Missy Kai Hoffman: Conquering Pain Through Touch And Self-Empowerment

AIH 64 | Self Empowerment

 

How we feel greatly depends on how we control our emotions and our environment. Missy Kai Hoffman, the Founder of The Body Intuitive, teaches on how to reconnect with our inner selves and respond to our feelings. As someone who specializes in helping active, busy professionals to improve their mobility, relieve pain, and manage stress, Missy believes that something as simple as touch and awareness can help a person feel better. Today, she talks about self-empowerment and how she helps people in pain to assimilate their feelings and respond to it, and shares how disciplines like yoga and deep breathing can help re-align your life. Learn more from Missy as she expands her discussion on how she makes people in pain or trauma feel empowered again.

Listen to the podcast here:

Missy Kai Hoffman: Conquering Pain Through Touch And Self-Empowerment

We’re always trying to bring our community the resources that are going to help them either find health on a foundational level or avenues to explore, depending on what you feel you need in your life. The premise behind what we do is providing options for our community to think about, “What do I need in my life in terms of healing?” All of us have different circumstances we’re going through in our life. We all need a different path to health. There are core principles that we all have to live by in terms of how the laws of the universe work.

At the end of the day, it is such a personalized journey. What we do is to share ideas and possibilities that may resonate with some of you and may not. The goal is if we can help one person with some of the ideas we were exploring, that’s good. That’s incredible because this message is reaching someone and it’s helping them to take that step towards their health goals. Our guest is more in the exploration part of what we do. It’s not to say some of what she does isn’t foundational. She works a lot on the mind and emotions. These are essential to who we are.

Our guest, Missy Kai Hoffman, is thinking about these interpersonal relationships between men and men and between men and women. One of the most interesting things she brought up is this idea of healthy platonic touch. Her point was that in the world we live in, especially in Western culture, touch is often conceptualized. Having healthy outlets for people to connect physically can be a transformational health tool. It might not be something that everyone is ready for. Not everyone is ready to be like, “I need to go out there and put myself in an environment where I’m physically connecting with people.” That might not be where you’re at and that’s okay. That’s why so much of what we do here is providing options.

Missy is full of knowledge, wisdom and experience in helping people and working with people. She’s good at pushing the boundaries of what we’re willing to be comfortable with. In my personal experience, being open to pushing your own boundaries, getting a little bit uncomfortable, and out of your comfort zone is essential to discover what can help you heal. It might not be the thing that you try that pushed you out of your comfort zone was what you needed, but it might lead you to that next little nugget. You might learn this one little piece, “I needed this little nugget from that experience.” If you’re not willing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone a little bit, we’re not opening ourselves up to possibility. Please welcome to the show, Missy Kai Hoffman.

Welcome to the show, Missy. How are you doing?

I’m doing amazing. How are you, guys?

We’re great. We’re glad to have you. Sean, how are you doing?

This is interesting. This is going to be fun.

For all our readers, Missy, give them who you are and what you do.

Thank you for having me. My name is Missy. I go by Missy Kai in the community. I help busy, active professionals to improve mobility, relieve pain and reduce stress by creating personalized human programs for them. I also specialize in working with adult men to help reconnect them to their bodies, to improve their mobility, and then also to deepen their connection to themselves.

How did you first decide to focus on men as opposed to anyone who needs this in their life?

I realized that there is a need. When I first started this journey of becoming a yoga and rehabilitated mobility coach, I got into it from my own health issues. I have an autoimmune digestive condition called ulcerative colitis. I was diagnosed at thirteen. Yoga and Ayurveda were some of the most healing practices that I’d ever come across despite spending thousands of dollars on medical bills. Getting into it, I thought I was going to specialize in that and help people with autoimmune disorders. When I was going through my training and my programs, I look around the room and I thought, “Where are the guys? Why is this room completely filled with women?” Not only that, for white women and for the yoga therapy program, they’re usually over 40.

AIH 64 | Self Empowerment
Self Empowerment: If we’re taking a very evolutionary perspective of things, we evolved to be touched and to touch other people.

