Welcome to Season 2 of Permission to Heal! Thank you for returning and rejoining me and my weekly guests. I deeply appreciate you and love that you're here.
"You can use movement to help you thrive and have a fulfilling life...Any movement practice can be turned into a healing movement practice...You are coming home to your body. feeling the internal experience." – Laura Khoudari
Laura Khoudari is a trauma practitioner, certified personal trainer, and corrective exercise specialist. She is passionate about giving people the tools they need to heal from trauma and cultivate mental health and wellness. Her approach to strength training restores nervous system health, fosters a sense of safety in the body, & provides adjunctive support to people processing trauma so they may move beyond surviving and begin thriving.
In her debut book, personal trainer & trauma practitioner LAURA KHOUDARI, brings a fresh approach to healing after trauma, using strength training as an embodied movement practice. Compassionate, witty, and fastidiously researched, Lifting Heavy Things: Healing Trauma One Rep at a Time is a breakthrough book that will empower and inspire you to build emotional and physical strength through working out with weights while being mindful of the ways trauma can compromise the well-being of your mind and body.
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PTH Laura Khoudari EPISODE
[00:00:00] Welcome to permission to heal. Hi, Laura. Are. I'm good. How are you? I am excellent. Excellent. Thank you. So we're finally together, we rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled and now we're here. That's awesome. It was just, wasn't meant to be before. So we're both in New York, I think, right?
[00:00:20] You're in the city. I'm in the city. You're on long island, correct? Correct. Very close, very close.
[00:00:27] So usually begin episodes with the six quick questions gets us off and running. What six words would you use to describe yourself? Grounded, grounded, stubborn, good warm maternal creative, anxious. Okay. Thanks. Is that six? Yes, those were the first six that pops into my mind. Why was six with a question you went up at the end, anxious, anxious.
[00:01:01] I don't know. I usually I'm anxious. No, damn it. I'm anxious. I feel like that didn't go with the, you know, the other ones, but they are there. They do go because we're all varied. I mean, anxiety and stubbornness can go together. Absolutely know. Absolutely. I think some of the reasons were, or at least for me, I don't speak for anyone else.
[00:01:24] Some of the reasons I'm anxious is because I'm stubborn. Oh. But stubborn because you're anxious for me. Right. If you refuse to give in feel safer. Yeah. It could be who knows? Maybe we could spend that. What's your favorite way to spend a day? Oh, that varies. It really does vary by seasonal mood thing.
[00:01:52] It's a seasonal mood thing, you know, in the summer it's like being like a lizard, just like in the heat. I love that this time of year though, as much more cooking, I love to cook or you just really do. And spending time, it could be just like time, really deeply connecting with a friends or my husband's.
[00:02:15] Yeah. Okay. I think that connection that deep, comfortable, like cozy sweater kind of connection. Not only feels wonderful, but I think feels even more wonderful considering the pandemic. You know, I just got together with my, my aunt and cousins and so on. After not seeing them for three years and they just live in Jersey.
[00:02:42] It's not that big of a deal, but between illnesses and life and then the pandemic and who's not vaccinated. And we were finally all vaccinated and booster shot at booster Vaxxed. However, how that goes booster shot. I don't know, boosted, there you go. We were boosted and we finally felt safe enough to get together.
[00:03:04] And I did not realize how much my heart had missed that. So much more than just FaceTime or zoom or text messaging, but to actually sit at a table and share a meal and be able to touch one another. And it's just extraordinary. Okay. Question number three. What is your favorite childhood memory?
[00:03:28] My childhood memory, I just have a lot, I have a handful, but I'll go with the first step pops in my mind. When you asked, when I was a little girl, I would visit my grandma.
[00:03:41] I was very close to my grandmother, Gloria, and I would visit her in her apartment and York city. And it was a long pre-war have like a long hallway and the. Windows came pretty low and had very deep, very deep cell. So it was almost like they were all almost kind of like window seats for me as a kid, right.
[00:04:01] For small children or one, one tush. Right. And I would like, you know, play on them. And like, I, in my mind, I imagined that the whole apartment, and I think a lot of kids play this kind of game was the floor was all water. It was like a water city. And there were no cars. There were only boats and the furniture and the sills were nice.
[00:04:23] And I would play like that for hours. I'm an only child. I'm an only grandchild. So me too. Well, I was until I was in my mid teens, but yeah. And then Boba was kind of amazing was I told my grandmother about it and she said, you know, there's a real place like that in Italy called Bennett. I'll take you there.
[00:04:45] And she took me there
[00:04:51] nine. Wow. Yeah. Where are you excited? You must've been, I'm still excited. I wish I would love to go back. Oh, that's cool. I really remember so much of that trip. It was her and my mother. This was my mother's mother and me three generations. That's so beautiful. It was really nice. I hope you have a thousand photographs.
[00:05:18] That's wonderful. When you were telling me about the windowsills and the water. I thought about something I hadn't thought about in a very long time. I used to sit upside down on my mother's couch in the living room, so that. Back was on the seat of the couch. And my legs were up on the back of the couch, on the wall so that my head was hanging over the edge where your legs normally are.
[00:05:45] And so my head was upside down and I would stay that way for such a long time that my perspective would shift so that the floor would become the ceiling and the ceiling would become the floor. And then it looked like everybody was walking on the ceiling. Right, right, right.
[00:06:03] I used to love doing that. And my mother, she was going to be dizzy all your blood's rushing to your head, but you know, I'm like six, seven years old who cares? Right. I hadn't thought about that in ages, somehow your memory triggered that. Interesting. Cool. Let's try number four. What is your favorite meal?
[00:06:24] My favorite meal or whatever. Oh, I love to, I love to cook. I love to eat. So I'm feeling like totally. Okay. So what came into my mind, which is funny, cause I don't think this is true for me anymore, but I'll share it anyway as I'm a guess.
