An Interview with Member Nikki Jordan Owner, Healthy and Rested.
Nikki Jordan is the owner of Healthy and Rested, a health and wellness company located in the San Francisco Bay Area. We interviewed Nikki, because of the collection of unusual wellness practices that she has put together in a concept she calls “The Simple Body.”
The name of Nikki Jordan’s company expresses what she wants everyone to feel:HEALTHY and RESTED.
“It’s the opposite of the stress, pain, illness, tension, stiffness, anxiety, and poor sleep that riddle modern society. I want people to age gracefully; to feel light and at ease.”
Over the past 12 years, Nikki has integrated several self-care methods into something she calls The Simple Body. She characterizes The Simple Body as our innate self-regulating mechanisms whose defined function is to release stress, move us toward perfect posture and alignment, and relieve pain, tension, and trauma.
“Using inborn balancing mechanisms is really a new paradigm for do-it-yourself therapy. This concept came to me one day after years of exploration with different modalities. I was drawn to these modalities, because they had visual and tangible results that are fast and easy to learn and replicate on your own. Suddenly, I realized everything I’d gravitated towards tapped into systems that (by design) will balance us!”
These systems (encoded within us) control how we move, feel, and respond in the world – mentally, physically, and emotionally. When we get out of balance, we can use them to self-correct.
“As I see it today, The Simple Body is comprised of four things: the fascia, the reflex zones and reflex points, the parasympathetic nervous system, and our energy system. Fascia is basically connective tissue that wraps and weaves through practically everything in our body. Reflex zones and points connect us from head to toe. The parasympathetic nervous system turns on our relaxation response. And our energy system colors how we think, feel, and act; for better or for worse.”
Nikki began studying mind-body mechanisms 20 years ago to overcome her own issues, not as a profession. Her original background is in chemistry, electrical engineering, and business.
“I lived with pain and trauma, which were completely unrelated, from age 16 to 31. My blown out knees at age 16 preceded the shocking death of my brother at age 21 (shot by accident by his best friend six weeks before my wedding). At age 22, the former Chief Surgeon of the Atlanta Falcons told me I was too young for surgery. I just needed to stop doing what was causing me pain and let my body heal; and to drink plenty of water!
“I am forever grateful for his wisdom. I didn’t need surgery, just something very different than what was available for rehabilitation at the time.”
To tell a trauma survivor and life-long runner and athlete since the age of four to stop at age 22 was a tall order.
“Exercise was my way out of my mind, which it really needed. I was a serious student, with a lot of degrees, and a hard worker. I survived a devastating trauma. Individual exercise, not team sports, was my form of meditation. It allowed me to shut off my mind.”
But endorphins are an amazing drug. They are a chemical released by the brain during exercise that trigger a euphoric feeling. However, they also make you feel less pain.
“The animal side of humans, as with all animals, needed endorphins to survive as we fought or ran from predators. If we had experienced pain while in survival mode, we may not have made it as a species.
“As I ran my knees into the ground, I usually felt most of the pain when I was no longer running; when my endorphins had worn off. I was young then and figured if I didn’t feel anything while exercising, then I was not hurting myself (smile). But the damage was done.”
What Nikki realized was that nothing about growing up in modern America taught her to pay attention to her body’s messages. Had she known what she knows now, she believes her path to becoming pain-free would have been much faster and happened much earlier in life. Instead, the various therapies she sought were all unsuccessful.
“Imagine the worst knocked knees you’ve ever seen out there walking, running, or hiking. I tried orthotics, knee wraps, various forms of physical therapy, electro stimulation, laser therapy, and Tai chi. Nothing actually recognized and addressed the real reason for my pain. I was terribly out of alignment. The trajectories of force in my body were way off what they should have been. I had developed patterns of tension and weakness from years of daily exercise on flat feet. How to change these patterns and get relief is so clear to me now. But back then, there wasn’t much focus on looking at the body as a whole, or much understanding that the body has integrated pathways, from head to toe, through which it communicates.”
At age 31, a high school friend pushed Nikki towards yoga, which started her mind-body path. Her hometown teacher was Rodney Yee, an established and well-known alignment-oriented yogi.
“From the get-go, I did 90-120 minutes a day, because Rodney said this would help my knees.” In a year, Nikki had no memory of pain and her knees (which had no cartilage) had healed and would stay that way as long as she kept practicing yoga with such regularity. After eight years of a daily practice, Nikki went through an 18-month teacher-training program with Rodney and several of his colleagues.
“I was fascinated (and still am) by the breadth of yoga. It covers the nervous, muscular-skeletal, and energy systems, as well as psychology, meditation, and philosophies for a healthy and balanced life. As for my knees, asana (the physical postures of yoga) gave me a good general concept of alignment. I really thought it would be with me daily for life, because I had to do it seriously to stay pain-free.”
