The Work IN to move out of stress, tension & anxiety

Fit pro success series:Communication and coregulation with Colleen Jorgensen

March 20, 2023 Ericka Thomas Season 3 Episode 112
Fit pro success series:Communication and coregulation with Colleen Jorgensen
The Work IN to move out of stress, tension & anxiety
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The Work IN to move out of stress, tension & anxiety
Fit pro success series:Communication and coregulation with Colleen Jorgensen
Mar 20, 2023 Season 3 Episode 112
Ericka Thomas

As a part of my mission to bring a legacy of resilience through movement, each month you can join me for a hike on the bike trail followed by a free trauma informed vinyasa class back at the studio on Main Street. Go to to see the calendar and join my newsletter, Yoga Life on Main Street, to stay up to date on all the latest studio news, events and gossip. And now… on to this week’s episode.

It’s time to stop working out and start working IN. You found the Work IN podcast for fit-preneurs and their health conscious clients. This podcast is for resilient wellness professionals who want to expand their professional credibility, shake off stress and thrive in a burnout-proof career with conversations on the fitness industry, movement, nutrition, sleep, mindset, nervous system health, yoga, business and so much more.

I’m your host Ericka Thomas. I'm a resilience coach and fit-preneur offering an authentic, actionable realistic approach to personal and professional balance for coaches in any format.

The Work IN is brought to you by savage grace coaching, bringing resilience through movement, action and accountability. Private sessions, small groups and corporate presentations are open now. Visit to schedule a call and get all the details.

Website & free guide
Follow me on Instagram
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Linked IN

Show Notes Transcript

As a part of my mission to bring a legacy of resilience through movement, each month you can join me for a hike on the bike trail followed by a free trauma informed vinyasa class back at the studio on Main Street. Go to to see the calendar and join my newsletter, Yoga Life on Main Street, to stay up to date on all the latest studio news, events and gossip. And now… on to this week’s episode.

It’s time to stop working out and start working IN. You found the Work IN podcast for fit-preneurs and their health conscious clients. This podcast is for resilient wellness professionals who want to expand their professional credibility, shake off stress and thrive in a burnout-proof career with conversations on the fitness industry, movement, nutrition, sleep, mindset, nervous system health, yoga, business and so much more.

I’m your host Ericka Thomas. I'm a resilience coach and fit-preneur offering an authentic, actionable realistic approach to personal and professional balance for coaches in any format.

The Work IN is brought to you by savage grace coaching, bringing resilience through movement, action and accountability. Private sessions, small groups and corporate presentations are open now. Visit to schedule a call and get all the details.

Website & free guide
Follow me on Instagram
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Linked IN

Communication + Coregulation

w/ Colleen

Ericka Thomas  0:00  

Hi everyone and welcome back to the work in today. My guest is Colleen Jorgensen from stillness in motion, and we are so excited to have her here with us. She has been on the program several times in the past, and you can check the show notes for links to those other podcast episodes we've spoken in the past about communication about pain care, awareness, and clean is just an amazing instructor. She's an osteopath and yoga instructor and has years and years of experience in the fields, both in the fitness industry and with pain care. And she is just a fantastic teacher for general population, but also really an inspiration for other fitness professionals, both in and out of the yoga industry. And so I'm really excited to have her today we're going to be talking more about communication, more about how to elevate our skill level in communication, both with our students and our clients and also maybe some more internal connections with ourself, just to make our amazing careers even more amazing. So please welcome to the podcast. My good friend Colleen. Jorgenson,

Colleen Jorgensen  1:31  

welcome. much for having me. Thanks, Ericka. Thank you for that intro, and I'm really happy to be back. We always have such great conversations. So I'm glad to be here again.

Ericka Thomas  1:38  

We do we do. So let's just dive in. So we were talking a little bit in the pre chat just about in in general. How we learn as instructors, how we learn how to teach and how to communicate what it is we know to our clients. And so I'm interested in your experience how you learned your communication style, and how it's grown from the beginning of your career to now. Okay, well

Colleen Jorgensen  2:10  

it's it's evolved a lot and hopefully it will continue to evolve because that's something that makes makes us better teachers is always being willing to be a student, perpetually. I was lucky that very young. I started teaching, dance and aerobics like at 12 years old I started teaching. And so by the time I got to teacher trainings, I was first trained as a Pilates instructor that as a yoga teacher. You and I were just talking about how in those teacher trainings, we don't often get taught how to teach. We're taught the material and it's sometimes almost assumed that we actually know how to teach but many of us don't. In my own case, I was lucky that there were other things in my life that I had already taught. In many ways. I was a dance choreographer and taught a lot of people that way too. So it was a an I'm not gonna say an easy transition, but I guess a natural transition for me that once I got my teacher trainings under my belt, I was okay to then deliver the information. But my teaching has evolved a lot my communication has evolved a lot. I think one of the biggest things that I learned probably in the first half of my career. I would say that I was very prescriptive with my teaching. I thought that I had to tell people exactly what to do constantly. You know that always always giving them the correction, always giving them an alignment cue, a breath cue, whatever it might be. What I've come to see over the last 10 to 15 years is okay, well if I'm giving them so many cues, I'm never giving them the opportunity to tune in and listen to what what does their body need and want to do right now or what would their body do naturally whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing. Sometimes that's when we learn best is when we do is when we make mistakes. So I started noticing that in trying to be too prescriptive. I was robbing people of the opportunity to learn from their own bodies. So I've changed that a lot. And then the other huge influence has been Neil Pearson, Neil Pearson from pain care you in the last I want to say 1010 or so years has been an excellent mentor for me and a great example of how to be really mindful of our language as teachers he's really brought my attention to how impactful our choice of words our tone of voice as we speak everything about the way that we communicate can can really impact someone's experience. And I'm sure you and I are going to dive into that more. So I'll stop there.

Ericka Thomas  4:53  

Yeah, yeah. And yeah, let's let's talk a little bit about that because I know that your emphasis is not necessarily trauma informed work, but I feel like there is so much overlap with pain care aware. And trauma informed language and holding space for other people. It's almost the same thing. We are just we're just approaching it from a different angle, and, and communication, how we use our language really sets the tone for the room that we're in. Yes. And that's something we talk a little bit about. I know I've talked about it on this podcast before this idea of holding space for the people that you are with and that goes for a professional setting, or just you know, your family. So let's let's talk about that a little bit like how, what is the what are the language pieces? I mean, you touched on a couple of them, you know the tone of voice, right? And, yes, it's the words that we're using. But there's a lot more to it than that because even spoken language can be kind of imprecise sometimes.