[00:06:45] I want to go to Italy because it was Cocho we Pepe, I went through a very big catchier Pepe. I don't even know what that is. Oh, okay. It's a dish. It's where you have the hot pasta CA the Cacho is cheese, pepper is pepper, and they take the hot pasta and spin it through a carved out wheel of Parmesan while it's hot.
[00:07:05] So it gets all covered in the Parmesan and black pepper. And I mean, I haven't eaten that in a bajillion years in that I am making pasta tonight, but I wasn't planning my patio at pet bay, but maybe I should. I'm not a pepper kind of person, except if it's like just used as one of the seasonings in something, but that cheese part that's got me.
[00:07:28] I like that. Yeah. There is a say, if you come into the city, there is a restaurant called Catcho pet bay in the east village. Ah, get yourself in there. There you go. Will they do it? Just Katya without the Pepe? Call ahead. Hold the pepper. Unless it's already pre-mixed in. Who does? All right, let's move on to number five.
[00:07:51] What is the one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self? Assuming your younger self would listen to you?
[00:08:01] Even if it's very uncomfortable, be true to yourself. That's huge. Especially the, even if it's very uncomfortable apart, I kept that resonates with me a lot deeply. Yeah. I mean, I think we know when we're kids, not when we're little kids, but when we're adolescents kids, you know it's healthy to wants to start to find yourself in your peer group.
[00:08:30] So it would be very uncomfortable. I, it's very uncomfortable to honor yourself while longing for acceptance. I think. Yeah. Yeah. I was when I was a little, very little kid, actually all through elementary school and probably middle school was very shy. I had my friends, but it was a tight, small friend group, which was fine,
[00:08:52] I longed to be part of like the dramas and the music musicals in high school. And I wanted to try out for solos and band and chorus. And I knew I had a good singing voice, but I was petrified. And there was a moment my freshman year of high school, where I realized that if I allowed myself to be ruled by my shyness, I would never experience these whole list of things that I wanted to experience.
[00:09:26] And I was unwilling to let the shyness win. And so it was like I had a talking to with myself, you know, like if you say the thing, tell the joke, sing the song, whatever it is that you think you want to do, that you hold yourself back from doing. If you do it, what's the very worst thing that could happen.
[00:09:49] If they laugh at you, are you going to feel bad? If you don't get the part? If they walk away, if no one laughed at the joke, if they think you're ridiculous, is the earth going to swallow you whole? And, and when I realized that none of the catastrophe things were going to bother me as much as having to say, what if and feeling bad about myself, right?
[00:10:13] I said, screw it. I'm just going to do it. So I, I would say that, that your advice is pretty damn good.
[00:10:20] Yeah. I like that. I don't know if I would listen to it, so, no, I don't know. Depends on the age. If I had gone back and said that to myself, when I was 14, I would have said, okay, damn straight. I get it. But 11, probably not. Middle school, age, middle school was terrifying. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Okay.
[00:10:43] Number six, what is the one thing you would most like to change about the world? Yes, it's a small question.
[00:10:50] Oh, well, I was talking actually with my mother earlier today, we were talking about, we think about the work I do. And she was, it made me think of a question I got asked in an interview, my first interview for anything. I actually don't think the article ever even came out. And I was pretty new to the work working with trauma.
[00:11:16] And the interviewer asked me like big picture. What did I see like in this work? And I was like, It sounds silly at first, but like, if we understood and dealt with trauma as trauma, if we understood what that meant and what it was, I think that we would see radical shifts in how policy is made. Yeah.
[00:11:50] And I mean, that's huge. That makes huge sweeping changes in the world. And so I would like to see people sort of the treatment of trauma and when things come up for people, big things come up for people and they may potentially be traumatized that it was really normalized for us to grapple with it because I think the implications could be tremendous in a really beautiful way for that.
[00:12:18] I absolutely a thousand percent agree. And I'm starting to see little bits of that happening. No, not grand sweeping national policy, but just as a little tiny thing, our school district, our particular school, and I'm a high school English teacher by day. And we had in the last year, three of our faculty members pass away from COVID and the faculty was shocked and there's gonna be repercussions of that and all sorts of trauma, et cetera.
[00:12:55] And the student body, of course, you know, they're all teenagers and they all knew these teachers and each of them is going through their own experience with COVID and their families and all the loss and burdens and difficulties, et cetera. And the school. Like heard us say that we needed help. And they got a group called project hope to come in over the course of several weeks and stay the whole day in one of the back conference rooms to meet with people and talk one-on-one to do meditation, to do whatever modalities breathing that they were doing.
[00:13:40] And I thought finally, somebody is going to address what's sitting in our laps and not just try to look around it, to continue along with the academics. Several years ago that wouldn't have never happened. Maybe even before the hand pandemic that would've never happened.
[00:13:59] I don't know. Pretty amazing. Okay. So let's get into it. I loved your book, loved your book, lift, lifting, heavy things. I think that the whole feel of it, even, I like the cover I read through the whole thing. I felt like I was sitting with you and we were having a chat. I made notes in the margins and all sorts of stuff.
[00:14:21] I'm not a weightlifter and it's very intimidating. But after reading your book, I might try it. You also, you know, don't have to do the lifting of weights. You can, I mean, you can, right. You know, but it talks about how to do it. I'm lifting my own body weight. Pilates, I always say about blobbies like I'm afraid of, I get nervous doing Pilates and I'm like, I feel like, oh, you're so strong. And I'm like, Pilates strong is like a whole other kind of strong. It's amazing to me, the reformer, the reformers. Oh my God. It feels so good. Suddenly I'm walking better like my hip joints and my piriformis and all of that, all of that whole system in there was so tight.
