethics, and belief systems.”

Recently, I met someone who has had a growing impact on my life and my ability to create greater resiliency to life’s challenges and he reminded of this amazing poem that in closing, I will share with you.


The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.


Don’t Let Your Tissue Get Uptight:  Tone Vs. Tightness

Don’t Let Your Tissue Get Uptight: Tone Vs. Tightness

tone 2

As a movement coach, the question of “what is the difference, between tone vs tightness” is a common occurrence and one that is of significant importance to those who suffer the burden of chronic pain and compensatory dysfunction. To better understand, not only the difference, understanding how to identify the different are key factors that can make or break your intervention strategy.

First order of business is looking at the tools for assessing and screening dysfunction and compensatory movement:

The FMS and SFMA:

The FMS and SFMA protocols are tools used to capture movement dysfunction at the level of the pattern and then address whether the limitations are mobility, stability or motor control based. On average many practitioners often attribute “tightness” as a lack of muscle length or “weakness” to muscle inhibition like having “a weak core” or “weak glutes.”  Now, they would not be wrong in their conclusion, but this is not the be all and end all. It’s only one piece of the puzzle and the puzzle (your body) has many moving parts that work together to give you performance output and synergistic movement. Now, the SFMA is only used by clinicians, therefore, my form of screening, is more an overall postural screen, luckily working in an integrated model, allows me to refer to a physiotherapist or most often the initial functional assessment has already been performed… now, I just want to see the client move through my own lens.

Our first role is to demonstrate how your muscle acts in association with the connective tissue, the nervous system etc and then also address how perhaps glute weakness affects a movement pattern, increases tone, redistributes engagement to other muscles; which in turn causes compensatory movement and tone.

Through this protocol we can go through the body like a checklist of the many imperfections we all carry on a day to day basis, or we could try to discover each individual’s major dysfunctions so that we can remove these negatives to uncover our strengths.   Corrective intervention and a well-designed strategy is crucial for improvement, doing more of any exercise; corrective or other, can result in more pain if we do not address the full scope of limitations. If they could do more, they would, but most often pain is a limiting factor… and they can’t.



Let’s take the ASLR drill as an example of addressing the vast difference between tone vs tightness.  During the FMS Screen and Y balance tests I will be able to identify the largest area of need, and most often in new clients with or without pain, the shoulder mobility (SM) and active straight leg raise (ASLR) are the two most often needing corrective intervention. The ASLR is also most often the starting point for the discussion of tone vs tightness.

Depending on your scope of practice, if you work in a clinical setting  like in rehabilitation, you can apply a manual intervention, by mobilizing or manipulating  a joint or you could apply soft tissue work either with our hands or tools; like the foam roller or magic stick, or if you are an RMT, FST or KMI practitioner you could provide deep tissue work into the muscles or on the fascia. You might use needles to do a musculoskeletal technique called trigger point dry needling, like in IMS or Acupuncture. Or if you are a personal trainer or movement coach, hands on technique may not be in your skill sets; therefore, educating the client and using corrective intervention is where your path for this client starts.

Let’s break down the screen first. Let’s say I deduce that Mr. Smith has the following:

  • D/S (deep squat) – 2
  • H/S (hurdle step) – 2/2
  • In/L (inline lunge) – 2/2
  • ASLR (active straight leg raise) – 1/1
  • S/M (shoulder mobility) – 2/3
  • TSPU (trunk stability push up) – 2
  • R/S (rotary stability) – 2/2
  • Spinal ext. – clear
  • Spinal flex – clear
  • Impingement test – clear
  • Total: 13 out of 21 (no pain, but a lot of discomfort)

To see the ASLR test, please watch this video:

From the basic screen we can see that Mr. Smith has alright movement, but is lacking in some areas and exhibits a low score of 1’s in his ASLR and an asymmetry in his S/M.  I see a lot of athletes and clients that have discomfort and limitations, yet overall do not score too badly on the FMS. The question then becomes why? From here I would then want to clear the spine and take a deeper look at Mr. Smith’s lowest score and asymmetry. This will include what we call “clearing” the spine and active vs passive testing.

I first start with his ASLR. I know that he cannot reach optimal range on his own, which is a minimum of 70 degrees in the leg lift. Therefore, I test this passively by assisting him. If I can take that leg through a larger range of motion and reach a 2 or 3, most often this is a motor control issue, not lack of hamstring tissue length. If I cannot then it’s certainly mobility and leg length. Sometimes genetics and structural elements can play a role, but I work with a lot of clients who do not have a tightness issue – its tone and motor control. That is 1 part physical and 1 part neuroscience. Motor control is in the brain and we know that Mr. Smith has poor motor control’ therefore, what are our next steps?

We could have a certain degree of muscle atrophy. We could have uncoordinated muscle behavior. We could have increased tone. We could have residual trigger points. What we have to do is identify, What are those motor control and movement limitations? What are the problems with mobility and stability?

tone 1

What is Tone?

Let’s focus in on the tone. In physiology, medicine, and anatomy, muscle tone (residual muscle tension or tonus) is the continuous and passive partial contraction of the muscles, or the muscle’s resistance to passive stretch during resting state with a reduced range of motion in active engagement. Tone isn’t bad, but in excess it can limit mobility, stability and power output. When stretch occurs, the body responds by automatically increasing the muscle’s tension, which is ultimately, a reflex which helps guard against danger as well as helping to maintain balance. It helps to maintain posture and declines during REM sleep when that “alarm” of protection is somewhat shut off.

Tissue that has an increase in tone, can be known as hypertonia; which can present clinically as either spasticity or rigidity.

Spasticity is velocity-dependent resistance to passive stretch (i.e. passively moving a leg quickly, like the kickoff in football will elicit increased muscle tone, but passively moving the leg, like in the ASLR slowly may not elicit increased muscle tone). Spasticity can be in the form of increased resistance only at the beginning or at the end range of the movement.

Rigidity is velocity-independent resistance to passive stretch (i.e. there is uniform increased tone whether the leg lift is passively moved quickly or slowly).That sucker ain’t going anywhere. Rigidity can be of the stiff board, or the resistance to passive movement is in a jerky manner.

We must also take into consideration tissue contractures, adhesions, scar tissue and past injuries or structural concerns.

Getting back to Mr. Smith, I now know that Mr. Smith has tone in the ASLR and as an intervention I ask him to foam roll his posterior line (back, lats, glutes and calves), maybe even use a little magic stick). This also will tell me where he has trigger points and an increase in “whoa nelly” that’s the spot, discomfort or pain.

We then re screen his ASLR… and there is an improvement, but we know that this won’t stick. This is a great way to educate the client on the connection between the brain –to-muscle connection, but also the relationship of the fascia and nervous system in connection with the muscle-motor control arena.

To gain a deeper perspective and larger picture, I would also screen Mr. Smith’s spine, clearing the cervical in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and then the whole spine in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation, as well as thoracic mobility. The spine plays a significant role in ASLR patterns, as does the thoracic spine. Most often if the ASLR, the shoulder’s and spine will offer us more information on a client’s motor control and integration of their nervous system and fascia systems functionality, but for the sake of this article, we will just use the ASLR as an example of tone vs tightness.

Corrective Intervention:

By rolling and applying soft tissue release, allows us to free up space and by moving those segments completely changes the neuromuscular support around that joint and associated joints. It will most likely also free up some muscle tone and allow you to move through your spine and lower quadrants a little bit better. This is still without suggesting corrective exercise as of yet, now it’s time to focus on the active part of the intervention strategy. This is merely “protective” not yet “corrective. “Protective measures keep you from getting worse, but may not make you better. Corrective measures actually work toward helping you foster or start the reset process yourself.” – Gray Cook

From this point forward, I will assign a few key corrective exercises for the client to perform on their own 1-2x per day, and will also offer  a sequenced set of mobility movements to either prepare the client for daily life and/or sport, as well as a decompression set of movements to be performed at the end of their day or sport. This program is under 20mins, so that it’s time efficient.

At the end of that, we should see an appreciable change in something we measured. Below is a short sequence I use for clients with increased tone and low ASLR score.

Video on the ASLR correction:

Start: Screen ASLR

Corrective #1: 5 mins of breathing: diaphragmatic strengthening to re-engage posterior diaphragm. Recruiting the diaphragm and mechanics of the breath lowers anxiety, and connects the nervous system to the tissue, as well as biochemically releases chemicals to release and relax tonic tissue.

Soft Tissue Release: 5 mins of soft tissue release; including, foam roller, magic stick and tennis ball

Mobility Sequence:

  • Quadruped spinal rolling (cats flow, with emphasis on spinal waving)
  • Side cats flow (variations on exploring range)
  • Lumbo Pelvic facilitation: supine pelvic tuck and tilt with bridge pattern rolling
  • Bilateral hip rotations with legs crossed (TFL, ITB, lateral line and ribcage)

Corrective #2: Upper and lower body rolling pattern (unassisted and assisted)

Corrective #3: Leg Lowering Pattern (PNF, leg lowering 1 and 2)

Corrective #4: Hip Flexor Stretch with core assist to free up anterior line

Corrective #5: ASLR with core assist to recruit trunk and connect shoulders to hips and trunk to pelvis.

Re Screen ASLR: improvement in screen


  • Repeat mobility sequence (keeps it easy for the first set of notes)

  • Add in Rib pulls or thoracic rotations for good measure – we could all use more of that.

This would then be the clients homework for the next 2 weeks, and each session we work together, I progress or regress as needed. It’s also important to move clients from primitive patterns to foundational patterns, especially if they train with a strength coach or an athlete. Grooving the hip hinge and addressing single leg stance is usually on my session roster with a client so that they can see the long term picture of where and when these corrective exercises can improve performance overall.

To learn more about the FMS and Corrective Intervention Tools feel free to visit our website at or

Fascia: Your Body of Water In A Flowing State of Movement

Fascia: Your Body of Water In A Flowing State of Movement


A while ago I wrote a blog that looked at fascia and hydration, “Is Your Fascia Hydrated: H2O to Go,” but more from a runner’s perspective and why some runners/athlete’s experience cramps. Today, I want to feature more of the process of hydration in our fascia.

