If you listen to any strength coach or athletic coach they will tell you that life (in athletics and off the field or track) is 80% mental and 20% physical. Our body and mind constantly offer us signs, signals and bio feedback loops; question is; are we listening? Even in language we see the paradox between non-verbal vs. verbal communication, 60% of all communication is derived from body language, another 30% in the tone and only 10% of the actual linguistic representation. You will gain much about the person’s state, interest, disinterest, likes, dislikes and what they place meaning on by learning how to read a person’s body language and most of what a trained NLP or coach will see is the sub conscious at work.

Our physical body’s work the same way; our physical body in sport and in the world, at work, at home, with your partner, your kids – our body and brain is constantly telling us something, and it does this in bio feedback loops. Energy is a cycle.

The Mental State, Is A State of Mind:

The interest in peak performance has in recent years, well maybe not so recent, as science and the evolutionary growth of the human species will show – that peak performance isn’t just for the athletic fields or arena, but the workplace as well. Peak-Performance techniques , once used only in high level Olympics, secret ops (as in recon operations, military and space programs); have become increasingly explored in tv shows, articles, movies, life coaching and even in schools. We all need a consistent edge and in today’s busy world, this isn’t always healthy.

What does this have to do with Chronic Pain? Most pain wasn’t so chronic. Pain becomes chronic after long periods of body compensation and when we choose not to listen to “that aching back,” or “those tight traps,” till one day you herniate a disc or go into adrenal fatigue.  It all doesn’t just happen over –night, we just excel at creating coping strategies that do not serve the betterment of our health.  This article is about how to re-gain the competitive edge, with ease and grace, without the need to suffer to succeed, how you can choose to let go and start listening to your body, as well as start re-directing it out of pain and into a space that you feel confident to perform and live the life you envision.

Chronic Pain is Physical, Mental and Emotional:

If we back track to ancient Greece, you will see the birth place of “mental training.” The importance of an athlete’s mental state was recognized more than 2,000 years ago at the cradle of the Olympics.  Nowadays, we understand the paramount role of the mental state in any successful position (whether it be winning a race medal, or just being able to walk without searing pain).  The mental strategies used in Olympic level sports, military programs and space programs are the same as those found at the foundation of sports psychology, life coaching and NLP. We just approach it a little differently and with a linguistic representation the non-athlete or corporate person can relate to.

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he talks about the art of finding your purpose; that “greatness is not a function of circumstance, greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline. He proves this by asking us to draw three circles (in a triangular format, so that they all cross each-other in the middle). The top circle you write “what am I most passionate about,?” the second circle you write “what am I best at the world at,?” and the third you write,” what’s my economic engine.?” Your purpose is where they all meet in the middle.  There was once a time when we said a “Jack or Jill or all trades,” was a good thing, but science will show the most productive people choose what they are best at and excel at it. If you choose something that you are not passionate about, or where you just settle –you will be unhappy. It’s an easy equation. And guess what that leads to – low energy, fatigue, and pain.

In the book “Red Gold: Peak Performance Technique of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors,” by Grigori Raiport, M.D, P.H.D (Motivational Psychologist for the USSR Team Olympics), he writes, “It’s believed that a Jack of all trades cannot be molded into a master in any single discipline. Instead, the educators look for unexpected brilliance that could be the mark of talent in a specific area. They are then molded into mastery.  Your external environment, is just as important as your internal because both directly relate to the viability of your health and happiness long term.  In order to determine the outer limits of human potential, the primary task is to first define the human being; which we concentrate on three essential area of human nature; physical, mental and emotional. If one is out of balance, the other two will also be unbalance.

The human body has a built in program to find balance, to restore the body and mind to a healthy state, but life sometimes gets in the way. We work too much, we sleep too little, we pop pills rather than take the time to self discover how to heal ourselves – the list is endless, and this is what I believe leads to chronic pain.

Explore the State of Natural Inspiration:

What moves you ? What excites you? What inspires you to get up every day?

If you can’t answer these questions, then it’s time for a reality check and you have some serious work ahead of you. Congrats, because you have a great opportunity here to take charge of your life, your purpose and above all else, your health.  Pain never exists without a cause. It is always a symptom of some physical or mental disorder. There is always a stress producing factor when there is pain, and your body does not recognize the difference between physical or mental – it just feels pain. This displeasure serves as a motivational force; that motivational force is your body and mind is telling you something needs to change. Thus, pain can actually provide you with the catalyst to initiate change; and it can be a progressive force.

The East Vs. West:

“There is a distinct difference between the east and west; a certain glorious progress of the human species. The very complexity of our nervous system is the result of the evolutionary process stimulated by a general motive – optimal avoidance of displeasure. “

In the east, many leaders of enlightenment attribute their ability to find the source of happiness, by letting go of all suffering and coming to terms with detachment. Many geniuses, east and west credit their sufferings with having elevated themselves through overcoming obstacles. Obstacles and challenges are necessary so that we can choose what we do not want in life, and show us that we have the freedom and will to choose.

In the West most people are reared with the idea that pain is something to be avoided at all cost. Aversion to pain has been imbued in our historical lineage since childhood. We learn through experience. Quantitative reality shows us that pain is merely a springboard for transformation and development. Pain is not abnormal, it is a way of life. You cannot know pleasure, if you do not know pain. It is the duality of our existence.

The Quest for Excellence:

The first objective to riding the body of chronic pain is to explore that special state of inspiration in which a particular when you surmounted great obstacles, when you felt at peace in mind, body and soul and whatever that memory is, when we remember it – our brain immediately re live it and release serotonin, and happy chemicals into our systems. The goal is then to teach you how to re-create this state of free will and apply it when you need to take a step back and restore, recharge, re-wire.  The next step is to identify and accept what is holding back or standing in your way. As the old saying goes, it’s usually our own self that prevents us from both facing the fear and moving past it. The idea is to get to know who you are, what abilities you possess to move on and where you want to go. Once you have a goal and a timeline, then you have the freedom to do the work and the permission of the self to start building a future rather than re-creating the past.

