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

Communicating permission, exploration and play in pain care and trauma with Colleen Jorgensen

February 07, 2022 Ericka Thomas Season 2 Episode 63
The Work IN to move out of stress, tension & anxiety
Communicating permission, exploration and play in pain care and trauma with Colleen Jorgensen
Show Notes Transcript

Please welcome Colleen Jorgensen back to the podcast. She is an osteopath, a therapeutic Pilates yoga and Somatics teacher and a graduate of pain care U.'s professional pain care program. Colleen is  the owner and founder of Stillness in Motion, where she combines manual therapy and current neuroscience research with creative embodied movement mindfulness awareness, self regulation practices and a distinctive compassionate approach to pain care. Living in chronic pain herself for over a decade has given Colleen an invaluable first person perspective on the day to day challenges those in pain face. That perspective inspired her creation of Discover to Recover: Move from pain to potential, her six week online pain care program to empower people with knowledge, awareness and practical tools. 

Colleen is a brilliant compassionate instructor who loves teaching and offers many courses, workshops and teacher trainings and embodied anatomy, somatic movement and compassionate creative pain care. And that's why I thought she would be a fantastic resource for us on the work in for today's conversation, because we're taking a deep dive into communication, specifically how instructors communicate, but not just instructors also on the student side, how we can help our clients and students receive that communication.

Colleen appeared on The Work IN previously on the Work IN in our 4 part chronic pain series in early 2021.  Episodes 13, 14, 15 + 17

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Ericka Thomas  0:01  

Welcome back to the IN I'm your host Ericka and I am super excited to welcome Colleen Jorgensen back to the work IN. You all might remember her from back in March, I think it was. Episodes 14 16 17 Something like that 13, 14 15 one of those teens go back there because we had a fantastic conversation on chronic pain and the nervous system. And I just want to remind you all about Colleen's background before we get started here. She is an osteopath, a therapeutic Pilates yoga and Somatics teacher and a graduate of pain care U.'s professional pain care program. She started dancing at the age of three and hasn't stopped exploring movements since and she is the owner and founder of Stillness in Motion, where she combines manual therapy and current neuroscience research with creative embodied movement mindfulness awareness, self regulation practices and a distinctive compassionate approach to pain care. Living in chronic pain herself for over a decade has given Colleen an invaluable first person perspective on the day to day challenges those in pain face. That perspective inspired her creation of Discover to Recover: Move from pain to potential, her six week online pain care program to empower people with knowledge, awareness and practical tools. 

Colleen is a brilliant compassionate instructor who loves teaching and offers many courses, workshops and teacher trainings and embodied anatomy, somatic movement and compassionate creative pain care. And that's why I thought she would be a fantastic resource for us on the work in for today's conversation, because we're taking a deep dive into communication, specifically how instructors communicate, but not just instructors also on the student side, how we can help our clients and students receive that communication. Because as we know communication is key for anyone who calls himself an instructor or coach and even more so when you work with chronic pain or trauma sensitive populations. The thing to remember here is that we might not know that we're working with someone who's experienced trauma or who is in chronic pain. And what I see as a big issue across the fitness and wellness industry is that we're training our trainers and coaches to be cheerleaders, and directors rather than guides We're certified. Yes, and we know lots of what to teach but less of the how to teach. Less of the physical, emotional and mental presence that we need ourselves so that we are able to look at the bodies who are in the room with us and cue what we see rather than queuing what we know. So let's start today's work in with Colleen Jorgensen Colleen. Welcome back to the work in I'm so grateful to have you here today.

Colleen Jorgensen  3:15  

Thank you I'm so grateful to be asked to come back. I'm honored and I absolutely love this topic. I think it's so important. And so I'm really glad let's dive in.

Ericka Thomas  3:25  

Let's do it. Let's do it. Before we get to that Colleen, tell us a little bit just remind the listeners a little bit more about yourself. If you would, and and what is going on with you right now.

Colleen Jorgensen  3:39  

Sure. So you you said a lot about me already, so I won't say too too much. But I did start my career as an athletic therapist, so very biomechanically based biomedically based and worked with a lot of athletes for the first part of my career. I then upon graduating went into osteopathy, which sort of is reminds me more of yoga and yoga therapy because it's a much more holistic approach where you're not just looking at somebody symptoms but really trying to look at the whole person and how can we not fix with with they're coming to see us for but how can we support them and their systems so that their inner wisdom the body's innate wisdom can figure out how to heal itself because we all have that inside of us right? And then because I will partly because as an osteopath, your your, your clientele starts to become more chronic in nature. You sort of start to get the the the issues that are more complex, you tend to get people who have been deceived many other people and no one can figure out what's going on. So I had no choice but to sort of do a deep dive into all things neuroscience and chronic pain because people coming to see me had such complex issues and I wanted to make sure that I could that I could help as best as I could. And then during all of that I ended up with a spinal cord compression injury myself. So three back surgeries and a hip surgery later and several health issues in between. I'm moving in chronic pain for the last two decades. So it's been very eye opening to be on the receiving end of care. You know, all the people who are in the field that I'm in I now also see as a patient and it's, it's it's taught me a lot. So I'm hoping that I'm bringing that into my teaching and my manual therapy now and the latest thing that I did that I don't think was on my bio that I want to make sure your listeners know about is that I'm a pain care aware teacher trainer, pain care, which is a new program developed by Neil and Lisa Pearson and it is exactly doing what you are wanting to do Erica, it's teaching teachers. You know, they highlight yoga, but it's really teachers of movement of all kinds. How to understand just enough about pain science so that we're teaching from a safe place. It's not to teach people how to teach pain science is just giving you the knowledge base that you're teaching from an informed place but the majority of this course is all about the language that we use as teachers because unwittingly, before knowing all that we know now we as teachers have been using language that sort of fosters a sense of fragility in the body. So I'm excited to dive into this conversation because there's a way for us to turn that around. And it's not a blame game. We've we've all done it myself included. You only know what you know when you know it right. And the science is now in a different place. So now that we know what we know, we need to move with the science and start to change our language as teachers.