 

I feel that kind of person in life has a certain stature to be able to afford to do something like that. This is needed for everybody on earth. Walking on this earth should have access to this information. I thought, “Why are there not any guys in the room?” Nobody was able to answer that question for me, at least to a satisfactory level. I got a lot of write-off answers and honestly, it was curiosity. I started asking my guy friends. I started conducting an interview series. I did a research project on it for one of my thesis papers for my yoga therapy certification. I learned so much. It opened this whole door to male psychology that I was completely unaware of before. I started to see why the yoga industry and the yoga practice, as it was being marketed currently and being practiced currently was not at all attractive to your average guy walking down the street.

It is honest, genuine curiosity. I thought, “I see that these men are suffering in a lot of ways where they’re not connected to their bodies. Because they’re not connected to their bodies, they don’t know how they should feel. Because they don’t know how they should feel, they stuff it down or it gets pushed out sideways. Basically, they are disassociated.” They have a hard time coping with emotions and because of this they have a hard time communicating in relationships. It’s this spiral where I thought, “It’s this cosmic vortex of understanding and insight into this world.” Pulling way back from that, there’s such a need to offer this service.

It’s the same thing with the bodywork and massage therapy side of what I do. There’s a ton of great ground-shaking research coming out about how increasing access to healthy, platonic touch decreases violence in society. We are all noticing how this is a time in the world where there is an increase in violence, whether it’s racism or classism. There are a lot of people who are feeling very frustrated. Offering a practice like yoga or healthy platonic touch, either through bodywork or other intimate connections that can reduce the violence, not only outside in the world, but within ourselves. I thought, “This has so much powerful potency available. I can’t believe that nobody’s ever stumbled upon this.”

I started doing some research and saw there was a couple of yoga for men like Broga and Men’s Brotherhood Circles. Nobody was hammering that this is something we need to push out to a wider audience and share these messages to overcome all of this conditioning of like, “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga. I can’t touch my toes, so it’s pointless for me to go to class when we’re doing all these crazy poses and stuff.” I asked, “Why not give guys a practice that is suited for them? I don’t know why this is such a revolutionary idea, but here we are in 2019.”

I’m digging this so much because what’s interesting is, as I’ve always said, I love human touch. When I’m depressed or the stress is up because of my injury, a hug and the human touch is so valuable to me. Our society lacks that. When we do get in the state of stress, when we get angry or we get mad, we don’t want to touch anybody. If we all stopped and hugged each other, it sounds funny but it works.

In American culture and in other countries too, if a male initiates touch with another male, you get called gay. They’ll say, “Don’t touch me or that’s weird.”

The secret to healing a society is by inviting more intimate connections and learning how to facilitate them. Click To Tweet

You’re never sure whether I’m a hugger because of how I’ve grown up in the community. I’ve been involved in the yoga community. Everybody hugs each other, but there are certain interactions where you meet someone new and you’re not sure if this person is going to be okay if I hugged them or not.

It’s so powerful. Being in the hospital, everyone’s afraid to touch you. You have catheters. You have the PICC line. You have everything going in and out. Sometimes, we want to be human. We want to be rubbed. We want to be touched. Those nurses who came in at times and cuddled me, comfort me and put their hands on me was so much better than giving me the pills, being so cold and then isolated. I grew up with a family, with my father, my mom and my kids were hugging and kissing are so important. It’s that community of love.

Missy, you said that you’ve even researched this?

Yes, there are tons of great articles coming out about this. There is an article about male touch deficiency in the New York Times. In Upworthy, there are lots of research coming out. I have a couple of articles that I’m happy to send you if you’re interested in diving further into this.

We will share it so everybody can do a little bit of a deeper dive.

I totally encourage everybody to read about this because even knowing that this is a phenomenon that exists alone can be super validating. Being like, “I didn’t know this was a need that I had.” The part of the brain, the lobe of the brain that’s responsible for human touch, if we’re taking a very evolutionary perspective of things, we evolved to be touched and to touch other people. It’s an important part of connecting with society. That part of the brain that governs touch is bigger and takes up more area on the brain than all of the other sensory lobes. That only shows the importance of receiving regular and healthy touch. The article is from a top administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It’s the same article published in the bulletin of atomic scientists who examined potential threats to global peace.

