Working in wellness and as a physio in the area of acute respiratory, I was all about the 'deep' breathing...or taking 'big' breaths. Recently I underwent some professional development courses in breath re-training and let me tell you what I learnt changed the way I will live and treat from now on!
First up, what is breath re-training? It is based in physiology. Basically, it is the process of training the respiratory centre in the brain to 'normalise' the rate and volume of breaths taken. In doing this it will effect your blood chemistry because breathing is closely associated with the pH of blood. It has everything to do with the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen and the way the body compensates for keeping this balance. (Note: I put ' ' around 'normalise' because everyone is different with different medical histories/lifestyle factors that can affect the end result. However, the process will still move you closer to 'normal'. **It is for this reason that you shouldn't adjust your breathing without the guidance of a breath educator who knows your whole medical picture.
Secondly, what is normal physiological breathing? When I went to university we got taught a normal breathing rate for an adult was between 12-20 breaths per minute with a volume of air per breath dependent upon your body size. For example, someone my size would have a tidal volume of 500mls per breath. This volume would also change depending on whether you are sneezing, coughing, sighing, yawning etc.
What I learned through Tess Graham's courses was that 40years ago normal was 8-12 breaths per minute. A comparison of the difference could be depicted in what breathing looks like during a panic attack with the paper bag vs when the person has calmed themselves down. Think about the symptoms associated with breathing that fast and big.
If humans have been around for 100s of 1000s of years why would the physiology (the chemical and physical makeup have changed so much?) Ms Graham hypothesised that it was the change in lifestyle. We live more fast paced lives and stress is at an all time high, juggling all the different areas of modern life. Plus, our diets. Yes food has an impact on breathing. Now I am not a dietician or nutritionist, just a physio and breath educator, so all I will say is that complex carbohydrates can increase your breathing rate too.
So what does correct breathing look like? --->
Breath re-training is intrinsically safe when performed without ANY discomfort. However, because breathing is so closely linked with this inherent balance in our bodies. Changing your breathing without supervision or too quickly can result in a healing response whereby you may feel more emotional, have changes in your gastro-intestinal function among other symptoms.
Think you may be over breathing?
(**Think about the following question during exercise and/or sleeping not just during resting breathing...)
Curious to start your own breath re-training? Well to celebrate a year since Zephyr Movement opened its doors! You can receive 10% off any breath re-training initial consult for the week starting Thursday 23rd July (because Thursdays are my favourite day!) ending Thursday 30th July!! Enquire here to claim :)
Enjoy your day and nurture your lungs by simply breathing a little more gently from now on.
Let's talk mindfulness...before I had a persistent pain condition, studied hypnotherapy and struggled with my anxiety I had no idea what this word meant! I knew it was kind of in the meditation realm (which I found incredibly intimidating) but that was about it.
Mindfulness simply means directing your attention toward the present moment. Now why would you want to do this? In practicing bringing your mind back to the now no matter how many times the mind tries to distract you. This can be with what you're going to cook for dinner or what time what meeting is on. This teaches you emotion regulation. I often describe this as creating space between the situation and your reaction to it. Meaning, instead of yelling at the person who took the last toilet roll from a place of lack and fear (couldn't help myself #soznotsoz) having another couple of seconds to realise that person is wearing a nurses' uniform and it may have been the only chance she had to get supplies before another string of shift work. Perhaps that person would have been able to observe the uniform in that moment if their thoughts weren't on trying to remember what meals they needed to prep, how much the shopping was going to cost or whether they'd run out of toothpaste? In other words focused their attention on the present moment. Wait wasn't that mindfulness? :) I can hear you asking but how?!? Where do I start? Ok ok ok here are some great ways to start.
1. Breathing!! Try focusing on how you are breathing in this moment. Is it slightly difficult or effortless? What body parts move on the in and/or the out breath? How could you alter your breathing in this moment to relax the most muscles? Would it help if you breathed into the areas of tension? Breath is a great anchor because if you are alive you will continue to breath and each breath will be different moment to moment keeping you PRESENT!!