Ericka Thomas  6:33  

Yeah, I'd love that. Okay, so let's let's talk a little bit about the history of the language of instruction. Let's let's just back it up a little bit. Because you and I both have been teaching for a long time. And so I'm curious about what if any instruction or guidance that you were given early on in your career, either as in yoga or somatics or Pilates, about how to speak to your clients, how to kind of communicate with them what it was you wanted to do, and then maybe we can we can talk about like the difference in that today.

Colleen Jorgensen  7:14  

Okay, great question. So I think what was very common back so I started well, I started teaching movement when I was 14. So that was back in the 80s. As a professional it would have been in the 90s and moping no game was the was the way right it was really we work. We like to push people to push themselves. And that's a hard thing for people to shift out of. We're starting to see it happening slowly. But it's a difficult thing to it's a difficult mindset to change. And I think probably the biggest thing and I still struggle with changing it because as you know, our habits are deeply ingrained. But we were always taught to teach people that if you have pain during a certain position or movement to modify it, or change it altogether, or just don't do it. And now that we know what we know about pain, neuroscience, we understand that okay, what we've been doing when we when we say those things, so for example, someone's in a, I don't know, they're in a warrior too, and they're having knee pain. So I say okay, so if you're having pain in this posture, you can modify it by doing XYZ. And if you still have pain, then do this. Posture instead. What's the message that's giving is that pain is dangerous and something we need to avoid at all costs. But the reality is that pain is a very normal part of life. If you're human, you're going to have pain. If you do movement in life, you're going to have pain at some point. So we want to now teach, we want to normalize, normalize that. You're going to feel pain every now and then. And it's not necessarily a negative thing. We want to be aware of it. We want to communicate with the body to figure out what's happening. But we want to normalize the fact that okay, yeah, I feel the pain. Right now. Well, can I work with it? Are there things in my physiology that I can work with? My breath, my thoughts, my emotions, the state of my nervous system, the tension in my body? Can I play with those things and see if the pain shifts, rather than immediately telling people change what you're doing? Sorry, go

Ericka Thomas  9:20  

ahead. Yeah, yes. So I wanted to highlight something that you're you're saying here, like as an instructor, we don't really have the language to call it anything but pain. Right? And so everybody's experience of what pain feels like isn't the same. So what I experienced as pain, somebody says, If I feel pain, I should stop but if my pain threshold is very high, then that is not really an accurate thing because I will push up to that pain threshold for myself. Because of exactly what you said earlier. You know, the no pain, no gain kind of thing, right? We want to feel some kind of sensation or we're we're we have this idea that in order to get a good workout or in order for this to work for me, that I have to feel that pain either during or after the fact. Right, I should feel this workout in some way. And then you have the flip side of that, where people experience experienced every sensation in the body as pain. And so part of this is not just you know, adjusting our language around it but also helping our students to to kind of reconnect with their body and then re educate themselves about what is it is it really pain is what I'm feeling here is this pain is this dangerous pain because there is that in the body there is danger, like we don't want to hurt people. Right? I mean, we don't want a joint injury or you know, so that can happen and depending on the format you are teaching, right? I mean, we we want to be safe but but effective. And, and yeah, so yeah, so I hear exactly what you're saying. So that's challenging right to be able to to communicate that in a way that your people understand and help them to understand what's going on in the body. So so how do how do you start to do that? How do you start to kind of draw that out in your students?

Colleen Jorgensen  11:38  

So many important things so I want to make sure I don't miss any. I think one of the most important things that you talked about, and it is the biggest shift in our understanding of pain. We used to believe that if we had pain it was because there was damage in the body. And so it was correct to be wary of doing things that gave you pain because we thought oh okay before if I if I have pain when I do this, I must be causing more damage. So I think the number one lesson for both teachers, and especially our students because they don't get this information the same way that we do. is the biggest thing we understand now is pain is not equated with tissue damage, interested in have excruciating pain, and it's real pain. It's not in your head. I'm not saying that it doesn't exist. That's not at all what we're saying. You can have a terrible amount of pain, and there'll be absolutely nothing going on at a tissue level. There's something going on at the nervous system level which we can talk about after if you want up there's not necessarily any damage in the tissue. You can have the reverse happen as well. You can have someone who has on X ray or MRI a lot of tissue damage, and my experience absolutely no pain. So this is what we've learned so much in the last 15 to 20 years is that what we feel doesn't correlate to what's going on in our physical bodies. And again, I want to highlight that is not to say that your pain is not real or pain is in your head quite the opposite. What we understand is that if pain persists, past the time that tissues take to heal, so let's say you sprained ligament in your knee, you know is typically six to 12 weeks for something to heal. If your pain persists beyond that point. And even before then, but we'll talk about beyond that point. We can say with quite a bit of certainty now that a lot of the issue is how the nervous system is interpreting the messages from your body. Because we know the nervous system is plastic, neuroplasticity, we call it the longer you're in pain, the better your body gets at producing pain. This is this is the really tricky part of it.

Ericka Thomas  13:58  

Oh my gosh

Colleen Jorgensen  13:59  

So you know if you've had maybe someone injured themselves doing that warrior II five years ago and they ended up having to have surgery and they had to miss work and they had to, you know, financially, things were challenging because they weren't working and they had to rely on other people for help. So now every time they go into warrior two, their nervous system has all of these memories flooding in of all that they experience from that one injury. And before you even go into the pose, your system may wrap up the protective mechanisms for you. One of which is pain.

Ericka Thomas  14:32  

Yes, because it's getting you to change your behavior.

