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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CHANGING THE STORIES

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We have all created narratives throughout our lives that keep us locked into unhealthy thought patterns. Even though these stories make us feel fearful, angry, sad or anxious, we love them because they feel like home: they’re comfortable, familiar & predictable.

One of the stories I love to run is that life = worry. I pick through my day to find something to hyper focus on and build into a worry story. This story is great at keeping me occupied and stopping me from venturing out of my comfort zone. Another common story people love, is to find ways of blaming other people for the misfortunes in their own lives. As long as they can blame others they’ll never have to look at their own part in the story and change their ways. There are many, many stories we tell ourselves…do you know yours?

Despite our stories having strong pathways (due to constant use!) it is totally possible to re-write them, I can vouch for this. The steps outlined below have been incredibly helpful in rewriting new nourishing stories.

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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.

MINDFUL EATING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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Not only are the holidays a lovely time to celebrate and have a change of scenery, they also provide the opportunity to have a shift in gear. As I outlined in my previous post, this is a time of year when emotions run high, so it really is worth taking a moment to decide how you’d like things to unfold. Make sure you look after and nourish your body, as well as your mind along the way.

Looking after yourself does not mean you have to behave like a saint – what it means is avoiding any opportunities to beat yourself up, to feel guilty, anxious, unwell or regretful. Because so many people punish themselves by either over-indulging, or over-restricting during this period, I’ve dedicated this post to helping choose the best way to eat and drink for you.

SIX TIPS

1. Get clear about how and what you want to eat and drink, and if you want to consume alcohol or not. If you adhere to a specific diet for health reasons decide if you want to stick to it, or if you’re happy to deviate. Be honest and make these decisions from a place of love and compassion, rather than fear and control.

2. Commit to your intentions. Once you’re clear about what you want to consume, then commit to that decision. Associate good feelings with your decision and remind yourself of these regularly. If you decide to stick to your dietary needs then the next two points are key:

3. Research and take time to find out what’s on the menu, be it at someone’s house or at a restaurant.

4. Communicate your dietary requirements before the event – I spent years needlessly suffering for fear of upsetting people and being polite. If people make you feel uncomfortable about your needs that is definitely their problem. Do not make your decisions based on what will make other people happy, this will never turn out well – lies, pain, resentment and irritability will likely ensue. You owe it to yourself and to your host to communicate clearly what exactly it is you need so as to not upset any plans on the day.

My food choice suggestions:

  • Fill up on the vegetables and proteins. If you’re a meat eater choose meat close to the bone. Skip the gravy unless it’s gluten-free. If you’re wanting a sweet treat for dessert then choose fresh fruit, dark chocolate or cheese. If you opt to skip dessert then you can go straight to the coffee or green tea to help aid digestion and curb the sugar cravings
  • My beverage suggestions: drink a decent amount of still water with a squeeze of lemon before and after your meal. If you’re not drinking alcohol then honour your decision and stick to it! (any peer pressure to drink comes from insecurity and selfishness). Sparkling water, green tea or freshly brewed black coffee can be good options for a booze free buzz.

5. Avoid the post-booze blues by following my tips on this blog. The main points:

  • Never drink to forget, to hurt, to manipulate, to cope. It’s a better idea to take a sip after you’ve tuned in and found something to smile about and celebrate
  • Choose gluten and sugar-free drink options
  • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink
  • Eat nutrient dense food before and after

6. Supplement to support your digestive, immune and detoxification systems. Here are my recommendations

Bonus tip: MOVE!

One of the best things we can do for our bodies is to MOVE. When we move we stimulate and pump the fluids around our body that manage, feed and clean our organs, muscles, skin, nerves, hormones and bones. However you are feeling, go for a walk, do a few stretches, put on your favourite music and dance! Choose whatever you most enjoy – sometimes that’s all you need to do to perk up.

To help you along your way here are 5 exercises to help beat the bloat!

And for a daily and weekly movement guide read more here.

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I hope these tips hold you in good stead over the holiday period. Please take note and put your needs first! Happy holidays! 🙂

 

Photo credit Matthew Valdr

EASY TRAVEL TIPS!