Water is essential to life – all life

Our bodies are up to 70 % water by weight and nearly all processes in the body require water for cellular function.  When we think of water there are two natural ways water flows through our bodies and it is a two part process involving the following;

  • Irrigation is your actual consumption of water and water dense foods in adequate amounts.
  • Hydration is the chemical process by which water molecules bind with proteins and other substances.

Water is a lifeline for health and well-being.  Hydration, the process through which the body moves water, continues to be explored today. Over the past decade there has been a growing exploration of the role of fascia in the human condition. And a new conversation has begun among movement practitioners, manual practitioners and researchers of the role of water and our fascia.

Hydration is controlled by the hypothalamus and the body will prioritize so that essential organs will remain hydrated. Connective tissue (including fascia and membrane) will be one of the first to dehydrate leading to adhesions and fixotrophia of the tissue. At the microscopic level fascia looks like little tubes that transmit nerve signals and nutrients, like water, so that it can move freely over muscles and flow (like water) with the state of movement of the human structure. A good note to self, is when you fee thirsty – you are already dehydrated. Same if you drink lots of water, and pee a lot, your body isn’t holding onto water, because you probably aren’t keeping it hydrated consistently on a regular basis – this all effects your fascia and your body’s systemic functioning.

When we look at fascia; hydration is a bio-mechanical, not a chemical process, because there needs to be movement for a reaction to occur. When we stretch the fascial tissues or palpate them, toxins are pushed out and released; which creates a space for fresh fluids to be reabsorbed – hence hydration of the tissue. The practices of Yoga postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama)  are bio-mechanical processes to cleanse our fascial tissues, as are structural integration and fascia stretch practical applications.

For a quick re cap of fascia and what it looks like, check out Gil Hedley’s Fascia and Stretching from the Integral Anatomy Series. It’s a great little video.

Fluid Dynamics and Fascia

In an article from the iroc yoga community I found an enlightening excerpt “ Water has continuously proven to be a fascinating substance. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a University of Washington professor of bioengineering , has developed new theories.  In his keynote address titled The Secret Life of Water: E = H2O to the 2012 Fascial Research Congress, he discussed a 4th state of water, which is “bound”. The bound state stands along side of the well known solid, liquid and vapor states we learned in school. It is in this 4th state that water is bound to the protein, collagen, creating special conditions within the fascia.  Pollack’s explorations include understanding how water in its “bound” state contributes to the flow of fluids through fascial tissue. We look forward to more application of Pollack’s work in the world of fascial research.”

Understanding that fascia is our biological fabric, our interconnected matrix to our nervous systems, our muscles, our joints and our organs; which ranges from the ropey tendons and ligaments, to the webbed like (but tough) visceral fascia that surrounds our organs, down to the delicate membranes that provide the ‘carpet-backing’ for your body’s other tissues.  Fascia has two main components – one is collagen protein and the other is a watery “ground substance” called extracellular matrix (ECM).

Movement Sophistication

Movement is THE most important factor (next to water) to keeping our tissue subtle and elastic. When we stop moving or practice postures that are negative on our structure, we can compensate and cause dysfunction and pain. The process of fluid flow in fascial hydration contributes to the feeling of pliability and suppleness; therefore movement is key.

It is normal to feel stiffer after treatment or after a Yoga class. Why?

Your body works in phases, and as the space or phase a few hours after being stimulated your body is entering into the state of fascial hydration takes place. The “stiffness” is not due to shortening of the muscle tissue, but because our tissues are busy drawing in fresh fluids and are thus rehydrating.

Stiff & Tightness are not the same thing:

Tight fascia affects the whole organism, because it’s all connected. Structural imbalances can cause overall and specific increased rates of nervous stimulation; which when left untreated can cause increased muscle tonicity (not to be confused with tightness), trigger points and somatic-visceral referrals into the organs. Thus the body overall, and especially certain systems, will be tight and ischemic. This can reduce oxidation, hydration and blood supply to your muscles, and long term can result in chronic pain or motor control deficiencies.

Superficial fascia has a tensile strength of 2,000 pounds per square inch. It can entrap more nerve endings and blood vessels than any other tissue. By Hilton’s law of physiology, this will have a direct effect on the underlying muscles and joint proprioceptors. Something to thing about.

Thus the more you think of hydrating your fascia and understand the process of “bones should float” in the body, the more likely you are to not have mobility issues that stem from tightness of the muscles and fascia.

In next weeks blog we will look at tightness vs tonic tissue.



* Sherri Leigh RMT:


Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain

Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain


There has always been a relationship between changes in weather and body aches and pains since the dawn of time (or at least since we became aware of the fascia system and moved away from the equator). The earliest recording dates back to the classical Roman age.

 Hippocrates was the first to write, in 400 B.C., that many illnesses seemed to be related to changes in season. The majority of people who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorders, and even those who have suffered structural injuries, like hip replacements, knee replacements, even witt post deployment and shrapnel recovery; all report findings address the feeling of severe or less commonly moderate pain when a weather front is approaching. These symptoms can also occur when the humidity level and or precipitation levels change. Much can be said about the impact of weather on our system as a whole.

Stiff neck, tight shoulders, and pain in the hip, low back and/or knees: You might be thinking it’s your joints, but it’s actually most often connective tissue. Fascia is a webbed, interconnected matrix, that acts like a sleeve that holds muscles, tendons and joints and ideally your bones and skeletal frame. It connects to our adipose tissue via our superfiscial fascia lines, holding the shape of our body and interacting with our nervous system.  As well, as our deep fascia, the thick white fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone and then our visceral fascia, much like a spider web that encases our organs and co-mingles with our structure.

Jill Miller, a renowned Yogi and functional teacher, once said;

 “Fascia is your body’s soft-tissue scaffolding. It provides the matrix that your muscle cells can grow upon and it also envelopes, penetrates and surrounds all of your joints.”

According to the American Journal of Medical Sciences in 1887, the very first publication of documented changes in pain perception associated the weather with this change in body sensation and pain.  This case report described a person with phantom limb pain who concluded that “approaching storms, dropping barometric pressure and rain were associated with increased pain complaints.

Many of my clients who have had hip and knee replacements, also exhibit changes in structure, like tightness and stiffness in the coming of Fall and Winter, as well as those who are more susceptible to aches and pains, like those who a higher percentage of pain receptors and or chronic pain conditions.


The historical Lineage:

The term “rheumatism” was one of the first “terms” placed on this kind of condition and it is still used in conventional speech and historical contexts, but is no longer used in medical or technical literature. The term “Rheumatic Diseases” is used to refer to connective tissue disorders, but the scope is so very broad and we are constantly learning more and more about the connections of our fascia, nervous system and other systems. Although these disorders probably have little in common in terms of their epidemiology, they do share two primary and foundational characteristics, which cannot be overlooked.

They are:

1. Can cause chronic (though often intermittent) pain, and they are difficult to treat because we still do not have a prescribed standardized direction, or assessment for proper treatment in our healthcare system.

2. Collectively, very common – 1 in 4 Canadians will suffer chronic pain at some time in their lives; which is why there are many great organizations; Pain BC is one at the top of my health and wellness food chain; which focuses on programs, services and resources for people in pain, but also works with health practitioners and our heathcare system to educate GP’s and professionals who work with chronic pain patients one on one.

Case Studies:

There has long been said to be a link between “connective tissue” pain and the weather. There appears to be no firm evidence in favour or against, apart from the ramblings of scientists, as shown above in the 1800s. Yet in 1995 a questionnaire given to 557 people by A. Naser and others at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pain Management Center showcased barometric changes and pain. It concluded that “changes in barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain. Low pressure is generally associated with cold, wet weather and an increase in pain, because of the fact that they restrict movement. Studies have shown that changes in barometric pressure and temperature may increase stiffness in the joints and potentially trigger subtle movements that heighten a nociceptive response. Cold also slows down fine motor control and motor skill. This kind of alteration to our structure may be particularly problematic in inflammatory joints whose receptive and sensitized nociceptors are affected by movement overall.

Clear, dry conditions signal high pressure and a decrease in pain. We all know that when we are warm, we move better, and we feel better overall. Here are a couple great resources for people who not only have chronic pain, but also for those who are more sensitive to the weather and aches and pain.

Therapeutic Treatment:

Many of the clients I work with suffer from mild to acute chronic pain, yet many of them can attest to the fact, that in warmer weather, they feel better. As a Yoga Teacher and Movement Coach I understand that when a client feel pain, they immediately want to stop moving, stop all activity and this, in itself, can be isolating. One of the key foundations I focus on, is to keep moving, keep staying active. In many of my posts I discuss the difference between “rest”  and “relaxation,” the body requires both, but it heals best, not in “rest,” but in a natural state of relaxation. I have found two forms of gentle relaxation and movement; to be successful in many of my clients, including myself are what i like to classify as an internal and external relaxation. Now, both stimulate internal healing and both focus on connection with our external… but when I say “internal” and “external,” I am referring more to the benefits of on the systems, and it is a great way to educate clients on the physiology of changing pain and how everything in our body is connected.

They are the following:

Internal Relaxation: Infrared Sauna & Eucalyptus Steam:

Infrared rays are one of the sun’s rays. Infrared rays are the healthiest, penetrate into your skin deeply and they dissolve harmful substances accumulated in your body. The Infrared Rays vitalize your cells and metabolism through the stimulation of sweat glands, as well as vibration. When infrared waves are applied to water molecules (comprising 70% of our body) these molecules begin to vibrate and this vibration reduces the ion bonds and the eventual breakdown of the water molecules causes encapsulated gases and other toxic materials to be released. One of my favorite spots to go is Spruce Body Labs on Richards, it’s like a weekly spa visit with all the perks of self compassion (notice how I did not say self indulgent)!

