The One Relationship that Lasts Your Whole Life.......

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Relationship with your body is the one relationship that lasts your whole life.

Relationships affect us on a daily basis, and most of us pay attention to how we relate to our family, our spouse or partner, our friends, colleagues and pretty much everyone come into contact with. But how many of us prioritize our relationship with our own body?

Our bodies are amazing!

When I look back on the abuse I put my body through, especially in my late teens and 20’s, with too much partying, not enough sleep, probably enough exercise and certainly no thought, I am sometimes amazed at how good my health is now. But our body is designed to be healthy, and designed to recover from trauma and injury be it accidental or self-infliecte. Anyone who remembers SuperSize Me, knows that healing is possible.

But as I grow older, it has made me reflect on how little I paid attention and what the consequences of not looking after my body, compared to now.

What does it mean to “have a relationship with my body?”

You can have several different kinds of relationships with your body including:

  • Conflictual – I want to do something but my body lets me down, or I judge my body, it’s the wrong shape or size, it disappoints me

  • Distant – I ignore my body, I don’t listen to it’s signals, I don’t honour my body’s needs such as basics like nutritious food, exercise, sunlight, rest and instead power through with mental energy

  • Congruent – I recognize that there is wisdom, information, inner guidance and knowing and I listen to my inner voice and act respond

It’s not like you have to listen all the time, but most of the time would be a good idea. We all have times when our body let’s us down a bit, or we ignore the call from our body to do something different like take a break. But if you want to be the best you can be, there is a lot to be said for having a congruent relationship with your body.

Many still follow the old thinking that body and mind are separate, yet without a body the mind has no where to go. How do you relate to your body and does anything need to change?

If you want to change and improve your relationship to your body, you can explore your relationship with your body through our Somato Respiratory Integration workshops and with Network Spinal Analysis, our chiropractic approach.

How Fear Affects Your Body and What to do about it

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Whether you’re pro-Brexit or against, the reporting in the media seems to be creating so much fear in people currently. And it’s showing up in people’s bodies and in their language in ways that I’ve not seen for a long time.

So how do you know you’re affected? What are the signs that you’re more fearful than normal?

When I talk to my clients and also observe how their bodies are, I’m observing several things currently.

  1. More people seem close to tears than normal
    Notice if you are more easily upset that normal. Do you feel like crying, when you'r logical brain says there is no reason to.

  2. Old symptoms seem to be coming back for no reason
    If you can’t explain your pain, it is probably because you’re tensing up unconsciously and “activating your weak spots”.

  3. You can’t switch your brain off at night
    Lots of people are reporting weird dreams, busy brains, thoughts, unexplained worries.

  4. Your Anxiety Levels are Up
    This is the most easily attributable to Brexit. So many people are worried about the uncertainty, about what may never happen, and it’s infectious. It’s like you can catch “fear and worry”.

So what to do?

The first think to do is to observe yourself. Are you more irritable than normal? Are you worrying? Are you fixated on the news? Is your body tense, tight or painful? Is it more so than normal? Are you consciously worrying about Brexit?

The best things I know for releasing tension from your body are:

  1. exercise - something you enjoy

  2. get out in nature

  3. spend time with a friend and consciously talk about things you are interested in and bring you pleasure / avoid people who just want to talk “fear”

  4. watch the news with caution, checking in with how it makes you feel (mind and body)

  5. meditation - great for calming mind and body

  6. somato-respiratory integration (if you don’t know this, come to a Discover workshop)

  7. Get adjusted - NSA Chiropractic helps to take stress out of your body, calming body and mind


Healing from Back Pain - what's the best way?

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This is a question that I get asked quite often, it goes something along the lines of “I still have a bit of sciatica, it’s not massively painful but it wakes me at night sometimes and I don’t know what to do. What would you recommend?”

So I got asked this yesterday, and this is the answer I came up with…..

So pain tells you that something is wrong in your body. Something needs to change, because currently you’re getting messages from your body. The question is - do you need help or can you do it yourself?

What stops you from healing?

That’s what we all want to be able to do. We want a body that is resourceful enough that when we get injured, our body knows what to do and can heal from the injury.

Three questions:

  • Will this go away on it’s own?

  • If not - Can I do this on my own or do I need help?

  • And if I’m going to do it on my own, how do I increase my internal resources so that heal better?

There are three areas that I believe impact on our ability to heal. These are:

  • physical stresses/activities

  • nutritional status

  • mental status

1 Physical Stresses: include so many things. How much we sit, how much we move, any exercise program we do (or don’t do). The important thing to ask are:

  • Do my daily activities aggravate or support healing?

  • Do I need to do more exercise such as stretching, strength work, core work or cardio?

  • Do I need to do less?

If rest is the answer, most people will heal within a few weeks. If symptoms are still there, it’s probably not going to totally go away on it’s own

2 Chemical Stresses

Most people don’t know what I mean when I say this. What I’m talking about is a combination of the nutrition we take in or don’t take in (including foods and supplements) with respect to our bodies needs.

Many of us are deficient in nutrients, not because we eat a bad diet, but because so much of our food is nutrient deficient nowadays. To truly promote healing you need to put healthy fuel in your body. Whether you like it or not, “you are what you eat” rings true.

