Sep 30

Top Six Mindset Tips to Successfully Transform Your Injury and Yourself

What constitutes an optimal recovery mindset? Through over 20 years of clinical experience of observing those patients who were able to overcome their pain and injuries, and navigating my own personal experience, I have come to understand the importance of this aspect of, not only recovery, but healing and transformation. It shapes how you experience your pain, how you participate in your process, and how you communicate with your health care providers. And, as you may have guessed, it is heavily influenced by your brain.

Welcome to the Growth Mindset.

Herrmann’s Model looked at 130,000 brain dominant surveys and synthesized that there are four ways of learning and understanding: analytical, procedural, relational, and innovative. We are born with all four, but some become more dominant depending on other aspects of our lives, as we develop preferences and biases—as Herrmann says, our “lives shaped the way the wind sculpts a tree.” The analytical asks ‘why’, the procedural asks ‘how’, the relational focuses on ‘who’, and the innovative wonders ‘what if’.

When faced with pain, injury, or adversity, any and all of these questions can play a role. ‘Why is this happening?’ is a common question. ‘How am I going to get through this?’ usually comes up. ‘Who can help me?’ is beneficial when seeking a health care provider. Additionally, we can ask, ‘What can I learn from this?’ and ‘How can I not make the same mistakes?’

Understanding, not only how we answer these questions, but which ones we gravitate most toward and how we ask them, can be useful in determining our current mindset and how we may need to shift to best help ourselves. Learning to understand and optimize your mindset allows you to stand for yourself and seek excellence when it comes to your health—excellence, not only in the care you seek out, but in the care you give yourself.

With that in mind, here are my top mindset tips:

1. Openness and Curiosity

Openness is about changing your perception, and curiosity is about maximizing the brain’s novelty bias. We all get excited about shiny new objects or stimuli!

2. Shared accountability

There is a therapeutic alliance that exists between practitioner and patient. While it is up to me to monitor and guide the biological and physiological responses to make someone more recovery-prone, the psychological aspects of managing the responsibilities of life and other social determinants of health must be co-managed. Having a practitioner that is cognisant of all of these aspects is important.

3. Capacity not to fixate.

The harder we stare at any problem, the less likely we are to see solutions and the more distorted becomes our sense of the time we have spent looking at it. Yet it is important to remember that change in life is not only possible but certain. If you are able to give yourself a break and not perseverate on your pain, the doors to change are more likely to open.

4. Resolve and purpose-driven

Pain is challenging, but it is important to have a growth mindset and match your resilience with the challenge. If you believe that the locus of control is within you and you have a purpose in your recovery, resolve is that much easier to come by.

5. Worthiness of health

Knowing that you are worth the effort required for self-care and healing is a cornerstone of recovery and transformation. It is what allows you to continue on when other things in your mindset slip or when they are not going as you had hoped.

6. A dash of no-nonsense, bad-ass attitude

Because it aids resilience—and it makes my messages easier to take!

As a couple of ‘x factors’, maintaining optimism and being able to be your own cheerleader are also useful strategies. Having support both around you and within you helps to keep you moving forward in difficult and uncertain times, especially for those who have more relational tendencies. A love of learning fuels an internal desire for growth and allows us to see the gift in any situation when the question of ‘why’ gets heavy. If you can have the capacity to problem-solve and re-frame your story, you can find other ways to measure progress other than simply absence of pain.

We all know that, when it comes to our health, we pay for things either on the front end or the back end. There is a cost of time, effort, and discipline when it comes to maintaining or regaining our health, yet the cost when we have lost it is much higher. We do not achieve health through passive measures, it is behaviour change that improves health outcomes. It starts with adapting, then believing, and following through with action. If you learn to move better, think differently, and expand your understanding of yourself and your pain, that is the goal of my practice, virtues, and teachings.

But first, you have to show up. Show up for yourself first.
Show up November 17 for the latest Brainfullness Experiment to put your mindset in action. Sign up here

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Sep 30

LIFE HAPPENS

When my patients start psychotherapy, many have taken a long time to get to the point where they would act seeking my help. For highly sensitive people who process things deeply, this makes some sense. But…does it? Really? Why wait to feel a great sense of relief to know someone will be there with expertise to help you solve your concerns?

Most of us would get help from a plumber to fix a toilet faster than going to our doctor or therapist. Why is it that our toilets have priority over our lives? A broken toilet can be a drag, but it feels way easier to get a plumber than to open one’s innermost concerns to another human. That can make one feel very vulnerable.

What folks usually do not know is that unlike plumbers, who do not need to help the toilet feel safe, psychotherapists are trained to help people feels safe and protected. When you come in, we do our best to help you feel less weird about it. Many of my patients don’t realize how many others I have seen with similar problems, so they feel exposed. They do not have to.

