PRIMAL MOVEMENT 1: PUSH

Our bodies are an amazingly organised network of  bones, muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons, organs, nerves, liquid chemistry and so on. When exercising/moving we want to remember our understanding of how to access different parts of the body, but ultimately we want to connect the parts together to make the beautifully interconnected and synchronised system that is the body.

Every single inch of the body is essential in creating functional, efficient and athletic movement patterns. For example, you cannot gain functional abdominal strength without understanding how the arms connect into the torso, or what your big toes are doing while running! Considering this, it makes sense to practise and integrate the 7 main primal movement patterns that have helped us survive and evolve. Push, squat, pull, lunge, bend, twist and gait are all intrinsically encoded into our bodies, they emphasise overall strength and movement and are therefore hugely beneficial to our overall health and well-being.

In this post I will illustrate the first pattern: PUSH. This has become a very difficult movement for a lot of people to perform correctly due to tension and weakness held in the body from sitting postures, high stress levels and poor diet. As such, I have illustrated three steps to master before attempting a full push up – there is absolutely nothing to benefit from doing a push up incorrectly so I plead you to master the first three stages! It is not about the end goal – step one alone has numerous benefits.

1) ALL FOURS

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SET UP: Knees under hips, hip-width apart, hands under shoulders, shoulder-width apart.

CUES:

  • To help get the arm bones connecting well into the shoulder sockets and the shoulder blades well placed, bend your arms and point the elbows out to the sides, then turn the arms so the elbows point in towards your body, straighten the arms.
  • Arms suck into the shoulder sockets
  • Shoulder blades stay wide and gently draw away from your head
  • Spread your hands as wide as possible – the bigger the better! Imagine your hands are glued to the floor but everything else in your body is trying to stand up – this avoids collapsing towards the floor
  • Make sure head isn’t dropped – keep chin in towards the chest to lengthen the back of the neck, and lift the whole head up.
  • Think of the spine being pulled out through the crown of the head and out through the tail bone.
  • Hug and wrap the abdominals in and up!

2) ALL FOURS WITH KNEES RAISED

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SET UP:  All fours with knees raised a few inches away from the floor

CUES : Same as in 1)

3) PLANK

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SET UP: On all fours as above. Exhale – stretch one leg back, exhale – stretch the other leg back.

CUES:

  • Same as in 1) plus the following:
  • Keep the lower back and neck curves defined – think of sticking the butt up in the air to avoid collapsing the pelvis towards the floor and impacting the lower back, and think of reaching the back of the skull up towards the ceiling to avoid dropping the head
  • Keep sliding the breast bone forward and up vs. sliding arms and shoulder blades wide and backwards/down the spine
  • Hug and wrap the abdominals in and up!

4) PUSH UP

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SET UP: Start in plank position. Exhale to bend the arms, inhale to straighten the arms. Repeat 5-10 times

CUES:

  • All the cues as in 3) but with even greater emphasis
  • Hands slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Keep the spine level – the only things that move are the arms bending and straightening
  • Even as the arms bend keep pushing the floor away with the emphasis drawing up towards the ceiling
  • Hug and wrap the abdominals in and up!
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HOW TO SIT WELL!

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I have written time and time again about how we have not yet evolved to cope with the demands of modern living. There simply hasn’t been sufficient time and evolutionary pressure for us to manage the radical changes we have made to our diet, movement patterns, stress responses and living environments in the last few hundred years.

It is sad that in the Western world we are made to sit at desks from the moment our schooling years begin. The scientific research supporting just how important movement is for children’s development alone is astounding. I believe it is the lack of movement that causes humans to age far too quickly and lose their gross and fine motor skills. Movement not only gives us confidence, but is also a form of creativity and expression – all of which are being stifled by the fear-based human need to create order and control.

WHY SITTING IS BAD FOR US

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3 WAYS TO HELP HEAL BACK PAIN NATURALLY

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Back pain, particularly in the lower back, is one of the most common physical complaints. There are a number of factors specific to the individual, however there are some common threads running through each case that can be managed with my three-part protocol.

First and foremost it is important to recognise that your pain is there for a reason and is something that will not be remedied by long-term use of painkillers or other numbing agents. It is also important to note that most back pain is caused by muscle tension and imbalance rather than spinal problems. Thus, we need to bring awareness and understanding to the postural habits as well as emotional tensions that lie beneath the physical tension and be proactive in heeding our bodies needs.

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THREE PART PROTOCOL

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READING YOUR BODY’S POSTURE

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I recently wrote an Instagram post about how being super physically flexible isn’t necessarily always a good thing. In it, I wanted to express how there is an absolute connection and continuity between your physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental worlds.