Colleen Jorgensen  14:36  

Exactly. And that's very positive when the change in behavior is necessary. And that that tricky part is that the nervous system often gets it wrong. And the longer we've been in pain, the more often it gets it wrong. So we have to quite consciously come in and offer a different narrative basically. So I'm going to take that same example, that warrior II rather than that person immediately coming out of the posture or immediately modifying the posture. Well, let's check in with how your system is reacting to the posture. Did your breath get really, really quick and shallow? Are you holding your breath? Did you start to clench your jaw or curl your fists or your toes or clench the anus? Or there must be muscular activity that's being engaged that's really not serving you for this posture. Do you have a whole story that started to be created in your mind around this movement that you're trying to do you have any emotions or memories bubbled up in reaction to all of that? So if we look at all of those things, and that's the way I teach that was very, quite frequently throughout a class we'll go through the almost like a checklist of the Kosha's basically, and see okay, what's all that doing? And if we regulate the breaths, if we try to acknowledge and then release the muscle tension that's not serving you in this moment. If the story's creeping up, what's offered a different narrative? And if you feel emotions coming up, acknowledge them. You know, you want to you want to say okay, I hear you. It makes sense that you're scared, but we're actually safe right now. So what if we try it and then check in with that pain? And most of the time, it will have changed, and then you're able to now teach this to them. Oh, okay. I can do a warrior too. And it actually feels fine. And then the more because the nervous system learns, the more often you do that thing, and it feels fine or maybe even feels good. When those messages outweigh the danger messages. Now the system changes and that takes time and repetition, but it does change.

Ericka Thomas  16:45  

Yeah. And and that really beautifully illustrates how important it is for instructors to understand that connection with the nervous system. Yes, no matter what format they're teaching, because there's you know, people go to move for lots of different reasons, right? They show up in all kinds of different classes for all kinds of different reasons. But ultimately, the nervous system is involved in all of those things.

Colleen Jorgensen  17:16  

Absolutely. All of it. And I think a lot of teachers shy away Ericka because they're afraid that they then have to teach about the nervous system. And that's something you can do. But what you and I are saying I think you and I are saying the same thing. We just need to have that basic foundation, that basic understanding of how the nervous system works and how much it's involved at every moment of a class for people. So that were teaching from an informed place and you you may not even have to mention the nervous system in your classes. That's that's your choice. But if you have an understanding, it will change the way you teach automatically.

Ericka Thomas  17:51  

Yes, and exactly. You do not have to stop in the middle of a kickboxing class and explain what's happening with the with the nervous system. Absolutely not. But but the way you described that example was was really really beautiful because what you're doing in something like that is is really directing awareness for our students in a way that kind of takes the pressure off them. Right so they don't have to find areas because in human body, you know, by yourself, of course, your mind is only going to go to the place that hurts, you know? Absolutely and and so to have an instructor help you walk through the sensations in the body and then kind of cultivate that curiosity for you at first, the kind of curiosity that sort of lifts all of the judgment we have about the things we feel like oh, that's my bad knee. That's my bad shoulder. That's, you know, I have a bad you know, all we have all of these terrible judgments that we attach to those negative sensations. Pain is a negative sensation. And it can really kind of stifle that. That new awareness and the body.

Colleen Jorgensen  19:15  

Yeah, beautifully put beautifully put. And I think that curiosity element is key curiosity and play. We've become so serious about our movements just in general. We almost take it like a job, you know, or homework that we have to do. Instead of being there because we enjoy it. And it's and it's fun, and it feels good, like movement should feel good. That doesn't mean that it should never not feel good. It can be it can be super challenging, and we can sometimes experience pain, but the experience can still be quite positive. So I think that element of curiosity and play is key again, both as teachers and as students who are who are doing the movements. Right, right. You said something I want to just come back to because you said something important there about how pain really pulls our focus. And it's very easy when you're in pain to only use pain as your one and only barometer of what's happening in your system of whether or not you should do something well if I pay and I shouldn't do it, but we are much more complex than just that. We are a whole person who has thoughts and feelings and emotions and the breath all those things. That we just listed before basically the coaches, and if you start to tune into all of that, and the pain, the pain is one piece of the puzzle, but it's one piece of a very large puzzle. So I would encourage people who are listening again, both as teachers and as students don't allow pain to be the one and only thing you're paying attention to because it's only one little bit of information in a much more complex puzzle.

Ericka Thomas  20:47  

Yeah, for sure. And and what you mentioned about how you know how we take ourselves so seriously as instructors that's, you know, especially true if you're working with a specific population, right? And everybody want as an instructor or coach, we all want to kind of build our professional confidence, right? And so there is a little bit of that ego there like I know what I'm talking about. And I'm going to take care of you and and all of those things, but, you know, in specific certain populations like chronic chronic pain population, for example, or trauma sensitive population can feel really heavy. And I can be can feel very serious, you know, for the people there and, and for the instructors exactly like you said, so how can we start to lighten up our language in ways that will sort of lift some of that seriousness, not just for our students, but for ourselves too, because you know, we are all connected there. We're holding space for everybody in the room.

Colleen Jorgensen  21:57  

Yeah, I think that's a really important point. Steven Porges his work on the on the vagal system talks a lot about Co-regulation, that we co regulate our physiology, syncs up with the people that we are around. So if you think of it from that perspective, as a teacher, if you're taking things really seriously and you're thinking the whole class of how can I not put my students in danger, your system is going to be primed in that sympathetic drive, right? Because you're you're you're on high alert because you want to keep your clients safe. Okay, that's fine, but your knowledge is there, whether you're in a highly sympathetic state or whether you're in a nice socially engaged state, your knowledge is still there. So if you think of it that if you can be you as the teacher can be grounded and curious and playful in your own posture, in your own thoughts, in your own emotions, in your facial expressions, in your tone of voice and in the language that you choose. Then you're inviting the same for all of your students who if they are living in chronic pain or are dealing with trauma, life becomes very serious, too much of the time, and it's hard to find those moments that are that feel playful, but the science tells us that that is one of the best ways to help them heal. So that's one thing. The second thing that I think is important that you talked about is you know, whether we whether we are going in with that mindset consciously or not as teachers, just the fact that we are the teacher that that is our title. There's a there's an implied sense that we are the expert in the room, right. That's why people are coming to us because we are the expert. In the room. And because of that there's this, again, whether it's there actually or not, it's perceived. There's a hierarchy. And so people who come to a class, sort of feel like if if we as a teacher say something they need to do it. And that's not the case especially if it's a trauma sensitive group or pain groups. So I think as teachers, we need to really use language of permission and let our students know that everything that I demonstrate everything that I say is a suggestion, and then it's up to you to use discernment. And trust your own instincts to say, Okay, does that feel right in my body today, and if it does, great, go ahead and explore it the way that I'm doing or somewhat differently, play with that. And if what I'm doing in this moment doesn't feel that in your body, don't immediately change it sit with it, see you Okay, well, why doesn't it feel good in your body? Have that conversation, that inner dialogue and try to figure out, what's your system trying to tell you in this moment that is not liking it? Is it because in the past it didn't go well? Okay, well, let's, let's acknowledge that but then let's be aware that every time you come to your mat you're a different person. You are a different set of cells inside your body. You're you're you're you're not the same person. You were the other day, how you slept the night before, what you ate today, whether you had an argument with somebody or not, whether you got stuck in traffic on your way, all of that and more factors into how your body will accept the movement that I as a teacher, I'm suggesting in this moment, so give yourself that permission to change and adapt it in any way that feels good. And the more that we as teachers give our students permission to do that, the more is that Teach a man to fish concept, the more we're giving them the we're empowering them to trust their own bodies and make the choices that are right for them whether we're in the room or not. And I think that's the best gift that we can give people.