Eucalyptus steam works much the same as the detoxification process,but it is a wet vs a dry sauna, and does not offer you the benefit of the infrared rays. However, what it does offer you is the healing benefits of eucalyptus.  Eucalyptus steam inhalation is recommended by many alternative practitioners for relieving nasal congestion and sinus congestion, usually from colds and flu, as well as healing tissue. .Toxic substances build up in the soft tissues of the body over time. Without a proper flushing of these toxins your muscles and connective tissue can become sore, create adhesion’s and stiffness and bind together; which reduces movement and increases tight, toned tissue.  The more you perspire – or sweat – the more toxins release from your body. I use a eucalyptus steam once a month to release any nasal and respiratory congestion. Beverly’s spa on fourth avenue in kits, is an amazing spot and it’s kiddy corner to YYoga, combining a class and a steam after – brilliant.

Both stimulate your internal organs and tissue to “sweat it out,” release toxins; which reduces stress, improves metabolism, accelerates healing, eases muscle soreness and tension, enhances heart function and improves connective elasticity.

External Relaxation: Warm Yin, Yin & Restorative Yoga:

Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures which are mainly performed on the floor, where the body and mind can be still The majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. This style of yoga is very beneficial for clients who have pain, because it allows them to ease into the form and function of the pose. In my YogaFORM sessions with clients, I combine a Yin style practice with Qi Gong and elements of gentle movement sophistication flow sequences to gently open tissue and open the awareness of systemic integration. In the Fall and Winter, this can be very therapeutic for those who are affected by the colder months.




Pain BC – Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:

  • Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
  • Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs

Ted Talk – “Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain”

” We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Elliot Krane works on the problem of treating pain in children”.




Pain BC:

Spruce Body Labs

Beverly’s on 4th: .

Love My Mat – Handmade Yoga Accessories

Love My Mat – Handmade Yoga Accessories

Love My Mat is an environmentally-friendly Canadian company based in Ontario that was founded in 2008 by mother-daughter team, Shelley and Kathy. The duo lovingly hand craft unique yoga accessories made from reclaimed fabric, organic ingredients and responsible materials. Their line of eco-conscious, made-in-Canada yoga gear includes yoga mat bags, eye pillows, meditation cushions, bolsters, mat straps and stretch straps. They offer a varied collection of beautiful prints from gently used patterns making one-of-a-kind designs. Love My Mat recently sent us a few of their lovely products for review, so read on to learn about each item we received…


Love My Mat’s Organic Yoga Mat Cleaner, the company’s original product, is a versatile yoga mat cleaner made from only four ingredients: citrus extract, tea tree oil, lavender and water! These three USDA Certified Organic ingredients are powerful antiseptics, strong enough to kill ninety-nine percent of germs but gentle enough to spray directly on your skin. The natural, fresh scent concoction is safe for daily use on all types of yoga mats, straps, blocks, and bolsters. So how do you use it effectively? This cleaner is a quick-dry, no wipe formula, so you simply shake the bottle gently, spray lightly (six to eight times) and let dry. In a minute, your mat is clean, dry and ready to roll up for your next yoga session.


Love My Mat’s “Sitting Pretty Pillows” are their version of the traditional Meditation Cushion or zafu to raise the hips and alleviating discomfort, making the entire range of cross-legged sitting positions more stable for the meditator. Firmly stuffed with buckwheat hulls for comfort and support, this unique aqua & grey sit pillow is and covered with a pre-loved fabric made from a tablecloth Shelley found at a local thrift shop. The machine washable and dryable cover has a convenient handle for easy transport to and from yoga studios.


Love My Mat’s Eye Pillows are filled with organic flax seeds to block out distracting light and add gentle acupressure to relieve facial tension. The subtle scent of aromatic lavender helps deepen relaxation and relieve stress. This eye pillow is pure bliss during savasana and aids in calming the body before bedtime. You can even us it cold to alleviate swelling and headache pain. And just like all of Love My Mat’s yoga products, each eye pillow is made with recycled fabric so each design is unique. The eye pillow sent to us is one-of-a-kind, made from a gently used duvet cover from Shelley’s aunt’s closet.


You can help support this environmentally-friendly Canadian company by purchasing Love My Mat products via and at select retail locations in British Columbia and Ontario.

**If you make a purchase through Love My Mat’s website, then you can use the code YVR15 to receive 15% your order within the next 30 days!**

RECOVERY? ARE YOU GETTING IT? The Nervous System & Endocrine System Revealed

RECOVERY? ARE YOU GETTING IT? The Nervous System & Endocrine System Revealed

High Performance Training: Motor Skills

As our scientific understanding of movement, strength, even how to asses and screen for both injury and baselines  has evolved, so too has our movement capacity in sports and athletics.

Functional fitness means to restore and refine the balance of the human physique, as well optimizing homeostasis in the body through tissue restoration (ample recovery). For example, too much over-specialization on traditional strength models; like “body building” with pullups, pushups or squats creates a complementary imbalance in the functionally opposite direction which must be addressed, or we face first diminishing returns, then plateau, then regress, followed by pain and eventually injury. Like anything if you play that sport, you train for it, but if you do not, then you are ultimately not setting yourself up for success.

For most athletes the standards are higher; sometimes these standards come with playing for a high or elite level team, and some standards are the ones we place on ourselves , but most perform their cycles in spite of their fitness levels rather than because of them. They do well and survive because they had the passion and dedication to commit, but not always the right training. Even with effective preparation to perform at high intensity, does not give all athltes the ability to recover fast from high stress. Whoever recovers fastest wins, because if you do not – your risk for injury and possible your game/career ender sky rockets.

When we think of sports in essence we think about training the body, and in this, we think of only the musculoskeletal system (muscles) and the cardiovascular system, and neglect some of the other more important responses and adaptations in our body. Most sports require a variation of fine and complex motor skills performed at high intensity.

What happens when intensity increases?

How do our motor skills respond and adapt to high intensity training?

If you cannot answer these questions; you are setting yourself up for injury and possibly failure.

In high intensity training, you lose untrained, fine motor skills at approximately 65% heart rate maximum. (Heart rate maximum is 220-age). You lose untrained, complex motor skills at approximately 85% heart rate maximum.

You can increase how long you keep the skills, but with each new situation, a new stressor. You can only adapt to specific stress. So, you may be able to remain calm during “practice drills” but when game time hits, with another team you know little about, or perhaps embarking on an ultra multi day event, carrying 40kgs of equipment, to an unknown route, with unknown environmental factors, and if and when you are surprised, your chance of making mistakes increases substantially and the result is, you feel overwhelmed and do not operate at 100%. And much of this is also mental training, but I will save that for another article.  Whoever can recover fastest from surprise, mistakes and overwhelming odds… wins. That’s the paleo meat and hold the potatoes of it all.

Recovery = Systems Restoration

Notice, I did not just say “tissue;” much like the above, we need to start thinking of whole systems adaptation, not isolation of one system. Rest and recovery are critical components of any successful training program. They are also the least planned and underutilized ways to enhance performance. We must recognize that ‘Rest” is not the same as “Recovery,” just like “Mobility” is not the same as “Movement.”

“ Rest is relaxation, where there is an absence of activity. When you appropriately recover, you do not require or desire rest. See the difference. Rest should only be required when you do not sufficiently recover from excessive stressors, when you are under-recovered, you oscillate between excessive stress and forced rest; a common, viscous cycle in our industry. Traditional relaxation techniques become unnecessary if one fully recovers from excessive stress; relaxation is our natural state when our various nervous systems function as they should.”  (passage from my previous post of my “Movement Series”)

A great excerpt from Andrew Read; Master RKC and Endurance Trainer, in an article called7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery:

“ If you train for ten hours per week, you have 158 non-training hours or 95% of your time left for rest and recovery. Where is all of this “extra” time going and why do you walk into your workout dragging?

Training = Work + Rest.

It’s not. It’s multiplication. 

Training = Work x Rest.”


The Nervous Systems When Training:

Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between the physical threat and a mental or emotional threat.

Unfortunately, many athletes do not take advantage of this. Whoever endures, stays. But that is not TRAINING. That is merely WEEDING out those who are not yet trained for high performance stress. To TRAIN someone for stress, it must be woven into the conditioning. This isn’t a “sink or swim” approach.

The focus of the training must be upon how fast you can recover from a high intensity output so you can stay at your “A” game, both physically and mentally. “

Most often high athletes approach high level training preparation with a tenacity unlike any other, it is what makes them brilliant athletes, but the drawback is that they will push themselves beyond safety into over-training injuries and illness, and still keep going more with injury and while ill. We see this with retired athletes who no longer play at that level, but want to continue to train at that level because it recreates the same sense of glory on the field, court, track – whatever your place of sportage homage is.

The nervous system does not know the type of resistance, it only knows intensity. Your biomechanics do not know what kind of exercise you are performing; it only knows degrees, direction and load.  It only knows how much and how much stress. It cannot tell that the stress is from injury. It cannot say a broken shoulder is a different pain, than the pain of high intensity exercise like clapping pullups. It only knows the degree of stress. Therefore, your mental preparation and thought process tells the body – is this good stress or bad stress.

The body cannot tell the difference between heart rate maximum from exercise, and heart rate maximum from being shot at. It only knows heart rate maximum. Therefore, whoever recovers fastest from high stress in training without injury and illness, will be more operationally prepared to perform in high stress with injury and illness.

Do you see where we are going with this?

 “The first goal of training must be “do no harm.” This takes some mental paradigm shifting for many “hard-chargers.” I honor them for their willingness to sacrifice themselves, but they must not do this in training, so that they are able to be so honorable in combat.” – Scott Sonnon, Rmax International (TACTICAL MAGAZINE 2011)

Successful periodized sports specific programs include education behind how our body metabolizes and regulates stress and recovery. This boils down to two fundamental systems; the nervous system, and the endocrine system. If an athlete understand the biochemical responses, transmissions and transfers within their body; they will have greater success in energy output, intensity levels and when faced with unprepared game changing events; on and off the field.


The Nervous System in a NutShell:

The human nervous system is composed of two parts: the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which is composed of nerves and nerve networks throughout the body. The two main components of the nervous system, I have been especially interested in during my research into tactical training and response, is the somatic nervous system and the parasympathetic system, but let’s give you a run-down of the nervous system in its entirety.

The peripheral system (PNS) is composed of a number of nerves that extend outside of the central nervous system. The PNS can be further divided into two different systems: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary functions, as well as emotional responses like sweating or crying.

