Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Laya Raznick
Alleviating pain and its associated suffering requires us to go deeper into the awareness of what we’re feeling emotionally, learning how we can welcome unwanted feelings and approaching this without even trying. When you look at pain from this perspective versus one where you have to attack the pain, triumph over the pain or win the battle over pain, a whole new world of possibilities begins to open up.
Here to speak with us today is Laya Raznick who is a holistic practitioner that uses massage therapy, acupuncture and pain coaching to help patients shift their physical, emotional and mental pain. There’s a shift happening from right to wrong and good and bad. This polarity of thinking can take you in the direction of pain relief and eventually to a world without pain.
Embracing Your Pain Can Lead to Relief with Laya Raznick
Laya, welcome to the Healing Pain Podcast.
Thank you, Joe. Thank you very much. Happy to be here.
It’s great to have you on. I’ve been wanting to have her on the podcast since I did her summit a couple of months ago. I think a great place to start, Laya, would be just tell us your journey into all the wonderful things you do: massage therapy, acupuncture, pain coaching, just how your career really evolved in that direction.
I was born in Hollywood in the ‘70s. At that time on the West Coast when I was actually a teen, there was this explosion of open-heartedness; more touch, more connection, more hugging. There was this sexual revolution. I was a little young for all of it, but it did influenced me to turn my attention in that direction. Over time, my first step into that was to become a massage therapist. I was really driven to discover ways to help my own pain. I had some low back pain when I was younger.
I stepped into massage therapy as a tool and found that it was a great way to have a good profession and also really connect with people at a deep level. After a short ten years of moving other people’s tension with my own body, I realized I would need other tools for that. There a lot of studies in yoga and movement and breath technique, but what I settled on was acupuncture because it gave me tools to get deep into the energy system of the body and move pain without using a lot of my own physical effort.
The switch for me came when, after all these years, 30 years later, I had been practicing both hands-on modalities, I recognized something that was happening in my patients. That was that even though they were getting tremendous relief, they were not really effectively switching the amount of pain that they had. We were getting relief in one area and they would have months or years of relief and of improvement, but then they would come back and they would have headache pain or hip pain or low back pain or arthritis. Something was missing. I saw that there was something that was missing. My sense of it was that it had something to do with the patient themselves becoming empowered to be able to do something on their own that wasn’t dependent upon laying on a table or seeing a doctor or having some kind of medical intervention. That led me to health coaching and then my specialty being pain led me into pain coaching, asking the question, “What is the missing piece? What’s going on here?”
I began to research the patients that I was working with and I could see that one of the biggest missing pieces is that everyone was coming to whatever their treatment choice was with the desire to get rid of something, which is of course understandable. They were limited and in pain, they were coming to try to push it out and get rid of it. That piece was causing a sympathetic response, an armoring response in the brain chemistry that was creating an armor in the body that was keeping this loop of pain continuing. I know you get that because I know you talk about it a lot in your own work.
I think most people who have pain really would identify with this armor, if you will. People oftentimes explain or talk about their muscles as stiff or stiff as a board or “I have a rod in my back.” I think the metaphors around that are really powerful. I just want to go back. I want to go back just for a minute to the hands-on practice, when you started out with massage therapy. What I find interesting about that is in this world that we live in now over the past ten to twenty years, maybe even longer than that, the first line of treatment is typically a drug or typically an injection or even maybe a surgery. Even today, we’re still really learning about the power of the therapeutic bond between a practitioner and the patient or a practitioner and the person looking for care, but how that bond can even be reinforced on a deeper level once you place hands on someone.
It goes even deeper than pain to the nurturing that we can offer each other in a nonsexual, non-family way, as a culture and how much we’ve moved away from touch, a hand on the back. It’s extremely healing to be able to walk into a practitioner’s office that has created the space to say, “It is safe for you to have your nerve endings, your body, your skin, your energy, your circulation touched and moved therapeutically here in this space. You can relax into that.”
Obviously, you can go see a massage therapist or some other type of manual practitioner who uses certain types of manual therapy techniques, but there’s also a place for the everyday practitioner, whether it’s a physician or other practitioners where just maybe a handshake or just placing a hand on the back or even just when you perform a physical evaluation. Learning how to touch in a way that makes someone feel safe, learning how to touch in a way that is gentle and learning how to touch in a way that starts to open up a bond between you and the practitioner.