They considered a lack of touch to be a threat to global peace in society. That is profound. When I started researching this, I had no idea what I would stumble upon, but I feel like I found some secret key to healing society in a profound way. The key is so simple. We need to invite more intimate connections and learn how to facilitate that. The article documents a lot of details about the inverse relationship between pleasurable touch and violence. The correlation is robust. There’s a lot of great evidence cited in that article from sociology, neurology, animal studies and cross-cultural studies.

AIH 64 | Self Empowerment
Self Empowerment: Learning how to breathe and developing a relationship with your breath is one of those things you can take with you anywhere.

 

This is true for both children and adults. If somebody grew up in a household where there weren’t a lot of touches, or touch was highly stigmatized as homosexual, it was not readily available or maybe somebody has been assaulted or in an abusive relationship. If the touch was learned to be a painful experience, then we have a lot of healing to do. It’s not as simple as giving this person a hug. We have to completely transform the relationship to what is healthy touch and transform our ability to communicate healthy boundaries and communicate our needs and desires. If you don’t know when your shoulder is hurting, how are you going to communicate these complex emotional, social, cultural concepts and navigate those new relationships?

In the end, you touched on a core element of what I taught when I used to teach yoga, which is this element of awareness. The perfect example is if you’re not aware that your shoulder is hurting, how are you going to be aware of any of these more subtle sensations going in the body, thoughts, emotions and feelings? I started going because I thought, “I’m going to be flexible.” That was really it, but it evolved into understanding of it. Yoga is more of an awareness practice for me. As you start to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you start to connect with yourself on a more intimate, deep level. You also begin to connect not just physically with other people, but you get to connect on a deeper level with those people around you. You start to feel and understand how we’re all connected in any way.

Many people want that and trying to explore that in their own ways. For guys, it is important to break things down into simple progressive steps where they can understand it and they can follow it and adapt it to their own pace and their own needs. My role is to guide and facilitate that process and not fix them. I don’t see things that way, but it starts with awareness. It starts with slowing down. I feel like a lot of guys have trouble with sleep. They tend to be very competitive because of these traits that we commonly see as positive masculine qualities in a society like being competitive, driven, successful or having a lot of money actually further embodies a guy from what’s actually going on inside of him because all of those things tend to be externally facing.

Yoga seems to be a very feminine practice in the sense that maybe for the first time, he’s been asked to flip that attention around and sense inward. That in itself can be revolutionary. There’s a great yoga practice called Yoga Nidra. Body sensing is one of the main kinds of Yoga Nidra. It’s a conscious rest meditation. Learning to view sensations as messengers and pain as a messenger instead of something to be suppressed or haggled with pushed away or stuffed down can be transformational, not just for guys, but everybody in general.

When you mentioned thinking about pain as a messenger, there are people in our community who are often in so much pain. It’s hard to even wrap your head around saying, “This is a messenger.” How do you in your practice start to help people who might be in a lot of pain to integrate that feeling and respond to it?

Learning to view sensations and pain as messengers instead of something to be suppressed can be transformational. Click To Tweet

Where we tend to run into difficulty is we, as humans, like to tell stories about our pain. The first reaction is trying to understand the pain. Where is it coming from? Why am I experiencing this? What did I do to feel this pain? We try to weave a story around the pain instead of sitting with that, welcoming it in. Another side of this is that you may be feeling pain for the reason that was completely out of your control. This leaves people feeling powerless in their pain. Pain is not necessarily a problem. Our responses around pain can sometimes lead to worse problems. Moving forward from that perspective, you need to think, “Maybe this pain wasn’t my doing. I don’t know why it’s here. I don’t need to understand that, but I need to understand that it’s my responsibility to do something about the pain. I need to understand what that right next step is.”