[00:15:05] I felt like I was waddling like an 80 year old and just a couple of sessions. And I'm like, oh, my legs are like Gumby now, you know, it's heaven anyway. So, so let's. Talk more about this. So tell me about, tell us all about your childhood, who you are, what young Laura looked like how did you get to kind of where you are now?
[00:15:27] It's a huge question, but no one can tell it better than you. No, one's in some way better than me. It's true. So yes, well I am. I was when I was very little, I lived on long island. And I growing up, I moved around a little bit and was in Westchester and New York city, which is where I am now. I did leave for 10 years.
[00:15:50] I know some people don't have relief. I did leave for 10 years and came back and growing up. I was an artsy kid. I was often driving. I did take dance classes until I was think. I did dance classes at the local dancing school. My mom took me out when I was about eight, I think, because they were going to start having us do like traveling and she was not into that.
[00:16:19] She didn't want me to be used as a prop for business. I think so, but I, I liked to dance and would continue to dance like put on Madonna records and Michael Jackson records and dance in the living room. That was me. I always thought that I was the most graceful. I was probably the biggest klutz ever, but in my mind and mind, I was absolutely, you know, dancing queen.
[00:16:43] Yeah, absolutely. I know, I know I'm still, still like that. And I had a pretty, I had a challenging adolescence. And in that time I really. didn't like associating with my body at all. Like I saw my body as my body kind of became an unsafe thing, right. Like I was, I was picked on and eventually actually bullied for a year.
[00:17:13] And one of the schools I was in, in middle school as I was a little bit chubby, I am, that was some low hanging fruit man. And people would really use that. And people could bullying and I think the hang up it was B thinness was really valued. Right. And I wasn't. I was kind of normal, but for whatever reason, there was a big emphasis on the fact that my body wasn't this ideal.
[00:17:43] Right. And then in the nineties, as a teenager, when it was, you know Kate Moss, right. There's a little girl never going to happen. Right. And that's when you desperately want to look like who's ever on the billboards. Right. Exactly. And it just didn't feel also, you know, being in New York city at that, by that age and walking around in high school, in the body of a woman being street harassment and that kind of thing felt unsafe.
[00:18:12] So there was just like a lot to, not want to have to deal with. And I didn't like gym class. And, and so I would like cut to go smoke cigarettes in the park that went much better with my image. Right. It's like art, art kid in the park, not a God thing, too. It was very grunge with a touch of God, like early nineties grunge.
[00:18:38] I did have, I think my favorite was this like crushed velvet, black maxi dress, which I always wore doc Martin, who is, and this was before they had this differs. Right. So, you know, this, there were no zippers when we were young. Now they have zippers for easy on off. So the 14 eyelids, my daughter has a pair with zippers.
[00:18:57] Yeah. 14 eyelids lace it up, you know, the whole thing. So with the motorcycle jacket, it was so look, I'm a little older than you, but I had the same work and I just did. College, we have PE requirement, which I was like, so put out by, but you know, did some, whatever got it over with. And it was when ice skating for PE in and college, I did well, I did self defense for women.
[00:19:27] Wait, that's useful in the city. Well, now I was in, I was at Mount Holyoke, so it was a bunch of women. And so I don't know,
[00:19:39] but it is, it is useful. It's a useful skill. Absolutely. And I actually did the weight room. Oh, this was it was machines. I well I always knew what that was saying. I always knew I was kind of strong, even though I didn't want to do anything with it. What it was was I thought of myself, even though I thought of myself as quite big and, you know, we talked about I'm stubborn, I'm grounded.
[00:20:04] So I always felt I could like leverage my weight against something else and move it. So I was like, well, I guess I'll lift weights. So that was one term I did west African dance. That was food that's again, the dancing. Right. And then yoga which would show up for me later on in life when I was doing it, then it was very like, I want to nap, but that's fine.
[00:20:28] But it was also in college when my back went out for the first time and went out, I was 20 years old and I was getting up on this in your book. Yeah, it was getting up from a chair at my library job. So like, I think I say this in the book, like I wasn't even doing something cool. You know, and as nerdy as you can get in the library right after doing data entry.
[00:20:52] So I, I get up and my back seasons and I am frozen and it's terrifying and it's the summer. I stayed up there in the summer. So it was the summer and I had to get back to my apartment and I could barely drive myself home. Eventually my mom saw me, she made me come back to the city and go see an orthopedist. He gave me a script for physical therapy and told me to start strength training. And I did the physical therapy and I was not going to go to the gym. Nope, sorry. And I knew from physical therapy, the elliptical was like enough to sort of like get by when it seized up. So I would, it did the bare minimum.
[00:21:37] I did the PT. When my back would get really bad, I would use the health center at school the fitness center. And I hobbled around some pain for seven years. And I was like still, but I'm not, there you go. I'm not, not doing this. I'm not, I really, I have a lot of reasons, but I would say, I felt I was, and this was all from all the stories that this narrative all came from.
[00:22:03] All the things from before I was too fat to go to the gym, I wasn't athletic enough to go to the gym. People will be mean to me at the gym. My body is bad. It needs to change. There's all this like, place of deficit weakness, badness problem. Right? So, so many women have that, right. It's really normal us to feel like crap so that we go and spend money on stuff.
[00:22:29] I don't know how many times I've heard people say I'm too fat to go to the gym and fitness people in fitness. The response is usually like, well, that's ridiculous. I'm like, well, actually what's on the pack. It's not ridiculous. It's not ridiculous. There's a reason. There are many reasons.
[00:22:44] And that could be its own podcast. For me, the two fat that comes to the gym, doesn't get expressed that way for me, it's like, what am I going to wear for workout clothes? Like what, what clothing will I wear that I could move in and feel comfortable and feel covered enough to feel safe. Like when I was in my twenties, I wasn't all that fit, but I was thinner.
