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It’s your life

Consider the ways you need to use and move your body every day.

It's your life

Depending on your life, how much you move throughout the day may be fairly limited or alternatively, you might go through a whole range of movements.

Do you work in an office? Sitting, walking, reaching, writing might be some of the things you do in a day. I suspect sitting, is a primary one. Do you work as a plumber? Your movement needs are different than the office worker. As are what a doctor, teacher, hairstylist, service worker, etc. will be, who are often on their feet much of the day.

What you need to ‘train for’ is different than what anyone else needs to ‘train for’.

What a person needs who sits at a desk all day, is different than what a parent with toddlers needs, versus what a teacher might need.

train for your life

We sometimes get into trouble when we’re doing exercises, that don’t always or altogether correlate so well to what’s actually required in our life. If you’re exercising for basic fitness and enjoyment, that’s fantastic. That in itself is an achievement. But perhaps you might consider adding more to the mix if you’re someone who also experiences pain, fatigue, etc.

This is important:

  • If you’re hitting the gym every day, building strength and stamina but suffer from low back pain because you’re also sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day, perhaps you need to train differently or add something to your training routine.
  • If you are the most amazing yogi but suffer from hip strain or other pain symptoms because during the rest of the day you’re standing on your feet, perhaps you need to look at what you’re training for.
  • If you’re out on the golf course getting your exercise and fresh air daily, but cannot ‘do, or manage’ the rest of your life, perhaps you need to do something else as well.

What happens all too often is the hour of exercise we get at the gym, yoga studio or out on the golf course doesn’t quite support all the rest of what we need to do in our day.

  • If you need to sit, train as best you can so your body can adapt for this.
  • If you need to stand, train what’s required in order to stand a lot.
  • If you are the golfer, train for whatever it is you need to do, besides golf.

But how can you do this and where to find the time?

It’s not always easy, but you can learn to build it into your day. It doesn’t always have to take another hour going to the gym, paying for a babysitter, driving through the snow. There are simple tools, you can use. Anywhere, really. That don’t take up a lot of time.

We’ll go into this a little further, next up on the Blog.

Yoga Tools – Open Your Mind

I’m going to challenge you to change things up this week. Whatever you think you should be doing, (in a movement, in your posture) whatever you’ve been told to do… do the opposite.

15327336_10157994488295226_6548450058877273096_n

As an example, while you’re sitting during the day:

  •  If you have a tendency to hold yourself rigid, perhaps with your shoulders pulled back, chest puffed out front, sitting up nice and tall, as some would say ‘good posture’, allow yourself something different. Perhaps slump a little, let the upper back round a little, feel as if you can soften the area between your collar bones, let your belly be soft and full when you breathe. RelaxI’m not saying this is what you need or you should sit this way all day. But try it for a few minutes and notice what you feel.
  • If you tend to be someone who is generally in a slumped position when sitting, try the opposite. Feel your sitting bones on the bottom of your chair, perhaps even pushing them into your chair slightly. Think about sitting tall, imagining your head feeling light above your shoulders, it lifting towards the ceiling. Collarbones wide, shoulder blades down your back.  Notice what you feel.

Though this is only one example. You might try this way of being, or doing, in a multitude of ways.

In yoga, do you always exhale when forward bending and inhale on the reverse? Try changing it up and see what you feel. What do you notice?

Experiment with doing the opposite of what you think is right for you, what you’ve been told is right for you and see how it goes. If you like, comment below so we can take the conversation further.

 

Yoga Tools – Awareness

imagesThe bumper sticker on our last Yoga Tool was to recognize that just as we take a drink when we are thirsty, eat when we are hungry, we need rest when we are weary. All of which requires first, awareness of a particular sensation in our body.

There are signs and signals speaking to us all the time, but are we really listening?

Are you like me in that you eat regularly on a schedule or do you listen to the signal telling you when you’re hungry? Do you sleep only at certain times of the day or are you paying attention to the signs that you need to rest? These are two indicators built into the survival mechanism of our body. Similarly, if you enter a room with a smell so strong it seems toxic you know to immediately step out again. If you are suddenly ill bringing up something you ate, again a signal. Your brain’s number one job is to keep you safe and protected.

Pain is no different. It is a signal from your brain, a call to action.

Below is a quick and easy Tool to begin learning to sense information your body or your brain, is providing. I often use it in the beginning of a yoga class, to bring some awareness to what we’re about to do.

one-to-fiveLie with your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet hips-width apart. Let your knees gently fall towards each other, resting easy and comfortable.

Now, begin:

To sense what you feel in terms of your body’s contact with the floor. What parts of your body are in contact with the floor? Is the surface of the floor hard, soft? Are you comfortable? Do you feel the support of the ground below? Lean in. Feel grounded. Feel supported.