I find many people with chronic pain that is not healing need to up their anti-oxidants, increase fruit and veg, reduce/remove all processed foods from their diet (these are nearly always inflammatory in nature), reduce alcohol and/or caffeine and to drink more water. Some people improve hugely when they clean up their diet. It may be obvious to you what you are eating and it may be simple to change (though will power required).

3 Mental Status

Now I’m not talking psychiatric conditions here, if you think you have a mental illness you need to talk to a registered medical professional with expertise in this area. What I’m talking about it how you think, and how that impacts on your health.

Many people approach pain with the intention of getting rid of it, numbing it, ignoring it and often have a whole host of negative emotions around it. I believe that you need to listen to your pain, engage with it and work out what needs to change so that it can heal.

At a simple level the first thing that is important is to have goal that is bigger than your pain. For example most people want:

  • less pain

  • sleep without pain

  • sit without pain

  • to be able to do the things I was doing before the pain (yes they want to be exactly how they were just before the pain started)

If you set goals that make you grow and change, your body is usually far better at listening to you, for example:

  • I want to be able to run 3 miles

  • I want to increase my flexibility

  • I want to change my activity levels to support my health

  • I want to feel energized

Look at your internal dialogue. If all you’re saying is “please go away, I feel helpless, I don’t know what do it, why is it happening to me”, something needs to change.

Our SRI workshops can be an excellent starting point to connecting to your pain, finding internal healing resources you didn’t even know existed and reclaiming your personal power with respect to your healing.

And sometimes you can’t do this alone. You need the input from a good chiropractor or similar, who can work with you to get the results you want. If that’s you, give me a call or drop me an email. And if you already work with me, are you doing everything you can to support your body to heal?

Setting Your Health Goals for 2019?

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So January is here. Have you set your New Years Resolutions yet? Are you doing a “dry January”? Have you joined a gym (again) to try and get fit? How are you bringing in the New Year?

Personally, I used to set “resolutions” every year, and then spend January working out how I was going to break them and feeling what really mattered to me. And generally within a few weeks, they’d all be forgotten until the next year.

But what about health resolutions?

Obviously my passion is health and wellbeing. It’s my work, it’s a big part of my life. I spend time outside of work reading research on nutrition, listening to podcasts on the latest research. It’s definitely “more than a job” to me.

A question that comes up for me over and over regarding health is how to achieve my goals around my health. So having talked to many people over several decades about health goals, most of you included, I wanted to remind you of some of the principles that make the biggest difference:

1.       Make sure you state what you want, not what you don’t want!

Do you know how many people write goals along the lines of:

i)                    Lose Weight

ii)                   Get out of pain

iii)                 Stop beating myself up

The problem with this is you’re focusing on losing something, but the brain hears:

i)                    Weight

ii)                   Pain

iii)                 Beating myself up

 

2.       What do I want to be able to do?

So the first thing is to decide what you want, not what you don’t want.

I’ve also found a great way of looking at my health is look at what I want to be able to do. For example personally, I still play hockey at least once a week. To do that and get the most from it I need to be fit, focused, my back needs to be flexible and strong and I need a clear head (because at my age, I cannot play hockey well if I’m fuzzy or hungover).

So what do you want to be able to do? And how does your body need to be to achieve that?

3.       Ask yourself - how do I want to feel/how do I want to think?

Another area I find really helps me to set my goals is to ask this question. Because personally that’s really important for me too? Because true wellness is not just about my physical body, it’s about my emotional state, my mental state and my spirit. So knowing what I want in all of these areas helps.

 I want to feel relaxed, at ease but also energized and motivated. I want to feel happy, satisfied and excited. And I want to make a difference in the lives of others. And to do that, I have to look after my body to the best of my ability so that I have the capacity to give more.

 So ask yourself:

  1.   How do I want to feel? Physically? Emotionally?

  2. What does my mental state need to be like?

  3. Do I have things that are bigger than me that I want to achieve?

 
4.       Participate in achieving your Goals

I personally believe that a healthy functioning nervous system (through a healthy, functioning spine) takes you a long way towards any health goals. And NSA is one approach that will take you a long way in that direction.

I also know that you have to feel self-empowered, which is where the SRI comes in.

But there is more to wellness than NSA and SRI. What you eat, what you think and how much you move/exercise will also make a difference.

So what do you need to do in 2019 to help move you forwards to a better, healthier version of you?

So if there were a recipe for me to achieve my health goals in 2019 it would contain elements of all of the following:

  • Food/nutrition

  • Exercise

  • what I think/emotional state (SRI or other modalities that empower me)

  • regular care of my spine and nervous system (NSA or subluxation based chiropractic)

  • Things I really enjoy doing that bring me pleasure

  • Things that make a difference to others 

Have fun creating a healthy 2019.

How can I help myself heal?

This is a question that comes up on a regular basis in the office, so here are my thoughts.

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There are the things I think of as obvious, which you may or may not have thought of. I’m going to cover 4 areas, so scroll down to whatever interests you most.

  1. What you eat

  2. Exercise

  3. What you think

  4. How you relate to your body - exercises to increase awareness and connection

What you Eat

This is probably not the first place you might go, but it’s important. Depending on what needs to heal in your body, this will vary a bit, but the essence of this is that if you eat good, healthy, nutritional food, your body is better set up for healing.