Learning this tool, and let my first say it sounds easy, but takes time, guidance and practice…and patience, but overcoming my own chronic pain led me to understand the there is a vast, untapped reserve of strength available to all of us and that we are each capable of far greater achievements than we habitually produce, that somehow our mental powers, either propel us forward or self-sabotage our efforts and hold us back. If we can learn to move past this fear, and the fear of pain, on the other side you are able to tap into what we call “optimal functioning,” when one feels invincible and full of personal power.

Fear of Change:

“Be the change, you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi

Most of us have a fear of change, because we may lose something.  We fear change because we may not attain the goal. Thus, we are resistant to it. I have many clients that say to me; “but what if I am in more pain, what if I don’t get better,” and my response is always the same, “you have to ask yourself, the worst case scenario is that you won’t change, your pain won’t go away, and what would that mean? Does that mean you just stop trying? Would it not be better to try then to stay the same?” Besides, if you need scientific data there are hundreds of reports and publications that will state; “the worst thing for chronic pain, is to do nothing.” Humans are designed to move, and we designed to flourish.  Once the client can realize one’s perceived state; pain free and their own personal ability to use the power of their mind, as a coach we then start to show them the physical tools so that they can learn to summon forth at will and make that mental shift.

The brain responds by integrating the nervous system and we start to burn off those mental warts (laziness, procrastination, insecurity); which are very real and painful, but you cannot “protect” these flaws like a sort of “diplomatic immunity.” Your pain, does not define you, unless you let it. For instance; think of it this way, if you were stuck in a pitch, black room for years (think of this as your pain), and suddenly someone starts to guide you towards the a switch , and you fumbled around a bit, maybe even stumbled around and then you find that switch and you turn it on.  The light in the room would be at first blinding and glaring and even though you suffer small sharp pains you can feel confident that the light is now turned on, and you do not have to live in the dark anymore, unless you choose to switch it off. These fears have a single cause, the inherent conundrum of our atomic age, the same human nervous system that paradoxically contains all those infinite possibilities we are trying to bring forth.

You Always Have  a Choice:

The key towards unlocking the power of living pain free is to first make the choice to not be defined by it, to not let pain define even one day. Even if this is a mental objective to start, it will give birth to the physical manifestation of better health. There is a ripple effect in self-control and affirmations. When a person learns self-control in one area of life, it will automatically change how he or she relates to all his or her areas of life and feel compelled to exert that mental fortitude further. If you exercise your mind and your body diligently, you will develop the strength to move past your pain, but if you let it slide, it will overtake you.” Exercise in any form and focused intention on breath are the two fundamentals towards starting this journey. Both work to activate the neo and pre frontal cortex of the brain to secrete serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine levels etc – which in turn restore and relax the body’s systems. Spend 30mins minimum per day every day for 3 weeks and you will no doubt start to feel a shift towards living a pain free, happy and healthier lifestyle. By choosing to let go of pain, removing the barriers and conscious patterns we build up ourselves and by taking charge of your life – this is the first step towards living a life free of pain and optimal well-being.

Next week we will take this one step further and discuss movement and pain. How to safely exercise, and the secret behind movement coaching and corrective movement for clients with chronic pain.



“Red Gold: Peak Performance Technique of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors,” by Grigori Raiport, M.D, P.H.D ( Motivational Psychologist for the USSR Team Olympics).

Good to Great by Jim Collins –

Just Yoga Studio Review

Just Yoga Studio Review

Vancouver Yoga Review was recently invited to experience Just Yoga, a local yoga studio in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Since opening earlier this year, they’ve attracted many loyal yogis and yoginis with their down-to-earth approach to yoga and wellness. Just Yoga provides mindful, authentic and accessible yoga classes in Vancouver – it’s yoga with heart and soul!

The following is our team member Kat Wong’s lovely experience at Just Yoga:

It was pouring rain and as the day dimmed before supper, I was really in need of some comfort.  I stopped into Just Yoga studio on Broadway and Quebec St.  The owner, Jeni, who was very pleasant and friendly, greeted me as soon as I stepped inside.  It was warm and cozy and carried an ancient aroma.  She showed me around her studio and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bali.  The studio floor is absolutely gorgeous and I was very surprised about how spacious it was.  It’s evident that a lot of love and care went into create a beautiful and peaceful space.  I was led through a very relaxing Yin class, led by Beverly and was reminded that all bodies are unique and that I should listen to my own.  Just Yoga is a wonderful space to practice yoga.  They make it very accommodating for all levels and welcome everyone to practice.  I had a lovely experience and would definitely practice there again.  It really was like a small vacation for me.

For further information about the wonderful Just Yoga studio, including class times, visit their website, connect with them on Twitter @JustYogaVan and Facebook.

Just Yoga
53 East Broadway (@ Quebec Street)
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604 709 9642 (YOGA)



There has been a growing concern amongst the health and wellness community, and this concern is chronic pain. More and more clinicians and trainers are having clients come to them with pain they are struggling to diagnose. So, what is chronic pain, and why is it on the rise?

First of all what is pain?

Pain is an defined as an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. Therefore, we know that pain is a signal that tells us there is damage or something is wrong. However, with some pain conditions, the systems (including the brain) are altered. The pain sensory feedback cycle gets turned on repetitively and does not turn off, this is when we go from normal “pain,” to “chronic pain.” While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain occurs, when there is pain that persists over an extended period of time; where the nervous system signals continue to fire.  This altered sate is often referred to as Neuroplasticity (also called brain plasticity, cortical plasticity or cortical re-mapping).

What makes pain “chronic?”

Chronic pain may be divided into “nociceptive” (caused by activation ofnociceptors), and “neuropathic” (caused by damage to or malfunction of the nervous system).