Somatic Nervous System: The somatic system transmits sensory communications and is responsible for voluntary movement and action. This system is composed of both sensory (afferent) neurons, which carry information from the nerves to the brain and spinal cord, and motor (efferent) neurons, which transmit information from the central nervous system to the muscle fibers. These are our transmission and communication highways.

The Sympathetic Nervous System: The sympathetic system controls the body’s response to emergencies.  Known as the fight or flight response, this system responds by preparing your body to either fight the danger or flee.

 The parasympathetic nervous system functions to counter the sympathetic system and restore the body’s functions. This system helps to calm the body, slows the heart and breathing etc.

How are the endocrine and nervous system linked? The brain structure known as the hypothalamus connects these two important communication systems together. The hypothalamus is a tiny collection of nuclei that is responsible for controlling an astonishing amount of behavior.  Yet, in most training programs the necessary education into the “why” we train and the “how” our body operates is still stuck in just the response and effects on the musculoskeletal systems, not how we internally respond, improve, degrade, progress, regress, etc. These two systems are paramount, and to be tactical operators and officers is a necessity.



The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produces a wide variety of chemical messengers called hormones; which are necessary for normal bodily functions. These hormones regulate processes such as metabolism, growth, digestion, and response to stress. The glands release the hormones directly into the bloodstream where they are transported to organs and to tissues via our interconnected matrix highways. At these target organs and tissues, the secreted hormone evokes a specific, pre-programmed response from the targeted cells. . The specific functions of the endocrine system include:

  1. regulating the chemical composition and volume of the body
  2. regulating metabolism and energy balance, including digestion
  3. regulating contraction of smooth and cardiac muscle
  4. maintaining homeostasis even during crisis events
  5. regulating components of the immune system, and
  6. regulating the integration of growth and development.

Thus, appealing to the endocrine system is one way in which the body coordinates its actions with information collected from the environment. The endocrine system is responsible for teaching the body to react to the physical, emotional and mental stress around us.


While the endocrine system consists of several different glands that secrete over 50 different hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland control such a broad range of bodily functions that they are often referred to as the master control center. Here is a breakdown of the major operations:

Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is located in the brain. It regulates many aspects of the body, such as heart rate, body temperature, water balance, and the amount of glandular secretions from the pituitary. It secretes hormones that help regulate the pituitary gland and also responds to their presence in a feedback mechanism.

Pituitary Gland: This small gland is tightly connected with the hypothalamus and secretes two hormones of particular interest to athletes. Anti-diuretic hormone( ADH ) promotes water re-absorption in the kidneys and is released from the pituitary when sensors in the hypothalamus determine that the blood is too concentrated, i.e., when dehydration occurs. For those deployed, away from water sources, or in hot climates, this could be critical. Adrenocorticotropic hormone ( ACTH ) stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol; while the pituitary secretes numerous other hormones necessary for growth and survival. Because cortisol is secreted under duress; and your nervous system cannot differentiate between physical, mental or emotional stress; occupations that require higher stress overall means the secretion of this chemical could degrade function. When your immune system is working overtime, your body relies on that fight or fight response, which if cortisol gets to high  – remains turned on, like an alarm clock you can’t shut off. More on that in the adrenal gland section below.

Adrenal Glands: We have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney in the lower back. Each gland consists of an outer layer called the cortex and an inner core called the medulla. Secretion from the adrenal medulla is controlled via the nervous system, whereas ACTH controls secretion from the adrenal cortex. The major hormones produced by the adrenal medulla are adrenaline (also called epinephrine ) and a related hormone called noradrenaline ( norepinehprine ). These hormones cause the changes that occur during an emergency situation ( the fight-or-flight response ). Such changes include: increased heart and breathing rate, increased blood flow to muscles, cessation of digestion, and increased blood glucose levels and metabolic rate. The adrenal cortex produces two main classes of hormones: glucocorticoids and mineralcorticoids. The main glucocorticoid hormone, cortisol, promotes the breakdown of muscle proteins into amino acids that enter blood. The resulting increase in amino acid levels in the blood then causes higher glucose blood levels when the liver breaks down these amino acids. Cortisol also favors metabolism of fatty acids over carbohydrates. This hormone works in opposition to insulin, raising blood glucose levels. In a different mode, cortisol counteracts the inflammatory response that can lead to the pain and swelling of joints in arthritis and bursitis.


The endocrine system can become fatigued just like a muscle that is continually overworked. At some point it just can’t produce the stress hormones as it should. A tired ( but not damaged ) muscle may recover in 24 to 48 hours, but it takes an overused endocrine system weeks to recover.

During high intensity training cortisol serves the body well by mobilizing energy stores and reducing inflammation. Afterwards, it temporarily blocks the desirable effects of insulin, and repair of the body is slowed. This is why recovery and recovery protocols, along with joint mobility is so important.

Even when the cortisol levels fall to normal after a few days, there are lingering effects from the disturbance of the endocrine system. If the body is called upon to respond to stress again, adequate levels of cortisol cannot be produced, resulting in a crash or hitting the way response. All motor control slows, along with mental fortitude.

The varied nature of these symptoms points to suppression at the level of the central nervous system hypothalamus/pituitary axis. That is, it isn’t just one gland that isn’t working right nor is it some simple nutrient deficiency.

In Closing:

When setting up a sports specific training program, or any program design for any client who is moderate to high activity;  these are two major systems you should consider educating your athlete or client on, so that you can fully understand the needs and requirements of your body moving into the phase transitions of your periodization. If your mentality is to “go hard, or go home,” you may very well be going home yourself, less one athlete, because that athlete in now spending the next 8-12 weeks with our physio team and in corrective movement.

As one of my mentors and friends; Carmen Bott, Performance and Conditioning Specialist at Fortius Centre in Vancouver; “Darwin was incorrect; it is not the survival of fittest who survive, it is those who adapt survive.”


New Shoot Pictures Yoga & Pilates DVDs

New Shoot Pictures Yoga & Pilates DVDs

New Shoot Pictures recently sent us some fitness DVDs for Vancouver Yoga Review, including four different yoga practices, prenatal pilates exercises, and even a ballet body workout. Filmed with some of the top yogis and fitness experts in the United Kingdom, these quality DVDs are just some of the offerings New Shoot Pictures presents. Read on to learn more about each one…


Elements of Yoga: Earth Foundation — Tara Lee is one of the UK’s renowned yoga teachers and has a popular three-part DVD collection called “Elements of Yoga”. The first DVD in the series is based on the earth element and is designed to build the foundations of a yoga practice suitable for all skill levels and abilities. This DVD is divided into three 20-minute sequences which can be played in succession for a complete yoga practice, or as separate sessions for those with time constraints. The practices build a strong foundation of stability in the body, mind and spirit. Ideal for releasing symptoms of stress, these practices leave viewers feeling grounded and calm. If you are brand new to yoga or at the beginning stages of your practice, then this is a particularly appropriate DVD for you.


Elements of Yoga: Air & Water Flow — The second DVD in Tara Lee’s Elements of Yoga series proceeds the earth foundation and was created as a flow based practice, focusing on connecting to natural air and water elements inside everyone. The practice is divided into three twenty-minute sequences and, like the first DVD in the collection, it can also be played in succession or individually. In addition, there are four bonus features: 10 minute balancing series, 10 minute core workout, 10 minute breathing exercise and a 5 minute relaxation. These sequences aid in forming space in the physical body by joining flowing mobility with breath as well as expanding the body’s chest and heart center. If flow yoga is your preferred style, then we’d certainly recommend this Tara Lee DVD.


Elements of Yoga: Fire Dynamic — The third and final DVD in the series, Tara Lee’s dynamic practice was designed to build heat and strength in the body while cleansing and purifying the mind and soul. It is divided into three 20-40 minute sequences which can be played consecutively or separately. In addition, there are 4 bonus features: 10 minute balancing series, 10 minute core workout, 10 minute breathing exercise and 5 minute relaxation. The fire element lies at the center of our being so this practice was created to strengthen the core as well as give practitioners a strong, fluid practice that will burn up toxins. Anyone looking to release heavy emotions and detoxify the body will surely benefit from this DVD.


Power Yoga & Kriya Yoga (For Anti-Ageing) — Yoga and meditation master, Yogi Ashokananda created a series of unique practices that are rooted in the ancient wisdom of yoga and meditation, yet have been reformed to correspond with modern lifestyles. Divided into three twenty-minute sequences, each program can be played individually or in linear succession. Practice One – Strengthening: This is a firm yet supportive practice of yoga, working through the whole body, rejuvenating along the way through each pose. Practice Two – Kriya Yoga Anti Ageing: Kriya Yoga joins the motion of the physical movement in bodies with its dynamic power helping to become cognizant of one’s own creative attainability, reducing the aging process and expanding cardiovascular ability. Practice Three – Power Within: The focus of this specific power yoga practice is on endurance as well as consciousness of one’s capacity to love and respect their spiritual and physical self. Yogi’s power yoga DVD is helpful for those looking for a yoga practice focusing on authentic Indian traditions.


Prenatal Pilates Strengthen & Sculpt — Exercise specialist, Caroline Sandry created this DVD for women at all trimesters so they can stay in shape while moving through the different stages of pregnancy. Practicing these programs helps moms-to-be stay strong and supple while preparing for the physical demands of labor and delivery. These routines have been carefully choreographed to help sculpt, tone and strengthen women’s bodies and are divided into a twenty-minute Total Body Workout, a twenty-minute Standing Workout, a twenty-minute Mat Workout, a seventeen-minute Bonus Solutions Section, and a Pregnancy Tutorial to benefit mother and baby. This DVD is a must for pregnant women!


Ballet Fitness — The sixth DVD sent to us was created by London-based professional choreographer Nicky McGinty. She presents six unique ballet themed fitness programs designed to target and firm specific body parts as well as provide an overall cardiovascular workout. Additionally, these elegant ballet routines help viewers locate and strengthen core muscles and flatten stomachs. These specific arrangements consist of barre work, floor work and a few lively dance routines. If you’re looking to sculpt a lean body and help shed unwanted pounds, then you should check out this DVD as it’s a great alternative to traditional yoga and pilates.