[00:23:11] So I could get away with leggings and a tank top or something like the stomach was still flat, but post babies post-menopause any flat anymore and that's a little curvier than I'm comfortable with, but say, lovey, you know, I'm working. It, it is what it is at this moment. And so I usually like longer shirts or something and like what so to me it shows up that way.
[00:23:34] Anyway, this is about you. I know I get it. I was gonna say my belly has never been flat. That was not for me a thing, but it was like, I, if people are going to see me, so I tried to disappear. So it was what could I wear that no one would notice me, right. When I eventually did start showing up, which happens.
[00:23:54] Cause my mom was like, I'm tired of looking at you, walking around. I moved back to the city where she was and she said, I'm tired of looking at you moving around like a 70 years old. You're 27. I want you to meet my trainer. And I was like but I want it to Rainer. That's progressive. Yes. And she worked out so she could enjoy her life.
[00:24:14] Not too. This was not about vanity for her. It was about maintaining active. She likes to ride her bike around the city. Which in itself is kind of amazing and dangerous. That would scare the crap out of me. She just likes to be able to do things and she's watching her friends lose the ability to bend over and tie their shoes.
[00:24:33] And she was like, I don't want to be like that. Was it independence? She was doing it for like independence to be able to enjoy herself and go mom. Yeah. Yeah. That's great. And she asked me to meet her trainer and I was like, but I knew I wanted to start a family and I knew I would have problems with pregnancy with my back.
[00:24:55] And also after I lived like in a walk-up okay. How was I going to. My groceries and a baby in a stroller and all that other stuff, if you couldn't carry yourself up the stairs. Exactly. So I acquiesced and I met her trainer and we just really connected and we're very close and he's currently writing my programs.
[00:25:15] Now I've gone back and forth over time, but we're very good friends and he created space for me to show up to this gym and take care of myself and not be too preoccupied with everybody else. That's awesome. And he honestly, he did it with like kindness and also I do think his nickname, his name is ed.
[00:25:42] His nickname is big ed for a reason. He is actually like a wall. He would physically. Create space in the gym and no one was going to pick on you if you were with big ed the wall. Right. Right. And he's so kind and well-respected and respecting of other people that actually, that was like, so when people were around in this space they were also more kind and respectful.
[00:26:14] So I kept showing up because my back started to stop hurting. And that was it. Yeah. That was it. I was like, oh, and I liked my time with him. I hated doing the exercises, but my that's that's hurting. And I was like, okay. And over time I started to find when I started to be able to like graduate to exercises, I deemed, you know, cool.
[00:26:39] So things with weights. I liked it more and more. It would be eight years before I would point to people doing Olympic weightlifting and say, I want to do that. So that was when I was 34. And that was when the shift from like, so it was like, no, then begrudgingly and then like, okay, I guess I'll do this too.
[00:27:01] Oh my God, you cannot keep me away. And so that's when I actually, so I was 34 when I fell in love, anything that had anything to do with the gym. And, it was really empowering and it was so right. So I was like, everything was about deficit, my bad back the way my body looked like I wasn't fast.
[00:27:20] That's something I'm still not particularly fast. Now we're focusing on I'm strong. I can get stronger. I have the ability to grind, right. Just in general, in my life, when there's a lot of pressure, I can keep going, strength, sports, really play to that. Right. Right. So we were, I was really embracing all these things about me.
[00:27:42] I desire to be subversive. Right. The goth girl, the kid who cut class to smoke in the park. Well, a woman, a middle aged lady doing Olympic weightlifting before CrossFit got really big, especially that's subversive. Right. So it's like, there was no other women in this gym. Exactly. That's why I sh I was like, it looks cool.
[00:28:02] Right. These were playing to my strengths. And I just, that was kind of how that unfolded nice. Becoming a trainer and a coach that was like, never on the radar, but that, I just love that we stop for half a second. How did you, how did you transition from. Weightlifting to help your back feel better to realizing that weightlifting helped you deal with trauma.
[00:28:36] Yeah, after I fell in love with the sport of weightlifting and after eight, nine years of being in the gym and feeling so empowered, I experienced an acute trauma outside of the gym. Okay. And subsequently developed PTSD. And it was a journey from there because actually I turned the gym from something that was empowering, right.
[00:29:01] So I wanted to feel invulnerable now. So it's actually became something that was beautiful and empowering to something that became maladaptive. And I was training and training and training and training. And I trained 10 times a week. I trained Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and karate. Wow. All aggressive, no, no steady state cardio, which I'm a big proponent of, for recovery.
[00:29:24] No yoga, no, no sleeping. All right. I have PTSD. I'm not really talking about it with people, but I am not sleeping anymore. I am also restricting my food to be able to put on more muscle and get stronger and faster, but I'm actually not, I'm taking terrible care of my body. Right. But I didn't understand any of that.
[00:29:45] And fitness culture is all about. Especially this kind of the, where I was in, it was very like, oh, look at her determination. Look at how thin she's getting. It's the only time in my life I was ever slim. I was like really jacked. I was showing up no matter what I was pushing through pain. And these are all really celebrated in that world.
[00:30:07] They are not detrimental to your health, right? It's not health and wellness. It's like some other thing. And my back kick came full circle and my back went out and it went out so severely. It was terrifying. I lost the capacity to use my left lower leg, much like I couldn't point and flex my foot.
[00:30:28] So it really limited my gait. And it made my whole back seized up again, like my job in library here I am, I'm constricted. I can barely move and I've been training to feel safe and invincible, and now I can barely walk. So I am terrified. You probably felt betrayed by your own body. Absolutely.
[00:30:47] Absolutely. And I don't know how long of a time it was. I was in bed a lot, was going to the doctor and getting injections, going to PT, everything felt invasive. And I knew it was all, everything was tied up with the trauma. Right. I was in therapy at the time also. So I did, I was doing talk therapy, but we're like at the top of everything, like it's going to be a journey.