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I got the idea for this post after a recent overseas journey which spanned around 36 hours of flights, trains and buses. Whether on a journey as long as mine, or something less intense, traveling has a definite impact on our physical well-being – time-zone changes, cramped conditions and limited food options disrupt our natural cycles, so it pays to be prepared. With the holiday season winding down this is perhaps a little belated, but keep these tips bookmarked for next time!

Preparation:

  1. The day before you travel, move around a lot – go for a long walk or gentle jog, go to a pilates or yoga class or simply stretch.
  2. Buy some healthy snacks to eat on the journey – avoid plane/train/ food if you can. I tend to pack leftovers (fritatta and salad is easy to pack) nuts, nut butter, coconut oil, dried fruit, healthy snack bars, crackers, bananas, avocados, kale chips, crisps, dark chocolate, bake some muffins or a loaf. You should be fine taking this food onto a plane but anything left after your flight you may have to declare on entering a new country (transit should be fine).
  3. Eat and hydrate well on the day you are flying so you can fill up on good quality produce and won’t be tempted by any nasties onboard. Try to get in a vegetable juice or smoothie before the flight –  google beforehand to find out if your airport has a juice bar. Green tea will help with tension headaches – I take the tea bags with me and just ask for hot water.
  4. Pack your probiotics to help keep your tummy happily digesting and to help support your immune system (being stuck in a confined airless places with loads of people can be a germ breeding ground!).
  5. Prepare your travelling outfit – choose your most comfortable clothes, soft fabric that is loose fitting or nice and stretchy. Pack an extra pair of socks or some slippers or flip flops/jandals to walk around in as you want to take your shoes off as soon as you begin your journey.
  6. Make sure you have a good sleep the night before – no last minute packing or panicking

While travelling:

  1. Choose an aisle seat so you can get out of your seat easily to walk around (without your shoes), or if travelling in a car take regular breaks to get out and walk around and stretch: turn your head from side to side, squeeze hands together behind your back, twist, sit in a low squat, lean forward to stretch the back of your legs, point and flex your feet, and so on (images below).
  2. Drink plenty of water (double the amount of water offered to you if on a plane) this will make you get up to use the toilet at the very least! Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can disrupt your sleep patterns.
  3. If you have more than one flight then use the transit time to find a juice bar, or guzzle some good quality water. If you’re hungry choose fresh vegetables/salad or fruit.
  4. If you feel tired then sleep! Or at least close your eyes and rest. Take the opportunity to practise some calming breathing exercise or mindfulness. If you are transiting and need sleep then lie down rather than sit to sleep. If you’re wide awake then walk around or stand as much as you can.
  5. Eat your own packed food. Or if you have to eat the food served to you then definitely avoid the bread and dessert – ask for a piece of fruit or a bag of nuts instead.
  6. Brush your teeth! or at least swill your mouth out with oil or fresh water! This won’t only make you feel more refreshed, but will also help keep your immune system boosted. Remember the major importance oral health plays in well-being!

After travelling:

  1. Stretch, twist and move around! The cat stretch is a great one to do if you have the floor space. Massage your feet on a tennis ball to help rebalance the different reflex points that may have been affected by the travelling.
  2. Hydrate – plenty of fresh water perhaps with a pinch of good quality salt to help balance your electrolytes.
  3. Eat well to help you sleep well – fill up on any food groups you may have missed out on during your travels.
  4. Go to bed at the local time (between 10 and 11pm is ideal) and get 7-8 hours sleep if possible.

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STRETCH!


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THE MARVELLOUS CAT STRETCH

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Awakening deep intrinsic primal and developmental movement patterns, the moving cat stretch is one of my all time favourite movement patterns. It can be done any time of the day, all you need is a little bit of floor space and the ability to get up and down from it!

First thing in the morning it acts like a big yawn to help gently wake you up, centre and focus you for the day ahead; in the middle of the day it re-energises and better directs your attention – a much healthier pick me up than  reaching for the chocolate or caffeine hit; and done slowly before bed it helps to unwind and cleanse the day from your body and mind so you can go off to bed free from any unwanted mental or physical baggage.

