Vicky Vlachonis, M.Sc., is an osteopath, pain and anti-inflammatory expert, and author of The Body Doesn’t Lie. In her practice, she focuses on treating chronic pain and developing holistic healing treatments. She works with business professionals, dancers, athletes, and notable personalities such as Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Nicole Richie, Chris Martin, and Elton John.
“I think it’s very important for all of us to listen to our body and not ignore our pain,” Vlachonis tells Thrive. “In my practice, I combine acupuncture, spinal realignment, mindfulness, visualization, and meditation. Every day, I want somebody to do something for themselves to calm down their nervous system, decrease stress and cortisol, and find some me-time to connect the mind and body.”
Vlachonis sits down with Thrive to share some of her go-to methods to connect with your body, identify your pain, and work toward healing.
Thrive Global: What is your morning routine?
Vicky Vlachonis: My morning glory routine, as I call it, is waking up half an hour, or an hour, before my children wake up. I start with some “me time,” and that begins in the kitchen. I have my shot of high phenolic olive oil. It’s anti-inflammatory. I heat my lemon juice, so I add some hot water with lemon, and some lemon zest, which is anti-inflammatory again. And I start by looking outside the window, looking up into the blue sky, and just being grateful to God for all these amazing things. So I’m constantly in that positive moment, being grateful, and praying. I lie on my yoga mat and I get into my five Tibetan poses. So I stretch my body, and I’ve got my yoga flow. It really prepares me. It gives me strength, as I move my body. It propels my mind into the positive.
I don’t allow the negative to come in, so if any fear or anger or anything pops in, I’m like, “No, Vicky, this is going to be an amazing day, and you’ve got to stay in this journey of positivity, even if there are any bumps that come along.” I have my prayer and meditation, and then I wake up the kids, and there we go. I prepare their breakfast, we’re off to school, with music in the car, and we’re off for a positive, happy day.
TG: What motivates you?
VV: Well, my passion, my purpose, my kids, my work, and my life. The thing that motivates me daily is to take care of my patients. After I’ve dropped the kids at school and taken care of my beautiful boys, I want to help somebody feel better. What can I do today to help somebody with physical or emotional pain?
In my practice, people will come up and have neck pain, and I want them to become the CEOs of their health, to become their own pain investigators, to sit back and listen to their body. So for me, it’s helping patients uncover the truth about their pain, physical or emotional, and help them listen to their body.
TG: Your nutrition philosophy is 80 percent healthy, 20 percent indulge. What does that look like for you?
VV: I’m all about 80 percent healthy and 20 percent indulge. I think it’s really important to enjoy life, and if you can have a slice of that big pizza once a week, and that’s going to make you so happy and that’s your cheat day, great. Don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy it and go back to your routine and know that what you’re putting in your body matters.
Try to eat more whole foods. Try to eat food that’s not going to hurt your body. Reach out for a salad and add your protein. Before you go to the fridge, think, “Do I really want to eat that ice cream or shall I call a friend, or go for a walk?”
TG: You’ve mentioned that you love your alone time. Why is that important?
VV: I love my alone time because that’s the time I can pray, I can meditate, and I can just take a step back and journal and write notes about how I feel. I just reflect on where I am, physically and emotionally. I find that alone time resets my brain into the positive if I’m overloaded.
TG: You speak about the mind-body connection. Can you share a way we can improve that connection?
VV: A simple thing you could do to connect your mind and body is close your eyes wherever you are at home, or even in your office. You can set your alarm for 12 minutes, and literally just focus on your breath. So what I say to my patients is try to use your feet and your ankles as an anchor. Your breath is focused on becoming aware of how you feel.
Think to yourself: I’m sitting on this chair, I’m comfortably relaxing my body. I’m feeling my breath move through my body. Filling up my tank from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. And what you can do is, once you’ve scanned your body and focused on your breath, you can go into your mind and choose an emotion that you want to let go. So it could be fear or anger or grief, but just focus on that emotion in your mind.
Now, you’re letting go, you’re going into your mind, you’re choosing that emotion. You’re not connecting it with anybody that hurt you or anybody that upset you. You’re just identifying it, and then you go back to scanning your body, and allowing your mind and body to feel like you’ve let go of that emotion.
And it works. It could be just a couple of minutes. It doesn’t have to be 12 minutes. If you fall asleep, great. But if you feel more energized, even better.
TG: Stuck stress can manifest in the body as pain. How do you experience that in your practice?
VV: Chronic pain occurs when the pain lasts for more than three months, and ignoring this stress and pain can help it to build up — it’s like your body’s talking to you. Where do you feel your stuck stress? Have you got acute pain, and there’s that naggly shoulder that always hurts, or you have pain in your neck? Your body is trying to talk to you. So let’s listen to where we feel our stress. And, yes, it’s important to take a step back and say, “Hold on a second. This has been going on now for three to six months, and it’s becoming chronic inflammation.”
We want to fight this buildup of inflammation, and we know inflammation can cause chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and can lead to more and more pain. So become your own pain investigator. And when your body starts talking to you, even if it is low back pain or neck pain, try and take that time to not ignore it. Listen to your body, and talk to somebody. Don’t ignore your pain. And if you’re really feeling that pain for longer than two to three months, it’s becoming chronic.
Also, take a look at what you’re eating. Maybe you’re eating food that’s hurting your body and causing more inflammation. Maybe your pain is awakening the fact that you haven’t been for a walk, you haven’t done your 10,000 steps, and you’re sitting in the office for eight to 10 hours in front of your screen.
Walk around the office every day. Count your steps, be active,and move your body — pain is not going to go away on its own. Try to wake up first thing in the morning and roll on a foam roller. Use a foam roller to help release your mid-thoracic pain or neck pain. Stretching, moving your body, speaking to a therapist, seeing an osteopath, and getting back to the gym can all help. Your body’s probably craving more attention.
TG: What is your sleep routine?
I love my sleep. I love my mattress and my pillow, and I prepare myself before I go to bed. I have my Epsom salt bath. While I’m in the water, I’m letting go of all the stress of the day. I’m washing all the fear, the anger, and the worries away. I’m really conscious and mindful of what’s happened in the day. Then, I leave my phone in the bathroom. I don’t have any electronics next to my bed. I have my alarm on my phone, so that sleeps in the bathroom.
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