Not Your True Self?

When we allow space, surrender all thought and just be deliciously conscious, that is when we restore balance. That fleeting moment is where we feel calm, hope and bliss. It’s where we find our true self and connection to our Source.

I have never been a birthday person, or a New Year reveler. It’s not that I haven’t tried, I just hate the anti-climax. Somewhere in my life, I came to believe that these occasions are supposed to let you feel connected and special and content. To me they just feel empty. Perhaps this is because I have felt profound connection, not at parties, but in the soft breath of a child or the autumn sun on cold skin. It is a connection with something unseen, indescribable. It is a connection with belonging and a joy so huge that the heart can’t contain it and words can’t portray it. It is a connection with consciousness, a space in all the emotional noise and busy-ness of life, where you find yourself wishing you could hold THIS moment, THIS feeling, forever.  It is a space where the world stops, just for a moment so that you can just be.

We are constantly searching for connection. We buy what we don’t want, or like, in an attempt to feel in, to connect. We drag ourselves to work and spend weekends travelling to some destination for yet another party or gathering, afraid of what we may miss if we’re not there.

Are you afraid to stop? Afraid of what you might find in the space you have created? Do you fill the spaces with TV, Facebook, music, children, friends, busy-ness? Have you ever allowed space? Who are you? What makes you, you? What do you love? What do you believe and what is important to you? Are these thoughts and feelings yours, or are you wearing them, like cast offs borrowed from the world around you, forgetting that you never chose them for yourself?

Allow yourself space. Connect with yourself. Think about who you are and who you want to be.  Take time to be in the moment, fully in the moment. Find the magic of connection, feed your soul and say hello to you. If you don’t like who you find, then change. We CAN choose who and what we want to be, what makes us happy and why. Start embracing change today, one small step at a time. Change your hair, use a new word or sit in a different chair. When we are stuck in the same routine, we are closed to all the glorious options available to us in this life.

Take that deep breath, today, change something small and keep moving.

The Shape of your Cup

Winter is on its way, the season of snugly, warm jerseys, thick socks and layers of loose clothes which allow me to let my tummy hang out without anyone being able to see it. It is a time to curl up on the sofa with a book, to be languid and lazy and self-indulgent. The importance of building our energy for the distant seasons of spring and summer cannot be denied, but there is a price to be paid if we are not careful. The curling up, the sitting, the bending of our elbows and knees to conserve heat, inevitably results in feelings of tightness which gets worse with age. So what exactly causes these rusted feelings?

In a word… fascia, also known as connective tissue. My favourite analogy is that of an orange. The orange has its skin on the outside and segments on the inside. Each segment is divided into tiny cells filled with the delicious nectar we call orange juice. In a way, we are not too different from an orange. We too have skin on the outside. Inside we have our fascia or connective tissue. Instead of thinking of your muscles and bones being connected by fascia, think of fascia as the pockets which contain every muscle, nerve, bone and organ, much like the cells of an orange. Fascia quite literally gives the cup that is us, shape. Over years we all take on a distinctive shape, depending on our perception of our environment, our habits and our lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, involving long periods of sitting in front of a computer or behind the steering wheel of a car, will result in tightening and thickening of the fascia. This feels like you are wearing clothes which are a size or two too small. The clothing restricts your movement so that you can’t quite reach those shoe laces and your clothes cut into you and block you from reaching the top shelf. The more frequently you adopt a particular position, the more permanent that shape will become. Your muscles are encased in fascia so if the fascia is tight, the muscle cannot stretch to its full potential. The sensations you feel when stretching, the rusted feelings, come not from muscle, but from the fascia.

Unlike an inanimate cup, your fascia is very much alive and constantly remodels itself. It has far more proprioceptors than muscle and it can react to a threat five times faster than the nervous system. It is the fascia which causes us to pull away from the pain of a needle prick or to brace when we trip. We literally pull ourselves together under stress, tightening the fascia as we go into the fight or flight response to danger, real or perceived. Fascia is a continuous web, much like a spider web, which distorts when one part is pulled. Like a spider web, restriction in one part of the fascia affects the whole web and may result in pain or discomfort somewhere else in the body.

As you know, it is impossible to separate the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our being. Fascia is no different. I find Rebalancing Deep Tissue massage to help tremendously with physical discomfort. My clients all report feeling better, looser, more comfortable after a massage.  But the fascia also carries and stores emotion and it’s not unusual for the massage to trigger an emotional release which may or may not be the cause of physical discomfort in the body. The combined effect of pressure and touch, together with a safe, warm atmosphere, allows the neurology to relax into a parasympathetic state. Blood pressure will drop, heart rate and respiration slow down and cortisol levels may also drop. You feel relaxed and calm, anxiety levels lower and tension seems to melt away.