[00:31:11] We're at the beginning of the surface know, you're not really getting into anything deep. Is that what you mean? Well, it was just, it was a mess. It wasn't that we weren't trying, it was just so much to unpack. And I was in therapy three, four, sometimes five days, if I could see her five days. It was, and I, cause I.
[00:31:30] My therapist was the only place now I didn't have the gym anymore. So my therapist was the only place I felt safe and I connected the things and I, I was like, there's gotta be a book on this. And I was looking for a book called healing back pain by John Sarno. I was using a service here in the city Amazon prime now, where they get it to you in like two hours, they didn't have that book, but they were like, but we do have.
[00:31:57] And it was this brand new book called the body keeps the score, which if you know, this book you'll know that now it's been on the bestseller list for like 5,000 years. Right. And so this was Bessel van der Kolk it's the body keeps the score and it came into hours probably with like some ice cream and batteries or something.
[00:32:13] I dunno, for those random stuff that you got delivered. And I read this book, it's a dense book, it's a book about trauma and how trauma shows up in the body and in the brain. And really, I guess, into the physiology of trauma and how that ripples out into somebody's life. As well as body-based modalities to consider for treating.
[00:32:39] I am reading this, like I'm reading a murder mystery page Turner. I mean it's. Yeah, absolutely. Because I'm seeing myself for the first time, all this stuff that I thought was weird, I thought I had kind of become this monster. I was very irritable. I was me and I was cutting everybody out. I'm trying to turn myself into a machine.
[00:32:58] Like I knew that that didn't, that wasn't right. But that was me now. So like, and I didn't put it like mapped it all out and showed me like, what part of my brain had changed. Oh, I'm getting this book. And so I just felt like, oh, and then it presents the treatments. Right. And I was like, I can do something about this.
[00:33:21] It must've been so empowering right there. It was. And so my focus I started to look for people who understood trauma to help me. And that was a slog. It wasn't always easy. I found a lot of, I did find people though, who maybe didn't fully understand, but were open to learning. So that was really good.
[00:33:39] And while all that's going on, I'm trying to get movement back in my life, because I do know at its core, when I do it the way I was doing it, before that it was wonderfully empowering and there was a reason I wanted it in my life because there is a reason I felt safe when I was doing it. Right. There was good stuff in there.
[00:34:01] So I tried things, I tried yoga by that point. I had actually had many, many years of a regular yoga experience. But it was very triggering for me. And even the trauma informed trauma sensitive stuff which is not to say it's nothing, it was just wasn't for me. And I wonder about that. And I knew that I felt safest in these barbell clubs.
[00:34:27] That's where I felt safe. So I needed to figure out how to train, how to start moving my body in a way. I started from the bottom before, how can I get strong enough and take care of my body and train going forward in a way that's going to honor my nervous system, where it is that at any given moment, that's huge.
[00:34:54] And I started to figure it out and then like many people who. Go through something. I, the next sort of thing was, I want to share this with people, right. And that is how that happens. That's cool. So I can imagine what listening to you talk
[00:35:14] that being stuck in your trauma and being stuck in PTSD and being stuck in like ruminating over all of that negative pain, et cetera, et cetera, gets you. Cause I've been there in my own way. Gets you really stuck in your head. Oh yes. And there was a portion of time, X number of years. I don't exactly know where I sort of envisioned my body as like a vehicle for my brain, you know, that my body wasn't really connected to my brain.
[00:35:46] It was just the car that my brain was in. , I still fight that because so much of what I do is cerebral is intellectual and I'm not sporty and not athletic by nature. And yet when I do sort of force myself into some sort of regular irregular exercise movement, something, I feel like, oh, like, I can feel like more grounded and more balanced and more calm just for having moved.
[00:36:25] Absolutely. But I forget that like when I'm not doing it, you know, it's just get it. I had a conversation with a friend of mine Jennifer, who had actually one of the editors on my book, I was panicking because I've had this like very busy, I had this really busy summer into fall.
[00:36:46] Lots of plates spinning lots of things going on. So lots of brain. Right, right. And I'm talking to my friend, Jennifer, it's like, I'm really scared by writing practice is really like, I'm not writing. And I was writing daily, all the, of poetry, all sorts of stuff. And like, I just, and oh, you were so busy.
[00:37:08] How much bandwidth could you have? But I wanted, I wanted it. And I was like, why, what happened? She said, well, I feel almost silly bringing this up to you, but it sounds like maybe you're really in your head. With cause you would have to be to manage all of those things and you're not in your body and maybe you want to do a practice that gets you in your body because I always would write in the morning, right.
[00:37:36] First thing in the morning. And then she gave me examples of what she does. I was like, of course I she felt silly saying it to me. Cause that's what I tell people all the time. Right. It's like in order to live our lives, exactly saying that the creative work I have done like around, you know, a lot of people write about their trauma, you know, in order to really do this in a, in a safe and a way that process you process it and that you help the reader also stay with you.
[00:38:09] You have to come from a grounded place, have a things. And like, why can't I write. Because you're the brain, right? Yeah, I do like meditation stretching, calisthenics first. I gave myself permission to not write. Okay. We're all about permission here is the name of the that's right, exactly. And then I was like, okay.
[00:38:35] And I have been my training shifted over the summer and it was a little more like. General fitness. So I could play was a lot about helping me so I could try tennis, which I had a blast doing. I'm very bad at it. It's fun. It doesn't matter that I'm bad if you suck. Yeah. Right. And like, but you want to protect shoulder health.
[00:38:57] And with my back history, like to be able to like, do something weird with my body and to not worry. Right. You know, it's so, so different. I didn't have access to a barbell over the summer either. So it was just a very different way of training. It was hiking and like, I just, wasn't doing heavy lifting, lifting heavy things.