Our society is rather predictable in this regard. For example, Canada is one of the happiest countries on Earth, according to a recent poll by the Ipsos foundation. Yet it is fairly common for Canadians to think they have depression or anxiety. Much of that is generated by common life changes and ups and downs, or life circumstances, which we believe should not happen. We Canadians expect life to be even.

When life happens, we get worried when we have strong unfamiliar emotions in response to those events. Since one of the features of highly sensitive temperamental trait is high emotional intensity, we get strong emotions in both directions, up and down. Unfortunately, we tend to get distressed by the intensity of the less desirable emotions.

Having problems can be distressing in itself, without the extra burden of being worried that one is worried. The world we live it cultivates this tension. Much of the mediatized environment that surrounds us is engineered to make us feel less than adequate, so we avoid at all costs to accept we may need help.

Having a problem is not a problem, it is part of life. Neither it is a failure.

This belief that having problems makes us a failure gives us anxiety and leeches away the energy we might need to fix the problem in the first place. It also prevents us from facing the problem sooner. Tackling this mindset can help improve our life.

Next time you have a concern with your health or your mind, think of your priorities (health vs toilet, for example) and whether you want to buy into the engineered mindset that nothing needs to be wrong with you. Expecting surprises and change from life is a mindset that can help solve them without extra suffering that comes from avoidance. It is about letting the world unfold as it does. It is about compassionately letting yourself live your life as it presents itself, without judging it or yourself.

Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as  Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.

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Sep 20

How do you want to feel this Fall?

I want to feel CONNECTED. PASSIONATELY ENGAGED. CURIOUS.

When we are clear about how we want to feel we are more likely to recognize unwanted feelings that lower our souls vibration and keep us stuck – think fear and anxiety. Most forms of discomfort are communicative; sending our bodies and minds messages that something is off. I have experienced anxiety since I was a little girl, worrying about things out of my control, always fearing the worse, and allowing self-doubt to stop me from shining my light. When I started listening to my anxiety, I noticed something fascinating. My anxiety was incredibly wise; leading me towards a greater understanding of myself, my boundaries, and the world around me. Once I learnt how to harness the wisdom of anxiety through different mindfulness practices, I began living a more connected, fulfilled life. And now, when anxiety shows up, I ask it in. I sit with it. I listen to the messages it carries. I ask it what it needs. And then, I practice a little self-compassion. If you’re suffering with anxiety, recognizing that within your anxiety lies a well of wisdom is the first step towards transformation. 

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders affecting Canadian men and women today. To learn the tools needed to take control of your anxiety book an appointment to meet with Kaitlyn today. 

Calling in support requires courage and strength and it shows that you have warrior style determination towards living your best life.  As a therapist, I strive to be challenging, but never judgmental; warm, open minded, and willing to let you explore options in life; careful to never rush to quick solutions; and deeply respectful of the intricacies of your unique experience of yourself and the world around you. 

Kaitlyn is a Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist at the Integrative Health Institute where she also offers group and individual yoga therapy. Her approach to therapy weaves together her education and training in professional Psychotherapy with her experience in Holistic Nutrition, and Yoga. To help unlock stuck areas with tools and strategies that honour the intricate relationship between mind, body, and spirit.

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Aug 30

An Open Letter To My Pre-Natal Vagina

In keeping with the trend to give advice to our younger selves, I want to do the same for my vagina.

Dear Pre-Natal Vagina,

You are beautiful, magnificent, strong, resilient, and tough AF.  You likely don’t realize your potential to do great things yet.  Much like every other part of our youthful body, you work seamlessly and with little effort or maintenance.  Oh, to be young.

I’m from the future, a post-natal and experienced vagina.  I’ve seen things you can’t imagine.  I’ve felt things that you only read about in books or learn in school.  I want to take this opportunity to discuss some of the things you will experience and how it will change and shape you. But, if you heed my advice, you will have confidence to face any challenge that comes in your direction (and, FYI, they come either direction…)

1. STRESS

We associate holding stress in our body in many areas; our necks, our shoulders, our jaw, and between our temples.  We rarely think about holding stress in our vagina, but it is often one of the first body parts that reacts to stress. Think about a gory image. Maybe your fingernail ripping off or cutting open your hand with a sharp knife.  Did you feel any sensation between your legs or into your stomach?  Your pelvic floor just contracted because a stressful image was envisioned and we will guard our most intimate area first and foremost.  We hold stress in our vaginas like we hold stress in any other part of our bodies and the longer you let it become a static state, the harder it becomes to turn around the normal.  You will be exhausted being on high alert all the time.

You don’t know how to relax much yet, pre-natal vagina, but you can learn today!  Do not wait till a problem arises or we become pregnant.  Learn how to breathe relaxation into this area.  Learn how to release those muscles with stretches, a tool or your own finger.  Learn how to recognize when either is needed. 

Book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist to give you a baseline and help you develop an awareness for your pelvic floor muscles and help maintain tranquility down there.