  • Nociceptive pain may be divided into “superficial” and “deep”, and deep pain into “deep somatic” and “visceral”. Superficial pain is initiated by activation of nociceptors in the skin or superficial tissues. Deep somatic pain is initiated by stimulation of nociceptors in ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels, fascia and muscles, and is dull, aching, poorly-localized pain.
  • Visceral pain originates in the viscera (organs). Visceral pain may be well-localized, but often it is extremely difficult to locate, and several visceral regions produce “referred” pain when damaged or inflamed, where the sensation is located in an area distant from the site of pathology or injury.
  • Neuropathic pain is divided into “peripheral” (originating in the peripheral nervous system) and “central” (originating in the brain or spinal cord). Peripheral neuropathic pain is often described as “burning,” “tingling,” “electrical,” “stabbing,” or “pins and needles.

Does this sound repetitive? There’s that word again – Neuroplasticity. In the case of chronic pain, the somatotoic representation of the body is inappropriately reorganized following peripheral and central sensitization, and thus causes the signal to remain active. In order to understand the finite complexities, we need to have a good understanding of what “neuroplasticity” is.

What the Stats Tell Us:

Back pain, migraines, un diagnosed digestive issues and other chronic pain affect at 1 in 10 Canadians between the ages of 12 – 44. In 2010, CBC News Health provided a report featuring a case study involving 57,660 respondents, representing 14.6 million Canadians in the younger age range, and about 1 in 10, an estimated 1.5 million answered “no” if they were usually free of pain or discomfort. Among those aged 12-44, chronic pain was associated with back pain. Part of this is due to our lifestyle. We spend more time sitting, at the computer or technological devices, spend more time in cars, constantly seated in school, more and more North Americans are over-weight and over-worked. And when pain occurs, are natural response is to do less, and by this I mean, exercise less, move less and this all contributes to the onset of what is known as chronic pain.

The next question is; what causes it and why? This is the conundrum of our age, it’s extremely hard to treat and prevent something if you cannot diagnose, right? Many people who have chronic pain undergo test after test and the result is NO structural damage, no medical reason? Because, pain can’t be seen, like bleeding, or something structural found on an x-ray; medical professionals are taught to diagnose based on “the level of pain (intensity) must correlate to a specific medical finding.” When it does not, the client’s request and complaint can be easily dismissed because pain is – subjective. Two people with same injury for instance, can subjectively experience that pain in different degrees of pain; which can be based on genetic factors, pain tolerance, stress levels etc. Care must be tailored to each client, but I am getting ahead of myself (hint – teaser for the end of this article on the stigma of chronic pain).   Let’s circle back to one of the bulleted points of chronic pain – neuroplasticity.


We looked at this in a previous article “Neuroplasticity: The Power of the Mind.”  Let’s break it down; the word (from neural – pertaining to the nerves and/or brain and plastic – moldable or changeable in structure) refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury. Let us also remember that the brain; in how it determines pain, does not recognize “mental” pain, from “physical” pain – it just “feels” pain. Therefore, if test, after test, after test comes back “negative” for structural damage, then as the old saying goes… “It’s all in your head.” This is actually partly true, because the brain and nervous system are stuck in “pain,” and that pain is very real to the brain – thus to you.  Part of our journey towards optimal health and wellness and personal human potential is mastering, the mental, emotional and physical self. With every behavioural modification (physical and mental) there is a psychosomatic component; especially, when it comes to chronic pain, and this realm should be taken into account when screening or identifying indicators of chronic pain in a client.

And there is no wonder why so many people in the West are experiencing this phenomenon. In the Western world, we have created an external (and internal) environment of busy, busy, busy, go, go, go, start early-stay late, cram, cram cram, beta, beta, beta (brainwaves)….you get the picture. Brain activity in individuals suffering from chronic pain, measured via  (EEG), has been demonstrated to be altered, suggesting pain-induced neuroplastic changes. More specifically, the relativebeta activity (compared to the rest of the brain) is increased, the relative alpha activity is decreased, and the theta activity both absolutely and relatively is diminished.

Not only are we not getting enough rest (sleep and/or recovery), we usually sacrifice nutrition and exercise to meet a deadline. This all leads to increased stress (ding, ding, ding – auto stress response – beast mode on), increased cortisol levels, increased tension in the fascia and musculoskeletal lines, shallow breathing, decreased circulation and blood flow, decreased mental acuity, anxiety, increased rate of depression, feeling of hopelessness – the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder; our bodies cry out in….pain.  In the experience of pain, communication between body and brain goes both ways. Normally, the brain diverts signals of physical discomfort so that we can concentrate on the external world. When this shutoff mechanism is impaired, physical sensations, including pain, are more likely to become the center of attention.

The Stigma of Chronic Pain:

The human body is a marvelous adaptive organism. Our brains are designed to learn from our environment and adapt. Pain is very different for every person, and it is usually mis understood and undertreated, because our medical system is poorly prepared to treat it.  The stigma stems from mis communication and lack of understanding. Most often those who have chronic pain are prescribed medication to treat it.

In a study done in 2011 by CTV News called “Adults With Chronic Pain Face Stigma: Study,” CTV quoted Dr. Doris K. Cope, pain chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center stating; “The population’s getting older and less fit, and more survivors of diseases like cancer live for many years with side-effects from treatments that saved them. Too many patients think a pill’s the answer, she said, when there are multiple different ways to address pain including physical therapy, stress reduction, weight loss and teaching coping skills. Patients who take control of their pain fare better, but too many have unrealistic expectations. Pain is not simple.”

Pain is primitive, but it is also complex and as we have just outlined, it’s highly subjective.

It’s All in The Head: The Psychosomatic Element

In my experience, many of the clients I see for corrective movement and/or somatic healing deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. The anticipation of pain brings about fear of movement, and movement brings about the fear-memory of pain. You see the cycle?

