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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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.

BEAT THE BLOAT: MOVEMENTS TO AID DIGESTION

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Given the standard diet, lack of physical activity and stress level of the general population, feelings of being bloated or constipated are an increasingly common complaint. It is so important that you visit the bathroom (for number twos!) at least once a day – ideally after each meal. If this isn’t the case and you’ve already worked on the obvious areas – taken out all processed food from your diet, increased your exercise, reduced your stress levels and optimised your sleep – then add these 5 easy movement patterns into your daily routine.

How these movements help digestion:

  • They stimulate fluid flow around the whole body, but in particular the gut. This helps stagnant food waste move speedily through your large intestine, meaning your stool won’t be dry and dehydrated from waiting in your bowel for so long
  • They encourage you to breathe! Increasing the depth of your breath and properly utilising all respiratory muscles regulates peristalsis or the wavelike movement that propels food through the gut. This means better nutrient absorption and quicker evacuation of digestive waste
  • They rebalance irregular tissue tension. Releasing tension in a tight lower back and the back of the legs allows the abdominal tissue to more readily engage which releases intra-abdomial pressure; addressing hunched shoulders and a compressed chest opens up the front of the body giving the gut far better space to go more smoothly about its business

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1) BELLY BREATHS

INSTRUCTIONS: Breathe in through the nose allowing the belly to fill, breathe out through the mouth allowing the belly to soften back towards the spine.

CUES: On the inhale, visualise filling your whole body with fresh, clean air; on the exhale sigh out old stale air and any emotions that are no longer serving you. Imagine breathing into the back, front and sides of the body – making space and releasing tension in every joint.

Breathe in for 5 counts, pause for 5 counts, breathe out for 5 counts – repeat for 1 minute.

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2) TWIST

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INSTRUCTIONS: Lie on your back with your legs bent and ‘glued’ to each other – beginners keep your feet on the floor, others take them up in the air, arms wide out to the sides. Exhale – take legs to one side and head to the opposite side, inhale – bring your legs and head back to centre, exhale – go to the opposite side.

CUES: Every time you exhale make sure you gently sink, wrap and lift your abdominals – your shirt should get baggier! Gently massage the spine into the floor as you go from side to side (i.e. no arching the back).

Take the legs from side to side for 1 full minute.

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3) PILATES SCISSORS

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Lie on your back, stretch both legs up in the air, curl upper body forward, exhale – pull one leg towards you and stretch the other one away, exhale – swap to other side, repeat.

CUES:

Really emphasise the exhale – you should hear the breath being blown out through your mouth and see your belly sinking back towards your spine. Keep shoulders soft and collarbones wide. Feel the middle to lower spine gently massaging into the floor, stretch open through the back of the leg that is pulled towards you and the front of the hip of the leg stretching away. Think of the reaching the crown of your head and your toes up to the ceiling – always think of making space throughout every joint, avoid compressing and tensing.

Scissor the legs for 30-60 seconds

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4) YOGA COBRA

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Lie on your front, forehead resting on the floor, arms bent hands at shoulder height, palms down. On an exhale gently roll your shoulders back, press lightly through your hands and pull your breast bone forward so that you lift your upper body away from the floor. Inhale to bring the spine back to the floor. Repeat.

CUES: Keep your abdominals drawn gently up towards your spine. Use your lower abs to gently tuck the pelvis under to avoid compressing into your lower back – do not squeeze your butt! This movement is about opening the chest wide and getting your upper back to move; you shouldn’t feel any discomfort in the lower back. 

Cobra for 30- 60 seconds

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5) THE MARVELLOUS MOVING CAT

All cues and tips here!

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EXTRA HELPFUL TIPS

  • Sit upright when you’re eating! How can you expect your food to move through your system if you’re hunched forward over your plate squashing the life out of your guts? Sit tall, give your belly some space!
  • Wait an hour after eating to do these movements as you want your blood to go into your belly to get those intestinal contractions going, rather than into your heart and muscles
  • Avoid drinking at the same time as eating – save your sips for 30 minutes before, or an hour after eating to avoid diluting the digestive enzymes needed to help break down your food
  • Take probiotics after a meal or eat fermented foods with your meal to help balance out gut bacteria and encourage better breaking down and absorption of your food
  • Consider these emotional connections to constipation – “where are you holding on in your life and what would happen if you let go? What might happen to your work or relationships if you released control and let things happen spontaneously? What is needed for you to have a greater trust in the unknown?” Read more about the emotional / digestive connections in Deb Shapiro‘s Your Body Speaks Your Mind

FIND YOUR VOICE: NECK AND THROAT RELEASE

Most of us know that the way we move and the positions we acquire throughout our days have a direct impact on our overall health. For example, sitting for a duration of time on a regular basis will tighten your feet, legs and spine, slow down your digestion, increase your desire for sugar and create hypertension. But what about the emotional triggers, or the stored unresolved emotions that impact negatively upon posture? Feeling low after someone has put you down or remembering a sad time results in lowered eyes, drooped shoulders, closed chest (protecting the heart), decreased production of serotonin and oxytocin; feeling under pressure to meet a deadline or feeling scared causes the chin to jut forward,  the jaw to tense,  shoulders to rise, breath to shorten, adrenaline to race… all bringing you into a state of stress and heightened awareness.