Colleen Jorgensen  6:15  

So I just want to make sure we come back to because you said something very important about the teacher having to hold space. So let's just make sure to come back to that after. Okay, so specifically around like so one thing I think we have to make sure, especially with the populations that you and I work with a lot you're working with trauma informed I'm working more with people who live with pain is language of empowerment. People from those scenarios are very used to having a power over dynamic when it comes to their well being. And I think it's really important for us as teachers to make sure that we do not have that power. Over dynamic, but instead, make sure that everybody in the room understands that we are working as a team. And nobody knows more about your body than you do. So I might be the quote unquote expert at the front of the room when it comes to what postures we're going to do and I might know more anatomy or those types of things or you know, I'll know more about the yoga, the Pilates philosophy, but I don't know your body better than you do. And yet that's not a message that's given to people very much in our society. People don't feel like they they don't feel in control of their bodies. Sometimes they don't feel like they have a good understanding of how their bodies work. And so that language of empowerment to me is very important. And a big piece of that, in my opinion is teaching people to understand their bodies and to listen to the messages that our bodies are constantly giving us. Because again, especially in North America, we we almost not almost we train that connection with our bodies out of our children at quite a young age. As soon as you know at first when when kids are babies and toddlers. We love the fact that they wiggle and they move and and they cry and they scream and they laugh whenever they want to in whatever scenario we we celebrate that but as soon as they get more to toddler age, or school age that starts to change and all of a sudden we start teaching our kids that they have to be still and quiet when they're at an eating a meal when there's company when when they're at school when they're in a place of worship, all of these different things. So what we end up doing is we train the instincts out of our children so that we basically are teaching them stop listening to the messages you're getting from your body that's telling you to move or to cry or to laugh or to scream in this moment, and just be polite. So then fast forward to you're a teenager or an adult and now you're dealing with some sort of issue, an injury, a chronic pain or illness issue, trauma anxiety, depression. And a big part of the recovery is learning to tune back into the messages from your body but your whole life you've disconnected from them because that was the polite thing to do. So to me, that's a really important role that we have is reconnecting people with the messages from their bodies. So that they learn to listen to their own messages more than they listen to me as a teacher at the front of the room. And maybe that's something we can dive into more but I want to just give you a chance to

Ericka Thomas  9:27  

Yeah, yeah. So So absolutely. Yeah, I totally agree with what you're saying that really the ultimate purpose of any kind of instructor whether it's in a group setting, setting or coach, even one on one, our real job is is not to tell people to do this, that and the other in this certain order. It is really to help them settle in and listen to their their own body to become more aware and connected there. So hopefully they don't need someone to tell them how to move at some point. I mean, I think that's the Holy Grail, right that it is I know that when I was working as a personal trainer, I was always just a little bit taken aback by how much people just wanted to have someone else tell them what to do. And and my goal was always like I want you to not need me can exactly get to that point. I don't want you to need me move, have fun, and and be healthy. So yes, absolutely. Yeah, I think that that is a great point that you make. I think we we don't either. We don't understand that or we just haven't really that hasn't been a point brought up that hey, you know, you've been trained to just be good, right? To sit and be

Colleen Jorgensen  10:56  

polite and polite. Yes. Do the same that everybody else in the room is doing as you you know, don't shift too much.

Ericka Thomas  11:03  

Right, right. And when we're speaking about when we're speaking to people who have come out of trauma, I think that can be a lot of it can be pretty triggering. At first some people and I'd like to just touch on this. This idea of triggering someone when they start to turn in when they start to look at you know, what is their feeling in the moment? Because I think for a lot of instructors. Some of us get a little bit paralyzed like oh, I don't want to trigger anyone. So I'm afraid to say even the word pain or anything negative I think sometimes, especially in yoga, there was there's there's this idea that you're only phrasing things in very, very positive ways and God forbid we you know, say anything about about pain in the body, right? We would want to bring up pain or trigger someone's pain. But there is really no possibility to prevent triggering someone in any moment. Like you can not know that head of time. Exactly. No matter how good you are at telling people, you know what is going on or, or we're speaking in front of yeah,

Colleen Jorgensen  12:28  

you're absolutely right. We're we're not in control of that. So I think that comes back to we talked only about empowerment, but we also need to talk about language of permission, that we need to make sure that everybody in our classes understands that everything that I say at the front of the room is a suggestion. And if that suggestion doesn't feel right for you in this moment, at this time on this day, then you do something else. And that's always not only is that okay? Like we need to applaud that we need to normalize that it's it is it's so much more than just the right thing to do to listen to your body. When you listen to the teacher. If you end up doing a completely different thing the whole hour you're with me. I would just go up and congratulate you at the end of the session, though because it shows me that okay, you were listening to your body you honored your own needs over the need to follow the group and over the need to follow the quote unquote expert in the room. And that comes down to us giving them permission and then giving themselves permission. Knowing that the wisdom that's in their own body is more important than the wisdom of the teacher at the front of the room. Not to say that you can't of course tap into the the knowledge and the resources that this teacher has to offer you of course, lean on us teachers as an extra tool and extra support. But over time, your work with us is that so that you get to know your own body better and so that you you develop that wisdom in your body more and more and more. And one of the things that I learned in osteopathy that I really love to bring into the movement piece is to work with what's working. So often as movement teachers. We are always looking for what's wrong. You know what is out of alignment, what's wrong with their posture? What's wrong with their breath, you know, we're always looking for what can we fix in the people in the room. And that was absolutely the way that I worked for the first 20 years of my teaching. But I started to notice that okay, well I don't work like that when I'm doing hands. On work in osteopathy. So why is that and when I started to evaluate that and started to bring this work with was working perspective into movement, it really shifted things both for me as a teacher and for the students. So instead of always pointing out the alignment issue or the breath problem, instead highlighting what they're doing well, or what about their alignment, even if it doesn't look like the perfect posture that we see on a poster. What about that alignment? Has their body chosen because it is serving a purpose? And then let's work with that purpose. How can we enhance that wisdom of the body to then move you maybe towards something that eventually will serve you even better? Rather than trying to fix something that we think is wrong? Does that make sense?