2. The Senses!! Pick a sense; sight, sound, scent, taste, touch. Now take a minute...how many orange objects can you see right now? What are the background sounds you have been zoning out? (For me it's this pesky fly!!!) What smells can you detect...perhaps a tree or candle or flower? What does this inside of your mouth taste like and is it different between each swallow of saliva? What do the different textures of your clothes, the chair beneath you feel like? The pattern embedded on the back of my legs says I should definitely get up from this chair soon.
3. Get curious with how you move! Even getting up out of a chair will be different each time you do it. Notice if there is equal weight between both legs, do you use your arms to push up, do you make a sound as you get up? Tune into the movement and get present with how you perform it. This is often why I love pole. When hanging upside down by the skin of the back of your knee you have to pay very close attention to what all of your limbs are doing, what is actually gripping the pole and exactly how close your head is to the ground. You are forced to be present.
If that doesn't sound like your idea of fun. I challenge you to stay present through the whole or part of cooking dinner tonight by noticing your breath, taking in all the senses and noticing in great detail how you move. To think that one small shift in self-awareness during an every day activity could result in lowered heart rate, decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus, just to name a few!
Have fun with it and let me know how you go!
Hope you enjoyed this little intro to mindfulness. Remember to be kind ✌️
In the current climate I've been doing a lot of reflecting. Connection is a big challenge right now. Here is a blog I wrote in 2018 living in England and having not seen my loved ones for a year a half.
Everyone knows human connection is powerful. It is one of the only experiences where all your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters fire. Other experiences like eating cake or going for a run might release one or two comparatively speaking. One of the longest running human studies on happiness spanning about 80 years proved that the major factor in longterm health/happiness is good quality relationships.
So what happens when your travelling around the world solo? You can’t get that big hug from your loved ones after a stressful day. Hell sometimes you can’t even call them to have a cry or a laugh because they’re asleep on a different time zone. It’s why over the last three years I’ve really come to value the intimacy of strangers.
It's a fleeting moment of emotional resonance and meaning. It’s the smile from a cute stranger giving you a bounce in your step or a welcomed interruption to an otherwise monotonous day. It is also the freedom to speak freely without fear of judgement because think of how bold you are when you know you probably ain’t gonna see them again.
I met someone recently who reminded me of a common tragedy in modern society. I learned this lesson at 13years old following the loss of two loved ones within 6 months, one of whom I had a complex relationship with to say the least. I vividly remember sitting at her funeral and realising there was so much I didn’t know about her life both simple facts and beautiful qualities a like. Two things struck me…
For these reasons I’ve always been the one who compliments strangers on their perfume or a cool outfit that makes them look the bomb diggity or simply smile and acknowledge someone on my run. I think this has made me approachable to strangers which whilst an enormous positive also gets me into interesting conversations.
For example the young man with tourette’s I met at a bus stop who kept shouting comments about my boobs and then felt comfortable enough to ask why I had cleavage showing if I didn’t want men to comment on it? But… that’s a story for a different day.
Even having had the above realisation intimacy and vulnerability are terrifying for me and so some of my most beautiful moments in life have occurred from the safety net of strangers.
Sometimes the sheer power behind a simple interaction with a stranger is unimaginable. Like the guy I worked with at 15 who said I saved him from committing suicide just because I was nice enough to enquire about his life. Or the woman who sat next to me at the airport who I gabbed to about positive psychology not knowing she was running out of avenues for her chronic condition. Or the guys who let me work out with them at the park unknowing I needed to exercise away the loss of a friend.
There was a sailing captain I met on a plane who offered me some nuts after hearing my tummy grumbling. We got to talking. His whole life had been dedicated to travelling to the most beautiful places in the nicest boats. To a man married to the sea his travel memories were personal and profound. He revealed an intimate moment with another stranger who gave him a generous gift and I found myself revealing my most secret desire (the one that makes you feel so open and vulnerable it’s almost painful). Instead of rolling his eyes and making me feel like an idiot he gave me examples of just how attainable it is. I think of him sometimes when I’m losing faith that my dream will become a reality.
