Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Good Pain / Bad Pain

"Remember: There is good pain and bad pain. Bad pain comes in a spectrum: It may feel like a weird electrical twinge in your back, something that makes you suddenly go ouch, or a movement that makes you feel like you might break something. Good pain feels challenging and even exhilarating. It tells you that you are working but doesn't inhibit your movement or make you want to stop. As you learn to respect your body, you will easily recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain."

--Johanna Putnoi, Senses Wide Open

Do you know the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain" for your own body? What does "good pain" feel like for you? Can you find the words to describe what makes this pain "good"?

As I was free-writing for this very post, it struck me how I don't know if I/we have the language for "good pain." "Bad pain" is much easier to describe. For instance, sometimes I feel a stabbing sensation near my right scapula after working on the computer too long. My left sacral iliac joint aches and throbs after I sit for too long. My left heel feels bruised and sore after wearing certain shoes. These things feel like they belong in the "uncomfortable/bad feeling" category.

But what is that feeling of slight discomfort during a massage, when that tender point being pressed feels, well, good, almost exhilarating? What is that feeling of wanting your massage practitioner to press deeply, almost to the point of real pain? And what do we call that sensation just prior to bad pain? There should be a name for that! Shall we call it a "near pain experience" or "pre-pain" or "ecstatic pain"? Oh, I like that last one: ecstatic pain.

So what exactly happens during ecstatic pain? Is pain actually releasing? Is that what makes it feel good? Does that feeling have to do with chi beginning to move in an area that was formerly tight and stagnant?

With this first exploration into the nature of the pain we may feel during bodywork, I'm curious to know a few things from you:

1) What does good pain feel like to you and when do you feel it?

2) Can you describe this ecstatic pain as a metaphor or simile?

3) How do you know when you've crossed the line from good pain to bad pain?

I'd love to hear your experiences!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Elongate Your Mind

My new friend Samar turned me on to a book by Gail Sher called Writing the Fire!: Yoga and the Art of Making Your Words Come Alive. (You know you've encountered a special and enduring friend when she gives great book recommendations.)

Sher begins her book with a quote by B.K.S. Iyengar, which reads, "Unless freedom is gained in the body, freedom of the mind is a far-fetched idea." I resonate so strongly with this notion that the body and mind are inextricably linked. The mind and emotions cannot be free if the body is locked in tight. Without breath, for instance, the body withers and so does the mind. We may know this on an intellectual level, but how many times do we keep trying to transform our thoughts with other thoughts by engaging in a sort of cerebral gerbil wheel, when perhaps what we need is to breathe or get a massage or do some yoga? When we feel physical tension it seems only natural to receive some bodywork. But what about when you're anxious or feel stuck creatively or when you have a hard time making decisions?

Sher writes about elongation as a way to create more flow both in the body and the mind. She writes, "Deep within the fibers a muscle is a hidden door. It is opened by breathing and once opened, it allows the muscles to undo themselves. Both lengthening and shortening muscles undo and ride the energy flow. There's no danger, fatigue, or residue. The process of elongating comes about by rooting, connecting, and breathing in which breath is the link as well as the fuel that pulls the mind-body along. In elongating, the muscle relinquishes its effort to do. Then it extends. Other body parts pick up the impulse and let go too. When the mind in turn lets go, writing flows freely."

Sometimes I feel like a broken record with this, but the phrase "when you're stuck move" has gotten me out of many a stagnant or perplexing moment. Sometimes I take a walk, other times I dance, and often I stop what I am doing and stretch. I breathe and stretch until I feel oxygen and blood flowing again--until I feel my body relax and my mind open. Sometimes something so simple as moving or stretching can feel so difficult to start. At times I resist and keep sitting, as if I am banishing myself to the "time out" chair. But once I move, take one little step towards attending to my body, my whole being sort of softens and succumbs to the flow. And after some time, I actually feel a bit taller, like there is space inside me--space for growth and transformation.

Try This:
When you are feeling stuck, stagnant, or in any way in a mental funk, try elongating your body. While taking deep breaths, do some gentle stretching (or yoga poses if you know them). Create space in your body for energy to move. After 10-15 minutes, return to your mental musings. Do you feel any different? Does your mind feel more elongated and free?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Special: Chocolate Induglence

I'm salivating just thinking of the two-hour special I've devised for this winter season. It's full of wa
rmth and chocolate. Yes, my friends, chocolate!

Here are the delicious details:

* A warm cup of hot chocolate or chocolate-hazelnut tea and a light chocolaty snack to awaken your senses.

* A chocolate-vanilla footbath and a full-spectrum light therapy treatment for a mood boost.

* A deep heat paraffin hand treatment to soothe joints and moisturize your hands.

* A one-hour chocolate-scented massage with infrared heat lamp for ultimate warmth and relaxation.

* A chocolate-scented mister to take home.

Cost for these two-hours of chocolaty goodness: $125.

Gift certificates available.

To make an appointment, email Courtney at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inner Radiance Blog

I want to introduce you to a wonderful new blog in the blogosphere. It's called Inner Radiance, and the amazing Elizabeth Rightor is the author of this powerful and insightful blog. Elizabeth is a friend of mine and an incredible counselor in Seattle. For more information about her practice, click here.

Her latest blog post is about new year's resolutions, and I love what she has to say about honoring where you've been and where you are.

Check it out!