Ericka Thomas  15:32  

Absolutely. Absolutely. And it and it really is a shift as from an instructor point of view to a more positive way of looking at whatever it is that is in front of you. And what is this? What is working for that what feels right about that position to you? I don't think I've ever had an instructor say that to me in any class what feels right about that Asana, and

Colleen Jorgensen  16:03  

even sorry, go ahead.

Ericka Thomas  16:04  

No, no, go please.

Colleen Jorgensen  16:06  

I was just gonna say even even when we do teacher trainings It is common across all different styles of both manual therapy and movement practices. We bring each other up to the center of the room, and we say okay, what's wrong with their posture? And then we each say something about what's not right with this person's posture. Instead, what I've started doing is bringing someone to the room and saying, Okay, let's talk about three to five things that's working really well for this person. What about their posture is serving them and we might see the same things. But now you're looking through at it through a completely different lens and when you're looking at it, trying to discover why has this person's whole system chosen this adaptation for them, because it's always for a reason the body is very smart, as opposed to their shoulders too high. We need to bring it down. We just need to fix that. When we do that, we're looking at a piece one part of the body when we look at okay, why is the shoulder up there? What is what is the what about the body's wisdom has chosen to do that, what bigger purpose is it serving? And then we'll get a lot more answers. If we look at the Okay, well, it's, it's helping them do XYZ. So let's work with that. How can we help them do that through their breath or through modifying a pose or something like that? And what will often happen is that shoulder that we wanted to just tell them bring your shoulder down. It will find its own way down when we start to work with what's working and then the person will learn a lot more from that experience. Compared to me just saying, oh, Erica, drop your right shoulder.

Ericka Thomas  17:48  

Right, because I don't know why. I don't know why. I mean, I don't know maybe it's different this day, right? Yeah, but it does change the it changes also how a student may receive what you're saying. percent. So we're when we're talking about convert communication as an instructor. It is yes, it's how we speak. It's what we say it's, you know, our tone of voice and our energy and all of those things. Yes. But the other half of communication is how the person across from you receives and perceives what it is that you're offering them. And so I think that is that is maybe it is a missing piece. We don't talk very often about it. But but maybe on that higher level, there's an understanding, like we know that people learn in different ways, right? We know that. Some people are really great just listening to cues. We know that some people have to watch first and before they can physically do it. Other people have to feel it in their body before you know all of these ways that we've learned. Those are very important to keep in mind as you're presenting those things because someone may have you know stepped into your room out of, you know, chaos, right? They've come out of chaos and now you know if you are correcting them in some way that may not be received in the way you intended it to be. Yeah, it

Colleen Jorgensen  19:25  

may it may just be received as oh, here's me doing something wrong again. And then a lot of self judgment comes in. And soon as there's a lot of self judgment. We're not we're not in the state that's open to learning anymore, right? Like we get physiologically it shifts things. And I just want to come back to what you just said there about the different ways that people learn. So that's a very important thing as teachers to make sure that we incorporate all those different ways into our teaching in a class because some just want to hear it someone to see it, somebody to do it. So I think that's really important what you just said there.

Ericka Thomas  19:59  

Yeah, and I'd like to go back you were talking about empowerment and then we talked about permission offering a lot of permission to be able to change make different choices. How do you feel about too many options? I mean, we like to give options in classes, but I have spoken with other instructors and been in classes where it's almost it's all options. And we know that sometimes one of the reasons people come to a class is because they don't want to think about it. They don't want

Colleen Jorgensen  20:30  

to think so, my answer is it's going to depend who you're working with, because if you've been working with people and you've been helping them to listen to the messages from their own body, then in my experience, they don't get overwhelmed by having many options because they just trust that they're going to choose the one that's right for them. Whereas if you're working with a group who's not there yet, and they they don't they haven't gotten to that place where they're able to trust their own bodies. They're not yet giving themselves permission to choose the thing that feels good, then too many options can be confusing, so you really need to be able to read the room. You need to know who you're working with. To me, this is when I'm not a big fan of allowing dropping in classes. And maybe it's just because of the population that I work with is so challenging. You just don't You don't get to know your your students well enough and then you always have to teach to the person who knows the least, or the person who has the least experience with your teaching or the least awareness. Whereas if you've been working with people and you're continue to work with those same people you're kind of on this journey together and you get to know them so well that you you start to get a feel for what people are okay with. Oh, well this is my group where they like to have a lot of options out but nope, this group a lot of options just makes them freeze, and you just have to learn to tune in. So as much as we're trying to teach them to tune into themselves. We have to be very aware of every single student in the room.

Ericka Thomas  22:05  

Yeah, yeah, I find that the longer I have been in this industry, this space stepping into the front of the room, the more important it is for me to be really aware of what's going on with myself before I even begin. And I've always been, I would say careful about not bringing my own baggage like through the door in front of in front of a class. But sometimes that energy you know, you just you just can't always put it down and there there's it's always a two way communication. So So what are some things as instructors that we can do for ourselves to kind of help protect our own, you know, our own wellness before we go up in front of a class that really needs a lot of attention.