What’s interesting at the same time is surrendering, letting go and accepting that it’s not yours. I love what you said. For people, the veterans or the athletes, they live in pain. Sometimes that pain is not their own. It could be someone else’s and it’s to surrender and let go of it. I’ve got a funny story. I’m friends with Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq is the biggest guy on the planet, but he’s the biggest hugger. If you ever watched him play ball, he was always hugging his guys, always slapping them on the butt and he brought the unity. He brought the community together because he was a hugger. He’s 7’3” giant and when I hugged him, I came up to his belly button but how do you not give Shaq a hug back? You will get lost in him. You feel his energy and you feel his glow. That’s what made Shaq so relatable. I agree with everything you were saying, Missy. Especially with myself, we work with our senses, eyesight, hearing or taste. The feeling of touch is as important as anything else. It allows us to feel someone else’s soul, get connected and to feel that love. I’ve always said, “If we hugged each other and loved each other that way, there’s no war. There’s no violence. There is no anger because we’re sharing each other’s love.

What is anger except loud sad? Especially for guys, it’s very loud sad.

I love that loud sad because anger can take over me. It turns into rage. I know it’s not me. It’s a pain escalating. I love what you said. It’s the anger as loud sad. That is brilliant.

Once we understand what the nature of pain is, it could be neurological. It can be physical.

It could be memories of childhood past.

Pain comes from many different sources. What I find more empowering than going through a rigorous, psychoanalysis of all the causing factors is once the core cause is identified, then we need to focus our energy on what can we do about it. Especially trauma victims, this is the moment of shift for many of them. It can take a while. Sometimes, it takes several times. This is a practice. It’s not an overnight process. What can I do about it in a way that’s empowering, feel safe and good for me to move forward? That will put you back in the driver’s seat, back in control of your own life. For trauma victims, people who are suffering PTSD, veterans, even professional athletes, that keeps them focused and their energy focused on driving forward. You can use all those great masculine qualities like competitiveness and drive in a healthy way. It’s not like, “I’m competing to try to take this other guy down. I’m competing against the man who I was yesterday and trying to be better than that person.” When you change that orientation and focus, it becomes, “I want everybody else to succeed around me in the same way.” That’s a healthy expression of masculine energy rather than elevating it into anger and stress.

If you pay attention to the details of how somebody's posture is and how they behave, you will know their pain. Click To Tweet

All of those emotions are valid. A lot of times, people get their pain story overwritten by society. People will try to come in and fix you. They will try to give you solutions. They will try to tell you how you should feel about your pain. Your pain is your pain. You get to decide how you want to feel about it. No one can take that away from you. However you feel about it is okay. Once you’re ready, we can move forward. A lot of shaming happens around people’s pain and I wish it would stop. Everybody suffers some pain in their life. The best thing you can do for that person is not to tell them how to fix their pain, but to listen to it and offer space for them to cope with it in whatever way that they need. Even though somebody is working with me in a therapy or coaching relationship, I will still ask them, “Is it okay to touch you? Is it okay for me to offer you my insights about what I heard?” I’ll check in with them, “Thank you for sharing that story with me. Is it okay if I mirror back to you what I think is here and can you let me know if that resonates?” You always leave that person in charge of their own story, their own autonomy over their own body. That goes back to what we were talking about the sensations and connection with your body. It’s all interrelated.

I wanted to go a little bit deeper. You mentioned making people who are experiencing pain or in trauma feel empowered again. What are some of the practices that you’ve come across in your work that helped people to start to step into their own empowerment again?

It depends on each person. There are so many different kinds of trauma and causes of trauma. Statistically and socially, trauma looks different for men than it does for women. The causes of trauma are different. Autonomy and empowerment to put that person back in the driver’s seat of their life are of utmost importance. Having them be in a safe environment where they feel free to explore these things is of utmost importance. Finding a support system is of utmost importance. Many times, people who are in pain or in trauma tried to heal in the same environment where they were traumatized. Usually, you have to leave or change that environment first. I recognized not everybody is able to do that, but once you are safely able to do that, I highly recommend that.