By that I mean lots of vegetables and fruit, high quality protein and good quality fats (the research is starting to show that saturated fat is not as bad as we thought, the real culprit are trans-fats - which are not real food - such as margarine).

If you are in a lot of pain, you may want to reduce inflammatory foods and drinks from your diet. These include (not exclusive) red meats, wheat/gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods, and caffeine. If you feel you need support on this, find a good nutritional therapist, naturopath or other health professional well trained in nutrition to guide you.

Exercise

Now pain levels can really get in the way of this, but let’s assume your pain is manageable or going. It’s really important to move, because as humans we are designed to move, and most of us don’t move enough.

Find things that you enjoy and also challenge you, but not too much. People often ask me if I prefer yoga or pilates? I actually find it’s a personal choice and very much related to the teacher. So try several classes and find someone you like doing something you enjoy. Because if you don’t enjoy it, it will never become part of your routine unless you have an iron will.

What you Think

How can this help you may be asking. I find people who are totally focused on pain, tend to take longer to heal than people who are focused on what they want to do once they have healed. If all your focus is on what’s wrong with you, you have a different experience of your body than those who focus on what they can do and what they can do next.

Try this. Stand up and observe your body. If you have a sense of energy focus on it. Or observe your posture, how you stand, how you feel. Then say out loud “What’s wrong with me?” and observe your body response. Then say out loud “what’s right with me?”. Observe your body.

Most people notice that the energy goes down on the first question and the posture collapses a bit. On the second question, energy goes up and there is a straightening or expansion of the posture.

There are obviously many more questions you can ask, such as “what would help me most in this moment to heal?”, “what will I do differently as I heal?”. Find your own questions. But be very aware, if your internal dialogue is along the lines of “what’s wrong with me, I’m broken, this is never going to end, I’m doomed, I’ll never heal” - you are not working with your body but against it.

Somato-Respiratory Integration (SRI)

SRI is a body approach that enables you to get more internally resourceful. It is based on the 12 Stages of Healing written by Donny Epstein, which discusses 12 states of human consciousness. Each state has it’s own posture, behaviours and perception or experience of the body.

Many people run their body’s from the first two stages.

Stage 1: Disconnection, helplessness and suffering - we don’t believe we have any control over how our body is, everything happens to us and we feel broken. By using the Stage 1 exercise however, we start to discover internal resources we didn’t know we had. We stop being a victim to whatever happened and find new resources and start to heal. We then move into Stage 2.

Stage 2: Polarity - When we get to this stage we have more energy, enough energy in fact to look for help or to look for someone or something to blame. We often find the “magic healer or chiropractor” in this stage and put all the responsibility on her to fix us. We are still not taking responsibility for our own body, but at least we are doing something about it. We often have a story about why this has happened and are blaming someone or something for our pain and suffering.

Stage 3: Stuckness or Frustration - this is where we get to as we heal a bit more and realise that we are stuck in a pattern. We’ve still been blaming others or circumstance and deep down we know that we have to change inside, because we have something to do with our suffering. Many people at this point fall back into Stage 1 and feel disconnected and suffer, or go big time into blame and get angry and put it all on the therapist, the person who hurt them, or just anyone they can throw their anger at. Because as long as they stay angry and in blame mode, they don’t have to take responsibiltiy for what is happening in their body.

In stage 3 we connect to the patterns within us that have held us in this loop. We engage with our body in a different way. Because we have had enough, and as the energy builds we start to move into Stage 4. Stage 4 is where we start to fully engage and take responsibility for our healing. We know that we have to change, which may mean our diet, our exercise patterns, our outlook on life. We just know that it is time and we are going to do it.

To read more on the 12 Stages click here.

If you want to learn the first three stages (or the higher stages), check the Events page to find out when the next workshop is and book in.

Sleep, why it matters and an interesting tip to help you get to sleep faster..

We all know that getting a good nights sleep is really important. I say it to my clients on a regular basis that we use down time or sleep to recover and recuperate. So what happens when your body isn’t getting enough sleep? What are the potential longer term consequences?

Well they’re not all guaranteed, but your risk factors for all of the following go up if you suffer from insomnia

  • high blood pressure

  • heart disease

  • weight gain – yes weight gain!

  • weight loss – ironically…

  • increased risk of cancer and diabetes

  • lower immune system function

  • constipation and diarrhea

  • blurred vision

  • tension headaches

Some of the things we take for granted can also be affected by poor sleep or lack of sleep including:

  • Inability to Manage Stress – including agitation and overwhelm

  • Irritability or grumpiness

  • Poor concentration and focus

  • Short or long term memory loss

  • Slower reaction times

  • Problems with motor skills or operating machinery

  • Low self esteem

  • More likely to take uncalculated risks

  • Increased risk of addictions

  • Depression

It’s a pretty depressing list isn’t it. Especially if you’re someone who’s looking after yourself in many other ways and the one thing that isn’t sorting itself out is your sleep.

So what can you do to improve your ability to sleep? 