However, after nine years of teaching yoga, Nikki eventually became frustrated. Students typically came to her yoga classes to get more limber, open their shoulders or hips, or solve back and knee problems. But despite hard work (and significant changes) she noticed their biggest issues didn’t change as much as they had hoped.
“My students were (of course) not doing yoga as intensively as I had. Many of them remained stuck in their joints. In fact, my own hips (even with my daily practice of yoga) reached a limit. But during my teacher training, I started studying a few lesser-known modalities. I began noticing that shifts came more quickly with some of these. I also observed the same in those students and clients who were exploring these with me: larger changes came with less work.”
Nikki underwent a 5-year period that she calls her personal renaissance. Along with yoga, she simultaneously trained in reflexology, TRE™, and Yamuna® body rolling and foot fitness.
“As a practitioner, I actually started with energy work. All else came later. It turned out I had a gift, which is what actually pulled me out of my science and business career. I used my scientific mind to explore what I was learning. And my ability to feel subtle shifts was later key to developing the vocabulary to teach people to tune in and experience both the important and subtle, as well as the more obvious changes in their bodies.”
When she started yoga, and even during her teacher training, “yoga” was not yet a household word; and Yoga Journal was a small publication. These other modalities were even less known.
“It was like an explosion of exploration and information about how the body self-corrects. The scientist in me was fascinated by the simple power of these modalities. None of these modalities are mainstream, and the basis behind all of it was not new; ranging from the late 1800s, back to the beginning of medicine (and earlier). However, many people haven’t even heard of or tried this work. So, I started offering public and private classes. I began with reflexology, as it was a natural extension of energy work. Who doesn’t like their feet rubbed!”
“Modern reflexology deals with reflex zones and reflex points. The concept of reflex zones was developed (although some say re-discovered) by a U.S. ear, nose, and throat doctor named William Fitzgerald in the late 1800s.”
“Fitzgerald experimented with ways to do surgery on the body without numbing agents, which basically got patients drunk. He discovered that the body is vertically integrated in ten lines (or zones) running upward from each toe and finger. Everything in those zones is connected to everything else. Affect one point on theline, and you affect the others, for better or for worse.”
Decades later, Eunice Ingham (a physiotherapist) became the mother of modern reflexology. In the early 1930s, she worked for an American surgeon who was keen on Fitzgerald’s Zone Theory and encouraged her to investigate it further. She added to the concept of reflex points to Zone Theory. On the feet, she defined a reflex point for each part of the human anatomy.
Stimulate them, and you can bring the associated part of the body back to balance. You can also affect anything in the vertical zone. Eunice wrote prolifically about her work, and it was published worldwide.Nikki immediately noticed the parallel with her energy work.
“I discovered that the energy system I had did exactly the same thing as reflexology. It worked though the reflex points and reflex zones to affect the body. The consistency of results was fascinating.”
Shortly after, she met Yamuna Zake, the creator of Yamuna®, a collection of practices aimed at freeing and toning the muscular and fascia systems; decompressing and realigning bone, and releasing energy in the body.
“The first time I tried Yamuna Body Rolling, I knew I had to teach it. A surprisingly little amount of Yamuna sends a lasting message along the fascial communication network. Fascial release produces immediate results that are so gratifying to students. Her work is deeply thought through and grounded. She is a genius and visionary, having studied the body for over 35 years.” The importance of fascia was discovered in the late 1800s by Dr. AT Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine. But until recently, it has been largely overlooked by the medical community, as modern medicine took a more mechanistic view of the body.
“Fascia is critical, because it not only wraps muscles, joints, and bone, but it weaves through them. So, what you do with your muscles, or how you compress yourself sitting all day affects the fascia. It has both the possibility of becoming compressed and brittle or being more liquid and pliable; both of which affect the nervous system. The former is the recipe for injury and the latter is a vehicle for self-therapy. Release the fascia and joints become springy again. Muscles tone and find their proper function. Energy flows. Pain releases. And we feel a sense of lightness and ease of body and mind, as well as vitality and health.”
Yamuna came out with Yamuna Foot Fitness shortly after Nikki became certified in body rolling. She attended Yamuna’s first teacher training and was blown away. This work was empirical evidence of Zone Theory.
“I could literally feel the reflex lines working through my body. Yamuna didn’t and doesn’t talk about reflexology. It’s more about fascia, correcting structure, and letting energy move in the body again. But I realized with her foot balls and foot fitness education that I could tweak it so everyone could become educated about and have access to both her incredible foot fitness and the power of reflexology themselves. Of course we all want hands-on work, which can be deeper, but now we had a do-it-yourself tool.”