Not to mention the stranger I met who changed the course of my life. I told him everything, the parts of life and myself that scared me. For someone who had become an expert at putting up walls and keeping people at arms length because this bad ass independent woman was never letting anyone hurt her again revealed the most real, raw and ugly parts of herself. Without the safety net of ‘I’m never going to see that person ever again’ he never would have seen my raw beauty, that which is found in our faults and I would have missed out on an incredible adventure.
I’m told, “You don’t sit still enough to let the right person find you/hold onto you,” Now whilst there is most definitely truth to this I also believe everything happens in the perfect way no matter if it doesn’t seem that way. Maybe I’m meant to have this fleeting intimacy with strangers to flex my vulnerability muscle? Perhaps this is how I’ll continue to collect my tribe and convert strangers into loved ones?
Going home the chances of not seeing someone ever again is certainly less certain but like a stranger I met once said, “It doesn’t matter what location you’re in you can’t not take your new attitude and the lessons learned with you”.
So stranger or not always tell someone how great they are and above all things be kind…
In this crazy time use your exercise hour to smile and greet strangers from the 1.5m distance, share an expression of yourself on social media and flex your vulnerability muscle. When we come out on the other side remember what you missed most about the freedom to connect however you liked with your community and spend everyday making sure you value the F**K out of it! <3
If you missed part one maybe go back and read that first. Otherwise here is part two!
4.Order spaces while you’re learning to order your mind:
5.Cooking can be enjoyable and bring routine to your day:
6.Incidentally learning mindfulness
7. Being forced into deep connection and vulnerability:
This little glimpse at the slow and simple life showed me a little about why mental health is such a problem? Social media means we can distract we don’t necessarily have to confront, it also encourages comparisons, blows expectations up and blocks seeing human vulnerability and suffering. It can make us feel like we’re not doing enough, don’t have enough and just aren’t enough in general. Back in the day if you were the best in your town at something you were the best in the world as you knew it. Know that I’m right there with you figuring it out as I go but hope this helps or entertains who ever has read all the way to the end 😊
PS: You are more than enough right this second! Be kind ✌
Before I launch in just thought I’d do a little recap. Back in 2016 I was in a high-pressure job working in children’s critical care as a fairly new physio. Essentially, I burnt out and ‘quit’ life. Literally quit my job and four weeks later I was on a plane overseas with no plan and very little saved. I found my way onto the sailing yacht, Indigo, ‘piggy backing’ off someone else’s qualifications and signing up to cross an ocean. I hadn’t been on a boat for longer than 4hours at a time let alone know how to sail. So, there I was on the other side of the world in an industry where I was a complete novice. How do you think my anxiety was? Well here I am sharing some incidentals I learnt about anxiety so you don’t have to do something crazy, like living out at sea for 25 days to learn!
1. Identity plays a large role in keeping anxiety at bay:
2. Technology is both a help and a hindrance when it comes to anxiety:
3. Routine is the antidote to anxiety:
To be continued...
First of all, sexism is a result of cultural behaviours of both men AND women. This is a reflection of my opinions and experience with a health professional and as a health professional myself, thought it was important to share.
Whilst gender roles have evolved and progressed over past generations, it still plays a role in my day to day life. I was trying to explain this to a male psychologist recently. To many men, particularly of the older age groups, they first and foremost see me as a woman. As opposed to the multi-faceting human being I am.
To his credit the psychologist was explaining how he didn’t understand my experience because in his mind he saw everyone as just a human (non-gendered). To further re-iterate my point, I explained some of the comments said to me throughout my career. These include; being referred to by male patients as ‘their girlfriend’ or asked if I have a partner even though I have introduced myself as a health professional. More personal remarks include, “You have a great face, great figure but as soon as you open your mouth I know you’re never getting married” or “Your very pretty but you use too many big words”. (Yes more than one male patient has said these things to me and the male stereotypes screaming through these remarks also sadden me).