2) PRESSURE

Let’s talk about the two types of pressure we will experience during and after pregnancy:

  1. First, there’s the pressure from the sheer weight of our growing baby and how they sit (headstand actually) on our pelvic floor muscles.  Our pelvic floor acts as an active sling to keep our bladder and reproductive organs from falling on the floor.  It’s a tough job and now there’s anywhere from 1-11lbs of baby weight making the job even harder. This is going to be pretty demanding on all our muscles down there.
  2. Second, after we give birth, our abdominals are pretty out of whack.  They’ve been stretched out, but, truthfully, at this point, we may be self conscious of our stomach sticking out so we suck in every time we pass a window or mirror. This directs our intrabdominal pressure downwards, which is the internal pressure we hold in our core.  More pressure down, means more pressure for our pelvic floor muscles to hold up.  They are already so tired and to be honest, traumatized from that baby passing through that all they know how to do is clench and never let go.  An exhausting task.

So, once again, pre-natal vagina, my advice is to book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist who will teach you to get into safe positions to relieve the baby weight off your pelvic floor. They will teach you how to appropriately strengthen or release this region and finally, they will assess how you are using your abdominal muscles to ensure the downward pressure is minimized.

3) BIRTH & PERINEAL MASSAGE

To be blunt, a watermelon needs to come out a hole the size of a lemon.  I mentioned earlier that you have tremendous potential to adapt and be resilient in the face of a challenge.  Birth is one of the greatest challenges a vagina will ever face.  You have no idea how large of a baby will stretch you apart until they are out and already on the weigh scale. 

Dearest pre-natal vagina, I failed you when I foolishly chose not to prepare your tissues. Who runs a marathon without training?  Who gives a presentation without preparing the PowerPoint slides? Who goes on a road trip without filling the car up with gas?

I’m so sorry pre-natal vagina, I took you into birth blind.

In fairness, our first birth was huge and I could barely reach you around my belly.  I read about letting my partner do the perineal massage for me but could we really trust him down there?  He’s not skilled with his hands and in the last month of pregnancy, we don’t need him to mistaken this as foreplay.

There is evidence to support that perineal massage helps prepare your pelvic floor to the type of stretch that is needed when giving birth.  Over the last 4-5 weeks of pregnancy, you slowly start stretching this tissue to grow accustomed to what you will feel during active labour.

Book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist in your last 6 weeks of pregnancy and they will show you an effective way to massage your pelvic floor and ready it for that watermelon.

Pre-natal vagina, I’ve even done you one better to over compensate for how poorly I let you down. You will tell all your vagina girlfriends so no other vagina will go into labour as unprepared as I allowed you.  I’ve developed a tool to help with perineal massage and manually releasing your pelvic floor muscles from stress.  I can’t give away all the details yet but it is in it’s final stages of production and will be manufactured this fall. It’s beautifully designed to add a little reach and innovative for the different thermal needs a vagina may have before and after birth. It’s sleek as hell so stay tuned, it will be brilliant.

You see a dentist every year, even if you don’t have a cavity. You see your doctor annually, even if you are not sick.  You see a massage therapist, even if you have not strained a muscle. You do regular maintenance and oil changes on your car, even if the engine light isn’t on. 

So if I have not been explicit enough, book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist before you even get pregnant to check the health of your vagina.  As an experienced vagina, trust me, you are sacred and deserve the same care we give the rest of our body.

With love and respect,

Your Post-Natal Vagina

Kate has been a physiotherapist for 14 years at one of the top sport medicine clinics in Toronto.  After the birth of her two very large babies, she became a busy, athletic mom with all the “common but not normal” post-partum incontinence symptoms.  She has since become a certified pelvic health therapist and a Studio Lagree Pilates instructor.  Her extensive background in all these areas lets her be uniquely suited to restoring pelvic floor function and overall functional movement in women and men trying to be active and accident-free.

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Aug 30

Libido: It’s not about the drive, it’s about the brakes

Most people who ask me about libido assume it is a hormonal issue.  Men want to know if they have low testosterone, women want to know if they maybe have too much.  But the honest answer is that while hormones can be a contributing factor in libido, our sex drive is much more complicated than that.

It’s Not That Complicated

While hormones and the body changes that occur during sexual response are complicated, libido can be understood in a much simpler way: it’s not about the drive, it’s about the brakes.

Two researchers, Erick Janssen and John Bancroft at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction found a simple, compelling way of describing libido and sex drive when they developed their Dual Control Model of Sexual Arousal. 

Basically, think of your libido as a car.

Your Libido As A Car

In a car we use a combination of accelerators (gas pedal) and brakes to get us where we want to go.  And our libido is much the same. 

We each have a gas pedal, the accelerator of our sexual response.  In this model it is known as the Sexual Excitation System (SES), but I like to just think of it as the gas.  When we are exposed to sexually relevant things – things we see, touch, smell, or imagine – we put gas in our tank.  What puts gas in your tank is really up to you.  What’s important is that there is gas in there.

