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My Word for 2023: Inspired by Persistent Pain and How to Make Things Easy

Anita performing a squat and press
Throwback to 2019 - Pre-Injury

As 2023 approaches, I’ve been searching for a word to live by for next year. Kind of a theme to inspire me, keep me grounded and moving forward in my intentions both at home and in my work.

As you may or may not know, I’ve been struggling with back and leg pain for more than half of 2022. It’s ongoing…getting more manageable...still persistent.

My word for 2023 was actually inspired by one of my chiropractors, Spencer Bell.

Spencer knows that one of the activities that’s important to me is weight training. Although I haven’t actually been able to lift any weights for the last number of months, I have been trying to maintain the movement patterns and range of motion required to complete some of the foundational movements required for weight training.

One of those movements is the squat.

With my back issue, I’d lost some strength in my left glutes and was experiencing some hip discomfort with the traditional goblet squat. I could get into the position and even hold it quite easily, I just felt some discomfort in the front of my hip.

Wanting to increase the strength of my my glutes while taking some pressure off the anterior aspect (front) of my hip, Spencer invited me to try a sumo squat.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with weight training and the various squats, the biggest difference is that the sumo squat requires you to have a much wider stance and rotate the hips and feet out about 45 degrees. This lateral (outward) rotation opens the hip up and gives it (the ball of the hip) more space in the hip socket.

As I moved into the squat, the hip did indeed feel freer, however, my muscles weren’t used to this movement pattern (and remember, I have weakness in my left glutes) - so although I could squat down and come back up, it was a challenge to hold the position at the bottom.

When I say 'challenge' I mean that it had my legs quivering and I found myself holding my breath. My body was tense. My breathing was erratic. My mind was anxious.

Spencer acknowledged that I was working hard to be in that position. He challenged me to work up to 5 full breaths at the bottom of the movement with good technique over the next few weeks.

My first thought was ‘this guy’s crazy!' And my second thought was, 'that’s impossible!’.

And then he said something to me that flicked a switch.

He said, “you’ve got the basics of the movement and I can see you’re working hard, now just play with it to see how you can make it easy”.

You’ve got the basics

You’re working hard

Just play with it to see how you can make it easy

☄️ 🚀 🤯

A couple of months later I ran into this same advice, just offered in a different package.

I was researching persistent pain and came across 5 Steps to help you manage your pain, move with more ease and get back to life. Interestingly, it just happened to be created and taught by Neil Pearson, the TA in my musculoskeletal skills lab when I was a physiotherapy student at Queen’s University. Coincidence?

If you are living with persistent pain, it's worth checking out.

The five steps:

  1. Gain knowledge

  2. Mindful breathing

  3. Body awareness

  4. Calm movement challenge

  5. Pain care for life


If you’ve been following my stories on Instagram you may have noticed that this is what I’ve been practicing as I move through my activities of daily living, my exercises and getting back into the forest on my snowshoes.

Calm breathing,

Calm mind,

Calm body,

Calm movement.

Finding the ease in the movement.

As I thought about it more, this practice pertains not only to physical movement and challenges but also applies to mental and emotional life challenges.

And I realized that these are the very principles that I’ve used for nearly 30 years practicing as a physiotherapist, working with personal training clients, teaching yoga and even with coaching clients.

And, yet, I hadn’t been practicing them in my life. 😳

2022 has been a challenging year.

And sometimes, when we are in the struggle, we forget to breathe.

Oh, and my word for 2023?

At first I thought it was ease or flow or even calm.

But as I’ve been writing today, it’s hit me over the head…it’s BREATHE.

When we breathe, we

become present

and create spaciousness.

It IS possible to find the calm by bringing your attention to your breath.

It begins with the awareness of your breath.

Is it shallow? Is it fast? Are you breathing?

This awareness brings you into the present moment.

And when we are in the present moment, as long as you’re not in immediate danger, the mind will calm.

And when the mind is calm, the body will follow.

Play with it and make it easy’.

I see you. You’re trying. And it’s hard. Now play with it and make it easy. You’ve got this.

Just breathe,

🧡 Anita

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