Shane Brennan – Try Softer

Chronic pain has a major impact on our ability to embrace life. Its persistent nature, variability and the uncertainty that accompanies many conditions leaves us in limbo.

Since my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) when I was 20 (after two years of being bounced around different health care providers) I have been curious about the cause of autoimmune conditions. The mystery around why they seemingly come out of nowhere fascinated me. When I was 26, I had a major flare up in my Sacroiliac joint that impacted my movement to debilitating levels. However because this pain came after running I did not associate it with AS and spent another year seeing specialists who would scratch their heads. 

Finally it was connected with my AS and I began seeing a Rheumatologist. During this time I took Sulfasalazine and Methotrexate but got no long term relief. It was then I lost interest in this approach and was more motivated to learn about the body, mind and our environment. 

I made many exercise, diet and lifestyle changes that took the edge of the intensity of the pain. Yoga asanas were particularly helpful when followed with Nidra meditation. The combination of these practices had a significant impact on my quality of sleep, a key element in dealing with chronic pain.

I honoured the benefits of Yoga a few years later by training in India as a yoga teacher. During this my yoga practice moved beyond the physical asanas and I began to explore and experience the benefits of breathwork and meditation. This led me to focus on my mindset and behaviours along with influencing my nervous system through breathwork.

The benefits from meditation were having such a beautiful impact on how I enjoyed life. I felt I wanted to be able to share its power with others. I have completed two 200 hour meditation teacher trainings that not only give me the knowledge to understand and guide meditation but also to coach people through the thoughts, emotions and feelings that begin to come up while practicing regular meditation.

My own research over the last 16 years covered philosophy, psychology and physiology where I explored the impact of trauma and subconscious tensions on the nervous system. Understanding how our habits and behaviours influence our experience of life and gaining exposure to many techniques that can positively influence these areas.

I completed a 10 week course on Preventing Chronic Pain from the University of Minnesota and when the research, methods and evidence presented in this course correlated highly with my practices and experience I felt confident that my methods could have a major impact on reducing the suffering associated with chronic pain conditions.

I am now at a place where I don’t need to think about my movement. Movement just happens, and without fear or sensation. After having a condition for so long I didn’t think there would be a time when I would move like this again. My range of motion and movement allows me to regularly cycle, surf, rock climb and run. All of which were extremely restrictive before I started enhancing my understanding of the pain processes and regularly practicing breathwork and meditation.

My aim is to bring this information and these techniques to others so they can move through the unknown and are able to jump out of bed each morning.