You can purchase New Shoot Pictures DVDs on Amazon (click here), and watch previews on My Yoga Online and YouTube.

Light Activewear: Vancouver Yoga Attire Company

Light Activewear: Vancouver Yoga Attire Company

Light Activewear is locally-designed in Vancouver apparel company that was founded by two environmentally-conscious sisters, Michelle and Judy Lei. By infusing fashion-forward designs with high-tech, functional materials, Light Activewear offers high quality yoga couture for the modern day yogini.

The company recently sent me a couple of their yoga garments for review on Vancouver Yoga Review. If you saw my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds, then you know I was really excited to receive my Light Activewear package in the mail. Inside the package I discovered their comfy black & yellow Eliza Capris and cute Darla Jacket. Read on to find out my thoughts on these two items…


Since I’m a soon-to-be-mommy, I found the Eliza Capris to be super comfortable because they don’t have a tight elastic around the waist to accommodate for my expanding belly. However, even non-pregnant yogis will appreciate their über comfy fit as well. Since their signature fabric is developed with a proprietary blend of materials specifically made for their garments, they provide the perfect amount of stretch and support. And I love that the fabric is smooth and cool to touch, while maintaining a light weight feel.


The Darla Jacket is also soft and smooth so there’s no pilling on the outside, but the best apart is that it’s a sustainable product made from 100% recycled polyester. The unique thing about using this recycled polyester is that the fabric is actually constructed by using plastic water bottles, making them into a wearable material. Also, it does not require any water or chemicals to dye the fabric. So not only does using this type of fabric help reduce waste, but it also saves on natural resources and valuable energy.


In May, Light Activewear launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise enough money so they could take the samples into production. They managed to achieved an impressive 120% of their target, so now you can purchase one of these sustainable jackets in November. The following video further discusses this campaign:

As you can see, this local Vancouver company truly cares about their products, customers, and the planet! You can support this local small business by purchasing Light Activewear via their website and select retail locations (click here). Follow Light Activewear on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with new items and promotions.

Quantum Consciousness: The Power of the Mind and Meditation

Quantum Consciousness: The Power of the Mind and Meditation

mediatation 1


When we talk about states of being, most of us think in terms of emotion or feeling (happiness, sadness); which falls under the category of biochemically, via our individual internal electrical neural networks. When we experience emotions, the longest an emotion can circulate, stay turned or coast (biochemically) within our systems is a mere 90 seconds. In order for that feeling to last longer, you have to practice mental fortitude, stay within the moment and practice sustaining that level of internal chemical reaction for longer periods of time.

In other words, paying attention to any specific neural connection and emotion keeps the associated circuitry open, dynamic, and alive. The nervous system has to be reminded to keep firing the same circuitry over and over again. The stronger the feeling, the greater the number of circuits simultaneously fired.  This can be done through visualization techniques, guided meditation or practice, makes perfect. Some call this the quantum zeno effect. I have studied quantum mechanics for nearly a decade, and founds it’s interconnected matrix fascinating. Therefore, relating this to how we feel and perceive emotion is merely one aspect of our “quantum” conscious efforts to live happier and more fulfilled lives. Understanding the role and biochemical role our emotions play, allows us to deeper understand how important they are in how we think, do and be … and relate to the world around us.

The quantum Zeno effect:

The quantum zeno effect is a situation in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. Frequently repeated observations or biochemical that produce feelings, stabilize a system and slow the rate of change or decay. Fewer, less frequent observations destabilize a system and increase the rate of change or decay (anti zeno effect). One can “freeze” the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its (known) initial state. For the sake of this article, I will filter our focus to that of the power of the brain. I have written multiple articles on the power of neuoplascticity in the brain, as well as brain entrainment to help decrease stress, help cure (dis)ease in the body, quite the mind and body and aid in recovery, as well as decrease chronic pain.

mind 2

Quantum biology:

Quantum biology refers to applications of quantum mechanics to biological objects and problems. Many biological processes involve the conversion of energy into forms that are usable for chemical transformations and are quantum mechanical in nature.

In an article written by, Dr. Kingsley Dennis, PHD, called;

“The human body is a constant flux of thousands of inter-reactions and processes connecting molecules, cells, organs and fluids throughout the brain, body and nervous system. Up until recently it was thought that all these countless interactions operated in a linear sequence, passing on information much like a runner passing the baton to the next runner. However, the latest findings in quantum biology and biophysics have discovered that there is in fact a tremendous degree of coherence within all living systems. It has been found through extensive scientific investigation that a form of quantum coherence operates within living biological systems through what is known as biological excitations and biophoton emission. What this means is that metabolic energy is stored as a form of electromechanical and electromagnetic excitations. It is these coherent excitations that are considered responsible for generating and maintaining long-range order via the transformation of energy and very weak electromagnetic signals.

Human thought in the twenty- first century needs to work towards a new model that immerses the human being within a vibrant energetic universe. However, this need not demand that we throw away what we already have; rather, we can expand upon the tools that have brought us to our present position. There is an eastern proverb that roughly translates as: “You may ride your donkey up to your front door, but would you ride it into your house?” In other words, when we have arrived at a particular destination we are often required to make a transition in order to continue the journey. In this sense we can be grateful to a vast knowledge base of scientific and religious thought for helping us arrive at the point where we presently stand. Yet it is now imperative that we move forward. As Deepak Chopra wrote his post “Consciousness and the End of the War Between Science and Religion” how we move forward is likely to be centered in our understanding of consciousness.”

This begs the question, if we know that the power of brain and thought has the power to cure out ailments, provide deep understanding and joy within us – can this also affect the world around us. The answer is yes, it can, and we have seen it done.

mind 1

Maharishi Effect:

A great example of this is the Maharishi Effect was tested between the years 1972-1978. The Maharishi Effect  was designed to be a phase transition to a more orderly and peaceful state of life in society as measured by decreased crime, violence, accidents, and illness, and improvements in economic conditions and other sociological indicators. The scientists who discovered this effect named it in honour of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who predicted it thirty years ago.

Maharishi had predicted that when a critical sub-population of individuals – 1% – experienced and stimulated the field of pure consciousness through the Transcendental Meditation Programme, a type of macroscopic field effect of coherence would occur in the society and the quality of life would improve.

The first experimental evidence for this phenomenon came in 1974 with the studies of Borland and Landrith (1976). However a trial run in 1972 was observed in 11 cities in the United States; in which 1% of the population was practising the TM-Technique. Then they looked at one major index of the quality of life in the cities – the crime rate – and compared it which the crime rate in 11 other cities matching for population and geographic location. They noted that when 1% of the town’s population practised TM technique and the trend of rising crime rate was reversed, indicating increasing order.

In 1974 a group of 7000 individuals meditating on thoughts of love and peace were able to radiate loving energy which reduced global crime rates, violence, and casualties during the times of their meditation over the course of 3 weeks by an average of 16%.

Suicide rates and automobile accidents also were reduced with all variables accounted for. In fact, there was a 72% reduction in terrorist during the times at which this group was meditation.

Almost 50 studies have been done further confirming the benefits of global meditation and its direct impact on everything in the world, even so far as to have the results published in the Journal of Crime and Justice in 1981. We know meditation has endless health and psychological benefits, but it is now being explored by politics and sociology because of its undeniable energetic impact. Everything is energy, including your thoughts.

In the movie “What The Bleep Do We Know;” by Mark Vicente, we see that there are an infinite amount of possibilities and that we are all connected to living things around us – because we are all energy. It unlocked the vast questions, many of us had about the universe and our place in it. We give and take energy endlessly, all the time.

As adults, we are not easily convinced of things we cannot see, or scientifically prove; this is have been an on going debate since the dawn of time. Yes, children, whose minds are still developing and are highly creative have the opportunity to re shape the very existence of our world for the next generations to come.  Many of the studies now being focused upon, are this effects and impact on the world when children practice harmonious thought, play and meditation.

Could we eradicate violence from the planet, if children are taught to live more peacefully, and to be more compassionate to all?

Could we end suffering and poverty, and living a more connected life if children were taught peaceful means of play, interaction and ways of life?

I would hope and continue to believe that the answer would be yes.


Vedic Science:

What the Bleep Do We Know?

Dubrovnik Project:

Join Yogi Ashokananda & Other World Renowned Speakers In Vancouver

Join Yogi Ashokananda & Other World Renowned Speakers In Vancouver


Join yoga & meditation master, Yogi Ashokananda, and seven other world renowned speakers all under one roof in Vancouver! Organized by The Gift of Life Foundation, BrainSolutions 2013 Conference will be taking place at the end of this month at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This two day event will encompass everything from nutrition and detoxification to breathing, exercise and meditation.

BrainSolutions 2013 Conference

1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3

When: August 24th – 25th, 2013

For tickets and further information,

The Compassion Nerve, The Wandering Nerve, The Vagus Nerve: It’s in our Physiology to Be Good

The Compassion Nerve, The Wandering Nerve, The Vagus Nerve: It’s in our Physiology to Be Good

Why do people do good things? Is kindness hardwired into the brain, or does this tendency arise via experience or perhaps through understanding great adversity? Is it inherited, or genetically encoded in our DNA? How do we, as humans, tap into our greatest compassionate selves?


Compassion research is at a tipping point: Overwhelming evidence suggests compassion is good for our health and good for the world!  Last week I came across an article that showcased one of the leading authors behind the neuroscience of compassion, Dacher Keltner a director of the Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and it got me thinking about the brain’s connection, the neuroscience of what it means to be and do good in the world. The article was called “New Earth Physiology – Activating the Vagus Nerve” by Angela Savitri Petersen.

Keltner investigates these questions from multiple angles and often generates results that are both surprising and challenging. In his recent book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (W. W. Norton, 2009), and he weaves together scientific findings to uncover the neurological knowhow of human emotion’s innate power to connect people with one another. It is his believe that this lays the foundation towards leading a good life. Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism – compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.”