Because culturally, we don’t have a ritual where we hug each other or kiss, unless we’re family or good friends, there’s always a point to be made for permission-giving as well because of all of the “dysfunction” that with have and not really understanding how to be with each other physically in a comfortable, touching way, s offering a hand. If I walked into a doctor’s office and they offered me their hand to shake, I would feel much more connected, even sitting there in my intake. It’s an offering.
I’ve trained hundreds if not thousands of physical therapists in my practice. One of the first things when a new therapist would come work with me is we would work on how you introduce yourself to a patient. Oftentimes, patients sitting in the waiting room, especially people in pain and they have no idea what to expect, they may have had a previous experience with another practitioner or another facility that maybe has them nervous or on edge. They really want to know first who are you, what are you about and how are we going to work together to help me move forward in my life? Moving forward to the acupuncture, what type of changes did you start to see happening with acupuncture that wasn’t necessarily happening with the hands-on type treatment?
The thing that jumps out first is that acupuncture treatment has, in my experience, longer lasting results than hands-on therapy. I came to this through massage therapy. I was not practicing craniosacral or energy work and I can’t really speak for that. I would say that the relaxation during massage therapy is profound, the relaxation when the client gets up and it can last for days, but the depth of energetic change using the acupuncture modality seems to last longer. There’s a certain framework for how results happen with acupuncture in my practice, which is after the very first treatment, the patient can hold the positive result for a certain number of days, maybe two or three days and then come back for treatment and hold the result longer and longer and longer until they’re finished with the protocol, until they’re holding the result.
Do you find the relaxation response, you mentioned it being longer, but do you find it also being deeper with acupuncture versus massage therapy?
A different kind of deep. With massage therapy, although other things are happening, it’s extremely physical. The musculoskeletal relaxation response is actually what usually stands out as well as an energetic relaxation; mental, physical relaxation. With acupuncture, it’s usually a deep relaxation as if you’re waking up from a deep sleep. It’s a little bit different. The word that comes to me is deeper. There’s a deeper energetic, as if we’re working with an energy system that’s actually more deeply embedded in the body.
That’s a wonderful description and something for people to think about. I’ve had both massage therapy and acupuncture. Both of them can elicit that relaxation response, which is great for reducing stress, which is great for luring cortisol, your major stress hormone as well as adrenaline. It’s also great for decreasing that pain response that a lot of people have. I found with acupuncture, the word deep comes to mind, it actually takes me longer almost to come out of the session. There’s a different kind of euphoria that I get versus with massage therapy. They’re both wonderful tools that someone can integrate into their pain care and into their pain rehabilitation. They have a place in pain science definitely. You talk about embracing your pain.
Does it sound like an oxymoron?
It does a little bit like, “I don’t want to hug my pain.” Most of us is like, “I got this pain again. Why did it start? Where’s it coming from? How do I get rid of it?” The natural response to pain is really literally the fight or flight response is trying to get away from something that’s painful, whether that is something that’s actually physically painful or whether it’s something that’s emotionally painful. We know pain is both a sensory and an emotional experience. Can you talk about what you mean by embracing your pain and how that can lead to pain relief?
It’s a very good point that you bring up that pain is not just physical. I work with so many people that are not in physical pain with this kind of modality. Here’s what I mean by embracing your pain. There is a way that, as you said, if we’re not in relationship with it, if we’re at odds with something going on in our psyche or body or in our emotions, then we will respond to it with a fight or flight response. We will turn around and this is what we do. It’s understandable and it’s cultural. We try to do something to change it. That puts us in this hyper vigilant non-relaxed state and everything tightens and everything guards. We’re at split. It’s like, “Here’s this part of me that hurts and I want to treat it as if it’s not right and not really happening and not part with me. Get rid of it as soon as possible.” That is what I found to be the missing piece of pain relief in my experience. If we can allow ourselves to go inside with eyes closed and using guided meditation and our imagination to be with our pain, to go right to it or it’s actually wherever the body calls you to. Sometimes it’s not where you have pain.
