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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: Bodywork

What I learned from a busted shoulder...

Katie Gordon

peace with your body Today I want to share an important lesson that it's taken me a LONG time to learn.  I'm pretty stubborn, so hopefully it won't take quite as long for you to learn it, or maybe you're one of the lucky ones who already has.  If that's the case, consider this a gentle reminder.

Four years ago, during my yoga teacher training, my right shoulder started feeling a bit tweaky.  I asked my teachers about it and all of them said to rest it, stop doing chaturanga (the ultimate shoulder shredder) for awhile, and work on my alignment once it felt better.  At the time I was 23 and knew everything, so I didn't listen.  I was also in the super yogini, vegetarian, yoga-every-damn-day mindset and taking some time off and being gentle with myself just didn't fit the program.

Fast forward to the present day.  The slightly-tweaky shoulder of 4 years ago is now so inflamed that it hurts ALL THE TIME.  Finally, I went to see a physical therapist recommended by a trusted fellow bodyworker and after an hour of slightly painful myofascial release and a stern talking to about "seriously staying off of it for 2 weeks", my shoulder feels better than it has since I started teaching!  Of course I still have to remind myself every day to stay off of it.  No demonstrating, no handstands, no down dogs, no planks, just stop.

This yoga hiatus has forced me to re-evaluate the way I practice, the way I teach, and the way I treat myself.  I've had the time to really sit with myself, feel my body, and check in with what would FEEL GOOD, not what I think I should do, not how many days it's been since I did a vinyasa, or worry about losing the strength I worked so hard to build up.  Because none of that matters if I'm not doing it mindfully.

So here's the lesson: It is SO NECESSARY to listen and deeply nourish yourself, both body and spirit.  Injury, illness, and pain are signs of imbalance in our physical or energetic bodies that shouldn't be ignored.  Resting isn't weakness.  I've noticed resting and taking time to replenish my stores of energy is actually more work and takes more courage because it requires silencing the guilt and fear of being "lazy" and going against everything I've done for 27 years.

How can you deeply nourish and love yourself more?  What are some of your favorite self-care practices?  And what might you be doing that is causing your physical, emotional, or energetic body more stress?  What might it be like to let that go?

Love, Katie xo

The Mercies of Pain

Katie Gordon

When I was in high school I had a boyfriend who, some might say, I shouldn’t have been with.  I don’t like labeling people, but I feel okay saying he had some issues.  I know now that he was in my life to teach me lessons about how I treat myself, but until very recently, I blamed him for a lot of the emotional pain I’d felt for so long.  It took a lot of tears, and facing my fear of feeling that grief and anger for me to finally realize I had been in a holding pattern since I was 14, resulting in stabbing pain in my upper back.  I had been pushing him and his memory away without really letting his presence go and without learning the lesson I was meant to receive from him.  As Pema Chodron says, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” So there I was, in physical pain for years because I didn’t trust that I could handle the emotional pain that would inevitably come up.  The day I finally allowed myself to feel, REALLY FEEL, my anger toward him, and also toward myself for abandoning my sweet 14-year-old self way back then, the pain began to fade away.

We all have aches and pains.  They can be caused by old injuries, scars, lack of movement, and musculoskeletal tension pulling our bodies out of alignment and into contorted shapes.  But sometimes our memories, our stories, internal scars, wounds, the things we tell ourselves every day subconsciously can be the cause of chronic pain in our physical bodies.

The thing is, we hold onto stuff.  We love to hold onto stories, retelling them to ourselves, our therapists, our friends over and over again.  Even when we know it's not serving us, even when the actual event is long past.  Our bodies hold this trauma in our tissues, our muscles, fascia, blood, even bones.  Threads get wrapped around themselves, tangled up, knotted, sending shadowy tendrils out through the rest of our bodies, keeping our past pain in our present moments.  But in the words of Rumi, “Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies.”

flower ribs

 Pain is vital: Our bodies signal pain to tell us when something isn’t quite right, so we can address our environment, choices in our lives, or our connections with others.  The problem arises when we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel the pain, recognize it for what it is, and let it go.  In order to let go and free the physical body from pain and tension, we must be aware of where the root of tension lives.

That tension in your upper back may be from tightness in the chest.  When muscles in the front body are tight they strain muscles in back, so if your pecs are tight from overuse and under-stretching, your upper back may feel the effects.  Did you know tension is also caused by grief, anger, loss of personal power, or frustration?  And not that irritated kind of frustration, but actual rage?

Do you have chronic jaw tension?  Grind or clench your teeth at night?  Get tension headaches?  Pause and ask yourself “Have you been speaking your truth?  Or is there something you’re not saying?” Speaking your truth isn’t about talking without a filter.  It’s about saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, to whom it needs to be said.  It’s about sharing your soul’s work with the world, and showing up authentically every day.


Everything we tell ourselves about the sensation of pain is in our mind. Our thoughts, emotions, and stories are the reaction, but it is in integrating our emotional and physical pain that we can begin to process and release. I invite you to take just 30 seconds to feel your body, sit with the sensation of pain, and compassionately begin to connect your emotional and physical states. Visualize yourself embracing your pain, thanking it for its lesson, and letting it go. Pain isn’t bad - our scars are beautiful.  When we can feel them, breathe into them, unwind and lay them out, they become our connection to self, our fellow human beings, and our message of truth to the world.