The psychologist first said, “It sounds like these men are just trying to give you a compliment, why does it feel threatening?” I explained how tone and context make these remarks feel intrusive. Whilst mobilising the hip joint, “Let’s move this to another bed”, whilst rotating a patient’s torso, “This is the closest a pretty girl has got to me in a long time” or the man who started removing all his clothes before I had even finished asking why he had come to physio.
The psychologist, whilst shocked by my experiences then countered, “Perhaps it’s the industry because you work in a physical way with men. They are likely uncomfortable so say the most obvious thing to ‘clear the air’ and really do just think it’s just a compliment.” I’m sure they do but I never asked for their opinion or observation I’m just trying to do my job. By making a comment I feel unsafe and not respected in my workplace which makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable.
The thing is men have been told their opinion matters, what they have to say is always valued no matter if no one asked. They have the physical size advantage and society has re-enforced they are in a position of power no matter the relationship context. To the feelings of lack of safety. The psychologist countered, “I could understand feeling unsafe if you were in a dark alley outnumbered by a group of men but in your workplace you are in control and ‘safe’”. This shows even an educated, compassionate man lacks insight into many of the stories of the ‘me too’ movement.
Most people who have experienced sexual assault know the perpetrator, often having been groomed in the process to feel like this person was ‘safe’ and worthy of trust. This psychologist valued my insights and particularly how he would apply it to raising his daughter.
This is part of the problem. It shouldn’t just educate us on how to raise our daughters that’s kind of missing the point. It’s about how to raise our sons to understand context, conscious consent, respecting boundaries and a healthy appreciation for women as multi-faceted human beings. AND raising our daughters to speak their truth and firmly lay down boundaries. It’s not enough to tell them “It’s not your responsibility how someone reacts to your body” we have to demonstrate how to protect their safety.
I accept the role I have played in not firmly expressing, my physical appearance and personal life is off limits in the context of a professional relationship. Instead simply pleading with them, I’m just trying to do my job.”
I haven’t had the pleasure of becoming a parent and already imagine it is the toughest job. However, we as a greater culture and community, man, woman or non-binary have a duty to ensure each individual is treated with respect and kindness. I don’t have all of the answers by a long shot but in my work in hypnotherapy awareness is a great place to start.
So please share with me your experience man, woman, non-binary with your ideas on how to demonstrate boundaries because I for one would love to continue the conversation.
Memories are one of the most fascinating and important functions of the brain when you really think about it. Memory is more than just recalling facts and events it’s also a large component of learning of skills, habits and individual conditioning. Understand that what we do, how we react and who we think we are, is a sum total of experiences in a specific order that evoked specific emotions.
They say there is my side, your side and the truth, meaning we filter and store memories through our own lenses. Lenses include gender, sexual preference, values, beliefs, interests, past experiences etc. It is the lenses that create the emotional experience and create variance in how an event is re-told.
The more intense an emotional experience the better long-term memory is able to solidify and store it. It's important to mention that memories are stored as sensory information and is why a specific scent can call to mind a certain person or place.
Long term memory is a function that lives in the subconscious mind and is why some people are often unable to recall childhood memories in a conscious state but can remember various things in a trance state. We can't change the actual event. However, utilising hypnotherapy to explore the feelings associated with a memory can be efficient and effective.
By changing the way it appears in your mind you can influence the emotion associated with it. For example, if you have a particular experience that brings forwards a lot of anger by changing the way the memory appears in your mind you can alter the amount of anger it evokes in your body. Furthermore, if the anger associated with this event shows up as a less than helpful dynamic in your present relationships, processing and releasing the emotion in hypnotic trance is profound.
Let's talk for a minute...what is intuition (apart from a catchy Jewel song from the 90s. If you don't get the reference sorry not sorry)?
Well the Cambridge dictionary refers to it as: (knowledge from) an ability to understand or know something immediately based on your feelings rather than facts. It is knowledge or understanding without thoughts or words. It is thought to originate from the subconscious mind.