Learning how to trust movement, identify barriers (physical, mental and emotional) is the first step towards removing stressors that contribute to the building blocks of the pain cycle. If a client comes in with high anxiety and pain, these two usually go hand in hand, starting with breathing in a supine (position 1 in FMS) will most likely reduce the level of pain. Why? Because deep breathing triggers the brain to secrete hormones that relax tissue, it also slows heart rate and induced more delta and theta brain wave frequencies. The very brain waves associated with deep relaxation, sleep and recovery. For review take a quick peek at my last article; “meditation for the mind: theta brain waves & your fascia,” and “Ride your brain wave: neuro-synchronicity and your human potential.”

The psychosomatic (mind-body) element; takes into account that the physical pain is almost always notably influenced by the client’s mental and emotional factors; which directly relates to the continued cycle. We will look at this in more depth next week. As coaches, having a background is psychology, NLP or life coaching comes in handy for cases involving both chronic pain and athletes. We all have barriers, fears, past limiting beliefs structured around painful memories. The goal is understanding the intention, the thought and response process and more importantly, how to guide a client towards dis-associating from the pain and re-connecting (re-patterning) with pain free movement AND thinking.

If the psychosomatic element is outside your scope of practice, ensure you refer to a professional. It will make your job a lot easier.

Stay tuned for next week!

Part 2: It’s All In Your Head, will feature the mental and emotional aspects of chronic pain and how you can uncover the power of language behind behavioral change.

Part 3: Movement is the Key, will feature safe and effective movement based, corrective exercises/ drills for chronic pain and how to properly coach a client who has been cleared by a physiotherapist for movement, but still has “pain.”

Don’t forget to follow our facebook page (Fit to Train), here you will find weekly tips, vlogs and resources on all things movement based.


CTV News Study 2011:

Harvard Health Publications:



Movember by Donation Classes in White Rock

Movember by Donation Classes in White Rock

Jeff, Live Yoga, White Rock

By donation Hatha Yoga classes this weekend in support of Movember Canada. All proceeds to this very good cause.  Classes taking place at Live Yoga in White Rock-

Help Jeff raise funds for a worthy cause. He’s growing his ‘stache in support of Movember Canada and raising money for prostate cancer research, a cause dear to his heart.

Bring your Mo brothers and Mo sisters for a by donation MO YOGA MOVEMBER Hatha class.

Two Mo-mentous classes to choose from — come for one or both and bring your friends!

Saturday, Movember 24
Sunday, Movember 25

4:30-5:45pm both classes

By Cash Donation – pay what you can, or what you want (suggested donation $10).

All proceeds go to Movember Canada’s fundraiser for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer research.

Live Yoga
15186 Buena Vista Avenue
White Rock, BC
V4B 1Y3

MEDITATION FOR THE MIND & BODY: Theta Brain Waves & Your Fasica

MEDITATION FOR THE MIND & BODY: Theta Brain Waves & Your Fasica

Many of the questions I am asked from clients and interested parties in what is “corrective movement,” what is “fascial based YogaFORM? and “what is the right “state” of mind that will make a difference to how my body relaxaes?”

Our body is like a computer monitor, the mouse, the keyboard, the software that you visually see, it’s  the visual representation of what the CPU or harddrive uses to interact with the world and with you the user. Therefore, the CPU or harddrive is like your brain, and this harddrive holds thousands of programs so that you run efficently. Like a computer, your brain has certain frequencies where it runs specific programs like everyday tasks that are goal oriented (beta waves), times when you need to conetemplate and rejuvinate the body with exercise (theta waves), times when your body needs deep relexation and sleep (delta waves), times when you are completely asleep and your brain is processess and filing your day (alpha waves) and at last, times of deep introspection, and enlightenment (gamma waves). We looked at all of these states in our last post “Ride Your (Brain) Wave: Neuro-Synchronicity and Your Human Potential. Therefore, does it not make sense to utilize the most out of your day, your task, your well-being and “tune it in” to the right frequency. The answer is YES!

“The person who is most flexible will always have the power to change. Flexibility of the mind determines flexibility of the body and will”

Our bodies undergo daily changes, challenging events, and sometimes trauma, throughout our lifetimes, forcing it to continually adapt to new stresses, new environments and new patterns of thought. These challenges and circumstances constantly challenge our mental and physical well-being on a daily basis, and as a result, our bodies compensate, re align and shift, but not always for the better. Somtimes our bodies shift our of necessity and become un-balanced.  Our fascia system plays a significant role in how our body shifts, because it is interconnected to every muscle, bone and organ in our body.

Our Fascia System – 3 Layers

Let’s review our fasica system for a moment. We have 3 distinct layers that permeates and connects all our systems. Our visceral fascia envelopes our organs and is what holds them in place. Our superficial fascia acts as our initial layer where our skin is the terminus. It covers our muscles and transverses our adipose tissue. It’s softer and more malleable than our third layer, our deep fascia. Our deep fascia is thick and is the connective tissue that acts with our muscles, deep layers that attach to the muscles and bone. For example our thoraco-lumbar fascia.

The next question is how can meditation and accessing the right brain wave frequency offer us a chance to balance our body and reduce stress. For clients who have chronic pain and find it hard to move, or clients whose fascia and nervous systems are functioning at high sensory; this can be challenging, but it is achievable.

Theta Brain Waves – Meditation and Relaxation

Given the popularity and effectiveness of meditation as a means of alleviating stress and maintaining good health, there is a pressing need for a rigorous investigation of how it affects brain function.  Whether we are mentally active, resting or asleep, the brain always has some level of electrical activity. During meditation, theta waves were most abundant in the frontal and middle parts of the brain.

These types of waves likely originate from a relaxed attention that monitors our inner experiences. Here lies a significant difference between meditation and relaxing without any specific technique. Previous studies have shown that theta waves indicate deep relaxation and occur more frequently in highly experienced meditation practitioners. The source is probably frontal parts of the brain, which are associated with monitoring of other mental processes.

When we measure mental calm, these regions signal to lower parts of the brain, inducing the physical relaxation response that occurs during meditation.  Alpha waves were more abundant in the posterior parts of the brain during meditation than during simple relaxation. They are characteristic of wakeful rest.