You can see our natural connectivity and compassionate instincts in how our brains react to pain. Nerves connect all parts of the body to and from brain in order to improve immunological, physiological and hormonal functions of the body. Our nervous system is highly intricate and each and every nerve supply important sensory and motor information to the relay stations in the brain (neurons) to perform critical activities. The Vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in the body with a number of functions and as it would seem when activated create results that are all encompassing – better for the world, and our humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.


It’s in the DNA of the Brain

When we feel pain, or even see someone else in pain – we immediately empathize. This is the vagus nerve kicking in. We are hard wired to connect with others, even if in today’s world it might not seem so – we are.

And that’s not the only part of the brain that lights up when we see images of pain or suffering and distress. The amygdala—the brain’s threat detector—activates. This is the internal alarm system of the brain that turns on “fight” or “flight,” which is no surprise because we are also hardwired for survival.

When these two area’s are activated, and in highly compassionate people, there’s another area of the brain that Keltner has found lights up, a very old part of the mammalian nervous system called the periaqueductal gray; which is located way down in the center of the brain. This region is associated with nurturing behavior in mammals. We don’t just see pain or distress or suffering as a threat. We also instinctively want to alleviate that suffering through nurturance; whether that be our own or nurturing of someone else.


What exactly is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord, near the cranium and it is better known in Latin as the “wandering” nerve, because it wanders from the cranium, all the way down the spinal cord, to your lungs to help you breath and control heart rate, and into your spleen and digestive system.  It activates different organs throughout the body. When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s act of kindness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music or visual landscape. This makes the vagus nerve one of the great mind-body links in the human nervous system. Every time you take a deep breath, your heart rate slows down, you can control your body’s function by connecting the mind-to body… via activating your vagus nerve.

In an article dated a couple years back by Scientific America “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts” David DiSalvo (the journalist) had a close encounter with Dacher Keltner, on an interview DiSalvo asked; “One of the structures in our body that seems especially adapted to promote altruism, is the vagus nerve, as your team at U.C. Berkeley has found. Tell us a bit about this research and its implications?

Keltner replies offering kudos to another top rated scientist;  “Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago long ago argued that the vagus nerve is [the nerve of compassion] (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to receptor networks for oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and maternal bonding.”

Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with high-baseline vagus nerve activity are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism: that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.


Stress and the Vagus Nerve:

Your nervous system cannot differentiate between mental or physical stress – it just feels stress. The body’s levels of stress hormones are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  The ANS has two components that work to balance each other; which are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS activates or turns on your nervous system. It helps us handle what we perceive to be emergencies, when there is a threat, and is in charge of the flight-or-fight response.

The PNS aims to turn off the nervous system and helps us to keep the systems relaxed and calm. It promotes relaxation, rest, sleep, and drowsiness by slowing our heart rate, slowing our breathing, constricts the pupils of our eyes, decreases muscular contraction and relaxes tissue. Acetylcholine; which the nervous system uses as a neurotransmitter is responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, which is used by vagus nerve to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. As we get older, our connective tissue starts to become more stiff and our bones more brittle, we stiffen up and your immune system produces more inflammatory molecules, thus our nervous system turns on the stress response, promoting system breakdown and aging.


Vagus and Inflammation

New research has found that acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body and understanding how to consciously refine the benefits found in meditation and therapeutic movement, like yoga and flow state energy work can help activate the vagus nerve – which leaves you not only relaxed, but more joyful and thus compassionate.

A ground breaking piece of research by Kevin Tracey, director of the Feinstein Institute and Professor and President of the Elmezzi graduate school of molecular medicine in Manhasset, New York, has been knee deep in research for, what seems like ions on how the nervous system (the vagus nerve) controls inflammation in the body, now known as ‘The Inflammatory Reflex’. Inflammation is one of the major contributors to aging of the body and plays a key role in illness and disease. Tracey’s studies on inflammation, and the physiological and immunological response to infection and injury has been instrumental and he has worked on the mechanism by which neurons control the immune system; which he relates much success and reverse engineering disease in the body by activating the vagus nerve!

Inflammation isn’t always bad either; the vagus nerve is the brake on inflammation throughout the body. Once the vagus nerve senses that there are enough inflammatory substances (the chemicals of inflammation) following an injury it sends a signal to the immune cells that make those chemicals and tells them to turn off production, without it – we might literally burst Much like applying a break to your car, so the car can stop at the red light.

Studies have shown that there is a great link between inflammation and pain AND compassion. Seems logical enough. Studies have shown that those who show high vagal tone, have less disease, rake high on the healthy scales, and are – you guessed it – compassionate and inflammation free.


Brain Wave Frequency and Clearing the Mind

Another benefit to activating the vagus nerve is the connection with brain wave frequency and brain entrainment. When we calm the mind, the brain can make the transition to delta, theta and even gamma waves; which can be extremely beneficial for those who have sleep deprivation, or sleep disorders, as well as those in high stress occupations. Research has found higher levels of gamma brain waves and thicker brain cortexes (the areas associated with higher brain function) in people who meditate or perform slow energy work.


It shouldn’t seem unnerving that tapping into our vagus nerve increases compassion; and with that being said increases the sustainable benefits towards positive change for our planet and our humanity overall – Ketlner thinks so, and I would agree.



RUN4MOM: Break the Silence. End the Violence 57km Supporting Battered Women’s Support Services & CMHA North Shore

RUN4MOM: Break the Silence. End the Violence 57km Supporting Battered Women’s Support Services & CMHA North Shore


VANCOUVER (July 21, 2013) – On July 28th  starting at 0700hrs,  Sarah Jamieson, a local Vancouverite will embark on a 57km journey – to honor the memory and spirit of her mother’ Nora Lynn Donnelley, who passed at the age 57 in her North Vancouver home on July 31, 2008.

A run to break stigma, break personal barriers and bring awareness and much needed support and end violence against women.  This non-sanctioned event aims to pay tribute to those families who endure and dedicate their lives to surviving stigma, to surviving violence and to those who have the courage to break the silence.

RUN4MOM is a 57km run that honors every year Sarah Jamieson’s mother was alive. It is during this run she pays tribute to her mother’s courage, strength, worthiness and compassion.

RUN4ACAUSE exists to challenge the community to better understand, accept and work towards an inclusive society by empowering ourselves and our community to break the silence. It is on this day we celebrate the courage, strength and beauty of all those who struggle with significant life challenges. We celebrate those who have taken that next step for the betterment and opportunity of their future, and we offer a call to action for those victimized – let us stand together to end violence and stigma.


For over 30 years BWSS has been working to end violence against women and girls. Battered Women’s Support Services provides education, advocacy and support services to assist all battered women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence and to work from a feminist perspective that promotes equality for all women. In 2010 we launched they launched The Violence Stops Here campaign recognizing the role men play in eliminating violence against women.


  • 1 in 4 women will suffer violence at the hands of another at some point in their lives
  • 1 in 3 Canadians will experience or be connected to a mental health problem.
  • 66% of all female victims of sexual assault are under the age of twenty-four, and 11% are under the age of eleven. Women aged 15 to 24 are killed at nearly three times the rate for all female victims of domestic homicide.
  • Immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources
  • On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

Surviving Child Abuse: My Personal Account of

“I was 6 years old the first time, my mother’s second husband hit me.  I had left an empty popsicle wrapper on the table, and forgot to put it in the trash. These memory of how this event shaped is still fuzzy, but what I do remember was my first real and raw understanding of what fear, anxiety and no longer feeling safe feels like. What I do remember is hearing screaming behind me as I ran up the stairs blindly grabbing at the carpet, as he dragged me back down – kicking and screaming.  Being thrown into the spare bedroom, it was dark, a chill in the air. He scrambled on the bed and my own screaming for my mother was deafening. She cried in the corner of the doorway, begging him to stop. Then I felt something hit the side of my head, sending me flying off the bed and into the side wall. I remember tucking myself into the fetal position, my face hot, I was sweaty, shaking, my head pounded and I could taste iron – my own blood. He left, closed the door and told me, lights off and to not come out until I was ready to be “good.” 


I stayed in that room for what seemed like hours, laying on the floor, trying to understand what had just happened. Trying to understand why someone who said they loved me and my mother would cause such pain and fear. At the age of 6 – nothing, none of this makes any sense and it re defines, it re shapes how you see the world and your place in it. From that moment on, I slept with a night light on, I had a backpack ready by my bedroom window, a crayoned route to my biological father’s house and I slept with that widow cracked open in case my cat and I had to escape. No child should ever have an escape route from their own home.

After that day, the abuse, the anger would continue. I would witness him hit my mother, fight with her, knock her down; physically, psychologically and spiritually. Over the years she became less and less the strong, vibrant mother I knew – and more of a woman fighting for her life. He controlled her actions, she lost friends, she rarely went out, she drank, he made her do cocaine with him. He was a sexual predator. For 9 years, I was slapped, spanked, whipped with a belt and even up to the age of 12 I remember being stripped naked and “disciplined.” At the age of 14 when we lost our home to debt, I convinced my mom to leave him. I got 2 jobs in high-school, she got a restraining order and when the divorce was finalized – the healing began. The long road of recovery, begins with a single step.”


I tell this story in detail because stories, like mine, need to be told. They need to be heard and the silence needs to be broken. Abuse is what started the downward spiral of my mother’s mental illness – a two decade long battle with her demons, her manic depression – later turned- bi polar disorder and addiction.

For me – I turned to running as a way to process and understand “what the F*** had happened to me.” In all our trauma, my mother never got angry with me, she was always loving and even at a young age, I knew I was the glue that had to hold it all together. This burden turned out to be my most valued lesson.  In my mother’s passing from accidental suicide; I have learned that in my own silence there can be no full healing. I choose to not only speak for myself, but to pay tribute and honor to my mother’s memory by telling her story of courage.

As an adult, I have had decades of therapy to better understand the long term effects of my childhood abuse and chronic pain has been one of them. I have suffered from back pain for nearly a decade. The reasons why some children experience long-term consequences of abuse while other’s emerge relatively unscathed are still not fully understood. The ability to cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience is what we call “resilience.”