  1. Try to stay awake – a small study from the University of Hertfordshire showed that actually trying to stay awake increased your chance of falling asleep when compared to people who tried to fall asleep

  2. Hide your clock

  3. Cool your room – our temperature drops when we sleep, a cooler room supports this

  4. Have a warm shower, before going into your cooler bedroom

  5. Wear socks – a study showed that warm hands and feet were a predictor of being able to fall asleep

  6. Immerse your face in ice cold water – triggers the Mamalian Dive Reflex lowering heart rate and blood pressure, soothing your system

  7. Scent your bedroom with lavender

  8. Listen to classical music for around 45 mins

  9. Avoid watching television or using electronic devices in the hour before bedtime

  10. Try the 4,7,8 method – championed by Dr. Andrew Weil (see below)

“4,7,8” Method

Championed by best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil—and various wellness bloggers, the “4-7-8” breathing technique is purported to help you fall asleep in under a minute. The method is said to relax you by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, slowing your heart rate, and releasing more carbon dioxide from the lungs. According to DrWeil.com, here’s how you do it:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.

  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

  6. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

So I’d love to know what works for you ? Do share below if you have anything else that really works too.

For some people there is so much stress in their body and their life they need more help. If you’ve tried everything above and more, think about getting your Nervous System and Spine evaluated because the answer may lie there…

What are the 12 Stages of Healing or Human Consciousness

In his book The 12 Stages of Healing, Donald Epstein discusses the 12 stages of human consciousness we go through from a healing perspective. But what are they, and how does each stage impact on your life.

How you experience your body and your world can make a huge difference to your life experiences. We all know the differences between a glass half full person and someone who’s glass is half empty…. There is more depth to these stages, but it is always good to read them and see what rings true for you and what doesn’t. Because if are constantly circulating between stages 1, 2 and 3, progress is a challenge. You may find the resources to make change, but it will probably be a struggle……

Have a look and see what you can relate to….

The 12 Stages of Healing Exercises

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Stage 1: Suffering and Disconnection
When we suffer, nothing works. We feel helpless and most of us will do anything to avoid this feeling. In this stage we learn that there are times when there is nothing we can do, but if we can learn how to connect to our body in those moments we can draw upon resources we didn’t even know we had.

Stage 2: Polarity
When there are things we cannot accept about ourselves, our situation or our life we tend to look for magical solutions or something to blame. This disconnects us from our bodies and our resources. In this stage we learn how to connect to different parts and how to increase our resourcefulness when we feel that things have been done to us or someone else can “fix” us.

Stage 3: Stuck in a Perspective
Ever feel like it doesn’t matter what you do, nothing is ever going to change? In this stage we explore how our mind can hold us in a pattern and how to connect to that part of us that is stuck and limited.

Stage 4: Reclaiming Your Power
There are times in our lives when we realize that something has to change and that something is us. In this stage we recognize how we have given our power away and how it has limited us and we step back into ownership of who we are and what’s possible.

Stage 5: Merging with the Stories
Have you ever told yourself that you just can’t change, that this is how it is or that is has to be and will always be this way? We often limit ourselves with beliefs, and often they’re not even our beliefs, we just picked them up along the way. In this stage we reconnect to that the stories and illusions we have created and start to rewrite our stories in ways that serve us more productively.

Stage 6: Preparing for Resolution
Do you ever feel so ready for change and want to build up the energy even more? In stage 6 we connect to our resources, build energy and get ready to discharge that which no longer serves us.

Stage 7: Resolution
This stage is associated with discharge of the patterns that no longer serve us. Discharge can be noise, screaming, yelling, laughing or muscular moves. It is associated with a sense of accomplishment, peace and inner strength.

Stage 8: Emptiness in Connection
Following discharge we feel empty. But that emptiness if full of potential, full of possibility. We enter a stage of gratitude, vulnerability and connection to possibility. Trust comes naturally and serendipity is a regular occurrence.

Stage 9: Light beyond the Form
We become aware that we are more than just our physical body, and can become aware of the energy flowing within us and around us. Some experience an energetic connection to others. Accompanied by feelings of awe and joy for the process.

Stage 10: Ascent
There is an awareness here that we are not just an intelligent form but we are intelligence itself. Here we transcend the limits of the self, recognizing that we are united with the force of the universe.

Stage 11: Descent
We are renewed beyond our limits and sense of self and enter into the world again. We know that we are part of all we perceive and responsible for what we know. We live without being attached to our situations. We love and serve life and others. We communicate with ourselves and others “through” our wounds instead of “from” them.

Stage 12: Community
We experience our involvement with humanity and recognize that wholeness comes from bringing our gifts of individuality into community. We receive the gifts of individuality, from within ourselves and from others. We recognize that all of our choices are spiritual ones, and affect the entire globe of beings. This occurs in our internal and external communities. Eventually, we recognize that the limits of what we can bring to community stem from our own lack of wholeness. Therefore we seek to re-experience the rhythm of Stage One.

The Benefits of Paying Attention

One of the first questions I ask my clients is what are they aware of during and immediately after a chiropractic adjustment?

Because for most people lots of things will change in their body during and after an adjustment, and research shows that being aware increases sustainability and benefits.

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So what do most people answer in the beginning? 

