Sara Picken-Brown, ‘THE FIGURE GENIE’ is a U.K based Nutrition & Fitness expert. A former classically trained professional ballerina her career has twisted and turned from dance to a professional Figure Athlete career spanning a decade. Her online nutrition programs, 1-on-1 bespoke Coaching and Rejuvenation Retreats have helped thousands of women love their bodies and live inspired healthy lives.

How To Take Control Of Your Aches (#1)

It started when I was about 13 and continued until I was 21. That was when I hung up my pointe shoes and turned my back on my dreams of being a ballerina.

Chronic stress fractures in my shins meant that every step and indeed every waking moment was unadulterated agony.  Having spent yet another dance class at the London Pineapple Centre in Covent Garden sitting on my ass watching (rather than doing) my mental health was not faring so well. Injuries and depression often go hand in hand.  The swelling and pain in both shins had become so bad that even the slightest touch sent me through the roof. To look at the bone through the skin was like looking at corrugated cardboard, I was a mess, so  I decided I had to face facts. This ballet lark was  simply not good for me.

I was angry, frustrated, ashamed at my ‘weakness’, terrified what the future held and mourning turning my back on a future I had worked for very hard since through my entire childhood.  The sense of loss I felt at giving up on my dream of being a ballerina  was in truth minimal compared to the gripping fear of what the hell comes next? Added to which I felt like a total failure; I couldn’t ‘hack the pace’, was too weak mentally to be able to ‘gut it out’.  I had been working toward this dream since I was 8 years old, later than most to start ballet admittedly, but it was all I had ever really wanted to do.  Or so I thought. I did have a fleeting interest in Archeology but the lure of feathers and sequins was much stronger than that of dust on old bones.

It has taken me many years of study and 20 years of self reflection and understanding my clients as a trainer, to realise that the chronic pain in my body was showing me that unconsciously I knew dancing was not the path I was supposed to take. I was just too determined to follow through and too young to be able to admit, dancing was not my true path, to myself or anyone else. So the emotional dis-ease manifested in other ways until I had to take notice. Thankfully I have never ever had any issues with stress fractures or shin pain since; these days I run, have had a successful athletic career and not once has the issue ever resurfaced.

Over time I have seen chronic issues with clients be resolved by looking deeper than just their physiology.  Looking closer at the emotions behind certain beliefs and behaviours. After all, in transforming your body you must address the transformation of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to achieve a ‘stick-able’ outcome. Your emotional state fits squarely into that arena. Sometimes chaotically, but still squarely.

The Neurobiological Connection

There are a number of phenomena that occur in the body and brain during the experience of different emotional states. In a Psychology Today  article the neurobiological connection of emotions is outlined; “The brain is massively interconnected with the rest of the body. There are direct neural connections via the brain stem and spinal cord. The circulatory and lymphatic systems also carry neurotransmitters (hormones and immune cells) that find receptor sites in the brain which feedback and modulate the links between brain and body. In this way, every cell in the body – every cell — is linked into the nervous system and as such, can be sensed and felt, whether or not we allow ourselves to be aware of this psychobiological fact.

Russian space scientists were the first to discover in the 1960’s that every thought or feeling triggers the release of tiny chemical proteins called neuropeptides (NP’s).   In the late 1990’s American cellular biologist Candace Pert began to explore this phenomenon.  She outlined the critical role neuropeptides play in metabolic function. Your cells produce hundreds of different NP’s, each with its own unique function.  Hormones, endorphins, cortisol, and adrenaline are some examples. While Candice Pert identified the connection between emotions and neuropeptide (NP) release, further research has demonstrated that every emotional state has its own identifiable frequency.  That’s how your body knows which specific NP’s to release. As you experience an emotion, its frequency activates photons within your cells and throughout your neural pathways.  Your body releases appropriate NP’s in response.  Positive emotions release NP’s such as endorphins or oxytocin.  Negative emotions release NP’s like adrenaline and cortisol.

In Part 2 we will look at the physiological connection between our emotional state and pain. How different emotional experiences (guilt, fear, resentment) present in the body and where.  Plus look at  some key ways that self awareness and introspective modalities like meditation can help manage and often eliminate the pain cycle. Shifting the nervous system into a calm state through awareness is something that can benefit everyone not just the ‘injured’ or the ‘athlete’, but everyone, no matter their age.
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