Dentists, long journeys, work, life. The pause.

sculpture – National Gallery of Canada

A half hour in a dentist chair or a 6 hour drive. Both feel about the same to me.

Why might that be?

Though dentist chairs these days are made to be pretty comfortable, the tension, breath holding that goes on there, remains. At least for me, it does.

A 6 hour drive? Well, though probably not tense I sure can’t move around very much. And for someone with really long legs the cramped space and low seat really does me in.

Now imagine you’re at work, sitting with your laptop in front of you, working on a project that has you so engaged you don’t notice how 4 hours has passed. Or maybe 6 hours. Since you … literally … moved. When you do finally move or stand up your back, neck and shoulders are complaining. A whole lot. You might say to yourself, “ach, this back. Acting up again. When will this pain go away? Probably never. It’s always there, always going to get worse as the years go by.”

Or a similar scenario, but maybe your supervisor is breathing down your back. “Get me those numbers! Why aren’t you finished already? You know how important this is… why is it taking you so long?” I can well imagine those back, neck, shoulder muscles are having a say in how you’re feeling throughout your day, as well.

You might even find it hard to breathe at times. Do you even notice that happening?

What stresses might you have in a day? Why do we call it stress, anyways? Might it be this ‘stresses’ your body, as well as your mind?

What are those little niggly things creating sensations in your body that you’re not really aware of? Not listening to. Paying attention to.

Maybe it’s not the tension, tightness, pucker, hold-your-breath, kind of stress.

It might be more subtle. The slight contraction of your jaw muscles. Shoulders lifting ever so slightly as the minutes are tick, tick, tick, moving along. The gripping of your toes, or perhaps your butt muscles.

What consequences might these create in your body over long – periods – of – time?

This is not to say that all stress is bad. We need to stress the body. That’s why people hit the gym, run for miles on end, love – love – love a sweaty yoga class. Stress can be a good thing. Create a good feeling.

What we don’t want however, is the long – slow – drip by drip – neverending – periods – of – stress.

I bet you notice the BIG periods of stress in your life. Maybe what’s happening right now, for instance. The little, or more subtle ones? Likely not so much.

And if we begin to notice, what might we do to move out of this stress state? Do we have the flexibility, variability to do so?

Pause.

Notice.

Respond.

Repeat. Over and over.

Can we shift, from one state to another? Might we even begin to notice our ‘state of being’?

Difficult. Maybe if we slow down, find some stillness, time or space. Find that pause.

New! Begins May 4th…

A 4-week Workshop to notice what’s ‘Just Right, For You’.

It might feel good to move it!

Anxiety. Worry. Stress. Fear.

These are uncertain times and so many are feeling vulnerable, whether it’s about health, financial security or so many other concerns.

And yes, there are times when it’s helpful to quiet the mind, tame the thoughts, seek some silence, stillness and perhaps peace in all the chaos.

However, that isn’t always helpful. Doesn’t always work.

I know myself when I am stressed what helps me most is to move. Yes, I start cleaning my house when wound up, upset, feeling anxious, or stressed. There is something about burning off energy that might help to bring some space for quiet, relaxation, peace when you’re done. It might help you sleep. Maybe calm your nervous system. After all, when we are in crisis or feel threatened the nervous system is all about getting your attention, mobilization, preparing for action that might be required.

What might be helpful for you? Below are a few ideas, you might like to try:

  • Put on some loud, upbeat music and move in some way.
  • Dance.
  • Clean. Get at those windows and at the same time get some fresh air when you’re opening them or stepping outside.
  • Practice yoga, tai chi, whatever floats your boat.
  • Lift some weights.
  • Get on that ‘dust collector’ piece of exercise equipment sitting in your house and expend some of that nervous energy.
  • If you’ve got a few extra pantry items that you seemingly stocked up with, bake.
  • Cook.

Let me know how it goes. I know after working at my desk today, I am feeling the need to get up and move it!

Take good care of yourself (and others).

**If you’re feeling distressed, please be sure to reach out to a local resource. For those in Ottawa, call the Ottawa Distress Line

613-238-3311

Just, … breathe

People often sit at their desk, laptop, TV, or plugged into a smartphone with their earphones in. Listening to music, podcasts, videos on YouTube, working, or whatever.

As an experiment, the next time you put your earphones on, don’t ‘listen’ to anything except your breath.

It may not be as noticeable if you’re on the bus, driving, in an airport or a similar noisy environment. But, still, I think you’ll find it to be … telling.

How are you breathing?

Are you breathing fluidly?

Is there equanimity on the inhale and exhale. Or is one shorter or longer than the other?

A pause in between may be good. But do you find that you’ve actually stopped breathing? As in not breathing altogether of course, but that your breathing is not fluid. Easy. Continuous. That there is a long pause, perhaps, between the two. That you fail to begin the inhale, until long after the exhale.

  • Why might that be?
  • How do your neck muscles feel, while you’re noticing ‘this’ breath?
  • How does your torso or trunk feel?
  • How does your abdomen/belly feel?
  • Do you notice or feel anything at all?
  • Do you sense anything?
  • What might this noticing, this awareness tell you?

In the meantime, try this.

Inhale, and exhale, along with the shape below.  Expansion, contraction.

breath

I’m curious to hear of your experience.

I can say for sure, I noticed a few things about my own breathing patterns.

When there is quiet, what do I hear?

(Though we’re in the midst of a cold winter, I find I can ‘listen’ more clearly to my breath when swimming or floating in water, similar to listening with earphones in as above. Or if I submerge myself in bathwater. So choose what’s best for you, whatever might be your season.)

Please feel free to comment, in the space below.

 

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.

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 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.  If we are trying to re-train flexibility or just movement 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. We can even begin by just imagining movement and still create changes in the brain and our nervous system. So we can, really, start anywhere.

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!

We are adaptable

Tissue can change. Your brain can change.

brain

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

Pain science

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

You may see some awful looking images on an 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

Neuroplasticity

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

This is revolutionary in terms of we can keep learning, and also how we can change behavior and adapt.  Most important, how your pain can change.

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

Explore this (somewhat new) information and learn simple things you can use throughout your day that are most likely to help, according to the latest research.