Colleen Jorgensen  23:09  

Okay, so I'm so glad that you're giving us because that's where I wanted to come back to earlier. But now I also want to make sure we come back to the the offering people options because there's more to say on that too. We'll dive into this first. Okay, so I think one of the most important things is that we need to walk the walk, that we're teaching about awareness and permission and self compassion, all of those things. If we're not doing that ourselves, if we're only reading it in a book or we're only reading off of scripts, or we're only using cueing that we've heard from other people, but haven't experienced in our own bodies, then we're never going to get there. And that's my personal opinion on that. So I really think it's very important that we do the work ourselves to like you say, come in, so that we're very grounded. And it's quite common for teachers that where you might even be running from one studio to the next, you know, so you're having to grab all your things and take all your props and get into your car and battle traffic and try to get there on time. So you don't often have a lot of time necessarily. We don't always have the luxury of time to do as much as we would like to force ourselves before the beginning of a class. But if you can have one practice, that even if it's a two minute practice that you do for you, before you even allow the people to come into the room, or maybe you're okay with letting people come into the room but people know that when you're in front of the class and your eyes are closed, you're in your own bubble for those few minutes minutes so that you're getting yourself ready to then be the teacher. So that's one thing is that everything is really important to do to do the work ourselves. Second thing is boundaries, something that is a constant, evolving practice for myself. I've gotten better but I'm not great at it yet. And I think a lot of us in these professions we are not great at boundaries, we tend to be givers, which is wonderful. But you know, we have to have those boundaries are very important. So I think establishing boundaries that you are that you need to respect your own boundaries and be firm about them. And when I say firm, it's not that boundaries shouldn't be solid. Boundaries should always be permeable. So just like our skin is a boundary that keeps what would harm us out, but allows what serves us in that's how our boundaries should be. So I think it's more about clarifying our boundaries then solidifying our boundaries. I'm getting a visit now from cozy that I was telling you about the dog we're babysitting. Okay, so doing the work yourself boundaries and then this is a practice that we have as manual practitioners of finding some way and it's different for everybody, but finding some way of energetically putting on some kind of a protective layer. And again, that protective layer is not something solid. It's something that you want permeable. So just as an example, before I start my workday, when I'm when I'm doing the manual work, let's say because I tend to see people who are suffering quite quite a bit. And it's hard to not bring that home. So I will do this visualization where it's like I'm putting on a raincoat of tool tools that material at a tutu is made up. So it's got little holes in it, we can see through it. So it's not blocking me from being able to care about or have compassion for or to help the other person. But it's just that tiny little bit of an energetic separation between me and them. And I think that's something that's not talked about a lot as teachers but I think could be really valuable. Do you do anything like that for yourself, Erica?

Ericka Thomas  26:48  

I will block time between between clients specifically for trauma release and I tend to try to schedule my classes in a way that kind of gives me an ebb and flow between them. So it's not like at one point in my life, it was all the hardcore back to back to back to back to back. Yeah. You know, I kind of lived in a state of do the hardest thing and hope you don't die. Yep. And, and then, but, but lately, these days, I have more control over that. Right. So, you know, so I'd love

Colleen Jorgensen  27:32  

to know, like how many years into your teaching did it take you to make that shift?

Ericka Thomas  27:36  

Oh, 20 Yeah, me too.

Colleen Jorgensen  27:41  

Me too, and don't you wish oh my goodness, if we could go back and have started that right at the beginning but but that comes back to those boundaries. We're just so keen and we just want to get these give to everybody else. But if you don't, if you don't do what you just talked about, setting up a schedule that works for you where you have those ebbs and flows, then you end up burning out and it's very common in these industries that we work in. So listen to the

Colleen Jorgensen 30:01  

So I've been teaching for more than 20 years and try not to wait 20 years because it makes a difference and you just enjoy your work better, right if you have those moments that built in like that,

Ericka Thomas  30:12  

yeah and and I think that was the thing that happened to me was I totally misunderstood and I got some, some really good advice early on about that. They said, You know, you really need to do something for yourself. What do you do for yourself? Oh, good, but, but I misunderstood what that meant, because I enjoy what I did. So I was just doing more of that thinking it's for myself. Yeah, that's not how you find balance. Balance comes from something totally opposite. You know of what you're doing still still for you. Still fun still, you know, restful, but maybe it's this active rest so I didn't really fully embody that until you know, my voice was giving out like I had some some issues speaking. And so I was like, I don't know how at like, I would come home and just not talk for like four hours. Like I can't my voice hurts. So I I took some voice lessons, I took singing lessons. And I was like, This is amazing. I'm having so much fun. And it was like the fun of that. That was beyond like just the understanding about breath control. Like that's why I went there. I went there for breath control, professional development and the fun and I found the fun and I'm like, That's awesome. This is incredible. That is what doing something for yourself. Is that is what brings balance to the crazy schedule all the time. So you can really let your guard down and just be a regular person and not on all the time and bring

Colleen Jorgensen  31:59  

bringing the playful side to your teaching. You know, often when we're at the beginning of our careers you know, we're very serious about establishing ourselves as you know, getting our reputation and making sure we get a following and you know, all of that and sometimes we forget, it's supposed to be fun for us and for the people in our class. And if we're taking ourselves too seriously, that reflects on how the experience is for the students in the class. So I don't mean you know, there are some teachers who actually bring humor into their class. Not every teacher is that way naturally you don't have to do that for it to be fun. But yeah, just just allowing yourself to enjoy what you do and letting that shine through rather than feeling like you have to become this very serious being because you're at the front of the class. people, all people in all walks of life, need to play probably now more than ever. So I think that's a really important element and particularly people who are dealing with trauma and chronic issues. Play is something that is one of the first things to go, right. And then people's world tends to shrink and get smaller. So those playful moments are not typically what people think are a priority to bring back in. And yet research shows that allowing those times of creativity or playfulness or joy are really important in helping to shift the physiology for people who are living with anxiety, depression, pain, trauma, all of

Ericka Thomas  33:25  

it. Yeah, and I think as instructors, especially in a group setting, you have a real opportunity in that group setting to kind of create this container where people can connect with each other, not just with you, but with each other in ways that are more playful, that it kind of lifts some of the intensity, may depending on the format you know, cross format, you could be teaching something like restorative yoga, but you can also be teaching some sort of hardcore bootcamp kind of thing. It can still feel like recess, you know, that that last art of recess? Yes. I

Colleen Jorgensen  34:11  

agree. And to come back for a moment, Erica, when you were when you had brought up the good point of what what can we do as teachers to come into the room in the right state? One of the one of the things we talked about on previous podcast together is vagal tone and that CO regulation. So at a biological level, you as the person at the front of the room is going to be I was going to use the word dictating and that's that's not the right word and I can't find the right word. But know that whatever state whatever nervous system state you are in, when you teach your class, the rest of the class is likely going to co regulate with your state. So if you you know, sometimes we think it's selfish to take those few minutes to ourselves in between classes. But think of it the opposite way, that if you've come into a class and you're rushed and you're harried and you so you're, you're in an activated state, you know, you're you're in this sympathetically driven state, then you are likely to sympathetically activate everybody in the room. Whereas if you've taken and it might just be 30 seconds to two minutes to do some sort of practice that brings you into more of that ventral vagal state, that state of comfort and connection. Now it's more likely that everybody in the room is going to feel that sense of comfort, connection and safety and they will learn so much better from that state. And they will just feel so much better from that say, so that CO regulation piece is really important. And it goes both ways. Right. And it's like you had said before, I don't remember if we were recording at that point. It's not just when we're teaching a class is when we're socializing is when we're at work, you know, the more grounded you are in your own ventral vagal system, the more likely you're going to bring everybody around you into that same state. And the opposite is true.

