Maria (M): Thank you so much for coming and for agreeing to come live and tell us about your pre knee surgery journey.
Heather is a certified yoga teacher, a synergist, a Toastmaster and certified dream coach. She curates specialized wellness programs, movement classes, and facilitates virtual and in person wellness events. Offers personalized support and she helps individuals redefine and expand their meaning of wellness in their body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
I have already introduced you to the people saying that you’re certified yoga teacher, synergist, distinguished Toastmaster, which I have no idea what it is and certified dream coach. So can you tell me a little bit about this Toastmaster part?
Heather (H): Absolutely. First of all, hello, and thank you so much for having me I’m outdoors because today is a glorious day where right now it is not roasting hot. We have a lot to talk about and cover today. So you asked me about Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an international organization that helps people develop their speaking skills as well as their leadership skills. If you could look up toastmasters.org and find a local Toastmasters club currently in Canada, we’re all online because of the COVID situation. So you can actually attend a Toastmasters club anywhere at this point.
M: Perfect. I’m gonna have a look at it, cuz I would love to know how to show up and actually tell them what I’m all about. So tell us apart from that, which sounds incredibly interesting, what brought you in this space of yoga?
M: Yes, we know it’s holistic. Yes. We know it is an amazing life support, but what brought you into the space of teaching yoga?
H: For me I was always involved in something active when I was younger, it was more aerobic and I started to teach aerobics. Actually, what happened was I was overseeing a number of recreation programs for municipal local government, and they were in drama and in dance and we added a family fitness program under my supervision and the instructor didn’t show up. And I happened to go there on the first day and I just got up on the stage and started to teach fitness. So after that I thought, well, I guess I better actually officially learn how to do this. . And so I, I took whatever I could at the time to certify in fitness now, along the journey and along the road, I got married, had kids.
And I had a lot of challenges that I was facing a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, worry about the kids. And I fell into a yoga class because a friend of mine, actually, she said to me, Heather, let’s go to India. That’s not possible right now. I can’t go to India. She said, okay, how about let’s go to yoga.
I’m like, I can do that. So I, I started to take the class and it was one of those things where it was like a perfect pairing. I got on the yoga mat and I was like that hour and a half to just pay attention to what’s going on with me. So when you have kids or you’re a caregiver or you’re in a lot of pain, sometimes you’re trying to back away from your body and you pay attention to everything else. And here was an opportunity to go, wow. Like, no matter what’s going on in life, I have this, I have this mat, I have this hour and a half and it was spectacular. I discovered a breath and it was like a, I was like, I’m breathing. Where, where have I been all these years? Like, I haven’t felt like I breathed. So it connected me back to this actual idea that we could breathe.
And then I think it was week three. My yoga teacher said to me, she said, how long have you been doing yoga? And I’m like, This is my third class with you. This is it. And she said, wow, like you seem to really like, have connected with it. And she recommended, then I go and take yoga training, which I did do the following summer at the Kripalu center, in Massachusetts, in the US. So that was a really amazing journey to become a yoga teacher along the way, the humbleness.
Chronic issues, body injuries. I remember once talking to one of my yoga teachers at Kripalu, and I said to him, ” my knee’s really bothering me and I’m finding it hard to teach”. And what he said to me is stuck with me, which was, you may become the world’s best yoga teacher for knee issues. Of course I filed that away at that point, but it’s so relevant right now because you realize we can teach from what we feel. Yes. And what we know.
M: I agree with that entirely. Cause of course I have systemic lupus and that led to kidney failure and transplant, et cetera. I love helping people who are in pain and struggle with chronic illness. So I think you’re right, our experiences are lessons, better lessons in fact, than the ones taught inside the classroom.
M: And because of that, maybe you can share three tips for managing knee issues when you are on a yoga mat, please.
H: Okay. Absolutely.
1. So for me, the first thing, and the first thing I wanna say is don’t stop moving. If you have knee issues, there are other parts in your body that may wanna move that may wanna. , when I fell, I fell eight years ago and I kind of did one of those slots where I hit both knees and both my hands, my wrists.