That’s why I have a little office. That’s why I only see one person at a time. There aren’t twenty people like a PT clinic, running around and doing clinking weights and everything. It has to feel almost like you’re returning to a womb and feeling you can grind down and have a safe space to connect with yourself. I would encourage them to seek out safe spaces where they feel connected and they have room to breathe. That would be the first thing is to check your environment. The second thing would be breathing practices. Not all breathing practices are created equal. Generally, the exhalation helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which basically says it’s okay to come into a rest-digest state of being rather than fight or flight, which is your sympathetic nervous system.

Pain is not necessarily a problem. Our responses around pain can sometimes lead to worse problems. Click To Tweet

Elongating your exhalation, taking a full out-breath repeatedly can help you calm down. There are other breathing techniques, but that’s the simplest one. I found that a lot of people who have trauma are usually chronic chest breathers. They never take a full breath. Their breath is stuck up in their chests. Their vital life force, their breath is not fully circulating through their bodies. I teach my students who are in pain how to breathe. If you learn how to breathe and you develop a relationship with your breath, it’s one of those things you can take with you anywhere. No matter what’s happening, what the environment is, if it’s something that’s out of your control, you can always come back to it. That’s always your safe place.

Once you find a safe external environment, now we’re shifting to a safe internal environment where you’re telling your body it’s okay to relax. Once you get into that relaxed state, people need their own space to do their own inner work. It might be through meditation, it might be through the community. To be honest, I feel most people who go through some traumatic experience need some time to process that themselves. Sometimes with my students, I will take them into meditation or breathwork. I’ll even have somebody in a bodywork and a massage session. I’ll guide them to the place where they’re feeling really relaxed. Once they’re relaxed, I’ll sit with them. I’ll put my hands on their shoulders or on their feet and sit with them and let them breathe.

That’s probably one of the most healing things I can do for that person because it’s the reassurance that you are still okay. They’re brought into this vulnerable space and then we back off, then they have space and freedom to meet me in a way that feels good for them. In some therapy, we have the luxury of slowing that process down instead in real life where it happens really fast. You retain that sense of domain, control and autonomy over their own experience. Ultimately, we want to strengthen that person back up to the point where that thing is either no longer a stressor or they have healthier coping tools to manage their pain and their trauma.

Trauma is ultimately a scar. It’s a pattern. I don’t think people who are in deep pain should fault themselves if their patterns get re-triggered. Once that trigger is with you, it will always stay with you. If it keeps getting re-triggered, then the responses and coping mechanisms will adapt accordingly. If we’re in a safe environment, we have our breathing practices, there’s somebody there to help guide us in that process, then we can learn to navigate those triggers with more consciousness and learn how to manage them in your life. If you decrease the number of times that are triggered or don’t trigger yourself at all or you are not in a place where somebody would trigger you, then you’ll heal. You’ll get better. You’ll feel better. You’ll be like, “My behavior is changing. My body’s changing. My mental outlook on life is changing.” The world is changing because you’ve been given that space. Trauma is a complex thing so it’s hard to give a single straight line.

Missy, you said something so important that I’m finding my tongue trying to tell you, but it’s so profound and I’ve got to reiterate. You said a safe place because most people like myself who go through the trauma as much as we do, do not feel safe. What you’re providing is a safety net and someone to be vulnerable and be opened. The only thing I would add is eye contact. Many people when they’re in pain, they’re afraid to give eye contact because they don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be looked at. When you engage with their eyes and you give a hard hug, you slow down their nervous system and you are able to put that in the same place. It’s like a crying baby. I’ve raised two kids. I know how to get them to be calm. I’m learning every day. I love what you said. It’s long but it’s so profound. There are some key elements in that. It’s bringing people that same place and getting them almost to mimic you and to follow your pattern. I call it mirroring. When you start to mirror people and once you calm them down, you can move them into that safe place where their pain will start to dissipate or to dissolve.