Most people tell me about their pain – did it go down, did it go up, did it move. And often that’s all they focus on. Some people will say that their breathing got deeper, they feel more relaxed, they felt their pain melt away or their stress melt away. Many people report feeling more relaxed.

I think because most people come for pain or symptoms, that’s what they focus on. So here is a question?

Where in your body do you think you are most resourceful? 

If an area of your spine is locked up and not working very well, or is painful, do you think this area is resourceful and able to self correct? The answer is pretty obviously NO. So if you put all your focus here, do you think it will help you get more resourceful?

Most of spend a lot of time focusing on the part of our body that hurts, that isn’t behaving, that feels like it’s letting us down.

So what about finding some new internal resources? 

What if, instead of focusing on the area that hurts you start to focus on your whole body? You observe how your body moves as you breathe in and out. If you have a sense of energy in the body, observe where it flows and where it is blocked. If somewhere in your body feels really relaxed and good, what do you notice when you focus there?

So many people say – “I only have pain when I stop and pay attention”. So that makes the pain more obvious, but it doesn’t necessarily make them more resourceful. What if you could find areas in your body that are highly resourceful (because we all have them) and focussed on them. How would your whole body feel?

Now not everyone has those skills, but another way of creating some ease in your body is to remember an event or a person that always makes you feel good and focus on that memory for a few minutes. How does that make you feel? Does your breathing deepen? Do you feel your body relax? What changes? Now do the opposite, focus on someone or something that stresses you out? What happens to your breath? Does your body tense up? What changes in your body?

So how do you find more internal resources? 

The best approach I know of is Somato-Respiratoy Integration, so I’m going to share some of the basics of it to start this process of finding internal resources.

Look at the diagram. It shows you where positions 1, 2 and 3 on the body. Find a quiet space and then listen to the recording, which will help you start your journey to better body connection and resourcefulness.

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How to Get Better Faster?

For most people, this is the most important thing about healing. They want to get better as fast as possible, so that they can get on with life. I get it, I’ve been there. Over the years I’ve had a variety of injuries and health challenges, and like almost every one I know, when something goes wrong I want to get better, and I want to get better yesterday.

How well you heal and how fast you heal depends in part on your focus, your intentions and your actions. Let me explain…

First of all, let me give you the example of someone who has low back pain, a common reason for consulting a chiropractor. If this persons main focus is on getting rid of pain, their internal dialogue may run along the lines of:

  • how can I stop this pain?

  • what shall I avoid doing today?

  • what’s wrong with me?

  • why me? It’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong?

  • are their any stronger pills I could take?

Let’s take the same person, but their goal is to run a 10k for charity to raise money for a local hospice, but their back is playing up. Their internal dialogue may be:

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  • what do I need to do to support my healing?

  • Could I run a bit, or maybe just walk? Would that help?

  • Is anything else triggering my back pain? What could I change?

  • How could I change my diet to reduce inflammation in my body to support healing?

  • what’s my body telling me? Why did this pain come on now?

Now your questions may be different again, you may be looking for a solution to a different problem. But look at the kind of questions you ask and ask yourself  the following:

“Does my internal dialogue support me healing or do it make me feel worse or less resourceful?”

The first list of questions in my opinion do nothing to increase resourcefulness. If I read them out loud I feel miserable and I don’t even have any pain currently. When I read the second list I feel uplifted. I feel that more is possible, that I can do things that will help me. It doesn’t mean that everything I do will help me, but anything that I do to get my body in a more resourceful state is going to help.

Are your Goals focused on Gaining something or Losing something? 

It’s much easier to create ease and resourcefulness than it is to get “rid of something” from our body. Because the painful part or negative dialogue exist within us. Our body is designed to heal. We all know that, even if we have lost a bit of hope.

So make your healing goals about what you will do when the symptom goes away or how you want to feel rather than how you don’t want to feel. So many goals are about getting rid of or feeling less. If someone wants less pain, I always ask – and what do you want to replace the pain with once it’s gone? How will your life be different? What will you do differently? How will you treat your friends and family differently? How will you be different at work?

So check-in and remind yourself – why do I want this? You may be surprised at the answers you get….

What healthy people know about spinal function is essential to living well – Part 1

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Most of you will read this because at some point, either now or in the past, you will have suffered with spinal pain. And for many people it comes out of nowhere – or seemingly. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told “I didn’t do anything and now I’m in agony”.

Most people only think of their spine when it hurts. Very few people think about their spine for any other reason, pretty much how we relate to our body. My body is fine as long as everything works. So we put reasonable fuel into our body, exercise to the level that suits us and just hope everything stays ok.

What is the Anatomy of Our Spine?

Your spine is made up of 24 moveable bones called vertebrae and at the bottom you have your sacrum and coccyx, so 26 in total.

How does it form or evolve?

Your spine evolves in utero around the spinal cord. What actually happens is first your nervous system (brain and spinal cord) develop. And then the bones (skull and vertebrae) form around it – to protect the soft sensitive structures that make up our nervous system.

From the spine also form the ribs, and the limbs, which themselves (ribs) protect all of our internal organs, and the limbs allow us to move and function in the world.

What is your Spine’s Job?