Ericka Thomas  36:08  

Yeah, that it's a powerful influence like we are we have a really powerful influence on each other. Everyone that we meet, really, and and before we skip ahead, could you just take a moment and explain for our listeners what you mean ventral vagal because not everybody understands this, the difference between ventral vagal and dorsal vagal like that? Yeah,

Colleen Jorgensen  36:35  

yeah. I will. And I have a great friend, Michelle Sands, who's a fellow osteopath and yoga teacher, and I love that she used a golden retriever and I've got a golden retriever on my lap right now. So I love that she used the golden retriever as the example. So it comes from Steven Porges his work in the polyvagal theory that we use to think of the nervous system as to two main states the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. He's broken that down into three main states and two hybrids. So the first main state in the ventral vagal system, you can think of that as the golden retriever state. When you think of a golden retriever. They're kind of happy, go lucky. They're ready to say hello to everyone. They're always ready to play. They're always ready to snuggle. That's kind of what it's like to be in our ventral vagal system is a parasympathetic ly driven state. And it's we considered a state of comfort, connection and safety. Meaning that you're ready to connect with yourself, with the people around you and with the environment. If that state doesn't serve you to face whatever's coming your way, then the next option is to go into a sympathetic state sympathetic nervous system states commonly referred to as the fight or flight response, fight or flight response tends to get a bad rap but I like to think it is one as the German Shepherd states. German Shepherds absolutely can be on high alert and they're ready to fight or they're ready to chase. But they are also very able to come down and snuggle and be calm as well. So we'll we'll come back to that in a second. Sorry, because that's a hybrid state but the the sympathetically driven is that German Shepherd that's the guard dog or the police dog, where you're activated, you're on high alert. You're scanning your environment for danger, you're ready to fight or you're ready to flee. If that state doesn't serve you we've got a third option which we could talk about as a dorsal vagal state. And I think of this one as a turtle. In our dorsal vagal state, you want to retreat like a turtle shrinking into its shell. You just want to hide away from the world. You want to cocoon within yourself. You don't want to connect with yourself, with the environment or with other people. That is also a parasympathetic state. Then we have two hybrid states where and this is what we sort of want to strive for, where you can be straddling your golden retriever state. So the ventral vagal happy go lucky, ready to communicate and play ready to smuggle, but you can also then activate your sympathetic response. So this would be an example of what you and I are doing right now. I'm very much in my ventral vagal ready to communicate with you. But I also have to be sympathetically driven so that I'm interesting enough. I want to be activated enough that I I can think on my feet and communicate well, right. Or you can think of that that state as the one where you're going to be playing a sport or any kind of competitive play playing Pictionary, for example. You're in that ventral vagal because you're communicating and you're comfortable and you're having fun, but you're also activated because you want to win. So that's that combination. Is a great hybrid state. The other hybrid state is again, combining your ventral vagal golden retriever state with the turtle so that that's when things like doing meditation or dropping down into Shavasana or being able to snuggle with a partner. It's you're able to come into this calm state, but not so calm that you want to disappear and disconnect from everyone. You're in that calm state, but you're tapping into that ventral vagal place so that you're also wanting to still stay engaged with others with yourself and with the environment. Is that enough of a summary

Ericka Thomas  40:32  

is a beautiful illustration. And so you guys I told you she was a phenomenal

Colleen Jorgensen  40:40  

I have to thank Michelle for the for the Golden Retriever because I find I find the golden retriever analogy really helps. Absolutely.

Ericka Thomas  40:48  

And I can totally relate to that.

Yeah, I could probably connect each one of my dogs to that. Exactly. Yeah. All right. So yeah, so that that gives people a nice framework of what we're going for. As an as an instructor trying to communicate right we want to be in that kind of activated but golden retriever state in front of our our, our people for

Colleen Jorgensen  41:23  

sure activated yet grounded at the same time.

Ericka Thomas  41:26  

Yeah, totally. So let's see. Can we apply that a little bit? I know we touched on it earlier, this idea of holding space for people including ourselves because we've we've just kind of wrapped that in. Right so we are now aware of our influence on on others. And that's the beginning. That's how I I look at that like the beginning of this idea of holding this space for our, our clients, our our, our, our students, right and, and then as far as you know, our communication skills go you know, we start off at the beginning of our career, just as you described earlier, like this very prescriptive way of speaking. And then because each of us comes into this industry maybe a little bit differently and maybe with less intention, I know I came in with less than tension. Kind of this rolled in through the back door of the gym. Hey, you're here all the time anyway. You think you might even see director and then you know, we kind of stumble around learning through our mistakes without that. A real strong foundation and how to teach what it is that we know to teach. What would you what would you suggest for instructors who are maybe at the beginning of their career, or maybe they're at a point where they're looking for something that might take them to the next level? So no matter what year you are in that, in that timeline, a lot of us are looking for continuing education, right? We were supposed to keep up on that. But sometimes that that list of continuing education topics, you know, maybe we don't actually need that. Maybe we need something, you know, outside of the box. So what do you think about that? Yeah,