Resilience comes from really owning your sh*t, really accepting the cards that we are dealt and more importantly, accepting that your future, the life you wish to lead, the legacy you wish to leave behind – can only be chosen by “YOU.”  The right to choose is the most important rights we, as a human species can harness.

For years I struggled to understand why some people who survive trauma – be it combat, violence, sexual or physical abuse, neglect or isolation – exhibit tremendous resilience and lead full, loving lives; while others become defined by their trauma. For years, I stood somewhere in between. Someone who couldn’t fully accept her past, but someone who wasn’t about to be defined by it either.

Over the last year, I have been knee deep, head down, rolling around in every leader, TED Talk and podcast I could my hands on that deals with; wholehearted living, defense against the dark arts, vulnerability, cognitive behavioural therapy, superhero movies – you name it, I am researching it.

One of the turning points for me was the talks, and associated books by Brene Brown, specifically, her book called “Daring Greatly,” where she discusses “Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training.” Shame derives power from being unspeakable – from being silent. It’s easy to be silent, because they do not have to risk judgement, ridicule or criticism. To be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen – is a scary place.

Daring greatly requires worthiness and much like those manipulative “gremlins” from the 1984 Steven Speilberg movie; shame is that booming voice that self sabotages our efforts to move forward, it numbs us from feeling. I don’t want to feel hurt anymore, I don’t want to be angry anymore – but at the same those gremlins numb us from feeling love, connection, trust and joy. We cannot NOT feel. It is that voice that says…. “You’re not enough,”  You don’t have a degree,” Your past is less than exceptional,” “Your still single,” and so on and so on and so on.

Roosevelt once said; “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The answer is shame resilience. Resilience is about moving from shame to empathy. When we share our story with someone or a group who responds with empathy and understanding, and we practice self-compassion – shame cannot exist. Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training has four elements:

  1. Recognizing same and understanding it’s triggers.
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness – Give yourself reality checks
  3. Reaching out – Own your sh*t and share your story.
  4. Speaking Shame – talk about how you feel

RUN4MOM is all about putting one foot in front of the other; both metaphorically and physically. This is first year where I am focusing the majority of my acceptance, advocacy and awareness on surviving child abuse and sharing my mother’s story of domestic and family violence. Battered Women’s Support Services has been an expert on providing women-centered, anti-oppression training for more than two decades. They provide several training programs for women and front line workers across BC, as well as programs, services and crisis intervention for women and children who struggles with significant life challenges, to help them end violence.



For over 30 years BWSS has been working to end violence against women and girls. Battered Women’s Support Services provides education, advocacy and support services to assist all battered women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence and to work from a feminist perspective that promotes equality for all women. In 2010 we launched they launched The Violence Stops Here campaign recognizing the role men play in eliminating violence against women.

One of the key programs, I feel needs to be recognized is the Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment program; which  is one of the many ways that Battered Women’s Support Services works to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against girls and women.  Their specialized employment program includes:

Recognizing, Understanding and Overcoming the Impact of Abuse (RUOIA)

Workshops related to personal development and employment related skills

Career Exploration including informational interviews, job search skills, volunteer work experience

Information and referrals to educational and training.

Since 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services has provided education, systemic advocacy and support services for girls and women, who have experienced abuse and/or violence.


Critical and Essential Services:
Battered Women’s Support Services responds to over 8,000 direct service requests, in 2008:

  • Over 5460 women called our Crisis Line
  • Over 1300 women accessed Crisis Support and Accompaniment
  • Over 2304 women accessed Counselling
  • Over 3650 Counselling sessions were provided
  • Over 980 women accessed Support Groups
  • Over 1,200 women who were starting over received clothing and/or household items


  • Percentage of women who self identified as recent immigrants: 42%
  • Percentage of women who self identified as Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, Native, Indian or Métis: 18%
  • Percentage of women who self identified as refugee: 2%

For more information on BWSS:

MSC logo hor


Women are the experts of their experience and their healing journey. BWSS has numerous programs to help women establish better connections and healing along their journey. Everything from crisis line support, to counseling, to legal advocacy, to youth programs, to a social enterprise called “My Sister’s Closet.”

One of the many BWSS meet the needs of women in our community is through social enterprise. This includes a Retail Program and a thrift boutique, My Sister’s Closet.

Social enterprise — also known as business with a social purpose — makes up a third sector that is quickly gaining importance in the overall economy. Social enterprise is way of describing how non-profit organizations have engaged in the trade of goods or services over the past century. Though not really new, the concept has emerged in British Columbia and other parts of Canada as a “new” concept with its own lexicon, leaders, investors, and entire organizations devoted to the exploration and development of social enterprise.

Since the early 1990’s BWSS has offered women the opportunity to be social entrepreneurs; at first through the marketing and skill-based counseling training programs then later through the opening in 2001 of the My Sister’s Closet Thrift Boutique on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. In 2006 they opened their second location of My Sister’s Closet at 1092 Seymour street in Vancouver. Having grown to fully realize what it means to be successful social businesswomen and we work to ensure that our business model:

  • Is consistent with our organizational mission
  • Promotes and mentors women-ist leadership
  • Fosters women-ist teamwork, collaboration and partnership
  • Embraces change, respects what is working, and integrates new learning
  • Reflects our commitment to delivering results in this critical area
  • Views problems as opportunities

My Sister’s Closet:

Join us for RUN4MOM ON July 28th and why not stop by and support BWSS, CMHA and Sarah J on July 26th for our RUN4MOM Pre race event party!


RUN4MOM Pre Race Event @ My Sister’s Closet

Date: Friday July 26th

Time: 7pm – 9pm

Location: 1092 Seymour Street, Vancouver

Come and join Sarah Jamieson for the RUN4MOM pre race party. This is a great opportunity to connect and meet the women and supporters of BWSS and SHOP at My Sister’s Closet. This is a free event, and all refreshments can be purchased by donation.


  1. Join me on RUN4MOM. Walk with me on my run route – from Ambleside to Dundarave @9am on July 28th
  2. Donate to either one of the charities and take a stand against violence and stigma. Donate here:
  3. Share RUN4ACAUSE and help break the silence at


Chronic Pain Series Part 4: Bridging the Gap Between Childhood Abuse & Adult On Set of Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain Series Part 4: Bridging the Gap Between Childhood Abuse & Adult On Set of Chronic Pain

child 1

Living with chronic pain can be a highly frustrating, confusing and stressful experience; which can ultimately to lead to psychological distress, a higher risk of mental health factors and lower quality of life overall. Although bio-medical factors set in motion initial pain diagnoses for treatment, it is clear that psychological factors, our mental state and our past experiences around pain can significantly contribute to the development, exacerbation, and process/ pathway pain takes in our mind and body. Thus it also goes without saying that the maintenance and potential treatment paths must also take into account the biochemical, bio-mechanical and bio psycho-social models as well  to adequately offer clients with chronic pain the availability for recovery from chronic pain.

Over the course of the last several weeks we have looked at chronic pain and the associated links with mental health. Looking at a broad scope of potential risk factors in an attempt to better understand how we diagnose, the metrics we currently use and where we might bridge gaps in our systems, and offer people in pain more availability to resources and community support.

Successful management of chronic pain depends on a multidimensional assessment, taking into account both the objective and subjective metrics of analyses. To increase the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes, it is important to understand, assess, and treat contributing factors to the development of chronic pain disorders, and potential barriers to recovery of function – all to improve their quality of life.

In today’s post we look at the 4th installment of this Chronic Pain Series which looks to briefly link chronic pain in adults and the linkage to childhood abuse and neglect.  While the association between abuse in childhood and adverse adult health outcomes is well established, this link is infrequently acknowledged in the general medical literature.

Child Abuse: It’s in the Stats

  • 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males in Canada experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
  • 80% of all child abusers are the father, foster father, stepfather or another relative or close family friend of the victim.
  • 35% of girls and 16% of boys between grades 7 – 12 had been sexually and/or physically abused
  • Among girls surveyed, 17-year-olds experienced the highest rate of sexual abuse at 20%

The impact of child abuse is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioural and societal consequences. However, in reality it is impossible to separate them completely. The impact of physical consequences can result in trauma or injury to the brain, and psychologically, abuse can result in cognitive delays or emotional difficulties. Our experiences as children shape our belief systems and how we start to understand our place in the world, When violence is a part of this belief system, it alters our growth and development – both from the point of view of the biopyschosocial model, but that of our internal representation in the world.

There are a number of pathways by which early life abuse, neglect and maltreatment could contribute to the development of pain disorders in adulthood. For instance, abusive childhood experiences can often manifest in high risk behaviors and can contribute to the development of negative psychosocial characteristics (depression, anxiety, anger, and social isolation). These in turn can lead to long term physical health problems like; cancer, diabetes, sexually transmitted disease, alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, mental illness – the list is endless.

Battered Women's Support Services Logo

Battered Women’s Support Services Logo

Surviving Child Abuse: My Long Road to Recovery

“I was 6 years old the first time my mother’s second husband hit me.  I had left an empty Popsicle wrapper on the table, and forgot to put it in the trash. The memory of how this event shaped is still a bit fuzzy, but what I do remember was my first real and raw understanding of what fear, anxiety and no longer feeling safe feels like – the only word that comes to mind is the word “shattered”. What I do remember is hearing screaming behind me, anger I had never known and as I ran up the stairs blindly grabbing at the carpet, he dragged my 6 year old body back down the stairs – kicking and screaming, my body flailing.  I remember being thrown into the spare bedroom.  It was dark, there was a chill in the air, I was hot, the salty taste of my tears and my body shaking uncontrollably.

I scrambled on the bed, the screaming was deafening, not sure if it was my screaming, or my mother’s as she knelt in the doorway pleading with him to stop, or it was the rage of my step father that was deafening. All time seemed to slow down and stop.  Then I felt something hit the side of my head, a hit hard enough to send me flying off the bed and into the side wall. I remember tucking myself into the fetal position, my face hot, on fire, sweaty, shaking, my head pounding, my heart beat in my ears – it’s too loud. I could taste iron – was that what blood tastes like? The screaming, it wouldn’t stop. Then he left; and told me, lights off and to not come out until I was ready to be “good,” he left. I was alone, I could hear my mom sobbing. I felt shattered. That day forever changed our lives and it was not the last of it’s kind. I felt alone. I became silent. The child in me was no longer present. I was split in half. 

