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.

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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.

 

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.

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

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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?

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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).