And, just like a car, we each have a brake – two actually, just like a car.  These make up our Sexual Inhibition System (SIS).  One brake is just like the foot brake in a car – it is alert to all the danger in the environment and when hit yells “STOP!” 

Our other brake is like the hand brake – just a constant “No, Thank You” signal.  You can drive with the hand brake on, you may be able to get where you want to go, but it will take longer and use a lot more gas. 

Them’s The Brakes

Most of us, when we learn this way of understanding our libido, recognize that we are likely riding the brakes.  While it is important to make sure there is gas in our tanks, from positive relationships with our partners, warm baths, or loving touch, many of us just can’t seem to relax the brake to get our libido going.

What the brake is for you, is going to be unique to you.  Just like the things that put gas in your tank are unique to you.  But generally, the things that cause us to keep the brakes on are:

  • Body image or negative feelings about one’s body
  • Concerns about reputation – e.g. only “bad girls” do this
  • Unwanted pregnancy or contraception concerns
  • Feeling desired versus feeling used by our partner
  • Feeling accepted by our partner
  • Inappropriate timing or style of sexual initiation
  • Feeling tired, stressed, or overwhelmed by life
  • Negative mood, depression, and anxiety

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Understanding the Dual Control Model of Sexual Arousal is great.  But what is even better is using it.  I love the simplicity of this model – it’s a car metaphor!  Guys totally understand it!  Using the common language of gas and brakes makes it very easy to engage in healthy conversations about our own sexuality and libido. 

It becomes easy to be more direct with our partners when we have a common language.  Statements like:

It puts gas in my tank when you _______ (hold my hand at the movies, tell me I’m a wonderful partner, give me a long hug when I get home from work)

My brakes are on today because ________ (I’m exhausted from work, I’m worried about my sick aunt, I don’t like having sex in the mornings)

We can ask our partners to support our libido by doing the things we enjoy, the things that put gas in our tank.  And we can start working through the things that are causing us to keep our brakes on, like our energy, mental health, body image, and yes, hormone imbalances. 

Keep On Learning

If you are intrigued by this way of looking at libido, I highly encourage you to check out the book Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski.  It introduces the concept of the Dual Control Model and goes into more detail on how each of us can have healthy sexual arousal, and a pleasurable sex life.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Not a reader? – she’s got a Ted Talk too.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HILY0wWBlBM

Your Libido Mechanic

If you need help letting go of the brake, maybe it’s time to come in and talk about it.  Whether it is body image issues, stress, exhaustion, hormones, or anything else that is slowing your libido, I’m here to help.  Book in a free 15 minute conversation to see if I can help you to get where you want to go. 

Download your copy of Dr. Watson’s postcard that breaks down The Dual Control Model of Sexual Arousal! Libido: it’s not about the drive, it’s about the brakes.

Dr. Lisa Watson believes that you don’t have to be perfect to be healthy.  Lisa encourages her patients to take a proactive approach to their health – taking meaningful steps towards achieving their goals for balanced and vibrant health.  An expert in women’s health and hormones, Lisa is a passionate advocate for women’s health and strives to educate all the women in her practice on how to achieve lifelong abundant health.  Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in downtown Toronto and writes regularly about women’s health on her website at www.drlisawatson.com

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Aug 30

Condoms and Lubes – The Slippery Truth

While there is a lot of discussion happening around what we put on our skin with regards to lotions, creams and cosmetics, the conversation doesn’t often go as far as to discuss what is in our condoms and lubricants. Mucous membranes, which are found in the mouth, eyes, vagina, rectum and penis tip are especially vulnerable to the ingredients in topical products, as they do not have a stratum corneum, which is the protective layer of skin that acts as a barrier. As a result, without this protective barrier, chemicals can more easily penetrate and be absorbed.

Condoms

Condoms are an $11 billion global industry and currently 3 brands (Trojan, Lifestyles, and Durex) control 95% of the market. Unfortunately, these brands do not put any emphasis on sustainability, fair trade practices or processing without carcinogens. Most latex collected from the rubber trees is cultivated in Asia and Africa and the majority of the rubber plantations use child labor and pay their workers below minimum wage. Another concern I have with condoms occurs when they are produced; conventional latex condoms often contain harmful carcinogenic chemicals that are introduced to the female body during use. Though the vaginal mucus membranes absorb only a small amount of nitrosamines and the overall risk of cancer from condom use is low, consumers are starting to demand that condom manufacturers eliminate the nitrosamines from their products. Check out this report about nitrosamines in condoms put together by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. This all being said, the benefits of condoms far outweigh the risks and I am not discouraging their use.

What condom brands do I recommend?