Needless, to say, I no longer enjoy orange Popsicle’s. 

I stayed in that room for what seemed like hours, laying on the floor, trying to understand what had just happened. Trying to understand why someone who said they loved me and my mother would cause such pain and fear. At the age of 6 – nothing, none of this makes any sense and it re defines, it re shapes how you see the world and your place in it. From that moment on, I slept with a night light on, I had a backpack ready by my bedroom window, a crayoned route to my biological father’s house and I slept with that widow cracked open, even in the winter in case my cat and I had to escape. No child should ever have a mapped out escape route from their own home. 

After that day, the abuse, the anger would continue for 9 long years. I would witness him hit my mother, fight with her, knock her down; physically, psychologically and spiritually. Over the years she became less and less the strong, vibrant mother I knew – and more of a woman fighting for her life, running from her demons. He controlled her actions, she lost friends, she rarely went out, she drank, he made her do cocaine with him, watch porn. I was 12, these are not journal entries a 12 year old child should every write. I should be writing about boy crushes, girl guides or sleep overs with friends, but even though all those things happens, I would write about this f***ed up stuff. Because it is – my life’s diary of endless ramblings. He was a sexual predator. For 9 years, I was slapped, spanked, stripped naked, whipped with a belt. My mother screaming as he “disciplined” me. He would come into the bathroom, when I was showering or bathing. He let his friends hit on me and womanize my mother and I.  At the age of 14 when we lost our home to debt, I convinced my mom to leave him. Him or me. I became the parent. I got 2 jobs in high-school, she got a restraining order and when the divorce was finalized – the healing began. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Where does one find the strength to go on? to move forward? to have faith that yes, life can be better? These were my ramblings from a therapy session as a youth. I was 16.” – Sarah Jamieson

Triumph Over Tragedy:

I tell this story in detail because stories, like mine, need to be told. We cannot sugar coat them. They need to be heard and the silence needs to be broken. Abuse is what started the downward spiral of my mother’s mental illness – a two decade long battle with her demons, her manic depression – later turned- bi polar disorder and addiction. For me – I turned to running as a way to process and understand “what the F*** had happened to me.” In all our trauma, my mother never got angry with me, she was always loving and even at a young age, I knew I was the glue that had to hold it all together. This burden turned out to be my most valued lesson.  In my mother’s passing from accidental suicide; I have learned that in my own silence there can be no full healing. I choose to not only speak for myself, but to pay tribute and honor to my mother’s memory by telling her story of courage.

As an adult, I have had decades of therapy to better understand the long term effects of my childhood abuse and chronic pain has been one of them. I have suffered from back pain for nearly a decade. Most of my therapy has been a combination of therapeutic movement found in Yin Yoga, Fascial Stretch Therapy, SomaYoga, Osteopathy, IMS and my appreciation of both running and flow state martial arts and strength training. The real healing comes from the self discipline of re defining and re connecting with loving yourself, trusting yourself and the process and as Brene Brown called it “Gremlin – Ninja-Warrior-Training” to “Dare Greatly.” 

The reasons why some children experience long-term consequences of abuse while other’s emerge relatively unscathed are still not fully understood. The ability to cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience is what we call “resilience.” I feel fortunate that I had a number of protective and promotive factors that contributed to my ability to hold my sh*t together. My resilience – I can only say is part of my DNA. My father has always been instrumental in my life and my mother even at her worst, loved me unconditionally. My psychological body (for the most part) seems to be intact, but my physical body has always had pain (understanding that in essence these two are not separate at all). It is a continued journey I walk every day, there are good days and bad days, there are still nightmares, but also memories of love. It is a life long journey of understanding and acceptance and I find solitude in service to others.”

Study by Arizona State University: 

Evidence suggests that childhood abuse may be related to the experience of chronic pain in adulthood. In a study performed by Arizona State University, the group used meta-analytic procedures to evaluate the strength of existing evidence to showcase the association between self-reports of childhood abuse and chronic pain in adulthood. Analyses were designed to test the relationship across several relevant criteria with four separate meta-analyses.

Results of the analyses are as follows:

(1) Individuals who reported being abused or neglected in childhood also reported more pain symptoms and related conditions than those not abused or neglected in childhood. When a child has broken bones, fractures, are shaken (as in shaken baby syndrome) it changes the physiological nature of growth and development. Scar tissue can build up, resulting in altered biomechanics later in life etc.

(2) Patients with chronic pain were more likely to report having been abused or neglected in childhood than healthy controls. A variety of somatic symptoms are consistently found to be higher in adults with a history of physical or sexual abuse compared with those without an abuse history.

(3) Patients with chronic pain were more likely to report having been abused or neglected in childhood than non-patients with chronic pain identified from the community.

(4) Individuals from the community reporting pain were more likely to report having been abused or neglected than individuals from the community not reporting pain. Results provide evidence that individuals who report abusive or neglectful childhood experiences are at increased risk of experiencing chronic pain in adulthood relative to individuals not reporting abuse or neglect in childhood. (1)

Adult Onset of Chronic Pain Shows Links to Childhood Abuse:

How specific types of abuse alone or in conjunction with other variables may lead to any of these conditions is unknown, although measurable abnormalities in major physiological regulatory systems (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and autonomic nervous system) have been found in some adults with a history of abuse.

Fight or flight; are our natural survival mechanics of the human species. Childhood abuse can showcase severe deficiencies in the ability to effectively self-regulate emotion resulting in inappropriate perceptions of threat and exaggerated fight-or-flight responses and this alarm can stay on from childhood to adulthood. Much like the alarm of chronic pain – the nervous system and pain receptors just won’t shut off.  Many studies have reported de-regulated neuroendocrine responses in abused children and adults with a history of childhood abuse. When these self-governing pathways are disrupted they can promote pathophysiology in the body; which increases the vulnerability to the development of a chronic pain disorder and potentially interfering with recovery, and/or prolonging the process.

Childhood abuse survivors reported more adult traumas, and demonstrated greater neuroendocrine stress reactivity, suggesting physiological sensitization to stress and higher risk of stress-related illnesses.

In a publication called “The Long-Term Health Outcomes of Childhood Abuse;” at “The National Center for Biotechnology Information” states childhood abuse has been associated with a plethora of psychological and somatic symptoms, as well as psychiatric and medical diagnoses including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain syndromes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and irritable bowel. Compared with non-abused adults, those who experienced childhood abuse are more likely to engage in high-risk health behaviors including smoking, alcohol and drug use,and unsafe sex; to report an overall lower health status; and to use more health services. Viewing these various health conditions and behaviors as the outcome and abuse in childhood as the exposure, many of the criteria for a causal relationship are met.

This publication found that in at least 3 meta-analyses on the effects of childhood sexual abuse find clear and convincing evidence of a link between such abuse and a host of adult psychological symptoms. Retrospective studies also show that childhood abuse has consistent effects on first onset of early adult psychopathology. For example, performing structured interviews in a random community sample of 391 women, Saunders et al. found that 46% of those with a history of childhood sexual abuse, compared with 28% of those with no abuse, had experienced a major depressive episode. Women with such abuse also had significantly greater lifetime prevalence’s of agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, sexual disorders, PTSD, and suicide attempts than women without such abuse. MacMillan et al., in a community survey of 7016 men and women, examined lifetime psychopathology risk in adults who experienced either sexual or physical abuse as children and found anxiety disorders and depressive disorders to be significantly higher in both men and women with a history of either physical or sexual abuse.  (3)

child 3

Our Healthcare System: Bridging the Gaps

The need for more visible research that will reach physicians who provide the bulk of front line health care is underscored by failure to give even passing mention to the well-documented link between adult depression and childhood abuse in a recent review on depression in the New England Journal of Medicine. (3)

In Canada, 18% of women over the age of 12 experience chronic pain, as compared with 14% of men.34 Chronic pain is one of many serious long-term health consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV). British Columbia plays a significant role in research and development outlining the current scope of these linkages from chronic pain, trauma and abuse (both childhood abuse and partner/ family violence).  A publication in the Journal of Pain, Vol 9, November 2008 in an article called “Chronic Pain in Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence “ found that according to the national prevalence survey of women’s experiences of specific acts of physical and sexual violence by a male partner,  30% of Canadian women are affected in their lifetime. These stats have not changed much in the last 5 years. Domestic violence and abuse still affects 1 in 4 women in North America and according to police statistics more than 60% of daily calls are domestic abuse related.

Chronic pain can affect people of all ages. In Canada, one in five people suffer daily from chronic pain. It is a ‘silent epidemic’. As a member of the board at Pain BC, a local non-profit organization based in Vancouver BC, our role in the community is to help bridge these gaps and to empower both patients and our health care providers and healthcare system to make chronic pain a higher priority on our national agenda. We do this through fostering an inclusive community and educating on the multi tiered scope of chronic pain. We have a shared passion for reducing the burden of pain and for making positive change in the health care system in British Columbia. If you’d like to be part of reducing the burden of pain in BC, get involved.

Learn More: Some of my Top Support Links

More information on how to recognize abuse and to report suspected abuse, and a range of child-welfare and child-protection resources can be found at:

Battered Women’s Support Services:

Kids Help Phone:



(1)    Are Reports of Childhood Abuse Related to the Experience of Chronic Pain in Adulthood? A Meta-analytic Review of the Literature  by Debra A. Davis MA, Linda J. Luecken Ph D*, and Alex J. Zautra Ph D at Arizona State University –

(2)    Preventing Childs Abuse is Everyone’s Responsibility:  BC Newsroom, April 5, 2013: Sheldon Johnson, Ministry of Children and Family Development

(3)    “The Long-Term Health Outcomes of Child Abuse;” by The National Center for Biotechnology Information:

(4)    “Chronic Pain in Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence;” The Journal of Pain, Vol 9, No 11 (November), 2008: pp 1049-1057

(5)    Canadian Children’s Rights Council –

(6)    Pain BC –

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