To feel your breath moving through your body. Where do you first notice your breath? In your chest, your lungs? Your nostrils? In your belly perhaps? Does the air feel smooth flowing in, and out? Does it feel forced, soft, cool, warm? Can you sense movement, in tune with your breath, elsewhere in your body?

To notice the tone of your muscles. Are your muscles at rest, tense, or sore? Where in particular do you notice any tension? Where might you find softness? Can you soften the areas around your eyes? Let your jaw, feel relaxed. Your tongue loose and soft in your mouth. Can you contract a muscle somewhere and then for contrast, let it go?

To pay attention to your heartbeat. Can you sense it? Can you feel it? Where do you feel it?

Going even deeper, can you feel or sense the blood flowing through your body? 

If you can’t feel a particular sensation, just notice that. Without judgement. Just let it be.

Body / Breath / Musculature / Heartbeat / Bloodflow

5 steps inside…

Take some time each day to first, pay attention. Build awareness.

Practice this once per day over the next week.

*Note: If you’re typically a doer, go-getter, Type-A, cannot sit still type of person, consider doing this AFTER a workout, brisk walk, end of your day, when you’re more likely to be at ease with the sense of quiet and stillness this exercise asks of you.

Yoga Tools – Rest Easy

Life is not easy. For any of us.  There is more than enough to do, day in and day out. Stressors at work, at home or elsewhere.

So cut yourself some slack. Give yourself permission to rest. 

restStart with just 5 minutes.  Do this at least once a day. Do it twice if you like. But do it consistently.

You might want to set a particular time for this. Perhaps at mid-day, or early evening. It’s not often you need to rest first thing in the day and this 5 minutes isn’t meant for sleeping, so not too close to bedtime either.

  1. Either lie down or sit in a comfortable position (*see below for IMG_9231.JPGspecifics). It’s preferable to lay on the floor but if you’re unable to do so, a bed or sofa is fine.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
  4. Begin to breathe in and out through your nose (close your mouth).
  5. Be here for 5 minutes, just breathing naturally. Don’t try to change anything about your breath.
    • Notice where you feel your breath. It might be most noticeable in your nostrils, maybe in your chest or perhaps your abdomen.
    • Notice how your breath is moving. If there’s any particular quality to it such as smooth, interrupted, easy, strained.
    • Then just breathe. And just notice.
    • If your mind wanders, as it’s likely to do, just bring your attention back to your breath. Feel where it’s moving through your body, where you notice it. Try not to judge the wandering of your mind as anything either good or bad.
    • And just breathe. And just notice.
  6. When the timer goes off, slowly open your eyes. Roll over and stand up.

Notice what you feel. Mentally or physically make a note of what you experienced or noticed.

Keep practising for a week.

Check in with me next Tuesday and we’ll expand on this practise.

If… you can’t find 5 minutes in your day? You might want to look at that.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.

* Positioning if seated

  • Sit forward on a chair so your back is not touching the back upright portion of the chair.
  • See if you can feel your ‘sitting’ bones (ischial tuberosities) and let your weight be supported there.
  • Have your feet planted on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Hands comfortably on your lap.

* Positioning if lying down

  • Lie on the ground, perhaps on a carpet or mat if available. If you have back pain, you may want to use a rolled up towel, yoga mat, etc. to slip under your bent knees for support.
  • Hands can be by your side or placed on your belly.
  • Notice the parts of your body supported by the hard surface of the floor (heels, hips, shoulder area, head).

Change the brain, the nervous system, the body

neuroplasticity-and-technology-4-728The changing of our brain …

One of the most important changes in the last 14 years or so is the field of neuroplasticity.

Years ago, when our kids were little, I recall speaking with my cousin who has a degree in psychology. We spoke about the development of children and she told me how important it was to interact with them, stimulate them, provide them with challenges. The reason being, that scientists once thought that the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life.  


Since then, we’ve come to understand this isn’t true of the brain. Research shows our brain is capable of learning, adapting and changing throughout our life.

The changing of our body …

Our white blood cells die after 3-4 days, red blood cells after about 120 days, the dermis of our skin renews every 2-4 weeks. Research shows that changes in the relative level of physical stress cause a predictable adaptive response in all biological tissue.  In other words, changes take place and what’s exciting to me is how we can take measures to influence what happens in our body.

stretchingI’ve also learned it seems we may have been ‘wrong about stretching‘, insofar as to say we’re not really stretching or lengthening muscles. At least not as much as we once believed. Rather, we’re changing our response to a stimulus via the nervous system.