If you are visiting the USA I recommend that you pick up Sustain Condoms (unfortunately, this brand is not yet available in Canada because condoms are classified as a healthcare device and regulations are strict). Sustain is the first condom brand to use certified Fair Trade Rubber, ensuring that no child labor is involved in the collection of latex, and that plantation workers are paid fairly and that they and their families are provided healthcare and educational opportunities. Sustain is also free of nitrosamines so that both users and factory workers during manufacturing are not exposed to this potentially harmful chemical. Another unique feature of Sustain is that it is the first condom positioned for women and has a strong female sexual empowerment message and design. Another great option is GLYDE condoms, which you can find on Amazon.ca. GLYDE is an Australian brand that features sustainably harvested natural rubber.

Other brands that are nitrosamine-free (you’ll notice a number of these are non-latex condoms):

Lubricants

A few years ago I started researching the ingredients in sexual lubricants because a lot of my fertility patients were asking if it may contribute to their challenges getting pregnant. Since then it has become an important conversation with patients experiencing vaginal irritation or recurrent infections.  I was appalled by some of the commonly used ingredients in personal lubricant and wound up down the rabbit hole trying to find safer alternatives that would not compromise the users health.

Ingredients to avoid in your lube:

Glycerin

Glycerin is known to increase the risk of yeast infections and is definitely worth avoiding in any lube that is being used vaginally.

Parabens

I recommend that people avoid parabens in all personal care products including personal lubricants. There is evidence that parabens contribute to hormonal imbalances by disrupting endocrine function by mimicking estrogen.

Sugar

Sugars are not vagina friendly and can contribute to the growth of pathogenic bacteria and the development of bacterial vaginosis.

Propylene Glycol and Chlorhexidine

These ingredients can lead to tissue irritation and may causing burning.

Vagina-Friendly Lube:

* note that oil based lubricants are not recommended with condoms

Now that you are well equipped to make an informed choice about the condoms and lube you use, you might be wondering how a Naturopath can help with your sexual health. Did you know your ND can perform a gynecological exam and PAP? Also, there are many natural options to help with libido, family planning and hormonal balance so if you are struggling with exhaustion, low libido, vaginal pain or discomfort check in with a Naturopath.

Works Cited

Reproductive Health Technologies Project – Nitrosamines in Condoms

http://rhtp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FAQCondomsandNitrosamines.pdf

Sustain Naturals

https://www.sustainnatural.com

American Chemistry Society – Studies Raise Questions About Safety of Personal Lubricants

http://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i50/Studies-Raise-Questions-Safety-Personal.html2012

Berkeley University of California Wellness – The Slippery Facts About Lubricants

http://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i50/Studies-Raise-Questions-Safety-Personal.html2012

Dr. Jen Newell, ND is the founder of the Naturopathic Skin Care Clinic at the Integrative Health Institute. She is committed to helping others resolve frustrating skin issues because she struggled with hormonal cystic acne and mild rosacea for over 10 years. Dissatisfied with the results from oral contraceptives, antibiotics and other conventional treatments, Jen decided to take matters in her own hands and find a safer and more sustainable solution to achieve healthy, glowing skin.

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Aug 30

Self-Pleasure as Self-Care

Have you ever considered that self-pleasure could be an act of self-care?  And even beyond that, an act of self-love?

The idea of self-pleasure may delight you or make you want to run and hide. You might think it is not for you or won’t work for you, or you’re not sensual or sexual enough, that you’re too young or too old, or you have a partner so there’s no need, and a cascade of many other thoughts and feelings. We are fed messages to believe that sexuality is something shared and experienced with another person. But if my body is mine, then so is my sexuality, whether as a shared experience, or for me and only me. And if you’re reading this, I have a sense, that someplace in your heart and mind, you are drawn or intrigued and ready to connect/get better connected to your sensuality, sexuality and beauty as a woman – regardless if you want to jump up and yell out a ‘yes please!’ or quietly exhale and smile to yourself.

Last year I came across this intriguing quote from Eva Longoria, a gorgeous sensual woman, that said, “I didn’t begin enjoying sex until I started masturbating.” Begin enjoying sex? I thought, I enjoy sex, but could I be enjoying it even more? It also got me thinking about pleasure, and my relationship to it.  Then about self-pleasure and my relationship to that.  And next I thought about my self-pleasure game (its presence, its absence, its cameo appearances) and I wondered, how does one nurture their self-pleasure game?

When I reflected on the idea of solo sex from conversations I’ve had and heard amongst the women in my life, in media and society, a lot of contradictory words popped up: joy, shame, discomfort, empowerment, guilt, taboo, orgasmic, amazing, wrong, divine, unsure, gratifying. There are so many myths and beliefs that can make it difficult to embrace solo play. It may make you emotionally uneasy at first and that’s okay. At first, it may make you emotionally uneasy and that is okay! It may take some time for your body’s memory to recognize this self-care practice as a positive experience. Keep at it. Take your time. This is the perfect time to practice kindness for yourself. Remember your first kiss? I know mine was awkward. I have some great resources to share with you to help you connect with yourself, tune into your own mood and emotions, spark your imagination and get started, even even if sex is far from your mind. What’s so great is that this is for everyone, whether you are in a relationship or not. Research has shown that more solo sex enhances partner sex!