Searching her reflexology library, Nikki found that one other reflexologist in England had come up with a similar idea. Lynne Booth created something called Vertical Reflexology; where a client stands or puts their hand on a table, while the practitioner stimulates reflex points. From across the Atlantic, Lynne had found what Nikki had also found. When the body puts pressure into the hand or foot and the reflexologist does their magic, the result is faster and deeper.
“But I now had a way for people to help themselves, with guidance and education. I started to develop the vocabulary to get them to feel what I noticed in their bodies was happening. I stuck to structural differences, relaxation, and energy flow, not the physiological issues reflexology also addresses. I wanted it all to be obvious, so people could notice and access change for themselves.”
Nikki later became certified in Yamuna Face Ball and YBR Yoga.
“It was Yamuna Face Ball that most deeply showed me the power of Zone Theory. I trained in Face Ball and started a daily practice, full sessions as well as mini ones, mixing it up, and honoring the time I had that day. I stopped doing any form of exercise or bodywork, except using my legs to get me somewhere; so this really was an experiment. After one month, my hip (that was still locked after 15 years of daily yoga hip openers) released.”
This work is done on the head through the face. Nikki had sustained three head injuries when she was young. In all her years of yoga, she was never able to do Full Lotus Pose (one of yoga’s ultimate poses) and was told to keep focusing on hip openers.
“Achieving Full Lotus pose is not important to me, but the interesting thing is the problem wasn’t in my hip. Now I can do it even in my jeans and whether or not I’ve stretched, even if it’s not perfect. This is incredible. In many natural healing traditions, there is often talk about the jaw and the hip being related, but no one could really tell me why.
With both my Yamuna and reflexology training, I now had empirical evidence. And face ball restructured my leg, as well as my hip.”
While Yamuna doesn’t focus on reflexology, reflexology doesn’t know about Yamuna’s work. But Nikki hopes to develop a teacher-training tool soon to spread the word. Exploring these two modalities, Nikki came to watch how everyone’s body seems to unwrap itself with the same motions to perfect posture.
“This unwrapping has a feeling to it. The blend of the two modalities and Yamuna’s balls allowed me to start training people in how to feel the visible and subtle changes in the physical body as it unwrapped. This has become the basis of how I teach; developing people’s sensitivities, while giving them easy experiences of change that they can replicate on their own.
“Experience is everything. People are so disconnected between mind and body, that they don’t often feel important changes. With this work, the body begins to relax and lift weightlessly against gravity and open toward perfect posture. And you can sense it. I started developing the vocabulary to direct people to what they might be feeling as they unwrapped. Indeed, part of my energy gift is to feel what is going on with people’s bodies; so I certainly used this tool to find my wording and develop my craft.”
While Yamuna, energy work, and reflexology gave Nikki a way to tap into fascia and reflex lines, TRE™ gave her a way for people to quickly access and balance their nervous system.
“TRE stands for Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises. The basis of TRE is that all animals (humans included) are designed to experience, endure, and survive stressful or traumatic episodes. We know this to be true, because if it were not, humans would have been extinct long ago. We are also wired to dispel this energy, but humans don’t really use this function.”
The part of the nervous system that responds to threats is the autonomic nervous system; and it actually has two parts. The first is the well-known fight or flight response, or sympathetic nervous system. But the other half, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), is equally as important. It releases the energy revved up to fight, flee, or play dead for survival, and restores balance to the nervous system and the systems it governs.
TRE is a series of exercises that does this. It turns on an innate mechanism that takes us out of the fight of flight mode, initiating the opposite chemical responses. If fight or flight increases the breath rate so our cells get more oxygen, the heart rate so they get more food, and tenses the muscles for action, the reverse happens with the parasympathetic nervous system. We relax and restore.
“The oldest part of the brain, the reptilian, governs these responses, which are our instinct for survival. It just so happens that the PNS response involves a vibrating or tremoring mechanism that sometimes includes fascial stretching and the movement of limbs. The working thought is that we likely socialized it out, because it could be perceived as a weakness. Too bad for us, because it’s a key path for health and a totally normal response.”
The issue for modern life is that the same biochemical responses happen today as they did when the cheetah was the problem. Whether a threat is small, medium, or large, they all turn on the same chemical processes. Getting ready for a presentation. Being late for a meeting and stuck in traffic. A boss or a parent getting mad at us regularly. Being at war or abused. Even the more pleasant stress, such as planning a wedding or a public event. These are all examples of what can stimulate a fight or flight response to varying degrees.