Ericka Thomas  25:41  

Yes, absolutely. And you actually just beautifully answered my my next question before I even asked it Colleen which is one of the reasons I love having you on the work and because I don't have to ask anything. Because I wanted to explore that a little bit further about how we restructure our language in order to kind of encourage that agency in our students and, and that's something that's missing in most, you know, non clinical settings of, of fitness, because people really they walk in the room to a class, a movement class, whatever it is. And one of the reasons they're there is so they don't have to think of what to do next.

Colleen Jorgensen  26:25  

Just turn your brain off. Autopilot.

Ericka Thomas  26:29  

Exactly. So if an instructor and this has happened many times in my yoga classes every once in a while, I'll ask them to just go ahead and do your sun salutations on your own. I'm just gonna I'm gonna zip my lip. And oh my gosh, the panic on everyone's because I don't I don't know. I mean, we touched a little bit. I mean, it's like, you go to a class and a teacher supposed to tell you what to do. But then there's there's an idea that there's a possibility to do it wrong and there isn't like there's no, there's you. You can't do it wrong. So it's okay. There's so much going on there. But let's be

Colleen Jorgensen  27:10  

honest, we've probably all of the past students have had that moment where there is a teacher that made us feel that there is a way to do it. Wrong, right? Oh, yes. I absolutely hope that that doesn't happen. But the reality is that it does. So that's going to be playing on people's minds for sure. But yeah, I just to just to highlight your point, when I did my first time of that six week pain care program, in that pain care program every day, I gave them a two to three minute movement snack. And as the pain program was coming to an end, I could see people were panicking about not having access to those two to three minute movements in the next and I was trying to figure out they were telling me that they were they were trying to take notes and that I know that and I I finally said okay, the whole point of these movements next is that they're not prescriptive, they're just really playful. They're never the same. They're all a little bit different. So you don't ever have to do exactly what you did in this pain care program to get the same benefit. The whole point of it was for you to try many different ways of moving in a really playful, non judgmental way. So that when you're not following along a video, you can just do whatever. Like it doesn't have to be a three sets of 10 of this one thing any movement is good movement. So it was really it took a little bit of time. But for those who were able to let go of that need to remember what they have done in the program and have to copy exactly what I had showed them in the program. It was fascinating to see how liberating that was and then I got messages after people saying, you know, yesterday, I took out my mat and I just moved for 40 minutes. I didn't look at anything. I wasn't being guided by anyone and it was so liberating. And I think that's fabulous. But to come back to how we've been teaching in the 80s 90s early 2000s teaching was very prescriptive. And I was definitely a teacher like that. I wanted everyone to do alignment in a very particular way, every second of the class. So I was telling them, I was killing them so often and I thought I was doing that for all the right reasons that I wasn't giving them any room to notice what was happening in their own body and make a change all by themselves. I was always telling them how to fix it. Right. So I think people have gotten quite used to that prescriptive style of teaching that many of us had in the 80s and 90s. And now we're offering this much more kind of giving them room to to be their own teacher and it's like well, I don't know how to do that. I've never done that before.

Ericka Thomas  29:47  

Right, right. Yeah, it's it's a little bit like reintroducing them to their expert self

Ericka Thomas 30:00  

Yes, and for for many of us, and I will include myself I mean it, it takes some time to kind of shift into a place where you can you can trust that expert so and and so yeah that takes it it takes practice and and one of the best places to practice is when you are in a space with a coach or instructor who's helping you direct that awareness and then giving you the freedom and agency to try those things. So yeah, there's there's so much overlap with what you talk about Colleen and the way I see trauma sensitive language in instruction and at the base of what, what I what I find in trauma sensitive language is this idea that you're just being you're being real, you're being open, you're being curious and you're being kind and that's from an instructor to a student and then from that student to themselves. So

Colleen Jorgensen  31:11  

what you just said there from that students themselves as hard for people, absolutely. You seem to have a much easier time being kind and compassionate and understanding to strangers than we are to ourselves. And that's a really, really important thing.

Ericka Thomas  31:26  

Yeah, and I would say even more so if you are someone who's living in chronic pain because it can be so frustrating to feel like you're fighting your own body all the time. And And to your point earlier, I mean, that is feeding that sympathetic response in the nervous system. Which is like this terrible circle of pain, right? That will like trigger more pain. So we need to find ways to kind of help people. Let that go a little bit to loosen their grip on that.

Colleen Jorgensen  32:00  

Absolutely. And on top of what you just said about it feeding into that nervous system loop. We also talked about you gave some really great examples that often when people are in pain or have been traumatized, the way they speak about their bodies, first of all, as other as though it's not a part of them. Makes us disconnected from our body for one and sometimes that comes from a very necessary place right sometimes disconnecting from your physical body. If you're living in a high level of pain all the time, or a high level of emotional or physical trauma. That might be the best solution for you for survival at times. So to unlearn that, and be friends your body again, is a big challenge and it's a process that takes a lot of time. But the other thing that you said that I just want to highlight is the way we talk about our bodies. Typically when we're in pain, like my bad knee, my my my bum leg, my stupid shoulder, my my back is so fragile my back always gives out on me. saying those things out loud, thinking those things every single time we say or think it we wire another connection in the brain that that's gives that message. And what we know is that if those messages outweigh the messages that say the opposite that my shoulder is actually quite strong and it does good work for me all day long. If the messages that you're constantly saying my my bum shoulder, my bum knee outweigh the positive messages, then that's the message your nervous system is going to see and react to and so it's going to trigger that loop of being in that sympathetic drive that that danger over protective state. I just want to give it go ahead.