Wild Grace

Katie Gordon

Hello friends! Exciting news!  If you skipped ahead to the end, you may have noticed there’s a new web address at the bottom of this post.  This is my new project where I've finally brought all of my work together under one (figurative) roof.  Even though it's still a work in progress, I was too excited to wait to tell you all!  As most of you know, I’ve been training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach.  I went into this saying to myself, “I couldn’t actually BE a health coach, I just want the nutrition info to pass along to my yoga and bodywork clients.”  Gradually, though, I began to see how I could integrate health coaching into the bodywork, infusing conversations about food with deep healing work to address issues such as disordered eating, distorted body image, and negative patterns associated with nourishing ourselves.

About now you may be asking, “What exactly IS a health coach, and why might I need one?”

To illustrate, a story: I have a dear friend who has been my biggest support through this program.  When I was in the deepest mud and muck, questioning my worth, abilities, and place in the world (you know the little things), she laced up her boots and trudged in after me, grabbed my hand, and helped me find a way out.  In other words, she’s there telling me how much I rock. That’s a health coach.  Not someone who will give you a list of foods to eat and send you on your way, but someone who’s in the trenches with you every step of the way.

So what are you telling yourself you could “never” do?  What’s holding you back from reaching your goals, living your dream life, and fulfilling your deepest desires for yourself?  What do you not dare to say out loud for fear of being unable to accomplish it?

Maybe you’re caught in a cycle of addiction.  Maybe every meal is a battle with yourself because your body is telling you one thing, but your head keeps getting in the way, telling you that you don’t deserve to eat because you haven’t worked out today.  Maybe you’re feeling stuck in a job or a relationship that’s not feeding your soul.  Maybe you want to start your own business but are afraid of taking those first steps.  As a health coach, just like my friend did for me, I’ll be there to pull on my boots (I have some really cute Doc Martens), traipse through the mud, take you by the hand, and find a way out together, all along telling you how much you rock!  Sound good?

If so, let’s set up a free initial consultation to give you the opportunity to talk about your dreams, your goals, and how we can work together to help you heal, grow, and get free.  The best part is that we can work together in person, on the phone,or via Skype, so this is open to EVERYONE!  Email me to set up your free session at and let’s get started.  I've you've been following this blog, make your way over to my NEW website/blog and be sure to bookmark it.  This one will eventually link to the new soon as I figure out how to do that.

Much love,


Health Coach + Bodyworker + Soul Rebel

Founder of Wild Grace

Goin' Back to Cali

Katie Gordon

Hello sweet friends!

As some of you may know, I'm moving back to Orange County at the end of the month (two weeks to be exact)!  I'm so excited about this next phase of my life and to be able to share it with you all.  I'll be doing bodywork, nutrition, and teaching yoga classes at Natural Mystic in Costa Mesa, which, if you haven't checked out already, you definitely should.  They carry bulk herbs, natural body care, and spiritual gifts, and it's all run by my good friends Ginny and Edward.  You can check out the shop on Facebook or their blog.

 natural mystic friends

I'll also be helping them formulate some new tea blends, herbal syrups, and body care items, about which you'll be getting more info and updates SOON, so be on the look out for upcoming emails regarding new product lines and services.  I'm so looking forward to seeing you all and hearing about what you've been up to the last few months!

West Coast Bodywork

Katie Gordon

Hey y'all!  If you haven't already heard the good word, I'll be back in So Cal for a couple weeks over the holidays.  While I'm there, I'll be offering a limited number of bodywork sessions at Natural Mystic in Costa Mesa.  If you'd like to schedule some time with me, send me an email (in my About section).  And while you're at it, check out the's a beautiful spot with good vibes and wonderful people! Looking forward to seeing you and catching up!


natural mystic

TMJ...we all have it

Katie Gordon

Let's talk about I mean jaw tension.  Recently, clients and students have been coming to me with one main issue...jaw tension and all the resulting symptoms that come along with it: headache, migraine, neck pain, herniated discs, even tight hips can be a result of a tight jaw.  Pelvic tension?  Not so fun.  When so many come to me with a specific complaint, I have to wonder what's up.  What is the Universe trying to tell me?  And then I remember.  I have jaw tension too.  As does most of the population. Let's go over some basics.  TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint.  We all have one (two, actually).  When all is going well, the many muscles and tendons of the jaw work harmoniously allowing us to eat, talk, bite, yell, kiss, and otherwise express ourselves.  When all is NOT going well, we end up TMJD (TMJ dysfunction) and we clench or grind our teeth, get gnarly headaches, achy necks, and other unpleasant symptoms.  So what can we do?

In some instances, jaw tension stems from energetic blockages, possibly resulting from unexpressed emotions, past trauma that's been wound up and stored in the body, or not speaking our truth.  In this case, it might be helpful to ask yourself, "What is it that I'm not saying?  What needs to be said?"

TMJD could also be caused by general stress that we experience in everyday, modern life.  In terms of our evolutionary response to stress, our fight-or-flight response is meant to kick in when we're being chased by a lion, not when we're stuck in traffic and late to work.  That constant-on wreaks havoc on our TMJ, neck, shoulders, cranial bones, etc.  When this happens it may be time to see a bodyworker (psst...that's me) to help unwind that tension.

A good bodyworker is highly trained in sensitive touch and the ability to read and listen to the client's body.  They'll know how to assess a client's body and symptoms, what kind of pressure and how much to use, and what may be contraindicated in certain situations.

Through skilled and sensitive touch, a bodyworker can figure out which specific muscles and attachments are tight and work to release them.  They will also know what may need to be released before the "problem area" can be directly addressed.  For example, sometimes the pterygoids (tiny, vicious muscles deep in the TMJ) are tight because the piriformis (a large, vicious muscle deep in the hip) is tight.  In order to release the jaw, you may need to release the hips.

So if you're experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, or are just curious about bodywork and what it can do for you, I'm here to help!