Written by Mel on 10 October 2020
Recently I have become an authorised Hañsa Flow Yoga Teacher which has both been a huge highlight as well as an exploration with chronic pain to living well beyond the pain.
“Melanie’s history and clinical examination findings are consistent with cervical, scapular and upper limb persistent widespread musculoskeletal pain”, i.e. a pain system disorder due to central neural sensitisation.
Boom !! finally on 9th August 2012 at 43 years of age after many years of health issues, clinical investigations, severe episodes of pain with murmurings of ‘hypochondriac and drama queen…” I had a clinical diagnosis; this was a turning point with confirmation that I was not making it up.
I had persistent neuropathic pain on and off for 18-20 years with many medical investigations and interventions, finally in 2012 the pain specialist suggested yoga as a therapeutic treatment. At that time, I was taking up to 6 tramadol a day with antidepressants to get through while being self-employed with young children. I was literally taken to yoga for the first few weeks as driving was difficult, holding a coffee cup was challenging and working on the computer was tearful. Gratitude to FlowHot Yoga in Christchurch, their teachers and community are wonderful and very supportive. Although yoga certainly supported my pain management and helped me move again, I was still experiencing debilitating episodes of pain.
In 2018 I met Vincent Bolletta, Founder of Hañsa Yoga Therapy, this was via 100 initial hours of Yoga Teacher training, at this time I was not teaching yoga or even seriously considering teaching yoga, I saw the poster marketing yoga therapy that mentioned pain management and signed up.
During this first training I noticed a subtle shift in my mind and body and came off tramadol during the training. The following year I signed up for the second 100-hour Hañsa Therapy Teacher training as soon as the bookings opened. This time again I noticed another subtle shift in the pain which was amazing!
I now had genuine hope. Over the years pain had become my narrative it was worn as a badge on my sleeve blocking experiences and joy as pain was all consuming as a central focus.
People in pain tend to go on various searches for relief and healing, for example…acupuncture, western pharmaceutical, physio and Shammanistic healing (yes I have even done that). Vincent said that he is often the last person that people seek out and this totally resonated with me.
People in pain will generally try anything to be out of pain, there was a very good reason that torture worked in times gone by. The conundrum, however, is fear of creating more pain, the possibility of triggering a different pain or worse trying something and having no pain relief at all. Fear of failure is common and can stop us taking the next step and embracing new experiences with an open mind.
Movement can be scary if you are in pain. If it is an acute injury you generally immobilize and rest, rehabilitate and recover. For some however, pain can become chronic long after the injury should have healed. For some this chronic pain can become cyclic and triggered by either an incident like a soft tissue injury sprain or emotional stress, which may develop into complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I now recognise that I had developed CRPS as a teenager. Many ACC claims for neck soft tissue injuries with sensitivity to touch and out of proportion pain. I recall going to the GP trying to explain that the hairs on my legs felt like they were going in the wrong direction when wearing jeans. Other examples were an out of proportion reaction to hot, cold and normal bumps and soft tissue injuries.
With complex regional pain or persistent neuropathic pain the main point of difference between Hañsa Yoga Therapy and consulting with a physio for example (not that there is anything wrong with physios – just saying) is that the physio treatment is focused on the actual perceived injury, if we do the exercise and feel relief and get better we tend to stop doing the exercises until next time.
Vincent Bolletta’s teaching allowed me to unlock deeper triggers and meaning behind the pain which in turn has given me the ability to understand why the pain episodes occur – this is multi layered both in mind and body.
I learned to take ownership and responsibility for the pain with the deeper psychological issues to enable a retraining of my neural pathways and nervous system. This happened over 2 years working with Hañsa flow sequences and this year furthering my study with Vincent in the yoga therapy realm.
My revelation was extraordinary, it came like a bolt of lightning during an online yoga therapy lecture with Vincent, suddenly it all made sense, child developmental pathways that were compromised, a pre and post birth trauma of being adopted lead to a lifelong fear of abandonment or not being good enough.
This is an ongoing process, my pain episodes are few and far between now days, the last episode was a few months ago, the good news here is that now that I know myself, I could address the trigger and calm my nervous system which shortened the episode to weeks rather than months.
Finally, thank you very much for reading this, my hope is that something may resonate with you or someone you know. By practicing Hañsa Flow sequences, learning Hañsa philosophy and being open to delving into yourself, I can confidently say from firsthand experience that you have the ability to heal yourself.