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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PRE AND POST RUN TIPS & EXERCISES

 

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There are a lot of contradicting views regarding stretching out there, especially stretches associated with running. In my opinion, what will assist you most seriously, as always, is enjoying and connecting with what you’re trying to achieve. There is no point in making yourself run if you hate running and there is no point in racing through your stretches if you’re not paying attention to what you’re trying to feel and achieve during them.

In an ideal world, our bodies would be balanced and able to move easily and freely through movements because everything is correctly aligned, flexible and stable. However, the majority of us have dysfunction around our bodies: the muscles around our pelvis are weak due to the amount of time we spend sitting,  our feet are stiff and lack bounce from squashing them into shoes and pounding around on hard concrete pavements, our ribs are tight from not breathing fully…and so on. So this means we need to spend a little time un-doing our poor postural patterns, and re-learning how to move with ease.

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TUNE IN TO WHAT EXERCISE SUITS YOU

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On my previous blog I illustrated the importance of cultivating a way of living that best connects you with your own individual needs. In this post I will outline three ways that help you choose what form of movement best serves you. The ultimate aim is that every day you can instantly tune in to yourself and hear what it is that your body really needs – rest, strength work, a long walk, an aerobic class, and so on.

TIP 1: WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?

Whether you’ve worked this out or not, here it is – the motivation behind your chosen exercise has to come from a nourishing place. You cannot expect to feel truly content and have long-lasting results in life if you focus on working out to: lose weight / be different / escape thoughts / control your life, and so on. Because these motivations come from a place of fear and lack, you will always struggle and never feel truly satisfied. It is nature’s law to give you what you put out so watch your thoughts.

This is easily remedied!

Simply reframe and change your language. The aim beyond wanting to lose weight, be different and so on is surely to be happy, to feel good, to be content. So why not focus on these words and outcomes over those heavy, negative ones? This simple reframe of language comes from a place of love and abundance, and as such is a much easier long-term motivator.

So get really clear about why you want to move and use encouraging language. Day-to-day you might feel the need for different types of movement, so without judgement or ego make your decision based on what supports your intention.

TIP 2: WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO DO?

To actualise your intention you need to find what it is you love to do. No point saying you want to work out to be happy then make yourself go for an hour long run when you hate running!

So, sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, breathe. Ask yourself: “if I could be anywhere doing any exercise or movement practise, what would I choose? What kind if movement excites and motivates me?”

There is no one perfect movement practise that suits us all, we all have varied needs, just as there is no “one” way of eating, no ideal job, lifestyle, and so on. So opt out of what you think you should be doing and tune in to what it is you love to do – following what feels good will help you move towards the body, relationship, hobby, job that brings you most happiness.

Some things you could ask yourself when finding out what you most love… do you like being outdoors? Do you like taking risks? Are you someone who has steady energy and a lot of physical strength (favouring running, rowing, aerobics)? Are you someone who has bursts of energy but tires easily (favouring yoga, dancing, easy walking)? Do you like to break a sweat? Do you like to train in a hot or cold environment?

After pursuing what you love you should be left feeling invigorated and happy (certainly not utterly spent and in need of pain relief).

TIP 3: DIP INTO YOUR TOOL BOX REGULARLY

There are some fundamental movements that are always good to do as they act like a reset button for when you feel a little off-kilter or are struggling to connect with what it is you need.

RESET NO.1 – BREATHE

Spend at least one minute each day where you sit in a quiet place and pay attention to your breath. You can simply watch your breath or choose from one of the following guided breath patterns:

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, pause for 1 count, exhale through your mouth for 4 counts. This is great for everything!
  • Before you eat, breathe slowly and calmly in and out through your nose – great for digestion
  • Breathe in and out through your mouth – great energy booster
  • Close off right nostril, inhale through left nostril. Pause. Close left nostril, release right nostril. Exhale through right nostril, inhale through right nostril. Pause. Close right nostril, breathe out left nostril. Repeat. Great to calm down.

RESET NO.2 – STRETCH

Stretching helps us find space in the body which chemically transfers into helping us find space and perspective in our minds. Think of stretching like a full body yawn, an internal massage for your organs and way to connect back to source. If you know what kind of stretches you love to do then go for it! If not, I have outlined below some of my favourite stretches. If you want to learn more about how to most productively find space in your body please read my previous blog Become Elastic here.

  • Get into your feet –  roll the souls of your feet on a tennis ball, sit on your heels, sit on the front of your feet. Find more foot opening tips here.
  • Standing roll downs – Start standing with your arms hanging losly by your sides, inhale fully and on your exhale scoop your belly gently back towards your spine, nod your chin towards your chest and begin to roll down through your spine until you are folded over looking towards your thighs or knees or feet (depending on your flexibility), your arms will hang loosely with your hands gently dropping towards the floor. The aim here is not to touch the floor with your hands but to simply hang and gently allow your tissues to stretch, relax and open. Relax your feet into the floor, bring your weight into your toes, soften your knees, relax your hips, neck, jaw and eyes. Stay here for 5 calm breaths. Take a full inhale and on your next exhale gently bend your knees deeper and tuck your bottom underneath you in order to rely on your legs to help you roll back up again vertebrae at a time unil you are back up to standing. Now turn your palms to face forward then take your arms up the sides of your body, hold your hands together above your head and gently sway your torsos from side to side stretching through your arms, side ribs and waistline. Release your arms down and stand still for 10 breaths.
  • Twist your spine to energise your system and cleanse your organs  – explained here

RESET NO.3 – MOVE QUICKLY!

Sometimes our nervous and lymphatic systems can becomes a bit sluggish or locked into fear and anxiety patterns that interfere with our natural healthy functioning. Our lymphatic system is the fluid system that runs throughout our body – seeking out, fighting off and detoxing any foreign bodies that may cause harm. Without movement this fluid becomes sluggish and less effective at battling off viruses, toxins and disease (imagine murky swamp water) – this can manifest in anything from cellulite, allergies,  fatigue, or hormonal imbalances. Because the lymphatic system runs linearly, when we bounce up and down it affects change in the fluid super effectively. As you move around quickly, imagine the “swamp water” getting diluted and flushed clean with fresh spring water.

  • Run on the spot as fast as you can for 20 seconds
  • Dance
  • Skip
  • Jump on a trampoline (more info here)
  • Stand and simply hake out your whole body!

BONUS TIP: GET OUT IN NATURE

Whenever I am feeling a little lost or out of tune with things I always trust in 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 tuned and synchronized everything moves and thrives with the least amount of effort. Unfortunately modern lifestyles result in 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 take the stairs on their way home.

This too is easily remedied by getting out in nature – take a slow walk around  your nearest park or green space taking in everything you can see, smell, hear, sense, touch, taste and so on.

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!