Within the hospital environment it was frequently referred to as an instinct. Think situations where the health practitioner just got a feeling a patient was going to deteriorate and in the presence of a lack of preparation time were able to go through the motions and stabilise the patient. Yes it is based on past experience but it was evident in others and myself very early in our careers. The lack of reaction time means you can't process it cognitively and reason through you have to act instinctively .
As a physio one of the questions we ask is what have you tried that eases your symptoms. I take great joy in encouraging patients to trust their body when they say, "I put myself in this kind of strange position to stretch it," realising that they have worked out the exact therapeutic movement I would have prescribed anyway! Pretty neat isn't it? So why do we not give credit to our intuition or instinct more in life?
Well quite frankly there are lots of distractions (think thoughts, others opinions and situations that require logic). How do you know if it's an anxious thought, a subconscious pattern or an intuitive gem of wisdom?
One thing that has popped up in clinic lately is allowing a space where people can freely access their intuition. Once in a trance we have bypassed the conscious mind (the noise/ conscious thoughts) and can finally access this inner knowing. The things people communicate in trance are always interesting. No one could possibly know your needs and desires more than you and so it allows discovery of truth and authenticity. It also helps you to descern what is inner wisdom and thoughts.
One of the biggest challenges in life is being able to consider if an expectation, label or characteristic alligns with who you feel you are, what you want and the direction you want to go in life. Our loved ones are great for support because they love us and want us to be happy but they will guide us through the lens of what makes them happy. This can lead to feeling misunderstood, unheard, alone, resentful etc. Hands up if you've been there?
So if you are struggling to clear the mud, break through the noise of the mind and those around you or are really curious to connect with your intuition/inner truth maybe hypno is exactly what you're craving? If so you can book online right now!
“Last time I saw you, you had your legs wrapped around a pole.”
One sentence you never want to hear from your uncle and yet this is my life. I thought I’d write about why it is worth braving the stigma to be part of the incredible pole community and how it relates to my health being a physio/hypno/human.
I read a book called Dear Lover by David Deida. In it contained mystical wisdom and insight into me defining and understanding what being a woman means to me. This along with Brene Brown’s wisdom; the worst insult for a woman is she is less than beautiful and unable to attract, led me to one realisation.
Women yearn to be seen. I yearn to be seen. “So why do I hide my beauty and my talents?”
With the rise in the ‘me too’ movement I think most women can relate to being seen when they wished they weren’t and in my experience, this leads to women associating being seen with danger.
In the pole studio, the more skin you bare the safer you will be as you can grip the pole more easily. In the pole studio, women of all shapes, sizes, colours and cultural backgrounds are all running around in the equivalent of undies and bras doing the same epic things. In this environment, we are seen lumps, bumps, hairs and all. In this community, we are celebrated for the incredible things our bodies can do and supported in revealing as much or as little as we like. We are seen safely and celebrated!!
Not only are we seen by others safely, we learn to see ourselves with more love and compassion. How can you hate the incredible body that allows you to literally hang from the skin of your elbow/knee/inner thigh/hand etc? We are finally able to see ourselves beyond skin deep.
Strength becomes far more important than cellulite. Feelings of accomplishment and freedom of expression become far more important than tummy rolls (that every-body has!!). As much as our instructors’ yell, “point your toes!” it is understood the bigger goal is admiring your body for how you can feel in it not necessarily doing a move perfectly.
How on earth can you possibly not gain self-confidence when you get a dose of that every time you go to class?
If that weren’t enough, growing up we hear stories of superheros who become alter egos and, in a way, ‘perform’ their super powers on the world’s stage. Well, hello showcase! Hello stage name! Hello self-expression and authentic self we think society won’t embrace. Whilst I still haven’t competed or performed pole at a showcase (my time is coming), social media has provided a platform where I can celebrate this facet of my authentic self and connect to so many of my pole sisters worldwide.
Now to a more serious side of things…
Hanging upside down by the skin of the back of your knee is painful and a little adrenaline inducing because you could fall, hit your head and injure yourself pretty badly.