Reclaim Your Power – By Artist Chief Lady Bird
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Self-care is all about you and what feels good for you

An escapade in solo play surely counts as self-care: you’re taking time to focus on yourself, check; focusing on something that feels good for you, check; and gives you pleasure, check! Most medical professionals support solo sex as a healthy habit for both body and mind. All you need is an open mind with a positive curious attitude. This is purely for you, your exploration, and your pleasure. It can be and look any way you like. There’s no ‘normal’. Liberating the mind and being open includes liberating your sexuality. This can reconnect you to your body on a more profound level, connect you to your inner power and get you feeling more in tune with yourself, feel more confident, and more vibrant. When you take the time to get tuned into the experience with your body and mind, it becomes a more intense, fulfilling and fun experience.

Solo Sex is Healthy and Great for Your Physical & Psycho-Emotional Health

(references Jansen, Carlyle. 2015. Sex Yourself. Beverly: Quiver, The Quarto Group)

  • Enhances partner sex – increases sexual satisfaction with your partner and better orgasm
  • More solo sex = more partner sex
  • Helps you fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly, and reduce insomnia
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Gets your blood pumping
  • Stimulates the brain, preventing onset of dementia
  • Increase sexual confidence, improve mood and overall self-esteem; the more frequent a woman masturbates, the more positive her body image
SELF-LOVE for all bodies and all ages

Self-pleasure as self-care is self-nurture and self-love.  I don’t know many women who don’t have some sort of issue about their body, vagina, aging or sexuality.  This beautiful poem by Nayyirah Waheed, captures the essence of loving your body: 

And I said to my body, softly,
“I want to be your friend.”
It took a long breath and replied,
“I have been waiting my whole life for this.”

Self-touch has shown to improve a woman’s body image.  It is a journey and a practice.  With time, good intentions, patience, even a sense of humour, you can become more comfortable, and confident with experience and age.

To start on your self-pleasure journey, I’ve gathered some resources to assist you:
  • Sex Yourself by Carlyle Jansen is a fantastic guide book with great techniques and inspiration to learn and/or make your self-pleasure game even hotter
  • Dipsea is a new app made by women for women that gives you short, sexy audio stories and guided self touch sessions to get you in the mood and light up your imagination  https://www.dipseastories.com
  • Layla Martin is a sex, love and relationship coach with tons of resources online on her website and youtube channel – check out this link for 27 Exquisite Ways to Self-Pleasure  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2w5phuA6rk&has_verified=1
Self-Healing

As an RMT I practise positive, safe, and healing touch for stress management, physical and emotional pain, wellness, prevention, and overall well-being.  I have seen over and over again the healing power of touch and see self-pleasure as a form of self-healing. 

Anything we do for ourself is a message to our psyche that we matter, we are important, we are deserving, we have value and we have worth.  Take time to tune in to yourself. Your sexuality is an important a part of you to celebrate, not to hide away or deny. Bringing your sexuality to light and owning your own sexuality is a part of being whole. Now what do you think about self-pleasure as self-care?  To me it is the purest, deepest, truest act of self-love.


Yvette Marcek is a Registered Massage Therapist, Pilates Practitioner and Reiki Practitioner; she often incorporates each of these modalities with her clients. Recognizing that each person who comes in the treatment room has unique requirements and goals, her priority is to create a therapeutic environment that is safe, healing, and positive. Yvette sees the healing of massage therapy and touch as an international language, spoken without barriers and greatly benefiting anyone. She is particularly passionate about increasing body awareness, believing that consciousness of our physical body and the world around us is an integral part of maintaining our health and happiness. For more information about Yvette or massage therapy at the Integrative Health Institute, contact Yvette at ymarcek@integrativehealthinstitute.ca

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Aug 30

Is Your Back Pain Wrecking Your Game?

Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and your back…

Being in pain can reduce your excitement, enthusiasm, and options when it comes to many areas of your life. That includes your sex life.

With 90% of people experiencing low back pain at some point in their life, patients sometimes question me as a clinician about what to do when they are having pain with sex—and usually they do so with a certain amount of trepidation in their voice.

From a strictly biomechanical standpoint, there are some positions that are going to be less likely to aggravate pain. According to the research of Natalie Sidorkewicz at the University of Waterloo, the knees up missionary position is the most comfortable if someone is motion-intolerant or extension- intolerant (meaning if you have pain with most movements or with backward bending movements specifically). She cites doggy style as being the best for those who are flexion-intolerant (that is you have difficulty bending forward). But she also cautions that very small tweaks in a posture or position can make a big difference for the better or worse. Having this information beforehand can help to give you more agency over your pain in the moment. (There will be some videos that follow to better explain this…!)

The difficulty in writing this article is the wide variability of back pain, and also that we can’t predict the internal experience of sex as a human being.

