Symptoms. Medications. Pain. Illness. Dysfunction. Disease. Surgery.
Contentedness. Love. Joy. Well-being. Peace. Gratitude. Health.
I’d like you to pause for a moment and try an exercise with the words you just finished reading. Read these words aloud, starting with the first line. Place your hand on your heart and notice what happens as you say these words aloud. When you are done reading them, begin to make circles with your shoulders. Observe as you do so.
What do you notice in your body? How do you feel? Do you notice tension or ease? Pay attention to mobility in your shoulders.
Stop and now repeat with the second line. Say the words aloud and ask yourself this same set of questions. What do you notice now?
As I read the first set of words, I moved my shoulders and noticed my shoulder pop and begin to crackle. A shooting pain of tension ran up the right side of my neck. My breathing felt constricted.
When I read the second line of words, I began to circle my shoulders. I experienced fluidity and movement. The circles were more expansive. I moved with ease and openness.
I’ve established in past blogs that our language matters. The words we use and speak have an impact on our physical bodies and alignment of mind and body. We have the power to shape our physical and mental experience with the words and stories we tell ourselves.
Much of our current medical system revolves around, speaks about, and treats illness and disease (or rather, dis-ease). Our Western medical model is derived on the concept of treating symptoms, making pain go away, making our shoulder, back, neck, knee, or hip stop hurting.
We treat what is wrong with our bodies and minds, but at Human Garage we ask the question: what is already right? How can we facilitate more ease, joy, fluidity, balance, positivity, movement, and mobility? How can we aid in the health of the whole being and person on physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental layers not just take away your symptoms of pain? It’s about a lifestyle. A whole human. Not just talk about treating illness and disease.
We named our company the Human Garage, not the low back and shoulder Garage for a reason.
I’m tempted to say we are a “wellness” company and that our goal is to help people to be well. But even “wellness” feels cheapened in Los Angeles by a barrage of fitness crazes, wellness trends, yoga studios, and lifestyle blogs all purporting to have the answers and the next cure all to ones’ many woes.
Treating and talking about people only in terms of symptom chasing and pain may have an unintentional consequence: perpetuating cycles of pain. How?
As someone who suffered from chronic pain for most of my 20s, I can attest: pain became a part of my identity. What would I do without it? It felt a part of who I was and as much as I wanted it to go away, I struggled with letting go of it.
Let’s imagine a different scenario. You walk into the doctor to tell her about your chronic hip pain. Instead of jumping into the history of your pain and how it started, she asks you something different: she asks about the quality of your relationships, your level of peace and contentedness, harmony in your life, and what brings you joy.
There’s a wealth of growing research to suggest that things like happiness impact and shape our physical well-being. A 2008 study on happiness and longevity found that happiness appears to protect against illness, with the most satisfied people gaining an extra 7.5 to 10 years on average.
A 75-year Harvard study showed the number one factor to our well-being and happiness to be good relationships. The quality of our relationships and the presence of love within them can impact our physical health? This isn’t so surprising.
We’d like to take this one step further. At Human Garage, we believe in bringing all of our layers of existence into alignment.
Does physical health matter? Of course. When we are blocked in our alignment on physical layers, we cannot experience joy, contentedness, and peace at our highest levels because physical pain can block and distract us. Similarly, if we are operating on a stressed, depleted, anxious, and depressed way, this will impact and shift our physical layer of health as we tighten our bodies in response to stress.
If any one layer of our body is out of alignment, we will inevitably have more difficulty in accessing the other layers of our health.
I will close with a real-life example of what this approach to language and our health look like in action.
A while back I sat down with Yari (pictured here), our Director of Biomechanical Development. I loved an insight she shared with me. It was about finding your highest joy to heal our pain. She had a back injury that resurfaced after a period of stress in her life.
Now intuitively a doctor may tell you that dancing all night would be bad for back pain. But, oddly enough, it seemed to be the thing she needed to cross the barrier and start to be well again. Her pain began to subside after a night of dancing. Why? Because it brought her into flow, a state of joy where she connected with her highest self. And when we are connected with joy, we heal. I started this post talking about language and I’d like to close with a similar exercise.
Imagine a time in your life where you felt depressed, anxious, afraid, or angry. Speak a few words out loud as you imagine this story. Now circle your arms or shoulders as you say out loud how this experience made you feel. Notice. Observe.
Stop and pause. Imagine a story where you felt joyous, content, full of love, or peace. Imagine this moment in time. Speak out loud how it made you feel. And begin to circle your arms and shoulders once more. Notice. Observe.
Human beings are excellent storytellers and we create all sorts of stories around our pain more than anything. Whole body alignment is not merely the absence of pain or dysfunction in the physical body but rather, all of our systems, internal, external, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual, working synergistically together at their optimal levels of functioning. It means shifting how we talk about human bodies and healing to also include and bring awareness to feelings of gratitude, purpose, pleasure, joy and self-compassion.