As someone who has spent the better part of two decades suffering from chronic pain, primarily in my lower back and hips, I have spent an insane amount of time trying to manage and eliminate it. Part of it is just genetics – when you’re long and lanky, a lot more pressure is placed on the lower back than it is for people shorter in stature. But upon immersing myself in the world of holistic health, I came to realize that there is also a deeply emotional component to pain. You see, we store trauma in our body, which manifests as pain and illness.
Hip and back pain, in particular, have been linked to sexual trauma and PTSD. It’s quite intuitive when you stop to think about it. When you’re in the midst of a sexual encounter that is violating or just plain uncomfortable, your hips tense up, which in turn affects your back. Even non-violent, consensual situations can lead the body to feeling and storing trauma, as is often the case with sex workers.
Letting someone inside of you is a deeply intimate experience, so having someone inside of you who you wouldn’t necessarily want there was money not involved undoubtedly has an effect on you. Even if your brain says “yes,” your body and your subconscious say “no.” That disconnect can leave sex workers detached from both their bodies and their emotions. In my case, I learned to disassociate from sex when I wasn’t into it, but even with that protective mechanism in place, the body kept the score.
Fear not though, this is a pro-sex work blog after all. I’m not hear to talk anyone out of being a sex worker. The flexibility and financial stability sex work offers makes it a great choice for some. And let’s be real, it’s not like it’s the only profession that is taxing on the body. Finance bros fresh out of school work upwards of 100 hours a week to prove their mettle. Professional athletes undergo intensely physical regimens that can leave them injured for life. Flight attendants majorly fuck up their circadian rhythms and compromise their immune systems with their hectic schedules and constant travel.
All that to say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to be a sex worker. But if you are going to do it, it’s essential to be in touch with your body and prioritize self-care. As Bessel van der Kolk says in his book, The Body Keeps the Score:
Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.
Below I’ve compiled a list of holistic tools I’ve used on my own personal healing journey. Whether you are experiencing physical or psychological pain, I guarantee that adding one or more of these to your routine will help balance and restore you.
I started getting into meditation about 5 years ago. I had quit weed for the gazillionth time and was having trouble sleeping. A friend of mine happened to be a Transcendental Meditation teacher and took me under his wing. Basically, you’re assigned a mantra and after attending a few educational courses and completing your induction ceremony, you implement 20 minutes of meditation in the morning and 20 minutes of meditation at night into your daily routine. While I can’t say I’ve been the most consistent with it, it’s a great tool to have on hand when I’m going through especially trying times.
More recently, I did a 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana. It’s a worldwide Buddhist non profit organization that is 100% donation based. That’s right, you can go to a beautiful ashram surrounded by nature and dip off the grid for 10 days free of charge! This type of meditation doesn’t have a mantra, focusing instead on body scanning. The idea is to be present in your body and aware of sensations. According to the teachings of Buddha, all suffering is caused by craving and aversion.
If we can learn to let these go through mindfulness meditation, we can cure our pain and traumas. I was terrified at the notion of having to sit still for hours straight with a bad back. The first couple days were tough and I found myself getting very stiff but eventually, I got the hang of things and felt the pain in my body melt away. How? Because a huge part of pain is mental. Once we tackle the mental component, the pain is no longer magnified and sometimes dissipates entirely.
Having danced as a kid, yoga was a natural choice for me when I reached early adulthood and realized that I should probably start incorporating some kind of exercise into my day-to-day routine. After practicing Vinyasa style yoga in New York for a couple years, I decided to take a leap of faith and move to a traditional Tantric ashram in Thailand for four months. It was there I became a certified yoga teacher.
While I don’t teach as much as I’d like to these days, the foundational understanding of the human body I developed while there stays with me to this day. Knowing which stretch to do when I experience soreness in a particular muscle has allowed me to become my own healer, and to help others heal themselves too. Pigeon pose in particular is amazing for releasing sexual trauma. It’s a hip opener that stretches the glutes, which have a tendency to get super tight when the lower back stiffens up.