Here are just some of the benefits:

  • stretches, strengthens and stabilises your arms, spine and torso
  • moves the breath deeper into your lungs helping to cleanse and better oxygenate all the tissues throughout your body
  • massages and opens the deep lower back and hips which in turn flushes the digestive system with fresh nutrient dense blood – great digestive aid!
  • strengthens and connects the deep abdominal muscles helping stabilise the torso and flood your system with all your feel good hormones! (dopamine and serotonin are largely manufactured in the gut)
  • opens the nerves through the spine, hands and arms helping to undo tension caused from slouching over a computer, smart phone or steering wheel, or constantly lugging kiddies around!
  • massages and opens the kidneys and resets the adrenal glands, helping you swap stressy fight or flight mode to calm cruise control – read more here
  • SO..helps relieve headaches, RSI, back pain, digestive troubles, anxiety, fatigue, disordered breathing…to name a few!

1) BEGIN ON ALL FOURS

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Knees under hips, hands under shoulders

CUES:

  • Keep the spine long and spacious. Imagine your spine being pulled from either end – out through the crown of the head and out through the tail bone
  • 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.
  • Keep shoulder blades wide on the back of your rib cage and press the floor away from you, ie. don’t hang the torso down between your arms and collapse the shoulder blades together
  • Make sure head isn’t dropped – keep the back of the neck long just as it would be if you were standing

2) ARTICULATE

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Inhale to prepare. Exhale to draw the belly in towards your spine and gently articulate the spine into a curved cat shape. Inhale to pause…

CUES:

  • Your pubic bone should be looking at you and you should be looking at your pubic bone
  • Gently press through your hands to help widen the middle back
  • Gently use your lower abs to help pull your tail between your legs and lengthen the lower back. Imagine plugging your tail into your belly button
  • Keep the hands and fingers alive! spread them wide and feel equal weight through each finger

3) STRETCH

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Exhale to travel the cat curve backwards so you sit back on the heels, keeping your hands connected to the same spot on the floor. Inhale to pause…

CUES:

  • Relax your neck, jaw, throat and eyes as you release back into the stretch
  • Let your ankles roll out to the sides if the top of the feet or inner thighs are tight
  • Keep gently hugging the belly back in towards the spine

4) EXTENSION & STABILISATION

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Exhale to bend your arms, place the forearms on the floor, roll your shoulders back, lift your head, chest and spine into a lengthened position. Inhale to pause…

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Exhale to travel your spine forward stopping when your head gets to your wrists. Inhale to pause…

CUES:

  • Arms are parallel to each other, elbows draw towards each other so you can feel a little squeeze at your arm pits
  • Connect the abs by drawing the belly inward and upward
  • Keep your eyes towards the floor – this doesn’t mean dropping the head though!
  • Draw your breast bone forward to the wall in front of you and draw your shoulders and elbows backwards towards your knees
  • Your spine is parallel to the floor – not on a diagonal diving towards the floor

5) STRENGTH

tasha16Exhale to press the hands into the floor and stretch the arms back up to the beginning position. Repeat another 5 times beginning with your hands slightly more forward each time.  

CUES:

  • Keep your elbows towards each other to help connect the back of your arms and sides of the spine
  • Keep your knees over your hips – when you press up don’t avoid the hard work by moving your butt backwards!
  • Keep your abs drawing inward and upward
  • Spine stays long and connected like in plank position

HOUSE PLANTS HEAL US!

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I love filling my house with a variety of indoor plants – not only do they look great, but they also bring with them a raft of other benefits. Our houses are becoming increasingly toxic with electromagnetic pollution from laptops, mobile phones, televisions and microwaves, not to mention chemical-laden cleaning products, paints, glues, detergents, scents, carpets and so on. These invisible toxins pollute the indoor air we breathe and contribute to many unnecessary ailments by challenging our respiratory and detoxification systems. It is sad to learn that indoor pollution has been ranked as one of the world’s greatest public health risks. This is not great news for us, but even more at risk are our children whose sensitive systems are already battling far more man-made pollutants than we ever did.