When it comes to lowering stress levels this winter, Rebalancing Deep Tissue Massage is a wonderful option, no matter what the shape of your cup or the weather outside.

Until next time, and for the sake of your fascia… Keep Moving.

The Brain in my Pocket

I was listening to a chat on the radio this morning, about how dependent we have become on our devices. We no longer have to remember phone numbers or addresses. Facebook reminds us of birthdays and our trusty phones have reminders set for everything from the morning alarm to the hair appointment. It’s like keeping my brain in my pocket.
Our lives are so different to when I was a child. I had a telephone directory in my head. It was so easy to remember telephone numbers. There was no need to write them down, I just committed them to memory and there they were when I needed them. Snail mail meant everyone had an address with a postal code. I wrote many letters and always knew the addresses and postal codes. My head was a sponge that soaked up information and my filing system was efficient, so recall was quick and easy.
Today, listening to the radio it dawned on me how lazy I have become with my brain. I could justify this by saying that I am older, it’s natural to be more forgetful. After all, this is what we are told by society. It’s our go-to for all ailments… remember dear, you are older now. What a lovely excuse for being less than we used to be. I don’t want to be less, at least not yet. I work hard to maintain a level of physical fitness and I eat a clean diet of whole foods. I drink water and try to get outside regularly for a dose of vitamin D and some fresh air.
Everyone knows that to be fit takes constant training. What we don’t use, we lose and physical fitness really shows us this. If I get a cold and stop training for just two weeks and it feels like I am back to square one. Perhaps we should be seeing our brain as a muscle which needs constant training. So here is a controversial question… is “dementia” always a thing or can it be that we are forgetting things because we stop using our brains so they get “unfit” and don’t work as well as before? What we don’t use, we lose.
As a Pilates instructor, I see the effect of Pilates on the body and the brain. The brain’s primary job is to run the body. It controls everything from breath and heartbeat to how we move and what we do. Mostly we do all of this sub-consciously. Pilates is what I call prescribed movement. I am asking you to move in a specific way with specific muscles. In the beginning people really struggle with this, there is a war between what I am asking and what the brain wants to do. It’s a long way from the brain to the feet and I notice people lose their connection with their feet first, as though the brain’s field of influence is “shrinking back” towards the head. This improves with time but the minute you go off shoe shopping in your head, stop being there in the room, inside your body with your thoughts, that is when you end up using your back or doing the wrong exercise.
I believe that conscious movement, moving with conscious intent and staying conscious of my thoughts, is the best way to keep my brain and my body connected, healthy and alive. When I allow myself to run on autopilot, I am keeping myself small, staying on old neural pathways. Staying conscious and adding variety to my day by doing things differently means I am building new neural pathways. I like to think of it as brain training. So here is a challenge to do things differently… Let’s work harder to remember the date and what our schedule is for the day, so that when that reminder pings in our pocket we know what it is for and we are way ahead of it.

Until next time, be conscious, and keep moving…

Birds of my Mind

Mornings in Barrydale are melodic with the cheery greetings of a variety of birds. The chirps, warbles and tweets of the garden birds compete with the wistful call of distant guinea fowl, roosters crowing and the cry of peacocks. This morning there was an urgent gathering of weavers, sun-birds, bishop birds, doves and a robin in the shrubs below my window. The plants were alive with hopping, chattering birds. I learnt as a child to look closely at these gatherings to see who was causing such a cacophony. It may be a cat, or a mongoose, but could just as well be a snake.

It is a strange feeling, investigating such a gathering. Physically you go into fight and flight with your head telling you to move in one direction, towards the noise, while your legs want to carry you in the opposite direction for fear of finding a snake. Boomslangs and cobras, both very toxic, are common in Barrydale so you find your eyeballs hopping all over the place. Do you look in the bushes or on the ground? You find yourself walking like a chameleon: pick up a foot, wait to check three times where to put your next step, even when you are on the lawn, afraid you may step on a snake. Relief floods the body when you find a fat, furry cat stalking through the flower bed. The worst is when you spot the sleek, scaled ribbon of snake, grateful that you know where it is but flooded by the extra surge of adrenaline which your body kindly supplies for your rapid retreat. There are times when you find nothing, when the gathering of excited birds abruptly adjourns and they fly away to continue with their day. I like to call these twittering gatherings bird parties, though it may be better to call them bird parliaments, as they seem very worked up about what appears to be nothing.

