David Muñoz González is an entrepreneur and martial arts instructor at Art Zenter Academy in Espoo. He has been running the martial arts academy for 5 years. At the academy they teach movement, wellness and martial arts for people of all ages. González himself has experience in martial arts for almost 30 years. However something happened in 2009 that greatly affected his ability to exercise martial arts. He got a serious back injury and had to have a surgery for it. The doctor had said that he isn’t allowed to do martial arts anymore. This was difficult for González to hear because he didn’t want to give up his passion. He also had a lot of chronic pain because of the back injury. González decided to start developing different exercises that helped him stay in movement but that were also good for his back. For the past 12 years he has developed these daily practices and they have helped him to reach harmony with his mind and body as well as relieve the back problems.
Irina Poleshchuk is a researcher at the University of Jyväskylä. Her main interest lies in the field of chronic pain, psychology of pain, embodiment, and sociality. She has also published several articles and conducted workshops on chronic pain, ethics and the normativity of the pain experience. Poleshchuk too has experience of living day to day life with chronic pain. Together Poleshchuk and González decided to start a project to help others that experience chronic pain.
MY HAPPY PAIN
The project that González and Poleshchuk started is quite new and fresh since they only started it about half a year ago. But they had done research on chronic pain for years. On top of that they both experience chronic pain. So they have two perspectives on pain: the scientific perspective (research and knowledge) and their own experience. They say that their own experience is the more significant perspective in developing My Happy Pain. My Happy Pain is a program that they developed for people who experience chronic and daily pain. Their workshops and sessions show movements that relieve the pain organically and help with stress relief, vitality and mobility. The aim of My Happy Pain is to help deal with pain as a part of everyday life.
González and Poleshchuk wanted to differentiate from the medical perspective on pain and focus more on the human experience of pain. At the doctor’s office you typically are prescribed with medicine and physical exercises that you can do to relieve pain. But they don’t tell you how to deal with the pain and how to embrace it.
In their practices they focus on how to live with pain, how to experience pain and how to combine the pain to your daily life situations. Instead of fighting the pain they help you to see it in a different light. They don’t promise that the pain ends completely but they offer different practices and methods that facilitate life with pain. Their practices and workshops help to see pain as a part of life instead of something that is completely alien and threatening.
PAIN CONNECTS US TO OUR BODIES
Living with chronic pain can distance us from other people because it might feel like other people don’t understand our pain experience. It is important to find different ways and possibilities to be with our loved ones. Life with chronic pain is challenging but Poleshchuk and González believe that experiencing pain can also enlarge our lives and be a happy experience. This is why they named their project My Happy Pain. The pain is something that connects us stronger to ourselves, to our bodies and to others.
González and Poleshchuk´s practices combine motivational coaching, psychology of the pain and the psychosomatic part of the pain. The goal of the practices is to learn how to accept the pain and be able to live a normal daily life happy and full of energy. That way we would live with the pain but not with too much suffering. González reminded us that we often choose suffering and sometimes we are happy to stay in that comfort of suffering.
We also often forget to move our bodies. Many people work sitting down and also spend time outside of work on couches and chairs for example playing Playstation or watching TV. We make up excuses why we don’t move our bodies more and busy schedule often means that we don’t really spend time with our bodies. But our bodies needs movement. Movement is like food to our bodies.
RELIEVING PAIN WITH ART AND MOVEMENT
González instructed to us a short exercise that included different movements. González advised us to focus on our breath and how the movement felt in the body. He also highlighted the importance of focusing on the moment. ”There is no past and no future, only this moment right now.” By feeling our bodies and the environment surrounding us helps us to concentrate on the moment and better connect to our bodies.
We are often disconnected from the reality, this moment and the body’s sensations. But all this information like how the body feels is always there, we just sometimes forget it. González says that the exercises help us to reconnect with this moment and our bodies.
The idea of the exercises is to first look in the body: scan and navigate where the pain is located and where it is moving. We enroot it in the body by feeling the body. After that we try to shift it by moving the body. González and Poleshchuk try to incorporate different practices to this: art practices, working with collages and trying to paint the narrative of pain and the experience of pain. We can make art about pain and how it is built and how our own pain works. The goal of these practices is to get the pain out of the body by moving or creating something. González and Poleshchuk guide practices that work with for example clay, paper and other different textures. The last part of the practices is to dissociate from the pain. So we take the pain out from a mental experience into this physical world.
My Happy Pain offers different workshops, private sessions and parties that help you to accept, embrace and relieve daily and chronic pain. Read more: www.myhappypain.com