“your ability to stretch at any range is determined by your nervous system’s tolerance to that range.” – Jules Mitchell

The changing of our nervous system …

Our brain is naturally going to respond in a protective manner to anything it perceives as dangerous. We’ll talk about this more with regards to both our psychological health and immune system in upcoming posts. But for now as one example, let’s say that if we are trying to re-train flexibility in the body and do so with strong, forceful pressure or stimulus … the brain/body will react by saying … stop! No! Don’t go there. It will send a (pain) signal to safeguard our movement.

stretchHowever, if we move in small incremental ways within a safe and pain-free range of motion, the nervous system will react by saying … this feels okay. Safe. I’m happy to explore this.

This is a somewhat simplified way to explain all that’s going on, but it’s a starting point we can work from.

The more I learn about the body the more I am awestruck by its miraculousness (is that a word?).

By learning to pay attention, moving in a way that allows your nervous system to adapt and create new patterns while it feels safe, you will make progress. 

Change. Big Change. Lasting Change.

It turns out – we are adaptable!

The most fascinating thing I’ve learned about the human body is we are adaptable. I think my brother, an evolutionary biologist, would be happy to hear me say that.

Tissue can change. Our brain can change.

brain

This provides hope to anyone living with pain, chronic pain, limitation to mobility or perhaps psychological pain (or unease) from stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia. All of which are common problems affecting a large proportion of our 21st Century population.

Pain science

The experience of pain doesn’t necessarily/always correlate with the state of our tissue.

What?

You may have some awful looking images on x-ray and yet not experience pain. You may experience pain, though not even have the limb that pains you (phantom limb pain).

Which doesn’t mean it’s all in your head but that pain is indeed, very complex

Fascia and connective tissue

Contrary to what you see in an anatomy book, we are not all these separate parts.

In fact, we’re more ‘connected’ than you might have imagined.

Not only are our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons all connected, but also our organs and everything else … by fascia. This connectedness can sometimes be why you try to address a particular area causing you issue in your body and it’s not actually where the problem lies. Let alone these pieces and how they connect to our nervous system, which brings us to:

Neuroplasticity

Contrary to our understanding up to about the year 2002, our brain can change.

Thank goodness. As I continue to age, all hope is not lost!

This is revolutionary in terms of not only how we can keep learning, but also how we can change behaviour and adapt.

What does all of this have to do with how well you can or cannot move? The fact that you have pain or not? Why it flares up?

Let’s explore this (new) information and try to answer those questions.

And … simple things you can learn to do throughout the day, that might help.

First, Pay Attention

The Problem

Why is it you sometimes need to visit a doctor, chiro, physical therapist, massage therapist, etc. time and time again for the same problem? They adjust you, work with you in a manner that seems to provide relief but within a few weeks or months, you’re back in their office again. I have been to them all and credit is due in helping with immediate pain or to fix something.

Sometimes it works long term.

Sometimes, only temporarily.

I want to speak to the temporary fix.

Until you figure out what’s creating the problem, it will likely return.

For example, if you are overweight you understand that eating too much, moving too little or a combination of both is creating the problem.  You can go on different types of diets, you might do a fast, you might work out for the first two months in the New Year but if you don’t change those first two factors, over the long term your body’s weight remains the same.

You’re experiencing pain. Not able to move well. Feeling restricted perhaps in what you’re trying to do or you may be the type to just power through, get an ‘adjustment’, chow down on ibuprofen for months on end … but until you learn what’s creating the problem you won’t find long-term change or well-being.

If you suffer from an addiction, you may quit ‘the addiction’ but it will probably show up again and again unless you figure out what lies beneath.

The weight, the pain, the addiction … and so it goes …

The problem is (and we all know this) if you keep doing the same thing you end up with the same result.

Pay AttentionHowever, if you can first, pay attention you will actually learn to sense, see and feel signals your body provides that can guide you to what’s below your current level of awareness or understanding. Those signals are signposts that can lead to healing and wellness.

It’s not easy to do but with practice, information and support, we can most often, figure it out.

Do you feel stuck?

babies
It used to be so easy

Look at a baby or a young child for a few moments and you’ll notice they make all kinds of movements, in all kinds of ways.  I watched a video yesterday and thought back to the crazy, wild, wonderful things we did as kids with no thought or consideration about how to move our bodies.

Look at old or aging people and what do you notice? I suspect it would be unsteadiness, stiffness, feet shuffling, bending or moving with great care.  For me, the word rigidity comes to mind.

Rigidity – Not able to be bent easily, not easily changed, not willing to change opinions or behavior.

What happened between then and now, new and old?  What does the future look like in terms of your body’s ability to get around in the world?

Today I noticed a question on a Facebook site, “If there was one thing you could change about yoga what would it be?”  

One of the responses was “Having people talk about flexibility the moment I mention I teach yoga.”

Flexible – able to change or be changed easily according to the situation; able to bend or be bent easily without breaking.