During meditation or deep relaxation the mind can wander, this is very normal and a part of our mental process. Spontaneous wandering of the mind is something you become more aware of, and familiar with when you meditate consistently. This default activity of the brain is often underestimated, as it represents a kind of mental processing that connects various experiences and emotional residues, puts them into perspective and lays them to rest if needed.

During theta frequency it’s important to stay “alert,” but as the observer, keeping your mind slightly active, but non directly. Nondirective meditation yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique

Theta Brain Waves Meet Somatic Fascia Healing

One of the barriers of progression can be found in the cells memory banks and the limiting beliefs in our subconscious mind that prevent us from moving forward. A simple and effect method  that allows time and space for the mind and body to meet in middle ground, is to include theta brain wave beat frequency into your practice.  This influences the cellular structure at both the conscious and subconscious levels. The mind can filter and process without distraction. This lowered frequency allows sets the tonal vibration within the body, at the cellular level, to release.

The relaxation response corresponds to a physical portion of the brain (located in the hypothalamus) which—when triggered—sends out neurochemicals that almost precisely counteract the hyper-vigilant response of the fight or flight response. When we take time to meditate, practice controlled, slow movements, we can start to elicit the relaxation response more efficiently and we can predictably measure its benefits on the body. These include: a decrease in blood pressure, diminished respiratory rate, lower pulse rate, diminished oxygen consumption, increase in theta, delta and alpha brain waves (associated with relaxation), and in many cases, an improved sense of mental and spiritual well-being.

The relaxation response is a physiologic response, and as such, there are many ways to elicit it, just as there are many ways to increase our pulse rate (another physiologic response). The key to deriving the benefits of the relaxation response is to practice it daily.

Vancouver Yoga Teacher Profile: Kat Wong

Vancouver Yoga Teacher Profile: Kat Wong

Kat Wong has been instructing Flow, Hot & Core Yoga classes since 2008. Her students love her energy, her voice, and the experience she gives them. She keeps her students challenged with new ideas, engaging them with music, props & visualizations. They explore movements of strength while keeping the mind calm and centered. Students leave her class refreshed and ready to embrace life’s challenges.

With a strong passion in health and fitness, she found yoga as the perfect adjunct to balance her busy lifestyle.  Kat found she could connect with her inner self by coming to her place of solitude, her mat.  She has learned to understand the power of the breath as a tool to calm the mind and relax the body.  As a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, she feels that an individual’s health is vital to enjoy life to the fullest.

Man sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die,
and then dies having never really lived”
~ Dalai Lama

She hopes that her students’ journey in health and fitness will not just be for self-improvement and discovery, but will also offer them a tool for self-creation.

Email Kat Wong at and catch a class with her at:

Book Review: Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

Book Review: Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

When many of us think about the state of the environment it can feel like such an overwhelming task to create change. The book Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone is an invitation to explore how we can remain positive, replenished and active in the work to sustain the environment.

Any change process requires us to look at ourselves first and how the culture we live in perpetuates consumerism, individualistic attitudes, and creates messages that negate what is truly happening to the environment. What is called  “the business as usual strategy” that prevents positive change from happening. De-constructing this business as usual strategy is not about feeling guilty about how or what we consume rather it provides an opportunity to bring awareness to capitalism, mass consumerism and the ecological impacts in a critical and compassionate way. This awareness raising provides pathways for individual, community and global change.

As an eco-philosopher and scholar Buddhism, Joanna Macy weaves in Buddhist philosophy and eco-spirituality through the book. It is easy to forget just how integral the earth is to our survival, plants, animals and the whole eco-system. Active Hope reminds us this earth we live in something to hold with great reverence and gratitude for. We can become “active participants in bringing about what we hope for” – Active Hope provides practical tools to help us to remain energized, re-connected and inspired so that this planet earth is sustainable for future generations.

 About JoannaMacy and Chris Johnstone

Ecophilosopher Joanna Macy, PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a groundbreaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

Chris Johnstone is a medical doctor, author, and coach who worked for nearly twenty years as an addictions specialist in the UK National Health Service. Chris has been a trainer in the Work That Reconnects for more than two decades, working with Joanna on many occasions and running facilitator trainings in the United Kingdom.

About the Author: Angela Kayira teaches Yoga at Heart Centre Yoga in Burnaby. Her teaching is informed by her work as a social worker. Angela is a registered Yoga Teacher (E-500 RYT), the co-director of In Life School of Yoga and co-hosts the In Life School of Yoga Book Club.


Ride Your (Brain) Wave: Neuro-Synchronicity and Your Human Potential

Ride Your (Brain) Wave: Neuro-Synchronicity and Your Human Potential

In today’s modern society, we can easily forget that we are the controllers of our reality and how we build our model of the world. Moreover, that “our reality” is not made up of  outside influences, but that it actually consists of our thoughts, beliefs and mindset. Those outside influencers are an experience, but it is how we “choose” to process them that forms our reality. Everything on our little planet (and beyond) are all energy; which means, tapping into energy can allow us to experience a deeper…well… experience.  Understanding brainwaves is the first key to unlocking our subconscious. It’s time to dig deep.

Most people understand that brainwaves have something to do with the electrical activity of the brain, but understanding some of the basics of your brain and brain wave states is very useful as well. By understanding how your brain goes in and out of certain brainwave states, you can learn to take advantage of each state; to be more productive, creative, and even to be able to learn how to relax and restore the body, mind and spirit.

All brain cells communicate via electrical signals (hence the waves). Your brain contains about 100 billion neurons, which is well over the number of stars in in the sky. Each neuron is connected to about 10,000 other neurons, making for about 100 to 500 trillion neuron-to-neuron connections in the brain; which at the present moment science still does not fully understand. What we do know is this… “The neurons that fire together, re-wire together.” Thus, what we think, we become. The brain has the power to change.

Brain activity has a pulse, a beat, or frequency that corresponds to it’s level of current activity – much like a flicker of a light. These brain beats, or brainwaves, happen at a variety of speeds. For example, during deep sleep,  the brain will flicker or beat about 3 times per second. During high-focused thinking, the brain might flicker or beat as much as 50 times a second.