Ericka Thomas  33:45  

Well, I was just gonna say so one of the ways that we can re access that and kind of shift there is to change the language that we're using when we're talking about our body because if it works one way that works one way to the negative then we have control over the things that we say. And so even if you can't in the in the moment, like change your thought about it like you can, that's really hard for people that's really hard. Yes, but you can say something different like you can, you can speak a different mantra there. You can exactly yes.

Colleen Jorgensen  34:16  

So I just wanted to share an example if I could have that. I had a patient who has a neurological condition so she has spasticity and she was coming to me for a shoulder issue and if I even went on that side of her body without even touching her, the whole arm would go into spasticity. So I was trying to show her an exercise and the arm kept going into spasticity. So she kept saying she kept hitting her arm for one and say, Ah stupid shoulder. Oh stupid shoulder. It's not cooperating and she kept calling it stupid over and over and over again. So I didn't address it right away. But at the end of the session, I said, you know, you talk a lot about your new nephew and he was just like learning how to walk us and when he's learning how to walk does he does he do it like the first time or does he fall down to lunch because oh my god, he falls down all the time. And I said do you call him names when he falls down in our faces? Of course. Do you know? And she says, you know, we scooped them up and we encourage them and we give him love and I'm like so what you did that when your shoulder starts when your arm starts going into spasticity. What if you treated you the same way you do to your nephew as opposed to calling it stupid. And her whole body language just changed in that moment because she had been thinking of her arm as other as disconnected from her and she was mad at it and she didn't like the way it was behaving. But she had never considered that well, what if I met it with kindness and compassion? What can that shift and that's hugely powerful because as you say, Our thoughts are not going to change overnight. It just doesn't work that way. But if we keep giving a different message very consciously, eventually, over time, when those messages outweigh the other ones, then we get a shift in the nervous system and how the nervous system response

Ericka Thomas  36:08  

100% And that's why it's so important that that we have a certain level of awareness and intention about how we speak to other people, not not just in classes, but in other people in general. And then for ourselves, that that awareness and intention about how we speak about ourselves to ourselves.

Colleen Jorgensen  36:31  

Yes, yeah. And one quick shift that people who are in pain or suffering from trauma can can try you know, instead of immediately getting angry and frustrated with with the part of you that you feel is is not working well or is giving you physical sensation of pain. What if you acknowledged how much is working for you, you know, like to say, Wow, let's say some will say myself who has has had all these spine issues and so many surgeries and it's still a challenging area for me. Sometimes I just put my hands on my own spine and I say, Wow, you've been through a lot and you've been working really hard to keep me functional. And thank you, because it's not been easy, but I really appreciate everything you're doing for us, you know, and it just shifts the way I feel about it rather than immediately getting frustrated and wanting to fight it. Right. Yeah. Run away from it happening.

Ericka Thomas  37:30  

Yeah, and that kind of practice which it should be a practice right. We we have to repeat those things. You can't just be nice one time over, right? Yeah. Yeah. So can we talk about some, some cueing? Yes. Let's talk about maybe let's start with like some, some things that make cueing unclear and then move into some ways to be more clear in our cueing and some of our favorites. So let's let's begin with that. And I bring this up because as a yoga instructor, sometimes we have very flowery language. And it's not all that clear to people who are like not in the yoga space, like they just want to stretch. So good point,

Colleen Jorgensen  38:27  

and I don't know they I can come up with in this moment specific examples of an unclear cue because what's unclear to me might be perfectly clear to somebody else. I think that's the key is that and you said it before, you have to work with who you have in front of you. So if you say a cue and you see a face in the room that's looking like a deer caught in the headlights, well, you know that you didn't land and then you need to do the work to find a different way of saying the same thing that everybody will respond to it. Oh, sorry. I shouldn't say it that way. Not everyone is going to respond to one cue. We need to know that at the outset, right? We all interpret things differently. We all have different experiences and how we, how we hear things is going to be based on our past experiences. So what makes sense for one won't make sense for another. So I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect cue or a really terrible cue because each can work for some people. So I think it's important to be able to read the room and be able to, to see and feel when people are getting frustrated because they're not understanding what we're saying and be able to adapt in the moment. So you had mentioned something I don't know if it was while we were recording or not. It's really important not to just use a cue that you heard in a teacher training, because it sounded like a good cue. If it doesn't make sense with the bodies you're working with in this moment or night on this day. Well then we don't use it. And if you heard are really great, too, but you haven't actually embodied it. You know, you haven't actually tried it on as you're moving. It sounds good in theory, but maybe when you're actually in movement, it doesn't make so much sense. So I think those are two important things as teachers embody the cues that you've heard that you've liked, and make sure that they actually make sense in movement. But then the key is you've got to be able to work with who you have in front of you and and pay attention. And what you can see people's body language changes or maybe their head comes up from the floor and they're looking at you because they you know, they're trying to see what are you doing because what you said I have no idea what you're doing number so those are cues to us. Okay, well, I need to say it somewhat differently because that person didn't understand what I was saying. And that's not a that's not a them problem. That's a me problem, right? It's, yeah, it's us to figure out how to keep adapting it.

Ericka Thomas  40:41  

Yes, exactly. And, and that's one of the that's one of the things that actually I I've spoken to other instructors about it. One of the ways we can help ourselves to become better teachers and coaches is to maybe practice only cueing verbally, in taking our physical presence away from the front of the room, that will make you better because you have a challenge. Yes, it is. It is a great challenge the other day, I mean, there are so many ways that you can challenge your teaching ability, but that's one of them. The other is to like actually face your class and and you know, that may seem like well, doesn't everybody do that? No, not everybody does that. Right. And, and it's a good point. Yeah. Because if you are the kind of instructor that is very kinesthetic I would I would consider myself a very kinesthetic learner I have to do this thing in order to know the thing. And, and so sometimes in order to, for me to be able to cue someone else, I have to physically be doing the thing. So I feel it in my body and I can explain it exactly. But But that means I have to physically do it, right. But at some point you can, you should be able to stop physically doing it. And when you stop then that actually frees up the people in your room so that they don't have to follow exactly what you're doing that now they have to be present. They have to be more present in their body. Like what does that mean for me?