The body has so much information to share with us if we listen. That’s really what I’m talking about by embracing your pain, is going in with awareness and listening to what’s happening. Listening to what the body is telling us and allowing it to be for just a little while. That doesn’t mean acceptance and it doesn’t mean forever. It means give it a little space to actually really be because it actually really is. This is just a process of accepting what is, as opposed to trying to change what is right away.
What comes to my mind first and foremost is when someone has any type of pain, but oftentimes when they have joint pain or what they think is joint pain, they’ll go to a practitioner. They’ll have an X-ray or an MRI done and all of a sudden they now have this image in front of their face as well as an image that’s been imprinted in their mind. The first thing someone wants to do is they want to treat what’s on that image. They want to cure, they want to alleviate, they want to mend, so to speak, what’s on the image. We know that imaging study is poorly correlated with almost every single type of pain that has been studied and every type of pain that one can suffer with. When you talk about embracing your pain and giving their body a place to shift and giving their body some space, it really resonates because oftentimes it’s like, “Here’s this thing. Let’s go after it full force,” whether it’s a medication to decrease the swelling there or an injection or a surgery to go in there and repair what’s there.
I really believe and I know you’re on the same line, that our body has a wonderful innate ability to heal itself. If we just give it what it needs, and oftentimes what it needs is, like you mentioned, space. It oftentimes needs just a sense of pause where you can reflect on your own emotions and your own feelings that sometimes are not as recognizable because you’re so focused on the pain. Because when you have pain, it brings your attention to that part of your body, not necessarily to the stress in your life or the emotional experience you’re having in your life. When you bring people through this awareness practice, through this coaching session, you point out these missing links to them, what types of things come up for people in the session?
It’s really so beautiful and so interesting. When I do these processes, when I do coaching, we’re connecting by phone usually or it can be through Skype, but we’re not looking at each other. It gives the patient the chance to be in their own space, in their own process and not be concerned about what I look like or what they look like or all the things that can go on in our heads if we’re actually looking at the person that we’re with.
With eyes closed, we do a relaxation meditation to open up the body and get grounded and open for our wisdom to come in, really to connect to the heart wisdom not just the mind, but to honor the mind and connect to the heart. Then I ask the client to let their attention go to anywhere in the body that’s calling them. That’s what they do. Then to begin to just be with it, to begin to just be there, to just let it be. I ask them, “Is there a shape? Is there a color? Is there a picture? Do you see a picture or hear a sound or see a memory?” All kinds of things come up. Sometimes they don’t make sense. I always make sure that this is known, it doesn’t matter. None of it is right or wrong. If it has to be right or wrong, all of it is right. There’s nothing to eliminate, there’s nothing stupid, nothing that can come up that’s not right.
Sometimes what comes up is just a shape or a blob or a color. Sometimes what comes up is a memory or a feeling. The emotion part of it too, an emotion will come up. We spend some time just being with that. The point I’m making is we actually want to try to be in a place where we’re not doing anything, not just try, but to not do, to not change, to not have an expectation for just a moment, to just be with the pain and any kind of information that’s coming up from the body.
What happens is the body unravels some of its protective behavior; its emotion, the memories, the pictures, not in a traumatic way. It’s not like the patient has to relive something that’s traumatic. It comes up gently and easily. Sometimes there’s emotion involved, someone can feel sad or feel fear, but it’s in a way that is not about being stuck in the middle of an event. It’s a way that’s present. They feel it right now in their body. That’s what we’re looking for; what is here right now to unravel and release?
You mentioned earlier in our conversation that people have this armor around them, if you will. I like the metaphor of the armor. What can someone do to, metaphorically and physically, soften that armor so that their pain isn’t as uncomfortable, they’re not suffering as much through a busy day?