Modern technology allows us to tap into brainwave frequencies and or “patterns” and with a little auditory help, we can learn to use our brain more efficiently – to restore, rejuvinate, build our internal vision boards, etc. Different brainwave frequencies or breats have been shown to connect to different “states of mind,” which corresponds to a spectrum of subjective experience. If you can access the right state you can also experience and illicit suggestions like “you are currently experiencing excellence,” or “go forth with confidence,” or “you can succeed with ease and grace,” – this is what we call a  guided experience. You can ask your subconcious or you can have a coach guided you, either way the lower more relaxed states are easy to tap into if you know how.

Your brain naturally cycles through the brainwave states during the day. It is not as if, we are stuck in one all day or at any one time. Every 90 minutes or so, your brain requires a break or a shift let’s say and it must slow down its activity.  This cycle is known as the ultradian rhythm, or basic rest and activity cycle (BRAC).

A well known technology used since the mid 1900’s is known as “Brainwave entrainment” or “brainwave synchronization,” which is any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequencies to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state, like falling asleep or inducing relaxation. This stimulus can be known as binarual and monarual beats.

This effect is produced in the brain, not in the ears as with monaural beats. Thi is produced by the neural output from the ears and created within the olivary body within the brain, in its attempt to “locate” the direction of the sound and creates a subjective experience.

The slower the beat or frequency, the more relaxed you will feel.  These frequencies are generally classified into 5 groups (from slow to fast): delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma.

The 5 Brain Wave States:

Beta (14-40Hz) : Our Waking Consciousness & Logical Reasoning State

Beta brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. Now, this sounds like a great place to be in, and it is if you are a high functioning induvidual, but it can also be the state that increases stress, anxiety and can lead to depression and mental health problems if you are in this state too much and for too long.  Hence, we need to learn how to tap into various states to properly maintain balance.

Delta (0.5-4Hz): Deep Sleep State

Delta brainwaves have a frequency of about 4 beats or less per second, as if the brain is breathing slowly and heavily. The brain generally only enters the delta state during the deepest stages of sleep, appropriately known as “slow-wave sleep”.

Theta (4-7.5Hz) : Light Meditation and REM Sleeping State

Theta brainwaves are associated with dreaming and REM-stage sleep and sometimes light sleep. This is where brain activity beats anywhere from 4 to 7 times per second. But theta also occurs several times throughout the day. If you’ve ever “zoned out” while driving or otherwise went on mental “auto pilot”, that means you entered theta.

In running, when you are in the zone;  that’s also theta. Deep meditation is another example of this deep trance like state.

Theta can be used for creative flow states, where ideas seem to come effortlessly. During accelerated learning programs theta is the state that coaches usually want thier students to be able to tap into because this is where idea generation can stem from.

Alpha (7.5-14Hz): Deep Relaxation State

Alpha brainwaves have a frequency of 7 to 13 beats per second. The alpha wave state is a sign of deep relaxation while awake. Like theta, it can be used in hypnosis (trance work) and accelerated learning. While in deep meditation, you can notice that just by deep breathing and tapping into lower energy, you can lower your frequency to the alpha and theta states, and sometimes even increase the frequency to beta states.

Gamma ( above 40Hz) – The Deep Introspective & Insight State

The Gamma  range is the most recently discovered and is the fastest frequency at above 40Hz. While little is known about this state of mind,research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of introspection, enlightenment and  insight and high-level information processing. Long periods of meditation and internal processing can lead us into a deeper state or states of consciousness. While this sounds very “kumbaya” it is scientifically proven to improve all areas of both our internal state of being, our physcial form and how we present ourselves in the world and how we respond to the changing environment. In short, it leads to personal evolution!

Ride the wave:

Most of the time your brain is firing at different frequencies; therefore, the goal isn’t to achieve one frequency, it’s to establish a synchronicity between frequencies and establish an equilibrium.

Brainwave synchrony measures just how well coordinated the different parts of your brain are. A brain in which all its neurons tend to fire at the same frequency would be highly synchronous..  The 3 main states involved with levels of relaxation, introspection and calmness are; delta, theta and alpha frequencies.

My Waves: Beta and Theta

After careful R&D, I have come to realize that the majority of my day is in Uptime or Beta and Theta and nearing the end of my day I am still quite… high strung. Does this sound familiar? In order to re pattern and bring more balance into my own life, I have realized that I need to carve out more time in my day to relax.  Once way to better understand these relaxation states is before bed or during times of meditation. For me, this is my 20mins in the morning of slow movement and yoga and an hour before bed. What has helped me prepare for sleep and utilizing more of my potential in delta and alpha (even more theta) is through guided brain entrainment and neuro synchronization.

To experience this, try these neuro-synchronizers before bed or for meditation. Not only will then help you sleep, but they will also “suggest” to your brain to process and filter for improved sleep, relaxation and overall well-being:

. 1.  Neuro-Synchronization-

2. Binaural Deep Sleep –

3. Binaural and Monaural Beats –



Thought Models NLP –

Brain Entrainment / Vibrational Sound Therapy:

Chronic Pain & Real Time Process:

Adrenal Glands 101: Mindful Restoration

Adrenal Glands 101: Mindful Restoration

The effects of adrenal dysfunction can be devastating and aggravating: fatigue and weakness; lowered immune system, susceptibility to colds, and other ailments that healthy  individuals aren’t as likely to get like; muscle soreness, moodiness or hormonal imbalance are all signs that your body is not in a balanced state of equilibrium. In today’s hyper active society, the hustle and bustle of our routine and over stimulated lifestyle, can lead to many compensations; both physical and mental. One way our body compensates is by increasing levels of cortisol, suppress the immune system and create adrenal dysfunction.

The good news is that adrenal fatigue can usually be relieved; Yoga and meditation can be instrumental in re setting the body’s physical and hormonal balance by establishing an environment where the body and mind can recover, as well as offering the opportunity to work on mindful strategies to deal with circumstances when negative stress arises. Outside of the postures and “asanas,” Yoga can offer the time and space to work on new behavior patterns if the stressors that trigger your stress are within your control.