Colleen Jorgensen  43:48  

a couple of the one thing that I find really important and sometimes we get so focused on our teaching, doing the actual teaching that we forget to receive. And I think one of the things that I credit being helping me to become a more well rounded teacher, is that I've still, after all these years make it a point of taking classes from many, many, many different teachers, and not just teachers who teach what I teach, but teachers who teach other disciplines as well. And I always learned something. And what's interesting is that sometimes you learn more from what you don't like on the receiving end of a cue than you do from learning what you do, right? They're both good learning experience. So that so that's one thing, take classes from as many people as you possibly can. Instructors that you connect with and instructors you don't connect with and try to figure out well, why do I connect with this one? Why don't I connect with this one? And how can you bring that into your teaching? So that's one thing and having said that, when you asked me before, what my influences were and what shifted my teaching I forgot two very important influences. And those are selling price work and Cymatics. So the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen from body mind centering is something I was introduced to about 20 years ago, changed my world when I read her book sensing feeling action. It really helped me shift from a bad prescriptive teacher to a more conversational teacher. And being more of a team player of working with what am I getting from the person in front of me rather than just trying to say something to the person in front of me, and then fell in price word if you're not familiar with it. It's the language is so so much a language of permission all about the systems of the body working as a whole rather than focusing on any single part. So those have been two really great influences. And then you and I Eric on we're talking off off camera, that this is not mean it doesn't exist, but to be honest, other than the pain shareware teacher training, which I'll talk about in a moment, I'm not familiar with a continuing education that focuses on language specifically. I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I'm just not familiar with it. So I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon the work of Neil and Lisa Pearson. They started this pain care where teacher training, gosh, time is fluid to me these days, I want to say five ish years ago, I could be way off. And I'm one of the teacher trainers for this, this method. And I have a session coming up that I could talk about later and you've taken that course with me, Erica, it's a 30 hour online teacher training that you do on your own online and then we do a 30 to 50 hour practical together where I guide you through sort of trying to guide you through what you're learning online. And we come together for a three day live at the end. To do the practical, and it's all about changing our language. This one is specifically talking about helping those in pain but it's like you and I talked about the way we have to shift our language to help people with pain is how we should be shifting our language for everybody. Partly because there is no human on the planet who is not going to end up with pain at some point in their life because it is just a part of life. And whether that's physical, emotional or psychological pain, we are all going to live it at some point. So why not? Why not use a language and a way of speaking that supports people through that rather than feeding into the fear that often comes along with that.

Ericka Thomas  47:31  

One of the one of the best parts about that course I found was kind of a another level of permission as an instructor to actually speak about pain, like using that word, that actual word, the actual word pain in relation to this idea of finding an edge and I feel like that is where that particular training can really help across formats. Because, you know, every type of format that you're teaching, if you're looking for some kind of transformation, whether it's, you know, a mental or emotional transformation, or if it's a physical transformation, like getting stronger or faster or whatever it is, all of that stuff happens at the edge at the edge. So, so being able to direct awareness there and help guide people up to that edge in in a way that they can receive it in a safe way, you know, quote unquote safe way that they have control over. I feel like it was really, really a it was just an excellent training. And and yes, it overlapped quite a bit with a lot of the trauma informed kind of language that I was exposed to prior. But this was just a little bit more practical. Right. So you know, yeah, I mean, even if you don't work with population who maybe identifies as some a population and chronic pain, I don't know what what population doesn't I mean, honestly, like when I have conversations with people, it's mostly about what hurts today. So it's so true. Yeah, I mean, there's different levels. Of course, I don't want to minimize but

Colleen Jorgensen  49:42  

I'm gonna take just a moment, Ericka, for those who aren't familiar with pain care where to talk about that edge like what we need when we're talking about that.

Ericka Thomas  49:47  

Yeah, that would be that would be awesome. And and yeah, in relation to like, how do we talk? How do we even explain that, that place that mythical edge,

Colleen Jorgensen  49:59  

edge, so I'll talk about it from the lens of pain but like you're saying Erica, you can change the word pain, to anxiety to trauma to depression, like you can change it to whatever your circumstances are. I'll just use pain just to make it easy for us to be on the same page. So I'll first talk about the two ways that people tend to deal with pain. And then we'll look at working with the edge instead. So one strategy is to never ever go near the pain so that as soon as you do something, let's talk movement. So as soon as you try a posture or movement that wakes up the pain, you stop that movement because you just don't want to go there. Problem with that is that you are guaranteed that you will never get good at the thing you never do. Right? You're never ever, ever going to be able to do the thing that you never ever try. So this strategy does not work and what happens over time, is that your movement choices get smaller and smaller and smaller because when you start to avoid certain movements out of fear of that pain, your movement choices become smaller and smaller and smaller. So that is not a good strategy. The other strategy that people tend to use is the no pain, no gain strategy that you and I are very familiar with that we use for a very long time in our lives. I'm sure many of our listeners either have or do and that's where, regardless of the pain you just last through, you just keep doing what you want to do or keep doing what you think you should do regardless of the pain. The problem with this and I'll try to do this in a nutshell. Our nervous systems number one role in life is to keep us alive and safe to protect us. When you've been living with something chronic, whether it's pain, trauma, anxiety, any of it, your nervous system becomes like a like a helicopter parent who's hyper vigilant and way over protective. So your system starts to see danger even when there isn't danger. The one of the ways that your system will warn you is with pain. So when you go to do a movement, and you feel pain, and you just blast through it as though you're not feeling that pain, your nervous system goes, Oh, Ericka has not getting my warning. I need to make it bigger, louder, stronger so that she can't ignore it, and it will produce more pain. So while we think that blasting through the pain is going to eventually get it to settle down, it actually ends up ramping it up and up pent up because your system interprets it as you're not understanding the message I'm trying to give you I'm trying to protect you. You're not hearing me, so I'm gonna keep protecting you more. So those two strategies don't work. You don't want to just stay away from pain entirely and you don't want to blast through it. What you want to do is what you said Erica, is you want to work with the edge. And I think of this like a flirtatious dance that you want to go and say hello to that back edge of your discomfort or pain. Introduce yourself, shake your hand but then back off and let it ease down again. So you keep doing so let's say you're doing a particular movement that brings on pain rather than immediately stopping everything. See if you can be okay with being with it for a moment, rather than immediately running away or immediately pushing through. Can you just be with it? Knowing that pain is not the same as damage hurt is not the same as harm and you can be sore while also being safe. And as you reassure yourself of all that you keep playing with that edge. So you go and say hello tweet you back off let the system settle, go say hello it back off. Let the system settle and you keep doing it over and over. All the while monitoring things like how is my breath responding? Am I tensing up certain muscles that don't don't serve me in this moment? Do I have thoughts emotions or stories associated with this pain that came in? Am I going into an activated nervous system state as a result of feeling this pain? And we have this whole system of working with all of those parameters as we play with the edge? And then what we've seen is that what happens over time it's not going to happen in one class. It's not going to happen in five classes but over time, as you keep playing with your edge, and you gently nudge it over time. Eventually what happens is that we can do more before the system protects us with pain. So it's like you're nudging that, what we call the Protect by pain response. That the more you kind of go at it, gradually you flirt with it, the more you're kind of imagining that protect by pain response. So over time now your movement choices get bigger and bigger and bigger, that you start to be able to do more movement before pain kicks in.