Bringing awareness to our posture or physicality can tell us a lot about our approach to life – the way we respond to stress or threats, what kind of company we keep, how our upbringing was, why we experience certain illnesses, what habits we have, and so on. Thus, decoding and making positive changes to our posture will help optimize our quality of life and ability to thrive.

CUES YOU CAN GLEAN FROM YOUR BODY:

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FEELING WIRED OR ANXIOUS POST-EXERCISE?

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Have you ever experienced post-work out panicking or an inability to wind down? Or have you ever connected the two? Unfortunately it can be one possible side effect of overworking your upper body or working with incorrect alignment.

Overstimulating your upper back and neck muscles, particularly for stressed people, can send the body into panic mode as these are the same muscles that activate when we sense danger. The brain takes this tension as an indication that you’re about to go into some kind of battle, and floods the body with stress chemicals such as adrenaline.

Increasing the blood flow, and thus relaxation around these tissues, helps reset the nervous system back into cruise-control by flooding the body with relaxation chemicals and endorphins.

Try the following to help keep you strong but calm:

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THE GYROTONIC METHOD

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This is a piece I wrote for Nourished Journal Edition 2 December 2014 (Made Publishers)

What is the Gyrotonic expansion system?

The Gyrotonic expansion system is an exercise system whose movement principles are similar to yoga, dance, swimming and t’ai chi, but whose main inspiration comes from nature and living things. As such, the repertoire includes every range of movement you can imagine. Your body curves, arches, twists, spirals, undulates, circles, stretches, contracts, relaxes and is fluidly and rhythmically guided by the ever present breath. It feels incredible.

The Gyrotonic expansion system is made up of the Gyrokinesis method, where exercises are performed on a mat and chair only, and the Gyrotonic method where the exercises are performed on custom designed Gyrotonic equipment. Both methods were developed by Juliu Horvath, an ethnic Hungarian whose professional dance career left him with a series of debilitating injuries that he later healed through his movement practise. Thankfully he has gifted his knowledge with the world, helping people of all ages and abilities to fulfill their potential through using their bodies as nature intended.

The philosophy

For Juliu, life is movement – the more movement the more life is expressed, this belief is something I fiercely support. No matter what your situation you want to always breathe life into every cell of your body by tapping into whatever natural movement patterns you can express. Never push through pain or blocks but instead find space and move gently through. Having its roots steeped in nature means the Gyrotonic expansion system can easily access life-giving and healing movement potential. Exercises, for example, mimic how cats’ spines move as they stretch, how tigers run, how seaweed sways, how snakes ripple across the ground, and so on. Gyrotonic takes us away from controlled linear exercise modalities, that are often motivated by fear and control, and into a more holistic space whereby the body, mind and spirit are all aligned and given respect and nourishment.

My experience

As someone who does various forms of movement practice, I can highly recommend gyrotonic and gyrokinesis classes. The repertoire appeals to all manner of intrinsic and forgotten movement patterns, and the smooth gliding machines help facilitate this even more so. I leave a class feeling emotionally, mentally and physically cleansed and strengthened. A body that performs the Gyrotonic expansion system regularly is strong, flexible, agile, aware, able to react with speed and able to deeply relax.

What to expect from a Gyrotonic or Gyrokinesis class

Expect to move with fluidity, with focus on your breath whilst sitting / standing / lying on your front, back and side. You will explore how the spine moves by being guided to arch and curl, or ripple with a wave-like motion. You will feel how the arms and legs connect into this rhythm and how to move and coordinate your body as a whole.

The Gyrotonic expansion system is a complete system of exercising: it builds stamina, flexibility, strength, articulates all joints, gets your heart rate up and improves energy and fluid flow through the body. I promise you will love it.

HOW TO CULTIVATE YOUR INNER KNOWING

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Over the next few months I want to really focus on how to cultivate a way of living that best connects you with your own individual needs. I’ll do this through breaking up my posts and centering them around different ways of: exercising and moving, eating and making food choices, communicating and choosing the company you keep, and finding mental peace and quiet. The more you are in tune with your real self, the better you will be able to hear your inner-voice, which ultimately has all the answers we need to live a fulfilled life. It might sound clichéd, but the answers are all inside if we want to listen!

Unfortunately throughout life we learn many ways to block our inner knowing in order to be accepted. If our true expressions don’t fit the norm we learn to stifle or rebel against them. We learn to navigate life by “controlling” our emotions through restriction or over-indulging. When you’re feeling stressed, angry or sad do you sit and allow yourself to feel this so you’re able to listen to what you’re upset about and thus allow it to pass? Or, do you choose to shove it away or numb it with a piece of chocolate cake, a glass of wine, by yelling at your spouse, watching TV, over-exercising, surfing the net, going shopping or going to bed?

