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 ✌️
“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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