Now polers will know the first time you do a move it kills, you get a big bruise and you feel every ounce of it. Your system wants to protect you, it sends pain signals to alert you there is a potential threat to your safety. Pain=protection!
But it was so much fun you do it again next class and it hurts a little less until the move doesn’t hurt at all…why?
No, the nerves aren’t dying, they are just being conditioned this ‘threat’ is not actually dangerous so your nervous system, calms the eff down and doesn’t perceive it as pain because you don’t need protecting. This analogy is also related to how unprocessed trauma can lead to persistent pain.
I was seen by someone I didn’t want to be seen by when I was very small. This ‘trauma’ was too much for my little brain to process and so instead it decided not to. In a way I dissociated from the experience and my nervous system shut down to protect me. I felt numb and empty and didn’t understand why. In order to finally feel, I compulsively exercised and loved the feeling of pain from training as much as the endorphine high. I also tortured myself emotionally by telling myself I wasn’t good enough.
Whilst feeling pain was assurance I could feel. Without processing the trauma, my system could only ignore it for so long. I had a similar triggering event after which I experienced central sensitization (pretty much my nervous system was on high alert, highly sensitive and gave me sharp nerve pain, numbness and pins/needles in my limbs. Even lifting my arms to do my hair was painful!) I went for numerous scans and was told by medical professionals it was ‘just my anxiety’. Unbeknownst to me at the time, hell yeah it was my ‘anxiety’.
My mind could only escape the pain for so long until my body made me hear it. I suffered for four years went on heavy duty meds and went to so much physio that didn’t really work. It wasn’t until I found a physio who focused on de-sensitising my system through pain-FREE movement and started to process this trauma through mindfulness and hypnotherapy, the physical pain fell away. It wasn’t until I treated myself with more kindness and compassion my physical pain stayed away.
Pole is painful in the best way. It allows me to both feel and release. It teaches my nervous system to distinguish between perceived danger and perceived safety. It makes me hella strong. It encourages me to embrace every inch of my incredible body. It gives me the freedom to be seen in a safe way. It unites me with a powerful community of supportive women and it’s FUN!!!
I share this so perhaps next time a stranger asks me “What do you do for training?” They will act with the same enthusiasm given to any other physically impressive task and understand pole dancing goes so far beyond the stereotype for me.
Breathing, as long as we are living we will be doing it all day, erry day, one way or another!
As a physiotherapist you need a wide range of knowledge on different body systems. Thankfully uni break it down for us into regions. So I learnt about the physiology of the lungs and circulatory systems. I learnt the anatomy of the trunk muscles and biomechanics on getting air/mucus in and out but it wasn't until practicing physio, my interest in breath became a whole lot more holistic.
Basically our nervous system drives breath at the most organic source. Lots of things can change the speed at which we breath, the size of the breaths and the muscles we use to do it including dis-ease, pain, activity, input from the senses, skeletal structure or even emotions.
Most people know about fight or flight it supports us when we are in states of stress whether that be physical, emotional or mental. For sympathetic think surprised? What happens...? I take a big breath in usually hold it, my shoulders lift as a way of protecting my chest, my heart races and my overall level of arousal lifts to prepare me to fight or flight. (I also think this is a good example of not being able to compartmentalise physical, emotional responses).
Rest and digest though, is the lesser known soothing sister (parasympathetic). This system is what you want to heal, relax, support your digestive system and nourish your mind, body and soul. Breathing is an easy and effective way of activating more of the soothing sister into your life. Think of your restorative yoga class and how they ask you to 'belly breathe'?
But what if you're so stressed out and work on a computer all day long so your chest/shoulders don't know how to take a break from breathing?
Use your nervous system to decrease stress:
There are manual techniques to stimulate the diaphragm to make it work more effectively which I can help you with as well. If you're interested to know more, contact me for a 1-on-1 session or attend October's workshop called Just Breathe at Recover Wellbeing.
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Take this moment to care for yourself. All of us need a little help sometimes! Together we will get through this.
-Book your 1:1 Skype session with Tessa right now right here! :)