You could also add – the ability to be easily modified, willingness to change or compromise.

People always link yoga with flexibility which can be true. I want you to think of flexibility, however, in a slightly different context than the ‘bendy’ flexible yogi.

You don’t need to have a ‘bendy’ body to do yoga or live your life. (In fact, those who tend to be bendy or hypermobile might best be served in learning to stabilize and strengthen.) However, you DO want to be able to manage the task at hand, whatever that might be for you personally.

You want to have options, multiple ways of navigating rather than narrow lines, restrictions, or rigidity.

How can you do this?  How do you go from feeling stuck to feeling flexible in this context?

That you have options in your body, in your life?

Follow along… and we’ll find a way to bridge the gap.

(To receive future blog posts, please scroll to the top of the page and on the right-hand side click the FOLLOW button)

 

What I Know For Sure

What I continue to learn is we really can’t be absolutely sure, about any of this. But, stay with me …

uncertainty-is-an-uncomfortable-position-but-certainty-is-an-absurd-one-quote-1

As soon as I discover something to share or write about on a blog post, it may soon be out of date. Though research leads us in the most reliable way we know at any one time, it’s only as good as the next study. Knowledge changes, books get re-written.

There is the constant discovery of what we thought we knew, what we’re now learning and what’s yet to come. As in life itself.

As I stated before, pain is indeed very complex. I’m not sure anyone knows with certainty what causes and therefore eliminates back pain, for instance. But I have seen it dissipate almost immediately and over time for those who once believed it cannot, or never will.

For me personally? Today’s x-rays and ultrasounds will likely show arthritis and chronic inflammation / plantar fasciitis still exist in my feet. I do know, however, that my feet (legs and hips) have dramatically changed by working with awareness, changing movements and therefore re-patterning my nervous system over a relatively short period of time. That, and a whole host of other changes to sacroiliac (SI) joint pain which no longer exists, shoulder impingement being resolved and hip bursitis… almost there on it as well.

So where does this lead me, or you, or anyone else?

Are you resigned to thinking it ‘just has to be’ this way?

What is it you REALLY want to be able to do?

Many people I speak with and work alongside are/were just like me and don’t know what information or skills they can learn and use to help them move better, sleep better, feel better.

We’ll explore these together.

5 Posts to Read First

new_start_here

Thanks for dropping by!

If you’re someone who’s looking to create better health and wellbeing for yourself or others, you’re in the right place. I provide information, resources and tools that are simple and doable by anyone, anywhere and at any stage in life.

Why yoga?

Yoga is unique as it helps to focus your attention. You learn to notice, sense and see what might benefit you in terms moving towards long-term health and healing.

Start by reading these posts first:

1. Do you feel stuck?

bigstock-Businessman-Over-Stretched-66353926-760x505

Look at a baby or a young child for a few moments and you’ll notice they make all kinds of movements, in all kinds of ways.  I watched a video yesterday and thought back to the crazy, wild, wonderful things we did as kids with no thought or consideration about how to move our bodies.

Look at old or aging people and what do you notice? …

(click here to continue reading)

2. First, Pay Attention

Pay Attention

Why is it you sometimes need to visit a doctor, chiro, physical therapist, massage therapist, etc. time and time again for the same problem? They adjust you, work with you in a manner that seems to provide relief but within a few weeks or months, you’re back in their office again. I have been to them all and credit is due in helping with immediate pain or to fix something.

Sometimes it works long term.

Sometimes, only temporarily.

I want to speak to the temporary fix……

(click here to continue reading).

3. It turns out – we are adaptable

brain

The most fascinating thing I’ve learned about the human body is we are adaptable. I think my brother, the evolutionary biologist, would be happy to hear me say that.

Tissue can change.

Our brain can change.

(click here to continue reading).

4. Change the brain, the nervous system, the body

One of the most important changes in the last 14 years or so is the emerging field of neuroplasticity.

neuroplasticity-and-technology-4-728

Years ago, when our kids were little, I recall speaking with my cousin who has a degree in psychology. We spoke about the development of children and she told me how important it was to interact with them, stimulate them, provide them with challenges. The reason being, that “scientists once thought that the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life. ….

(click here to continue reading).

5. What I Know For Sure

What I also continue to learn is we really can’t be absolutely sure, about any of this. But, stay with me …

uncertainty-is-an-uncomfortable-position-but-certainty-is-an-absurd-one-quote-1

As soon as I discover something to share or write about on a blog post, it may soon be out of date. Though research leads us in the most reliable way we know at any one time, it’s only as good as the next study that proves it is slightly different than we first thought (see neuroplasticity).

There is constant change in what we thought we knew, what we’re now learning and what’s yet to come.

(click here to continue reading).