Let’s look at the relationships between stress, high cortisol levels, and adrenal fatigue; and then we’ll look at how you can give your adrenals more support.

The adrenal gland has two parts. The first is the adrenal medulla; which secretes epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These are the hormones that make your heart pound, raise your blood pressure, help ensure your muscles contract, and put your brain on high alert. The adrenal cortex secretes cortisol and other hormones. Cortisol is a natural steriod that raises your blood sugar level (so the muscles have plenty of fuel) and suppresses inflammation, but it also suppresses the immune system; which in times of high stress tricks the body into thinking this is a good thing.

Adrenal Glands 101:

To understand how adrenal fatigue develops, it is important to understand the original and historical function of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands original role was to save your life  The basic task of the adrenal glands is known as the “fight or flight” mode; with the fundamental role of  increasing production of adrenaline and other hormones.

When healthy, your adrenals can instantly increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, slow your digestion and other secondary  functions, and sharpen your senses, but when these basic functions are altered, it changes your hormonal balance.

This response by your adrenals takes priority over all other metabolic functions, but it wasn’t designed to be a process that lasted continually.  Thus, in today’s society of high stress, hyper activity and go, go ,go mentality, a large percentage of our population is nearing adrenal fatigue.


What is cortisol? In its normal function, cortisol helps us meet these challenges by converting proteins into energy, releasing glycogen, and counteracting  inflammation. For a short time, that’s okay. But at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually tears down your body.  Cortisol is destructive to the body. Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone; slows down healing and normal cell regeneration; co-opts bio chemicals needed to make  other vital hormones; impairs digestion, metabolism and mental function;  interferes with healthy endocrine function; and weakens your immune system.

Modern Day Challenges:

Every challenge to the mind and body creates a demand on the adrenal glands.  The list of challenges is endless: lack of sleep, a demanding boss, the threat of losing your job or expectations, financial pressures, personality conflicts, yo-yo dieting,  relationship turmoil, death or illness of a loved one, skipping meals, digestive  problems, over-exercise, illness or infection, unresolved emotional issues from  our past or present, and on and on. The result is adrenal glands that are  constantly on high alert. The list of life’s unpredictability is endless, and as the age ole statement goes; “life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it.”

Here is where the Yoga comes in. To recover from this exhaustion, you need to do things that turn off the adrenal hormones and promote secretion of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone. Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland almost exclusively during the deepest stages of sleep (slow wave sleep).

To help turn off the adrenal glands and calm the mind, practice restorative yoga postures daily in a warm, dark, quiet environment.

Outside of Yoga, here are some easy ways to start the recovery of process:

  • Listen to your body. Not every case of adrenal fatigue presents the same symptoms or has the same exact preconditions.  The adrenal glands are overtaxed, but that can come about from a number of causes. Modern life is so full of stress that the adrenal glands end up producing more stress hormones than the body was designed to handle.
  • Remove Stressors. Take a look at your current lifestyle, and make whatever changes you need to promote the things that make you happy and reduce the parts of your life that do more harm than good.
  • Reduce overall stress levels. Some stressors in life are unavoidable, but we can begin to address them in new ways that reduce their drag on our life and reduce the causes of adrenal fatigue.
  • Relax – Simply set aside some time each day for yourself and your overall well-being. Actually take a break during your work breaks.
  • Dietary changes to enrich your nutrition – The cortisol produced by the adrenal glands has a significant effect on blood sugar levels, and so eating habits play a major role in moderating the condition. Stay away from highly
  • processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol.
  • Exercise – including moderate exercise and taking more time can be helpful to reducing your stressors, especially those that are constant.  No matter what is going on in your life, it will become  easier to handle if you set at least 30 minutes a day for exercise.
  • Breathe – Follow the optimal breathing technique to help reset your body’s adrenal function and stress receptors.
Neuroplasticity: The Power of the Mind

Neuroplasticity: The Power of the Mind

“THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE ITSELF. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.” – The Brain That Changes Itself


Neuro is for “neuron,” the nerve cells in our brains and nervous systems. Plastic is for “changeable, malleable, modifiable.” Our journey starts here… neuroplasticity.

The first discoveries of neuroplasticity came from studies of how changes in the messages the brain receives through the senses can alter its structure and function.

For decades, the dogma of neuroscience was that the adult human brain is essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have. The doctrine of the unchanging human brain has had profound ramifications. For one thing, it lowered expectations about the value of rehabilitation for adults who had suffered brain damage or or about the possibility of fixing the pathological wiring that underlies psychiatric diseases. And it implied that other brain-based fixities, such as the happiness set point that, according to a growing body of research, a person returns to after the deepest tragedy or the greatest joy, are nearly unalterable.

But research has overthrown the dogma. In its place has come the realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity”—t he ability to change its structure and function in response to experience and stimuli. These aren’t minor tweaks either, they can long lasting sustainable results. Even if one suffers a great trauma in their adult life, the brain has significant power to overcome and “re-wire” itself to improve “internal living conditions.”

In the TIMES article “The Brain: How the Brain Re-Wires Itself,” written in 2007, Sharon Begley states “When signals from the skin or muscles bombard the motor cortex or the somatosensory cortex (which processes touch), the brain expands the area that is wired to move, say, the fingers. In this sense, the very structure of our brain–the relative size of different regions, the strength of connections between them, even their functions–reflects the lives we have led. Like sand on a beach, the brain bears the footprints of the decisions we have made, the skills we have learned, the actions we have taken.”

Even more profound, the discovery showed that mental training had the power to change the physical structure of the brain. We seldom stop to realize that our world (our model of the world) is shaped by how our mind views reality. We experience reality within our minds, through sensory filters based on biology, cultural conditioning and personal interpretations that are based on experience and education.