Ericka Thomas  54:54  

Yes, and that whole process also begins to rebuild some of that. Trust

Colleen Jorgensen  55:05  

100% That trust the awareness piece the learning to listen to your body's messages and to know that your body is giving you more than one message. You know, pain is really uncomfortable. So it pulls all of our attention. But oftentimes, this is something that everyone listening can try. If you're doing a movement and it hurts somewhere. Let's just say you have knee pain as you're doing something instead of immediately coming out of that position or immediately modifying it by changing your alignment. First, check in with other things. Did you hold your breath or are you breathing really shallowly or did your breath get super jagged or kind of uneven? And if so, what if you just focused on the breath for a little bit? It's amazing how often just by changing that thing, it might shift your pain. Or maybe it's that you felt the pain and then you tensed up tons of muscles in your body. Maybe you found clench your teeth, squeeze your anus, any number of things can happen. What if you notice that you bring in that awareness but then you soften those areas? Does that shift your pain? And then what about those stories that are connected? Anytime you feel pain that you have felt in the past? There's automatically going to be a story that's going on in your mind saying oh my gosh, the last time we were here it was awful. I had to go see all these specialists I had to miss work and on I couldn't do my yoga for six weeks. You have to notice that that's coming. Acknowledge that the story is there but then offer a different narrative offer a different story. Something like Okay, last time, that's what it was. But this is a different body. Today I'm working with a different body. I have different tools, and we're gonna get to the other side of this pain. And then that last piece is your nervous system state that if you go to do something and you've got that knee pain, and that knee pain activated your stress response that sympathetic German Shepherd, I'm going to protect you and ready to fight for you. That's going to ramp up that pain. But if you can be there and use your breath you softening your muscles use reassuring the story to bring yourself into a ventral vagal state that golden retriever state that's ready to play and be curious about the pain rather than afraid of it. Be curious and playful about the pain rather than ready to run away from it. Or be curious and playful about the pain rather than being ready to to fight it. Or I forget the other one that I was going to say then all of a sudden, maybe those things shift the pain and we didn't even change our alignment or do a modification.

Ericka Thomas  57:48  

Yeah, yeah. So great. So great. Yeah. And so we're using the word pain. Yeah. This is this is something that I think a lot of people who have spent a lot of their life in the No Pain No Gain world don't understand anymore. Like, what it even it's like, what pain it's like, honestly, like I even even to this day, and I know and I went into your horse and I was like what? Like, I know that like doing a hard core. Hardcore spin class is not the same kind of pain as when I hit my shin on the coffee or step my toe, right? Totally different. The pain Okay, totally hits me differently. Right. Then, then. Then like, like a muscle cramp or then like labor with my children. Right those those feel like different sensations.

Ericka Thomas  1:00:02  

So some of them I'm like, Yes, totally. Like, I jammed my toe. Like that counts to me as the workout. So tease that out a little bit. Because I know I'm not alone.

Colleen Jorgensen  1:00:24  

I know you're not alone at all and it's part of what makes researching pain very difficult because there isn't an like one accepted definition. But interesting what you just shared Erica, would I be right in saying that? One of the big differences there is your relationship to the sensations in those different scenarios? Totally. Right. When you get that post workout pain using air quotes for your pain, that sensation is a confirmation that you worked hard. And you you know you, you went to that class because you wanted to work hard and you're trying to train to achieve a certain thing and the pain is a confirmation that you're doing that. So there's a story that is connected to the pain that is in your case in that moment, a positive story. Whereas when we stub our toe, and now we're limping, there isn't a positive story is just an annoyance. So that bad. So one thing about pain is that physical pain cannot exist without any emotional response connected to it. It does not happen separately. And we don't know yet we certainly don't have all the answers not even close but that is a big piece. That your your emotional connection to the sensation, your feeling and the stories that your mind creates around the sensation tend to be more important than the, you know rate your pain on 10 intensity. You know, like you can have that 10 On 10 pain, but if it's serving a purpose because you're a football player and you're playing in the Super Bowl, and you just kicked the winning touchdown, but it was a 10 on 10 pain when you did the kick. You're okay with it in that moment because you just achieved something that you worked for your whole entire life. But compare that to the person who's in the Super Bowl and they kicked the losing field goal at the end of that game. That pain is going to mean something very different to that person. So as you were saying that though, I pulled up the definition, which is not accepted across all all across the board, but it is the one that is more accepted at this moment is by the International Association for the Study of pain. The current working definition is pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with or resembling that associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Okay, so or potential or potential so this is a really key one and I don't know if we have time to dive into it today, but we can have terrible physical pain and there can be little to no damage in our physical body at all. The opposite can also be true, we can have very little physical pain sensation of pain, and yet there might be a lot of actual damage there isn't a correlation between the two. That's what we're seeing more and more which makes it very, very complex.

Ericka Thomas  1:03:24  

And and it actually this is this is so important when we are communicating to clients and students about edge about finding that edge. Yep, for for them selves because maybe we can help them. Re frame some of those stories and their experiences around those sensations in a more positive way. So that makes slightly makes them less fearful of approaching that sensation that that they may have in the past some sort of negative connotation of of pain like you were talking about. And if we can reframe it in some way, whether that's just through our own cueing or through the container of this playful curiosity, connecting with other people in the room, you know, whatever it is, I feel like that's, that's it without that understanding, like don't have the capacity to offer that in a way that, you know, maybe people would be more open to, you know, in a cross format kind of kind of way so, I think this kind of education, this kind of continuing education, around language in any in any way you can find it and just taking other other people's classes or experiencing other formats like whether we get that continuing education or that broadening of our of our communication skills from something formal, some kind of formal education or whether we get it by by visiting other other classes other instructors you know, taking other just just continuing education those ways. I think it's it's really an important foundational piece there to understand. For our students and for ourselves too, because it's quite soft

Colleen Jorgensen  1:05:38  

too. Yeah, I agree and the challenge is, though, that not everybody is aware yet of our new understanding of pain because for a very, very long time. We were all taught that pain meant damage, more pain meant worse damage. So it is natural that that is what's on the mind of teachers and students because we really we thought that was true for science told us it was true for a very long time. But we now understand that not to be the case. So those three sentences I think as teachers are really important to have so I'm gonna repeat them. Pain is not the same as damage. Hurt does not mean harm. And you can be sore while also being safe. And just those three sentences. If we start to say those over and over and over again in our classes at appropriate moments, that starts to just filter it in the background for all of our students that I always thought painted mean damage, oh that's interesting and then it might get them a little curious. And when we have curiosity instead of fear. Now we're. And then Shepherd activated sympathetic state.