And about two weeks later, I got out of bed and. Oh, my goodness. I couldn’t actually walk on my right knee. So it took me a while to realize that the fall was like the final straw of chronic issues and arthritis and probably for the first two three months of having the knee issue I didn’t move at all. I didn’t want to, I was in too much pain I was getting swollen, I was getting really down in my mood, but one day there was some music on and I was like, oh wait, I can dance with my hand. Oh, you know, the other hand. And then the shoulders joined in and slowly, slowly I realized that there’s other parts that could move. So the first thing is don’t stop moving the parts that can move that’s that’s one.
2. The second one is when you have pain, we also wanna start to focus on that place. So there’s times where we wanna sleep and rest and get away from the pain. And then there’s times when we wanna say “hello pain, I know you’re there. You’re impeding my movement”, but how can I move around the movement? How can I move past the movement? At first with my knee, I could hardly bend it but then eventually I got it to bend. I can actually do on the mat a child’s pose. Which I don’t know once I have the replacement, whether I’ll fully be able to still do a child’s pose. But you don’t have to, sometimes there’s like places or parts you go, okay. You know what? I can’t do that, but maybe I could put a few pillows in between my bottom and my heels, and I could still get the feeling of a pose.
3. So keep yourself interested. Chair yoga is a great example because it’s something that I just, I started to do online because during the pandemic we weren’t in person. So the third thing would really be no matter what type of chair you have chair couch., I’ve started to see some people teaching sofa, yoga. My concern is around posture. So if you’re in a sofa and you’re kind of back like this, which I’ve seen some of my clients I’ll always ask, can you come to the edge of your sofa? Place your feet on the ground. So the third tip is really about posture. And even if all you do in a day is if you’re really tired is sit at the edge of your bed, if you can put your feet on the ground or on a stool or a step, and just feel your posture, feel your sitting bones, relaxing your lower back, relaxing your shoulders, relaxing and especially the head which likes to go like to us. Right. And just bringing that chin back and posture is probably the biggest key, cuz we don’t wanna cut off our breathing as we’re trying to do any kind of relaxation.
M: It also keeps us safe, a neutral spine, which is what we are achieving in mountain pose. Whether that mountain pose is seated or standing, a neutral spine is the safe way to be. And in fact, while we’re sitting here, we can actually do it together. We can press, we can take our hands on our head, press up our heads onto our hands and then release them as neutral’s. Axial extension.
But I agree with you entirely. I see people practicing at the back of their chair or on a sofa and I’m thinking it doesn’t matter where you are. Yes. Please keep a neutral spine while you’re moving, because that’s what keeps you safe. That’s what keeps you healthy, it filtrates down to good breathing and moving patterns. Again, I will say it again, it keeps you safe. When you have people struggling with osteoporosis and degeneration of the spine and other issues like that, a longer spine where there is no herniation involved in it or anything else like that is so vital in the practice of yoga. And it doesn’t matter whether it is on the mat or on the chair. Neutral spine is so important. You’re so right.
4. I actually have a fourth tip if you’re gonna do something on your own, it could be five minutes, 10 minutes, as long as you do it consistently. So pick a time in the morning when you first get up out of bed and then, or even in bed you can do some in bed and then later in the day. The consistency of that movement actually starts to train you. It’s almost a training for your mind. You know, you have those session. With yourself to look forward to, and you could decide if you wanna do longer, depending on how you feel.
M: Exactly. And sometimes the challenge is to get started. So as long as we keep challenging ourselves and we keep showing up on the mat, we will see progress. And I agree entirely with that. Keep showing up chair, mat, whatever it is. Sometimes the challenge is to show up, right? Sometimes the challenge is to keep to extend that duration, to add maybe a theraband to your system, or to have a less stable position.
M: So since we’re in kind of more detailed discussion can you share three approaches that have been most beneficial in the management of your knee pain and knee issues, please?