Intuitively we seek nature to restore our senses and recharge our batteries so it really is a no-brainer – the best and most natural way to cleanse our inside air and boost our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health: fill the house and workspace with plants. If you’re not already bringing the outdoors in, then now really is the time!

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Mother nature kicks butt yet again!

All plants produce oxygen – the most essential chemical without which we cannot live – and absorb harmful carbon dioxide from the air, but there are specific species that offer all manner of different healing and balancing properties such as:

  • eliminating significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene – the top three volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • filtering contaminants such as cigarette smoke, allergens and electromagnetic pollution (particularly cactus)
  • offering powerful medicinal benefits
  • dehumidifying and softening the air
  • decreasing dust
  • keeping air temperatures down
  • reduce airborne mould and bacteria

…which in turn help us:

  • fight colds
  • reduce headaches (particularly gerbera daisies and lilies)
  • relieve pain
  • clear congestion (particularly eucalyptus)
  •  fight viral infections and eye and fungal diseases (by balancing humidity levels)
  • reduce stress and anxiety levels and systolic blood pressure
  • reduce drowsiness and sharpen our minds and reaction times
  • speed up hospital patients recovery time from illness and surgery
  • create a sense of calm and well-being
  • improve sleep (particularly gerbera daisies) – you are 10,000 times more sensitive to chemical and electrical pollution when you are sleeping so absolutely keep a plants near your bed!
  • help heal dry, cut or burnt skin (particularly aloe vera)
  • help prevent and build tolerances to allergies when exposed to young children

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My Top Nine Household Plants!

1) Boston Fern

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  • Said to be the best air humidifier and air purifier, especially great at clearing formaldehyde from the air

2) Spider Plant

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  • Purifies the air rapidly
  • Clears benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene from the air (solvents used in leather, rubber and printing industries)

3) Christmas Cactus

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  • Great for cleaning the air of electromagnetic pollution
  • Place them in your lounge or work space where you have computers, heavy lighting, TVs, telephones and so on.

4) Snake Plant

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  • Filters out formaldehyde and absorbs nitrogen oxides
  • Very resilient (tolerate low light and needs few waterings)

5) Aloe

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  • Clears formaldehyde and benzene from the air – found in chemical cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues, personal care products and paints so keep this plant in your bathroom or bedroom
  • When applied topically it is wonderful at healing and soothing burns, cuts, psoriasis, bug bites and dry skin.

6) Chrysanthemum

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  • Filters benzene (found in glue, paint, plastics, detergents) and  ammonia (found in solvents and cleaners)

7) Bamboo Palm

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  • Filters the top three VOCs and great air humidifier
  • A good choice for placing around furniture that could leaching out formaldehyde

8) Peace Lilly

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  • Excellent at removing the main three VOCs
  • Removes mould spores from the air so great for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms

9) Gerbera Daisy

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  • Great at removing benzene
  • Absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen overnight, which makes for a much better sleep so keep this near your bed!

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The scientific proof is all there, even NASA’s BioHome is filled with common houseplants to purify the air and “absorb chemical pollutants resulting from synthetic materials in the living area”!  So take yourself off to your local plant nursery and help yourself and all the people around you live happier, longer, more creative and stimulating lives with the beautiful sights and pleasant aromas that house plants bring.

TUNE YOUR TRAINING: MOVE WITH MOTHER NATURE

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When I am feeling a little lost or out of tune with things I always trust in wise old mother nature to pave the way to better health, happiness, vitality, strength and well-being. She is of course the reigning force which embraces and connects all life cycles – humans, plants, animals, water, the sun, the moon, genetic expression, evolution, and so on. When we are all beautifully tuned and schynchronised everything moves and thrives with the least amount of effort. Unfortunately modern mankind confused sleeping and waking times and made poor non nourishing food choices. The resultant negative brain patterns then wreak havoc on a number of things including our ability to gauge what kind of exercise we should be taking and when. Sadly we have taken it to both extremes with people who train far too hard, fast and frequently, and people who sit all day and still fail to walk the escalators en route home.