Ericka Thomas 1:06:50  

Yeah, that's awesome. All right. So tell us if people are really curious about this whole pain care language, and how maybe they could take advantage of You're amazing. You're you're just amazing teaching ability. I just I'm floored every time I have a conversation calling really I love it. So how can people participate in that? And is it only for yoga instructors?

Colleen Jorgensen  1:07:22  

Good question. Okay. So to know it's for anybody who teaches movement at all. So it's open to physios, all studios, athletic therapists, massage therapists, anyone who has that sort of basis already in there working with people and any kind of teaching, yoga, pilates, trauma informed, fitness instructors, all of it. But pain care where that particular course is rooted in the philosophy of yoga and pain science. So even though it's not only for yoga teachers, I do want people to understand that there is yogic terminology in this course because that is the route that's the foundation of the pain care where information basically Okay, so there's actually two different things coming up at the the last weekend in March, Neil Pearson who is the founder of pain care, where is teaching what we call the one on one application. So that's for anyone who wants to learn how to work one on one with people who are in pain, and it's really brilliantly laid out. It's a three day program, live online. I'm going to be assisting him with this one. And so you as a teacher let's say you Erica, you have a client you're working with and you're kind of stuck and you're not sure where to go next with them. You actually come together, you and your client, and you go through the whole three days together. So as the instructor or the manual therapist either way, you're going to be on the receiving end of all the practices right alongside your client or patient. And then as the weekend sort of evolves, at the very end of it, the client is no longer there. And now it's us with you all instructors or manual therapists, and we go over Okay, now what kind of plan are you going to put in place based on what you learned? Here for this particular client? So it's really a really wonderful opportunity to get some very specific feedback on how to use all this work. So that's happening end of March, and you can go to pain care to find out about that one. And then I'm teaching on my own a group applications, which is the one that you did. So that's the 30 hours of online on your own. Well, I say on your own, but I'm doing it guided like I did with your group. Erica, where I'm going to be meeting with you throughout I have office hours every single week where you can come and ask questions. I send you emails kind of summarizing what each module was all about. All of it leading up to a three day practical for you to at the end of it gets your teacher training certificate as a pain care where instructor and that is for our group was wonderful. It was so diverse. We had yoga we had Aladdin's we had tre we had something else to think I'm forgetting one. Anyways, we had a lot of a lot of variety, which was beautiful and everybody is more than welcome. And that I just solidified the dates right before we got on here. The practical will be May 19 20th and 21st. So what we recommend is that you start about six weeks prior in order to get information. I'll have all those days I'll be I'll be posting all about that over the next few weeks. On my website, not today will be on my website, hopefully by the end of next week.

Ericka Thomas 1:10:35  

Awesome. Awesome. We'll have we'll have links to those on the show notes as well for you as well as some of the a couple of the books you mentioned and anything else we talked about. I try to allow on top of our transcripts for people. Okay, so calling the last question for today I always ask my guests about what their personal work in is these days. And you know, that can shift over time. Sometimes things that used to be your favorite thing, maybe not so much now, or maybe you've got something brand new. So for you right now what are some things that

Colleen Jorgensen  1:11:18  

are bringing balance? So I've started with a morning ritual, I'm not a morning person by nature. I just like the mornings by nature. And so I wanted to shift that mindset around mornings and I started this ritual that I'm loving and it gets me looking forward to the morning. So I wake up, I make myself tea. I sit in my Stellarium so even though it's winter here in Montreal, and it's freezing outside, I feel like I'm outdoors because I'm surrounded by open windows including being able to see the sky and then something that our friend Joe Ragnar introduced to me a year or two ago is quassia facial massage. So I use the guasha tool, but I actually use it more as an osteopath. I kind of do a bunch of cranial and facial work with the guasha tool as I'm sitting there. And Breath So that combination of the two, surrounded by nature, using the guasha tool and focusing in on my breath really helps me to get into that ventral vagal place that golden retriever states to greet my day and our family has been going through some really challenging times. And it's during those challenging times where often the first thing we let go of is those rituals and those tools. And I see immediately if I go a couple of days where you know, I think oh, I've got this set to do that's so much more important. I'm going to just skip it today. After even just a couple of days I can feel my nervous system ramping more and more towards that German Shepherd state. So I encourage everyone that it's especially when life is more challenging. That is when you need to rely on your tools. It does not have to be things that take an hour, something that takes two minutes, but you use it regularly can make a huge, huge difference.

Ericka Thomas  1:13:04  

So great yeah, I have to like enter back Atia tool. Yeah, I'll

Colleen Jorgensen  1:13:08  

send you a link. Yeah, that'd be awesome.

Ericka Thomas  1:13:11  

And I will put it in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining me again on the podcast. Colleen it's been fantastic. I think people are gonna really love this conversation.

Colleen Jorgensen  1:13:26  

I hope so anytime I love our chats. I think I'm back 12 times and most of them were tough but I think Take care. Take care and Erica

Ericka Thomas 1:13:39  

Thanks so much for listening to the work in be sure to head over to savage Grace forward slash the work in for all of the show notes. And if you like what you hear here on the podcast, and you are an independent coach, creator or entrepreneur who's looking for actionable authentic accountability, or just someone to bounce some ideas off of for a little focus and direction in your business in the new year, head over to savage Grace where you will find our newest clarity coaching package. What is clarity coaching? Well, some of the things that we cover are how to optimize social media marketing, where to focus your continuing education investment, how to curate your certification collection to set yourself apart. How to scale your solopreneur ship, and of course how to create professional boundaries to burnout proof your career. Now if any of that is on your to do list this year, savage Grace coaching can help. So head over to the website and apply at savage Grace, forward slash, clarity, and I'll see you there.

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