Whether we are feeling these negative emotions right now, whether our body hasn’t released them from the past, or whether they are anticipating a future event, it is important that we become aware of our postural holding patterns and help unravel them. Doing this will not only bring structural benefits, but will also help release old emotional patterns that may be holding you back.

Below I have outlined some physical and emotional imbalances that are connected with tension in the neck and throat and below that I have outlined a few stretches that will help restore balance to the body and mind.

Physical ailments that are intrinsically connected to tension in the neck and throat:

  • chronic sore throat and other throat issues
  • thyroid imbalances
  • TMJ / jaw tension / teeth grinding
  • tension headaches
  • anxiety
  • carpal tunnel / tennis elbow

Emotional imbalances that are intrinsically connected to tension in the neck and throat:

  • our ability to speak our mind / truth and be heard
  • our ability to make decisions easily
  • our ability to feel confident in ourselves
  • our ability to restore our will power

STRETCH 1

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AIM: To release the tissues from the side of the neck to the top of the shoulder

CUES: Sit tall. Drop shoulders away from ears. Draw belly in. Press hand into the floor. Keep equal weight on both bum bones

REPS: Breathe and release into the stretch for no more than 30 seconds then repeat to the other side. Repeat tighter side

STRETCH 2

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AIM: To release the middle of the neck and tissues that run from the shoulder blade to the base of the skull

CUES: Sit tall. Gently squeeze shoulder blades towards each other. Draw belly in. Press hand into the floor. Gently lift head up and over to look at the opposite hip. Keep equal weight on both bum bones

REPS: Breathe and release into the stretch for no more than 30 seconds then repeat to the other side. Repeat tighter side

STRETCH 3

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AIM: To open the chest, front of neck, shoulders and arms. To compress/restrict the fluid flow between the shoulder blades so that when the position is released, the spine and skull is flushed with fresh fluid that replenishes the cells and carries away debris.

CUES: Sit tall. Squeeze shoulder blades together (and palms if possible!), reach arms away from your body. Circle the head.

REPS: Circle the head 3 times in one direction then repeat to the other side. Release and repeat twice more.

STRETCH 4

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AIM: To release and unwind the nerves that run down the arm from the neck

CUES: Sit tall. Gently squeeze shoulder blades towards each other. Draw belly in. Flex the wrist of the lengthened arm and gently turn the arm in and out.

REPS: Breathe and release into the stretch for no more than 30 seconds then repeat to the other side. Repeat tighter side

Repeat as above but with both arms outstretched – this is quite intense so only attempt it if you can safely breathe and release into it

BECOME ELASTIC! STRETCHING TIPS

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Here are four key themes to integrate into your daily stretches to help your tissues stay open, springy and elasticated  – just as they love and deserve!

KEY POINTS

1) Keep stretches dynamic and not static 

Moving gently in and out of a stretch helps to keep the nervous system attentive to what changes are being made through the connective tissue. It can be dangerous, especially for athletes, to hold a stretch statically for more than 60 seconds, as the length-tension relationship of the muscle has changed, but the brain has no memory of it. It is therefore best to keep the stretch moving, or perform more repetitions that are held for a shorter length of time.

2) Never EVER stretch into pain, aim for 6/10 pain level

Any more than 6/10 and your muscles will contract through fear of tearing. When the muscle tissue is being pulled at an uncomfortable length it sends a message to the brain saying it’s in trouble, the brain then tells the muscle to contract and protect. So even though you’re feeling a stretch there is no lengthening happening – which basically means you’re wasting your time.

3) Breathe and relax into the stretch

At the beginning of an exhale there is a 1/4 of a second of nervous system inhibition –  in other words there is a moment at the start of the exhale where you can sink deeper into the stretch. Take a deep breath in, and on the long exhale relax deeper into the stretch – let go.

4) Keep focussed on what you’re trying to achieve

There are many scientific reasons why the brain must have a clear objective if it is to achieve any lasting results. Don’t forget how chemistry affects structure and interweaves with our emotions and state of mind – stretch with aggression while thinking about your workload and your muscles will never gain length or elasticity. Focus your mind into the area you’re wanting to open – notice how it feels and gently coax your nervous system into allowing the muscle tissues to release and find space. Be patient and gentle.

Other tips to help find space and elasticity during a workout:

  • Always warm up before you work out – about 5 mins or so of gentle jogging / running on the spot / brisk walking / star jumps / jumping rope. If you feel the need to stretch do a very mild version of each stretch or move through lengthened positions without holding them statically.
  • Warming up helps to increase your body temperature, gets your tissues and joints feeling  nice and fluid, and increases your range of movement so your muscles will stay safer during your more intense work out.
  • Always save your deep stretching for AFTER exercise and NEVER before – if you lengthen a muscle during a stretch then ask it to contract quickly under load you may end up causing yourself an injury.
  • Deep stretching brings better blood flow to your muscles and helps lubricate your joints by simulating more synovial fluid. It also helps remove lactic acid which builds up from the minor muscle tearing that happens while working out. Deep open-and-release work will also help flush your body with fresh blood and nutrients to help build new muscle fibres and get rid of old ones. This speeds up the recovery process and means your muscles won’t be as sore the following day.

(IMGS: Noah Wilcox)