There is a big shift towards conscious living on our planet and we often hear about mindfulness, meditation and the importance of controlling our thoughts. My mind is a part of me, just as my hand or foot is a part of me, but it isn’t all of me. My mind is there to keep me safe, to warn me of danger, even when I can’t see it, like a party of garden birds, chirping and twittering in the bushes. A word, a situation or an event can send my thoughts into frenzy, crowding my head with scenarios and scripts of what I will say, twitters and squawks of warning from the birds of my mind. My neurology cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined so my body goes into fight or flight and I start to do a mental chameleon walk because I know I am going to find a “snake”. I jump to the worst case scenario immediately. My blood chemistry changes as the adrenaline and cortisol feed my need to take on the threat or to run. This happens many times in a day, sometimes for hours but often just for minutes or even just seconds. The birds of my mind may well be right, there may be a snake in the bush but sometimes it is just a fat cat or most often, just a bird party which calms and melts away after a while.

Mindfulness is about knowing the difference between a real threat and a bird party. When I find myself in the metaphysical bushes, hunting a snake, I take a deep breath, centre myself. I thank the birds of my mind for their warnings and then I take control of my thoughts. I decide whether the threat is real or if it is the makings of my imagination and I take appropriate action, facing the threat or dismissing it as the bird party it is. Being mindful, noticing what you are thinking and knowing that you have the ultimate control over what you think, can make the difference between being in a state of constant stress and worry, and staying calm and centred.

Until next time, stay mindful, be conscious and Keep Moving…

Lessons from a Bicycle

How often do we use the saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle”? It is usually used when we need to do something which we haven’t done in ages and it’s meant to portray the idea that once we have learnt something, we never forget how to do it. There is a gentle smugness that comes with this, a confidence born of experience, the evidence of which provides safe, secure feelings. This side of a lesson learnt is so easy and comfortable that we often forget how it felt on the other side, the before side, when we didn’t know how.

Not many of us remember those first attempts at riding a bicycle. We may, if conscious enough, realize the skill it takes when teaching our children to ride. Training wheels have made it easier but before training wheels… We froze with fear, fell, tumbled, wobbled, crashed, kissed the dirt, and landed in rose bushes. Physically we got cut, scraped, bruised, bumped, grazed and sometimes even broke. Emotionally we laughed with nerves, cried with pain, yelled with frustration, giggled with embarrassment and eventually crowed with delight. Throughout this process we were drawn forward by the thrill of what life would be like if we could ride that bicycle. Nothing could distract us from our mission. Our imagination kept us focused on the goal, the rush of wind in our face from our daring speed, the power of being able to drive and control this glorious machine and the freedom it symbolized. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to stay on top of this sensational ride, we had to keep moving. The minute you stopped moving forwards, you fell off, the ride ended and so did the rush.

As we grow older we hang up the bicycle and forget the lessons it teaches us. We get so caught up in our fear of learning new things that we deny ourselves the dream. We see the cuts and bruises, the grazes and the breaks. We imagine the frustration, humiliation, pain and embarrassment we will feel if we fail or don’t “get it” quickly enough.  We convince ourselves that it is not worth the effort to change because we have forgotten that the other side of learning, the “I did it” side, holds the reward of the rush, the power, the control. So we stay where we are, sitting on a wall, feet dangling while we watch others on their “bicycle of life”. We envy them, what they have, how much fun they are having and we wallow in our misery. We see only their rush, not their tumbles, and we grumble that they have it so easy. We convince ourselves we can’t do it, give ourselves really good reasons why it won’t work, satisfying ourselves that it is beyond our control, so not our responsibility even to try. We stay stuck.

Habits are patterns of behaviour which keep us feeling safe. But habits also keep us living the same day over and over again. If you want a better more fulfilling life you need to do things differently. You need to learn new ways of doing things. We can only grow through change, because let’s face it, you cannot grow and stay the same, they are flip sides of the coin, like light and dark, speeding and standing still. Make each day different by doing small things differently. Walk a different route, drink from a different cup, sit in a different chair. Your quest doesn’t have to be as huge as learning to ride a bicycle. You can start with small steps, one small change every day.

Decide what it is you want and keep focused on the ride, the rush of achievement.  When you tumble or land in a rosebush, get up and keep trying. Remember that if you want to reach your goal, if you want to feel the wind in your face as you ride down new roads, you will have to learn, change, grow and always keep moving…

New Beginnings

At the beginning of each New Year, I like to set up a plan for the year. What do I want to learn? Where do I want to go and how can I make this year better than the last?

Before we know it, the year sweeps us off our feet and we are thrown into the frenzy of life, treading the same familiar path as before, unless we plan otherwise. We call these plans Resolutions, and we all know how those good intentions dissolve in the hot summer sun.  We start out really well but then the Peanut Gallery of your mind gets involved and everything unravels.