Yoga and Mindfulness can play a significant role in the evolutionary process of neuroplasticity and re –wiring the brain. Neuroscience has proven to demonstrate that the neuroplasticity of the brain, and when there is sustained, focused attention …”mindfulness,” it can change the wiring of brain neurons.


If we look at the word itself …”Mindfulness” this means “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment;” which can be further broken down into four acting components; regulation of attention, body awareness, self-awareness and regulation of emotion. Previous research on mindfulness meditation has shown that it aids in lowering blood pressure improves immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, improves mental health and brain function and minimizes pain sensitivity.


While the human brain has apparently underestimated itself, neuroplasticity isn’t all good news; it renders our brains not only more resourceful but also more vulnerable to outside influence. It is by understanding both the positive and negative effects of plasticity that we can truly understand the extent of human possibilities. Change is constantly happening in our inner and outer worlds. Through the practice of yoga including the use of breath, movement, sound, and meditation we can influence the direction of these changes.


“We can learn that our thoughts can switch our genes on and off, altering our brain anatomy” – Norman Doidage


TIME Magazine: “The Brain: How The Brain Rewire’s Itself”

Book: “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidage, M.D


Sarah Crawford Russell

Sarah Crawford Russell

There’s nothing like strolling into a room and catching the sound of a nice full laugh. With Sarah you’ll frequently get that in and out of class. Light and breezy, her classes can feel rather muted in their difficulty yet never in their energy. From hatha to yin, you’ll be able to get everything you want out of yoga through her. Though I don’t sweat in her power classes like I do in others, mental and physical strengthening from her are just as potent and noticeable after the practice.

It wouldn’t be a long shot to say you can be thrown off by her approach to each class. With a bright and sunny disposition she’ll wander about the room and ask, very literally, everyone on their energy level of the day and whether or not they have any injuries. After her rounds she adjusts her class to fit the class average to great affect. I say this because I’ve noticed that classes with a few more advanced practitioners will feel that much more challenging than a class with a handful of beginners.

Some teachers will hold their line, unchanging in their itinerary, but Sarah always takes care to strike a balance. Her hatha classes see the most changes, as it’s the most accessible style of yoga, and yin and power change the least. I can’t really think of a more gentle and/or relaxing teacher to help someone wind down a day or a week. Her genuine cheeriness is a pleasure to be around, and we would all do a bit better with a brightness such as hers. She also has an amazing hairdo. Just sayin’.

She teaches, to my knowledge, at Spirit YogaUnity Yoga, and YYoga.

New Yoga Studio To Open In Point Grey

New Yoga Studio To Open In Point Grey

Exciting news Vancouver yogis and yoginis — a new yoga studio will be opening on October 27th in Point Grey!

The Rein Centre Yoga & Psychotherapy was born out of a deep passion for yoga and the desire to create a very accepting and comfortable yoga community. It is their desire to foster a place where yogis of all levels feel welcomed and supported to further their journey on the yoga path. Located on West 10th Avenue & Trimble Street, the centre offers drop-in yoga, yoga psychotherapy workshops, meditation, and psychological services in a small intimate boutique studio.

They’re currently offering a fantastic $35 new member special of unlimited yoga for two weeks. For further information, visit their website

Golden Halo Over the Golden Arches

Golden Halo Over the Golden Arches

McDonald’s Canada’s latest advertising campaign is called: “Our Food, Your Questions.”

You may have seen the television commercials or floor-to-ceiling advertisements in SkyTrain stations. The company is basically claiming to be 100 per cent honest, transparent and willing to publicly answer any question posed by the public.

Many questions are answered on a new website:

Some examples of answers: McDonald’s food has no MSG, the company uses 100% Canadian Beef, their food does in fact rot, additives used in their food are deemed safe by the World Health Organization, etc.


McDonald’s Canada has a new campaign called “Your Questions,” offering to answer any questions from the public about their food.

So if McDonald’s food is indeed so virtuous, is there still a reason the health-conscious should not eat there?

I posed the question to Pura Vida Nutrition’s Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Gabrielle Eagles.

“It’s great they are making an effort with this campaign,” Eagles says, but she points out that most of the questions actually haven’t been answered. The website seems to answer the same kinds of questions, like “What is the beef made from?” several times, but many other questions are unanswered.

“ I have a hard time trusting what they say, as it took a significant amount of public outcry for them to make these small changes,” Eagles says. “They are a company that tries to ‘get away’ with things and only makes changes when they are caught, so why would I trust them now?”

So why would one still consider not eating at the massive fast-food chain? Eagles explains:

  • The actual food quality. Even if the quality of the food increases, it’s still up to the consumer to make informed choices for their own health. For instance, even if McDonald’s had a truly healthy burger, if the consumer ate one per day, the quantity of red meat in their diet could be detrimental.
  • Not organic. There is substantial research regarding the damages of pesticides and herbicides.
  • Added sugar, which can lead to:
  • Inflammation;
  • damaged arteries, which can leave a person more prone to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries),  heart attack or stroke;
  • increase in insulin, eventual insulin resistance, more prone to diabetes, and;
  • energy/mood fluctuations throughout the day. As a person’s blood sugar escalates and then crashes, there is the potential for a poor mood, less exercise, and decreased productivity.
  • White buns have very few nutrients, so they mostly turn to sucrose. “The whole point of eating is to get quality protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals,” Eagles explains. “With processed food, the vitamins and minerals are significantly diminished, and the quality of those macronutrients is very low.” Plus the buns are simply higher in carbohydrate than required by the body.
    • Fats: “I don’t see any high-quality fats, which should make up 30 per cent of calories consumed,” Eagles says. “Good fats come from foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and olive oil.”
    • Vegetables. “It’s great they have salad now, but it needs to contain rich greens,” Eagles says.

“Ultimately, it’s the consumer’s choice to not eat at a poor-quality food place like McD’s,” Eagles concludes. “No matter how much they try to clean up, they still aren’t serving primarily vegetables from gardens full of vitamins and minerals, which is what people really need.”

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