About a year ago, I was going through a brutal breakup and started losing my shit. I found myself simultaneously restless yet fatigued. I couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time and was struggling with severe depression, which I’ve noticed seems to trigger flare ups in my back. A friend took me to a hot yoga class at Fierce Grace in the Lower East Side and that shit changed my life. While all the yoga I’ve done has been super healing, there’s something about being in a 105 degree room getting your downward dog on alongside 30 other nut jobs that really cleanses the soul.
I’ve cried so many times in that studio and it’s honestly been the most cathartic thing ever. For all you London-based readers out there, there are several Fierce Grace locations I encourage you to try out as soon as possible:
- City: 53-55 East Rd, London N1 6AH
- West: 260 Kilburn Ln, London W10 4BA
- North: 173-175 Queens Cres, London NW5 4DS
- Primrose Hill: 200 Regent’s Park Rd, Chalk Farm, London NW1 8BE
- Finchley: First Floor, 48 Ballards Ln, London N3 2BJ
Acupuncture is one of those things I’ve been a believer in for ages, despite my inability to ever commit for more than a couple sessions at a time and see results. So when I finally got my shit together a couple months ago and started going to this amazing old man in Chinatown named Jeffrey, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I started feeling changes in my body after just one hour long session.
I had managed to reactivate my good old back injury upon moving a heavy piece of furniture up the stairs of my apartment building. It was so bad that I could barely walk for a week and even had to take a hiatus from my beloved daily yoga practice. While yoga is amazing for strengthening the core and can most definitely alleviate back pain, it has its limits when the pain becomes more severe from something like a pinched nerve (as was my case). The best course of action with acute pain like this is to take it easy with the rigorous exercise and go hard with acupuncture, chiropractics, and massage. After just one session with Jeffrey, my pain level went down from a 9 to a 5.
So what exactly is acupuncture? It’s an ancient healing technique used in traditional Chinese medicine that “balanc[es] the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.” If that’s too woo-woo of an explanation for your taste, just replace the word “energy” with “blood.” Acupuncture increases blood flow to areas of the body where the blood is stagnant due to physical trauma.
If you’re scared of needles, rest assured that a skilled acupuncturist is able to insert the needles so lightly that all you’ll feel is the teeniest tiniest pinch. It’s nothing compared to getting blood drawn. And if that still sounds like too much to stomach, give cupping a try. A cousin to acupuncture, cupping is another traditional Chinese technique that improves circulation and heals injuries.
My new favorite pastime of late is going to Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village. It’s been around since 1892 and is filled with grizzly old Russian men getting their schvitz on. I’m personally a big fan of the lack of pretentiousness compared to other spas, such as Williamsburg’s Bathhouse, which is full of basic hipster bitches taking selfies in the locker room. I also like it because it has the hottest sauna in all of NYC, at least according to my Finnish friend who seems to know what the fuck she’s talking about – did you know the Fins have been doing the whole sauna thing since the 12th century?
When I go, I make a day of it, spending 3+ hours rotating between the Russian room (sauna), cold pool, and steam room. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each has to offer:
- Sauna: Detoxifies body, increases metabolism, promotes weight loss, increases blood circulation, reduces pain, rejuvenates skin, improves cardiovascular function, boosts immunity, eases stress, and improves sleep.
- Cold Pool: Reduces inflammation, eases muscle soreness, boosts immunity, combats depression and anxiety, promotes weight loss.
- Steam Room: Clears congestion, promotes lung health, improves skin, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, eases stress, reduces joint stiffness.
The Bathhouse in London looks pretty comparable to my Russian bathhouse of choice. It’s a great alternative to a night of partying and can be done solo or as a group of activity. Your body will thank you and who knows — you might even get a sugar daddy out of it. I get hit on by affluent old men every time I go in there. My one complaint? It’s too easy to spend your entire day there.
There you have it – a rundown of the four healing activities I would suggest everyone try, regardless of whether you’re suffering from chronic pain or not. After all, who doesn’t want a nice yoga butt, clearer skin, and peace of mind?