Your mind is part of you, but it’s not you. That Peanut Gallery of conversation which you hold with yourself is there to keep you safe but it rarely is supportive. On the second day of your new fitness routine, the Peanuts start to discuss the merits of starting slowly. Perhaps I should take tomorrow off so that I don’t get too stiff. Next Monday would be a good day to start again. But on Monday you are still a tiny bit stiff so the Peanuts suggest starting tomorrow. The days go by and the resolution is starting to fade. This is when the Peanuts suggest starting in February…

Being aware of what you are thinking is key to maintaining momentum with the changes you want to make in your life. The thoughts are just bubbles of information and you do not have to listen to them. When an unsupportive thought happens, consider it and then decide if you are going to follow the Peanut Gallery or take back your power with a more supportive thought. You always have the choice. The Peanuts will try to convince you that you must eat that piece of cake because it will be the last one for a long time. Really? When it comes to curbing food temptations, I find that telling myself “Not this time” really helps.  I am not giving anything up forever, just in this moment. Next time I get to choose again. Practice makes perfect and practicing making good choices makes it easier to choose well in future.

So my wish for you for this year is that you may be aware of what you are thinking, that you have the power to make good choices and that your resolutions bring about the changes you desire.

Happy 2019. Until next time, Keep Moving…

True Colours

As a child, I loved a new pack of crayons or Koki pens. The potential of those unused, pristine colours was inspiring and I felt compelled to test each colour to see how it looked on the paper. There were usually eight or sometimes twelve colours in a pack. I remember once receiving a pack of twenty five colours! Glorious, wonderful variations of green and peach, lilac and tan, colours I had never had before. Each colour was unique and beautiful and I loved that. There was a feeling of let down and disappointment when two colours, though different in their outer wrapping, proved to be the same on paper. I felt cheated.

So why is it that as humans we strive so hard to be like others? We want to look like others, dress as others dress, have what others have. We are so afraid to own our style and uniqueness. We judge ourselves against others and what others will think of us and our work. That age old fear of failure, of not being good enough, is lurking in the depths of us all. It limits us, curbs our potential. We try to emulate others by doing as they do and so we fail because we cannot be what we are not. An orange crayon can’t be blue. It can only be orange, glorious in its own right with its own unique potential. Just think how orange turns the sky from summer-day blue, to a vibrant sunset.  Because we judge ourselves to be “less than”, we think others will think the same. We rob the world of our own unique contribution and we cheat ourselves of our sunset potential.

Each and every one of us has a purpose for being here, one which only we can fulfil. Do we not owe it to the world to do whatever it takes to find our unique colour and add it to the box of crayons? What drives you? What do you love? Do you love something because it stirs your soul or because a significant other loves it? Do you love something but pretend not to for fear of judgement or ridicule? Own you, be you, love you and don’t be so quick to judge. Self-judgement disempowers you and steals your gifts from the world just as a box full of only red crayons steals the delight of a child. Draw what you love, film what you love, do what you love. If you HAVE to have a fear, which you don’t, let it be a fear of NOT. Not saying your say, Not showing your idea of beautiful, Not sharing what makes your soul sing.

From this moment on, make a deal with yourself to pick your colour, love it, flaunt it and never hide it in favour of another. Being you will only deepen and enrich your colour, so find more that is you, grow and learn and Keep Moving…

Life de-‘FINE’d

Everyone knows it’s not cool to complain so we speak in code instead. You bump into a friend and exchange greetings. “How are you?”  How often do you use the word FINE to convey the politically correct, seemingly all happy response? FINE can mean many things, but it rarely means fine; the dictionary definition of the word which is…  “quite well or satisfactory, in a good, acceptable or comfortable condition” (Encarta Dictionary).

If you have just come from unsuccessfully trying to query your municipal account, you are probably feeling Flippin’ Irate, Nettled and Explosive. But we don’t generally feel this way all the time. A new Mum may be Feeling Isolated, Near tears and Exhausted while someone who has started their own business may be buried in Filing, Invoicing, Networking and Excel sheets. Someone who suffers from depression may find themselves Feeling Ignored, Negated and Exiled. Many of us are trying to lose weight but when we are not coping with life, and when we are feeling Flipping Insecure Neurotic and Emotional, we Feel an Intense Need to Eat.