What is anger really except loud sad. I’m in pain and I’m sad. Click To Tweet

It was a long answer but it was needed because you walked us through these key core elements. They sound simple when you hear them, but as human beings, we’ve lost touch with this art of healing and you picked up. It’s a Sanskrit word, Samskara, which I love. The way I’ve always visualized this is it’s these ingrained habits. Our body is always trying to wire patterns. It’s trying to make life easy. Breaking these wired patterns is very hard. The way I’ve always visualized it is to imagine a river carving a canyon over time. As it keeps going, this canyon gets deeper. To repair or to turn away from our habitual patterns, we have to start filling in these canyons with dirt again. That process also takes time. We’re trying to get to a safe space where we can become more conscious, more aware of these habitual patterns, these triggers, if you will. How can we start to either create a healthy new pattern, a new Samskara? Is Samskara generally to do with habitual patterns that are “negative” or is it any habitual patterns?

It’s any pattern. It can be positive or negative, especially in trauma, I’m hesitant to label as something positive or negative because that dichotomy of good and bad does not serve the people well in my experience. It’s another form of pleasure aversion cycle, which, if we’re sticking to yoga philosophy is something that we’re trying to transcend. We’re not labeling things as good or bad, they just are. Anger is not a bad emotion. It’s just an emotion. Anger is usually there to help you set a healthy boundary. It’s usually there because somebody overstepped you or violated you in some way. We could talk about all things if that’s warranted or what a healthy response is to anger. Anger is anger. It is there because it’s a necessary part of our survival. I try not to demonize anything. Samskara is a pattern. Your pattern is there and it’s with you. You can either choose to feed the pattern or you can choose to start other new patterns. It’s usually easier for somebody to start a new healthy pattern than it is to strip somebody of an old maladaptive or coping mechanism.

That’s why I was putting “negative” in air quotes because I totally get what you’re saying and I agree with it. It’s disassociating from this good or bad, this dichotomy. What my practice led me to was reaching this point of realization that these are experiences we’re having. Our relationship with these experiences dictates whether or not these patterns are going to make healthier and maladaptive things for us.

I want to go back to eye gazing. I find that eye gazing tends to be a little bit confrontational, especially if you’ve had sexual assault, trauma or even for the guys, that can be direct. That’s a great way to connect with people. I love the eye gazing practice. It can reveal so much about yourself or even doing a self-eye-gazing practice, but in a therapeutic context, I wouldn’t choose that as my first tool to go to for establishing a connection because it is such a straight-on thing. Somebody needs to be comfortable enough to be in that space. Something I learned in trauma-informed training is that telling somebody to either open or close their eyes or what to do with their vision can be really disorienting. Our vision is very connected to our sense of where we are in space. If somebody is trying to mess with that or tell us what to do with that, it can be triggering. If you have a preexisting relationship with that person, I would say eye gazing could be an option that you present but it should never be the only option.

I was referring to that when I walk into a stroke group or a hospital. I’m there to engage with the families or the survivor who went through something that’s horrific. I’ll usually put my eyes on them because I know deep down inside they’re scared. I’m letting them know, “I’m one of you and it’s okay to be with me.” That’s the way I look at it, but there are a time and a place for everything on that level.

There’s a distinction too between eye contact and eye gazing. Eye contact is, “I’m here with you, but I’m not going to stare into your soul for the next five minutes.” Eye gazing tends to be, “We’re going to sit a foot-and-a-half from each other and stare.” That can be very vulnerable. I did that in my teacher training where it was an hour, not with one person, but we would rotate. We’d do five minutes with each person. It was an hour of eye gazing. People are sobbing, crying and going through all these emotional releases. You have to sit there and watch. You are not interacting. You can’t hug them. You can’t do anything. You’re sitting there watching someone go through this very vulnerable experience. You are absolutely right, Missy. If you don’t feel any camaraderie or connection with anyone you’re doing that with, it could definitely be triggering.