Two jobs

  • Keep you upright and in a healthy posture

  • Protect the spinal cord, the superhighway for information flow in your body

So the purpose of your spine is to provide a framework to hold you upright and also to protect the nervous system. Your nervous system is like the internal workings of a computer. It processes everything, yes everything that happens around you and to you and within you and its job is coordinate health within your body to the best of its ability.

Good Posture / healthy body

Whether we like it or not, we judge people within 7 seconds of meeting them. Posture makes a big impression on people and we decide immediately if this person is a threat, if they are weak, are they confident, are they low in self-esteem, are they healthy or are they sick, are they a winner or a loser. So much of this we decide from how people hold themselves or put another way – how people posture.

Molecules of Emotion

It’s interesting that we do this and there is some interesting research that that has some relevance to this. In the 1970’s Dr Candace Pert was doing her post-doc studies and she was looking where we experienced emotions in the body from evaluating the receptor sites for emotional chemicals. Not unsurprisingly she found lots of receptor sites in the brain. But she also went on the prove the Gut Reaction by discovering lots of receptor sites in the gut (we all know that feeling of butterflies….). And from my perspective the most important and least known fact is that she found that the spine had the highest concentrations of receptions for the molecules of emotion. So by changing your posture you can change your mood. Or your mood can change your posture. We all know this to be true at a conscious levels, especially in younger people. You can see who feels bad about themselves, who is bullied and who is angry just by how they hold their body and their spine.

What can you do if your posture is bad?

Many people just accept poor posture as a hazard of aging. Yet when I look around I see poor posture becoming endemic in our younger populations now, in part due to the massive increase in smart phones and technology.

First thing is to become aware. Get a friend to take a photo. And then pay attention to your posture. See what you can do at the gym, by being conscious, by stretching your body and strengthening your body. And for some people that’s all they need to do. If you find your posture is getting progressively worse and appears to be affecting your function, find a good chiropractor and get properly assessed using technology. Then you have a baseline and progress can be measured and evaluated.

Perfect posture of often not possible as we age, but improved posture is almost always possible as spinal function improves and spinal tensions drop.

The Pros and Cons of Positive Thinking

So you’ve probably opened this because you think positive thinking is always good. Yes? Well I’m a big fan of looking on the bright side, I’m a natural optimistic and my glass is nearly always at least half full. But I want to share with you times when positive thinking is not always the answer and another approach could be beneficial.

What do I mean by Positive Thinking? 

If you follow social media or any of the self-help gurus out there there is a lot of encouragement to focus on gratitude, to focus on what you have, to say affirmations like “I am wonderful, I am loving, I am rich…” and so on, the idea being “fake it until you make it”.

Or you get people who say “yes I can see that you have problems, but look at Africa – they have such bigger problems that you.” Or they may say “well you have only have back pain, that poor person has cancer”. The comparison is meant to make you feel better, but does it?

So a good starting point is to try saying some of these statements out loud. I’m a great believer in listening to your body as well as to your mind. After all the more sources of information you have, the better you can make a good decision.

So if you’re having a good week and you say to yourself “I’m fantastic” the chances are your body is going to agree with you. So great. You reinforced what you already knew. But what if you are having a terrible week, maybe your back is playing up, your best friend has just been diagnosed with cancer and you’re concerned you are about to be made redundant. Now try saing “I’m fantastic”. Now for some people that will be the kick they need to refocus, but for many they will hear voices along the lines of “who are you trying to kid? What do you mean fantastic? Well that’s a load of rubbish.” Or you may feel your posture sag, you may notice your energy drop, you may feel despondent in response to fantastic. Whatever your response – it’s not working.

So how can you use Positive Thinking in a Productive/Resourceful Way

Let’s assume your starting point is that you are having a bad day. You are feeling unresourceful, you have low energy and you don’t know how you are going to change this. It may have been going on for a while. And the last thing you need is for someone to tell you to “look on the bright side…..”

So what needs to change?

Put a different way, what is different in you to the person who is having a good day, has loads of energy and has lots of ideas about how to make life even better.

The difference from my perspective is how resourceful they are. They have more energy, more ideas, are more able to change their state to be even better. Whilst you are stuck in a low, unresourceful state.

So how do you increase your resourcefulness?

The secret I’ve discovered over years of working on myself and working with others is you need to find a place in your bodymind where you are already resourceful. You need to find part of you that has the answers. The problem is when you feel low or under resourced is that you are probably focusing on what doesn’t work, rather than looking for what does work. And if you are looking for what does work – you’re looking outside of yourself for the solution. Because much as we like to think that we can think ourselves out of this, many of us can’t. So you need to involve your body in the process.

The exercise I love comes from Somato-Respiratory Integration and is an amazing way of starting to find internal resources so that you can improve your experience of your body and hence your life. Trust me. This exercise is very simple, but simple doesn’t mean ineffective.

So sit in a comfortable chair with your back supported and your spine straight, or lie on your bed/a yoga mat without a pillow under your head so that your spine is straight.

Place your hands on your upper chest palm over palm. Imagine breathing into your hands so that your upper chest moves with the breath. Do this gently, don’t try to force it. Notice if you can keep the breath and movement only in that area. Notice if focusing on that area is easy, makes you feel good, is somewhere you can hold your focus or if actually it’s difficult to stay focused here.