We can use a technique. I always go to breath, especially if we’re in the middle of a busy day because it’s very doable in a short time while we’re multitasking to put our focus on a breath technique to use to relax the body and relax the brain chemistry. Ultimately, if we’re tense and tight, what will unravel that is allowing it, is actually being with it. Let’s say someone’s sitting at their desk and their neck is tight and their shoulders are tight. You can choose a technique to release it through doing something like a breath technique. Or for a moment, you can close your eyes and take a deep breath and then let your attention go to the tension, to actually be present with the tension in your neck and your shoulders for just a few minutes. Just be with it, not so that it will release, not moving to try to release it. Just be with it and take a few deep breaths. I think that you’ll find that when you open your eyes again, it will have changed.
Sometimes I will say that usually it’s a release of some kind just by being in the presence of what’s happening. Sometimes when we bring our attention to it, you could become more aware of it and you could feel some tension that still needs your attention. You might want to then go to a breath technique or then spend a few more minutes with it. If we stop resisting what is, there’s usually a listening of the resistance. That’s what that armor is, that armor is resistance, “I can’t feel it. I can’t look at it. I got to function. I have to do this anyway. Let me surround it, surround this pain with this suit of armor so that I can function without having to feel it.”
Breathing is so simple and oftentimes so easy. It should be the first part of really any pain program because it really does elicit that relaxation response. From that relaxation response, your pain will start to decrease as well as the tension, the tightness, your anxiety, your stress levels, depression, everything else that’s associated with that suffering. I have three tips I’d like people to takeaway. They’re based on a question I’m going to ask you and you’re going to give me a one or a two-word response. They’re three simple takeaways that someone listening to this podcast can start to implement into their life. The first question is the one thing or the one important message you want those with chronic pain to know.
With my hand on my heart I say this to you: If you are in chronic pain, I want you to know that pain is actually here to serve you in some way. If you put your hand on your heart and go in for just a minute with a loving kindness, a self-compassion for your own pain and your own suffering, you will be able to meet it in a different way.
The next question: The one life lesson you learned that has helped you heal others.
The one life lesson that I’ve learned that has helped me heal others is to be present with my own self in a more loving and compassionate way so that I can be present with others.
The last one would be the one technique or strategy that you taught someone that actually surprised you in how well it helped that person’s pain or suffering or whatever ailment they had.
I have to say that the depth of change and expansion that is available through what I call the essential mindsets for lasting pain relief. This isn’t one technique, it’s four: awareness, allowing, self-compassion and gratitude. It’s exactly what we’ve been talking about today. When someone will go inside and connect with their pain and awareness, that in itself, I’ve seen such amazing movement from that that I have to say, that’s the thing that has surprised me most.
I want to thank Laya Raznick for being on the Healing Pain Podcast this week. You can find all the information about Laya on her website at LayaRaznick.com. Make sure you subscribe each week and make sure to share this podcast out with your friends and family to help spread the message of how we can heal chronic pain naturally.
Thank you so much, Joe. Thank you for doing this show. It’s so important and it’s making such a big difference in the world. I appreciate it.
Thanks, Laya. We’ll see you next time.
About Laya Raznick
Laya Raznick is a holistic pain relief specialist. For nearly 35 years she has helped her patients shift their physical, emotional, and mental pain through massage therapy, acupuncture and pain relief coaching. It was through her experience with over 30,000 clients that Laya recognized there is a missing piece to lasting pain relief. Releasing pain of any kind requires us to go deeper into the awareness of what we’re feeling in our bodies, welcoming those feelings without trying to banish and change them and experiencing them with curiosity, self-compassion and awe. Our presence in this way creates the conditions needed to unravel patterns of holding and limitation. This is a shift from “right and wrong” or “good and bad” polarity thinking into a neutral witnessing presence encouraging pain relief that is not dependent upon the circumstance around us. Healing her own pain through these practices and creating the life of subtle joy and radiance has fanned the flame of Laya’s passion to help others find this key to lasting pain relief. Laya guides her clients to become empowered in their own pain relief through private coaching, group coaching programs and online home study courses. You can find more about her work at LayaRaznick.com.
The Healing Pain Podcast features expert interviews and serves as:
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If you would like to appear in an episode of The Healing Pain Podcast or know someone with an incredible story of overcoming pain contact Dr. Joe Tatta at firstname.lastname@example.org. Experts from the fields of medicine, physical therapy, chiropractic, nutrition, psychology, spirituality, personal development and more are welcome.
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