[00:39:17] And I have shifted my attention. Like I shifted my attention in my training also, in the last two weeks to really, focus on like squat precedent and pole like heavyweight again and back in the barbell, back in the squat rack. And it's already made a huge difference. I wrote the essay I had been trying to write all summer.
[00:39:39] I mean, I wrote all summer, I wrote all this other stuff. I finally wrote the first draft of this essay that has been plaguing me for two years. Earlier this week, lifting heavy things is what I did to get back in my body. Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah. Okay. So a client comes to you. Hmm. Where do you begin?
[00:40:07] How do you help him or her unravel or them sorry, him, her or them? I have to get with the pronouns. How do you help them begin to figure out where to begin? Sure. I mean, if somebody's coming to me specifically They probably want a string string. So even if, but, but no, but there are times where people I do work with people in sort of more like workshoppy ways where it's like, well, they're not necessarily predisposed to strength, train, but we, we start by figuring out what it is they might want to try.
[00:40:43] Right. And it's kind of, and this is a, but if somebody comes to me, they, they want to strength, train. Similarly, we start by, I start by getting to know their resources their bowls, their strengths, emotional resources, mental resources, all of it, all of it. So resources lots of things, resources like time and money.
[00:41:05] Also I ask who in your life supports you, and champions your small successes. Okay. That's key. That's an important resource to know. Do you have. What's their name, right? That's a question I ask that is a resource. Do you have a spiritual practice? That can be a resource it's I'm getting a full picture of this person's life.
[00:41:28] All the sort of good use stuff, you know, are they are there or communities that they're a part of anything that, is a source of support? So that can be relationships. It can be objects, it can be feelings. They get from doing certain things, things they love to do. So last part and very similar to resources as strengths.
[00:41:50] And I don't just mean like, things are good at, but things that you can call upon when things are hard. Right. So I was talking about resilience, stubbornness. Right, right. That like grinding thing that I do. That's actually, that's a strength. I cry on that. And I know that that translates well to the strength to strength training.
[00:42:13] Right. So what are those things for the person? What are their goals? So it's important that we're working on their goals, not anyone else's goals, certainly not my goals, but also not their partner's goals or doctor's goals. Like what are their personal to them unique to them. So that's all part of, and then like typical intake stuff like injury, history, and anything like that.
[00:42:39] A lot of people don't realize that even a sprained ankle when you were 13 can show up when you're 50. So these are just things to know for me to know. And so getting to know their body and getting to know their nervous system, just even by being with them, talking to them and movement. And that's where we, that's where we start.
[00:42:58] I love that. That, I mean, you talk about this from the very beginning of the book that although lots of your clients may come to you with past trauma, you don't have any pressure for them to disclose what that was just enough to know that it was there and let's move from there. You know, you don't have to, which I think is so respectful and so compassionate.
[00:43:27] I was really taken by surprise by that in a, in a very loving, generous, wonderful way. You know, I just think that that's wonderful. One of the things that I caught on from the. But it keeps the score book at the very beginning was that and then would deepen my sort of knowledge of was this idea that the trauma is not the narrative.
[00:43:55] It's not what happens. The trauma is the imprint, right? It's what's going on. Like, that's what we're working with now in order to do healing around the trauma, you have to confide in somebody trusted person. Who's going to really meet you in that space and hear you and see you witness that. But you don't need to tell everybody your trauma, your exactly.
[00:44:20] And, and I think when you're, especially when you're in treatment, it's really easy to start to feel like you are your trauma. Sure. I'm going to therapy four days a week talking about it. Like it's pretty consuming. So this is an opportunity. If I am working with the physiology of somebody's. I am noticing their physiology and I'm helping them with that.
[00:44:40] I don't need to know the story that led to it. Right. cause I'm not helping them process the story and it gives them an opportunity to get in their body and do some self care work and separate from the trauma story. Have a little space. Remember that I am all of these things, not just my trauma story.
[00:45:00] So it's a break from huge. Yeah, that's huge. So, so walk us through, I want you to tell it, tell everybody about the structure of your book, which I find really wonderful. And one of the reasons why people have to go out and get themselves a copy of this and the link to it will be in the show notes. So scroll down if you're not driving, scroll down and just click on it and buy it.
[00:45:23] Absolutely so the structure structure very interesting. It's laid out in three parts and the first one is conditions.
[00:45:34] The second part is activation. Then the third part is recovery. And then within each their chapters, the chapters generally open with what I realized I really liked. Right. Kinda knew, but like finally admitted publicly, you know, a little bit of a personal narrative and this is what they usually open with.
[00:45:57] And then we get into more. Research and information. And then there's always a practical exercise towards the end. And I, by exercise, I don't mean like a bicep curl. I mean sometimes it's sensor-based meditation. It might be a physical action or writing prompts. And these are all sort of structured to take you along.
[00:46:19] So by the end of the book, if you are interested in taking on an embodied movement practice, you are sorta set up with some basic tools to do that and have a place to start. And then the reason those sections are there is that is actually how I think about a single workout, how I think about a workout program.
[00:46:40] And how I think about healing, right? Which is we need to set the conditions first. By that, I mean, what do we need to feel safe? What do we actually. You know, practically speaking in terms of a workout, like, what do we need to work out? What equipment do I need? What time of day does it need to be?
[00:47:00] What kind of community or culture do I need from the place I'm doing this in? These are all like, really valid and important questions that you want to ask and think about when you're trying to pick something that you can sustain. Hopefully this will be enough that you can sustain, you know, even when you'd like.
[00:47:20] Necessarily feel like going to the gym that day, but you don't fall off the wagon. Right? Like people, how many of us have unused gym memberships and treadmills, treadmills that are closets, clothes on it. Right. So how can we, like, I have a whole system in my basement that functions right now is a cat gymnasium.