You are going to repeat this on two further positions. The second position is in the middle of your chest where your ribs come together. Pretty much over the solar plexus. The third area is to focus into your navel or belly button.

In each area you are looking for the area that feels the best, makes you feel the best and the area that works for you. You want to be able to focus on that area and have all or most of the breath and movement focused in that area. So if for example when you focus on breathing into the upper chest you find that your belly is moving, then the upper chest probably doesn’t work the best for you.

You’ll probably need to repeat the 3 areas a few times until you find the area that is your best area. This is an area in your body where you have resources. It may be where you have pain, it may also be a totally different area. All three of these spots have been chosen because they feed hugely into your nervous system and can help to change your physiology. So pick there area that you think or feel works the best for you and focus on breathing into that area for 2-3 minutes. Notice how this affects your whole body.

What will you learn from this exercise?

Some people learn that focusing on the body is really difficult and are surprised by how little they can feel. That’s good. If you learn that being aware of your body and your resourcefulness you are one step closer to changing that. If this is you, then I would recommend you spend 5-10 minutes per day focusing into the three areas and observing. You may be surprised how you start to discern differences, and even if you don’t your subconsious will. Simply the exercise of slowing down, focusing on your body will start to change the blood flow in your brain from one of defence to a more resourceful state. And over time (because this can take practice) you will improve.

Some people are amazed because they feel differences between the three positions. For example, they may discover that if they put their hands on their navel and focus that they start to feel more relaxed, they feel more energized, they feel better, but if they put their focus on their chest they feel tight, stressed and anxious. What you feel and where will be individual to you. If you are feeling differences you need to celebrate that you have this ability to discern. And now you are going to make a conscious choice to focus on the area that works. Because focusing on what works will increase your resourcefulness and your energy.

How to Make Un-Resourceful Areas More Resourceful. 

Once you know what works and what doesn’t work you can do this. Firstly breathe 5 or 6 times into the area that feels resourceful and amplify that feeling in your body. Then move your hands to the area that was most challenged and take 2-3 breaths here. Then return to the area that works. Repeat this until your least resourceful area starts to copy the resourceful area. This usually only takes a few minutes.

I personally would repeat this twice a day, until you start to feel more resourceful and then you can decide how often you want to do it.

For more information on this approach, check out our Discover Workshop or 12 Stages of Healing Events. If you’re not local, look for a practitioner of Network Spinal Analysis or Somato-Respiratory Integration (this exercise is the first part of Stage 1 Somato-Respiratory Integration).

So how to make Positive Thining Work for you? 

Quite simple really in my opinion. You need to make sure that it’s not just your mind driving this. If you can connect your body and mind, and truly embody a positive outlook, you will have such a different experience from the person who constantly says “Life is great” when actually life is rubbish…but they are using the declaration as a distraction and not stopping an observing that their body thinks life is rubbish and aint listening to the mind…..

Posture A or Posture B?

Did you know that when you meet someone for the first time you’ve made up your mind about them in the first 7 seconds. If that’s an interview that is probably the time it takes to walk into the room and sit down .

A big part of how we evaluate people is how they hold themselves or put another way, how they posture. Because “posturing” is really how we wear our life through our body. So if someone has had a really tough life and it’s affected them negatively you can often tell by how they hold their body, how they move and how they breathe even. Most people find it easy to spot the child that has been bullied, and also (though not so easy) the child who is likely to bully.

Your nervous system and brain function has a huge impact on your posture

Find out more in this short video we explore this further and talk about what you can do to change

Could Stress be Causing your Back Pain?

So I have this conversation on a regular basis and it goes something like this….

Patient: I just don’t know why the pain suddenly started, I didn’t do anything

Upset Mid adult man in his thirties posing looking down

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Me: Well is anything else happening in your life currently that may be a challenge?
Patient: No, I’ve not changed my routine, I’m still running twice a week and doing yoga – nothing different
Me: What about work? Anything new happening there, any challenges with your boss?
Patient: well actually, I’m on a new project and it’s not going so well….

It could be something as simple as worrying about work, but there are countless emotional and mental triggers that can change your physiology and these can also be a trigger for back pain or other injuries and health challenges.

Let me explain:

Firstly I want you to focus on how you feel when you are worrying about something or you have something on your mind. Notice what happens to your breath. Does it slow down? Is it shallow? Do you feel constricted? Then notice how you hold your body when you focus on this stressor? Anything change? What happens to your energy? Do you feel energized or drained? What about your mood? Does focusing on this make you feel full of life or lacking get up and go?

What happens in your body when you are worrying or stressed about something is fairly predictable though we will all do it in our own unique way with a different emphasis depending on our life experience and conditioning.

A worry or a stress can trigger a fight/flight response in your body because that’s how we are wired. And fight-flight can look like this:

  • tense, tight muscles – ready to run or fight

  • negative thoughts – because you are in danger

  • raised blood pressure – so you can run

  • raised blood sugar – energy source

  • increased stress hormones

  • reduced gut function – because it is not important when you are threatened

  • reduced immune function – because this is about long term survival not short term threat

  • reduced sexual function – again not important if you are in short term danger

If we just explore the tight, tense muscles a bit further. If your tense and tight it will take far less for you to overextend a joint and cause a sprain to the local ligaments. If your spine is under tension because all the spinal muscles have contracted keeping you tense, the discs will be under tension and more vulnerable to injury. If your muscles are already tight and tense and contracted, they are more vulnerable to injury than when you have warmed them up and they are ready to go.