H: Absolutely. So the knee has been something for me going on for eight years and at first thought “I don’t, I’m not gonna get the surgery”. Even though I was told you have absolutely no cartilage. Like there’s no way you can recover this. I tried to manage, but we really talk about management and management includes the movement management includes all the resources that I can possibly get in terms of whether somebody likes chiropractor or physio exercises or massage, acupuncture. . So part of management is getting a team of people and to be able to regularly access the team for management. So I would say if you are somewhere where you have other options for the knee then don’t wait too long because you’re not going to fix a joint that is completely rubbing on each other.
There’s part of self care is getting outside resources, so then it’s like, how do I make the best of whatever you spent on your physio by taking those exercises and actually doing them, incorporating them. I actually, it, because it’s summertime I’m doing my exercises my afternoon, exercises outdoors. And because I want to take in the outdoors while I’m doing it, so that’s my self care. And sometimes I feel like I have to fight for right. It’s like, I need 10 minutes. Like everybody else watch the dogs or, you know, get this going. I’m taking this time. So part of self care is really not only demanding the time, but staying that consistent so they know “this is her time right now”. That’s really hard is for us to stand up for our self care time. That’s huge.
I’ve set up a course of the bands and my big ball and everything in the room, so it’s like now I have like that cue. I have my band that I could do my shoulder exercises. I have the bands that I can use to do other exercises working both the knee and even the shoulder issues. A lot of us have more than one issue once you start to have arthritis and so on. Right.
M: And also what I find is that yoga is all push push push. There is no real pulling action with yoga. So that’s why you mentioning therabands is incredible. Cause adding tubes or therabands, I guess and having that pulling action is so healthy for our muscles and our body. So all those things, if they are incorporated, yes, they’re not strictly yoga, but they will lead to yoga.
H: Absolutely. So what I consider to be yoga is really that connection with yourself, with your breath and with your movement. And you may be just breaking down a movement. Let’s say it’s tree pose, for example. So tree pose involves core. It involves balance. It involves relaxing the . Shoulders. You may be having arms over head or they could be just in front the heart, it’s elements of yoga, but once we pay attention to it, slow it down and pay attention to the movement and the breath. When you incorporate the idea of yoga into every movement, it helps you connect better. Your mind can settle, your breath can get deeper and you just like it, it feels like a complete stress relief.
M: And I think that is the reason why it is so good to have the chair around, cuz it is such a mundane household object that everybody has around and sometimes I think that the barrier is rolling a yoga mat out. . That’s why share yoga can play a role in the recovery of many injuries for the simple reason that it removes barriers such as even removing your shoes and socks and getting to a place where you can practice. Well, in reality, you can practice yoga by just increasing your awareness in the stuff, but you do, as you just said.
M: So can you tell us, what role do you think the chair in particular has played in this journey of managing knee issues and knee pain in your life.
H: So, as we were saying, there’s a lot you can do from the chair. And the chair being very accessible is super important.
The chair for me provides more exploration.
Also because of its accessibility. It’s something you can use in between things.
Now the chair can also provide balance. So people who can stand and can use to hold onto a chair or a countertop or a table, but the chair can provide that support, so you can get to the next level. And when you get tired from standing, you can come back to sitting and you can practice again on the chair.
M: I love it! What repatterns our body and gets rid of bad habits is repetition. And when we find the one thing that resets to something that makes us feel good, then we just have to keep doing it. Self care can be incorporated through the day, especially if it doesn’t involve five minutes it takes to roll out a mat and take your shoes and socks off. so absolutely agree with everything you say.
M: So thank you very much for joining us today. It has been a pleasure to find all those incredible tips from Heather. I would like to end this podcast with maybe some wise words from you. What is your biggest takeaway from our discussion today Heather?
Well, I think the biggest takeaway for me is actually connecting with other people who are teaching and teaching in a way that is really authentic to the things that we’re going through. So my biggest takeaway is just connection and like-mindedness and to know, and to really the messages, even though we go through something which may not be positive and might be painful, that we can use that experience to really help others and so I’m so glad to meet someone else who thinks the same.
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