[00:47:43] The cats play on them, seen that I can no longer use cause I herniated L five and I can't do that movement anymore. And a treadmill that I've had since the year of the flood that the cats, I don't even know what they do on it. It's, you know, whatever. I will tell you that my back injuries all come from herniated discs in my lumbar spine.
[00:48:02] Ah, there you go. And I do a lot of rowing, so it is possible. That's my favorite for my party, the way a rowing machine for you. That's great whole stretching movement. I just, I love that. So maybe, maybe with the Pilates, I'll strengthen my back more and I'll be able to actually do it. The lobbies is wonderful for the, for the trunk.
[00:48:25] So that's conditions activation, right? That's like, blood's pumping, you're doing your workout. Right. And in the book, I'm also talking about what so fundamental to the way I approach strength training is embodied movement, which I also talk about as mindful movement. I think more people are familiar with mindfulness, so like a moving meditation.
[00:48:50] Right. And we, we think of like, oh, yoga, and when done correctly, oftentimes meditative. Absolutely. Yeah. But you can do that. You can actually turn anything into a mindfulness. And so that's a huge part of the strength training, my approach to strength training, and I really get into why and how that helps support trauma healing as well.
[00:49:14] How that shows up in the rest of your life. And that's what recovery, the end of a workout. Maybe you do a cool down as Jane Fonda calls it. And I've got my ode to the Jane Fonda at home workout is in there. It's my favorite. That was my jam in the eighties, man. I had the shiny tights and the belted leotard and the leg warmers. And I did the whole Jane Fonda workout thing. So I found my ass for the first time when I was like 14, 15 years old. And suddenly I could wear like a shorter skirt that was like a, like a sweater knit kind of thing. And I could not do that before. And I was like, wow, was that my ass?
[00:49:55] Well, thanks Jane. Thanks. Jane Fonda was on a copy of a copy on a VHS tape that I got from somebody and there it's all, it's all available online. Now you can, you like officially, like you can get all of her workouts, even the original, the 1982 original. You can watch my computer. You can do it along. I mean, a friend of mine when I was helping me my writing throats actually, who was helping me with the book she early on in COVID, she took it upon herself.
[00:50:32] Do you a variety of all of these like home workouts? I think in part, because of the book and she, she did this one, she was like, it was a blast. It was a trip. And I definitely dabbled in it as well as I was doing my research for the book. So yeah. So, you know, we're preparing our body that cooled down doing things at the end of the workout to prepare your body for rest.
[00:50:55] And recovery is really important. And I talk about alternatives for people who struggle with stillness. It's very important. And that was actually, I struggle with stillness, which was one of the reasons I struggled with trauma informed yoga. So how can we find rest when we struggle with stillness, right.
[00:51:15] How to set up to work. So that's really an important piece is you don't have to sit still to recover. And then also in that recovery section is a. Look at how the stuff spills out into the rest of your life, right? You need to your relationships and things like boundaries and knowing your boundaries and enforcing your boundaries, that's all part of this work.
[00:51:39] And so that's all and figure out what a boundary was. Sure. Untold my mid forties. Everybody's like, know your boundaries and for now I'm like, what are you talking about? The fences around my property? Like, what do you mean boundaries? And then I heard somebody, I don't know who it was. Say boundary is simply knowing what's okay.
[00:51:59] And what's not okay. And I was like, oh shit, that's it. That's what the whole thing is. So, so hard to figure out and enforce what gets overlooked is like, know your boundaries and practice enforcing them, but like, okay. So how do I know what's okay. And what's not okay if you are a very disconnected. And you're living in here and you've had a whole bunch of social rules dictating everything, and you don't want to, you're a people pleaser maybe, or whatever.
[00:52:30] It's very hard if you, your body is telling you things, but if you're disconnected from it, you don't know it. And so that is like, I'm always like, yeah, no, it's great. Foundries are great. Listening to your boundaries is great, but you have to know how to hear them. Right? You have to have access to them and that you get, I have to have access to them, but besides even knowing what they are, and that's huge to figure out having the agency shoe enforce them, right.
[00:53:01] Not being afraid to say, no, this isn't comfortable. I don't like this. I'm not happy here, or I'm not doing that, or you're not coming here or whatever it is, I think I figured out. What some subset of my boundaries were before I had the chutzpah to enforce them. Oh yeah. Because I was still too afraid of someone saying you're not worth my time or energy to deal with that level of stuff I'm out of here.
[00:53:35] Absolutely. And I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm perfectly fine with you in my life, and I'm perfectly fine without you in my life. So if you don't do it on my terms, get the fuck out. It's hard. It's really hard to say that I was in my late, I'm only 53. Now I was in my late forties before I had the, the chutzpah to do that.
[00:53:57] I protect myself. It's hard. Shit you got there. And I, I see I, I had some experiences. Prior to the second back injury. So just when I was doing a weightlifting for love where I was tired of my boundaries being violated in the gym. So this was all in the gym, just like icky stuff.
[00:54:22] I didn't like anymore. Right. Like it's kind of a gross culture sometimes. And from feeling so strong and feeling capable, and also knowing when I had was at my edge, right. I had been strength training to a point where like, I was like, oh, okay. That's it. That was the last rep, because I could feel my physical edge.
[00:54:42] I started to notice my physical edge when people would tick me off when people would say things that I didn't like that I couldn't stand by anymore. And I started to say something and you know what? I had to leave certain gyms that were general. I was like, okay, we're not going to greet. You're not going to change.
[00:54:58] Hi, I'm going to leave. And so I got practice in the gym and I realized that I could help people practice in the gym. I think it's really important when you work in sort of any healing arts to have clear boundaries as the practitioner for yourself and also for your clients, it helps them feel better and it mirrors something to them, but like, it's okay.