The brain is the interface where we experience pain and behavior. Because your brain is a prediction machine, it has evolved to anticipate the future, so it only acts once it perceives a situation. If we have a perception that there will be pain with an experience, it will influence how or whether we engage with the activity. In this way, sex can also be useful in changing your perception about your back pain as you find positions in which you feel less fragile and less constricted. That being said, while you can feel proud and excited about having managed your pain in this beautiful experience, don’t feel like you can go and crush a marathon or deadlift a house.

With these things in mind, here are some useful tips to better manage your condition:

  1. Try doing a solo run-through and rehearsing better positions. In trying to move effectively, powerfully, and in balance, the injury and pain fall by the wayside—with a perceived sense of humour.
  2. Whether through Brainfullness, meditation, or whatever is your means, learn to manage your stress and anticipatory pain around perceived exertion.
  3. Get your sleep. Sleep deprivation amplifies pain.
  4. Self-medicating with booze or narcotics or whatever other forms is not a helpful tool—you might win the race, but not the war.
  5. Communicate with your partner. Don’t try to be the hero—tell your partner if you are having pain. Honesty, trust, and communication in your relationship will help to enhance the intimacy —and can even be an endorphin release that helps modulate your pain.

With the complete acknowledgement of the fact that so many factors influence the comfort and pleasure experienced during sex, and assuming that all else is loving and copacetic in the relationship (you both are vegan, politically aligned, love Soul Cycle, and are socially woke), these relatively simple things can help you to, not only control your pain, but manage the threads of anxiety or thoughts that are running in the background.

As a cautionary tale, the brain is an adaptive, dopaminergic system, so be wary of trying to always exceed the experience, as it is our biological tendency to have ebbs and flows. We must also take into account that sex is a dynamic interaction between many complex systems–within the brain, the site of pain in the body, and the biological and identity experience of it.

While pain does reduce your options, and can feel like it decreases your capabilities, it can also help you broaden the spectrum of what is good and pleasurable. Sex creates a bilateral stimulation that affects both hemispheres of the brain, allowing for improved efficiency, and leading to a more robust insula which can improve athletic (or sexual) performance, emotional self-regulation, and a more expansive view of the future. Being willing to explore other options to expand your view of what that is can be neurologically resetting and healing, and you can still have an intimate, romantic experience irrespective of the anticipated outcome.

Because as challenging as back pain is, it could also be a creative process of learning something new. It allows us to be curious and expressive, in the context of humility. That being said, when experiencing low back pain, there is no shame in asking for help and, as someone who believes in post-injury or pain growth, I can help you get your game back on track. As they say, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Aug 22

Dealing With Anger

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

Anger is a very natural and common emotion to feel when we feel like someone has hurt us, something doesn’t go our way, or something feels unjust.  If your grrrr moments seem like they’re invading your life, you’re not alone.  Like many other emotions, there is a healthy and unhealthy way to feel and express anger.  The problem with unhealthy anger is that it may lead to things like significant inner stress (personalization) or vilifying of other people (blame), neither of which is healthy or helpful in resolving the issue.  If you can feel your fists balling up at your sides on a regular basis, it may be time to address what’s making you feel so angry.  I’m here with my top tips to resolve some of the most popular manifestations of anger.

1. Road Rage. 

City traffic is enough to make anyone feel like they’re going bonkers, but when mild frustration turns into intense anger, driving can become more dangerous.  Something you can do for a near-immediate effect is take some slow, measured deep breaths.  After a few breaths, you’ll likely notice that your pounding heart resumes a more moderate beat and your tensed muscles relax.  Once your body shows signs of calming down, you can address what’s going on in your mind.  Bring your focus to your self-talk.  If your mind is filled with enough four-letter words to make a sailor blush, try imagining that your best friend is in the passenger seat.  What would he or she say to help calm you bdown?  Say this to yourself.  You’ll likely feel your anger diminish so you can finish your drive.

2. Relationship Rage.

We tend to be the most raw with the person we are closest to, and in many cases that person is your spouse.  Partnerships are complicated, which means that arguments can easily reach a boiling point.  Because we know our partners so well, we often know exactly how to push their buttons… and they know how to push ours.  It is very easy to become defensive, which escalates arguments and anger.  Remember that deep breathing from my first point?  It applies here too.  Next, to help get a better response from your partner (which will help keep tension, and therefore anger, at a minimum), make sure you’re framing everything from your own point of view.  This diminishes finger pointing, which makes everyone’s blood boil.  Instead of saying, “You never take out the garbage!” try, “I’m usually the one to take out the garbage but I would really find it helpful it we could switch off.”  Most people seem much more responsive to being asked for help (“can we switch off”) rather than being accused (“you never…”).  If you’re feeling particularly fiery one day, remember that you’re both working toward the common goal of feeling happy in a relationship together, rather than competing with one another.