Colleen Jorgensen  42:24  

That's a great point because they do whether no matter how many times we like verbalize, you know, you don't need to look like me. People want to look like the teacher or they want to look like the most advanced student in the room. That's just human nature, right? So we should encourage people not to strive for that. But that doesn't mean that's not going to happen. And I love what you suggested. I think it's a great a great exercise to go through as a teacher to just do an audio class and give it to some friends and students and see where you able to go are you able to follow along you know, so that they're only listening and because it's a real challenge as a teacher to only get those audio cues and not be doing or or being able to do any hands on or any of that you

Ericka Thomas  43:06  

know, it's a whole different experience. Right and that hands on piece like the the actual physical adjustments which you know, not not every format that doesn't, you know, apply to every format, but I've never been comfortable with it with doing physical adjustments on other people because I'm not comfortable with other people physically adjusting me. So I've never done that, but some people do. Some people really depend on that, like that correction technique. It feels like correction to the student, right. If your teacher comes over and moves your arm, that means you are somehow doing it wrong.

Colleen Jorgensen  43:44  

Exactly, exactly. That might not be the intention of the teacher. Exactly. That is a message that's going to be interpreted, rightly or wrongly. And it kind of robs the students of the opportunity to develop that awareness to figure that out for themselves. You know, whereas if we tried with our words to say, Okay, well what if you put your arm in this position and then they had to figure out well, how do I get it there? They will learn a lot more doing it themselves than if we move to the arm for them.

Ericka Thomas 44:12  

Absolutely. Yeah. And so our cueing should be really aimed at developing awareness to help ...

Colleen Jorgensen  44:26  

permission exploration, that's yes. And play to me. Those are the major things now I used to be so alignment base with my cueing and I am sometimes still it still has a place. But I've come to learn that the students get so much more out of it. When we give that language of permission and allow them to be curious to explore, to get rid of the judgment to know that there's no wrong way to do it. So there isn't a perfect alignment that you're all trying to achieve. There may be an alignment that makes the the posture feel easier for you. So if that feels good in your body, okay, go for it. But there isn't that perfect alignment that we're all striving to achieve. And it's it's it just completely changes the class for sure.

Ericka Thomas  45:11  

And and they may walk out of that class, feeling amazing and not even understand why and that's the beauty. That's the beauty of really good communication. Because it isn't that it isn't the moves that they're doing in the room. It isn't the poses that they're doing in the room. It's their new connection with the body. And and so it's it's just it's a beautiful thing and it lasts so much longer than just you know how many calories you burned that day on the mat that day

Colleen Jorgensen 45:45  

I completely agree. And you know, you were asking you didn't put it exactly like this, but I forget how you asked the question, but a simple language of discernment so that we teach students how to be aware of what's going on as they're moving. A very simple one is, as you're going through the class, are you able to smile? And if you're doing something that's requiring so much effort that you can't smile, okay? Well maybe check in and see if there's a way that you can do that with more ease. And the breath the breath is one of our number one ways to give us a sign of how our nervous system is responding in this moment. So if you're doing posture or a sequence or whatever, and you're holding your breath or your breath has become really shallow are really quick, unless you're purposely trying to click in the breath because you're doing some sort of cardio sequence. That's a different thing. But if you're holding your breath and the breath has become shallow, well that's a that's a very distinct signal that your nervous system is interpreting threat. So take just a moment, pause what you're doing. And take a moment to just focus on the breath while you're still in the posture if that's possible, and just wait until that breath flows down and lengthens out a little bit. And then you keep going. And then same thing with checking in with your body tension. You know, if you're, if you're all of a sudden clenching your teeth or borrowing your fists or curling your toes or you know, the shoulders are hiking up into the ears to try to protect your neck. Again, these are all really evidence signals from the nervous system that it's detecting threat and so it's turning on those protective mechanisms. If you don't recognize that one of the next signals is going to be pain because if you don't hear what your nervous system is trying to communicate, it says shoot, she's not getting it. I need to make it more obvious so the signal becomes bigger, right? And that's when a feeling of getting away or a muscle spasm or pain. That's when those things will happen. Because almost always there was a more subtle signal that came before that. Either you ignored or you didn't hear or you you know you weren't aware of. So checking in with the breath. Are you able to smile, checking in with the body tension, checking in with the thoughts and emotions and checking in with the nervous system state? It's like a little checklist that if you just get in the habit of doing that, periodically, you almost can't go wrong because your nervous system tells a story. Absolutely. Listen, we know that famous quote if you listen to the whispers You don't have to hear the screams right.

Ericka Thomas  48:22  

Yeah, and and that that checklist would be really fantastic for every instructor to take in for themselves as well, because I we touched on it a little bit earlier you talked about Co- regulation beautifully and I think that as instructors, especially if you're teaching a lot if you teach a lot of different formats. If you're if you're living in society today, you're probably a little stressed out and other ways to not just what your job is, what your what your profession is but but those that those points that you listed can apply to you as you step in front of your class, just to center yourself to ground yourself before you begin

Colleen Jorgensen  49:14  

before you begin and then keep checking in because it's going to change right. So absolutely. Keep checking in.

Ericka Thomas  49:20  


Colleen Jorgensen  49:22  

I want to did you want to do a few more examples of other types of cueing like,

Ericka Thomas  49:26  

Yeah, I mean, so yeah, so we talked about curiosity, we talked about kind of directing awareness. And, and I call it freedom phrasing, you know, to cue in in certain ways, so that it empowers your client, your student in front of you to change, basically anything that lets people have agency over their experience. We didn't really talk about what do you think about like inclusive language things? And what I mean by that is, is taking out the, the you do this or don't do that or you know, kind of that that prescriptive. We talked about that before that perscriptive that's Oh my gosh, I can't even speak anymore. You make me feel at home. Thank God I know how to edit right. Oh, good lord, prescriptive language. So So yeah, so let's talk a little bit about that inclusive language so people don't feel singled out. I guess if in a group setting.