“However, chronic stress is a state of living without effectively activating our parasympathetic nervous system. And society has finally come to grips with how chronic stress negatively affects our health. When we no longer remember the tremoring or vibratory response as normal, we store stress instead of release it. Just watch a cat after it’s given birth, or a dog or child shake after being scolded, and you are looking at the release of the nervous system.”
The problem is that storing stress leads to things like chronic tension or pain, being prone to anger, disease, and having our buttons easily pushed or unwanted emotions triggered. And the more we don’t use our PNS effectively, the lower our threshold becomes for being aggressive, over reacting, or having anxiety. Nikki met Dr. David Berceli, the creator of TRE, in a chance encounter at a yoga colleague’s house in 2002. He took them through the exercises and her body responded immediately and incredibly.
“The before and after were like night and day. It’s an unusual and pleasant experience that your mind has nothing to do with. I realized it’s not that we don’t us our parasympathetic nervous system; of course we’ve come up with all kinds of things to relax. It’s that we don’t use it by a huge margin, because we don’t use it the way it was designed. It’s apparent to me that TRE turns on an encoded mechanism, because in all my years of practicing and teaching, I have not met one person whose body didn’t tremor or shake and unwind automatically and without their mind guiding it. Everyone experiences change in the end.”
Again, Nikki says experience is everything.
“You can’t intellectualize what this will be like, because we have no baseline for it in modern life.
TRE gave me a tool to drop people into a part of their nervous system that we don’t use efficiently and let them see the difference in 10-20 minutes. People tell me, ‘That was life changing,’ or ‘I can’t believe my body can do that on its own without me doing anything.’ Or, ‘Why isn’t everyone doing this? It’s so profound!’ When you get surprised comments like that from people, you know you’re onto something big.”
Nikki considers Dr. Berceli another genius and visionary. While others have developed ways to tap into the tremoring response primarily during psychotherapy, Dr. Berceli took another tack.
“David is a clinical social worker, body worker, and former monk who spent 22 years working and living in areas of devastation and conflict around the world. He lived in war for much of it. But despite that, he isn’t interested in the story behind a trauma. Animals survive trauma all the time, letting it go once it’s happened. Lacking the complex neo-cortex of the human brain, they aren’t mind-based individuals seeking talk therapy or bodywork. Instead, they let the parasympathetic nervous system turn on.”
Besides dealing with his own trauma, Dr. Berceli’s concern was that deep trauma exists around the world, and yet most populations will never have the resources for therapy. Thus, he came up with simple and safe TRE exercises that release stored stress, tension, and trauma; and that are designed for anyone of any fitness or weight.
“The newest thing out of his organization is Neurogenic Yoga. It’s yoga combined with the tremor response. I just attended their first teacher training and it will surprise the yoga world.”
While reflexology, Yamuna, and TRE work on the fascia, reflex, and nervous systems, the last piece of The Simple Body is our energy system.
“The easiest way to explain our energy system is the chakra system. I’ve explored it for 16 years; it’s straightforward and uncomplicated. Chakras are like our radio antennas to the world, only they are our invisible feelers. If your antennas are ‘blocked’ or closed down, then you can’t receive and transmit properly to the world. They start at points inside our body and extend outwards, like those orange roadway cones. They take in information, you process it, and you put it back out there in the world through your thoughts, communications, feelings, emotions, actions, and will power. Although there are many more, you only really need to work with six major ones. With just those six, you can change the way you relate to the world and how you think and feel about yourself.”
Nikki teaches simple breath work to open and maintain the chakra system. It’s something that can be done anywhere or anytime by anybody. It took Nikki about eight years of experimentation to come up with The Simple Body. The tools she uses to access it give people their own power for change, but have largely been overlooked.
“Using self-help routines to work with the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms (which actually interact with one another) is a paradigm shift. I’m not sure I would have uncovered the combined power of these concepts if I hadn’t been working with them all simultaneously, using my body as a laboratory first, and then encouraging them to students and clients. In the end, we are responsible for our own health, so we need to think smarter about what’s inside us. The good news is there’s a common normal. We just need to tap into it, so we can age gracefully, with less stress and less pain.”
Nikki Jordan is trained and certified in numerous wellness modalities, which she offers for self-help or as hands-on sessions. She is a Yoga Alliance certified e-RYT 500 yoga teacher and a Yamuna® certified body rolling, foot fitness, yoga, and face ball instructor. She is also a registered reflexologist with the International Institute of Reflexology, a certified practitioner of TRE™ stress, tension and trauma release, and is trained in energy work. Nikki holds a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Wellesley College. She also has a Master of Business Administration from UC Berkeley focused on environmental and social issues as related to business, and did graduate work in Electrical Engineering. She has taught and practiced wellness for 20 years now.