It’s time to check in – is your exercise plan in sync with your hormonal cycle, the current season, your energy levels, emotional state, sleep patterns, as well as your eating patterns…? Below I have outlined a few of our main cycles to help get you back into mother natures arms.

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HORMONAL CYCLE which mimics the LUNA/MOON CYCLE

Men and post menopausal women still take note! as you too have hormonal and lunar influenced cycles, they’re just less pronounced.

Week 1: Follicular stage (menstruation has just ended)

Low levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone

Feeling energised

Workout: cardio / try something new

Week 2: Ovulatory phase (most fertile)

Spike in estrogen, testosterone and folicular stimulating hormone

Feeling really energised

Workout: strength training, high intensity/interval training

Week 3: Lutieal Phase (PMS)

Increase in progesteron, estrogen, testosterone in the first half of the week then all drop by the end of the week

Feeling slightly energised in the first half of the week, then decrease by the end of the week (two different feelings in one week)

Exercise: Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonics – slow, deep, strong elasticated and focussed movements

Week 4: Menstruation

Low testosterone, estrogen and progesterone

Feeling low in energy, contemplative

Exercise: long gentle walks outdoors, gentle yoga, pilates and gyrotonic classes

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SEASONAL CYCLE which mimics our 24HR/ DAY CYCLE 

Season: Spring  

24hr cycle: it’s morning time! time to wake up and plan a new day! 

Spring is a time when energy rises from the earth, plants are growing upward and heat is rising.

During this season we can start to increase our outdoor activities with long spritely walks which may break into short spontaneous runs! Also add in some gentle dynamic movement classes – look up a primal movement class! or attend a flowing dance, Pilates, yoga or Gyrotonic class.

Season: Summer

24hr cycle: it’s the action part of our day! pay attention and get things done!

Summer is  a time for the sun to warm the the earth, for plants to flower and sprout and for energy to explode and uplift.

During this season we can be outdoors as much as possible! A lot of long distance walking and/or running interspersed with a few explosive interval or high intensity/weight training sessions.

Season: Autumn

24hr cycle: it’s time to cool down, slow our pace and contemplate the day

Autumn is a time for energy to return to the earth, to harvest and celebrate.

During this season we slow down a gear. Long, slow, gentle walks, runs, cycle rides outdoors. Iyenga yoga or choose a class that favours a lot of inward attention and focus.

Season: Winter 

24hr cycle: It’s time to rest! sleep and regenerate

Winter is the time for activity to go below ground level, all is a lot quieter and rested up above

During this season we take longer to warm up and we may feel tense from the cold so breath work becomes even more important when beginning your training. Short brisk walks outdoors and slow gentle runs with plenty of warm clothing layers. Choose classes that are paced evenly, are strong and build on intensity.

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All in all this post is an invitation to acknowledge the strong natural forces around you: to be aware of them and of how much they act like mirrors – we all have more influence on each others state of health and well-being than we realise!

PRACTISE MINDFULNESS

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Stop right now…

Be utterly still.

Without judgement,

drop in on yourself.

No right or wrong, good or bad,

just tune in…

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We know innately that everything we ever need can be found within each of us: the resolve to any physical ailment, internal conflict, or emotional upset is within us – if we just tune in we’ll find it. Unfortunately, pretty early on in life we pattern unhelpful behaviours and thoughts, and get pulled into action-packed, fast-paced living where outward reflection is celebrated and encouraged, and intelligent inward-looking is starved and devalued. Sadly this inability to look inward means we tend to never address feelings of stress, anxiety, shame, guilt, fear and sadness until they manifest themselves into pain and illness so that we can no longer ignore them.

Reasons why we struggle to slow down and go inward:

1) It isn’t recognised as valuable. We are taught to cultivate and be aware of only 5 senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. There are many, many more senses that need equal attention. What about proprioception? Our sense of where our arms and legs are in relation to the rest of the body is essential in strengthening our co-ordination and body-brain communication.  What about gut feeling? Our gut has more neurons than our brain and is passing on an incredible amount of useful information – but can we tap into the messages? And how about magnetorection – our natural sense of direction? What’s the point in tuning into this when we can just use Google Maps huh?