Colleen Jorgensen  50:51  

I completely agree. So you said a couple of things. So one of them. So first of all, any negatives. I was had a beautiful teacher years ago and I was trying to think of her name in preparation for this and I don't remember what her name was. Lisa. I don't remember her last name, but she was. This was way back in the 1990s. And she was the first person to point out to just not use any negative words when you teach like that. Don't do this or stop that or that's wrong, you know, those kinds of things. Those those phrases immediately set us into a defensive mode. Like we've all had negative experiences with those kinds of words in our lives at some point, whether it was traumatic or just not nice. We've all been there. So we almost go into a freeze or a defensive state when we hear don't or stop or you're doing it wrong or no. Right. Right. So those should those have no place in in teaching to me. And I love seeing how my students changed when I took out those words because I used to do that all the time. And I didn't even realize it until it was pointed out to me which is the beauty of a great teachers being able to show us that. So for us to find ways of instead of so if you see someone doing something that you perceive as not being the right way to do it, okay, but there isn't a wrong way to do things. But let's say you're perceiving that they should try it a different way. Use language like well, what if you tried doing this instead? So rather than saying stop doing that, or no, not like that, or don't do that? Just saying, What if you tried this or what if we added blah, blah, blah, or Okay, I like that. But how about we also do this you know, it's it's, it sets up a completely different response in the person that we're trying to address.

Ericka Thomas  52:34  

Yeah, I love that you brought that up about the response in the body when you hear those words because that's I don't think that's something that really is known, right or, or understood like when somebody tells you to stop or don't or whatever. And when I was asked to I had the same kind of training, it was through yoga, it was this whole communication module through yoga fit and they do a beautiful job of helping instructors to learn how to communicate. One of the things is to remove all negative language. And one of the exercises that we were given was to go 24 hours with with with that we could say whatever we want to just say but we had to start it with isn't it great that

Colleen Jorgensen  53:32  

love it and

Ericka Thomas  53:34  

what I was really quiet for 24 hours

it really is but it but it really highlights how much that negative language sort of weaves itself, even if you're a positive person, right, right. We just don't notice it because it's so normal in the way we talk about things. And so And you're absolutely right, when you start to notice that it then it shows up outside of teaching, right. So you're you're trying to implement it here, but then you may as well just implement it everywhere. And now I can't talk about that anymore. Like I can't talk like that anywhere anymore. Yeah, it's great. It's fantastic. And so good. Well, I'm so I wanted to talk to you what you were talking about to replace those negative words. It's it's a challenge at first right in your cueing and I love the the examples you gave about using the word try, because that word is a great replacement for don't

Colleen Jorgensen  54:43  

try and explore. And what what if we What if

Ericka Thomas  54:48  

you know? Yep. Oh, so also can we like yes, yeah. And and then there's some there's some other there's some other set up like like if you are i like i like the framework as that that's like if we feel this, then can we try this? So rather than, yeah, don't don't let your knee go over your toe, or whatever the cue is, whatever the alignment is, you know, Don't clench your shoulders or whatever it is. If you feel the tension there, if you feel that sensation, then we can try this or maybe this and it fits for pretty much everything.

Colleen Jorgensen  55:41  

And I also think that as teachers, again, it's how we were taught back in the 80s 90s early 2000s, is to look at what we can fix on people. And so we always have that I have looking for what people are doing wrong in our classes. But what if we flip that script? And instead when you're watching your class, look for what are they doing right what about their posture, or their movement is serving them in this moment, and then highlight that for them. So instead of immediately trying to get them to change something that you think isn't going well? What if instead you came in and said Oh Erica, I love the way you're supporting your your neck with the way you've placed your arms? What if we now also try doing this? And so now you've given them You've honored something that they're doing well, rather than immediately coming in and trying to change something which makes them feel like they've done they're doing something wrong, you know, even when people you know, when people are doing breaths, I used to say things like, you know, I would evaluate how they're breathing and then I might say, okay, so you're not getting breath to the belly. So let me teach you a belly breath. I never say that kind of thing anymore. Now I'll highlight. I'll say, Okay, you're doing an amazing job at moving the sternum with your breaths. Now let's see what it feels like if we also bring some breast down into your belly. So I haven't highlighted anything they've done wrong. I've praised them for doing something really well. So they feel like they've succeeded at something. Now they're much more open to learning something new. If they have that sense of accomplishment, as opposed to making them feel bad or judged for doing something wrong and then asking them to learn when they're in that state. That's not when we're in a state of learning.

Ericka Thomas  57:27  

Absolutely, absolutely. If you're in a state of Protection or defensive, nobody wants to hear what you have to say.

Colleen Jorgensen  57:36  

Just before we move on from the negative languaging is, you know in neuro linguistic programming they talk about as soon as you say, Don't do something or don't look at something that is exactly what the person will do because the brain takes out the don't part. So if I say to you right now, don't look behind you. There's a gorilla there first. thing you want to do is look behind you.

Ericka Thomas  57:55  

Exactly. So not even

Colleen Jorgensen  57:57  

having the the effects that we wanted to have. So no negative language, just throw it out the window.

Ericka Thomas 58:02  

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, and we did touch a little bit on this idea of exploring and experimentation with things. I think this speaks directly to that, that, that desire to not do it wrong, right. If we have if we've established something in our classroom, where it's okay to try something new, just experiment just to see how it feels. You don't have to stay there if you don't want to. If we have given that power back to them that agency, then we you know, they can they can play right they can they can

Colleen Jorgensen  58:46  

they have room to do whatever they want to do. That's where the fun learning takes place. And Tawnia Converse is also part of Marvelous and I we always talk about, you know, what if so, whatever whether you have pain during the movement, or maybe your your, your shoulders crept up into the ears or your muscles got tight, whatever, rather than greeting that with some kind of judgment or immediately trying to change it. What if you said, Well, isn't that interesting? Yeah. So what is that telling me? Let me let me look into that a little bit. My shoulders crept up to my ears when I took this posture interesting. What would that be? Why would that be let me let me explore this a little bit and see is there a way I can change my breath or my thoughts or my emotions or my body or my nervous system state? That would allow them to just soften let me check it out. Let me just explore and see what happens. Isn't that interesting? Instead of oh, I can't believe my body just did that.

