In episode 17, Shannon welcomes Julia Khafizov who shares her perspective as a yoga teacher on chronic pain and its fascinating link to the nervous system.

Julia immersed herself in yoga 15 years ago when her chronic back pain led her on a search for relief. She further injured her hamstrings while taking her yoga teacher training and subsequently worked with physiotherapists for 2 years, noticing that her injuries were not repairing well. Luckily, Julia found a physiotherapist that she describes as having a “global approach” that takes into consideration the effect the nervous system has on pain production.

Symptoms such as insomnia, bouts of anxiety, and digestive issues were all indications that Julia needed to incorporate nervous system training in addition to her structural training when it came to pain management.

Julia currently lives in Grand Prairie, Alberta where she teaches private and group pain care classes that incorporate other facets of yoga such as meditation and Yin.

[2:15] Julia’s background

[4:40] Julia’s introduction to yoga and how she began specializing in pain care

[8:00] Nervous system training

[9:45] Neuroscience education and its ability to relieve chronic pain

[10:55] Neil Pearson’s concept of intellectual engagement along with movement in the treatment of chronic pain

[12:45] The measurable changes in neurochemistry when an educational component is introduced

[13:45] Matthew Ramski’s contribution to the discussion of pain by asking where our concept of modern yoga originates, how we teach, how we cue, etc.

[15:40] How asking students to move deeper into a pose can be problematic

[18:30] Questions to ask prospective students with chronic pain, red flags, and being open to the possibility your class may not be suitable

[20:00] Julia’s group and private pain care classes and advice on helping someone with chronic pain in a yoga setting

[23:00] Importance of using techniques to calm the nervous system which include mindfulness, meditation, and breathwork

[23:55] “Are you Highly Sensitive?” test by Elaine N. Aron is helpful in determining the degree of sensitivity of your client and the importance of being aware of the “loop of chronic pain” in relation to sensitivity

[25:55] Complex techniques to de-regulate the nervous system

[27:45] Are the techniques effective if your client can’t lie down?

[28:45] Julia’s suggestions for pain care teacher training

[30:25] General messages to relay to your class when focused on pain care

[32:00] Asking students if they feel safe rather than if something hurts, understanding the mind/body disconnect with students who experience chronic pain

[35:45] The importance of emotional safety, that there is a connection between bodily pain and emotional pain and trauma

[37:00] Julia’s go-to technique for calming the nervous system and pain relief

[37:10] Advice to yoga teachers: “Pain is our friend”

[43:00] Shannon’s summary and takeaways from the interview including additional techniques when working with students with chronic pain

Links and Resources

Julia’s Website: Satori Yoga

E-book gift: Pain Care Workbook by Julia Khavizof

Matthew Remski’s Website

Book: Painful Yarns: Metaphors and Stories to Help Understand the Biology of Pain by Lorimer Mosely

Youtube Video: Ted Talk- Why Things Hurt

Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation

“Are You Highly Sensitive?” test by Elaine N. Aron

Pain Management Training:

Bo Forbes: Yoga, Mindfulness, Neuroscience, the Body and Contemplative Practice Course

Neil Pearson’s Pain Care Workshops

Matthew Ramsky’s Online Course: What are we Actually Doing in Asana?

Podcast: Episode 003 TCYT: Trauma Training for Everyone With Margaret Howard

The Connected Yoga Teacher Facebook Group