3. Keyboard Rage

It is so, so, SO easy to feel enraged by the comments section of just about anything online.  I myself have had to bite my proverbial tongue to the point of proverbial bleeding.  When someone or something provokes me, I stop myself from typing out a mega rant by asking myself three questions: 1) How would my boss react to my comment?  2) Will my comment only make this escalate further? and 3) What good will come of this?  Answering these questions can hold you accountable for what you’re about to put online… and we all know, once it’s online, it’s out there forever.  So, if you’d be embarrassed to have your boss (or mom, or teacher, or partner) read your words, then hold it back.  If your comment will only set off the online trolls, take pause.  You’ll only be getting on the hamster wheel of the comment war that will zap your time and energy.  And if you know that your comment will likely not serve to make a difference, it’s probably not worth it.  Instead, try writing out what you’d like to say elsewhere, such as a note on your phone or with a good, old fashioned pen and paper.  You’ll experience the release of getting your feelings out without the backlash.

4. Worldview Rage.

Sigh.  The world is a complicated place.  Tragedy strikes far too often, we wonder how our political leaders ever come to get elected, and we worry that our environment is going to hell in a handbasket.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  I think many of us feel helpless in making a difference as the issues seem too huge and out of our hands.  So, what can you do with your feelings about it?  For more immediate relief, I always suggest some exercise.  It helps burn off the frustration you may be feeling and get things into perspective.  This may be going for a run, trying some kickboxing, a yoga class, or a simple walk around the block.  Next, brainstorm ways that you can contribute to making a difference.  Participate in a rally, make a donation, volunteer your time, or educate others to help them make better choices.  Being the example is a great way to raise awareness, even in seemingly small actions such as bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store or bringing your kids with you to vote in order to empower the next generation.  Showing yourself that you are doing something to encourage change can help reduce the anger you’re feeling.  Remember, you may feel like your voice won’t make a difference, but if all our voices are combined, it can be the loudest noise in the world.


You are allowed to feel angry, but if that anger makes you feel even worse, you will thank yourself to try one of these strategies to help you feel cool as a cucumber once again.  Wishing you all peace and even temperaments!

**Disclaimer:  The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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Aug 1

5 Reasons I Don’t Recommend Antibiotics for the Treatment of Acne

1. Bacterial Resistance & MRSA

The over-prescription of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance and the development of superbugs like MRSA that cannot be treated with the currently available medications. If you haven’t heard of the superbug MRSA, you need to know that this is a very dangerous type of staph infection. One main reason MRSA is so dangerous is that it is resistant to most antibiotics. Experts believe that MRSA evolved because of the overuse of antibiotics and dermatologists treating acne primarily with antibiotics is a prime contributor. In addition, P. acnes bacteria that contribute to the development of acne lesions is becoming drug-resistant, meaning that the antibiotics previously used to treat the skin are less effective.

2. Immune Impact

According to a study in the September 2005 Archives of Dermatology, people who use antibiotics are more than twice as likely to catch colds. The common cold is a virus – not directly affected by antibiotics; but antibiotics not only attack the harmful bacteria, but also the beneficial bacteria that are part of the body’s defense system. This results in an increased frequency of viral infections.

3. Digestive Disturbance

One of the most common side effects I see after a patient has taken antibiotics, whether for acne or other infections, is the development of digestive concerns such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, heartburn, etc. These concerns are the result of the antibiotics impacting the vulnerable gut microbiome and can persist long after the discontinuation of antibiotics.

4. Yeast Infections

Women who take antibiotics are at increased risk of developing recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Vaginas maintain their own balanced mix of yeast and bacteria. A type of bacteria called Lactobacilluskeeps the vagina slightly acidic, which isn’t welcoming to yeast. Antibiotics not only eradicate problematic bacteria but also wipe out beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus. Without enough Lactobacillus, your vagina becomes less acidic, making it an ideal environment for yeast.

5. Long Term Failure

Clinically, I have seen countless women and men who have been taking antibiotics off and on for years to treat their acne without complete resolution. While Propionibacterium (P) acnes is implicated in the pathophysiology of the condition by producing an inflammatory cascade, acne is not the result of bacterial infection because all adults have acne in follicles and the severity of acne does not correlate with P. acnes counts. I have found that an appropriate topical regimen to prevent the build-up of cellular debris within the pores, reduce inflammation and balance oil production is more successful with long term management and treatment of acne when paired with professional guidance about lifestyle modifications that address the underlying imbalances.

Dr. Jen Newell, ND is the founder of the Naturopathic Skin Care Clinic at the Integrative Health Institute. She is committed to helping others resolve frustrating skin issues because she struggled with hormonal cystic acne and mild rosacea for over 10 years. Dissatisfied with the results from oral contraceptives, antibiotics and other conventional treatments, Jen decided to take matters in her own hands and find a safer and more sustainable solution to achieve healthy, glowing skin. She is now a leader in her field and a pioneer for a holistic approach to skin care.

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