2) We are desensitized and numbed by the overwhelming amount of fast-paced stimulus thrust in our every direction. How often do you sit quietly without watching TV, looking at the internet, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, listening to music, reading a book, talking… when we are always occupied with external stimulus we lose touch with what’s happening inside.

3) We take most of our cues from our brain – an organ that literally runs on programs that were set predominantly in childhood (and often out of fear). Just as we need to update our computer software, so too do we need to reprogram our unhelpful brain patterns. Next time you are stressed just notice what your response is… time for a drink? Food binge? Or perhaps time to yell at your spouse or wreck yourself at the gym, clench your jaw or tighten your shoulders? These repeated responses which attempt to give momentary “relief” by numbing, covering up or ignoring the real issue, only strengthen and loop negative brain pathways. Bringing awareness to these destructive responses helps give you space to identify triggers and program more nourishing behaviours.

4) We give up ownership of our body and problems to medical practitioners and drugs. How about building relationships with practitioners who work ‘with’ the body and help the body realize its healthy direction. Ensure that you are guided, educated and part of the healing process – ask questions, tune into your responses, give feedback… know yourself and own your well-being.

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an activity of attention. Normally you sit in a comfortable, quiet place, close your eyes and purposely focus your attention on your breath and on the present moment – accepting all that arises without judgement.

Sitting there you want to bring awareness to the now, notice what’s going on – attend your life. Inevitably when left to itself the mind races through all kinds of thoughts, this is totally normal. When you find your mind wandering just return to your breath and to being the “watcher” of those thoughts – attending is more important than what you are paying attention to. Uncomfortable emotions can arise such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame but you can find the courage to watch them take their course instead of being skipped past or buried. Trust that in doing so they will dissolve and be replaced with new patterns that are better aligned with your true self: with continued practice you will quiet the mind and slip into the space between thoughts, the space where you can reclaim your life.

Mindfulness and cultivating attention helps you to:

  • Savour the pleasures in life – become fully engaged in activities and truly notice what makes you feel good
  • Be in a wiser relationship with yourself –  to better gauge and trust what is going on, rather than to be at the mercy of irrational fears and thoughts.
  • Bring clarity to what is and is not working for you in your life – choices related to relationships, work, health, environment are more aligned with your truth making decisions easier
  • Redirect negative brain patterns and encourage more positive and nourishing behaviours
  • Focus on the here and now – making you less likely to get caught up in worrying about the future or regretting the past, less preoccupied with success and self-esteem and better able to form deep relationships with others.

Of course there are many proven physiological benefits also, such as:

  • lowered blood pressure
  • reduced stress
  • balanced hormones
  • chronic pain reduction
  • improved sleep patterns
  • improved digestion
  • better management of mental imbalances such as OCD, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and addiction

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Tips on practising mindfulness

  • Find a time that works each day that you can commit to. Morning and middle of the day are great, and before bed can also be a good time to wind down if you are a wired type!
  • Start with just 5 minutes and if that passes easily then see if you can make it to 20 minutes each day – this would be ideal!
  • Choose a comfortable quiet place to sit or lie – close your eyes, maintain length in your spine, rest your arms wherever comfy
  • Start by following and watching your breath – don’t change your breath pattern, just watch it
  • When your mind wanders, when thoughts, emotions, sounds or physical feelings occur just acknowledge them and let them pass without getting involved and come back to your breath
  • Practise simply being mindful throughout your day – before you send an angry  email, while speaking in a meeting, before beating yourself up about a mistake you’ve made, whilst feeling pain or sadness… stand back from the thoughts, breathe, give yourself space to simply watch. Then respond authentically in the moment guided by fresh, honest thoughts that only act to serve you well.

When you enter deeply into this moment, you see the nature of reality, and this insight liberates you from suffering and confusion. Peace is already there to some extent: the problem is whether we know how to touch it – Thich Nhat Hanh

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To learn more please watch this great talk by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. Other great experts on mindfulness are Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Gabrielle Bernstein.