I hold the container for vulnerability. I don’t ask for vulnerability from anyone because that’s like saying, “Don’t you trust me?” This is so insidious in our culture where you don’t ask for trust. That’s not how trust works. It’s either there or it’s not, and there are certain ways that you can behave to evoke somebody trusting you. One of those ways is by not asking for their vulnerability, but helping them to create a safe environment where they feel okay to be vulnerable. It’s within the context of the yoga teacher training where everybody’s there to deepen their practice, there’s an understood set of principles that apply there. Everybody’s there for more or less the same reason. We are all committed to that journey together. Maybe at that point you had some classes together, at least seeing each other around the studio. That would be an okay situation, but with somebody that comes and in a lot of pain, I didn’t want to read on anybody’s parade. This area is subtle, complex and nuanced that for your readers I want to validate if their experience may be different than that. If eye gazing is the thing that heals you, let’s run with it. It is about the person.

I imagine you’ve discovered this a lot in your practice that everyone is different. I’m sure you’ve had this experience of you do one thing for one person and some incredible and amazing things happened. You do it for another person and nothing happened. How do you navigate that with your clients? Do you keep learning and expanding your scope of practice when something doesn’t work, do you go, “How can we figure this out?”

AIH 64 | Self Empowerment
Self Empowerment: The most empowering thing is affirming somebody’s autonomy and taking their own path at their own pace.

 

That’s probably what distinguishes my services from others. We talked about being personal training being personal, but a lot of times we are giving them cookie-cutter stuff that’s heavily influenced by their lineage or their specific training. I can’t tell you how many health and wellness professionals I’ve gone to and be like, “I have this problem,” and they spent the entire session trying to convince me how good their method is. I’m like, “I don’t care. That’s why I’m here. We already went through this. That’s why I’m paying you for a service. You don’t have to sell me on the service more.” What I’m really there for is to get their help with that problem. My job as a therapist is to understand what is the problem and sometimes that is more subtle than the person says, especially with guys because they don’t like to talk about their problems. It’s an uncomfortable process for a lot of them. It may not be until session five or six that somebody will be, “By the way, my ex-girlfriend texted me and it really put me in a bad mood.” I was like, “You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend. You’d also didn’t tell me you broke up and you didn’t tell me that you’re upset about this.” It’s like, “Let’s back up and talk about this.”

That would play a role in the work that we are doing together. With diverging needs, it’s a matter of listening to that person with an open mind and open heart and truly being present with them. If you pay attention to the details of how somebody’s posture is, what they say about themselves and how they’re moving, you will know where their pain is. I’ve gotten really good at that over the years. That’s my job. It’s to figure out what’s making people hurt and what’s making them be in pain, whether it’s physical or emotional or some combination. There’s also a tendency to want to diagnose the one thing. If there’s one thing, I can lay off my blame and my stories around this thing and have it be a new part of my identity and get really attached around that.

That’s not true healing. All of your body parts are non-separate from each other. If you have hip pain and shoulder pain, they’re probably related to each other. If you have low back pain and a lot of work stress going on, they’re probably related to each other. That correlation is not always clear to the students. Sometimes, I know what’s going on before they know what’s going on. It’s a tricky thing because it’s not always my prerogative to tell somebody how they’re feeling. I create a space for them to make those connections themselves. For guys, you probably don’t want to listen if I told you anyway, let’s be honest, because it’s not an embodied experience for you yet.

I think anytime someone is coming to their own conclusion and thinking they arrived at an answer, it’s more powerful than being told. It’s human psychology. Nobody likes to be told what to do. Everybody likes to feel they’re making a discovery or, “Missy, guess what I discovered about myself?” Missy would then say, “I saw this a few months ago.”

It’s okay. That’s why I do what I do.

That’s empowering.

I had a client who was an investment banker and worth a lot of money. He’s your classic business guy. He’d be domineering in our sessions. He would talk over me a little bit. He would be like, “Now what next?” This whole attitude, he’d be on his phone during sessions. Finally I was, “Things that have to be his way.” He’s that kind of guy. I knew to come in that he had knee pain because of a hip imbalance. He didn’t know that. He was getting PRP injections. He was consulting with all these doctors. I’m like, “You don’t need all the doctors. You don’t need all that stuff, just do these movements and stop doing so much other physical activity outside of that.” Would he have listened to me? No.