You may argue that it’s OK to say FINE, that maybe you are having a good day. Wouldn’t it be better to say “I feel amazing, thank you”, fantastic, glorious, awesome, inspired perhaps? This is what I call a “Quick Fix” for your toolbox. Just saying these words puts a spark in your day and a little more spring in your step. It lifts your spirits and those of the people you meet. We are so serious and so afraid to be happy lest we shine too brightly. Happiness is contagious, or so the saying goes, but I find that heavier emotions like worry and doubt seem to poison a room so quickly. Happiness dissolves like mist in the morning sun and gloom descends. Everyone is FINE. Work is FINE. School is FINE.

Next time you catch yourself using FINE to define your day, figure out what it stands for and then choose a better word, one which uplifts and inspires you. We make our lives what they are. We choose the narrative. So make your life a better one by choosing better words.

If you find your life to be FINE and you don’t seem to be able to lift yourself to brighter things, contact me and we can set up a free session to help you define what is missing and how to move forward and Keep Moving.

Healthy Hips, Healthy Life

Many things affect the health of our hips and today, more and more people are living with hip pain and hip replacements. Are we destined to crumble at the hips or is there something we can do to keep these joints healthy? Can we really take our health into our own hands and have a say in how we age. I believe we can.

It is easy to fear what we don’t understand and fear stops us from thinking clearly. We are led to believe that we have no control over what happens to our body. We grow old, we get sick or break and then we die. We don’t understand how the body works.  So, let’s make it simple, less scary… I like to think of the body as a bag of skin filled with sticks (our bones) and elastics (our muscles). Our body works on a supply and demand principle. What we need, we will absorb and what we don’t need gets flushed from the system. One of the first places where osteoporosis develops is in the hips and pelvis. The more we sit and drive, the less we use our muscles. And the less we use the muscles the less they pull on the bones to which they are attached. If the bones aren’t pulled on, then they don’t need to be strong so the body won’t absorb calcium that it doesn’t need, even if you are taking calcium supplements regularly. Walking is a fantastic way to keep the bones strong and healthy. The gentle impact and weight bearing both serve to stimulate the need for strong bones. But walking doesn’t use all the hip muscles and getting to some of them requires internal and external rotations which are not part of our daily movements. In my Conscious Movement classes we focus a lot on hips; rotating the bones of the hips in their sockets, moving the pelvis in all ranges and weight bearing on one or both legs. We stimulate the proprioceptors in the hips (which tell your brain where you are in space) to help with balance and we do Rhythmic Movement Training exercises to address reflex integration. I find that my regular clients are strong and healthy. Even when things go wrong, because life happens and gravity sucks, most of the time my clients have returned to class with bruises and a tale to tell rather than pins and plates and screws. When you work your joints regularly and move your bones in unusual ways, you find that you have more bounce and less snap.

Age is not a number; it’s a state of being. And you always have a choice. If you want to have less snap and more bounce, you have to Keep Moving…

Chocolate or Vanilla

Imagine baking a delicious, chocolate cake. You would need cocoa and chocolate and all the other yummy things which make a cake chocolate. Now imagine that you bake a chocolate cake every week. After a while you start to get bored with chocolate cake and decide you would like a vanilla cake for a change. You gather all your delicious chocolate ingredients, mix them together and put the cake in the oven to bake. You have heard about the power of positive thinking, so while your cake bakes you focus on it being a delicious, vanilla cake. You smell the vanilla, you taste the vanilla, you see the delicate pale cake in your minds eye. Imagine your disappointment when a chocolate cake emerges from the oven. “So much for positive thinking,” you think to yourself. But people tell you to persevere, so you do, week after week, and it’s always a chocolate cake.
This is how we live our lives, always doing the same things, and expecting life to get better. You need to go back and look at how you are doing life. What are your ingredients? Make a new list of ingredients and then bravely mix a different cake. It may take some trial and error, some flops and failures, but you will get there if you keep trying. When you invent a new recipe for your cake, you will need to look back at the last attempt and see how it can be improved. Or will you get wrapped up in the misery of failure and go back to baking a chocolate cake, all the time complaining about how unlucky you are and how miserable life is when all you can bake is chocolate cake.
Failures are only bad when we ignore the opportunities they offer us to learn and improve. Positive thinking alone is not worth much when we keep doing the same things in the same way. If you want a different life, you need to do life differently. Being positive changes your perspective but you have to take action to initiate change. Here is a challenge to get you started… Choose one thing which your inner voice tells you to start doing but you don’t. Or one thing which you know you need to stop doing and don’t, you just ignore it, you put it off for another day.
Make that day today. Do it, tick it off, get it done. By doing one thing differently you will have changed the recipe of your life. Just like using vanilla in a cake instead of cocoa. Life is a really big cake with lots and lots of ingredients, but if you change it just a little every day, it will be quite different in a month or a year.
It just takes one change to break the inertia. After that it will be easier to keep moving…