[00:55:20] You can be kind and compassionate and warm and caring and have boundaries. And also you said at some point in your book that you, you asked permission before touching a client's body to help them get into position or to help show them what the movement was, but that you weren't just going to touch someone without asking permission.
[00:55:40] And I thought, that's awesome. And I'm not just going to listen to their words, I'm going to watch their body. Right. So there's a difference here, right? Like if somebody's. Yeah, sure. Their shoulders go up to their ears. Maybe not their head is saying yes. Right. So this is what we were talking about their head.
[00:55:59] It's like, oh, I don't want to upset her. Right. Whatever. I want to be easy. I don't want to be difficult saying yes. Yes. But their body has told me an entirely different story. And I'm like, for why don't we try this? And I redirect with a verbal cue. Right, right. And that is, that's a really important thing.
[00:56:19] And that it's changes. Right. There are a lot of practitioners who are a lot of people who will say like, oh yeah, it's always fine. And I like to leave room. Maybe they always say, okay, I try. And I will say like, Tenny, if anybody's listening to. You know, this kind of work. It's like, oh, I want to send too, man.
[00:56:37] I make, I mess up sometimes and forget to ask, like I make mistakes and I apologize. But, so I try, especially with clients who say like, oh, it's always okay to check in any way. And I say, I'm going to ask, it's an opportunity for you to check in and make sure it really is because it changes, changes all the time, changes with our partners and people we love and sometimes they'll touch me.
[00:57:04] Yeah. Yeah. That's cool. So big takeaways from the book. What do you want, what was the goal to have people understand?
[00:57:12] Hmm. First I wanted to connect with people, right? So I had that experience of reading the body keeps the score and I wanted other people to feel seen. It. Honestly, like I also got to be seen. Right. So that, which was nice. So there was that, that was sort of a, that was a quieter thing. That's not a big takeaway, but that was my, one of my takeaways, of course.
[00:57:36] And then, one of the big things is that you can use movement to help you thrive and have a fulfilling life. It doesn't have to be about all the things we tend to make it about getting better at something, getting smaller, getting bigger, or maybe if you want to be more muscular it's not even about performance.
[00:58:02] It can be, but like, it can also just be like, how am I writing practices really suffering? Right. Well, it's a beautiful. Yeah, so, movement and like your mom, you just want to tie your shoes when you're getting older, you know? Absolutely. So that is a big part of it. I think also that any movement practice is a big part of the book.
[00:58:25] Any movement practice can be turned into a healing movement practice. I think just by focusing inward on what the body is doing and getting yourself out of your head and not also not focusing on everything around you helps. I know that helps me feel more grounded and more in the moment and more in my body whether I'm moving, whatever part of my body especially like in this new Pilates practice that I've been doing like I'm focusing on.
[00:58:59] The actual movement and the alignment of my body and what body parts going, where and where feet are pointing. And cause that all matters who the hell knew, but that all matters and just the movement itself. And how does it feel? And where's my elbow and let's breathe. And what I didn't know about Pilates also, and I think I was probably doing it wrong all those years.
[00:59:28] I was doing mat Pilates by myself. Is it matters what the inhalation and exhalation matters as to what part of the movement it's coordinated with. And I think I had always sort of just naturally done it backwards from what the instructor says. And so like when you push away, that's the exhale. And when you're pushing, when you're.
[00:59:56] I don't know how to I'm I'm not a fitness person, so I can't explain that. But, but it, it just, all of those things made, it makes it very mindful and meditative for me. Yes, yes, yes. You are coming home to your body. Yeah. Yeah. What were you saying? Oh, I was going to say it, it, it varies from modality to modality.
[01:00:20] That's why I wasn't like, oh, it's this one. It's it. I didn't want to misspeak about Pilates. I'm not flooding. Yeah, no, nor am I but yeah, it's coming, it's coming home to your, your body and not something like Pilates on the reformer. You're not looking in a mirror, your attorney in words, and feeling your body.
[01:00:38] I love that. And that's what I mean, obviously plenty of gyms have a bajillion mirrors in the freeway section I worked at at home now, ever since. COVID I don't have mirrors and I try to. I historically, one of the reasons, even when I wasn't training with a barbell would train in barbell clubs because they usually have free weights in there too.
[01:00:59] So they tend not to have mirrors everywhere. And it's a really about not because if you try to watch yourself do a movement, you're gonna mess up your form because your eyes are going to be we're in the wrong place and your neck do things. Right. Right. This is really about feeling the internal experience.
[01:01:16] Like you said, as my elbow in the right place is my breathing pattern in the correct order. You're feeling these things. And that's, so that's giving you access, that's practicing, feeling your body during stress, exercise and stressful. Even if you're enjoying it stressful. And, so, so then when you're having a heartbreaking argument, something that is also painful and stressful, you can come into your body for a moment and go, Hey, what's going on in here?
[01:01:48] Where are my boundaries? What do they feel like? Right, right. I could get through that. I'm going to get through this. I know where my limits are. I know where the edges are. Right. And I can do it. I can be okay. And I can come into my body even though it's uncomfortable and get all that information. And that's huge.
[01:02:07] Yes. Yeah. For someone who used to envision her body as a car that's huge. Most of my friends think of them. Celsus brains and ajar. So I understand exactly, exactly. I teach with, I'm an English teacher, so I teach with other people who are all intellectually stuck that way too. And we're all most of us are around the same age.
[01:02:29] Tend to be a little older, but around the same age. And we're all sort of facing the same. Issues. So there's a lot of talking and comradery and oh, you can do it like, oh, that's so exciting, you know? It's a nice little cheering section. Awesome. So your book is available anywhere books are sold.
[01:02:49] This has been lovely, Laura, thank you so much for being here and giving us another way to give ourselves permission to heal.
[01:02:56] Excellent. Thanks so much. Thank you. All right, bye.