So many of the clients we work with have got injured or sick during periods of emotional or mental stress. Even with some of our existing clients, life can sometimes become overwhelming because they are not able to dissipate all of the tensions building up in their body in response to what is going on for them, so they may re-injure or get sick for a short period of time. The only major difference I see in clients who have worked with us for a while and those who are new, is that the existing ones bounce back so much faster. Both groups recover physically, it’s just healing times are different.

So how is stress affecting you? If you are familiar with Somato-Respiratory Integration you can use it to check in with your body and see how you are coping. If you’re not, I suggest just focusing on your breath for a few moments. What do you notice?

If you think that life stresses are affecting your physical health and want to find out more. Call now to find out how we can help, or book into one of our regular free Intro Talks (details in our Calendar) where we explain in more depth how you can go from stressed to thriving.

How to Correct Poor Posture?

Why is Posture Important?

Most people agree that it’s good to have poor posture.

Good posture helps your body to function better. If your posture is good, you will require less effort and energy

when doing physical tasks. You will have a better mechanical advantage and reduce strain on your body. With good posture you are less likely to fatigue as your body will be working optimally. At another level, others perception of you is affected by your posture. Someone with upright, open posture is often seen as more attractive, more employable and more agreeable than someone who is stooped and closed. Whether we like it or not, we tend to make snap judgements on people and posture comes into that.

Poor posture is associated with a whole host of conditions from depression, to poor heart health and decreased longevity. The state of our posture does affect our qualtity of life.

We tend to accept that as we age our posture will get worse. What’s frightening is we are seeing more and more really poor posture in people as young as 10 or 11. So what’s happening?

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Causes of Poor Posture

The majority of postural problems are related to lifestyle and to life events. There are a few people with spinal deformities, often present from birth, that cannot be reversed but for the majority of us our posture is within our control.

So what causes are posture to collapse?

  • Habits – we may be constantly bent over because of work. We may sit for hours at a computer or use our smart-phone excessively. Whichever one it is, it can create lasting problems which need to be rectified before they become irreversible

  • Psychological factors – our self-esteem can have a big impact on how we posture and present ourselves

  • Degeneration of the spine – we see this more in the elderly, particularly women

  • Spinal pain – leading to muscle guarding and protection, basically a way of avoiding feeling pain and doing further damage

  • Muscle spasm

  • Joint hyper or hypermobility

  • Excess weight – this can put significant pressure on the spine changing the spinal curves and often creating painful areas

  • Poor body awareness or loss of proprioception – the inability to perceive the position of your body

  • Over reliance on a passive support such as a back brace or supportive chair

 

Physiology of Posture

Posture is affected by the following:

  • Vision – because you will constantly adapt to your surroundings to ensure your eyes are aligned to the horizon

  • Proprioception (joint position senses) – which tells you where your body is in space and relative to the environment

  • Vestibular apparatus (in the brain/inner ear) – coordinates balance

  • How you have experienced the world and how your body remembers it – take the bullied child, she/he will have very different posture to the child who has been loved and praised.

The function of your spine has a big impact on all of these. All the messages from your body have to pass through the spine to reach your brain, so if there are distortions or tensions in your spine it can affect this message highway. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen balance and posture improve with chiropractic care. As the spine (or nerve message super highway as I like to think of it) becomes more flexible and clear, it makes sense that function of the nervous system and hence posture would improve.

Furthermore, the dorsal horns of the spinal cord are one of the densest for the receptor sites for emotional chemicals. So poor posture can reinforce negative beliefs and hold people in a less than optimal state.

What can you do about your posture?

  1. Own it: Firstly, be honest. Own your posture. I cannot count the number of times that people have told me their posture is fine, only to use photo analysis to demonstrate how far their posture has deteriorated. Use your smart phone and get a friend to take a picture of you from the side. Take a look. What do you see?
    Once you recognize your postural problems you will be able to start to change it by actively correcting your posture when you notice yourself dropping.

  2. Exercise: When posture if poor we often find that the muscles on the front of the body are short and tight, and those on the back are weak. Many men in the gym focus on biceps and forget triceps. Many people slump because sitting upright is hard work.
    So you can join a gym and train. It will take time and effort but for some people they can solve their posture problems all on their own.

  3. Chiropractic: Chiropractors are experts in the Neuro-Musculo-Skeletal system. That means they can analyze your spinal function and using specific adjustments help to correct tension and stress in the spine that may be stopping you from standing up straight. Many people with back problems see huge improvements in their posture over time. So find a chiropractor that chimes with you and let them use their expertise to help you attain your goals.

Posture often reflects the life events people have had to deal with and sometimes correction of posture can take a long time and input from several practitioners, plus personal ownership. I’ve found over the years people who get involved in their healing rather than expecting someone else to fix them, get significantly better results than those who expect to be fixed.

Make a decision now to have the best posture possible and reap the benefits.