Ericka Thomas  1:00:07  

Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's, um, it's important as the person who's helping to direct awareness there to sort of remind the room that whatever it is that they find is, okay, 

Colleen Jorgensen  1:00:28  

That it's good, it's all useful information. I tell people to think of it like you're You're a detective. And your body is the most interesting, most fascinating case you're ever going to work with. And so every little bit of information you get, whether you think it's positive, negative, or neutral, it's all useful information to help you figure out you. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I just want to come back to something you said before we move on from it. A lot of us as teachers are really good at giving that permission at the start of the class. And then we assume that all the students are going to remember that we've given them that permission and we never say it again. We really have to keep repeating it over and over and over.

Ericka Thomas  1:01:13  

Yeah, that's that is a really good point. And and that's something that I had have really come to learn because I feel like I don't want to nag someone in my classroom right. But what we have to remember as instructors is that not everybody hears you. They don't know hear you the same way. And so, even adults, we think that children don't have really good attention span, but adults really don't. We're there. We're worse. Yeah, we've got all kinds of things like people in your room are thinking about their grocery list and the bills at home and the thing they left on their desk and what are they going to how are they going to get the kids at home for whatever, you know, like there's a lot going on in the brain. Yeah, so it's okay to repeat yourself. And it's actually good to establish some kind of pattern and predictability to the way you speak to your students. And one of the things that I started doing a couple of years ago is that anytime I was going to do something new or different, I would start it with "listening carefully". Nice, because you know, I want them to be in their, their, their body, but I don't want them to feel lost if I see if we switch something up if we do something new, you know, so, so that phrase at the beginning of anything different new and different, they were like, oh, okay, I'm here for it, you know, I'm here for it. And then they were like, okay, back into their, whatever their flow their thought whatever they were doing, but that is just one pattern, right? You can have lots of different patterns of of cues to direct attention for your for your students. And yeah, you might want to play with that.

Colleen Jorgensen  1:03:13  

One of the things that I've started doing when introducing something new, or when introducing something more theoretical, where they're going to be or not even people tend to come in, like you just described in their heads, right? Because they've just run from work and they've just had to get traffic to get there and then they've got the dinner they have to do epic like all the things. So we tend to come in and we're in that cognitive brain, which is you know, they're coming to a body based class. And when you're in your cognitive brain, you're not going to experience the class to its fullest if that's where you're if that's where you are coming from. So what I like to do is to get people into their back body. So whether that means they sit against the wall so that they feel the contact of the wall. On the back of their spine. Or if it's if it's okay with the group you're working with. They sit back to back, but reading or just lying on the back even but bringing awareness to the sensation along the back of the body gets us into our physical body and into more of that brainstem activity as opposed to that frontal lobe that cognitive area. And then we learn better we can learn better if we're taking it in through the body as opposed to trying to intellectualize and break down okay, that teacher said I have put my right arm here and my left foot there. If they just feel it, they will learn it much better.

Ericka Thomas  1:04:28  

That is interesting. Yeah. And very valuable. Oh my gosh, Colleen, we could talk for hours and hours. But I know that you have a whole lot going on today and I want to be respectful of your time. And maybe have you back on another time. But before we wrap up, what do you have going on? How can people reach out to you? Is there another round of Discover to Recover coming up?  What do you got on the table?

Colleen Jorgensen 1:05:02  

I wish I had a date to tell you but because I'm in the middle of a move my dates are all messed up but in the New Year very soon after the new year there will be a new round of the six week program so feel free to reach out to me by email or DM and then in the New Year as well. I have not finalized the dates but it should be in February I will be giving my first pain care aware teacher training, which is a 20 hour it'll be online. So there's a 30 hour that people do online on their own beforehand. And then we do the teacher training together the 20 hours and it's just fabulous. I think you and I have talked about this just like you know we just need to be trauma informed now to teach well because we just never know who's in our classes. I think that's where this pain care where is coming to that we just all need to have this basic foundation and it's not to teach you how to teach pain science to anybody. It's not that it's just giving you the basic information so that you can teach from that informed place. And the biggest piece of it is helping to change our language as teachers. Yeah, those things come up so I don't have the exact dates but they will be posted on my website and on my social media very soon.

Ericka Thomas  1:06:11  

Perfect and and if you can get them to me in the future, I'll pop them in our show notes for today.

Colleen Jorgensen  1:06:18  

I appreciate that. Okay, perfect. I will do that. Yeah. Awesome.

Ericka Thomas 1:06:22  

Colleen As always, this was such a pleasure. Thank you so much for being with us on the work IN. Thank you. 

Colleen Jorgensen 1:06:30  

I hope one day we can chat in person share a tea or something. talk for hours. And hours 

Ericka Thomas 1:06:35  

I'd love that! Thanks, Colleen. 

Colleen Jorgensen  1:06:42  

Thank You! Have a good day. 

Ericka Thomas 1:06:44  

Thanks for listening and if you like what you heard and you want to know more, you can find all the links from our amazing guest in the show notes at elemental This year, I'm bringing you a unique opportunity to train with me in a one day retreat that will give you a simple, accessible understanding of the nervous system. Powerful safe self regulation skills to calm your own stress response and trauma sensitive communication tools you can immediately use to help your clients get those elusive results in any format. The well is a one day retreat series and the seriously stressed fitness professional who wants to become unshakable in 2022. So here's what is inside experience, deep relaxation and calm that comes from true Nervous System Recovery. With a trauma release yoga session. Invest in your success with actionable trauma sensitive tools you can use right away in any format. And then nourish your body and mind with a day of community and connection. capped off with a locally sourced meal from our private chef Rebecca Denney from the modern farmhouse kitchen, go to elemental forward slash the well network shop for all the latest details. So check it out. Until next time, my friends thanks so much for listening and remember it's okay to stop working out and start working in

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