Because so many of us are numb to ourselves and our true desires it can be difficult to instantly tune in. Like anything we need to learn to cultivate awareness and this can be done by paying attention to how we move and what exercise choices we make; how we eat and what food choices we make; how we talk to ourselves and to others; what kind of people we attract and relationships we have; how we divide our time and if we choose to dedicate time to wind down and relax or not.

Despite what we are taught, the only way to live a truly fulfilling and happy life is by being ourselves, whatever that may be. Thankfully there are small shifts going on around the world that I hope will continue to evolve and help people realize this – school curriculums are incorporating a broader range of subjects that cater to varied behaviours and ways of learning; the practise of mindfulness and meditation is exploding; mental illness is becoming less stigmatised; younger generations are being encouraged to share their feelings; more minority groups are finding their voices.

In my next post I will talk about different movement techniques you can practise to help you know what kind of exercise best suits you and when. My belief is that movement or exercise must be used as a means for nourishing, healing and strengthening ourselves. It must not be yet another means through which we punish ourselves. Movement is life-giving so I believe everyone must move – I do not promote constant rest (unless you are severely unwell) nor do I believe in pushing our bodies beyond our limits… both of which are fear-based approaches. More on this next time.

“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”

– Eckhart Tolle

INSTANT MOOD-LIFTERS

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For whatever reason – be it a busy lifestyle, watching the news, running away from uncomfortable thoughts or having unhealthy relationships – we can lose our sense of who we are and what makes us truly feel good. Unfortunately it’s often tragedy or loss that shocks us into getting perspective on what really matters, but you can be proactive and tune in to your inner voice at any time. The best way to tune in and align is by putting yourself first – all good comes from feeding yourself first – once you do this then you can truly be of assistance to your loved ones and the world.

Below I have outlined three easy things to instantly lift your mood. Making an effort to do things that make you feel good will allow you to shift away from fear-based thoughts and patterns, and make it easier for you to realise that joy is your natural right and state of being. Scientific studies have widely proven that moving, smiling, focussed breathing and singing all stimulate endorphins and hormones associated with stress and anxiety reduction, feelings of pleasure, trust and connection. Test them out for yourself!

 

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ACTIONS!

  1.  STAR JUMPS
  2.  SMILING MEDITATION 
  3.  SING ALONG TO YOUR FAVOURITE TUNE

1. Start standing with your legs together and arms at your side:

Jump your legs apart and at the same time clap your hands above your head, then jump your legs back together while bringing your arms back down to your side. Repeat for one minute (or more of course if you fancy!)

WHY? Without movement there would be no life! I always recommend that everyone moves their body daily to the best of their ability, as without daily movement your vitality will diminish. Something as ‘sparky’ as star jumps helps push blood, lymph and oxygen around your body which not only stimulates the production of your feel-good chemistry, but also helps these delights be felt all the more quickly!

2. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably:

Close your eyes and tune into your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose for one minute while either imagining, or actually tracing, a smile across your face and throughout your body. Visualise the smile beginning behind your eyes, then imagine the smile bringing light, warmth and joy to your whole body.

WHY? This one-minute smile meditation is simple yet quite affecting. How often do we smile for ourselves? This is you dedicating and gifting yourself all those lovely messages given out by a genuine smile. Smile at yourself, to yourself and for yourself. “Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.” -Mantak Chia

3. Find your favourite place to listen to music then choose to sit, stand, or lie:

Take a few deep breaths then hit the play button and sing! (dance if the mood takes you!)

WHY? Singing is an extremely powerful tool in shifting energy and mood. Think of singing like an internal massage where musical vibrations are able to move through you and change your physical and emotional landscape. Even sound itself can be incredibly healing; this quote by Dr M Gaynor explains the power of sound beautifully: “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes”.

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There are many other incredibly quick and simple ways to help us feel clear, grounded and aligned with our true selves. I hope these three help you out asap! Enjoy 🙂

‘You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection’ – Buddha

 

THE MODERN WOMAN

No matter how busy you feel, please take time to watch this TEDx talk by Dr. Libby Weaver. Libby is Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemist and her approach to the health and well-being of the modern woman is beautifully and honestly pitched. Yes, it is true, the modern woman is undergoing a crisis which is wreaking havoc on her health and the relationships she has with her partner, friends, family and children. In my work I also see women who, despite being utterly spent, keep pushing forward.

“She” feels like she must be the dependable, resilient and fearless mother/partner/employee despite lacking in sleep and proper nourishment. She constantly feels like a failure with no self-control; she is never skinny enough, youthful enough, intelligent enough, fun enough; she is trying to be the pleaser and the support system for all but behind the scenes is falling apart… sound familiar?

This video is not only for women, but also for the men out there who may not be aware that this is going on, or for the men out there who are behaving in a very similar way. As Libby says: it is time for change. This way of living is not sustainable. It is time to get honest and allow our primal mechanisms more time to adjust to the demand of our modern day lifestyle and its expectations.