What do we do for a couple of months? I gave him task-oriented things because I know he’s a very driven person. He had tasks to do. Once he figured out that task, he can do go to the next task. We did that. We played with that for a couple of months. Finally, he walked in one day and he said, “Missy, I figured it out. I know what’s going on.” I said, “Tell me what’s going on.” He said, “I think my knee pain is caused by my hip.” It took us a couple of months. That was a revelation for him. How is he supposed to know what that feeling is if he’s never tuned into it before? I could be angry about his ignorance or I could try to help him understand where that gap in his understanding is. It depends on the person. Other students get it right away. Other students want me to give them a lot of feedback or hands-on touch, but the most empowering thing is affirming somebody’s autonomy and taking their own path at their own pace.

The expression that comes to me is you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. You teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for the rest of his life. That’s what you’re doing. You’re giving them the tools of self-empowerment to discover what’s going on in their system on their own terms. That way, there’s a lasting effect of, “I understand this. I can take action on this every day,” versus, “Missy understands this and she can help me in the half-hour to an hour I’m with her.”

They need to be the master of their own practice. That’s why all of my students get a personalized home practice because I can’t be with them every hour of every day. I don’t consider that to be a truly effective therapy.

That’s beautiful. I love that and we’re going to end on that, but I’ve got one more question for you. What’s your inspiration?

It comes from within. I’ve asked myself that question a lot of times. I’ve always been an intrinsically-motivated person. I’ve always felt like I was called to make some big positive impact in the world. I didn’t know what that would be or what it looks like but even from a young age, I was already doing similar things. I feel I’m myself.

The practice is figuring out who yourself is.

It’s always shifting. Other people inspired me whether it’s in terms of their movement practice or how they think about life. I would say some big influencers were probably my first real yoga teacher who’s an Ashtangi and she was an Ayurvedic practitioner. She helped heal my body that really sets me off on this course. If I would credit anybody, it would be her. If you have a great yoga teacher in your life, let them know how much they mean to you. They’d probably love to hear it.

Let everybody know where they can connect with you, where they can find you and get help from you if they need it.

The best way to stay in touch is on my email list so you can connect with me over social. I’m @TheBodyIntuitive on Instagram. If somebody is interested in working with me or they wanted to ask me more questions in detail about their personal situation, I would like to offer you a free 30-minute consultation. If you go to my website, MissyKai.yoga/consult, you can apply for a free 30-minute session. I would say either IG or shoot me an email. Shoot me a phone request.

If you’re inspired by what Missy shared, go over to her website because there’s a free 30-minute consultation waiting for you. There’s no reason not to take action and get connected and start making moves in your lives. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Missy. We’re so grateful to have you. We can’t wait to see you soon.

Thanks. I appreciate you holding the space for me.

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About Missy Kai Hoffman

AIH 64 | Self EmpowermentMissy Kai Hoffman, the founder of The Body Intuitive, specializes in helping active, busy professionals to improve their mobility, relieve pain, and manage stress.

Her mission is to empower individuals with tools for better health; and her vision to provide world-class holistic healing services of mobility, therapeutic touch, and intimate connection to the Los Angeles area and worldwide. Missy is known for her systematic yet intuitive approach for healing mind-body-spirit. She combines ancient Eastern holistic modalities with modern Western evidence-based movement therapy. Missy has over 2500+ hours of combined therapeutic training and experience in yoga therapy, rehabilitative/functional mobility, massage therapy, breathwork, meditation, Ayurveda, Reiki, and life coaching.

Missy founded her practice in 2016 after quitting a successful accounting career to learn how to heal her own chronic health conditions. Despite doctors stating that she would need to be medicated for life, Missy discovered methods that successfully addressed the underlying causes of her physical illness which were intricately linked to mental and emotional stress.

Her practice, based on the tools she acquired and developed on her own road to recovery, now specializes in helping men to cultivate more intimacy with their bodies, their hearts, and with their relationships.

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